“Separation of church and state” doesn’t appear in the Constitution!

Recently this tired argument got trotted out in /r/libertarian, by someone who is supposedly a libertarian and a proclaimed Constitutionalist.  At one point he stated that it didn’t matter what we thought, all that matter was what was in the Constitution.  So here’s my reply, can we lay this tripe to rest now, please?

Yes, it is the Constitution that matters. And the Constitution is clear in regards to those matters. And while the phrase “separation of church and state” does not exist in the Constitution, the intent is there. The phrase is merely a shorthand for the intent that is in the document.

Want to know what other phrases aren’t in the Constitution yet we don’t have bullshit semantic arguments over the intent being in the Constitution?

State’s Rights.

Inalienable rights.

Separation of powers.

Checks and balances.

Each of those phrases have come to describe the intent laid down in the Constitution but appear nowhere in the Constitution. Yet you’d be a damn fool to argue that the Constitution doesn’t have any of those things simply because the phrase doesn’t appear within it.

So, yes, there is a separation of church and state. It is right there in the First Amendment. The problem is most people remember the whole “Congress shall make no law…prohibiting the free exercise thereof…” part but utterly forget what comes before between.

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”.

That is church/state separation. Just as state’s rights refers to the 10th, inalienable rights refers to pretty much most of the Bill of Rights. Separation of powers and checks and balances refers to Articles I, II and III and how they interact respectively.

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My Rules For Twitter Sparring

What’s Twitter Sparring?  That’s when you hop on twitter, do a search, and start replying to random people posting stupid stuff.  Something I’ve been doing lately out of boredom and wanting to ruffle people’s feathers when it came to their silly notions.  However, to keep it from being stalking or attacking I developed 4 rules for Twitter Sparring.

  1. Twitter is public.  Comment in public, expect the public to respond.
  2. Search for a specific term you want to combat negativity about.  For example, my term du jour is “Atheist”.
  3. Only reply to original posts, not retweets.
  4. Reply only in public, don’t DM, don’t take it private.  This is the practical extension of #1.

What this means that if someone posts “Atheists are all devil worshipers” in a public tweet I feel it’s ok to reply publicly and challenge that notion.  This means I’m not attacking people for their religious beliefs, I am offering rebuttals to what people are claiming about another group they most often know little to nothing about.

The odd thing is that so far my most often used argument is actually against atheists who are mistaken on the nature of agnostic and atheist and how they relate to one another.  Fooie.

(Thanks @GoSkinnyBitches for providing the impetus to actually write down the rules.)

National Atheist Party – No Thanks

Recently I have been catching up on my commute-time podcasts.  Both The Thinking Atheist and The Non-Prophets talked with representatives of the National Atheist Party.

The NAP was founded last year as a reaction to the increasing theocratic rhetoric that is infesting American politics.  In all honesty I can understand the sentiment.  However while the goal is laudable I think the approach is flawed.  The problem is that atheism offers no insight into how one approaches anything else in the political sphere.  Both podcasts nailed this point but The Thinking Atheist really brought it to a head by asking what the NAP would say to a libertarian atheist look in on the NAP from the outside.

The NAP’s platform can be essentially boiled down to “Democrats without God.”  It is not surprising given that they arrived at that platform by a majority consensus of current members.  Meanwhile they claim to say that they would approach policy from a scientific stance.  IE, instead of doing what feels right, doing what is proven to give the desired results.  The problem is that the method of obtaining the platform and the stated method of creating policy are at odds.  The platform is created by a plurality of what the members feel is right vs. what is actually right.

Now, to their credit, when asked what they would say to an atheist libertarian they said they wanted inclusion into the process.  That such a person should join the NAP to have their voice be heard.  That if their ideas differ from the party’s platform they should lobby to get the platform changed but be willing to accept the consensus of the party members.  Well, being such an atheist libertarian I see two problems with this.

First, a scientific approach would not be formed on consensus.  Science doesn’t give a damn about consensus, all that matters are whether the results are repeatable.  If the consensus is that a certain action is correct and it is proven wrong, then the consensus is wrong and should be discarded, period.

Second, why would I want to make my voice heard in the NAP versus the Libertarian Party?  As a member of the Libertarian Party the sole major point of contention I might have is my atheism.  Even then it is fairly trivial as we have a basis of resolution in the form of the first amendment to the constitution.  However, as a member of the NAP the only point of unity is my atheism.  I would be striving to alter every plank of their platform.

It is this second point which is why I think the NAP is the wrong approach to the problem of under representation of atheists in American politics.  It cannot, nor ever will, address all atheists.  Our views outside of the god issue are diverse.  Our concerns in government, as a group, begin and end pretty much on church/state separation issues.  By creating a political party they are diluting their potential clout by alienating a good portion of people who do not agree with all of the non-religious rhetoric.

What should be put forth is a political organization which solely concerns itself with church/state separation issues.  Not a party as a party has to concern itself with everything which falls under the purview of politics.  Something which would lobby on church./state issues, provide information on candidates which are strong on church/state separation.

Of course we already have organizations like that.  Organizations like American Atheists and the Freedom From Religion Foundation. I have no doubt that members of these organizations are politically in line with the current membership base of the NAP.  Even so I can support them because when it comes to other policy matters they are largely non-committal.

 

2011 – L.A.G.

Another quasi-revolution around the sun down, another started.  This blog is named for 3 main topics but actually has for.  Libertarian, Atheist, Gamer/Geek, Ferrets.  What did 2011 bring for each of those to my door?  Let’s just say it hasn’t been kind.

Libertarian – Ron Paul.  This past year has seen his star ascend like no other year before.  He’s one of the few politicians who I don’t only not hold in contempt, but actually respect.  So much so that the first time in my life I have contributed directly to a political candidate.  Not only that, but the media focus on him shows how biased and contemptible every major media outlet is.  He is the only voice of dissent on many major policy issues with any voice at the national level.  That it not something to be dismissed, laughed at, or treated with scorn.

Atheist – This one has been low-key.  As much as fellow Atheists may grouse about transgressions by the government, local to national, most of it has been small potatoes.  I can respect the work that several Atheist organizations have engaged in over the past year, but I can’t really get interested in it when I see otherwise rational Atheists become irrational ideologues over the small shit when we have much bigger issues facing us.  Refer to the paragraph above to get my meaning.

Gamer – Many great games were purchased and played this year.  My Steam account is closing in on 300 titles and I’ve recently become a fan of Gamer’s Gate.  But the year goes to TOR.  It was released the 13th of last month.  In the 20 days since Raptr has me at just shy of 200 hours.  I haven’t clocked that much time in any other game since such a short time since Aion.  Difference is, I’m not utterly pissed off at TOR as I was with Aion.

Geek – I still work in the tech sector.  It still sucks balls.  Linux still doesn’t get it’s just due.  I have become Google’s bitch.  My tablet computer now has a detachable keyboard which adds 8 hours of battery life.  So, win some, lose some.

Ferret – Worst year ever.  Ever.

Samson left us back in May.  He was quite old for a ferret.  Even though we knew he wouldn’t be with us long his passing was quite sudden.  But I could deal with it after a few days time.

Aesa followed her friend for life in August.  She too was old and I think she was tired of taking the medication that was helping her live day-by-day.  We fought to keep her going for two weeks but in the end did what was best for her.  Even though I held her as she passed away I think having faced up to the fact it was her time over those weeks helped ease the weight in my heart.

Come September Fex, our first ferret and youngest of our business, suddenly took ill.  He was gone less than 48 hours later.  It was completely unexpected.  For some reason it just hit me hard.  He wasn’t, isn’t, supposed to be gone yet I still find myself missing him, even now, far more than I missed Samson or Aesa.  I loved them no less.  I can only think it was that he was still appeared quite healthy for a ferret.  I never thought for an instant that he would be gone this year, or the next, or even the one after that.  Certainly not without us seeing it coming like we did with Aesa and to a lesser extent Samson.

We now have two cute-as-a-button girls, Xena and Xara.  At least they had some time with Aesa and Fex.  They never fail to put a grin on my face when I need it most.

Finally, one last event from 2012.  My wife’s mother, Ruthann, passed away back in October.  We lived in different states and my work schedule rarely gave me time to visit as often as my wife did.  But she accepted me into her home and her life.  She accepted my marriage to her daughter.  In a world where I hear of far too much strife between parents and their children’s spouse I was lucky to have had her as my mother-in-law.  She was taken from us too soon.

I know Ruthann would not approve of my words but I think she’d understand the sentiment.  Fuck you, 2011, you took more than your due.  I’m glad you’re gone.

Grief

Redditor amiwrongtowonder posed the question, “Am I a bad atheist because I talk to my dead friend at his grave?

I replied

Short answer, no.

A few days ago I had to put down one of my ferrets. She had been a part of our family for 5 years. She fell ill weeks earlier and refused to eat and drink. We made the decision at 2am and couldn’t even call a vet until 8am to set up an appointment.

In the weeks prior I knew this was where it was going. I cried. I pleaded with her to eat and to drink and be a good little girl and take her medicine even though it was icky and she hated it. I apologized to her for not being a better dad and taking better care of her.

On the 1/2 hour car trip to the vet I held her close and comforted her. I talked to her about silly things.

I held her as she passed. I apologized to her again for not being able to figure out what was wrong. I told her I wished she could’ve told me what was wrong so I could’ve made it better. I told her she was going to see her brother soon (another elder ferret we lost 3 months earlier) and wished her well.

At home I still cried and begged forgiveness for not doing a better job at making her well.

All of that, for pound and a half ferret that slept most of every day.

At some point in the process my wife tried to appeal to my rational side. She told me this was the right thing to do. And I replied, “That doesn’t make it hurt any less. Fuck, this is not rational! This is emotional!”

As a species we are emotional. We fight tooth and nail to maintain some semblance of rational behavior. A good portion of us don’t succeed. Of those of us who do we don’t succeed 100% of the time. No one does. Ever.

When it came to losing a loved pet I failed to be rational. But that is not a failing on my part. That is being human. My grief no doubt pales in comparison to yours in the loss of your friend. Don’t think for one heartbeat that being emotional, and irrational, in times of grief is a failing. It’s being human. Especially since you recognize it as such. And fuck all to anyone who would have you feel otherwise.

An Atheist For School Vouchers

This is a recent post to Reddit which sums up exactly why, as an atheist, I am not opposed to school vouchers on constitutional grounds.  Definitely my most refined thought on the topic to date so saving it here for future reference.  The quoted material is from the user sansimone.  S/He is reply to my example where a senior receiving social security tithes some of that money to a church.

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Secular Rituals

I’m a tad backlogged on my Non-Prophets and Godless.biz podcasts.  As such I have only just now gotten to Non-Prophets 10.2.  In it there was a discussion about secular rituals.  Specifically about replacing religious ones and the difficulties of doing so without a central authority.  Now, ignoring the plethora of national holidays and the rituals they present (fireworks on the 4th, nuff said) I could think of one secular ritual in which I participate.  A ritual I am willing to bet a good portion of Atheists in America participate.

House warming.

I’ve thrown several and have attended several.  Nary a religious notion in site.  Just groups of people gathering to celebrate obtaining a home and/or welcoming a new neighbor to the area.