The principles that rule this blog

Principles that will govern my thoughts as I express them here (from my opening statement):

  • Freedom of the individual should be as total as possible, limited only by the fact that nobody should be free to cause physical injury to another, or to deprive another person of his freedoms.
  • Government is necessary primarily to provide those services that private enterprise won't, or won't at a price that people can afford.
  • No person has a right to have his own beliefs on religious, moral, political, or other controversial issues imposed on others who do not share those beliefs.

I believe that Abraham Lincoln expressed it very well:

“The legitimate object of government is to do for a community of people whatever they need to have done, but cannot do, at all, or cannot
so well do, for themselves — in their separate, individual capacities.”

Comments will be invited, and I will attempt to reply to any comments that are offered in a serious and non-abusive manner. However, I will not tolerate abusive or profane language (my reasoning is that this is my blog, and so I can control it; I wouldn't interfere with your using such language on your own!)

If anyone finds an opinion that I express to be contrary to my principles, they are welcome to point this out. I hope that I can make a rational case for my comments. Because, in fact, one label I'll happily accept is rationalist.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

A personal story, to explain my vehemence on the "separation" issue

One thing I consider very important, and which colors a lot of my attitudes toward specific politicians, is the issue of “separation of church and state” eapecially in its relationship to “freedom of religion.” And behind this is my own experience, so I think I should supply a personal self-portrait as this issue relates to me.

At the age of nine, I moved to a new home in New York City, at the opposite end of the Borough of Manhattan from where I had been living for the preceding few years. I had to start in a new school, of course, and there were two factors that affected my situation at that school for the three years that I went there.

First, I was something of a “brain” — I was nine, but I was in sixth grade, among mostly 11-year-olds. And second, I was a good singer. I had a boy soprano voice, and I sang well enough that I was in demand at the school to sing before other classes than my own. Perhaps if YouTube had existed in those days, I might have become the Justin Bieber of the 1950s (though, actually, years younger than Bieber was when he was discovered!), but in those days, I was only a celebrity at Public School #7 in the Bronx. (Yes, I lived in Manhattan, but so far north that my local school was over the line in the Bronx.) My singing made me an instant favorite of the school's music teacher, and in seventh grade a year later, I was in her official class and she took a special interest in me, teaching me a number of songs on a one-to-one basis.

Then, along came Christmas. I balked at singing songs with words like “Oh come let us adore him, Christ the Lord.” And this got me in trouble with my official-and-music teacher, an Irish Catholic who failed to see that, to a Jewish boy like me, these words were blasphemy. (I don't know if, at age 10, I knew the word “blasphemy,” but you get the idea.)

From that point on, I went from being a favorite of my teacher to being dirt. She and my eighth-grade official teacher actually conspired, in my eighth-grade year, to try to keep me from graduating! (The problem with the eighth-grade teacher didn't involve religion. I simply didn't like history, and history was her favorite subject!)

With this kind of background, I almost became strongly prejudiced against Irish Catholics. The only thing that prevented that was another teacher, clearly just as Irish (his name was McCarthy!) who I had for science in seventh grade. He was really not a science teacher: he was a gym teacher who was also pressed into service as a science teacher. And he knew that I actually knew more science than he did, so the classes were usually something like Mr. McCarthy starting the class with a general mention of the topic, and then I was pitched questions and really this 10-year-old, whose voice hadn't changed yet, conducted the class! It was Mr. McCarthy who suggested I apply to a special scientific high school when I was in eighth grade, and when I did, my eighth-grade official teacher ridiculed me. She conducted special sessions for the kids in her class who had applied to the specialized high schools, and I was not permitted to attend. But I got my revenge. I was the only person in her entire class who passed the entrance examination!

But that is a digression. The point is that my refusal to sing Christmas carols jeopardized my graduation. And so my sympathies automatically lie with those who would challenge Christian domination of the rest of us. I hope this explains my stance on this issue.


Anonymous said...

hi to all opinions-and-more.blogspot.comers this is my first post and thought i would say hi -
regards speak again soon

Asclepius said...

The problem, ultimately, is that the separation of Church-and-State has little to do with compulsion to actually adhere to a set of standards anymore: what it constricts is the freedom to express any religious viewpoint in the public square, whether Catholic, Jew, Protestant, or whatever.

A constitutional sense of separation (as this country was founded)... we've wandered so far away from that original ideal (that we would not create an official state religion, ala the Church of England) that we've drifted far, far off the plantation.

So your experience justifies what most Christians would contend: there should be no compulsion to participate in x, y, or z; but at the same time, that acknowledgment should not serve as a threat to those who do wish, in some way, to participate in Christian things, public or otherwise.

Opinionator said...

Asclepius: Your comment puzzles me: "that acknowledgment should not serve as a threat to those who do wish, in some way, to participate in Christian things, public or otherwise." I see no such threat in practice. Christian ministers say invocations all the time; the Government even (to my discomfort) sells Christmas stamps! Nobody is being prevented from praying in church or at home; the school-prayer issue comes closer to what you say about "compulsion to participate in x, y, or z" because having prayers in school WOULD be a compulsion to pray. I would like you to give me a single example where a Christian was prevented from "participation in Christian things" which would not have required NON-Christians to participate as well if he had been permitted to do so.