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Sunday, May 21, 2006

August Berkshire's Oped in the Strib

August Berkshire from Minnesota Atheists has an oped in the Strib.

Our nation's founders wisely kept church and state separate, and we should do the same.
August Berkshire

Last update: May 19, 2006 – 6:27 PM

It may well be that some of our laws have parallels in religious texts. Rob Braun seems to interpret this as "from God to the Bible to the state" ("Why not cite the Bible in making laws?" Star Tribune Faith+Values, May 6).

However, it is more accurate to say that we humans evolved as societal animals, developed rules of conduct that helped us survive and then attributed these laws to the gods as celestial policemen.

The problem is that circumstances change, while ancient texts do not. For example, slavery, which is condoned in the Bible, is properly outlawed in modern society.

Laws must have a secular purpose. We have laws against theft and murder, not because of the Ten Commandments, but because we can demonstrate that these acts cause harm to society.

Contrast this with attempts to ban same-sex civil marriage. Depriving committed gays and lesbians of the opportunity to marry serves no secular purpose -- it only advances a particular religious agenda. In fact, if we believe that marriage serves a beneficial role in helping to stabilize society, then we should actively promote marriage regardless of sexual orientation.

Twenty years from now, when same-sex marriage is accepted the way other civil rights are accepted today, we can expect religions to claim they were at the forefront of obtaining this right. We know better. Almost every social advance that freed people and gave them more rights was opposed by religion. Examples include abolition of slavery, a woman's right to vote, contraception, abortion rights, civil rights and interracial marriage. Religionists remain a roadblock to the Equal Rights Amendment, same-sex marriage and (in the current administration) universal health care.

The Bible is like a Rorschach inkblot test: you can see just about anything you want in it. That is why Christians themselves cannot agree on such things as masturbation, premarital sex, contraception, abortion, divorce, homosexuality, stem cell research, euthanasia and the death penalty. The Bible or religion as a moral guide? With all this disagreement, how is that possible?

Read the whole thing. Kudos to August Berkshire.

I saw August at the Quatrefoil Library 20th anniversary party. August mentioned that the Minnesota Atheists will be publishing the controversial Danish Muhammad cartoons. Lavender Magazine passed on publishing these cartoons.