Thursday, July 16, 2015

The Separation of Vice & Crime

"Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's; and unto God the things that are God's." - Matthew 22:21

Now, I'm not religious - in fact, I'm a pretty passionate atheist - but I was raised Christian, and there are a lot of Christians in a lot of positions of power in this country, and it helps to know your enemy. Intriguingly, this oft-ignored passage is evidence that no less than Jesus Christ himself was a proponent of the separation of church and state. (But no less than the Mahatma Ghandi has pointed out the difference between Jesus Christ and modern Christians - here, also, is an excellent comic on that same subject).

Another way I like to interpret this passage is as a criticism of the common trend in America towards legislating morality. If you engage in immoral acts, that's something you should have to take up with your God. The state has no business punishing you for it. So when, for example, you rape, murder, or steal from someone, you are infringing on another person's basic rights, and that's where the police and the justice system should step in. But if you choose to watch porn, hire a prostitute, smoke dope, or anything like that, where the only "crime" is against the purity of your immortal "soul", then that's between you and God or your pastor. None of that stuff belongs on the law books.


  1. I've always thought that separation of church and state is one of the best things about the United States – even though it's done with a bit of a wink and a nod. I mean, after all, we still have to put up with things like "in god we trust" and "one nation under god" in public life. Some people just feel compelled to force their beliefs on others – no matter what.

    It's ironic, then, that as I read the latest issue of Scientific American last night I came across an ad for the Freedom From Religion Foundation. Their motto is "In Reason We Trust." I'm not much of a joiner, but I'm glad there's an organization like this out there. I'm all for reason and rationality.

  2. Sadly, "in God we trust" is a lot more accurate of the population than something like "in reason we trust". Humans are such illogical creatures. But even if most people are religious and unreasonable, they should *still* recognize the importance of keeping government and religion separate. After all, doing so preserves liberty!

    Regardless, I do my patriotic duty of scratching out "in God we trust" on every piece of paper money that passes through my hands.

  3. Ah, good for you!! Maybe I'll find one of those bills someday, lol.

    Thanks for the reply. It's good to hear from you again.

    I must say, I don't like the social stigma attached to the term atheist, because it frames things in "their" terms by immediately making it something negative. To me it's really silly, because I don't identify as a negative person. To be an a-theist – and not believe in a deity – isn't any more or less important than being an a-fairyist – and not believing in fairies or fairy tales. I have positive beliefs – I believe in nature and reality. What you see is what you get.

    Paleontologists have a saying, "Life is hard, and then you die." Well, I would say life is sometimes wonderful, and sometimes painful – and then you die. That's it.

  4. I have no problems with the term atheist. But then, I'm a very cynical person, so a lot of my beliefs can be described as negative. Honestly, there are times when I've considered myself a "misotheist" - in the sense that I wish I could meet God, just to have a chance to punch him in the face, because if such a being did exist, he would have to be a real jackass.

    But you're right, as some atheists like to say, disbelieving in the Christian God is just disbelieving in one more God than the Christians disbelieve in. Christians are atheistic towards pagan beliefs, for example, or the Roman pantheon. If you don't buy all those other imaginary beings, why draw the line at any particular one?

    Anyway, cynical though I am, I try to remain optimistic, just because without hope that things can change for the better, I probably wouldn't have much motivation to continue living. And though I may be frequently negative, it doesn't mean I can't enjoy the beautiful things in life, too (at least when the rest of the population isn't trying to ruin it for me) - hopefully my passion for art demonstrates that.

  5. Very good. I got some good laughs reading your response. I hadn't thought about that "one more God to disbelieve in" thing before. I like it.