Thursday, August 25, 2011

Vox Day once more advocates Christian theocracy

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Theodore “Vox Day” Beale
Theodore “Vox Day” Beale

Over at The New York Times, columnist Bill Keller offers a list of basic and sensible questions for presidential candidates in order to gauge their positions on various issues, primarily regarding religious and social ideology. For his part, Vox Day responds to the list, presumably to enlighten us lowly commoners with his expert opinion, but a select few of his answers stood out to me and I thought I would bother examining them here.

3. (a) Do you agree with those religious leaders who say that America is a “Christian nation” or “Judeo-Christian nation?” (b) What does that mean in practice?

Of course America is a Christian nation.[1] It was founded by Christians[2] on predominantly Christian concepts[3] and most of its citizens are Christians[4]. No other nation is described by virtue of what its constitution says about religion or anything else, so why would we describe America that way?

For a “superintelligence”, he certainly doesn’t make rebutting him hard work. Four basic arguments, four obvious canards:

[1] Christian nation? Bullshit: Its very founding document (and not to mention generations of court rulings since) explicitly declares that its government must remain strictly secular and afford no preferential treatment to any particular faith(s). In addition, the Founding Fathers, themselves, made it explicitly clear that the country was “not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion” in the Treaty of Tripoli (1796). I don’t see how anyone with any kind of reading comprehension could mistake that to mean that the U.S. somehow espouses Christianity as its official religion. You know, what with it saying the exact opposite.

[2] Founded by Christians? Bullshit, but with a caveat: Technically, the Founding Fathers all belonged to one Christian denomination or another, but many of them were Christian-in-name-only. A good number of them held anti-clerical views, and others even outright doubted or dismissed the existence of God and other key precepts of the Christian faith, and virtually all of the cosignatories were ardent secularists who openly denied the notion that their newborn country was established on the basis of any single religion (again, see the aforementioned Treaty of Tripoli where this is made abundantly clear). The implied notion that a bunch of Christians got together to create a nation that held Christianity as some sort of foundation is bunkum.

[3] Predominantly Christian concepts? Bullshit, though again with an asterisk: The ideals and notions upon which the U.S. was founded were simply the ideals and notions that were culturally accepted at the time. Christianity doesn’t hold a monopoly on such ideas as murder and theft being wrong and altruism and honesty being the mark of a good person. What’s more, in only a few clauses totaling less than fifty words, the very First Amendment completely demolishes any possibility of the U.S. being held to strictly Christian principles, seeing as the first three of the central Ten Commandments – One True God, No Other Gods, and censoring anyone from naming Yahweh aloud “in vain” – are blatantly unconstitutional (and a number of others – ordering people not to work on given days and not to lust after strangers, which all amount to thoughtcrime – are simply unenforceable). How can the U.S. be a Christian Nation when core precepts of the Christian faith are either outright illegal or dismissed under the law?

[4] Most Americans are Christians? What in the world does that matter in this context? A nation’s set religion is determined by its governing body, not its population demographics. By that logic, Mexico would be poised to reclaim Texas and California any day now.

It’s also a rather peculiar bit of reasoning that Vox presents us with that last line. Since when does a country’s established position on religion or anything else not rely on the ideals put forth in its founding document(s)? That’s half-falsehood and half-non-sequitur, all wrapped up in a nice little bundle of weirdness.

But, of course, the fact that the US Constitution is at odds with Vox’s theocratic views is of no matter, for Vox has a (perhaps obvious) solution:

4. If you encounter a conflict between your faith and the Constitution and laws of the United States, how would you resolve it? Has that happened, in your experience?

Work towards changing the Constitution and the laws. Isn't that what elected leaders do? Isn't passing new laws pretty much all that Congress does?

Ah, of course. If the law prohibits you from establishing your religious beliefs over others, just change the law. Never mind that this would be in violation of the country’s founding ideals and of everyone else’s religious freedom; Jesus is the way.

Also, passing new laws and altering previous ones doesn’t exactly equate to overthrowing the very founding ideals of the nation. I’m pretty sure Congress can’t touch those; if it did, then it wouldn’t be the same country and Constitution anymore, would it now?

We’ve got historical illiteracy and Christofascism already, so why not add some bigotry into the mix:

5. (a) Would you have any hesitation about appointing a Muslim to the federal bench? (b) What about an atheist?

Yes. Sharia is intrinsically incompatible with the U.S. Constitution. Depends on the atheist.

Psst, Vox: Islam and Sharia Law are not inherent to one another, no more than Christians feel an overwhelming urge to burn self-professed witches anymore. The Islamic religion can exist independently of any offshoots that might have engendered from it, including Sharia.

And it does depend on the atheist. Just as it depends on anyone. Religious belief in itself shouldn’t be a deciding factor, but whether individuals let their beliefs influence their public and working life should, especially if they try to inject their faith into law and politics.

7. What do you think of the evangelical Christian movement known as Dominionism and the idea that Christians, and only Christians, should hold dominion over the secular institutions of the earth?

Nothing. It's more fringe than the Mormons or the atheists and it's inept theology. Satan holds dominion over the Earth until Jesus comes back. And nobody gets a vote on that.

You know, for a (literally) damned place, the world at large certainly isn’t half that bad. It’s no paradise, certainly, but I’d have thought being in the grip of the Devil himself would entail a lot worse than the sporadic bout of war and famine.

8. (a) What is your attitude toward the theory of evolution? (b) Do you believe it should be taught in public schools?

Skeptical. Of course it shouldn't be taught in public schools. Worry about teaching an minor aspect of biological science AFTER you are able to successfully teach reading, personal economics, and math, which is not presently the case.

For a supposed skeptic, Vox does seem to spend an inordinate amount of time denying key aspects of the theory and dismissing evidence that supports it. Sounds rather more like denialism to me. And his solution to a failing education system – teach even less! – is rather amusing. (Or, it would be if it weren’t the apparent mindset of an increasingly prominent faction of the population these days.)

And finally, returning to our theocratic beginnings:

9. Do you believe it is proper for teachers to lead students in prayer in public schools?

Of course. A public school isn't Congress and a prayer isn't a law. Even under the mostly fictional "separation of church and state" doctrine, this is perfectly permissible. If either the kids or the parents don't like it, let them pull their kids out and homeschool them.

Except that the Establishment Clause isn’t limited solely to Congress and laws. Again, innumerable court rulings by legal experts far more adept at judging such matters than Vox Day have made it quite clear: The separation of church and state applies to the entire US governing body, including the branch dealing with oversight of the country’s education system. Ergo, state-sanctioned public educators leading their students into prayer would, in fact, be breaking the law. There are more than a few ongoing court cases at the moment to demonstrate this. Though, with Vox’s Christian-supremacist reading of the US Constitution, I suppose any desired interpretation is possible.

Part of me is almost thankful this guy lives halfway across the world and isn’t eligible (if not interested) in becoming the latest whackjob presidential contender. The country really doesn’t need any more.