General Question

Haroot's avatar

What reasons would you seperate Church and State?

Asked by Haroot (2113points) April 21st, 2009

I have an essay on it. Basically, 75% of this country is some form of Christian. Now, I’m not arguing for an atheist nation but one that is more religiously open. So that if another country is talking about us, they can’t say, “Oh, the Cristian country right?”

So, my 3 big claims are that:
-It would reduce tension with various nations and religious factions (Taliban)
-It would make immigration easier for those of various religions
-It was reduce (but not eliminate) debate about things such as gay marriage, abortion, etc….

Would you add any other strong reasons? And if I offend anyone with this post I do apologize.

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27 Answers

Qingu's avatar

The historical reason for it is that the founders came from a European civilization that was constantly embroiled in religious civil war.

Another reason is that the governing principles of the United States have little to do with religious principles. The Bible has a system of governance that resembles Saudi Arabia’s or Iran’s. Our government is built more on the Roman and Greek model.

Another reason is that tolerant, multicultural societies tend to be more successful historically than rigid theocracies. Ancient Babylon, Persia, Greece, Rome, and (for a little while) Islamic civilization were tolerant societies that allowed alternate religious practices. Religion and government weren’t completely separated in any of these societies, but they were more separate than in less successful ones.

Haroot's avatar

@Qingu That took me a minute to soak in, but very good points. Thanks. :)

fireside's avatar

Not really sure what you are asking. Are you proposing to separate the US government from the Christian religion in order to achieve the above stated goals?

If so, then there is already a separation.

Are you talking about a different state other than America?
Israel? Iran?

Haroot's avatar

@fireside No, I mean America. I know there is a separation, but it’s not absolute. If it were I know same-sex marriage would be more then likely allowed. In addition, I doubt you would here the phrase, “God bless America” as much as we did over Bush’s years (Not sure if Obama has used that phrase as of yet.)

More so, I need reasons why separation is a good thing.

Qingu's avatar

Honestly, the biggest reason is that religion is based largely on mythology, and good public policy relies on empiricism and science. Religion should have no place in our government for the same reason astrology shouldn’t. Not sure if you can say that in your paper, though. :)

Haroot's avatar

I wish I could. It’s hard for me to keep this only about separation of Church and State and not dip into issues that may cause a religious debate.

fireside's avatar

Honestly, I think you’re setting yourself up for a bad grade on your essay if you take a position that separation would mean gay marriage. Other than Denmark, it’s only been in the last 13 years that gay marriage was made legal anywhere in the world.

I also don’t see how tension between the Taliban would decrease when they were pushed out of power by us over Terrorism, not religion. Now they are trying to topple two governments we have propped up.

Is immigration more difficult for non-Christians than for Christians?

You are making some pretty vague leaps here, but I guess it depends on what class you are writing an essay for.

Maybe the best reason would be that it is called for in the Constitution?

Haroot's avatar

I should have elaborated more, when it comes to issues such as gay marriage I know that it would completely remove this debate since there are many non-religious people who equally disapprove of gay marriage. I believe that the less people we have focused on topics such as that, the more we can focus on more important issues like the economy. It’s a bit of a stretch.

As for the Taiban, I use that example more historically. They think/thought we worship a heathen God. It’s one of several reasons they refer to us as, “Evil.”

And I’d say it partially is. Due to the overwhelming numbers of Christians. If I were say, a muslim, I’d be slightly more intimidated coming to a Christian country then a mixed religion country. As opposed to a Christian who would probably find it equally difficult to immigrate to a Christian country or a mixed country. There’s a lot of loopholes in that one since it’s my weakest argument.

Oh, and this is for an argumentative essay for my English class. The point of it is more-so to be persuasive.

fireside's avatar

I’d pick a new topic for your paper, but good luck.

Haroot's avatar

I wish I could. But you two have change around my claims. I think I’m broaden it a bit to something in terms of history, something in terms of internal conflict, and something in terms external conflict. What exactly, I’m not sure. But thank you two. The feedback is always good. Nice to bounce ideas around.

bea2345's avatar

The strongest reason for a secular state in a multicultural world is summed up in two words: “good governance”. The secular state does not become embroiled in religious controversies; has no opinion on religious subjects; treats all religions the same; insists on certain standards of behaviour from everyone, e.g equality of treatment (a Rastafarian child cannot be refused a school place because of her locks); not disturbing the neighbours (you should not set up an evangelical church in a residential area), etc. The secular state might relax the rules of dress for Sikh policemen (Sikhs wear turbans); but it would equally forbid the burqua to be worn by nurses on the ward (from considerations of public health).

oratio's avatar

My thoughts is that the biggest reason for a state to be secular is that it’s politics is free of controversies and conflicts that has nothing to do with what the politics are trying to do in the first place, and to be considered truly secular the governance of a state can have nothing to do with the church. Kind of “Give to caesar what belongs to caesar, and to god what belongs to him” if you will.

@Qingu You have many good points but I would hardly call Iran and Saudi Arabia similar when it comes to governance and constitution.

alossforwords's avatar

I don’t think that the Taliban dislikes the US for being Christian. I think it has more to do with the fact that we are capitalists with nuclear power who take oil from the Middle East and ally ourselves with their enemies.

Are we trying to encourage immigration? That leads to an increase in population which translates directly into unemployment.

I think Church and State should be seperate for no other reason than to uphold the US Constitution. Religion and law tend to cover the same moral good with exceptions. As long as the majority votes it so, it should be as long as it does not contradict the ideals that this country is founded upon.

Qingu's avatar

@oratio, fair point. I was mostly talking about the content of their laws. Though Iran’s government is certainly more progressive than that advocated in the Bible.

fireside's avatar

hence the term, progressive revelation : P

Mamradpivo's avatar

Why keep religion and political control separate? See Afghanistan. See Dark Ages Europe. See Saudi Arabia.

The_Compassionate_Heretic's avatar

Religiously based legislation immediately alienates those citizens and residents who don’t follow that religion. This creates a rift between several groups who feel they are not being adequately represented by their government on a very fundamental level.

Religion is a dividing force when it is introduced in a governmental capacity. There are people who are quick to say that several middle eastern nations have no separation between church and state and that they are doing fine. They’re NOT doing fine. They’re fighting constantly. Israel is openly aggressive towards it’s neighbors based upon religion. Iran was at war with Iraq for years. India and Pakistan have heavy emphasis on religion in government and they hate each other with a passion.

Jayne's avatar

You cannot separate religion from government. Insofar as government can be concerned, God is incidental; the true nature of religion is as a moral system evolved to manage societies. The appeal to a higher authority is useful in that it helps extend that system to a diversity of new member of those societies, but the difference between your instinctive aversion to someone shouting racist comments in public and a strict Muslim’s aversion to an uncovered woman is simply in the mechanism by which those moral codes are passed on, justified, and enforced; and many moral rules that have become so ingrained in society that they are held by atheists every bit as much as they are by believers are derived from the philosophy of a religious society. In short, government must draw on some moral code, and there is no fundamental distinction between theistic and atheistic morality that would allow use to prevent religion from wielding a significant influence on policy.

From a slightly different angle, religion is not some activity cordoned off from a person’s life- not in most cases, at least- and it would be impossible for a person to ignore its teachings whenever they step into the world of politics. Religion is an entire system of thought, a worldview that cannot help but influence areas well beyond its theoretical bounds.

As an atheist, I hate to have to say all of this, as I do believe that religious teachings are almost entirely bunk, and I despise most of the political and social decisions that have resulted from them. However, the fact remains that as a democratic nation populated largely by believers, it is nonsensical to expect religion to stay out of our government. However, that is not to say that government should make an official allegiance to religion. By the concepts above, to ally with all religions is to ally with all moral thought, and is thus meaningless; and far worse, to ally with one religion, even momentarily, is to alienate the diversity so valuable to this nation and this world. Thus, the government should do as it always has, at least nominally, in following the morality of the moment, with fidelity only to that popular sentiment and not to its origins, religious or otherwise.

Crusader's avatar

Protect hypocrites and opportunists.
Allow for wholesale manipulation and fear.
Reinvent society in the image of the selfish and self-serving.

wundayatta's avatar

@Jayne Believe it or not, I pretty much agree with you. Religion and state aren’t really distinguishable. They both do pretty much the same thing. Separation of church and state simply means that no one sect will be the official religion of the state.

The rest of it is culture and community and symbolism and mythology. States have just as much mythology as religion does. It really doesn’t make sense to distinguish them. Americanism does pretty much the same kind of thing as Catholicism or any other religion. Religious folk rally around god, and statist folk rally around the flag. Religious folk say the Lord’s Prayer and statist folk say the Pledge of Allegiance.

By separating church and state, we allow Americans to all belong to a unity (Americanism) while maintaining their other form of unity (the religion). The two overlap, and religion informs statism, just as statism informs religion.

So, we talk of separation, but really, that’s just a “pay no attention to the man behind the curtain” kind of thing. It’s a fiction we use to allow us more unity across all kinds of beliefs. We can still remain loyal to the state, while disagreeing on religion. If we had an official state religion, then any deviance from the official religion would be almost treason. With separation, there can be no treason, and we can all be Americans above everything, and also with everything else we believe.

Jayne's avatar

I thought the day would never come…

TheKNYHT's avatar

Today’s America is more interested (at least from the atheist/humanist camp) in Seperation of Church FROM State.
Yet these two powers, political and ecclesiastical are meant to remain independent of each other lest one gain an upper hand over the other.
So much of European history has experienced the rule of the Roman Catholic church over their heads of state, and all the injustices and corruptions associated with it. Likewise any nation where the State would preside over Ecclesiastical matters would have an adverse effect on freedom of religion, and freedom of expression (as can be demonstrably shown where strong Socialism/Fascism/Communism is presiding over a nation).

Mr_Callahan's avatar

“Gotta keep it separated”, isn’t that a song?

bob100's avatar

If they aren’t kept separated, there is a danger that a religious organization might take can control of the government and use its powers to suppress other beliefs.

bea2345's avatar

@bob100 – secular organizations do it too, e.g. the Communist Party, the Baathists, various dictatorships, etc. The main reason for the separation of Church (i.e. religion) and State is that the two institutions have different objectives and purposes. In Islam, where many people do not perceive a dichotomy, problems arise when religious belief conflicts with matters of state (e.g. sharia law countenancing the death penalty for offenses not in the country’s criminal code, as in Nigeria). Speaking generally, the separation works to allow all voices to have a hearing, however irrational and even perverse. This process has gone furthest in the United States.

kritiper's avatar

The best thing is that the state won’t cut your head off for not believing and/or attending the state church. (Like with Henry VIII)

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