The fear of irrational religious believers taking control of the state


I am wondering how we can reassure folks who are of a more secular humanist, agnostic, or even atheistic bent that being a religious believer does not automatically make us irrational. This fear that religious folks are trying to establish a theocracy in America seems to be popping up in many places (in my experience that is).

As far as I can understand it, religious folks (like myself) of various religious backgrounds, are banding together under the banner of pro-life pro-traditional moral values causes. Most of us don’t see these causes as being irrational, even though the causes tend to be motivated to some extent, from a religious point of view. Despite that, we often have very rational basis for our point of view. From a Catholic perspective, those reasons tend to be grounded in various philosophical perspectives, such as Aristotelian/Thomistic natural law, the concept that we have fixed natures and essences that dictate what can or should be reasonably permitted within the scope of human freedom (including sexual choices). I would characterize this as the essentialist point of view, as contrasted to the existentialist point of view that denies that we have any such limits or fixed natures, that the human person is radically free to choose on any number of subjects, including our gender, sexual identity, and even whether we should live or die.

Ultimately the essentialist point of view respects our fixed natures on account of the fact that this is the nature we have been created with. That point of view is colored by the religious concept that there is something fundamentally fallen about human nature and in needing of salvation (reform). That there are some innate tendencies within human nature that are fundamentally irrational (read evil/sinful) and must be resisted.

Contrast this with the existentialist point of view that seems to reject these restrictions. Freedom to choose one’s own path through life is the paramount concern. No one has the right to judge one’s personal choices. Especially when it comes to sexual identity, sexual preferences, and even the right to choose when we die. In their perspective, the essentialist point of view imposes tyrannical restrictions on their freedom. “I am free to do whatever I want with my body” they say about abortion. “I am free to change my gender” they say on the issue of gender transition. “I am free to choose when and by what means I conceive a baby” they say about contraception and reproductive technology. “I am free to choose when I die.” they say about euthanasia. And so on.

The bottom line, it seems, is that yes, we do want to limit their freedom.


God bless,

You’ve taken some time to think this through and build a defense, contrasting existentialism and essentialism.
But I would suggest this. Instead of being defensive, I would start with the idea that atheism, at least, is irrational and anti-human. It does not have a basis in which it can ground rationality or moral norms.
So, instead of us needing to reassure folks, I think we need to help our opponents see that their view is radically anti-social. That is not to be combative, but to help them realize the instability of atheistic-secularism and the danger it poses.

The US government has had checks and balances to prevent such a thing from happening for over 200 years. However, the one thing that could unravel the US is an immoral populace:

John Adams in a speech to the military in 1798 warned his fellow countrymen stating,
“We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion . . . Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”

Benjamin Rush, Signer of the Declaration of Independence said.
"[T]he only foundation for a useful education in a republic is to be aid in religion. Without this there can be no virtue, and without virtue there can be no liberty, and liberty is the object and life of all republican governments. Without religion, I believe that learning does real mischief to the morals and principles of mankind."

Noah Webster, author of the first American Speller and the first Dictionary said,
"[T]he Christian religion, in its purity, is the basis, or rather the source of all genuine freedom in government. . . . and I am persuaded that no civil government of a republican form can exist and be durable in which the principles of that religion have not a controlling influence."

Gouverneur Morris, Penman and Signer of the Constitution.
"[F]or avoiding the extremes of despotism or anarchy . . . the only ground of hope must be on the morals of the people. I believe that religion is the only solid base of morals and that morals are the only possible support of free governments. [T]herefore education should teach the precepts of religion and the duties of man towards God."

Fisher Ames author of the final wording for the First Amendment wrote,
"[Why] should not the Bible regain the place it once held as a school book? Its morals are pure, its examples captivating and noble. The reverence for the Sacred Book that is thus early impressed lasts long; and probably if not impressed in infancy, never takes firm hold of the mind."

John Jay, Original Chief-Justice of the U. S. Supreme Court,
“The Bible is the best of all books, for it is the word of God and teaches us the way to be happy in this world and in the next. Continue therefore to read it and to regulate your life by its precepts.”

James Wilson, Signer of the Constitution; U. S. Supreme Court Justice,
“Human law must rest its authority ultimately upon the authority of that law which is divine. . . . Far from being rivals or enemies, religion and law are twin sisters, friends, and mutual assistants. Indeed, these two sciences run into each other.”

Noah Webster, author of the first American Speller and the first Dictionary stated,
“The moral principles and precepts contained in the scriptures ought to form the basis of all our civil constitutions and laws. . . All the miseries and evils which men suffer from vice, crime, ambition, injustice, oppression, slavery, and war, proceed from their despising or neglecting the precepts contained in the Bible.”

Robert Winthrop, Speaker of the U. S. House,
“Men, in a word, must necessarily be controlled either by a power within them or by a power without them; either by the Word of God or by the strong arm of man; either by the Bible or by the bayonet.”

George Washington, General of the Revolutionary Army, president of the Constitutional Convention, First President of the United States of America, Father of our nation,
“Religion and morality are the essential pillars of civil society.”

Benjamin Franklin, Signer of the Declaration of Independence
"[O]nly a virtuous people are capable of freedom. As nations become corrupt and vicious, they have more need of masters."

I remember when JFK was elected (barely…) the big fear was he would be loyal to the Pope, not the American people.

Today, I could see a super religious administration to follow a super secular one that screws up everything. Though I don’t think in America we would ever get Jim Jones or Koresh type winning sn election…

Simply act like a normal person. Other people will think what they like and you can’t stop them. However, if you are not behaving in some irrational or violent manner or spewing hatred, the facts will speak for themselves.

There are plenty of people who would think I belong in the insane asylum for simply believing in Jesus Christ, even if I never did any marching or speaking or activism and just believed in Him quietly. So it has always been throughout history and so it will always be, because faith is not a logical construct and not everyone has the blessing of having it.

That’s a nice list of extremists.Thank you.:smiley:

As for why folks are afraid of the return of the dark ages of the Judeo-Christian anti-human tyranny…Well, I guess they read history books and just don’t want to see the history repeating itself.:slight_smile:

Which is why we (in the US) have a republic, not a theocracy. (Most) Christians realize that the government and religion need to respect one another but not attempt to mix.

Of course, religion doesn’t have a monopoly on tyranny. Atheism bought all the railroads last century.

Separation of church and state is essential. If abortion is to be illegal, it needs to be determined through democracy and from the idea that it is humanely wrong as in murdering an innocent life.

Euthanasia/assisted dying is the same. It should not be illegal based on religious grounds. If it is to be illegal, it needs to be because the law is not written correctly and doesn’t provide proper safeguards. It seems ridiculous for a government to make it illegal for someone to end their life. The state does not own your life. Obviously suicide has not been illegal in sometime in most places in the world, but by denying a virtually surefire method and a “clean” method seems to be against what the state would want. Currently, people are forced to use messy methods and do so earlier than what they would want to. As a result, tax payer money is spent with police being involved with investigations, cleaning up the “mess” and it leaves too many questions. A sophisticated society should be able to navigate this. Religious people need to be protected in participating in any way they are not comfortable. Doctors may be paid more for being available from providing this. This should not be an issue for the religious.

Our current population of progressive citizens tends toward incontinence at the specter of others disagreeing with them. Let them have their life-long hissy fit; let them fear. Either they mature out of it, or they end their lives as immature as they lived them.

“limit their freedom”? In what way is saving life a bad thing? And a stable society is a worthy goal but there’s no money in it. There is money in selling illegal drugs, getting an abortion and euthanasia. And social instability in a “do whatever I want” society means when a problem occurs, who pays to clean up the mess? There’s money in getting a divorce and child-custody and child support situations. You need to pay a lawyer.

Now, contrast that with people who don’t use illegal drugs, get married and have babies, and who are told about pain management. Who are taught the basics about life and who take the idea of being a productive member of society and a good neighbor seriously. No, no one is perfect but aren’t those goals worth striving for?

With no sense of right or wrong, good or bad, do we abandon our values when we vote? Doesn’t everyone vote for what they want? One person, one vote.


Instability is the nature of it. Revolution! Change! Make [whatever] legal.

The Holy Father [Pope Benedict] says:

"If we cannot have common values, common truths, sufficient communication on the essentials of human life–how to live how to respond to the great challenges of human life–then true society becomes impossible."

Commentary from The Practical Catholic:

"How true this is. Where there is no communication, no culture, no shared experience, there is no society; because there is no people. There remains only a vast and foreboding, unforgiving sea of individuals ready to crash upon each other and the world with the slightest wind. Without a common basis, we have not the vaulted pluralism we’re taught to embrace, but Babel, in all the confusion and madness of a society with no binding forces. Already we are seeing the tensions of this fragmentation breaking out across cultures.

“Without common values and truths, such as in the socieites we find ourselves in, we find the fabric of society torn like Joseph’s cloak, by a great many tribes which would like to lay claim to the title of favored. Leftists, conservatives, anarchists, nihilists, secularists, objectivists, the shallow, the entertainers, the entertained, all vying for control against each other. Tribalism can indeed spawn differentiation, but without some common ground, and in the face of increasing jargon not only in the academies but in the cultures; we shall be left with madness. In the end this tribalism can only result in the decline of all their claims, and the alienation of one from the other. Babel is the happenstance when society tries to become God.”


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