Thebulk of contemporary debates over the separation of Church and government goback to Thomas Jefferson and his address to the Danbury Baptist Association.
Given that the religious convictions of the founders were hardly uniform andthat the role of religion at the time of the founding was much different thanit is today, the usefulness and relevance of this question may be disputed.Nevertheless, it remains a source of much public interest and is worthexploring, if not to tell us what the role of religion should be today, then atleast to provide context for the philosophy behind the founding of a state withan entirely original relationship to religion and religious freedom. Central tosuch an investigation is Thomas Jefferson, whose contributions to the foundingcannot be overstated, and whose writings on religion range from asserting man`sGod-given rights in the Declaration of Independence to proclaiming the “wall ofseparation” between church and state, which influences Constitutionalinterpretation to this day. Thomas Jefferson envisioned a nation of politicaland religious freedom, and wanted a mutual respect to be the central virtue ofthe new country. Americans, today, should be striving to understand thatreligion and government should be separate entirely, to the driving forces thathelp us make decisions to Churches not having to pay taxes.
By 1774, Jefferson hadcommitted fully to the Enlightenment concept of natural rights, which haddeveloped as a theory to oppose the “divine right” of kings to absolute rulethat characterized previous centuries. Jefferson incorporated this idea intothe language of his Summary View of the Rights of British America, writing,”The God who gave us life, gave us liberty at the same time: the hand of forcemay destroy, but cannot disjoin them.” (Foote) For Jefferson, God had granted man the great gift of reason, and afailure to use that gift was similar to violating the sacred.
The religious andthe rational were so unified in Jefferson`s mind, they were almostindistinguishable. He also believed that man`s own moral reasoning was not onlysufficient for questions of ethics and good government, but was the basis formorality as a whole. The extent to which a government trespassed on andsuppressed the ability of man to decide the answers to moral questions, forhimself, was the extent of tyranny.
I believe in this time religion was acentral part of the culture but now science and atheism are very dominantpowers in our society. We have to allow for everyone to have a voice ingovernment, not just the religious, to have a true democracy. ThomasJefferson’s claims and writings should be interpreted with the time period. Furthermore,Thomas Jefferson advocated for religious freedom because he wanted people tolisten their own moral voice to make decisions on pressing matters. If religionis the basis of someone’s morality and they are taught to be kind and respecttheir neighbor, their morality won`t be tainted by hatred. Religion and government is a verytoxic and dangerous mix of power and control. America is very behind in stemcell research because of religious organizations halting any stem cell researchprojects People believe that it is ethically wrong to use human embryos in medicalresearch even if it might offer promising new treatments because they somebelieve that the embryos used are the results of abortions. Support of stemcell research has risen in the US over the past decade but with the new wave ofrepublican dominated power in our government, it may all come to a halt soonerthan later.
Nick Allum conducted a study that concluded In the U.S., moralacceptability was more influential as a driver of support for stem-cellresearch; in Europe the perceived benefit to society carried more weight; andin Canada the two were almost equally important. This highlights that when it comes tomaking decisions, the most weighed factors are benefit and morality. The studyalso concluded that public opinion on stem-cell research was more stronglyassociated with religious convictions in the U.S. than in Canada and Europe,although many strongly religious citizens in all regions approved of stem-cellresearch.
Unfortunately, with the prevalence of religious-based opposition instate and federal systems of government, it’s incredibly easy to push for adecision based on feelings and morals with a strong religious background. Thebenefits of stem cell research are ignored because of dishonesty and deceptionin our elected officials. Its rare one sees an official in office who wants theposition to help other, rather than feeding into their own agenda as anindividual and group. For example, Kim Davis is a woman who denied marriagelicenses to homosexual couples who spent five days in jail forrefusing to follow court orders and issue marriage licenses to same-sexcouples, was met with applause from Mike Huckabee and Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas,who were Republican presidential primary candidates at the time and made publicappearances with her in Kentucky because of their shared Christian belief thathomosexual people cannot get legally married. Another example is Roy Moore ofAlabama who stated her say his future wife when she was a teenager and he was30.
He also has pending sexual assault allegations for multiple women. However,some people in Alabama are standing by him because he is a “Christianrepublican”. These people would rather have a pedophile/rapist in office,rather than a democrat because he believes in God and stands for their samereligious beliefs, among many other reasons. Thereare many small instances of Christian beliefs sneaking its way into everydayAmerica. Some examples include, “In God We Trust” on our money, “Under God” inour National Anthem, swearing on a bible before testifying in court, and prayerbefore political meetings.
I believe religionshould be a choice. For example, praying before sport games should be allowedbut you don’t have to pray. Oneshouldn’t have to swear on a bible in to testify in court and people should notbe forced to recite the national anthem. I believe Jefferson’s vision was likethis.
We cannot escape religion and should not force religion onto anybody, butmake it a choice. With the growing number of atheists in our society, Americamust recognize and accept other people’s differences. In a letter ThomasJefferson wrote to Peter Carr in 1787, he stated “questionwith boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he mustmore approve of the homage of reason, than that of blind-folded fear”. () Thisis a very powerful quote and pulls together what Jefferson saw for his newlyfounded country. He believes we should not God or our government, but we shouldnot be afraid to be curious. We must ask questions to grow as people and anation. Today, some talk about God and fearing him. I think this is a directreflection of their feelings towards the government and why they don’t eventhink to ask questions pertaining to our government.
People wont questionsomething they fear, they will only bow down to this invisible power because oftheir fear of having no control. The government and its officials do a greatjob of creating an illusion of power they put in the peoples hands so theyfollow them blindly. This is the power and control that our government hasgained by not creating a secular system. They can control its citizen’s by justquestioning their morals.
No one wants to be called a “baby killer” or a”liberal”, when those words have a negative connotation not only in with yoursuperiors but also your family. Humans have an innate tribal-like mentality. We don’twant to be isolated or ostracized by our loved ones or anyone for that matter. In 2009, JordanGrafman published an fMRI study showing that religious thoughts activate thearea of the brain involved in deciphering other people’s emotions andintentions — the ability known as theory of mind. In the study of 40 people,published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (Vol.
106, No. 12), Grafman and his colleagues found that when they heard phrasessuch as “God’s will guides my acts” and “God protects one’s life,” areas of thebrain involved in theory of mind lit up. In a study published in 2009 in SocialCognitive Affective Neuroscience (Vol. 4, No.
2), a Danish team saw thesame brain areas activate when religious participants prayed. Religon alsoserves a key purpose in allowing people to live in large cooperative groups.However, an important problem with this is that the more you look inward towardyour religious group and its claims of virtue, the less you look outward andthe more distrustful you are of others. I don’t believe religion shouldn’t beallowed but I believe science should be equally respected in our nation, and Ibelieve Thomas Jefferson would agree with that statement. Jefferson stated that the separation between Churchand state should be between the laws governing over them. However, I think hewas inferring that religion and government need to be separate from one anotherin many different aspects of control and power. He believed that no one shouldhave control over ones beliefs and no one can impose those beliefs on anyone.However, the struggle of basing your morality on your religion leaves a lot ofroom for bias opinions that turn into legislation.
People aren’t always going to agree butrespect shouldn’t be the first thing thrown out the window when debatingtopics. If we take a divine creator out of a lot of tough subjects, thearguments are a lot easier to make solid facts for because an invisible man inthe sky calling the shots is not a wide spread belief anymore.