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March 22, 2012
Posted by brandon h bell
Why is Sharia law bad? To whom is Sharia law bad? People who know about Sharia via talk radio are apt to respond: it's bad for everyone. But as an intellectual game, consider it an honest question.
For whom would Sharia law be a bad circumstance?
One aware of the provisions of this form of law might argue that it is bad for women. But if you believed in Sharia rule, presumably even as a woman, the restrictions upon you would be acceptable. Right even. So for whom is Sharia rule bad?
If a nation is predominantly Muslim, is it right to speak up for women or for Christians, or others in that nation who suffer under that law? On what basis?
If Sharia law is bad for nonbelievers, how can anyone, on an ethical basis, justify legislating one's own religious beliefs?
A second question is appropriate: is our's a theocracy or a secular state? If the population of folks who like Sharia law outnumbered those who oppose it in the United States, on what basis would you argue that adapting those laws into public policy would remain unethical?
One might argue that we are a Christian Nation. It is a precarious argument on either side, where one can pick and choose quotes to prove one's premise (usually based around the beliefs of the founding fathers.) It seems much closer to the truth that our founding fathers were a varied group of freethinkers who tended toward belief in a deity while not quite fitting into the doctrinal lines that would define one as fully Christian or Deist or Atheist.
The Constitution does not once use the words "Jesus Christ, Christianity, Bible, Creator, Divine, or God" and does state "no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States." (Article 6, Section 3.) http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/constitution_transcript.html
Now, religious language does occur in various letters and correspondence and even the Declaration of Independence. These were religious men. I'm not joining the debate over which founding father believed in what theistic belief system. But it is a epochal fact what is missing from the Constitution and what is included. Religion, our founding fathers dictated in the Constitution, shall not determine who qualifies for office.
"And the day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus, by the supreme being as his father in the womb of a virgin will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerva in the brain of Jupiter. But we may hope that the dawn of reason and freedom of thought in these United States will do away with all this artificial scaffolding, and restore to us the primitive and genuine doctrines of this the most venerated reformer of human errors." -- Jefferson's letter to John Adams, April 11 1823
It seems to me that Jefferson, today, would be the type of guy who'd say he's a follower of Jesus but not a Christian. But that's my take, you can read his thoughts yourself:
Jefferson in the latter years of his life created the Jefferson Bible by excising all the supernatural and other items he felt incorrect from the gospels. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jefferson_Bible
Was he Christian? I don't know. He may have self-defined as one, I just haven't researched it enough, but clearly he would have been a type of Christian more welcome in a Unitarian church than a Baptist one.
But... the hazard of that particular conversation is that it is easy to go and pick the quotes that back up our own prejudices. It is not a useful conversation. Or, it is useful only to the extent that we understand the radical departure the United States was from the past, when nations were founded based on the divine rights of kings. God created in those kings the right to rule the people.
Jefferson instead suggests that the power of the United States is derived from the governed. He knew, like we know, that the divine right of kings was the bullshit doctrine of the mighty over the weak.
"That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed" --Declaration of Independence
Returning to the original conversation, my point in all this is simple. It is easy if we empower a 'might makes right' methodology and reinterpret the intentions of our founding fathers. They were complex men of varied religious beliefs, ranging from Protestantism to Deism and a range between, who apparently took great care in putting into words the reason for this new union:
"We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America..." http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/constitution_transcript.html
If during a rise in fundamental angst, we empower a given expression of one religious doctrine to assert itself as the religion and reason for the United States, we create a precedence for another doctrine to do the same down the line. Perhaps a version of that same religion that one might find 'incorrect.' Perhaps a different doctrine entirely.
That one can find sites which quote the founding fathers as pious Christians all suggests to me that these were quite complex men, sometimes contradictory, often deep thinkers into a variety of matters, religious and otherwise. Few if any of them would triumph a pity statement like "America is a Christian Nation!" or Deist, or Atheist, etc. They were all much more complex than that; more intellectual than bumper sticker piousness allows.
A theocracy without an incarnate deity equals men imposing their interpretation of a religion on everyone else, believer and nonbeliever alike. It inevitably becomes if it doesn't start outright as such, as powerful men wielding religion as a weapon against the weak. And it is a beast that feeds itself, limiting education and access so that the ruled come to know nothing better than the muck and scraps they deserve.
It is rule by the divine right of kings.
A secular state such as the founding fathers created is one where anyone might live and pursue their self-defined happiness without someone else making demands based on their own religious beliefs. Ours was not a perfect start as a nation and every one of the founding fathers had faults you could lay out and criticize. We started out with slavery. We started out without equality. It was a starting point. And we've progressed while conserving those facets of our society that keep us strong. Progress and Conservation are two aspects of a healthy whole.
Peace and goodwill among men are desired, but barring that baseline we must maintain those fundamental freedoms that a secular state affords us. We do not live in a theocracy, and if every one of the founding fathers were Christian, it would only make it more true by virtue of what is not in the Constitution. Is that an insult to Christians? I don't think so; I think it is a tremendous compliment to the foresight of the founders and it is a great favor paid forward to believers of all stripes. The government works best when it is afforded limitations. Governing women's bodies, governing the bedroom, governing the faith of man: these things can be done, but the State becomes then Leviathan. It oversteps its rightful bounds as protector of civility and become master of the governed.
That doesn't sound like 'We the people...'
Some quotes initially found on http://freethought.mbdojo.com/foundingfathers.html though I tried to find independent sources for each.