A Christian People Created a Secular Government

What’s your reaction to President Obama’s recent statements to the Muslim world that “the United States is not, and never … Continued

What’s your reaction to President Obama’s recent statements to the Muslim world that “the United States is not, and never will be, at war with Islam” and that “we do not consider ourselves a Christian nation”?

From my point of view as an evangelical-liberal Christian, President Obama’s handling of the religion factor in domestic and foreign affairs has been flawless.

A few comments on the two statements.

Statement ONE:
“The United States is not, and never will be, at war with Islam.”
The U.S. is a nation, Islam is a religion. The statement is non-symmetrical.
The legal structure of the U.S. and the political mentality of our people separates the structures of government (“state”) and structures of religion (“church”). To war against any particular religion is, for us, inconceivable. Even if a “neo-con” administration were to trick us into such a war, it would have insufficient public support, and public rage would push for the President’s impeachment.

The U.S. is a political entity, Islam is a movement with no controlling center. (The Arab League is only an ethnic group within Islam.) Again, non-symmetricality.
Even if at some time the U.S. were at war with a Muslim nation or even a group of Muslim nations, we would not be “at war with Islam”: Obama is word-precise.
Lacking the experience and even the concept of the separation of church and state, most Muslims consider the U.S. a Christian nation on the model of Muslim nations. When we (foolishly) took over Iraq, it was, for most Muslims everywhere, a Christian nation on a “crusade” against a Muslim nation.
As a constitutional lawyer in the Anglo-American tradition, Obama knows that the U.S. is and always will be at law-war against sharia, Islamic law, which forbids freedoms assumed in the English-speaking world. The government of Pakistan has just yielded to Islamist pressure that a section of that country come under sharia, replacing Pakistani law. Muslim radicals insist that “dar es salam” (Muslim territorial dominance) is not satisfied until sharia completes the take-over. Until that time, a territory mainly inhabited by Muslims is still war territory (“dar es harb”), along with all the rest of the world.

Statement TWO:
“We do not consider ourselves a Christian nation.”
This reinforces the critical difference between America (a mainly Christian people with a secular government) and Muslim nations (with their various mixes, but never a distinct separation, of religion and politics).
Correctly, the (1797) Treaty of Tripoli says (in the English version, not in the Arabic versions) that the U.S. government was not “founded” on the Christian religion. Again, our trying to communicate to a Muslim nation (here, Lybia) our separation of church and state. We needed that Muslim government to cooperate with us in stopping the Muslim pirates’ depredations on our shipping.
Correctly, the U.S. has a record of supporting Muslims against Christians where the issue is justice. Most recently, providing diplomatic and military backing for Bosnia against Serbia.
As the only U.S. President ever to have lived in a Muslim nation and to have a Muslim name, Obama is uniquely situated to get Muslim attention for improved relations between our nation (and people) and Muslim nations (and people). While a committed Christian, he is (wisely) so low-profile about it in his speech that, in a recent survey, only 45% of Americans identified his religion as Christian, and 10% thought him a Muslim.

Willis E. Elliott
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  • edbyronadams

    However, a war against the godless by the faithful is not inconceivable.

  • colinnicholas

    As far as we know there are no gods and never were. We can celebrate the wonder of existence without recourse to infantile superstitions. Sam Harris says it best;”Man is manifestly not the measure of all things. The universe is shot through with mystery. The very fact of its being , and of our own, is a mystery absolute, and the only miracle worthy of the name. The consciousness that animates us is itself central to this mystery and the ground for any experience we might wish to call “spiritual.” No myths need be embraced for us to commune with the profundity of our circumstance. No personal God need be worshiped for us to live in awe at the beauty and immensity of creation. No tribal fiction need be rehearsed for us to realize, one fine day, that we do, in fact, love our neighbors, that our happiness is inextricable from their own, and that our interdependence demands that people everywhere be given the opportunity to flourish. The days of our religious identities are clearly numbered. Whether the days of civilization itself are numbered would seem to depend , rather too much, on how soon we realize this.”Sam Harris. “The End of Faith” p.227.

  • colinnicholas

    “The most common of all follies,” wrote H.L.Mencken, “is to believe passionately in the palpably not true. It is the chief occupation of mankind.”In culture after culture, people believe that the soul lives on after death, that rituals can change the physical world and divine the truth, and that illness and misfortune are caused and alleviated by spirits, ghosts, saints, fairies, angels, demons, cherubims, djinns, devils and gods.The common answer – that people take comfort in the thought of a benevolent shepherd, a universal plan, or an afterlife — is unsatisfying, because it only raises the question of why a mind would evolve to find comfort in beliefs it can plainly see are false. A freezing person finds no comfort in believing he is warm; a person face-to-face with a lion is not put at ease by the conviction that it is a rabbit. What is religion? Like the psychology of the arts, the psychology of religion has been muddied by scholars’ attempts to exalt it while understanding it. Religion cannot be equated with our higher, spiritual, humane, ethical yearnings ( though it sometimes overlaps with them).As Blaise Pascal wrote;”Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction.””How The Mind Works” by Steven Pinker. pub.WWNorton & Co. 1997. p554-555.

  • colinnicholas

    Edbyronadams;you say;”Perhaps the most common of all follies is to believe that anything can be proven untrue.”me;Hi Ed. Not quite sure what you mean. Lots of things can be proved to be untrue. 2+2=5 is untrue. I can prove it.Maybe what your saying is that nobody can prove that there is NO god.The proof lies with the person making the claim. If I say I have fairies at the bottom of my garden – then you have every right to say “prove it”. If I make the claim I should be able to back it up with evidence.Carl Sagan said that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. The claim that there is a skygod is an extraordinary claim, and there is no evidence. That’s really what Mencken is driving at; the palpably not true; but folks believe it anyway.

  • colinnicholas

    Talking about Mencken, here’s his take on a few dead gods.”Where is the graveyard of dead gods? What lingering mourner waters theirSpeaking of Huitzilopochtli recalls his brother Tezcatilpoca. Tezcatilpoca was almost as powerful ; he consumed twenty five thousand virgins a year.

  • Willis E. Elliott

    TO COLINNICHOLAS:Yesterday, I wrote you extensively, but my comment has not appeared. (I’m still hoping it does.)I have time now only to repeat the first paragraph:”I talk (through my fingers) with many who imagine that they are using their minds in the service of reason. My counter-claim – which here I detail – is that they (like everybody else)) are using reason to serve their mind’s COHERENCE (i.e., comprehensive sense-making). Their claim of being more-rational-than-thou is self-congratulatory delusion.”