Monday, October 03, 2005

New column on church/state issues

It's Monday and my new Boston Globe column is out. It deals with some of the topics discussed on this blog in the past week: issues of religion in public life, as they play out in the debate over FEMA reimbursement for Katrina-related emergency services provided by religious organizations, and in the controversy over Noah Riner's convocation speech at Dartmouth:

IN RECENT years, there have been a lot of complaints on the right about ''religious intolerance" from secularist liberals. Some of this talk is a conservative version of the left-wing victim mentality; sometimes the charges are legitimate. Both champions and opponents of religion in the public square have a tendency to confuse equal treatment with faith-based privilege.

Read the rest here.


LetMeSpellItOutForYou said...

Re: "aggressive proselytizing -- not just, say, handing out Bibles but getting in people's faces with their message"... Alas, many would regard handing out Bibles as aggressive proselytizing.

Similarly I regard "Under God" as a far more innocuous statement, like another way of saying give unto Caesar and don't assign godlike powers to government. It also does not specify a God. I'm hardly religious, but I think it's silly to be offended by this one.

Cathy Young said...

Well, if handing out bibles is aggressive proselytizing then I suppose I'm aggressively proselytized every time I stay at a hotel!

I think the Pledge is a largely symbolic exercise, and probably a silly battle to get involved in. However -- ironically -- the more I listen to the defenders of the Pledge, the more I sympathize with its opponents. The message seems to be that an acknowledgment of God is a part of American civic identity, which does imply that those who do not believe in God (or who believe in multiple gods, or who believe that God is not "above" us but in everything) are somehow lesser Americans.

When more than half of Americans in survey freely voice a bigoted attitude toward atheists (i.e., the opinion that you can't be a fully moral person without believing in God), I can't help but finding collective civic expressions of religiosity somewhat troubling. And no, I don't like the condescending attitude toward religious people on the part of many intellectuals any better, but that's a different story.

PG said...

In some ways, the restrictions on church reimbursements may be too narrow. While there may be later policies to address Rita, under the current rules my friend's church in East Texas is ineligible for reimbursement.