The Significance of Reformation Day for the United States

October 31, 1517 was a forerunner to America’s Independence Day.

The following scholarly excerpts can be found in Amos and Gardiner’s Never Before in History: America’s Inspired Birth, which enthralled me at the age of 14.

“The American Revolution might thus be said to have started, in a sense, when Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the church door at Wittenberg. It received a substantial part of its theological and philosophical underpinnings from John Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion, and much of its social theory from the Puritan Revolution of 1640-1660, and, perhaps less obviously, from the Glorious Revolution of 1689. Put another way, the American Revolution is inconceivable in the absence of the context of ideas which have constituted Christianity. The leaders of the Revolution in every colony were imbued with the precepts of the Reformed faith.”

- Page Smith

“The founding of the United States and the principles on which it was established belong to the ongoing human quest for political and religious liberty. That quest is ancient and has been a central theme of Western civilization…For Luther, God alone had authority over peoples’ consciences…For Luther, the creator-redeemer distinction meant that there was a clear difference between the role of the church and the role of the state. Because church and state are separate institutions, the government’s role has to be restricted.” – Gary Amos and Richard Gardiner

“God has ordained the two governments: the spiritual, which by the Holy Spirit under Christ makes Christians and pious people; and the secular, which restrains the unchristian and wicked so that they are obliged to keep the peace outwardly

…The laws of worldly government extend no farther than to life and property and what is external upon earth. For over the soul God can and will let no one rule but himself. Therefore, where temporal power presumes to prescribe laws for the soul, it encroaches upon God’s government and only misleads and destroys souls. We desire to make this so clear that every one shall grasp it, and that the princes and bishops may see what fools they are when they seek to coerce the people with their laws and commandments into believing one thing or another.”
- Martin Luther

Updates, Dawkins-Watson article recap, Mendelian experiments, the usual

It has been quite awhile since I made a blog post categorized under the “Journal” label. In an effort to be professional and not fill the blogosphere with personalized, sentimental clutter that once characterized the silly blog posts of my teen years, I effectively ceased blogging about daily life or casual commentary and stuck with partially cross-posting my polished articles that were published at various outlets.

Since getting site hits on my column at the Communities at The Washington Times website is part of the job, I need to shift my strategy somewhat. From now on, I plan to reference my recent articles in individual posts here and only cross-post for my personal website archives after the article has been out for awhile (you can also see my latest columns headlined on this website’s sidebar). Furthermore, I plan to do follow-up blog posts responding to thoughtful commenters when necessary.

NOTE: Scroll down to see a “Subscribe to my e-newsletter!” form on the sidebar – it’s a new project of mine that I hope readers will enjoy. Subscribe if you’re interested! UPDATE: If the form doesn’t show up in your browser, just send an e-mail to amanda@amandaread.com with “Subscribe” in the subject line until I get this straightened out.

That being said, here are links to my recent TWTC articles:

Saturday, July 9, 2011Facebook blocks video of Ann Coulter interview as “abusive”

Cry-wolf syndrome kicking in: If you waste accusations of “abusive” and “racist” and “violation of separation of church and state” on material that really isn’t such, you risk making society indifferent to real dangers.

Saturday, July 16, 2011 – Of sexism and atheism: Richard Dawkins gets in trouble with feminists

A feminist atheist notices sexism in the skeptic community, and Dawkins scoffs. Does the professor have a point? Does atheism offer a solution to sexism?

Needless to say, the latter stirred up quite a bit of debate.

I was pleased to see that dissenting commenters (for the most part) bothered to be polite and above-board this time (at least to my knowledge – I don’t know if the editors had to censor any garbage out this time or not).  I also was glad to see a greater occurrence of original thought.  Oftentimes in these comment wars, I see a lot of what I call “copy and paste thinking”, in which people almost mindlessly regurgitate the same old arguments their buddies post on message boards all over the internet. Some triteness did show through from time to time, but as a whole there was a train of thoughtfulness.

I’ll briefly respond to a few arguments that caught my eye:

  • “I don’t understand, why is what happened in the elevator sexist in any way?” -GoMadden
  • “Christian feminists are jumping on elevatorgate…” -Rev. Aaron O’Donahue of the  “Church of Atheism”, while linking to my article.
  • “That’s sexist as heck. Your assumptions are firmly rooted in 1850. The year, not the test score. Appropriate business behavior does not depend on a business card.” -Peeweeherman, regarding my statement that a man should know better than to do more than “exchange business cards” with a woman in an elevator.

First let me admit that I do not consider myself to be a “Christian feminist”. I don’t consider myself to be a feminist at all. I know there are plenty of conservative Christian women who claim to be feminists in the sense of classical, suffragette feminism, but I prefer not to bother with the term “feminist” anyway. Like Michele Bachmann says, I’m “pro-woman and pro-man”, not a believer in cheap, whiny, politically expedient victimization of women.

Secondly, I must explain that I do not endorse Rebecca Watson’s conclusions about the man in the elevator.  I understand that what the guy did was not very appropriate, but I’m not convinced that it was rooted in genuine sexism. My “business card” phrase was meant to illustrate that in a late night/early morning elevator excursion, it would really be more appropriate for a stranger man interested in a lady to exchange contact information rather than invite her to his hotel room. (I could have said “exchange calling cards,” but that would have sounded even more 1850-ish.)

I thought that Watson’s observations of verbal abuse of women in new media audiences was more enlightening than the story of the elevator man.

I do think that it is, in a way, “sexist” for women to assume that every man who strikes up a conversation with them is a dirty sex pest with no self-control. The same could be said for those who assume men are so hopelessly carnal minded that every woman needs to be draped in potato sacks to keep males from lusting after them.

The man who claims to be Rev. Aaron O’Donahue of the “Church of Atheism” made an excellent point on Facebook when he said that he was tired of people abusing terms such as “misogynist” and “racist”. Yes, people need to stop crying wolf about sexism and racism when it doesn’t really exist – just as skeptics should not cry wolf about separation of church and state being violated when it really isn’t. False alarms are not healthy for society.

That being said, whether or not what happened in the Dublin elevator was sexist is beside the point of my article. I didn’t fully agree or disagree with the arguments made by both Watson and Dawkins. I merely intended to say that atheism can’t offer a solution to sexism against women, because if it’s simply about making women feel more empowered, it is a relativistic issue that can never be settled.

The Christian worldview asserts that men and women are equal bearers of Christ’s image, and that sexuality is a sacred thing intended for the covenantal union of one man and one woman. The Bible is filled with vivid scandals recorded “for our instruction” (Romans 15:4) that describe what kind of havoc is wreaked when the Creator’s initial design is disregarded and men and women are disrespected.

Apparently medical science doesn’t contradict this principled perspective.

  • “Amanda Read is attempting to understand atheism from her worldview, so she makes the mistake of assuming that atheists are atheists because of some philosophical reasoning.” -Sam
  • “In Haiti, 96% of the population in Christian.” -ShanaD
  • “Evolution is just about how we evolved. Morality is something completely different and is not dependent on a belief in either creationism by God. Genetics may determine drives, it does not determine behavior. Cultural conditioning is what determines our behavior and morality. In fact, evolutionists claim that morality is actually a huge advantage for social creatures like humans.” – ShanaD
  • “Rape rates are higher in more religious states, typically, than in more secularized states.” -ShanaD
  • “Secularism didn’t exist when Jesus Christ was on earth, before he was on earth or for more than a millennium afterward.” -The Great and Powerful Oz

Sam, I actually was not assuming that atheists become atheist because of some philosophical reasoning. How or why people become atheist or secularist had nothing to do with my article. I simply argued that atheism is inadequate for solving moral problems. I assume most atheists would agree, since they usually argue that atheism is not a belief system. Thus, they are left trying to find morality from other sources.

ShanaD, as the CIA World Factbook notes, roughly half the population of Haiti practices voodoo, a decidedly un-Christian activity. Witchcraft is strongly prohibited in Scripture because practicing it – along with other sins – gives the spiritual enemy legal right to harm you.

I haven’t yet studied rape rates in religious vs. secularized states, but that is still beside the point of my argument. In my article I argued that religion (and there are many false ones) as an institutionalized human activity alone is also inadequate. A person can go through superficial religious motions and have a wicked heart. That’s why Jesus Christ was so harsh towards the religious elite of His day.

As for evolution and morality, earlier this year a political science professor of mine handed out an article which noted that the challenge scientists face in trying to understand the origin of morality is that humans generally treat morality not as a means to an end, but as an end itself: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/07/opinion/07Brooks.html

It’s an interesting puzzle to ponder.

The Great and Powerful Oz, there is probably confusion regarding my use of the word “secularism”. Last month I authored an article on the Weinergate scandal in which I explained this:

Why would any of these women – and Weiner himself – and his constituents, come to think of it – treat this (originally private) immorality as something irrelevant to the rest of society?

Evidently in a secularized society, nothing is considered sacred anymore.

I’m not talking about “secular” as in the constitutional distinction between the governing traditions of church and state. Rather, I’m referring to secularized as in the opposite of sacred – and it is an age old conflict, not a phenomenon unique to the 21st century (although for the first time in history we have online networks that offer “open relationship” as a social status).

The very root word of secular has to do with that which is fleeting, temporal, and inconstant (“You only go around once in life, so you have to grab all the gusto you can get…”).

If there is not some sense of sacredness acknowledged despite the secular, there will be no stability or permanence to any institution.

This is why President George Washington was accurate (and utterly constitutional) when he said in his farewell address,

“Let it simply be asked, Where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths which are the instruments of investigation in courts of justice?”

In the plainest sense, within my sexism/atheism article I referred to the Roman officers as “secular authorities” in Jesus’ day – meaning, of course, that they were categorically different from the Jewish religious authorities. In another sense, I tend to use the term “secularized” to refer to a worldview that desecrates moral standards of the Word – and that, of course, can refer to far more beliefs than atheism.

Meanwhile, in my corner of the world…

I just completed Term V at Troy University, which for me consisted of Finite Mathematics, Biology and Visual Art (all typical required classes, but all of which I enjoyed – click here to see a portrait of my sister that I painted for the art class). I now have a 3-week break before the next term starts (I’m a junior).

Studying biology renewed my interest in genetics, so my siblings and I have attempted to experiment with breeding our Transylvania Naked Necked/Silkie cross chickens a neighbor gave to us earlier this year (providing the broody hen we selected will cooperate). An article in The Economist mentioned that the naked neck trait is controlled by the activity of a gene which encodes the protein BMP12. A poultry genetics resource says that the trait is incompletely dominant and carried on the third chromosome.

I’m curious to see  if any of the offspring will display the Chinese Silkie feathering that our neighbor implied the Turkens are heterozygous for (most of them display the five-toe trait and dark skin common in Silkies, which supports that claim). In the long run, our focus for chicken raising is encouraging good quality brown eggs (the Turkens lay well, but they don’t have particularly large eggs). We’ve added some Black Australorps and Black Giants to our flock of Dominique hens for more egg production.

We have been enjoying a tremendous garden here at Fair Hills Farm – we eat tomatoes, cucumbers and green beans with nearly every meal. My mother and Abigail (14 yr. old sister) tested a recipe for salsa, which turned out delicious. The homemade pickles are great too.

I need to finish transcribing an upcoming interview…so, that’s all for now.

~ Amanda ~

Coons vs. O’Donnell: Does questioning evolution violate U.S. Constitution?

Photo from Widener University School of Law

Photo from Widener University School of Law

The First Amendment commotion that appeared during the Widener Law School debate between Coons and O’Donnell was initiated by a bogus premise.

Once again, the question of evolution was brought up in the race between the Senate candidates of Delaware, Chris Coons and Christine O’Donnell. The recurring theme of science education and religion is a bewildering campaign topic that has prompted some observers to ask, “So why is Christine O’Donnell spending more time on religion than on taxes?”

It was actually atheist Bill Maher who made religion a trending election topic in the first place. To figure out who revived it, I decided to look past the all-too familiar sophomoric laugh track clip and see what was really going on in that recent debate.

About ten minutes into the debate (which can be viewed in its entirety on the Widener Law school website), the doomful diversion was pitched in the crossfire round by none other than the Democratic candidate himself:

COONS: I have a different view of the Constitution, as does the vast majority of the American public, and many current legal scholars. But the larger point Ms. O’Donnell, really, is that you’re not coming clean with the Delaware voters about what your real views are. As we saw in the CNN debate, you repeatedly ran away from answering clear, concise questions, whether from the moderators, from me, from students – to be clear about what your views are on a range of very important issues on which you would have to pass as a U.S. Senator. To say, for example, that it’s really a question of local control whether a school district teaches science or teaches religious doctrine misses the basic question. As a repeated candidate for the United States Senate you have made public statements on everything from choice, individual liberty, evolution and others that I do think our voters deserve to hear a clear answer from you on…

O’DONNELL: Great, let me clarify your remarks. Mr. Loudell’s question was about marriage, not necessarily about the so called “right to privacy”. Now you say that you have a different view of the Constitution. I would agree with you that you do have a different constitution, because in the CNN debate you stated that there were three constitutions, and you don’t need to go to any kind of Ivy League school to know that we have but one Constitution – and in all of my remarks it is said that that one Constitution is the Constitution that I will defend. I’ve made my positions very clear. Everybody knows where I stand on issues. But even where I stand on certain social issues, I will defend our constitutional right to disagree, and I have made that very clear. Our Constitution is not in opposition to my personal beliefs, and it’s not in opposition to someone who might have a different position on these social issues than I do. Our Constitution protects our freedom to disagree.

COONS: That’s right, and I’m grateful for this chance to continue to disagree. I just hope you’ll come clean with the folks of this State and the listeners to this debate…

O’DONNELL: I have come clean on every position.

COONS: …about what your real views are. Well then, answer the question. Do you believe in evolution?

O’DONNELL: What I think about the theory of evolution is irrelevant because I will defend…

COONS: Again, you’re dodging the simple question. It’s a settled scientific fact.

O’DONNELL: No listen, let me ask you – what is the relevance on that other than campaigning on Sunday mornings (which you tend to do) going to the churches, and you know – do you disagree with the positions that those several churches that you’ve been attending? I mean,

COONS: I believe that…

O’DONNELL: Are you going to tell them that you’re going to…

COONS: …churches have…

O’DONNELL: …show up just to get their votes?

COONS: …the absolute right to believe what ever religious doctrine they wish to. But you cannot impose…

O’DONNELL: And do local schools have the right to teach that?

COONS: They do not. Public schools…

O’DONNELL: Local schools do not have the right to teach what they feel…? Well there you go.

COONS: Religious doctrine does not belong…

O’DONNELL: You want a Senator who is going to impose his beliefs?

COONS: …in our public schools.

O’DONNELL: Talk about imposing your beliefs on the local schools. I’m saying that if a local community wants to teach the theory of evolution, it’s up to the school board to decide. But when I made those remarks it was because a school board also wanted to teach the theory of intelligent design, and the government said that they could not.

COONS: That’s right.

O’DONNELL: You have just stated that you will impose your will over the local school district, and that is a blatant violation of our Constitution. Do you want a Senator who is going to do that?

COONS: To be clear Ms. O’Donnell, I believe that creationism is religious doctrine and that evolution is broadly accepted…

O’DONNELL: How about the theory of intelligent design?

COONS: Creationism – which you like to call it “theory of intelligent design” – is religious doctrine…

O’DONNELL: No, they’re two different things.

COONS: …Evolution is widely accepted, well-defended, scientific fact – and our schools should be teaching science. If we want to instruct our children in religious doctrine, or religious practice as my wife and I choose to, that’s wonderful. That’s what our churches are for, and that’s what private or parochial schools are for. But our public schools should be teaching broadly accepted scientific fact, not religious doctrine.

O’DONNELL: Wow, you’ve just proved how little you know not just about Constitutional Law, but about the theory of evolution – because the theory of evolution is not a fact, it is indeed a theory. But I’m saying that that theory – if local school districts want to give that theory equal credence to intelligent design, it is their right. You are saying it is not their right. That is what has gotten our country into this position – the overreaching arm of the federal government getting into the business of the local communities. The Supreme Court has always said it is up to the local communities to decide their standards. The reason we’re in the mess we’re in is because the so-called leaders in Washington no longer view the indispensable principles of our founding as truly that: Indispensable. We’re supposed to have limited government, low taxes…

COONS: Ms. O’Donnell, one of those indispensable principles is the separation of church and state.

(Moderator MACARTHUR interrupts briefly)

O’DONNELL: Where in the Constitution is separation of church and state?

COONS: It’s in…

(Uproarious laughter)

COONS: …no, an excellent point…

MACARTHUR: (Responding to laughter) Hold on, hold on…

There are so many things wrong with that exchange that it’s challenging to decide where to begin.

It was bizarre enough that when Coons attempted to force O’Donnell to “come clean” on the issues, he thought O’Donnell’s views on evolution were what the voters needed to hear most. But Coons almost doomed the debate to nonsensicality with this bogus premise and deduction: Any academic opinion contrary to Darwinian evolution is religious doctrine. Therefore, allowing any academic opinion contrary to Darwinian evolution to be taught in public schools is a violation of the First Amendment.

O’Donnell was correct in differentiating between creationism and the theory of intelligent design. The latter is not a religious doctrine, but rather a scientifically informed opinion that perceives intelligent design to be the most plausible way to describe the complexities of life. For instance, biologist and atheist Richard Dawkins says that intelligent design by extraterrestrial beings could possibly be a plausible idea derived from scientific observation.

Creationism, on the contrary, is the belief in a particular supernatural Creator that initiated the design seen in the universe. Creationism encompasses historical and cultural data as well as scientific data, which sets it apart from mere intelligent design.

Creationism as a whole doesn’t need to be taught in the public schools. But to avoid teaching the flaws of Darwinian theory – including the not-so-flattering data and dissenting voices in the scientific establishment – has nothing to do with upholding the First Amendment. It has everything to do with bigotry and disregarding academic freedom.

Coons argued for the validity of the evolutionary theory because he thinks it is “widely accepted, well-defended, scientific fact” (yeah, and so was Aristotelian natural philosophy for about 1,900 years). He isn’t keen on tolerating dissenting views in politics, so Coons’ simple-minded approach to science is not surprising (though he would probably suddenly find room for tolerance in public schools if Islam was the topic at stake).

Coons has demonstrated himself to be a puppet of left-wing, politically correct ventriloquists. He thinks that the Obama administration made the right choice on health care, the stimulus and the jobs bill – the very things that have most Americans up in arms right now.  No wonder Coons has resorted to taking advantage of the liberal media’s cheap attack on the Tea Party movement: “Clueless Christian extremists one step away from Timothy McVeigh” (the terrorist who, ironically, was agnostic and said that science was his religion).

Yet what is most disturbing is to see a senatorial candidate essentially define public skepticism of Darwinian theory as a violation of the U.S. Constitution (the original authors of which, incidentally, did not likely believe in evolution).

Fallaciously – but smoothly – Coons invoked the legendary notion of “Separation of Church and State” to seal his case. Everybody from Rush Limbaugh to Dictionary.com has since doled out a response, clarifying that the famous phrase, of course, is not mentioned in the First Amendment.  That Amendment simply makes it clear that the United States is not to have a state-sponsored religion, nor is it to prohibit the free exercise of religion (among other things).

Furthermore, the separation of these two important aspects of society can mean different things. In an ideal world, Church and State function in separate domains without interference. For instance, Church should not orchestrate imprisonment, capital punishment, etc. and State should not have to be burdened with ministering to the poor. Thus, “Separation of Church and State” is reasonable systematically.

But ideologically, one cannot separate Church from State anymore than one can separate soil from trees. President George Washington himself said that “Religion and Morality are indispensable supports” of government (there are your indispensable principles, Mr. Coons). It is futile to attempt to purge the presence of faith and independent thought from public affairs.

As O’Donnell said, “the overreaching arm of the federal government getting into the business of the local communities” is far more threatening in this country than Christianity or a non-Darwinian scientific opinion.  Most voters ought to be aware of that.

Read more of Amanda’s column Not Your Average Read in the Communities at The Washington Times.