Public Religion

Dear visionaries,

I was gone for just one day and missed a bunch of interesting stuff.

1. Stewart’s point about atheism was a good one, although I would have preferred the phrase “dogmatic agnosticism,” which amounts to the same thing. God’s existence may not be explicitly denied, but the children are taught by precept and example that if He exists, His existence is irrelevant to what we are doing here in this classroom.

2. The fact that some kids still graduate as Christians, Buddhists, skateboarders, whatever, is beside the point. The belief that virtually all of them have still come to share is that one’s “religious” beliefs are a sort of condiment to be added to the neutral porridge of the “facts,” which everyone agrees on. The condiments are to be added, flavoring to each one’s choice, in the privacy of one’s own head.

3. But public “religion” (ultimate corporate commitments) is still a necessity. So whenever we do anything all together, the question that we should always raise is this: by what standard? To use a modern phrase to describe what is going on here, the Enlightenment has provided virtually everyone with a “plausibility structure,” within which most of us function. This includes the vast majority of those Christians who are still functioning within the government school structure. But in this discussion, we are talking about the porridge, and our respondents are talking about the condiments.

4. And this ubiquitous plausibility structure makes it difficult for respondents to understand Ray’s point about coercion. We are not talking about fees to make the fire trucks go, or funding for the asphalt on which they go. We are talking about a totalizing world and life view that is funded from the public treasury. America’s government schools are her established religion. Having an established religion is a necessity, and which I do not begrudge in itself. All societies have an established religion. But I do object to the stubborn refusal of modern Americans to admit that this is what they have and that this is what they are doing. And of course, I object to the fact that when they established a religion, they picked the wrong one. But I do the same thing I would try to do as a Christian in Saudi Arabia, which is to get along as best I can.

5. And last, I wanted to reiterate a point that I do not believe anyone has responded to yet. We are discussing/debating here in this forum. But the context of our debate is the fact that the ultimate nature of these world view commitments became obvious to many Christians about twenty years ago. The ramifications of the decisions they made then are just now becoming obvious in a practical and budgetary way in the local school destruct, I mean, district. But the theological foundation of all this appears to be impossible for Enlightenment apologists to comprehend. And this makes it hard for you to engage — your ultimate religion (the porridge, not the condiments) is apparent to your competitors, but not to yourselves.

6. And I really appreciate the opportunity to have this discussion.

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