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“Think Different – Accept Uncertainty” Part VII: The Corruption of Human Life According to the Bible

22 March 2012: 8 Comments »

In the beginning all was good, said the oldest biblical story of creation (Gen. 2:4b-3:24).  That goodness was symbolized by the portrait of life in the Garden of Eden, a garden that contained everything for which a human being could yearn.  There was ample water, fruit and vegetation.  The author of the story even asserted …

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Question & Answer


One of my readers, Sunny Hill, sent me this open letter from a friend of hers to Rick Santorum about the role of religion in government. I thought it was worth passing on to my readers.

She says that the author Jon Carroll writes from a secular perspective, but I find it expressive of my own religious concerns.

~John Shelby Spong


My little missive to Rick Santorum

Jon Carroll

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Dear Sen. Santorum:

I have heard your cry to make religion more a part of the government and, by extension, more a part of the law than it is at the moment. And I have seen your ideas in action in the so-called "personhood" bills and other bits of legislation that seek to prevent a woman from controlling her own body. And that is the essence of the problem. When you say you want religion closer to public policy, you're not just talking about any religion. You're talking about your religion, which is an insular form of Roman Catholicism. If, say, the precedents of Shariah law were accorded some deference in Supreme Court rulings, you might not be as happy with the intermingling of church and state. If the tales of Shiva, maker and destroyer of worlds, were somehow to become a fundamental part of the curriculum in public schools, this development would, I wager, cause you some distress. The Hindu myths are not to be taken literally, although some people do. The Bible stories aren't to be taken literally, but some people do. Do we really want myths conflated with facts to guide our reasoning about pragmatic issues of the day? Not me.

See, that's my problem, Senator. Your religion wants to tell me what to do and what to think. It wants to run my life, even though I don't believe in the stories and tenets of that religion. You know the Big Government that all you guys rail against, the one that is sapping our precious freedoms? Well, that ain't nothing compared with Big Religion. So as a conservative, Senator, you would substitute one form of tyranny for another? Am I getting that right? You said that you almost "threw up" when you read John Kennedy's speech about the meaning of freedom of religion. Then you lied about what the speech said, even as you've lied about the Dutch government's euthanasia program. Maybe you didn't know the truth. Recently you've been attacking education as unnecessary. And yet education can help us arrive at the truth.

But you are a member of that good old faith-based community, are you not? How can we, in the reality-based community, ever hope to understand the rightness of your position? And how are you ever to understand our position, since you already know what is right?

Discussion is fruitless; truth is as plain as the nose on your face. Truth is all laid out for you like a banquet. Please, don't go anywhere where your views might be challenged, because that would hurt the truth's feelings. Stay right there and listen to the echo. Clearly there should be morality in public life; there should be morality in private life, come to that. You don't steal or kill or loiter with intent. You don't need a religion to tell you that; the secular law does a fine job, as does common sense and a host of cautionary television programs.

Morality is not the same as religion. As we have seen in recent scandals, there are plenty of pious but immoral people. So when you say you want more religion in American life, you're not talking about morality. Heck, anyone who has to beg for as much money as you do probably left his moral compass on the kitchen table a long time ago. So what you're talking about is building a new society that is even more hypocritical than the current one, even more misogynistic than the current one, even more repressive than the current one. I think of a religious government as meaning: more sermons, fewer bridges.

Honest to God, Senator, I do not need more lectures from you and your magic book about how to run my life. And I certainly don't want the whole engine of government shifted so that it accords with your theology. Give that baby a rest; you're scaring the horses.


Read what Bishop Spong has to say about A Joyful Path Progressive Christian Spiritual Curriculum for Young Hearts and Minds: "The great need in the Christian church is for a Sunday school curriculum for children that does not equate faith with having a pre-modern mind. The Center for Progressive Christianity has produced just that. Teachers can now teach children in Sunday school without crossing their fingers. I endorse it wholeheartedly."

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