Wednesday, April 27, 2005

God damn get off my money

       The motto "In God We Trust" that is on our currency seems to have been there forever. Even most atheists probably look at it and don't think much of it. They probably think that it has been there forever and isn't likely to change. Well, at least the former isn't anywhere near true.

      The truth is that "In God We Trust" wasn't a motto of the United States until an act of Congress in 1956 made it so. This was primarily in opposition to the atheistic Soviet Union. "In God We Trust" didn't appear on paper money until 1957. And the first time it appeared on any piece of American currency was in 1864. Guess who's idea it was....yeah, the church. Let's take a look at that letter.

Letter by Rev. Watkinson written to the Secretary of the Treasury.

Dear Sir: You are about to submit your annual report to the Congress respecting the affairs of the national finances.

One fact touching our currency has hitherto been seriously overlooked. I mean the recognition of the Almighty God in some form on our coins.

You are probably a Christian. What if our Republic were not shattered beyond reconstruction? Would not the antiquaries of succeeding centuries rightly reason from our past that we were a heathen nation? What I propose is that instead of the goddess of liberty we shall have next inside the 13 stars a ring inscribed with the words PERPETUAL UNION; within the ring the allseeing eye, crowned with a halo; beneath this eye the American flag, bearing in its field stars equal to the number of the States united; in the folds of the bars the words GOD, LIBERTY, LAW.

This would make a beautiful coin, to which no possible citizen could object. This would relieve us from the ignominy of heathenism. This would place us openly under the Divine protection we have personally claimed. From my hearth I have felt our national shame in disowning God as not the least of our present national disasters.

To you first I address a subject that must be agitated.

      Yeah, so we've got that fucking motto on our money because of some damn minister. Separation of church and state my ass. This has been argued in the courts a few times, but the judges often say that "In God We Trust" is not a religious statement, but a secular one. I don't think I need to explain why that is completely ridiculous.

      If we did get rid of this motto, what could we use? Well, currently the U.S. actually has two official mottos. One is this religious-based one, which was added just recently. The other, if you remember it (you definitely don't see it as much) is "E pluribus unum" or "Out of many, one". Now which one of these mottos is constitutional? Which one of these mottos does a better job of uniting the country?

      And now, what can we do? Well, the first thing is to vote Democrat in 2008. If the conservative republicans have power much longer they will have completely filled the judicial benches with religious zealots and then we'll be lucky not to have "In God We Trust" tattooed on our foreheads. Meanwhile, you can simply write over the motto on the currency. You can cross out the motto or write "Keep Church and State Separate" or "E pluribus unum" there. Other people have bought stamps to make it look more professional, and to steamline the process. You can typically buy these stamps online for under $5. Check out this website for legality and other ideas- Godoffmoney. This will at least bring attention to the issue, and the more attention it gets the more likely we'll be able to do something. I think most reasonable Americans take pride in our separation of church and state idea, having learned about its importance even in middle school. Maybe another individual will see your message and decide to do it as well, multiplying your efforts. And at the very least, it feels good.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Churches Prevent Goodwill from Helping Society

       In some sense, we as humans are very lucky. I would be willing to bet that nearly all of mankind wants the world to be a better place. Atheists, christians, muslims, nazis, etc. all want the world to be a better place. The only difference is what they think makes a place better. However, these different ideas, especially when not examined rationally, result in either a non-optimal positive impact on society or even (probably more often) a negative impact. According to The Barna Group, in the year 2000 over 3/4 of Americans donated to a non-profit organization or church, giving a total of near $100 billion. Barna also estimates that 6 out of every 10 of those dollars, or $60 billion, goes specifically to churches. $60 BILLION! Now sure, some of these people would not be giving to charity if it weren't to the church. Some people want to fund church activites simply because they're church activities or they want to help "spread the faith". I'm guessing that that value doesn't exceed $20 billion. The other $40 billion I believe comes from people who want to give back to the community and think that giving to the church helps society and helps America. And it's easy to make a contribution to the church, there's two contribution envelopes for every bible. Unfortunately, this $40 billion contribution goes to speading lies and furthering religious beliefs that endanger humanity's survival. Now sure, some of that money will end up for a canned-food drive which actually does help people. But most of it will go to faith-based activities, which actually result in a negative impact on society in the long-term.

       Imagine what that $40 billion could do if it were used for an actual good purpose? $40 billion in one year dedicated to scientific research for fighting diseases would be absolutely amazing. $40 billion to help pay our teachers better salaries would be great. $40 billion to help kids with cancer. $40 billion to send under-priveleged kids to college. $40 billion to feed starving people in Africa. $40 billion to pay off the national debt. $40 billion! Or we could use it to spread fucking myths and ideas which are toxic to civil rights, healthy living, and scientific progress. Hmmm....tough call.

       What can do we about this? If you've got a parent, a coworker, a friend, etc. who you know likes to give back and chooses to do so via the church or another faith-based organization, you could simply tell them about a secular, non-profit organization which you support and really try to sell them on it. You don't have to hurt their faith or attack the church, just let them know that the church has plenty of money and that these other charitable organizations don't get the money they need because they lack the visibility and convenience of donation of the church.

Friday, April 15, 2005

The Problem With Conservatism

     I thought it'd be interesting today to write about the conservative movement, and why I think it is inherently opposed to progress. I should clarify that I am talking primarily of social conservatism and not of classical, fiscal, or economic conservatism. The last three would all make good topics of debate later, but to keep this short I'll have to exclude them here. Social conservatism is usually defined as a defense of existing social norms and values. It values traditional views of family, church, and the existing social order.
     I suppose my biggest beef with conservatism is that it is diametrically opposed to the rationalist, freethinking view. By placing an emphasis on tradition and placing the highest value on what currently is, you reject improvements to society solely because it is diferent than what you grew up with. There is no reason to believe that we are at the pinnacle of human civilization and that we should just strive to maintain the status quo. If we take our lessons from history, we see that there is always room for improvement by social change. In the medieval days, going from a feudal system to a market-based system was a positive change. Abolishing slavery in the 1800s was a positive change. Giving women the right to vote in the early 1900s was a positive change, or so I'm told. Desegregation was a positive change. These are all issues that social conservatives were on the wrong side of. The reason that social conservatives are historically always wrong is that societies do change, naturally. Societies and social instritutions evolve with time, both because of scientific advances but also because of changes in the political and economic climate. New approaches and new outlooks are needed for new circumstances. Since the beginning of time civilization has increasingly bettered itself, by providing more rights and freedoms to more people, and by increasing life spans and human happiness. And we haven't given rights out to everyone yet, just look at the gay and lesbian community. Their rights are denied to them not only because gay marriage is not a traditional thing, but because it is "immoral".
     The underlying reason why social conservatism is so backwards is that it is strongly rooted in the preservation of church and the church's values. Historically, the church has always been against civil liberties and science, and since social conservatism is concerned with enforcing the church's views, it will also be against liberty and science (aka progress).