I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute; where no Catholic prelate would tell the President -- should he be Catholic -- how to act, and no Protestant minister would tell his parishioners for whom to vote; where no church or church school is granted any public funds or political preference, and where no man is denied public office merely because his religion differs from the President who might appoint him, or the people who might elect him.
I believe in an America that is officially neither Catholic, Protestant nor Jewish; where no public official either requests or accept instructions on public policy from the Pope, the National Council of Churches or any other ecclesiastical source; where no religious body seeks to impose its will directly or indirectly upon the general populace or the public acts of its officials, and where religious liberty is so indivisible that an act against one church is treated as an act against all.
- John F. Kennedy, Address to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association, 12 September 1960
Religion has been much upon my mind lately. Ever since I wrote up my thoughts about last week's election, I have been mulling over something that odalisk said in a note to me. She said "yes, America is a religious nation and obviously in my opinion that makes us backward." In some ways, I instictually agree with this statement... but I find myself wondering why.
Perhaps it is the Slav in me, but I cannot go the agnostic or atheistic route. To me, religion is the poetry used to attempt to explain existence (philosophy is the prose.) The cultivation of a spiritual self is a noble and beautiful thing... though sometimes hard. It is not something that I can condemn anyone for doing.
No, I think the problem comes in when people start treating the poetry of religion like prose. Literal interpretations. "Objective" interpretations. Strict rules. Public displays as well as private observance. It seems to me that all this even runs against some tenets of the Christian faith...
Then I came across the quote at the top of this entry. It sums up so many things about how I feel about the role of religion in society. It is not about saying 'no' to God... it is merely recognizing that there are many ways to worship, and no one way deserves preference over any other in the public sphere.
on 2004-11-11 at 4:26 p.m.
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