I mentioned two further books that I had written which were related to the issues being considered -- ‘Democracy Lost and Regained’, together with a small book on education (‘Reflections On Education and Learning’) ... especially the long 'Paradigm Shift' chapter in the latter work during which the 'establishment clause' of the First Amendment was taken to its logical conclusion.
More specifically, a lot of people mistakenly refer to the relevant part of the First Amendment as the 'separation clause' – believing that the whole idea was to make sure that, unlike the case in many other parts of the world, government in America would not be a function of anyone's religious beliefs ... which is a sentiment with which I am in agreement. However, the wording of the First Amendment makes it quite clear that the crux of the matter revolves around the establishing of religion of any kind as a vehicle for governance.
Unfortunately, many people suppose that the meaning of the First Amendment maintains that any and all secular or non-religious points of view constitute acceptable candidates as a basis of government. However, I take issue with political and/or economic philosophies which seek to impose a worldview of any kind on a citizenry since I consider this to be, in its own way, an establishment of religion. I, then, proceeded to put forth the bare-bones reasons for such a claim.
There is no God-concept in Buddhism, and, yet, it is considered a religion. It is not theism that is the sin qua non for religion but the treatment of certain principles that are considered to be sacred, and, therefore, sacrosanct, inviolable expressions of what is considered to constitute reality or truth ... e.g., the notion of the ‘free market’ in economics which are considered to be a sacred basis for all commerce and, therefore, should not be regulated.
All public policy constitutes so many exercises that attempt to smuggle religion -- in the broad sense of the last paragraph -- into the realm of governance. If one really wants everyone to ‘stay on their own reservation’, then this goes for both secular and theistic versions of religion ... all such systems are arbitrary in the sense that one cannot prove them to be true beyond a reasonable doubt or even in conjunction with the lesser standard of a 'preponderance of the available evidence' when such matters are being considered among an impartial panel of our peers.
Given the way some Muslims act, many people – including some Muslims – might be surprised to hear that the Qur'an is very clear that there can be ‘no compulsion in matters of religion’ – and, surely, this is quite consonant with the meaning of the establishment clause which forms part of the First Amendment. Every human being must be free to make his or her own decisions concerning where that individual comes down on the issue of the nature of reality.
I wrote a small book on 'Shari'ah' which delineates how, in my opinion, the vast majority of Muslims today have been misled by so-called religious leaders with respect to the way in which they understand the actual meaning of the term: 'shari'ah'. They believe – mistakenly, I feel -- that the Qur'an was intended as a rule book which should constitute the basis of a legal system that is to be imposed on people.
one. To this extent, the purpose of any government is to establish a stable and non-oppressive public space within which every individual has the right to seek to push back the horizons of ignorance concerning the nature of reality as long as such a pursuit is consonant with a like right for others.
At this point, I returned to an earlier comment made by my friend which suggested that my approach (as outlined earlier in the comments concerning education) was rather impractical – that nothing would be accomplished through such a way of doing things ... that I was just spouting words. I disagreed with the individual on this point and proceeded on in the following manner.
Will I solve the world's problems on my own? No!!
Are the world's problems solvable? I believe the answer is: Yes!!!
Will human beings do what is necessary to help bring this about in a
peaceful manner? I really don't know.
I don't have control over what anyone else does. I only have control
-- within certain limits of imperfection -- over what I do, and though relatively limited in stature, what is done through me goes far beyond the typing or speaking of nice sounding words. I say what I mean, and I mean what I say, and my words are never intended to remain within the realm of just the spoken.
At this point in the exchange with my friend, I changed topics and told him that I was inclined to agree with his belief (noted earlier) that many acts of violence are committed in the 'name' of religion. However, I provided a qualifying caveat to that agreement – namely, I indicated that I am not all convinced who use the name of religion in mischievous and destructive ways are necessarily all that religious.
The policy of training soldiers to objectify and de-personalizing the 'other' was stepped up in the first Gulf War of the 1990s, as well as in subsequent incursions into, first, Afghanistan, and, then, Iraq. This focus on demonizing the enemy is why places like Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, and other similar venues of torture exist, as well as why some marines feel justified urinating on the Qur'an or flushing that book down the toilet or desecrating/dismembering the dead bodies of Muslims or killing children through an indiscriminate use of drones.
The Civil War -- which resulted in the deaths of more than 600,000 people -- was not about religion. Both sides might have invoked the name of God in relation to their cause, but that war was about the control of resources -- banks, people, slaves, the economy, and government.
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not primarily a religious issue -- after all, there are many Palestinians who are not Muslim or Christian but secularists and non-believers. The same is true on the Israeli side.
The issue is about control, land, water, and ethnic cleansing. To borrow words from Leonard Cohen, but used in a slightly different way, wars concern: “The homicidal bitchin that goes down in every kitchen to determine who will serve and who will eat.”
The 2-3 million who have died in the on-going war taking place in the Congo which has been transpiring for nearly ten years, or so, is about controlling the mineral Coltan which is used in cell phones ... a big money maker around the world. That war is being armed primarily by entrepreneurs from Belgium, France, England, and Germany, and while some of the people in the Congo who are being armed might have a religious orientation of sorts, religion is serving economic interests, not the other way around.
Am I saying that religious people are free of any wrong-doing? No, I am not.
The normal inclination of most people – whether believers or non-believers in spiritual matters -- is to try to get along with other individuals irrespective of whatever philosophical and spiritual differences might exist. And, like Newton's laws of motion, people will tend to continue on in that same normal trajectory (i.e., not resorting to violence against their fellow human beings) unless acted on by an external force -- namely, the powers that be who are interested in nothing more than extending their sphere of influence, control, and power and who will use whatever means are at their disposal to accomplish this ... including fanning religious sensitivities.