Obama’s Inauguration and a post-Christmas debate

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I spend a lot of time during the Christmas holidays (and perhaps some time after, too) wondering where the spirituality of the celebration went, and if anyone can find it in between the presents, the turkey and the decorations.

And it seems that I am not the only one questioning the place of religion in society. As a believer, I often talk to people who don’t believe in God and/or religion to try to understand their point of view.

In recent news: on the one hand, you have a group of atheists who want to pull religion from Obama’s inauguration. According the the CBC: “A group of atheists is taking legal action in hopes of having all religious references removed from U.S. president-elect Barack Obama’s inauguration ceremony in January. A lawsuit filed in Federal Court is trying to prevent having the phrase “So help me God” included in the oath of office. It also wants to prevent inaugural prayers from being delivered at the event.

“We’re hoping to stop prayer and religious rituals at governmental functions, especially at the inauguration,” Dan Barker, co-president of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, told Fox News Radio. “The inauguration is not a religious event. It is a secular event of a secular country that includes all Americans, including those of us who are not Christians, including those of us who are not believers.””

My first question is, how can anyone seriously consider the United States of America as a secular country? The US government is supposed to be by the people and for the people, right? Then why can’t Obama ask God for help in a country where 92% of the population believe in God or some form of Universal Spirit?

Obama believe in God; 92% of the people he represents believe in God or some form of Universal Spirit; if a 51% proportion of votes can win a person the presidency, then why can’t a 92% support win Obama the right to ask God for help?

And let’s be honest here… If Obama asks God for help so that he can do the job the best he can, I don’t think many atheists would object. They want the United States cleaned up as much as the rest of us do. I’m sure this is, again, just a case of a minority of people who are extremists in their point of view trying to impose themselves on others.

On less recent news, I received a forward about a commentary Ben Stein made on CBS Sunday Morning. I’m very wary of forwards, and always look up their authenticity. And this one is at least partly authentic.

Here is part of the actual statement Ben Stein made in 2005: “I am a Jew, and every single one of my ancestors was Jewish. And it does not bother me even a little bit when people call those beautiful lit up, bejeweled trees Christmas trees. I don’t feel threatened. I don’t feel discriminated against. That’s what they are: Christmas trees. It doesn’t bother me a bit when people say, “Merry Christmas” to me. I don’t think they are slighting me or getting ready to put me in a ghetto. In fact, I kind of like it. It shows that we are all brothers and sisters celebrating this happy time of year. It doesn’t bother me at all that there is a manger scene on display at a key intersection near my beach house in Malibu. If people want a creche, it’s just as fine with me as is the Menorah a few hundred yards away.

I don’t like getting pushed around for being a Jew and I don’t think Christians like getting pushed around for being Christians. I think people who believe in God are sick and tired of getting pushed around, period. I have no idea where the concept came from that America is an explicitly atheist country. I can’t find it in the Constitution and I don’t like it being shoved down my throat.

Or maybe I can put it another way: where did the idea come from that we should worship Nick and Jessica and we aren’t allowed to worship God as we understand Him?

I guess that’s a sign that I’m getting old, too. But there are a lot of us who are wondering where Nick and Jessica came from and where the America we knew went to.”

Isn’t the fact that so many worship celebrities imply that we are looking for something bigger, better and inspiring to worship? And isn’t it sad that we have collectively decided to worship deeply flawed artists (Americans buy 7,5 million celebrity magazines each week) rather than God or the Universal Spirit?

The forward also included text that, although not part of Ben Stein’s commentary, is worth reflecting on: “Billy Graham’s daughter was interviewed on the Early Show and Jane Clayson asked her ‘How could God let something like this happen?’ (regarding Katrina) Anne Graham gave an extremely profound and insightful response.  She said, ‘I believe God is deeply saddened by this, just as we are, but for years we’ve been telling God to get out of our schools, to get out of our government and to get out of our lives.  And being the gentleman He is, I believe He has calmly backed out.  How can we expect God to give us His blessing and His protection if we demand He leave us alone?’

In light of recent events… terrorists attack, school shootings, etc.  I think it started when Madeleine Murray O’Hare (she was murdered, her body found a few years ago) complained she didn’t want prayer in our schools, and we said OK.  Then someone said you better not read the Bible in school.  The Bible says thou shalt not kill, thou shalt not steal, and love your neighbor as yourself.  And we said OK.

Then Dr. Benjamin Spock said we shouldn’t spank our children when they misbehave because their little personalities would be warped and we might damage their self-esteem (Dr Spock’s son committed suicide).  We said an expert should know what he’s talking about.  And we said OK.

Now we’re asking ourselves why our children have no conscience, why they don’t know right from wrong, and why it doesn’t bother them to kill strangers, their classmates, and themselves.

Probably, if we think about it long and hard enough, we can figure it out.  I think it has a great deal to do with ‘WE REAP WHAT WE SOW.’

Funny how simple it is for people to trash God and then wonder why the world’s going to hell  Funny how we believe what the newspapers say, but question what the Bible says.  Funny how you can send ‘jokes’ through e-mail and they spread like wildfire but when you start sending messages regarding the Lord, people think twice about sharing.  Funny how lewd, crude, vulgar and obscene articles pass freely through cyberspace, but public discussion of God is suppressed in the school and workplace.”

I can understand why some people are thoroughly uncomfortable with the idea of religion; after all, so many horrible things have been done in the name of religion. But religion isn’t the only cause for horrors; just think about what materialism, consumerism and greed have done to the United States in the last couple of months. Just because there is a small number of businessmen who are incredibly greedy and will do whatever it takes to make their billions, it doesn’t mean that all businessmen are like that. The same can be applied to religious people: most of them are against the violent horrors that have been done in the name of religion. Just like business isn’t about greed, religion isn’t about violence. It’s what we choose to do with it that makes an enormous difference.

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