When All Else Fails, Just Ignore The Truth

Recently, I started noticing a few billboards on the interstate near my house. One of those “black background / white letters” signs, which we’ve got quite of a few of here in the great progressive state of Florida. So at first, I didn’t pay much attention to them. Then I was sitting in traffic and actually took a moment and read one. I saw this:

noseparationbillboard

Yep. A George Washington quote alluding to the long-held conservative belief that the US is indeed a Christian nation. As a former atheist (not anymore, but that’s another story for another day), seeing this immediately made me clench my jaw. The group, NoSeparation.org, is voicing their disapproval about the ‘lie’ of the separation of church and state, the ‘war on God in America’, and other neocon bullshit that I am forced to deal with on a daily basis.

Here are two fine examples of their ‘campaign’. Now, those quotes would be all well and good if they were, you know, factual or accurate.

nosep1

The first quote was never said in any printed material by Washington (if you can prove otherwise, by all means let me know).

  nosep2

And according to Wikipedia, the second quote was an excerpt taken from this complete quote:

The central support for the Court’s ultimate conclusion that Congress did not intend the law to cover Christian ministers is its lengthy review of the "mass of organic utterances" establishing that "this is a Christian nation," and which were taken to prove that it could not "be believed that a Congress of the United States intended to make it a misdemeanor for a church of this country to contract for the services of a Christian minister residing in another nation.

But clearly I am biased (and in their eyes, doomed to hell) so I asked someone who I thought could bring some more clarity to the situation: my father.

Why ask my dad? Well, for starters, he’s an ordained minister. Not one of the internet types, but the real deal (so yes, that makes me a preacher’s kid. Queue the stereotypes), been in the God business for over 30 years. He’s also an ethics teacher and an unabashed liberal. Which makes for interesting commentary, to say the least.

I’ll spare you the details of the conversation, if for no other reason that half of it involved either my son or baseball. But what I took away most of all was this: “Faith is critical, but don’t take this religion stuff too seriously.”

Am I going to give them much more thought? No. And I respect their right to say it, as incorrect as it may be. And thanks to Cooper over at Wonderland or Not, I leave you with this Kiekegaard quote:

“People demand freedom of speech as a compensation for the freedom of thought which they seldom use.

{ 8 comments }

Katana August 27, 2009 at 8:41 am

AMEN! Well done and perfectly argued.

Jenni August 27, 2009 at 11:42 am

So glad to see this mentioned, because those billboards drive me nuts! When I first saw them, I wrongly assumed that they were sarcastic…taking what was really said and twisting it to make it sound so ridiculous…and I thought they were so clever! When I finally remembered to visit the website, I was disgusted to find out it was serious and that I’d misunderstood…I would expect something like this in the Bible Belt, but I just didn’t think I would see it in Tampa Bay. Obviously Christianity has played a role in our country’s history, but one of our greatest freedoms is the ability to choose whichever religion or lack of religion we desire. Our country was founded by people trying to escape religious persecution. Separation of church and state is there for a reason, and that’s why, despite whatever our founding fathers said or didn’t say in these quotes, they guaranteed us the freedom of religion. And I’m glad that they did.

Norcross August 27, 2009 at 11:45 am

I agree 100%. And don’t forget that Florida is indeed part of the Bible Belt. It’s just mixed with a bunch of other groups. Take a drive up US 301 and you’d think you were in 1970′s Alabama

Paul Anater August 30, 2009 at 7:20 am

Great-looking new layout.

One of these ridiculous billboards is on 275 south, just past the Gandy exit. On it is a quote attributed to Ben Franklin. It made me laugh that of all the Founder Fathers to invoke, they picked the libertine Franklin. Any port in a storm I suppose. Either that or this group assumes everybody shares their ignorance of history.

Jun Loayza August 31, 2009 at 6:17 pm

In my early days as a blogger, I would constantly write philosophical posts about morality, ethics, and that there is no right or wrong. I’ve never really dived head first into religion because I personally don’t know enough about Christianity or any other religion to intelligently write about them.

I was brought up with no religion, but don’t necessarily classify myself as an “atheist.” The logical side of me does not believe in God, but there is a small (very small) side of me that thinks it could be possible.

Your dad sounds like a very interesting guy. One of my best friends was an atheist turned Christian. I have some very fun conversation with him.

- Jun Loayza

Monica O'Brien September 2, 2009 at 8:18 pm

I was brought up with a sick amount of religion (Roman Catholic) and let it rule my life for a long time. When I started thinking for myself and educating myself from many perspectives, that’s when I finally figured out what I believed, and what I didn’t.

Personally, I think with the constant access to information (due to the internet) and Gen Y’s need for customization is a lethal combination for the next Gen of religious goers. I sometimes question how religious institutions plan to survive over the next 50 years – I see a demise similar to what we’re seeing with newspapers and other forms of printed content.

Monicarolevans September 8, 2009 at 11:35 am

I totally agree with your dad. As someone with a love/hate relationship with religion, I like that he expressed it as Faith, not religion.

Monica and I have similar experiences, I was raised fundamentalist christian and for a long time I really thought I was going to hell. In college, I studied Philosophy and religion and started to understand the historical context of Judaeo-Christian writings. (There’s a lot they don’t tell you in church)

I’ve been done wrong too many times by church folks. But some of my favorite people and best friends are PK’s. :-)

On a totally different note, I’m beginning to get nervous about billboards like the ones you mentioned. The separation of church and state was what made America attractive to the white settlers that immigrated here in the first place, and is one of the ideals that has made this country the melting pot that it currently is and makes some of our other freedoms possible.

Norcross September 9, 2009 at 10:57 am

I see and hear stuff like what that billboard says all the time, so it’s nothing new to me. Florida is a weird melting pot of fundamentalism, beach bums, northeastern transplants, and overall whackjobs. But it’s home.