Thursday, February 05, 2015
The Secular Value of Religion
Religion, especially communal religion, provides important benefits for everyone in the liberal state—even the non-religious. Religion encourages people to associate with and feel responsible for others, to engage with them in common endeavors. Religion promotes altruism and neighborliness, and mitigates social isolation. Religion counteracts the tendencies to apathy and self-centeredness that liberalism seems inevitably to create.< br />Movsesian is here discussing legal argument to preserve religion's place in the US constitution. These are good arguments, but I fear they hold less and less water becasue religion is FAILING to be those things. Consider the counter argument:
To be sure, religions don’t always encourage civic fellowship; to the extent a religion promotes sedition or violence against other citizens, society does not benefit.
A growing number of legal scholars question whether a justification exists for protecting religion as its own category. Yes, the text of the First Amendment refers specifically to religion, they concede, but that’s an anachronism. As a matter of principle, religion as such doesn’t merit legal protection. Instead, the law should protect individual conscience, or private associations generally. In fact, it’s not just scholars. In the ministerial exception case a couple of years ago, the Obama Administration argued that the Religion Clauses did not even apply and that the Court should decide the case under more general associational freedom principles.Evangelicalism particularly, but religion generally aids that argument everyday. On every level, from the lack of institutionalization that seems so prevalent in churches today to the preaching and teaching that discusses personal fulfillment and leaves most other considerations by the wayside - WE put individual conscience ahead of societal good and we FAIL to counteract the "tendencies to apathy and self-centeredness."
Individual pastors setting up individual churches, or para-church ministries, seeking "success" in ministry rather than the greater good of the church and therefore the world erodes the reasons religion is protected in our constitution. And hence we contribute not only to our own decline, but the decline of our civilization.
My mind turns to the prophets of the Old Testament as they saw the people of Israel follow a similar path. Israel, the nation through which God intended to save us all, plunged into ruin, not becasue of bad government, but becasue of faithlessness to their Lord. Something worth thinking about.
church decline government society