I've heard repeatedly that Europeans are astounded at the
degree of religious involvment in the USA which has historically represented a mythological image of a free people unfettered
by personal suppression based on religion. Within that myth we have experienced growing pains - years of conflict and pain
of other aspects of that having to do with coming to maturity with such things as valuing diversity in the culture as well
as moving into modernity in terms of minority rights.
But with religion, in many ways, we are seen globally as moving
toward our own version of a Taliban government.
We can encounter advocates who insist that the Founding Fathers
intended a Christian Nation as well as advocates who insist that nothing of the sort was the original intent. I tend to agree
with the latter.
Common sense suggests the the highest good of all the people
concerned is the ultimate national priority. Mr. Paine expressed it as "Wherefore, security being the true design and end
of government, it unanswerably follows that whatever form thereof appears most likely to ensure it to us, with the least expense
and greatest benefit, is preferable to all others."
Security in this sense is not limited to that contemplated
in a presidential war room. Security in this sense is the highest good of all concerned.
Common sense suggests that one of the more powerful ways to
integrate the values of our national diversity would be to move in the direction of a "national ethic" as opposed to a "national
morality." Such a move obviously is not easy because it suggests a repudiation of what many consider to be the basis of what
America is = a moral entity.
One of the weaknesses in any organized religion with fixed
religious dogmas that reflect an alternate spiritual reality is that its members often remain "in" the world but not "of"
the world. The values of that society become absolute and inerrant. For many people, there is an absolute security in having
such as a fundamental base of values. The consequence then is a tendency to look at non-members as "other" and slip into an
"us/them" viewpoint which is not for from "either you're with us or against us."
Common sense suggests that we ought to advocate taking our
America away from all special interests and claim it as belonging to all the people. The common bond made powerful and influential
seems to be that of working out what America stands for in terms of ethics based on the value of the highest good of all concerned
rather than in terms of morality. Moralitycan only be established nationally by coercion by whichever moral society dominates
We do not have to deny any citizen's god. We do not have to
find ourselves in the absurd position of trying to figure out whose god is supreme as General Boykin so strongly works to
do. We do not find ourselves in the absurd position of having to somehow reconcile Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson saying
- immediately after 9/11 - that God has removed his hand of protection from the United States because of our tolerance of
gays, abortion and pornography.
And we then do not have to tolerate political attempts to
divert us from serious discussion of war and economics with dramatic and rhetorical declarations against who-marries-who,
who prays where, what religious icons stand in front of judicial buildings and whether or not God has appointed someone to
lead the people to a promised salvation.
We would not find ourselves so dominated by a religious power
believing in a formal End Times which lobbies our government to work to make Israel look like it did thousands of years ago
so as to faciliate the end of all things in which most of our diverse population will be Left Behind for not believing.
Ethics, not morality, stands a better chance of
creating a strong national character and citizen self-identity.