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John Simkin

Legislation and the Bible

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John- the reason I don't post often is because they become so darn long...

For those students who may have forgotten the original question among the rhetoric:

"Should governments pass legislation that might encourage behaviour that is contrary to religious teaching. For example, abortion, sex outside of marriage, homosexuality, etc."

1. Should governments pass legislation?

2. Can legislation encourage behaviour that is contrary to religious teaching?

1. This is what governments do. It's their job, and they usually do it with great vigor. The quality of the legislation is an entirely different issue.

2a. Can legislation encourage behavior? In my opinion, legislation can at best provide an excuse/justification for behavior, whether positive or negative.

2b. Can legislation be contrary to religious teaching? The five pages of rhetoric [i realize that this can be considered a judgemental word] is an example of how legislation can be contrary to religious teaching. All of the opinions expressed can be considered as religious teaching, even from those who do not agree with the tenets of any particular collection of like minded people called 'religious.'

I think the intent of the question implies a government that in some fashion responds to the will of its constituents. Here in the US, this is a generality that doesn't often apply to the individual [me]. In our representative democracy, regarding Presidential elections, we vote for electors [the Electoral College] who vote in relationship to the votes cast within an individual state. Senators and Congressmen are elected based on the [presumed] tally of the votes cast. The concept intends to create a 'balance of power;' I'm not sure it does. The vast majority of election issues are resolved in a manner contrary to my opinions. I like Oregon too much to move to another country, even if I could afford it, which I can't [that's probably an excuse, rather than fact].

I am what is called by many a 'born again Christian;' however, there are many Christians who might question my 'second birth' because it didn't happen in the manner, or with the details they concur with. The President of my country also claims to be a 'born again Christian;' he and I apparently have very strong disagreements upon the subject of loving our enemies, and forgiving those who offend us [as opposed to, 'those we find offensive']. The whole 'born again' distinction is due a statement ascribed to Jesus in a conversation with one of the religious leaders of Israel at that time- that in order to enter God's Kingdom, one needs to be born again [Marty's paraphrase]. "How can one be born again when one is old? One can't reenter his mother's womb.' Jesus' response was that one becomes born of the Spirit of God; which takes us back to the beginning of this paragraph.

After 30+ years of this 'born again Christian' stuff, I have come to expect that legislation will not be passed that encourages behaviour I choose for myself. It's an impossibility. If I'm serious about my beliefs, I will be continually ignoring legislated behavior at one time or another; at one extreme or another. It really doesn't matter what the government says about my behavior in response to God's call on my life; I will make the choice that I consider correct. Hopefully I will also accept the legislated consequences of my behavior, if I act in a manner that is true to my conscience but contrary to legislated standards.

Here in the US there is a lot of verbiage about our being a "Christian country." This is a load of excrement. There were 'founding fathers' who wanted to bring the teachings of Jesus to this new land; and to bring faith to the 'ignorant savages' living here. They neglected to learn the languages of these 'ignorant' people before making the determination as to their religious faith. The history of America is a history of ethnic cleansing using weapons of mass destruction. That part is ignored by the 'religious right'.

Jesus is quoted as saying, "No one comes to the Father but by me." This has been largely interpreted to mean that only Christians get saved at the earlier posted Judgement, which may or may not occur in the way they think it will occur. My own interpretation is that Jesus was God incarnated in human form, sacrificing Himself for my sake, paying whatever penalty there is for my actions that do not serve God. It's a done deal; my actions don't change the outcome. Therefore, if followers of Jesus get to 'Heaven' [which probably doesn't exist in the literal manner the Church describes], it will be because of Jesus; not because of them. This also applies to Buddhists, Hindus, Jews and Muslims; plus all of you who are angry at God for whatever reason. Your anger is probably justified. And if there is a God, your anger really doesn't impact Him/Her/Whatever one iota. God is God, and you aren't.

Should my government enact legislation regarding abortion and homosexuality, to use the biggest issues? To the extent that it provides punishment [?] for those who harm others by their actions, maybe; but I doubt its efficacy. If the entire world approves of abortion/opposes abortion, approves of homosexuality/opposes homosexuality it doesn't really impact what I am to believe. My beliefs are to be based on what I learn from God, not on the vote of the people [YIKES]. Since there has yet to be a unified response by all members of all religious groups regarding such issues, I don't think any of us can make a blanket statement on behalf of God. Obviously, if God has made declarative statement on these issues, there are a lot of people who aren't listening [yes, I know about Sodom and Gomorrah, and numerous verses found in the Bible. If it was up to me, I would have had one of the Pharisees or Sadducees ask Jesus those specific questions. However, I am of the opinion that His answer would be similiar to His response to the woman caught in adultery]. Being a Protestant, I have a different opinion regarding papal pronouncements than that held by Catholics.

I can't approve of abortion, because of my own beliefs. I also had a vasectomy 20 years ago. I've also engaged in sexual activity with only one woman during the 35-40 years that I've had opportunities to do something else. I also don't use hypodermic needles. Consequently, my behavior makes me an unlikely candidate for AIDS. It would be simpler if the entire world followed my example in this regard [it would be disastrous if the entire world followed my example in other matters]. I can't approve of homosexuality as a lifestyle; neither can I approve of a lot of other behavior [including my dependence upon prescription drugs]. This does not mean that I have an excuse to act in other than a loving and Grace-filled manner to the individuals that come into my life. I don't provide people with a questionaire before I get to know them. Do I have the arrogance to believe that everyone else in the world should believe in the same manner? No.

In God's 'outside-of-time-and-the-puny-things-we-fuss-about' sense of humor, I have three adult children by birth and three more adult children by acquisition who either don't, or only marginally share in the beliefs held by my wife and I. We attempted, by far more effective methods than legislation, to influence their beliefs; but darn, we also taught them about Grace and Free Will, and we gave them the opportunity to think for themselves. There is plenty of 'religious' justification for disowning the lot of them; but they are all my children. I love them. That love does not come by legislation, or their behavior; I love because God first loved me. My hope is that with experiences and belatedly-gained wisdom they will come to a better understanding of the Truth as I see it. Regardless, I gave them into God's care a long time ago. I trust that He will be with them through their entire lives, even if they choose not to accept it.

You can run an electrical line to a house; there's no rules that say you have to use a light switch instead of candles.

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The thread originated as a question about whether it is desirable to allow a partial religion to influence social policy. This is a particularly interesting question in a multi cultural country like the Britain.

And Spain, France.... I come frome a country whose political power suffered for a long time the interference of religion and church... In my view, the less religion in our political government, the better.

As far as this problem is concerned, I think we have two big challenges ahead: Muslim immigrants in Europe who tend to live apart from secular social values and democratic political government and American christian right which is growingly dissapointed with... George W. Bush. I wonder what sort of society they want for America. :rolleyes:

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From France, near Paris exactly, I am wondering now what is going on in the mind of the ones involved in this mad sequence of street violence. If it is apparently clear that it started to provide a political response to the death of two youngsters, how come it has moved away from the suburbs of Paris to different French and German (???) cities?

Juan Carlos mentions Muslim integration or lack of integration in main European trends. Taking a perspective of Citizenship and putting it in conjuction with religion and the Bible, is it a coincidence that these street violent acts are mostly carried out by Muslims (or so is said by Mr Sarkozy)? Is my previous question coming from a white racist (unknown to me)? Why is it not possible to integrate different cultures and religions? Is this movement really a political movement?

Edited by Vicente López-Brea Fernández

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I contend that abortion is as abhorrent as slavery and that there are raciual undertones in the abortion movement.

It is indeed true that slavery was one of the main moral issues of the 19th century. The problem for Christians was that slavery appeared to satisfy their own economic self-interest. Large numbers of people, including religious leaders, owned slaves. At the time, slaves were seen as cheap labour. Other, non-slave owners, invested heavily in the slave-trade. These investments generally returned healthy profits. Others obtained work from the slave trade (sailors, shipbuilders, etc.). The general public also believed slavery was good for them. For example, it was argued that it resulted in cheaper consumer goods.

A small minority objected to slavery on moral grounds. For example, members of the Society of Friends and the Unitarian Society, argued that their reading of the Bible suggested that God was against slavery. However, supporters of slavery pointed out that even though Jesus lived in a society with slaves, there is no record of him condemning this activity.

Quakers and Unitarians also argued against other “immoral acts”. For example, they were also opposed to child labour and believed that the state should take action to relieve the suffering of the poor. They were also in favour of universal suffrage and trade union rights as they believed it would enable working people to improve their standard of life by group action. Once again, the established church argued that there was no evidence of Jesus speaking out against these things.

Although they referred to the Bible, Christians were making “moral” decisions based on perceived economic self-interest. Slavery, child labour, limited suffrage, etc. kept wage rates low and profits high.

Campaigners against slavery realized that it would only be brought to an end by applying economic, rather than moral arguments (the same was true of the debate over child labour). Therefore they used the arguments of people like Adam Smith to attack slavery. In his book Wealth of Nations (1776), Smith claimed that slavery was inefficient. That people who were paid wages worked much harder than those being threatened with a whip.

This argument became clearer in the 1790s when sugar produced by non-slave labour in India became cheaper than that being produced by slave labour in the West Indies. Smith argued that it was clear that capitalism had reached a stage where paid labour was more efficient than slave labour. This was the same argument that Robert Owen made about child labour. He quoted facts about the extra productivity he achieved by not employing young children. He sent them to school instead. He never used references to the Bible although he did talk about the need to develop a socialist society.

William Wilberforce used Adam Smith’s arguments in his campaign to bring an end to the slave trade. This was not a moral issue. For example, Wilberforce was a strong supporter of child labour. He had been unconvinced by Owen’s economic arguments. He was also against universal suffrage, trade union rights, gender equality, etc. Wilberforce was in fact your typical Tory.

Conservative historians have attempted to portray the struggle against slavery and child labour as a moral issue. In truth, it was primarily an economic issue. Only a small minority of Christians believed that slavery and child labour was morally wrong.

Tim Gratz has tried to argue that the campaign against abortion is similar to the campaign against slavery. That abortion in the 21st century is similar to the 19th century campaign against slavery. This is of course nonsense. There are two major moral issues that people living in the developed world face. One concerns the way we treat the poor. That means the people dying of starvation in the underdeveloped world and the people who live stunted lives in our own countries. Like with slavery, most Christians decide their views based on economic self-interest. Only a minority treat it as a moral issue. As a result, the majority support policies that increase their own personal wealth and income and oppose those policies that would help to reduce inequality.

The second major moral issue today concerns the future. Should we be pressurizing our politicians to be making decisions that are good for our children, grandchildren and those not yet born. In other words, policies that will save the planet from destruction. This is exclusively a moral argument. It is very difficult to argue that this measures would achieve short-term economic gain. It is why environmentalists are having so little impact on the consciousness of the population.

Why then does Tim want to argue that it is abortion that is the major moral issue. He is not alone, it is a common cry of the Christian Far Right. These are of course people who are opposed to any attempt to reduce inequality. Nor are their believers of global warming. Instead they demand cheaper fuel do that they can drive around in their cars. They are even willing to send troops to invade other countries to ensure their supplies of oil.

People like Tim therefore concentrate their moral concerns on the unborn rather than the living. Helping the living poor costs money. Stopping abortions has no personal economic implications for the Christian Right.

To support their case, they have to argue that abortion is murder. In fact, according to Tim’s description of abortion, it is torture followed by death. This of course has nothing to do with reality. It is just an attempt to disguise the fact that the Christian Right is made up of immoral people who are completely unconcerned by the plight of the poor and the dispossessed. They are on the side of the strong over the weak. What is more, they are hypocrites of the worse kind, because they try to pretend to be followers of Jesus Christ, that well-known supporter of the rich and powerful.

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"Should governments pass legislation that might encourage behaviour that is contrary to religious teaching. For example, abortion, sex outside of marriage, homosexuality, etc."

Can the State legislate morality? Most answer, "No". Of course, that is false. The only question is "Which morality?" The State legislates morality all the time.

If God's Law forbids such behavior then the State is foolish (and rebellious) to enact legislation which makes wrong to be right.

The State does not define right and wrong. God does in His Word. We are to discover it. The State is every bit under God's authority as are all things. There is no secular/sacred distinction as God is King over everything, including government leaders. To say that the State is outside of God's moral decree is to make the State out to be God. This leads to a very tyrannical State.

God does not define right or wrong! People do, did and will do. For God "good" is as good as " bad' since everything is his creation. We define what is good and what is bad. It's known for ages, that what was good ages ago is not good now days and vise versa. God did not make laws, he gave us a freedom of choice from which every woman for instance is to decide for herself whether she is to keep the child or get an abortion. And every person to decide for himself loving same sex or opposite since we all given a freedom of choice. Although according to many ruling religions in the world, homosexuality is forbidden by God's Law...

Edited by Angelica Davidoff

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God does not define right or wrong! People do, did and will do. For God "good" is as good as " bad' since everything is his creation. We define what is good and what is bad. It's known for ages, that what was good ages ago is not good now days and vise versa. God did not make laws, he gave us a freedom of choice from which every woman for instance is to decide for herself whether she is to keep the child or get an abortion. And every person to decide for himself loving same sex or opposite since we all given a freedom of choice. Although according to many ruling religions in the world, homosexuality is forbidden by God's Law...

The problem is that people try very hard to find out what their "God" believes. After all, most religious people will quote from their particular "Bible" to justify their moral positions. However, these "Bibles" are open to different interpretations. That is why followers of the same religion can have very different opinions on abortion, birth-control, homosexuality, capital punishment, etc.

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