The Religious Roots of a New Progressive Era

Either you are closing your eyes to a situation you do not wish to acknowledge, or you are unaware of the caliber of disaster indicated by the presence of a pool table in your community.


{Spit-Take} :rofl:

For the Cue-less.

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Citing the example of the passing of a law you disagree with, in France, hardly constitutes much of a case for the deterioration of society. I gather that we would disagree whether numerous instances of recent global developments are good or bad, but I also guess we’d be able to agree on many others, such as global rates of violence and crime, poverty and income inequality (both within and between many nations), access to healthcare, clean water, functioning infrastructure and government etc. etc.

At any given period we are bound to see examples of turmoil and instances of developments we abhor(and any real data set of developments will have fluctuations up and down even while undergoing a more long-term trend), but generally speaking I don’t see any good evidence for the deterioration of society, whatever one might even mean by that. The impression I get here is mostly that people are lamenting the declining influence of Christianity in the west, and the (apparently bad?) things that follow like rising tolerance, freedom, and equality.


I have witnessed absolutely no reasons to believe any of this is true. A lot of conservatives say things like this but it’s clearly scare tactics.


… One fine night, they leave the pool hall, headin’ for the dance at the Armory! Libertine men! Scarlet women! Ragtime! Shameless music that’ll grab your son and your daughter with the arms of a jungle animal instinct! Mass-steria! Friends, the idle brain is the devil’s playground!


Yeah, it’s strange, isn’t it? As society gets morally better and better, the people who deplore moral improvement get louder and louder. Will that continue? If we are kinder, and fairer, will the anguished squealing from those who wish to be less kind and less fair just get worse?


Funny, yep, that’s how it felt.

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Not just morals, I think, isnt there a general tendency to think things were better in the past?

There does seem to be. I’ve always liked counter-nostalgia. I recall Dom DeLuise had a show once called “When Things Were Rotten.” And there’s that lovely village scene in Monty Python and the Holy Grail: “Who’s that?” “Must be a King.” “How can you tell?” “He hasn’t got shit all over 'im.”


What you perceive as Christian ‘leadership’, many would perceive as Christian, and more particularly Protestant, hegemony. This is part of why I think blaming Engel v. Vitale was a post hoc ergo procter hoc fallacy. I would argue that the real trend was a growing level of religious pluralism in the US, most notably signaled by the election of John F Kennedy, a Catholic, the year before. Engel v. Vitale can be seen as part of that trend, rather than a cause of a trend of its own.

Religious pluralism necessarily means that religions have to argue for their principles on their own merits, rather than having those principles privileged, as had previously been the case in the US.

However, even if you see the resultant “shift in moral standards” as a bad thing, that pluralism could not be permanently denied, without doing serious damage to both the US Constitution, or to the aspirations of many millions of Americans.


@tim to be fair, I think @Mark10.45 was repeating what he had recently been taught and he quickly backed off it, and has been listening and and engaging with respect.

I don’t think he is an ideologue campaigning for Christian hegemony. Rather I think he had not yet reflected on that aspect of the particular corner of the church he is in right now. Give him some space to think about it.

@Mark10.45 I think Paul’s example on Mars Hill, Daniel and the exiles in Babylon, and Joseph in Egypt are all excellent examples of how we can hopefully and faithfully serve the Lord in a pluralistic context, where our beliefs are not privileged.

The example of exiles seriously undermines the quest for power, does it not?

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I didn’t think that it was Mark’s own opinion. But accepting and repeating such opinions uncritically allows them to perpetuate. If I was being scrupulously careful, and willing to make the wording more clumsy, I could have ascribed the opinion as “your pastor perceives” or “your church perceives”, rather than “you perceive”.

I do however think that Mark is at fault for failing to confirm what “the 1962 supreme court decision” actually said, before he cited it. I myself, knowing that I have an imperfect memory, took the precaution of looking it up, before I wrote my original rebuttal.

The reason I knew about that case, and the reason I knew that his pastor misrepresented it, was because I have heard such misrepresentations from American Christians (and rebuttals to them) many times over the years.

I find it unfortunate that, living in another country, on the other side of the world, it would appear that I know more about US Constitutional history than Mark or his pastor.

Also, I didn’t think that Mark was “an ideologue campaigning for Christian hegemony”. I thought that he simply hadn’t thought through the level of hegemony required to perpetuate his (or his pastor’s) favored “religious moral standards”.

Expanding upon this point, it was not just a Protestant religious hegemony, but a White Anglo-Saxon Protestant (WASP) religious and cultural hegemony. So its fraying can be tracked even further back into the past, and would include Brown v. Board of Education in 1954, and possibly to even earlier events.

Addendum: I would also point out that this hegemony was profoundly sexist as well.

Further addendum: It would therefore be reasonable to suggest that the Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s, and the Womens Liberation movement of the 1960s and 1970s were part of this pluralistic trend. I would further suggest that West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette (1943, which prohibited forcing students to salute the American flag or say the Pledge of Allegiance in public school) could be considered an earlier milestone in this trend as well.

I think the question then becomes, just how far you would need to turn the clock back, and how many people you would have to leave out in the cold, to take America back to a golden age of religious morality?


You mean, as in increased occurrence of scientific fraud, and massive increases in student plagiarism? This is morally better than what we had before – a “shame” oriented society which made cheaters feel evil inside? And, despite feminism, massive objectification of the female body in film and advertising and entertainment? This is morally better? A huge number of fatherless families in US inner cities? This is morally better than the so-called bad old days of the 1950s, with largely intact nuclear families? A massive drop in the number of citizens actively involved in service clubs (Lions, Kinsmen, etc.)? This is a moral improvement? There have been improvements in society – e.g., voting rights and housing rights, and disapproval of domestic violence against women and children – but the picture is far from uniform. We might like to think that we are more moral than our grandparents’ generation, but we are hardly impartial judges of our own moral virtue.

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Ironically, the only civilization in human history that sustained centuries-long increases in “tolerance, freedom, and equality” was the Christian civilization of Western Europe-North America (with colonial extensions). Christianity is hardly the enemy of those things, but has been their parent. That’s not to say that some Christians and some Christian societies haven’t been intolerant or repressive for periods of time, but it’s no accident that the aforementioned goods were not much realized in India, China, or the Muslim world, or elsewhere.

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I agree.

I think those who would like to see a return to school prayers (which by no means includes all Protestants, not even all conservative Protestants) are conflating two issues: (1) the value of school prayer in itself; (2) a general hostility that they perceive (rightly or wrongly) coming from the intelligentsia of American society – lawyers, judges, journalists, professors – toward Christianity or toward belief in God in general. Because of (2), some of them long for “the good old days” when there was school prayer, as if that would be a solution. But I don’t think it would be. Even if school prayers were brought back, a large number of the students would mumble them without conviction, as part of a boring morning routine. There’s no gain to religion in that kind of perfunctory nod.

Remember, it is not just the minority of atheists and agnostics that school prayer policy has to think about. There are also millions of immigrants from traditions other than the Christian – Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, etc. – who are not going to be wildly in favor of compulsory Bible readings and Christian prayers at school every morning. Proposing a return to old-style school prayer to those people is a non-starter. But in fact, if Christians would stop conflating (1) with (2), they might find that the newer religious traditions of America provide them with a new way of dealing with (2).

Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, etc. have an interest in common with Christians – to make sure that traditional religious views are not being socially discriminated against – whether in schools or anyplace else – in favor of secular humanism, which should not have any special place or privilege in the schools or the wider society. I think those of other religions would work with Christians on this. That is where I think Christians should put their culture-war efforts, not on bringing back compulsory religious exercises of a Christian kind in the schools.

In any case, any state which mandated Christian religious exercises would find its legislation immediately struck down by courts, so there isn’t even any point in trying. It’s better to try to do what is possible than fantasize about what’s impossible.

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I would whole-heartedly agree, and have to wonder if that wasn’t the case even back before Engel v. Vitale. The mandated prayer in that case stated:

Almighty God, we acknowledge our dependence upon Thee, and we beg Thy blessings upon us, our parents, our teachers and our country. Amen.
I have to suspect that its wording was chosen for reasons of its inoffensiveness, rather than its inspirational value. But even the most inspirational prayer would likely pall, if it was repeated by rote, 5 days a week, year after year.
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Since 1975, abortion have been legal in France up to the 12 week of pregnancy. The new law extends the allowed time for an abortion in France to be left up to the woman as it is in the rest of Europe. Stop your fear mongering that mothers are now killing their babies in France.

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Coerced prayer of children by Christian administrators in public schools is still happening. Here are recent court victories in getting rid of such coersion.

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You’re wrong. The text voted by the French National Assembly in August does allow to kill the baby until the end of the pregnancy in case of psychosocial distress of the mother. However, in order for this disposition to definitively enter the French law, it will also have to be voted by the senate by the end of the year.

Does this “centuries-long increases in ‘tolerance, freedom, and equality’” include the Alhambra Decree, the Spanish and Roman Inquisitions, Witch trials, pogroms against Jews, the Thirty Years’ War, the French Wars of Religion, Spain’s Encomienda system in its American posessions, Leopold II of Belgium’s infamous Congo Free State, and probably a number of other events that have slipped my mind?