The Cognitive Dissonance of a God Cosmology
by Kelli Jae Baeli
their concerns into universal, rather than religion-specific, values.
It requires that their proposals be subject to argument, and
amenable to reason.” ~ President Barack Obama
CLEARLY, THE FOUNDING FATHERS intended for religion to remain separate from government, though modern Americans continue to forget about this, or twist it to their own purposes. The Intention of our Founders, and United States Constitution are clear about this matter, yet there are myriad examples of its violation.
We actually entertain the idea of having creationism taught as fact in our schools. When we vote, we often have to go to a church to do so. When we go to ballgames, we must listen to some local pastor say a prayer; when we enter the halls of government buildings, we must pass by marble displays of the biblical Ten Commandments; when our tax dollars go to the upkeep of faith-based schools; when we celebrate a National Day of Prayer; when we pay for something with money that has “In God we Trust” stamped on it; when our children recite the Pledge of Allegiance, to include “One nation, under God”; and when the newly elected President of the United States is inaugurated, and has to place his hand on a bible to take his oath of office.
John Locke, an English philosopher of the 17th Century, wrote about a “Social Contract” theory, in which individual conscience was left to the individual, and should never be given over to governments. This eventually developed popularity and was ultimately referred to as separation of church and state.
The phrase, “Separation of church and state” stems from a letter written by Thomas Jefferson in 1802, addressed to the Danbury Baptists:
Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should “make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” thus building a wall of separation between Church & State.
In the 1797 Treaty of Tripoli, Article 11 states, “As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion…” And Jefferson went on to say,
The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are 20 gods or no gods. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.
The proper place for the study of religious beliefs is in a church or temple, at home, or in a course on comparative religions, but not in a biology class. There is no place in our world for an ideology that seeks to close minds, force obedience, and return the world to a paradise that never was. Students should learn that the universe can be confronted and understood, that ideas and authority should be questioned, that an open mind is a good thing. Education does not exist to confirm people’s superstitions, and children do not learn to think when they are fed only dogma.” [Tim Berra, Evolution and the Myth of Creationism]
James Madison was the primary author of the Bill of Rights, and in it, he also reiterated the importance of separation of church and state. Jefferson echoed this sentiment in the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom.
Though these words exist as underpinning to our dealings with religion and service, it is near impossible for a person of no faith to get elected. Recently, in the 2008 elections, Republican candidate for North Carolina senate, Elizabeth Dole, ran an “attack ad” which labeled her opponent, Kay Hagan “godless.” At the end of the ad, a woman’s voice is heard saying “There is no god.” This was an underhanded way to implicate Hagen as an unworthy candidate, because the recording was not of Hagen. Dole has since been sued by Hagen for liable and defamation, and Hagen felt the need to run her own ad professing her Christianity. Dole, incidentally, lost the race.
This is another example of how religion permeates our society, even in the realm of politics. I fail to see the correlation between lack of religion and an inability to serve honorably, but most Americans don’t seem to agree. The reason seems to be that “godless” people are somehow less trustworthy, less moral, less ethical and less capable of serving in an office that seeks to represent the common good.
There are many historical figures who agree. One of them said,
I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute; where no Catholic prelate would tell the President-should he be Catholic-how to act, and no Protestant minister would tell his parishioners for whom to vote; where no church or church school is granted any public funds or political preference, and where no man is denied public office merely because his religion differs from the President who might appoint him, or the people who might elect him.
This, from one of our nation’s most beloved public servants, John F. Kennedy, the 35th President of the United States of America. And he was, as is common knowledge, a practicing Catholic.
I hope to one day be called to testify in a court of law. Because when they say “Raise your right hand…do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help you God?”
I will say, “Not so help me, God, no.”
I will enjoy the tittering and mumbling moving through the spectators.
The judge will lean over and say “Why not, Ms. Baeli?”
And I will say, “I believe in the separation of church and state, and furthermore, I’m an atheist. But I’ll be happy to swear on the value of my own ethics.”
When we give churches and clerics and theologians and pastors our power; when we allow them to dictate our behavior, our thoughts and even our own feelings, then we have divorced ourselves not only from our own innate intelligence, but from hope. The facsimile that the religious leaders would have us put in place there, in that gaping hole, is a false promise. Carrier elaborates:
…religion has become a factory-made commodity, sold off the shelf to the masses, who assume it must be good if it is really old and lots of smarter and better educated people say it’s a good buy (“8 out of 10 experts recommend Christian Brand Salvation!”). People think they can just plug such a goodie into their lives, maybe with a few unskilled adjustments of their own, and never have to think about whether it is well-constructed, well-thought-out, or even true. Some people, more creative but no wiser, take a shallow glance around and tear pieces from existing products, or grab whatever pops into their heads, and throw together something of their own, with little in the way of careful investigation or analysis (p. 4).
Recently, I watched all the episodes of the Showtime series, The Tudors. Investigating the historical accuracy of the show, I was impressed to learn that almost all of it was true to the actual events as known by historians. The most troubling thing about the series is that it reveals the unfathomable power the Catholic church has had in our history. The power not only to control the masses through fear of deprivation, hellfire, or simple starvation and execution, but the power also to legitimize the crimes that these godly people commit. Whenever a person in power wanted something, all he had to do was find a way, by any means available, to get it sanctified by the church, and he could have it.
When King Henry VIII wanted to marry Anne Boleyn, he had to convince the church to annul his marriage to Catherine. Since they didn’t cooperate, he managed to remove those who opposed him and place someone else in that position who could make it happen. And Catherine was exiled, along with her daughter, whom she never got to see again. Then when the machinations of other people with an agenda got so convoluted that there were accusations made against Anne, regarding her behavior with other men, accusers were easily found, due to their fear of being executed themselves. Same with the Inquisition. If you inflict enough pain or fear of pain or death on someone, they will admit to anything, and that means, the truth is never known. Anne and her whole family, plus some others, were beheaded, by the way.
H.L. Mencken, the infamous journalist who covered the Scopes “Monkey Trial,” said, “You can safely say that you have made God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.”
That’s exactly what was happening with Henry Tudor and all like him; and what has happened throughout history when politics were mixed with religion, when faith was mixed with fear, and when greed and human nature does what they always do. How many people throughout history have been going about their business, harming no one, when some headhunter with an agenda coerced them–even terrorized them–into snitching on someone else? And how many people throughout history have dedicated their lives serving this unseen, unknowable entity called God, only to wind up either old, poor, miserable, with nothing to look forward to but a promise that never comes to fruition, or worse–with their heads on a chopping block, and a steel blade sluicing through their skin? Many a martyr had a rude awakening when their lives were just over, and there was no Pearly Gates, nor loving savior to greet them. Those tragedies alone are enough to rival all other tragedies.
I share this to make the point that when a monarchy or a church has God, ostensibly, on their side, they can justify anything they might desire. A religion that easily corrupted cannot possibly be real. This is another searing example of the need for separation of church and state.
So, it is only a small step to advance to the ideals of humanism. To live your life ethically, as you already know how to do without stone tablets to tell you, to seek joy whenever possible to love and laugh and make the most of the time we have, because life is precious, and this is all we have.
 Notes on Virginia, 1782
 For the uninitiated, that was State v. Scopes. In 1925, John Scopes, a school teacher, was arrested and charged with violating the Butler Act, which deemed it unlawful to teach anything but creationism in the classroom. He had used material from Darwin’s Origin of Species in class. This trial was about so many things, but it pitted William Jennings Bryan (prosecution) against Clarence Darrow defense) and was the fuse that lit the debate among creationists and evolutionists. For a quick and entertaining explanation, rent the 1960 movie, Inherit the Wind. It’s one of my all-time favorites.