Gary Luderman of Hicksville, Ohio responds to a letter I wrote recently to the Editor of the Defiance Crescent-News. You can read the letter here. My response to Luderman’s letter is found in the indented portions of this post.
Responding to Mr. Gerencser’s letter in the January 2 issue of the The Crescent-News. I must begin by stating that I can not respond to all the statements in his letter with which I disagree in the small space provided here. But let me respond to four of them:
Gary Luderman and I agree on one thing…the space afforded to us by the newspaper is not sufficient to adequately respond to one another. Such is the nature of writing a letter to the editor. You learn to be direct and succinct.
1. Mr. Gerencser begins, “contrary to Luderman’s assertion, my letter was all about the Republican Party,” and then in the very next words continues “and its infection with rightwing religious extremism.” There’s that label again.
Luderman seems to not see that I was making a connection between right-wing religious (Christian) extremism and the Republican Party. The Republican Party, in its current form, is dominated by right-wing religious extremism. This is clearly shown in their views on abortion, homosexuality, global climate change, evolution, immigration, crime, and the separation of church and state.
I am well aware that not ALL Republicans like the current direction of the Republican Party. They know that the current extremism in the Party is what cost them the last election. They also know, that unless the Party moves away from the extreme fringe, they will continue to suffer political setbacks.
It is all about demographics. The Republican Party is a party dominated by white, aging males. Unless they find away to reach minorities, women, immigrants, and young people their Party will continue to decline.
2. He states “since the United States is a secular state.” What? The United States is not, and was not, a secular state. Our constitution is not founded in secularism; our heritage is certainly not secular. Most of our common law is not secular. We have chaplains and prayers in our houses of government. Government officials are sworn into office with their hands on a holy book. The Declaration of Independence is based on rights with which we are endowed by our creator. Religious freedom and the wall of separation between church and state are not in the Constitution. These are statements which are intentionally twisted by the left.
Jefferson’s response to the Baptist question stated that there is a separation of church and state, but he went on to explain that it was a one way separation. The state is separated from religion but not religious involvement in the state. Madison stated that our republic would only survive with a strong religious moral background. So you can take issue with our defending our religious morals all you want.
Luderman confuses Christian influence with Christianity being the state religion. I will gladly agree that the United States has been greatly, for good or bad, influenced by Christianity. I would even gladly agree that my own life has been greatly, for good or bad, influenced by Christianity.
Christian churches sit on virtually every street corner in America. Christianity is on display everywhere one looks. Here in NW Ohio, in particular, Evangelical dominates virtually every aspect of life.
That said, Christian influence is one thing, having state sponsored Christianity is something far different. Where does the Constitution or the Bill of Rights enshrine Christianity as the one true religion of the state?
Yes, the Separation of Church and State is not found in the Constitution. So what? Our founders made it clear in the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights that there is to be a freedom of religion. The First Amendment states:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
Freedom of religion requires neutrality by the state. Once there is state sponsored religion there can be no freedom of religion. What people like Luderman want is not freedom of ALL religions, just freedom of the Christian religion.
Yes, politicians swear an oath on a Bible. I wish they would stop this practice because it leads people like Luderman to think that such practices are mandated by law. Such is not the case. Luderman needs to re-read the Constitution, especially Article Six:
The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.
Luderman seems to ignore that it says “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”. It is clear from this that US citizens have the right to have any religion they want or no religion at all. Establishing one religion as the state religion means other religions do not have the same freedom as the established religion.
Personally, I am not a strict constructionist when it comes to the Constitution. I consider our founding documents to be living, breathing documents that change with the times and how our courts interpret them.
I would ask Gary Luderman…is it OK for a church to meet in a building that is a safety or health hazard? Would it be OK if the church chained the exit doors shut or allowed church children to handle rattlesnakes as part of Sunday Morning worship?
If one holds to a strict constructionist interpretation of the First Amendment, then government should have no control, no power over any church. However, as a living, breathing document it has been interpreted in such a way that says, yes, there is freedom of religion, BUT the state has the right to require churches follow health and safety laws. (among other laws)
Christians are free to be involved in the politics of our secular state. They have much to offer, and since Christians make up the majority in this Country, they have every right to be represented in government. What they don’t have the right to do is demand through law that their religion receive preferential treatment or be considered the official religion of the state.
3. Mr. Gerencser is quite perplexed when I suggest he has no moral values. If he is an atheist he has no morals and no basis for any morals except for his own, which is exactly what I stated. He follows his claim to be an atheist, and in the next statement he claims he is a humanist. That means he is not an atheist. His highest being to which he looks is humanity — himself — again exactly what I said. He is hell-bent on creating God in his own image.
Luderman, like many Evangelical Christians, thinks that no atheist can be moral because morality only comes from the Christian God and the Christian Bible. If this is the case where do people who have not been exposed to Christianity get their moral values? Where did humans get their moral values before the existence of Christianity? Any cursory reading of the Old Testament reveals that God’s chosen people, the Israelites, were quite immoral when judged by the Christian moral standard.
Luderman must also answer for me how he explains the difference between the moral values of the Old Testament and the moral values of the New Testament. Can I own slaves? Can I have a concubine? Can I have more than one wife? I could go on and on and on….
Luderman shows that he is quite ignorant of atheism, agnosticism, and humanism. If this were not the case, he would know that most atheists are humanists. Generally speaking, all atheists are humanists but not all humanists are atheists. (and yes, I am aware that some atheists don’t like being called a humanist)
Luderman keeps accusing me of creating god in my own image. Why would I create such a fictional being? Me being god is just as much a fantasy as the Christian’s God being a god. All of the gods in the human panoply of god are mythical. I view the Christian God no differently than I do Zeus or any of the Greek gods. Nice stories but not real.
Yet, Luderman is correct when he says that I think humans are the end-all when it comes to morality. How could it be otherwise? We are it…there is no god or divine book to appeal to. It is up to us to decide, corporately and individually, what moral and ethical values we will be governed by.
This is why people like Luderman are so dangerous. They want to force everyone to live according to their interpretation of a religious text they say a god wrote thousands of years ago. Luderman wants a theocracy, a state where the Christian God, the Christian Bible, the Christian Church, and Christians rule over all. In my mind, this is no different than the Taliban in the Middle East.
History tells us what happens when church and state are one. Civil liberties are lost and people die. This is why right-wing Christian extremism must be opposed at every turn. A prayer at a public school might seem a small thing, but once Christians gain the right to offer sectarian prayers in the schools they will not be satisfied until Christianity permeates every aspect of our children’s public school education.
4. As for his closing statement of letting his wife, family et al judge his morals, suggesting we should keep out of it, then I would suggest at he stop propagating and revealing his morals in public letters to The Crescent-News.
I have no problem with people responding to what I write. I am a public figure and I as such I know that my words and actions will be scrutinized. What I have a problem with is people making judgments about my morality without personally knowing me. In many ways, local Christians are no different than celebrity gossip magazines and blogs who seize on a blurb about someone and turn it into a complete expose of the person’s life.
Luderman thinks no one but a Christian can be moral, so I do understand why he says what he says here.
I live my life openly and I am not afraid of being challenged or having my beliefs examined. I just wish they would do so with a better understanding of atheism, agnosticism, and humanism. Sadly, most Christians only know what their pastor tells them or what they read in a book written by a Christian. Bottom line? Christians need to broaden their horizons and they definitely need to read more outside of the Christian rut they are in.
Finally, I am deeply saddened that a man of God has lost his faith. I would gladly meet with him — to listen— and to understand and, yes, to witness. I do not want to be confrontational, but the Constitution allows and my Savior constrains me to respond and to defend the
reasons for the faith in which I believe. God be with you.
Luderman feigns concern in his letter. His letters to the Editor are like the letters of every other Evangelical that responds to what I write. They are right, I am wrong, and I am going to hell unless I repent.
I have no interest in meeting with any Christian to discuss my loss of faith. Christian after Christian comes to this blog and feigns friendship, in hopes of getting the opportunity to win me back to Jesus. Real friendship means accepting people as they are, and if there is one thing I know about Evangelical Christians, it is that they simply can not accept people as they are. They believe they have a divine mandate to make everyone just like them.
I wish Gary Luderman had responded to one thing I wrote in my letter. I wrote: “Luderman mentions God’s rules? Which God? Which rules? Luderman believes that the Christian God is THE God. He is atheistic towards all other Gods but the Christian God. He and I are quite the same then, the only difference being my atheism includes the rejection of the Christian God.”
No Evangelical Christian is willing to touch this argument. (and seem to be ignorant that First Century Christians were called atheists) Why is this? (this is a rhetorical question)