Another kind of God-talk in the public square

Another kind of God-talk in the public square May 14, 2009

In the course of a discussion about that litigious atheist who is seeking to censor “In God We Trust” from the nation’s coins, Pastor Cwirla makes a fascinating point:

Newdow is that new breed of assertive atheist who doesn’t want to hear or see the G-word in public, especially at public expense.  Apparently putting the G-word on currency is the equivalent of state-sponsored religion, contrary to the 1st amendment, or so he argues.  I guess no one ever thought of that back in 1864.  To call this state sponsored religion is a bit like suggesting that a teenager who says “ohmygod” every other sentence is being very religious.  

If we are going to ban the mention of “God” and religious references from the public square, let’s enlist the ACLU and militant atheists in a crusade to ban profanity. (Scatology [bodily function words] and obscenity [words about things that should take place out of sight, “outside the scene,” such as sex talk] can, of course, remain.)

Taking God’s name in vain, curses that consign individuals or objects to eternal punishment, and the like are all primitive and atavistic, if you come to think of it. And the speech of unbelievers tends to be full of this supercharged religious language. Its persistence strikes me as an odd proof that the religious impulse is innate and cannot be gotten rid of.

This reminds me of Hazel Motes in Flannery O’Connor’s novel “Wise Blood” who is running away from God and so goes to morally degraded people and places and actions that he thinks are the farthest away from any kind of Christianity. But the bad language of his new companions–“Jesus Christ!”–cuts through him like a knife. Even in the depths of Sheol, He is there.


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