"The Separation of Church and State," Why? Radio episode with guest Andrew Seidel
2:25AM Dec 13, 2021
Jack Russell Weinstein
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Hi, I'm Jack Russell Weinstein host of why philosophical discussions about everyday life. On today's episode, we'll be asking about the separation of church and state with Andrew Seidel.
I'd like to begin by talking about something I've never understood. As we speak, the United States Supreme Court is deliberating about whether to overturn Roe v. Wade and Pennsylvania for a KC, the two cases that confirm someone's right to get an abortion. Both of these decisions are written to balance a woman's right to privacy with the government's interest. They codify a precedent that has lasted literally for half a century from the very first row was challenged by people who claim that it was bad law because there's no explicit right to privacy in the Constitution. This is a sketchy argument, but okay, whatever. Here's what I don't understand. Why does anyone need to argue about privacy when the right to abortion is clearly protected by the First Amendment, the one that guarantees free exercise of religion. We all know that once we clear away the smoke and mirror of states rights, the real debate is about when life begins a religious controversy. Nothing more. Neither theology nor science has a definitive and universally persuasive theory of life. It's all a matter of how one's biology fits into their larger worldview. I don't have any objections to this either. At least not in principle, knowledge is a complex topic. But since life and one's opinion on abortion are ultimately the product of personal morality, once individual's beliefs should have no binding impact on another. That's what the First Amendment tells us. The government is not allowed to privilege one religion over another nor for that matter, religion over non religion, quote, Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. It's, it's right there on paper. From the 16th century onward, through John Locke, baroque Spinoza, Adam Smith and others, political philosophy has repeatedly returned again and again, to the inevitable position that belief is a matter between an individual and their God, and that the government has no authority to intervene. The First Amendment is a product of this tradition. The Federalist Papers bear this out the French Revolution followed suit, and over the last 200 years, toleration as Locke called it has served as the glue that holds every functioning liberal democracy together. But okay, let me approach this from a different angle, a religious one. According to the Christian gospels, saw a Pharisee Jew experienced a vision of Jesus while on the road to Damascus and converted to Christianity. The incident was so profound that it changed his very identity and became he became known as Paul the Apostle. In turn, he creates the church and conversion becomes the very heart and often the very goal of Christian belief. Again, fair enough, who am I to challenge someone's creation myth, but here's the thing about conversion that people forget. One person's experience has no meaningful consequences for anyone else's. Just because Paul came to believe something doesn't mean anyone else ought to even if Paul were 100%, right, even if his vision was in fact, an accurate glimpse into the true nature of reality, it still wouldn't necessitate anyone else's actions because religious belief isn't about truth. It's about one's attitude about how one chooses to face the world. Kierkegaard famously called this a leap of faith, and I find no more applicable phrase to describe one's perception of abortion. Where one decides life begins is nothing, if not such a leap. And by definition, no one can compel anyone to believe a forced leap is a push not to jump and being pushed, has nothing to do with faith. All of this is the reason why for the life of me, I can't figure out why pro choice lawyers are not asserting over and over again, that their right to abortion is coextensive with the right to be free from anyone else's religion. That the right to terminate a pregnancy is the same stuff that allows Hobby Lobby to not pay for contraception or a private evangelical University to punish its students for being gay. It's not that I don't believe there's a right to privacy I do. But the fact of the matter is that it's only implicit in the 14th amendment. While the separation of church and state is explicit in the first, this should be the end of the story or So yet again, it seems to me. The problem here is that while everything I've said so far is a philosophers argument. The real battle to keep America religiously diverse and tolerant is not being fought by teachers like me, but by lawyers, activists and constitutional scholars. It's a game in which strategy is more important than logic and electoral influence supersedes original intent. This is where our guest comes in. As part of the Freedom Forum Religion Foundation. His job is to come up with the practicalities that make the First Amendment compelling to judges and legislators. He's an advocate for a tradition that no longer appears able to speak for itself. He's half PR person and half applied philosopher. difficult job, it seems to me, because the reason we shouldn't force religion on one another as the very same one that he has to contend with, you can't force anyone to agree with you. Persuasion is only possible when people are open minded, and they're only receptive when being so isn't a threat. Nothing is more frightening than losing power, which is what the First Amendment is really discussing. The politics of religion isn't about truth or belief. It's about authority, factionalism, and destructive power of fanatics, religion and government corrupt each other they always have. This doesn't mean that religion is bad or that spirituality shouldn't have a political voice. It just means that your religion is none of my business in mind is none of yours. And I just don't understand why the Supreme Court doesn't get it. I just don't.
And now our guest, Andrew L. Seidel is a constitutional attorney and director of the strategic response at the Freedom From Religion Foundation. He's the author of two books, the founding myth, why Christian nationalism is unAmerican, and American crusade how the Supreme Court is weaponizing religious freedom, which will be published next year. Andrew, welcome to why.
Thank you so much for having me. What a great introduction. I mean, that was fascinating. I could listen to you teach forever.
Well, step three profit, right? I mean, let's see what happens. For the folks who are listening. If you'd like to participate, share your favorite moments from the show and tag us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. Our handle is at why radio show you can always email us why radio firstname.lastname@example.org And listen to our previous episodes for free at why radio show.org Alright, so thank you again for the compliment. But I guess I have to ask, Is my philosophers interpretation relevant to this discussion? Or is this really just a battle for specialists for constitutional scholars and lawyers?
No, I think it's absolutely relevant. And I think the idea that this is just a battle for scholars and constitutional lawyers is one reason we're losing it. I mean, and you can see this in the abortion argument that you were just paraphrasing, right? This entire Supreme Court oral argument that just happened last week, last Wednesday, in fact, about whether or not women have bodily autonomy, whether or not Americans have bodily autonomy was really at its most basic level about religion. And it only got mentioned once. And it was a striking moment. And Justice Sonia Sotomayor said to the Mississippi Attorney General, she said, how is your stance anything other than a religious view? Meaning, you are arguing that life begins at conception, and that is very clearly a religious argument. You can't put that into the law and force it upon every other citizen, which is exactly what you were just talking about Jack. And it was it was striking because she cut through all of the smoke and mirrors all of this, this kind of polite agreement that we've had to not discuss religion when it comes to this debate, abortion debate, and really, it's all about religion. And it was it was particularly nice for us because the Freedom From Religion Foundation submitted a brief in that case that was written by one of our really talented attorneys, Elizabeth Cavell. And we argued, hey, this is all about religion and imposing religion on every citizen of Mississippi and really the country. And you, you can't examine this case without touching on that. So it was really kind of rewarding to hear Sotomayor pick up our argument and run with it during during the oral argument.
Alright, so let me take a step back for a second. How, you know, people talk about the First Amendment and people talk about free speech, and they always get it wrong, because they say, you know, Starbucks isn't allowed to curb my free speech. But sure they are. It's the government that isn't how accurate is the sort of general interpretation of the First Amendment? Is it something the religious aspect, is it something that you can read on its face? Is it more obscure? When when people as you travel the country, as you go on talk shows as you will do all these things, and you talk to people about this? Do Americans get it right? Or do we get it wrong?
No, I think by and large, we get it correct. I think there's there's a lot of sort of the finer points that we get wrong. And you certainly identified one there, which is where we sort of conflate the legal structure of the First Amendment with free speech as an American value. Right. But when it comes to state church separation, I mean, the support overwhelmingly among the American people is for a wall that separates states In church that keeps religion out of government, and government out of religion. And I think I think people understand that at a very basic and visceral level. And you know, to me, the wall of separation between state and church is an American original, right? This is an American invention, the idea was floating around in the enlightenment, but it was first implemented in the American experiment. You know, until, until then, no other nation had sought to protect the ability of its citizens to think freely by separating religion and government. And I think that is something that we should be proud of, as a country, and certainly something that we should not let be undermined with myths about, you know, Christian founding, for instance.
I want to I want to put off the Christian founding question for a second, because I think that's really, really important. But there there are people who are going to say, Well, look, you know, morality is religious, you know, the prohibition against murder is religious that that we're kidding ourselves that you can't separate religion from morality. So, you know, before we have the philosophical conversation about that, does the First Amendment assume that as well? Or does the First Amendment have a different vision of what morality is? Or at least on the legal side?
Great question. And this is, again, this in the first few chapters of the founding myth, because it is such an important question. But I think we're doing a little bit of a disservice to ourselves here by limiting our discussion to just the First Amendment, because that was, as we tend to forget an amendment to the Constitution, right? They, the founders wrote the entire constitution, and then they added to it afterwards. And the really, the truly unique and original elements of our Constitution are secular. And they kind of go to this point, right? Our Constitution was the first to declare that power comes from people, not gods, right, the words we the people are poetic, but they're also so much more. Our Constitution was the first governing document not to mention a god or a deity. It's a godless document by choice, not by accident. And our constitution was the first to ban religious tests for public office, in Article Six, clause three. And I mean, this was the only mention of religion in the original and amended document, and it is one of the most emphatic clear statements in the entire constitution, no religious test shall ever be, you know, I mean, it's very, very clear about we are not going to let this happen. I mean, to me, this is, these are the things that were truly original about our Constitution and implemented for the first time and they all go to that kind of question, can you govern without imposing religion on people? And I think the very clear answer is right there in the first three words, yeah, we the people can do this.
Is this just rhetoric, right? When you read enlightenment philosophers, I'm an Adam Smith scholar, when you read Adam Smith, The Theory of Moral Sentiments, he talks about God all the time, it talks about deity all the time, but it is totally rhetorical. There's no divine core to his his work. Is this the opposite? Are they not talking about God for rhetorical or strategic purposes? And, and really, they meant it, because they knew everyone meant it? Or can you read the Constitution as really substantive, and meaning what it says? And give all of the words the benefit of the doubt?
I think you can, I mean, I think we have to treat it as as certainly a flawed document, you know, the things I singled out to me are the are again, those unique and kind of original aspects to it. But there's there's a lot that's that pretty, pretty bad about the Constitution, where we're seeing the fruits of of that today, right? I mean, the Electoral College turns out to be a pretty bad idea, the three fifths clause is about is inhumane as you can possibly get in the literal sense of that word up. So there's, there's a lot that's wrong with the Constitution, and I don't think we need to necessarily treat it as as a divine document, especially since they didn't, but I think the overall point is that these these founding fathers, again, all all white men, and that that comes through very, very clearly in the document. They view that the government and the laws would be, I think, distinct from society and culture. And I think they understood that by divorcing state and church, religion would actually flourish. And as an Adam scholar, Adam Smith scholar, I'm sure you know, this, you know, one of the things that James Madison predicted at Smith two was that if you really divorced state and church you would actually We see a flourishing of religion and religious pluralism, right? Because you, you remove that government monopoly. And then all of a sudden you have essentially a wild marketplace where religions are competing for followers and for donations, and you don't have this sort of entitled, fat, lazy priestly caste that's just leeching off the state. And it's sort of this, this really interesting, seems like a paradox that comes up in, we have a separation of state and church here in America. And we have a very religious populace. Whereas, you know, in England, for instance, they have an established church, but nobody ever goes through it. But again, you know, Adam Smith, and James Madison would have kind of predicted this, and it was one of the reasons they chose to do that.
Yes, Smith is Smith Smith is really explicit about this in the Wealth of Nations and what he says. He's talking about fanaticism, particularly what he says is, you know, if there's no state religion, then what you get is 1000s, of little sects, and that those sects are, and he uses the word harmless, right? They're as harmless as they can be. Now, this is before weapons of mass destruction, right. But, but but but nevertheless, right? That's what they wanted. They wanted lots and lots and lots and lots of little religions. Right. So I'm going to ask again, because against this, because I think some people will come into the conversation bristling at the title. Does the Freedom From Religion Foundation think that lots of little religions is a bad thing? When you say freedom from religion? Are you asking for a secular population?
No, I mean, to me, there's no such thing as the freedom of religion without a government that is free from religion. And I really think that is something that the founders understood, but that many of us seem to have forgotten that a secular America is the only true guarantee for religious liberty. And this goes, I mean, this goes back to what we're talking about right? torrents of blood. When separating state and church, James Madison looked back at the torrents of blood. That was his phrase, that were spilled in the name of religion, especially in the old world, Europe, I mean, so to Jefferson. So to the other founders, they looked at the century of the centuries, millennia, really, of violence caused by mixing religion and government. And then after serving that bloody history, they decided to build this wall that would forever separate state and church, they dis established religion, they abolished religious tests for public office, they I mean, they invented the secular state. And I think the thing, the challenge that we face today, and this is the reason that, you know, I, you describe my job as partially PR, is that, that history seems so distant to us. But it's only because the experiment succeeded. Because it worked. Right? We forgotten that state church separation guarantees religious freedoms, in a sense, because we are the victims of the success of that separation. So secular government works, you know, there is no freedom of religion without a government that's free from religion.
You know, I want to challenge that, but not to disagree. But but but to sort of emphasize, right, I mean, yes, the 30 Years War and the Crusades seem foreign. But you know, India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, Northern Ireland, Ireland, Palestine, and Israel, right. I mean, these are on some level, massive religious conflicts, there are also colonial conflicts and all of that kind of stuff. But, but, you know, we do see the consequence of religious states all of the time. And, you know, Kashmir is the most dangerous place in the world, because of the religious tensions, right? Again, Smith Smith says that the danger of religion is that it's the only thing that people will put above their citizenship above their laws. And to that makes it a destabilizing force. And so let me ask about that, um, because we're talking about into freedom, and we started talking about the individual, you know, the right to abortion, things like that. And that's where the conversation is. But do you think that it's still a legitimate claim to argue that religious factionalism is inherently destabilizing? Do you think that religion is still a threat on the level of civil war on the level of neighbor versus neighbor? Or is that an old world fear?
I absolutely think that it is a destabilizing threat. You know, it's not often that you choose a subtitle for a book, and then the subject runs out to prove you right. The subtitle of my book is, is why Christian nationalism is unAmerican. But you know, just about a year ago, Christian nationalists attacked American democracy and attempted to overturn the results of a free and fair election and I think they prove beyond all doubt that Christian nationalism is unAmerican and that this is you know, this is kind of what I get it at the heart of the book, but January 6, the unifying overarching the theology identity that tied together the militia groups and the white supremacist and the que Anons was Christian nationalism, which is, you know, I mean, what major we'll get into it more, but it's sort of this this toxic identity that mixes Americanism with Christianity, this sort of religious political identity, and you could really see it on January 6, that day, you know, want to tack or carry the Christian flag onto the floor of the Senate. That absurdly self proclaimed Q anon shaman led a prayer in the Senate about patriotism, and Jesus and restoring the nation. And he ended that prayer in Jesus's name, no other people who other the insurrection is to were there in the Senate with him participating that prayer, described it as we consecrated the Senate to Jesus, to me, that was the ultimate statement of where we are in this movement. You know, another set, I just wanted to get inside the building, so that I could plead the blood of Jesus over it. There's another selfie video, one of the insurrection it's filmed herself sipping, you know, post assault beer, and she told her social media followers, you know, to me, God and country are tied, they're one in the same we were founded as a Christian country, we were founded on godly principles. And, and this is Christian nationalism. And it is, at its most basic level, a permission structure to that allows them to do exactly what Adam Smith said, to choose that over being a good citizen.
Talk about what you mean by a permission structure. That's a really interesting concept. But what does that mean? And what does it do?
Yeah, it's it's a fascinating, it's a fascinating concept. And the more I learned about it, the more I am intrigued by its role in religion, essentially, it's it's, it gives you as the person who holds this permission structure, a, a license, to act in a certain way. And it is the moral salve that allows people to do immoral things, for instance, and I do talk about this quite a bit in the founding myth. I think, one of the one of the obvious examples that removes it sort of from the the current culture wars debate would be slavery, right? Like, how can you possibly believe that you have a right to own another human being? That that you that you can treat another person in that in that way? I mean, one way is to dehumanize them. Sure. Another way is to believe that you have a divine license for that. I don't think, you know, social nation talks about this too, you wouldn't people wouldn't do immoral things, unless they believed that they had some license to do that. And that really is what the permission structure of religion is. And we are seeing it in the modern debates as well, especially at the Supreme Court with things like for instance, the gay wedding cake case out of Colorado, right, at its most basic level, that is one person claiming that their religion is a license to discriminate in violation of civil rights laws against LGBTQ citizens.
When we get back from the break, I want to talk a little bit about the difference between Christianity and Christian nationalism, because I think that that's a really important distinction. And then I want to pull this thread about the founders and the the argument that America is ultimately Christian and all that kind of stuff to get to the discussion of the separation of church and state in and of itself, as opposed to a constitutional interpretation. But before that, we'll take a break. You're listening to Andrew Seidel and Jack Russell Weinstein on why philosophical discussions about everyday life We'll be back right after this.
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you're back with by philosophical discussion. Everyday Life. I'm your host, Jack Russell Weinstein, I'm talking with Andrew Seidel about the separation of church and state. And, you know, I started the episode with a little bone to pick and I have another one straight, you know, ripped from the headlines. And that's, and that's this. There's some discussion about a law. I forget what state it's in where someone, you know, where we're a city councilor person or whatever, you know, someone was claiming that if you teach the Holocaust, you have to teach the alternative view, right. And there's been some discussion of that of how absurd it is. And people kept saying, you know, well, what's, you know, how are you going to teach the Holocaust didn't happen? And that's not what the alternative view is, the alternative view of the Holocaust isn't Jews weren't killed or gas, the alternative view is Christians should be gassed, Christians should be killed, right? That's the alternative. Now, just saying that on the radio is terrifying, right? Because someone's gonna think I am saying we should gas or kill Christians. And that's not what I'm saying. What I'm saying is, in our cultural structure in the history of, of what we call the West, Christians and Jews are considered in opposition. And so I want to ask you, Andrew, is it fair to think politically of religions as competitors and opponents, or when we think about the Constitution, when we think about the American culture, there's religion, and there's non religion, and any sort of distinction between the two misrepresents the debate?
That's an interesting question. I saw that headline too. I tend to think that that that comes a little bit more from our battle balancing uprising balance over truth, right, like if we just but in terms of religion versus non religion and religions versus others? I mean, I do think I do think there is something of a distinction, certainly, there's a distinction made under the law. But you know, I always go back to this because if you look at the First Amendment and look at everything that it protects, you know, really, if you look at it, it protects six different rights. Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, or abridging the freedom of speech or the press or the right people peaceably to assemble, and petition their government for a redress of grievances. That's six different rights, you get a secular government, free exercise, free speech, free press, petition your government and to assemble. And all of those, what they really embody, is the freedom of thought. What they're what the founders were really trying to get at was to protect our ability to think freely. And then really, it means you can even add to talk about those ideas. And they often spoke instead of freedom of religion of they spoke of the rights of conscience. And that also is something that we've kind of gotten away from and I think is tainting our current debate about religious freedom, that really there's this this this crusade to weaponize religious freedom to redefine what that means. And one of the reasons we're seeing this move from conscience to religion is to privilege religion, right? It's specifically to privilege conservative Christians and to elevate them to this sort of favored plane and put everybody else on this lower second class status. I mean, that really is what we're seeing. That's what religious freedom is becoming in this country, which is so sad because it's just such a betrayal of of what was intended. It was it was meant to be a leveling the playing field and in training equality, instead, we're seeing it as a tool of privilege and suppression.
Right. So one thing to note before we move on is that one of the things that you're pointing out is that it's conservatism. It's conservative Christianity that's being privileged. It's not necessarily Christianity, I always tell my students, right, there's no such thing as Christianity. There's no such thing as Judaism. There's no such thing as Islam. There's Christianity's Islam and Judaism, right. As a liberal Jew, I have a lot more in common with a liberal Muslim than I do with an Orthodox Jew. And so, even within Christianity, the liberal the moderate Christians are being pushed out. So let me ask you what I promised to ask you before the break, which is we are saying a lot of things that are going to make some people really defensive right. So what is the difference between Christian nationalism and Christianity? And why aren't we talking about Christianity in and of itself for a Pisco, Galleon ism or, you know Catholicism? Right. Why are we talking about Christian nationalism, even when we sometimes use the shorthand?
Yeah, I mean, it's a really great question. And it's such an important point and there are there are for instance, groups of Christians out there who are opposed to Christian nationalism, Baptist joint committee houses a group called Christians against Christian nationalism. And Sam Perry, and Andrew Whitehead, two researchers who've done some phenomenal work kind of exploring what is a Christian nationalist? What is Christian nationalism compared to Christianity overall? So they're definitely not the same thing. Now, Christian nationalism is the claim that we are, were founded as a Christian nation that were based on Judeo Christian principles, and most importantly, that we've strayed from that foundation, right, that we've gotten away from our godly roots, and they use the language of return of getting back to that golden past to justify all manner of hateful and downright evil public policy. But really, what they're trying to do is say that they the Christian nationalists are the true heirs of the American experiment and the American identity. They are the true Americans, and everyone else, is an interloper. And really, at its most basic level, Christian nationalism is an entire identity. Thankfully, it's an identity that's based on disinformation. It's the this idea is often treated as a scholarly debate about our history, like, was America founded as a Christian nation? It is not that it is fundamentally not that and I would encourage people to drop that kind of way of thinking we're discussing it is a Christian nationalism is a sinister, exclusionary movement. It is an attempt to redefine America according to the Christian nationalist disinformation, and then to reshape our law accordingly, and they are well on their way to doing this. And you've you've heard this disinformation many times. I mean, it's even written into some of our laws, that we are one nation under God. And in God, we trust and the Declaration of Independence references the Christian God for different times. And the founders prayed at the Constitutional Convention in George Washington melted the snow in the snow at Valley Forge, and prayed and our laws are based on the 10 commandments. You know, none of that is true. And I think it's a good thing that it's not, but without their origin myths, their identity begins to wither and fade. So Christian nationalism is very scary. It is what attacked our Capitol on January 6, but it also becomes very clear when you explore the myths and the lies, that it truly is in unAmerican political ideology. And that's what I do, you know, in the founding myth
is, am I wrong? In hearing you suggest that Christian nationalism isn't even a religion, per se, it's a political philosophy, it's probably an authoritarian political philosophy, but that we shouldn't really even really treat Christian nationalism as representative of Christianity, because it's doing something else it's its political its its its, its its net, not Yeah. It is more akin to fascism and communism than it is to what people do in church on Sundays, or what people do. It's in the mosque on on Fridays that it's it's a political philosophy rather than a religion. Am I interpreting that right?
It's really interesting question there. First of all, yes, there's absolutely in a thorough, heavy authoritarian streak in Christian nationalism. One of the reasons that it is a destabilizing force, as we were discussing before the break, I think, we are struggling right now, to talk about it, because we're trying to talk about it as a religion, or as political. And it is the toxic mix of those two identities. It is essentially become this sort of feedback loop of both of those swirling identities mixing together and feeding off each other and getting worse and worse and worse. And Sam Perry and Phil Gorski have a new book coming out where they're they're essentially, are Michel Margolis, just published a book on this to where they're essentially arguing that like, actually, politics is driving religion more than religion is driving politics. I've not been fully convinced of that yet. But I do think that there is very good evidence that the line dividing those two is not there anymore, and that there's this this really toxic feedback loop that is happening, especially in Christian nationalism. And it's kind of fitting that it's difficult to identify whether it's political, or whether it's religious because, you know, it's seeking to tear down the wall of separation of state and church. Maybe it's a little too on the nose, I don't know.
Is is this why the language that some Trump supporters use to describe him is so messianic? Is this why there's all these images on the internet of of a sort of God like Trump almost a North Korean art dear leader sort of images of of divine influence, and he's bringing in the new times and all that kind of stuff. Is this a product of that? Or is that a product of of the Christian nationalist mixture of politics and religion? Oh, absolutely.
And that authoritarian streak, I mean, right, they, they literally made a golden idol of Trump. we'll get around to one of their conventions. I mean, you know me, but he has, of course, bought into this as well, right? I mean, he looked up at the sky and said, I am the chosen one. I mean, he wasn't hiding any of this. It was it was very, it was very, very clear that he was leaning into this. And there's there are a lot of parallels to be drawn between the strong man of authoritarianism and the characters in the Bible, and especially the biblical God. And again, this is something you know, I kind of explore in the founding myth, and others have also done a great job of exploring it. So I absolutely think that is one reason that that we've, we've seen that tie for sure.
Okay, so then, at the risk of doing precisely what you asked us not to do, which is have a scholarly conversation about the founding of the country in this context. Why are they wrong? Why are the founders not Christians? Why is our Constitution and our laws not the manifestation of religious belief? What Where's where's the flaw in the history? What are the founders really? Christian in the sense that people mean it today in this discussion?
Yeah, you know, I, this is like one of my favorite come back, when we could go out in public and go to bars and have drinks and things like that, like discussing the faiths of the founding fathers, and what they believed was was just, it's one of the most fun questions out there. I love talking about it. And, you know, if we were, you wanted to buy me an Irish whiskey, I could, I could go on for hours. But, you know, in the context of Christian nationalism, and whether or not this is a Christian nation, I actually think the the focus that we all have, and the past nation that we have with the founders, and what they personally believed is a distraction. And I even think it might be a harmful one. Because when we engage on that question, which again, is fascinating, we are conceding that it is relevant to whether or not America is a Christian nation, to whether or not our constitution separate state and church and and it's it's fundamentally not relevant. So I mean, let's just concede for the sake of argument that all of the founding fathers
explain explain why explain why it's not relevant, because that's a really important and I think, a more subtle point, then, then, then you're giving a credit for explain why it's not relevant.
Well, let's, let's let's concede, then, for the sake of argument that all the founding fathers were Jesus rose from the dead Christians, okay, they weren't. But we'll just we'll concede that for the sake of this argument. The Christian nationalist is still not any closer to proving their claim that we were founded as a Christian nation that we were based on Judeo Christian principles that we've strayed from that and that we need to return to it. Right, they would still have to show that the founders religion informed their choices at, for instance, the Constitutional Convention, right, where they wrote the document that governs us today. So you have to you'd have to examine those religious beliefs, and then compare them against the principles that informed the design of our government and the Constitution. And that's especially hard given that the framers almost never cited the Bible at the Constitutional Convention. And of course, you can find quotes from every founding father on many sides of every religious question. But you know, it depends on whether or not they were writing publicly or privately who they were writing to what age they were right, like Washington didn't believe the same thing at 17, as he did it, 37 or as he did at 67, when he died, my beliefs have certainly evolved over time. So I think the question of whether or not the founders were Christian, is interesting. But it doesn't answer whether or not Christian principles influenced the founding of our government, that we're, and that we've strayed from those, and we need to get back to it. So you know, you don't need to show me that Benjamin Rush believed in a God any more than I need to show you that Thomas Jefferson took a razor to the Bible and cut out all the supernatural stuff and like into that fun activity to looking for diamonds in a dung heap, right? Instead, what they have to do is name a principle that's original and unique to Christianity that positively influenced the American founding. And they actually haven't done that.
You know, there's something super interesting about what you just said, in terms of contemporary identity politics. Let me let me just say as as a footnote, for those who are interested in your reference to Thomas Jefferson, you can find the Jefferson Bible online, you can find the Jefferson Bible in bookstores, and it is exactly what Andrew has said, which is he took a Bible and he cut out all of the supernatural stuff and he put it together and he said there this is what we can use and so that's that that wasn't hyperbolic right. That was an actual example. But but one of the things that super interesting is that in our contemporary identity politics, we Think that who we are, almost determines what our what our beliefs and our claims are. So if you're, you know, black, you're going to think this, if you're Christian, you're going to think this, but I don't know, correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think the founding fathers thought that way. I don't think they thought, I am a Christian. Therefore, everything I put on paper is going to represent a Christian perspective. They thought they were citizens, they thought they were members of the Enlightenment, they thought they were revolutionaries. Right. And, and those sorts of things, informed them more than this sort of sense of identity. And their route membership determines who they are advocating for. Am I Am I right about that? Am I wrong about that? Is is this filter? I
think you're correct? Yeah. I mean, I think you're 100% Correct. I think. I mean, they often both wrote and spoke of the dangers of factionalism, they were so concerned about political parties cropping up in our country. And of course, it happened in the First Presidency, and in Washington's cabinet, no less. I mean, but they were this is something that they were deeply concerned about, right. And the problem with with that, that outlook and with it's, it's a convenient shorthand for us to not listen to what other people are saying, right? You, oh, I have now labeled you in my mind as x. Therefore, I know what you believe. And I, I can argue against what I what I have labeled you as and what I know those people with label x believe, rather than listening to you and trying to understand the nuance of your position. And that evolutionarily, that kind of makes a little bit of sense. But it's, it's it is, I mean, it is a problem when you're trying to run a democracy. And when you're when a democracy depends on reasoned debate and compromise,
to the founders have an argument for the separation of church and state, is there? Is there a syllogism in the Federalist Papers? Or is this something that they took for granted that they thought was self evident? Right. I mean, you know, we, the the Declaration of Independence starts with, you know, we hold these truths to be self evident that all men are created equal. And they use that, to bring in the emotional aspect to bring in the the natural law aspect. They don't say, for example, we hold these truths to be a revelation. Right, we have been informed of these truths. And so in the supporting documents in the debates, are, is there an argument for this separation? Or is it just, it was in the air and they all accepted it and said they were going to put it in the rules of the game?
It's really, it's a really interesting question. I think it does come from the, essentially the fundamental idea of liberty, right? I mean, we've already talked a little bit about how the structure of the Constitution itself informed the separation, not just the first amendment right, we the people, it's godless, we have Article Six, we've already talked about how there's no such thing as the freedom of religion without a government that's free from religion, if you are trying to guarantee religious liberty and the freedom of thought the rights of conscience more broadly, one of the things to do is to ensure that you have a secular government. And and, you know, another thing that they did, which is more to your point is they created a government of limited powers, right? The people imbued the government with very limited powers. And we ask our public officials to separate themselves, their person from their public office all the time, right? If you're, if you're a state official, you can't use your the powers of your office to fundraise for your campaign. You can't use the powers of your state office to promote your personal business and enrich yourself. You can't take money to pass certain laws, right? There's all kinds of ethical rules that draw lines between the person and the office that they occupy. And when it comes to religion, it's no different, though we've treated it differently, for some reason, right? Religious freedom is no different. As a private citizen, they have the same rule that our elected officials have the same religious freedom as anybody else. They can go to church, they can teach Bible study, they can go to temple, whatever it is they want to do, but the other infractions, right telling people that they should pray, using their power to promote their personal religion is an abuse of power. It's a power that the government simply does not have. So you know, in the in the words of a Jon Hamm, Alexander Hamilton, he wrote that our government has quote, no particle of spiritual jurisdiction. So if they are using their office and access to the office and the power of the office and the state resources to promote their religion, you know, you're over the line smokey.
Lock us is the phrase I think it's locked uses the phrase temporal sovereign to, to describe the government when he's talking about the the limitations of, of a religious authority. And what he means by that is God is eternal. And so belief and faith and souls are the product of, of the eternal and the divine, but the temporal sovereign, the person who's in authority, existing in time with us and authority that lives and dies, that has no authority over the eternal. And that makes sense, right? I mean, you know, no, state senator is going to redeem my soul. No state state senator is going to describe the propriety of my prayer. It feels like what are some calls a category mistake? Right? It feels like, feels like we're just talking about two different things. did. Did the did the founders think of it in that way? I mean, where that was this just just, yeah, different rooms of the house, for lack of a better?
I think I think certainly they spoke about it publicly that way. And they certainly argued for the separation using that same argument, you know, in the Virginia statute for religious freedom, which was written by Thomas Jefferson, it was pushed through the legislature by James Madison, it's before runner for the First Amendment. Jefferson wrote about the highest presumption of legislators and rulers, who are fallible and uninspired men, but have assumed dominion over the faith of others setting up their own opinions. And thinking as the only true and infallible way to think and I'm paraphrasing a little bit, obviously, but people should go read it's really fascinating argument. He also talks about in the in that same thing, it's in the next sentence, even he says that to compel people to furnish contributions for propagating opinions that they don't believe in is sinful and tyrannical, which in modern parlance means if you tax people to fund religion, that is sinful and tyrannical. And I've only bring that up, because right now, the Supreme Court, as we're talking about this, the Supreme Court is hearing oral argument on a case where they are almost certainly going to allow Maine the state of Maine to tax citizens and then turn around and give that money to religious schools to teach and preach and indoctrinate religion, which is a violation of one of our founding principles. So I do think they view these as two separate spheres. And that's why they put up this wall that was meant to be tall, strong and impregnable, and which is being dismantled in the last decade by the Roberts Court.
Okay, so So let me ask the public policy question that comes out of that example, which is the person who says, Well, look, every child gets their education paid for. So if you want a secular education, you get it paid for? Why shouldn't you get a religious education paid for also, wouldn't that be disenfranchising religion? What? What's wrong with giving tax money to religious schools? How is that a violation of the separation? If it treats the secular and the religious on the same level?
The short answer is you kind of touched on in the beginning of the question, right, we do provide a baseline benefit for everybody. Because to have to have a functioning democracy, it's necessary to have an educated electorate. And this is something that the founders also talked and wrote about quite a bit. We want to have a people that is competent, and capable and intelligent, and well read, I mean, that that's kind of necessary to the functioning of a democracy. So we are going to provide them with a baseline benefit. And that benefit is going to teach you reading and writing and math and all of the all of the things that you need to be able to be a useful, good citizen. But if you want to do in religious indoctrination, or religious preaching, you're gonna have to go and do that on your own right, that the rule that we have in the public schools is you can teach, but you can't preach, we can teach about religion, but we can't preach religion as though it is true. We can educate about religion, but we can't indoctrinate into religion. If you want to do that that's on you. It's not discrimination for our government to say, we are not going to fund this entire system of education, and then also a parallel system of education for religious believers of every stripe, right? Like, I mean, if you think about it, think about as the transportation system, right? Everybody gets to use the roads, they benefit us all. If you as a church want to have your own roads, your own system of roads, it's up to you to do you don't have to pay for that entire system. I mean, and it's more basic level, what Jefferson was talking about when he said that it was sinful and tyrannical. If the Supreme Court says that churches and religious schools have a right to taxpayer funds, it undoes one of those American, one of our founding principles, one of our unique contributions to the political realm, because governments will then have the power to force Muslims to bankroll temples, and yeshivos to compel Jews to subsidize Christian churches and Catholic schools to oblige Christians to fund mosques and madrassas. Right, and the quarter of Americans who are non religious are going to be the hardest hit. And again, this is exactly what Jefferson was talking about when he said that it's sinful and tyrannical. So the point is that having the system set up the way it is right now protects everybody's religious freedom. But if we allow the taxing power of the state to be employed, to promote, you know, one religion or a couple religions, then we are violating everybody's religious freedom and ironically, or despairingly, depending on your point of view, we're going to the courts gonna probably do that in the name of religious freedom.
So So tell me if this analogy works to to elaborate on the argument that you just made. Universities will distinguish between Theology and Religious Studies, theology is teaching a religion from their perspective as if it's true often, to sort of promote that religious idea and to create clergy and all that kind of stuff. Religious Studies, is about religion as a culture and interesting to text. So in schools, we can't teach you know, Jesus as God, or Moses was defined, but we can say, hey, Jews on Hanukkah, celebrate for eight days and and Muslims during Ramadan don't don't, you know, eat between sunrise and sundown and, and Christians on Easter are celebrating the resurrection, right that that world religions that the idea that we don't teach religion in school, or we can't teach religion in school is true if you're talking about theology, but it's absolutely not true. If you're talking about religious studies and world religion and culture is Is that a fair analogy? And is that part of the argument that you're making?
I think that is a fair analogy. I mean, it's a little it's a little beside the argument. You know, at its most basic level, the argument that I'm trying to make is that forced tithing, which is using the taxing power of the state to take money and turn around and give it to religion, or religious education is no different than forced tithing. And that is a violation of every single American's freedom, and especially their religious freedom. So simply put, religion must support itself. Right. And Ben Franklin has a great quote on this, he said, When a religion is good, I can see it will support itself. And when it cannot, and God doesn't take care of it, it's up to so that the religion is obliged to call on the help of the civil power, it's a sign of that religion being a bad one, you know, so the point is, let the faithful voluntarily support their faith and their religious schools to involve the state and its coercive taxing power in such decisions violates the religious liberty of all.
In a minute, I want to get back to the American context and ask about this, this notion of weaponizing that you're talking about in your new book, and but I guess I want to ask, what what amounts is a natural rights question, which is, would you make if we could detach this argument from the US Constitution? Would you make a comparable argument in Iran, in Saudi Arabia, in places where there is an establishment of the religious power of the state? You know, assuming that didn't kill you? Right, assuming that and, you know, put you in jail? Put that aside, if you had free philosophical reign? Is the separation of church and state a constitutional argument? Or is the separation of church and state a universal rights? Enlightenment, natural law argument? Where's that coming from?
I mean, I think it's the latter. Right. I think it is. I think it is a universal human right. I think it is found in natural law. I think if you read the Declaration of Independence, I mean, Jefferson certainly cites it in natural law. And I know what some what's popping into some people's heads right now. And I would encourage them to go pick up a copy of the founding myth and read it because I go over all the different references in the Declaration of Independence. But really what Jefferson is invoking in there is the natural version, right of natural law as opposed to the supernatural version of natural law. We have certain rights that come from our human nature that rights are not bestowed rights are asserted, not given. You know, and most of that Jefferson wrote was a product of liberal and expanded thought not of divine revelation. In after the declaration after the Constitution. He wrote an opinion on the French treaties Jefferson did and he said the questions of natural rights are tribal, by their conformity with the moral sense In reason of man, right? I mean, that's not it. That's not a version of natural law. That is that is divine. Right that that comes from us. And I do think I do think that this is a basic human right that the right to a secular government should exist for, for all of us.
Is there a space in contemporary discourse for natural law argumentation? Is there a, a, an audience for a realm for whether in the courts or or in the media or in classrooms for the sort of enlightenment argument that rights are derived from reason that the sort of the Kantian enlightenment notion that that what we're looking at is, is rational argumentation, deriving that that the laws of morality or the laws of nature, as opposed to the sort of the revelation based laws and morality come from God? Is there room in the current discourse for natural argumentation?
I certainly hope so. And I mean, I've been having I've been having this argument against against God given rights for quite a while. And, you know, the history has shown us that what can be given by a god can be taken away by those claiming to speak for that God, then, you know, we'll use slavery again, as, as our example slavery was God's will until it wasn't. And to me human rights, that that natural version of natural law that that you and I were just discussing, human rights are more absolute and universal, because they're not susceptible to religious whim and fancy simply by virtue of being human just because you were born, you have certain inherent inalienable rights. Now, it's not to say you can't come up with rhetoric that will help take that away. I mean, one of the reasons that you see what we see as a prelude to genocide dehumanizing of the group that is, you know, condemned is, because it makes it as we were talking about earlier, it kind of gives that permission structure for it, and it takes away their human rights. So you can still violate human rights even without this divine sanction. But I just think God given rights are so I think they're weak and flimsy. They depend on your geography, right? Do you live in Indiana or India or Iran? They depend on who is claiming to know God's will? Do your leaders think Muhammad, or Martin Luther King, or Martin Luther King Junior's interpretation of God's will, is correct. So to me, God given rights are just really problematic, because they depend solely on a particular individual's interpretation of God's word, and God's will, as opposed to the fact that you have these rights by virtue of being human.
So So what do you say to someone who hears this and says, Well, on the one hand, I understand that's compelling. But on the other hand, if I give the power of rights to reason to natural law to humaneness, I'm weakening my own religion. I'm, I'm doubting I'm a bad practitioner, right? I mean, so much of this discussion is about power. And so much of this discussion is about identity. What do you say to someone who thinks of these things as a zero sum affair, that the more power you give to enlightenment values, so to speak, the less power you give to religious values? This is, how do you respond to that?
I mean, that's a really interesting question. And, you know, I've been seeing this crop up in sort of other ways where people, especially Christian nationalists, we've been talking about, essentially see, they kind of see equality and equal rights as a zero sum game, you know, you LGBTQ people getting these rights is therefore taking rights away from me. And that's, that's fundamentally wrong and incorrect. What the only thing that if you are losing something as a right, as a, as a result of other people achieving equality, it is unconstitutional, unlawful privilege that you should not have had in the first place. And I mean, this is this is what we see, again, you need to take it back to the gay wedding cake case in Colorado. You may have been able to discriminate in the past against you certainly could along racial lines, and you could along LGBTQ lines, but you can't do that now, because we have a civil rights law in effect in Colorado that prevents you from doing that. What they are fighting for, is this unconstitutional, unlawful privilege that they had for a long time that flies in the face of equality. So AI rights are not a zero sum game right, the bakery The bigger owner is not more unequal. As a result of the civil rights laws, he's just forced to follow those laws just like everybody else. He's lost a privilege, but he shouldn't have had it in the first place.
I want to ask about this weaponization that you refer to in your new book and what that means and how it affects the courts. But before I do that, I really want to remind everybody that when we talk about Christian nationalism, we're not talking about Christianity, we're talking about a very particular group with a very particular interpretation of history. It's a political philosophy as much as it's a religion. And so we're not talking about a Pisco, Italians or Catholics or Baptists, right? We're not talking about Christianity as a whole, we're talking about a very, very narrow slice of people who are, as you say, weaponizing, this mixture to gain power. Why do you use the term weaponization? And and what's happening that, you know, makes you so afraid?
I mean, really, over the last 10 years, we have seen a crusade by the Supreme Court to change what was this hallowed protection for religious freedom that typically applied to minorities and prevented government overreach into a tool into a weapon that is allowing now the right kind of Christian, conservative, usually white Christians to impose their religion on other people. That's what I mean. So I mean, historically, the freedom of religion has been a shield. And in fact, in the law, we've often talked about religious freedom as a shield. And now it is being beaten into a sword right? The Book of Isaiah tells us at this time, all people shall beat their swords into plowshares, you're seeing the reverse thing happening right now, the Supreme Court is turning this this hallowed tool that protected conscience from government overreach, a shield into a weapon. And this is being done by a network of well funded activists who I call crusaders in the new book. And they're they're turning it into a reshaping this constitutional protection into a weapon to impose their religion on others. And you only get to wield that weapon. Again, if you are the right in scare quotes that nobody can see me making the right religion if you're a Christian, or really, if you're the right kind of conservative Christian.
Okay, but again, so So then speaking to the to the audience member who thinks, but look, no, true. Christianity is a religion of love. It's a religion of charity. It's a religion of all of these, you know, of generosity and of openness. And when people do compel others, it's it's to save them and protect them and, and give them you know, access to eternal life. Even if the courts are imposing some form of Christianity on people. How can that be bad? What's What's your response to the to the people who say, we are compelling love?
I mean, if you want to compel love compel love, you don't have to compel Christianity. I mean, I mean, to me it to me that is a that's it's a sadly fallacious argument, you are violating everybody's religious freedom. By doing it. I mean, I think that's in successfully forging this weapon is is going to codify what we are receiving, what we're just talking about that receiving privilege of what is a dwindling demographic. And it's dwindling in the face of equality in this demographic change. And they're seeking a tool or a weapon to codify that special favored class status, that they are losing in the face of the steady march of equality. But I mean, to do that, they have to really redefine what religious freedom means. And the Supreme Court is on the verge of just contemplating that attempt to redraft the right we're we're in a really dark dark time for for American law in history here. And it's because the Supreme Court has just been packed with with ideologues, it's a scary time if you've been following this.
And I keep thinking of this piece that I wrote a while ago again about abortion, which, which was saying that look, one of the arguments for pro choice is that if they can force you not to have an abortion, they can also force you to have an abortion, right that that there is a history of four step sterilization. There is a history of forced abortion in this country, if not in the world. And when you say there's a shield that protects everybody, what you're saying is a version of this right? that they can take once that that once they allow religion to have that power religion can have that power, even if it's insidious and not based on love, right?
Absolutely. And that's probably the better answer to your question is that, you know, if we if they redefine the First Amendment in this way, it means supremacy for conservative Christians, and it means a sanction for bigotry, in the name of Jesus, in the name of love. And, you know, I was reminded of this earlier in the conversation, I think it was actually in your intro when you talked about toleration. You know, our Constitution gives quote, to bigotry, no sanction. And that that quote comes from a letter that George Washington wrote, it's a rather famous letter to the Touro Synagogue in Newport, Rhode Island. So Washington was touring the country in 1790. He was trying to shore up support for the new national governments unite the new country, to rally support for the constitutional amendments that would become the Bill of Rights, including the First Amendment. And he visited the synagogue and he wrote a letter to the congregation. And he actually condemned the idea that the government would simply tolerate religious minorities, because toleration claims to have a power, but to not exercise it. So Thomas Paine put it like this. But at the same time, he said that toleration is not the opposite of intolerance, but the counterfeit of it, they both are despotism. The one assumes the right of withholding the liberty of conscience, and the other of granting it. And what Washington did instead, is he said, Look, we all have liberty of conscience, again, not freedom of religion, liberty of conscience. And it's no more that toleration is spoken of as if it were an indulgence by one class of people than another enjoyed the exercise inherent natural rights. And that's exactly what the Crusaders, the Christian nationalists, the Supreme Court wants to go back to. They want a return to tolerance to a time before the Constitution when Christians were in charge of everything unfettered by legal restraints. And when religious minorities and non believers existed on sufferance, that is, what they're shooting for it that is what the weapon is really about.
That's a super interesting point, because it really does emphasize the difference between our discussion now and their discussion then and why that discussion may not always be relevant, because we have tried very hard to get past this idea of toleration, right diversity, multiculturalism, that celebrating difference, toleration, John Gray, a conservative liberal theorist, I know that sounds like a contradictory but philosophy it's not wrote wrote that, you know, that toleration presumes that you don't approve of other people, right, and that and that you, you know, tolerate your annoying little brother, but that we in this country are striving for, yes, I want a Muslim to live next to me, yes, I want someone of a different ethnicity to live next to me because it makes my life better. It makes my life richer. And and, and that's part of the argument. I think that's implicit in your position that that when we have this massive diversity of of different sects in different denomination, and when we have this this Bulwark between church and state, what we actually have is the ability to celebrate everyone's choices if we see fit, and that it's not tolerating, but it's it's welcoming and a real partnership. And it seems and tell me if I'm wrong about this, it seems that one of the great arguments for the separation of church and state is that with that separation, being a citizen can be a real part partnership, whereas without that separation, it's hierarchy and power and and factionalism.
I think that's absolutely right. And, you know, Isabel Wilkerson, in her new mum Jewish Book cast, she wrote about toleration to I think she might one of my favorites was, I think she likened it to you tolerate mosquitoes in the summer, I believe, she said, and that gray slush on your your boots as you walk around, but you know, that understanding of religious freedom. And, again, this isn't in the letter that Washington wrote to the Torah synagogue, he says that it requires us that you that you demean yourselves as good citizens. That's all it requires of you. And that, you know, that's particularly important now, and we're seeing people claim that their religious freedom is a right to, for instance, walk around on masked, not get vaccinated worship in the middle of a pandemic as a community winner that spreads a deadly disease. But maybe more importantly, he's saying that, you know, we give to bigotry, no sanction to persecution, no assistance. That's that's what we are trying to do with this version of religious liberty. It is it is fundamentally different than toleration. We arrive at that By keeping state and church separate, and that is the truest version of religious freedom and the rights of conscience that we can have as human beings.
Well, that is a tremendously useful insight and a great end to the conversation because it gives us an agenda for future conversation. And for and for all of the other threads that we can leave hanging and to give people some stuff to meditate on. Andrew, I, you know, this conversation couldn't be more timely, it couldn't be more relevant. It's a challenging conversation, because, again, people can be, you know, feel attacked. But that's the beauty of philosophy, right? We're, we're exploring the intellectual aspects of it so that we can have this conversation in a safe and supportive way on on on the radio and in podcast. So thank you so much for joining us at a very, very busy time. I can't tell you how much I appreciate the discussion.
Oh, it's my pleasure. And yeah, if anybody you know, you feel a little uncomfortable, hopefully, it's just a little intellectual discomfort and just know that that's where we that's where we grow.
Excellent. I couldn't say I should have that tattooed on something. All right. You have been listening to why philosophical discussions about everyday life. I'm your host, Jack Russell Weinstein. We were talking with Andrew Seidel and I'll be back with a few thoughts right after this.
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You're back with why philosophical discussions but everyday life. I'm your host, Jack Russell Weinstein, we were talking with Andrew Seidel, about the separation of church and state. And, and you know, I need to acknowledge that we're talking about two of the most intimate aspects of people's identity, we're talking about their religion and their national identity, their sense of citizenship. And that can make people uncomfortable, that can make people angry, and we're using words that are usually used to attack people, right? It's very easy to interpret us as saying, you know, Christianity, bad or religion bad. And that's not what's going on at all, what Andrew would insist. And what I certainly am sympathetic to is the position that the more religious freedom we have, the more people have the opportunity to have an authentic relationship with their own spirituality or an authentic relationship with their own citizenship. And that the founders and the structure of the United States is designed to do that is designed to maximize the ability to decide for ourselves, who we want to be, and to prevent us from making others be something that they don't want to be. That's what the separation of church and state is about. There are conversations that people have that distract from that, right, this notion that America is a Christian country, Andrew's book, the founding myth addresses this specifically, and I forgot to congratulate him because the paperback came out yesterday. And that's super exciting for any author, you can read it slowly, you can look and see if if He's slipping in some attacks. I don't think he is. In the end, we are at a pivotal time. We're at a point where religious freedom is many people argue, under threat. And if that's the case, it forces us to reconsider what it means to defend this country internally rather than externally. What it means to reassert our citizenship and what it means to reassert our own religious beliefs. The separation of church and state is a philosophical idea as well as a political idea. And my intention in today's episode was to bring out that aspect, but because it's so intimate, and because it's so practical, it's more than that. And I hope we all walk away from this discussion with a sense of urgency, but also a sense of intellectual curiosity, so that we can mix our own identity, our own religions, and our own sense of citizenship or our own secular nature, and become better Americans, better citizens, better partners, and dare I say it better philosophers. You've been listening to Jack Russell Weinstein on why philosophical discussions on everyday life. Thank you for listening as always, it's an honor to be with you
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