2006-12-01

What Book Would You Take the Oath of Office On?

This issue brings up some interesting questions.

The first Muslim elected to Congress hasn't been sworn into office yet, but his act of allegiance has already been criticized by a conservative commentator.

In a column posted Tuesday on the conservative website Townhall.com, Dennis Prager blasted Minnesota Democrat Keith Ellison's decision to take the oath of office Jan. 4 with his hand on a Quran, the Muslim holy book.

"He should not be allowed to do so," Prager wrote, "not because of any American hostility to the Koran, but because the act undermines American culture."

He said Ellison, a convert from Catholicism, should swear on a Christian Bible — which "America holds as its holiest book. … If you are incapable of taking an oath on that book, don't serve in Congress."

This is ridiculous. If the oath is to mean anything at all, it should be taken on a the book (or object?) that is most meaningful to the individual taking the oath.

In a secular and supposedly multicultural society like the United States which professes to have freedom of religion, I would imagine there are many lawmakers who are not Christian (though they may not admit it).

If you are not Christian or Muslim... if you are Buddhist or Atheist or Native American, how should you take the oath of office? Should this practice be adjusted for witnesses swearing in court as well?

Here's a hypothetical question because we know all of you either have too many skeletons in your closet to run for office or have inhaled some illegal substance at some point:

How would you heathen non-religious commentators on Reformed Leftist take the oath of office?

13 comments:

Paul Hue said...

I would ban religion from any official recognition by government, which I believe that the first amendment does:

1. No reference to god on currency.
2. No official prayers before govt bodies convene.
3. No govt-sponsored displays honoring any religion, including the big grotesque ten commandments statue in a courthouse.
4. No chaplains in govt, including military.

But I would permit citizens to use public spaces to hold meetings and express themselves, which would include muslims or christians in a school reserving space after or before school to practice their superstitious rituals. I would certainly ban classtime from including organized prayer; it has nothing to do with the subject at hand. But I would permit muslims, christians, and greek mythologists at any school to reserve space for children to congregate if they wish to begin the day with an organized prayer.

I am glad, though, that the muslim guy used the koran for his US govt swearing in, as this demonstrates the tolerance of Americans. However, I would ban religious articles from such ceremonies; the citizen is swearing his allegiance not to any fairy tales or superstitions, but rather to the agreed upon order of civilized government and its proceedings.

sixstringslinger said...

I have a lot of respect for Dennis Prager and I agree with him more often than not on most issues, but I think he's wrong here as well.

He's taking a beating for it too. He spent much of his radio show today attempting to argue his point.

The vast majority of voters who voted for him I'm sure knew he is a Muslim, so it should not shock anyone that he should want to be sworn into office using the holy book of his chosen religion.

Dennis Prager is a good man, but again, I think he's got it wrong here.

sixstringslinger said...

"Heathen non-religious commentator" doesn't quite accurately desribe me - I consider myself a non-practicing, recovering catholic Christian - but I'll answer the question anyway;

I personally would have no problem laying my right hand on a bible to be sworn into office, or in a court of law. But I also see no problem with someone choosing to use the holy book of ones chosen religion as in the case of Congressman Ellison, or no book at all if one chooses. Swearing under oath is all that should really matter.

Why are you guys so afraid of religion? I'm not talking about religous fanatics either, I'm just talking about religion itself.

And like it or not, this country was founded on the Judeo-Christian value system. Get used to it.

Nadir said...

"Why are you guys so afraid of religion? I'm not talking about religous fanatics either, I'm just talking about religion itself."

I'm not afraid of religion at all. Though I would say I am more an advocate of spirituality over organized religion.

I don't currently profess any one religion, though my spiritual practices encompass a few different faith traditions.

I wouldn't have a problem swearing on the Bible because I believe many of the principles it teaches, though I think of it now more as Hebrew mythology and a sales tool for Christianity. Same with the Qu'ran. Mostly good principles with some other stuff I don't agree with.

If I had to swear an oath on my choice of objects, a picture of my mother would probably have the most meaning to me.

Paul Hue said...

If I ever had to take an oath, I would choose either no book, the US Constitution, or A Confederacy of Dunces. Since studying the history of islam and arabia, I have become a "christian", with a lower-case, because I admire the teachings and example of christ -- forgiveness, pacifistic defiance to injustice without regard to the consequences, toleration, detachment from worldly concerns. However, I dismiss all the claims of magic powers and superstitious rituals.

The Old Testiment, I agree with Nadir: Jewish mythology. The gospels: christian mythology, plus some really fine ideals and human examples. The koran: mythology, plus awful rules for living that I consider to constitute evil, as it promotes totalitarianism, slavery, subjugation, murder, revenge, rape, forced conversions, etc.

Paul Hue said...

I know not enough about buddsim to make a judgment on it.

Nadir said...

"The koran: mythology, plus awful rules for living that I consider to constitute evil, as it promotes totalitarianism, slavery, subjugation, murder, revenge, rape, forced conversions, etc."

The Christian Bible has been used to justify the same things over the years.

Paul Hue said...

I agree that evil honkies have used the bible to justify slavery, conquest, etc. However, these actions contradicted the New Testament, and the New Testament provides zero support for such actions. Only the Old Testament / Tulmad in the bible can justify such behavior, not to the extent of the koran, but I can see where you could find some justification.

Nadir said...

"I agree that evil honkies have used the bible to justify slavery, conquest, etc. However, these actions contradicted the New Testament, and the New Testament provides zero support for such actions. Only the Old Testament / Tulmad in the bible can justify such behavior, not to the extent of the koran, but I can see where you could find some justification."

Absolutely incorrect, Paul. Your namesake wrote of slavery at least twice, the first of which was used constantly by white US preachers to make American slaves more docile:

"Slaves, obey your earthly masters with deep respect and fear. Serve them sincerely as you would serve Christ." (Ephesians 6:5)

"Christians who are slaves should give their masters full respect so that the name of God and his teaching will not be shamed. If your master is a Christian, that is no excuse for being disrespectful. You should work all the harder because you are helping another believer by your efforts. Teach these truths, Timothy, and encourage everyone to obey them."
(1 Timothy 6:1-2)

Paul also speaks of God's death penalty for homosexuals and other infidels:

"So God let them go ahead and do whatever shameful things their hearts desired. As a result, they did vile and degrading things with each other's bodies. Instead of believing what they knew was the truth about God, they deliberately chose to believe lies. So they worshiped the things God made but not the Creator himself, who is to be praised forever. Amen. That is why God abandoned them to their shameful desires. Even the women turned against the natural way to have sex and instead indulged in sex with each other. And the men, instead of having normal sexual relationships with women, burned with lust for each other. Men did shameful things with other men and, as a result, suffered within themselves the penalty they so richly deserved. When they refused to acknowledge God, he abandoned them to their evil minds and let them do things that should never be done. Their lives became full of every kind of wickedness, sin, greed, hate, envy, murder, fighting, deception, malicious behavior, and gossip. They are backstabbers, haters of God, insolent, proud, and boastful. They are forever inventing new ways of sinning and are disobedient to their parents. They refuse to understand, break their promises, and are heartless and unforgiving. They are fully aware of God's death penalty for those who do these things, yet they go right ahead and do them anyway. And, worse yet, they encourage others to do them, too." (Romans 1:24-32)

The Apostle Peter smote Ananias and Sapphira because they sold some property, kept part of the income and gave the rest to the church. For some reason they told Peter they were giving all of the money for the sale and so were guilty of lying to God in Peter's estimation.

"There was also a man named Ananias who, with his wife, Sapphira, sold some property. He brought part of the money to the apostles, but he claimed it was the full amount. His wife had agreed to this deception. Then Peter said, "Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart? You lied to the Holy Spirit, and you kept some of the money for yourself. The property was yours to sell or not sell, as you wished. And after selling it, the money was yours to give away. How could you do a thing like this? You weren't lying to us but to God." As soon as Ananias heard these words, he fell to the floor and died. Everyone who heard about it was terrified. Then some young men wrapped him in a sheet and took him out and buried him. About three hours later his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. Peter asked her, "Was this the price you and your husband received for your land?" "Yes," she replied, "that was the price." And Peter said, "How could the two of you even think of doing a thing like this – conspiring together to test the Spirit of the Lord? Just outside that door are the young men who buried your husband, and they will carry you out, too." Instantly, she fell to the floor and died. When the young men came in and saw that she was dead, they carried her out and buried her beside her husband. Great fear gripped the entire church and all others who heard what had happened." (Acts 5:1-11)

You must remember that the Bible and the Quran both preach the religious philosophies of very similar Semitic cultures. Islam and Christianity both come from Judaism. Both take similar paths and have similar philosophies.

When the Bible was put together by the Nicene Council, certain books were put in and left out with the intent of unifying many different sects of Christians. The Bible's philosophy is even less unified than the Quran's but by no means is it devoid of those Semitic cultural practices. And we see the remnants of this in the behavior of all Judaeo-Christian-Islamic cultures today.

I'm not saying that other cultures are devoid of such practices (see human sacrifice in Aztec and Mayan culture and treatment of homosexuals in early African culture) but monotheistic Semetic culture preaches three things: 1)My god (Jehovah, Yahweh, Allah) is the only god. Your god does not exist. 2)Because of this I (be I Christian, Muslim or Jew) am God's chosen people and therefore am better than you. 3)If you don't believe like I believe you are doomed to hellfire and damnation, so I might as well save God the trouble and do away with you myself. This is a broad generalization, but it is the gist of the most negative aspect of Judaeo-Christian-Islamic thought.

Paul Hue said...

Nadir: I concede your points, with the following provisos:

1. Jesus neither ordered nor performed any of these actions.

2. In the only examples of death, no humans inflict the penalty, god does.

3. The two passages about slavery merely command slaves to submit to their lot; they do not command people to enslave others.

4. The anti-gay passages become very intertwined with all manner of evil conduct. Thus it is unclear to me ultimately what the god-imposed death penalty is for. Is if for buggery per se, or for the various acts that inevitably spring from buggery? And as always in the New Testament (as best I can yet tell), any penalty is left for god, and certainly none administered by Jesus.

I have not studied the gospels as well as I have the koran. You have introduced passages that I was not aware of (at least not recently enough to recall for my recent assessments), and which indeed diminish my recent view of the gospels. But you have failed to lower the gospels to the horrible depths of depravity of the koran, or to sully the reputation of jesus. Did jesus ever enslave, rape, kill, stone, holdup, or kidnap anybody, or order any of these actions committed on anybody? Perhaps as I learn more about the gospels I will come to discard it as evil as I have the koran, and to a lesser extent the tulmud.

I am eager to learn about Buddism / Hinduism; as bet I can tell those people are onto something.

Paul Hue said...

Certainly my oath-swearing book would include cartoons of Moses, Jesus, Mohammad, and Allah, just to see who becomes homicidally enraged.

Paul Hue said...

Here's one of the seemingly endless hateful, xenophobic, murderous chestnuts from the Hadith, in this case a delightful prayer: "And the Jews will hide behind the rock and tree, and the rock and tree will say: 'O Muslim, O servant of Allah, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him!"

I am curious for anything you might have found, Nadir, in the gospels that can approach this one.

Paul Hue said...

Or this, also from the Hadith: "The Prophet said: 'The Hour will not take place until the Muslims fight the Jews, and the Muslims kill them. The Muslims will kill the Jews. Rejoice! Rejoice in Allah's victory!'"

I don't see in the context where this applies only to a certain battle over people imposing oppression. Instead we have here Mo speaking of forcing Jews to submit to Islam.