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The Myth of Religious Violence: A Review of William Cavanaugh’s Book

William Cavanaugh’s "The Myth of Religious Violence" sets out to deflate the titular myth, that religion is a uniquely violent social force, both throughout history and across cultures. In doing so, he manages to critique the modern secular liberal concept of religion as a definable sociological category, and gestures towards a more holistic mode of analyzing the origins of violence in society. continue reading

Trump Sends Property Rights Up in Flames

Alongside of Catholicism and Protestantism, the primary religion in the United States is not Islam or Judaism but the American civic religion. The Pledge of Allegiance is the creed of this religion and the American flag is its chief symbol. In the American civic religion, the worst sin that an American can commit is to refuse to pledge allegiance to the flag or to desecrate it. Federal law contains numerous provisions regarding the use, handling, display, and disposal of the flag. After some college students recently burned American flags on their campuses, President-elect Donald Trump tweeted, “Nobody should be allowed to burn the American flag — if they do, there must be consequences — perhaps loss of citizenship or year in jail!” continue reading

The Solemnization of Marriage: Or, My Mom the Felon

Editor’s Pick. Written by Sarah Skwire. The state has a long history of involving itself in the spiritual practices of its citizens. The English Reformation, the time period with which I am the most familiar, is filled with such moments. For example, in 1536 Thomas Cromwell, Henry VIII’s first minister, vicegerent in spirituals and vicar general of the newly created English Church, began to issue injunctions to the clergy of England. Among other things, they were to defend royal supremacy and abandon pilgrimages. His 1538 injunctions encouraged iconoclasm—the destruction of images of saints in sculpture or painting—prohibited the burning of candles for saints and for the dead, and required that an English copy of the Bible be put in every church for parishioners. The Elizabethan Act of Authority (1559) forbade the use of any prayer book but the approved Book of Common Prayer. Indiana, at the moment, is having a reminder of precisely this sort of spiritual meddling by the state. According John Murray at the Indianapolis Star the laws that are causing the furor “generally address perjury on a marriage license application and attempts to perform marriages not allowed by law.” While the laws have been on the books in Indiana since 1997, at least, they are receiving renewed attention because of the contemporary legal debate over same sex marriage. My interest in the law is particularly focused on section 7, which states that a person who “knowingly solemnizes a marriage of individuals who are prohibited from marrying” can be hit with a 180-day jail sentence or $1,000 fine. Read the full thing at » continue reading

The State as God in Civil Religion

Editor’s Pick. Written by Adam Blacksburg. The concept of Civil Religion is relatively new on the scale of human history, as are many of its features. It is most frequently applied to the 20th century communist regimes in China and the Soviet Union, but it can apply to any modern secular State. With the rise of secularism the ages old union of religion and politics was broken. This presented a problem to the philosophical legitimacy of the State, suddenly lacking a divine mandate, or otherwise theological justification for maintaining its power. Civil religion was simply the replacement of an outdated tool of oppression by governing elites. Read the full thing at » continue reading

The State Is A Religious Institution

Editor’s Pick. Written by Michael Suede. On the website, the question of whether government is necessary or not was put up for debate. One of the responses that was given in favor government being a necessity says: Without an enforcing government to have justice and keep the peace, I do believe that the human race would turn on itself and descend into chaos. Our personalities and even our families lend themselves towards governance. Without it, we would have no organization, no services, and no police. Education would be spotty, we would be thrown back into a stone-age like existence. As a promoter of anarcho-capitalism, I encounter these arguments a lot. They are purely religious arguments. There is no proof behind any of the claims, only a lot of assumptions that are based on blind faith. Belief in the state really is nothing more than a religion; and I believe it is one of the most destructive religions around. Read the full thing at » continue reading

Nationalism, the Bane of the Modern Age

Editor’s Pick. Written by Robert Higgs. Everyone, it seems, has a hollow space in his makeup. Perhaps he has no faith, no hope, no charity; no sense that he is basically a lord or a priest or a peasant; no comfort in knowing his personal latitude and longitude in the great scheme of things; no ethical compass to give him his bearings and help him navigate between what is right and what is wrong, what is good and what is bad. As religion’s hold on the Western man’s mind has diminished during the past several centuries, replaced by a cold scientific sense that, at bottom, everything is just a lot of lifeless particles and electrical currents or, in many cases, replaced by nothing at all, this empty space has dilated. Into the vacuum of ethical emptiness and absent personal identity has rushed nationalism. More and more people answered the question, “What are you?” by saying “I am a Frenchmen,” or a German, or an American, or whatever. State rulers, of course, actively strove to encourage such mass identification because it rendered the masses easier to exploit, plunder, and command. The culmination came in the world wars, when scores of millions submitted to kill and to die in the service of nationalism. Read the full thing at » continue reading

The Challenging, Radical Anti-Statism of the Ancient Israelites

Editor’s Pick. Written by Kevin Vallier. I’ve recently finished reading the great political theorist Michael Walzer’s book In God’s Shadow: Politics in the Hebrew Bible. Walzer’s thesis is that the Biblical writers were “not very interested in politics” in contrast to the ancient Greeks. In fact, “there is a strong anti-political tendency in the biblical texts.” There is no suggestion that the good life involves politics and no claim political participation is a good. The Biblical writers believed strongly in law and created and sustained one of the most complex and subtle legal cultures in history. But kings and leaders were rarely political legislators. Instead, God was the legislator and anonymous rabbis issued various, competing interpretations and extensions of that law. Law was interpreted and extended by men, but it was not their creation. Walzer has convinced me that the ancient Israelites were radical anti-statists, but in a very different sense than many libertarians. The ancient Israelites did not support the abolition of the nation-state (though many did believe that a move to the monarchy was a rejection of God; see 1 Samuel 8). Instead, they were radical anti-statists because they didn’t care about politics. Libertarians are anti-statists in virtue of our politics, whereas the Israelites were anti-statists because they didn’t have a politics at all. For them, there were things far more important than getting rid of the state or even limiting it. In this post, I shall argue that the ancient Israelites pose a challenge for libertarians. It is this: if you hate politics so much, why do you like talking and arguing about it? If you really want the state to go away, why do you tie your ups and downs, your joys and sorrows, to what it does? The ancient Israelites, on Walzer’s view, teach us that the best way to beat the state may be to learn to ignore it. Read the full thing at » continue reading

Render unto Caesar… Nothing

Editor’s Pick. Written by Darryl Perry. Yeshua did not say that taxes are lawful, nor did he counsel obedience to the Romans. In the context of a society with many competing currencies, most of which did not have Caesar’s inscription, Yushua’s response is subtly seditious. Even if one rejects the idea that all things belong to YHWH, they must acknowledge that nothing rightfully belongs to Caesar. Governments own/create nothing that they did not first take from someone else. I can think of no better argument from the Scriptures against taxation, but counceling against using the “king’s money” is a powerful rejection of “central banks.” Read the full thing at » continue reading

Is Christianity a War Religion?

Editor’s Pick. Written by Paul Rosenberg. Yes, I know that there are some churches and individual Christians who don’t approve of war, but a huge wing of Christianity in the US has put itself in service to a warfare state. If you’ve ever spent time in Red State America, you know what I mean. Please understand that I am not endorsing the Blue State line of crap either (I reject both wings of the Party), but that’s not my subject today. Red State Protestants have given themselves over to “the virtues of defense,” seemingly without limit. They endlessly laud cops, firemen, and especially soldiers: anyone authorized by the state to use force. State force has become unquestionably righteous – especially if it is overseas. To these people, the US military can do no wrong. This involves killing strangers, you understand… by Christians… people whose Holy Book say that they should love the outsider, turn the other cheek, and that every government belongs to the Devil. Read the full thing at » continue reading