Sunday, March 16, 2014
Non-believers under the Preamble Appreciate Believers rev
The essay, “The Preamble Is Not Secular,” states that “Just citizens do not question other citizens’ inspiration and motivation for peace.” It follows that religious thought which specifically motivates believers to justice must be protected by non-believers. Thus, freedom of thought includes freedom of religion that does not conflict with civic justice. Cooperative autonomy and mutual accommodation of religious opinion is fundamental to “We the People of the United States” as defined by the preamble.
Life is like a comet-sighting: if you aren’t quick and don't persevere, you may miss your own life’s meaning. With about 2 million years’ biological evolution and perhaps more recent cultural evolution and approaching 7 billion population, the earth has witnessed some 7 trillion man-years of experience and understanding. Understanding grows exponentially in technology but more slowly in ethics, because generations inculcate traditions, complete with cultural errors. Each person reduces his/her newborn ignorance yet acquires some misinformation during the first twenty years; works toward accomplishments and service during the next few decades; then perhaps retires; but hopefully, never stops maturing psychologically until death. Success is available, but only for those who take charge and grow understanding. For too many, the comet passes without sighting.
In the essay “Introduction to Understanding”[i] there is the statement: “Much of the harm in this world comes from persons not keeping the relationships between physics, ethics, and imagination in perspective.” For most persons, understanding might progress according to Erik Erikson’s eight life stages, ending at ages 1, 3, 6, 11, 18, 35, 64, and beyond. Virtues attained, respectively, are: trust, autonomy, purpose, competence, fidelity, intimacy, contribution, and integrity. Fortunate is the person who conducts good life past age 64 and reaches psychological fulfillment, not necessarily in that order. Since no citizen knows another citizen’s path and perception of liberty, just citizens can only accommodate rather than guide each other’s pursuits.
The idea of one citizen changing another inhabitant's peaceful fate, whether in life or after death, seems evil. It's alright to share understanding and let the other party decide, but it is not good to either coerce someone or alienate them over opinion. I do not want to share my faith with anyone, yet I cannot deny it--the faith that I should admit to myself and to you is that I do not know what I do not know. Yet I perceive that I am of “We the People of the United States “ as defined in the preamble: That means I work to fulfill the goals listed therein.
A glimpse of how much I do not know can be expressed by the emergences I perceive. In the beginning, perhaps there was only potential energy. Then kinetic energy, mass and space-time emerged some 13,700 million years ago (mya); at 4,600 mya Earth emerged; 3,700 mya amino acids; 900 mya visible animals; 200 mya the first mammals; 65 mya placental mammals; 8 mya humanoids; 2 mya humanoids; 0.150 mya language, 0.007 mya morality stories; 0.0004 mya understanding. Did a god emerge before humanoids emerged? I admit I do not know, but I think gods are intellectual constructs by humans.
But the objective truth yields to neither faith nor reason. For all I know, in my afterdeath, I will be judged by Allah or Jehovah or Jesus or will be reincarnated or something no one has yet imagined. Since any of these possibilities may be true, I do not want to convince anyone to adopt my faith and thereby miss the objective truth they may have unpredictably found. I do not know the objective truth.
Before staggering uncertainty, it seems every person’s religion is unique to them: Even each believer in the same sect of the same religion has a different faith. Christians who have differing beliefs alienate each other and don't realize it. When one theist says, “God says,” the other theist is thinking, “I’m not so certain.” Therefore, religion cannot be a consideration in civic governance: citizens, whether believers or not, need to discuss civic governance using only civic expressions. By "civic" I mean personal interconnections that occur because the people live in the same city, state, and country, as opposed to "social" which implies choice or preference, as in social circles. Yet civic governance must accommodate all no-harm religious opinion, just as it accommodates all art opinion, under one body of written law.
The use of force must be based on conduct that breaks a law, and laws cannot be based on religious doctrine. Religion cannot trump the preamble and just believers work to fulfill the preamble much as just non-believers do, because both parties are committed to collaborative autonomy and mutual accommodation. Collaboration preserves personal liberty, whereas cooperation implies persuasion. Just non-believers must be collaborative as well. Otherwise, just governance will never be realized.
So far, the integrity in citizenship that is offered by the preamble has not been realized, because no political regime has ever attempted to fulfill it. Citizens have been led to celebrate independence from England, when they should have been celebrating “We the People of the United States” as defined by the preamble. Also, the importance of independence as a citizen’s celebration has waned for four other reasons: 1) England is one of our closest allies and has been for a long time; 2) the population is more ethnically diversified with many citizens not even relating to American history; 3) the non-Christian portion of the population is growing; and 4) Christian regimes have not embraced the preamble because they have always been the majority. That situation worked in a Chapter XI Machiavellian way: managed by both political and Christian regimes.
In “The Prince,” 1513, Machiavelli briefly touches on countries that are governed under theism:
[Some countries] are sustained by the ordinances of religion, which are so all-powerful, and of such a character that the principalities may be held no matter how their princes behave and live. These princes alone have states and do not defend them, they have subjects and do not rule them; and the states, although unguarded, are not taken from them, and the subjects, although not ruled, do not care, and they have neither the desire nor the ability to [leave]. Such [countries] only are secure and happy. But being upheld by powers, to which the human mind cannot reach, I shall speak no more of them, because, being exalted and maintained by God, it would be the act of a presumptuous and rash man to discuss them.The majority of citizens have followed Machiavelli’s criticism by neglecting the preamble, expecting the believer's god to fulfill believers in heaven or in other fulfillment of particular doctrine. However, from a civic perspective, there is no god of common belief. In America, people say, "This is a Christian nation founded on freedom of religion," not admitting to themselves that their brand of Christianity adamantly opposes some other brands of Christianity. For examples, the Christian god is either one or three; catholic or protestant; orthodox or progressive. In an extreme example, the 1969 introduction of James H. Cone's books on black liberation theology constructed the assertion that the Christian god is black: It's as good a construct respecting divine skin-color as any. America is at a crossroad wherein the Christian majority should perceive the promises of the preamble and commit to it as a civic organizer--a reminder of essential goals. If they do, non-believers should appreciate and support their transition. Without commitment to the preamble, the future looks dim.
Copyright©2014 by Phillip R. Beaver. All rights reserved. Permission is hereby granted for the publication of all or portions of this paper as long as this complete copyright notice is included. Revised, September 9, 2015