Thursday, May 22, 2003

Ministry of Truth at the PO

I love these little historical lies we are always being told.

USPS Notice 107, December 1998

Title - Some Things Were Never Meant to be Mailed

Included on the list -- ammunition.

And yet tons of ammunition was mailed over the years with perfect legality via the PO. What they really mean is that their current employees are unable to safely handle such cargoes so they can't accept it any more. But they need the security of a false historical claim to mask their contemporary incompetence.

Tuesday, May 20, 2003

Judicial Theology

It's been a while since I read the major Conscription/Conscientious Objector case from the Supremes -- UNITED STATES v. SEEGER. I had forgotten the Court's use of then modern liberal theology to decide that conscientious objectors to military service didn't have to believe in God but could get away with meeting the following test: "[D]oes the claimed belief occupy the same place in the life of the objector as an orthodox belief in God holds in the life of one clearly qualified for exemption?"

From Justice Clark's opinion:

4. Moreover, we believe this construction embraces the ever-broadening understanding of the modern religious community. The eminent Protestant theologian, Dr. Paul Tillich, whose views the Government concedes would come within the statute, identifies God not as a projection "out there" or beyond the skies but as the ground of our very being. The Court of Appeals stated in No. 51 that Jakobson's views "parallel [those of] this eminent theologian rather strikingly." 325 F.2d, at 415-416. In his book, Systematic Theology, Dr. Tillich says:
"I have written of the God above the God of theism . . . . In such a state [of self-affirmation] the God of both religious and theological language disappears. But something remains, namely, the seriousness of that doubt in which meaning within meaninglessness is affirmed. The source of this affirmation of meaning within meaninglessness, of certitude within doubt, is not the God of traditional theism but the `God above God,' the power of being, which works through those who have no name for it, not even the name God." II Systematic Theology 12 (1957). [380 U.S. 163, 181]
Another eminent cleric, the Bishop of Woolwich, John A. T. Robinson, in his book, Honest To God (1963), states:
"The Bible speaks of a God `up there.' No doubt its picture of a three-decker universe, of `the heaven above, the earth beneath and the waters under the earth,' was once taken quite literally. . . . ." At 11. "[Later] in place of a God who is literally or physically `up there' we have accepted, as part of our mental furniture, a God who is spiritually or metaphysically `out there.' . . . But now it seems there is no room for him, not merely in the inn, but in the entire universe: for there are no vacant places left. In reality, of course, our new view of the universe has made not the slightest difference. . . ." At 13-14.

"But the idea of a God spiritually or metaphysically `out there' dies very much harder. Indeed, most people would be seriously disturbed by the thought that it should need to die at all. For it is their God, and they have nothing to put in its place. . . . Every one of us lives with some mental picture of a God `out there,' a God who `exists' above and beyond the world he made, a God `to' whom we pray and to whom we `go' when we die." At 14.

"But the signs are that we are reaching the point at which the whole conception of a God `out there,' which has served us so well since the collapse of the three-decker universe, is itself becoming more of a hindrance than a help." At 15-16. (Emphasis in original.)

The Schema of the recent Ecumenical Council included a most significant declaration on religion: 4 [380 U.S. 163, 182]

"The community of all peoples is one. One is their origin, for God made the entire human race live on all the face of the earth. One, too, is their ultimate end, God. Men expect from the various religions answers to the riddles of the human condition: What is man? What is the meaning and purpose of our lives? What is the moral good and what is sin? What are death, judgment, and retribution after death?

. . . . .

"Ever since primordial days, numerous peoples have had a certain perception of that hidden power which hovers over the course of things and over the events that make up the lives of men; some have even come to know of a Supreme Being and Father. Religions in an advanced culture have been able to use more refined concepts and a more developed language in their struggle for an answer to man's religious questions.

. . . . .

"Nothing that is true and holy in these religions is scorned by the Catholic Church. Ceaselessly the Church proclaims Christ, `the Way, the Truth, and the Life,' in whom God reconciled all things to Himself. The Church regards with sincere reverence those ways of action and of life, precepts and teachings which, although they differ from the ones she sets forth, reflect nonetheless a ray of that Truth which enlightens all men."

Dr. David Saville Muzzey, a leader in the Ethical Culture Movement, states in his book, Ethics As a Religion (1951), that "[e]verybody except the avowed atheists (and they are comparatively few) believes in some kind of God," and that "The proper question to ask, therefore, is [380 U.S. 163, 183] not the futile one, Do you believe in God? but rather, What kind of God do you believe in?" Id., at 86-87. Dr. Muzzey attempts to answer that question:

"Instead of positing a personal God, whose existence man can neither prove nor disprove, the ethical concept is founded on human experience. It is anthropocentric, not theocentric. Religion, for all the various definitions that have been given of it, must surely mean the devotion of man to the highest ideal that he can conceive. And that ideal is a community of spirits in which the latent moral potentialities of men shall have been elicited by their reciprocal endeavors to cultivate the best in their fellow men. What ultimate reality is we do not know; but we have the faith that it expresses itself in the human world as the power which inspires in men moral purpose." At 95.

"Thus the `God' that we love is not the figure on the great white throne, but the perfect pattern, envisioned by faith, of humanity as it should be, purged of the evil elements which retard its progress toward `the knowledge, love and practice of the right.'" At 98.

These are but a few of the views that comprise the broad spectrum of religious beliefs found among us. But they demonstrate very clearly the diverse manners in which beliefs, equally paramount in the lives of their possessors, may be articulated. They further reveal the difficulties inherent in placing too narrow a construction on the provisions of 6 (j) and thereby lend conclusive support to the construction which we today find that Congress intended.

5. We recognize the difficulties that have always faced the trier of fact in these cases. We hope that the test that we lay down proves less onerous. The examiner is furnished [380 U.S. 163, 184] a standard that permits consideration of criteria with which he has had considerable experience. While the applicant's words may differ, the test is simple of application. It is essentially an objective one, namely, does the claimed belief occupy the same place in the life of the objector as an orthodox belief in God holds in the life of one clearly qualified for exemption?

I guess it will be OK then to quote Robert P. George when arguing future cases on gay marriage.