A Lincolnian interpretation of a Gil Bailie quotation

Saturday, July 07, 2007
In the comments to the New Comrade post, I quoted Gil Bailie and MHA asked me to write a post to give a little explanation of the quote:
One of the West’s greatest shortcomings is its aversion to accurately assessing its own cultural uniqueness and especially the religious sources of that uniqueness. The key to the kind of pluralistic and politically secular polity that the West rightly cherishes is the parallel cultural coexistence of a religious tradition whose faithful are taught to render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and unto God the things that are God’s and to recognize the dignity of the person and his or her right to follow the voice of conscience.
Well, it's one of those aphoristic passages that can suggest an awful lot, as I begin to explore below.


Buddy Larsen's comment provides a good jumping off point:
I think it means we westerners are on the whole selling our culture short.

Wonder why? Probably, nice manners. Mercy. The Golden Rule.

Are all of them out of place in the Jungle? We're gonna find out.
Buddy, in my understanding, which won't be exactly Gil's, we sell ourselves short because our tradition rests on something, sacred and powerful, that we are uncomfortable exploring and valuing (maybe because too much understanding would undermine the unspoken, unagreed things, the uncertainty on which we trade and trust - though when the exchange and trust is eroding anyway, we need to talk about it to renew it, which is my excuse today). The discomfort has to do with the paradox that our liberal openness to pluralism is only long sustainable within certain limits that are not themselves "liberal", in the sense that these limits emerged within one particular tradition, one that made claims to holding a truth superior to other traditions. Liberalism grows from Christ's admonition to separate church and state; but this may mean, for example, that on some fundamental level Islam, or what it can possibly become, will be incompatible with liberalism, or with Christianity, not that I think we have yet to definitively answer this question.

We are also uncomfortable with the question of whether, once we have established a liberal state, must we continually return to the religious source from which it emerged to renew the national liberal covenant, or is renewal equally accessible in strictly secular terms (keeping in mind that the secular order, with its fashions and fetishes, rationalizations and commitments, is really just another form of the sacred, not something entirely different from the religious, generallly speaking - but if this is correct, then the question is whether, in downplaying its "religious" sacredness, does the "secular" sacred become a second-rate sacred that is not really up to doing the job that we need our shared sacred signs and things to do, such as giving people a sense of membership, commitment and self-sacrifice to a multi-generational social and familial order, thus creating, in enough people, the resolve for hard things like raising families.)

I think Bailie is saying we cannot renew ourselves as a free and religiously pluralistic society, unless a good number of us continue in the Judeo-Christian faith whose presence helps us all, Christian or not, understand and justify our secular society and avoid falling into what the Pope calls "the dictatorship of relativism" where we get things like the EU bureaucracy trying to deny Christianity is somehow fundamental to European culture, and allowing it no public place, e.g. in schools, and trying to downplay all religions equally.

Why is this a dictatorship? Because it closes off new possibilities, while pretending to do the opposite. We cannot just rationalize and secularize what is of value in our cultural past (e.g. the separation of Christ and Caesar, church and state), and forever hold onto it by just repeating (ritualistically) our rationalizations. Our eventual need for new forms of the sacred, around which new forms of freedom will orbit, cannot emerge that way. This point is certainly open to debate, but this is how I see it.

What happens when we separate church and state and also kick all God talk out of the public domain is create an unstable vacuum in which a nonetheless powerful state and bureaucratic elite, interfering in all aspects of life, swears off all moral or ethical guidance from any substantial or widely shared form of sacrality. At least, they must swear off all that is tainted "religion" and follow only those more abstract "secular" forms of sacrality that we have abstracted from religion but whose religious origins we now downplay and ignore.

The bureaucrats deny themselves a source of fundamental religious cultural renewal, and so rely on expert rationality; but social scientific experts are only good at analyzing and institutionalizing, not at (re)creating human reality, since a new reality relies on many if not all stakeholders, and their good faith in politics, coming together to work through shared events. The secular state and its experts judge and institutionalize, but they don't create, or even often second the creative motions; and so, if lacking the shared faith of a self-ruling democracy, the state becomes increasingly arbitrary, relativistic, dictatorial. In the words of another Catholic writer, Jim Kalb, "Mindless utopianism is ... a direct consequence of the strictly pragmatic, skeptical and critical spirit of modernity when that spirit becomes a dogma, as it must when it becomes sufficiently dominant." (follow the link for the full argument)

I think Bailie's quote is saying it's not enough to value a free market: if you take certain kinds of players out of the market, you can destroy it or irrevocably change what it can do because not all the players know how to renew or reproduce the spirit and personnel needed for leadership in freedom (this is my opinion of today's liberalism which has become a ritualized form of an earlier, once innovative, liberalism and today can seemingly add nothing new - it's lost contact with the creative source - so its narratives are closed, their morals pre-determined, and Iraq is quickly judged "just like" Vietnam, Obama talks like LBJ, Bush policy is McCarthyism, yada yada). Many want to play in the free market, and rightly insist on their rights in doing so, but not everyone knows how to be a market maker and we can't go on forever without new makers when we face things like negative fertility rates and mass non-Western immigration with many angrily calling for a return to traditional, ritual-bound, forms of society.

Freedoms, in new politIcal markets, emerge as a product of shared revelatory events, like those memorialized by religion. For example, the story of the Biblical Abraham taught us to move beyond child sacrifice and so learn, or creatively dwell, in the paradox that God wants us to be both obedient to his will and free (of a social addiction to human sacrifice).

An abstract metaphysics, such as the formulations of the Enlightenment, may help us explain and institutionalize the freedom that emerges in such religious events, but it cannot create freedom or renew events simply by flooding the world with rational arguments. Renewal happens in real time. It takes shared acts of faith forged in events/crises - where we only really know the beginnings, the initial compacts created to avoid an impending crisis, not exactly how this new market in a shared God and/or nation talk that we are creating with a pact is going to play out. And these compacts need to be motivated by something other than a strict liberal vacuum. When an established political or social order erodes, as all in time do given new political/ethical situations and tensions, you can't simply rely on old abstract formulae to keep things going. As I say, you have to bring people together to find a way to extend your political tradition by finding new possibilities within it. And that means committing together to some sign of what is now sacred to the political community. For example, today in America we are in a post-9/11 period in which the old elites and the New York Times aren't going to be able to negotiate and define reality as its proper representatives. The present ethical crisis, in which all the old "realism" is breaking down under force of events (no established account of political realism has sufficient grip on the challenge of Islamic fundamentalism), will only be satisfactorily deferred by some new kind of political compact among a broader network of stakeholders who will eventually line up against whatever shared enemies cannot be included in the compact to promote a greater freedom or exchange in the interacting national and international systems. (Or, the present nation or international order will break up.)

Intellectually and spiritually this means being able to have an open-ended faith, open to new possibilities, while going back to fundamentals to remember what has allowed for new possibilities in the past, e.g., that keeping church and state separate works but only when people remain motivated by a personal faith that allows them to keep publicly active and also remain privately, spiritually strong (patiently awaiting their Creator) so that they are not tempted by secular utopias and may resist the corruption or closure of the state into a form of "mindless utopianism".

Radically new problems cannot be solved strictly by instrumental reason, but only by all parties in the state coming together, out of fear that chaos, civil war, etc., may shortly await them if they don't keep their faith in a shared political space going. This entails much exchange over what we each hold sacred that, among other things, leads people on a shared return to the sacred source or origin of their shared humanity and politics, a return whose goal is both to respect and minimize (or somewhat de-mystify) the social pre-requisites for making a political claim on shared sacred signs and their events/origins. One has to minimize the traditional dressings so that all sincere political players may partake in them and the origin may yet give way to a more complex society built with greater freedoms that allow us to defer the present crisis through a deeper, never fully examined, respect for the inexhaustible source that makes all this humanly possible.

Does all this have to entail Christianity in some good part? Gil Bailie thinks so; I would say, if not Christianity as it exists today, then something like it.

First of all, people need to want freedom and they need a religion that supports them in that. Second, they need at least to be in alliance with a religion that helps us all understand the sacred origins of our politics, and understand it in dogmatically minimal terms that maximize openness to a variety of players. In other words, we need to be at least in alliance with a religion whose history and traditions are not just a closed cult but a way of doing anthropology that we can all find useful. The key claim behind Gil Bailie's work is that Christianity is not just another arbitrary and irrational form of bonding that serves whatever needs religion serves just like other religions do; but rather, Judeo-Christianity is claimed to be a radical historical departure from more primitive forms of sacrificial religion, a departure that has entailed an unveiling of how religion previously worked through sacrificial violence, and that proposes a new faith that is anthropologically more sophisticated and true; indeed, it is claimed to be the faith that, to coin a term, maximally minimizes the difference between God and man - so that one becomes more open to seeing the Godliness in everyone and thus to minimizing the pre-requisites for making political claims (not that all Christians of course are good at performing this understanding of Christianity).

At the same time, one should not over-minimize; one must be at least in alliance with a faith that, while liberating man, keeps man from becoming an arrogant rationalizer who risks corroding the distinction between church and state in some secular will to power. When we forget the Christian origins of the separation of church and state, the "secular" power becomes more arbitrary, dictatorial, and eventually more irrationally sacrificial, and we might call the results neopagan: sex in the city and a victim on every page of the New York Times.

The free person must remain humble, deferring to the one God who is also the God of everyone else, so that all committed to the freedom God gives us may find a way to build and share open-ended, not yet very rationalized, political compacts. Needless to say, one also needs a faith that conveys the will to hold the line against those who would use one's freedoms to undermine the cause of freedom.

To sum up (and I apologize for any needless repetition): a free society depends on a faith in new beginnings being ever possible - people need to be open to conversion and forgiveness; such a faith cannot be entirely abstracted from our religious past and permanently rendered in strictly "secular", rational, language (though we need that language for other things). We need also people coming together and renewing the original religious revelations (not that in doing so they will look exactly like the old religions) that make possible secular political life and revelation, working through new kinds of historical events whose resolution will further human self-understanding and thus ultimately serve, and be served by, the understandings of those religions that are open-ended in some fundamental way. Gil Bailie, as you can see by perusing his great blog, claims Christianity to be such an open "religion".

Others should try to show how their faith compares favorably. Just keep in mind that the competition is to defend the basis for a common politics. If we can't do that, it's eventually war, separation, or death. While most of the time we can safely berate the establishment for not respecting us in our difference, sometimes the establishment does lose its grip, the center cannot hold, and we can no longer afford to be adolescents ranting against authority while knowing that dad will still be in charge and putting meat on the table. Today, argues Bailie, "dad" is losing his hold and we should only criticize his corruption with an eye to finding the renewal of "dad" that can really work, in the present event, at least for a while.

14 comments:

Rick Ballard said...

"it's eventually war, separation, or death."

The rational utopianists, having reinstituted infant sacrifice as their signal act of "freedom", have selected the "death" option and cling to it rather vociferously. Four or five generations should suffice to demonstrate the infinite wisdom of their choice here in North America (perhaps only three more in Europe).

Given a finite set of resources, why should any measurable amount be dedicated to seeking accomodation with people who have rationally chosen suicide rather than dedicating the resources to strengthening those who have chosen life? Why isn't a focus on parallelism or separation a wiser path?

truepeers said...

Well Rick, it may come to setting up monasteries to allow the culture to survive the dark age. But I'm loathe to give up more ground than necessary since we are weakened by every loss of a Western homeland, and all that goes with it. And every place that makes a final compromise with evil becomes a model for someone else with insufficient spine.

It depends, to some degree, on what resources you have to invest. Intellectual resources on the internet can be spread around at little cost. If I had money to invest, I'd think a little differently. But perhaps I'm just blowing smoke hoping to achieve something in this city of pot smokers and idolaters and I should find a way to leave.

One hears reports of a significant Christian revival in the Netherlands. Current trends need not continue for another three generations. But the Western future may well be in unexpected places, as with the dissident Anglicans now putting themselves under African bishops.

loner said...

First of all, people need to want freedom and they need a religion that supports them in that.

As I lived, I found that I wanted freedom and I also found I had no need of a religion, supposing I'd found one, that supported me in that.

Marcus Aurelius, a Stoic rendered unto less than a century and a half after the events described in Matthew as Jesus made his way to Jerusalem and death:

From Severus: love of family, love of truth, and love of justice. To have got by his help to understand Thrasea, Helvidius, Cato, Dio, Brutus, and to conceive the idea of a commonwealth based on equity and freedom of speech, and of a monarchy cherishing above all the liberty of the subject.

Rick Ballard said...

"But perhaps I'm just blowing smoke hoping to achieve something in this city of pot smokers and idolaters and I should find a way to leave."

No, I'd say you're doing something important and should stay. We're sort of back to the question that Skook raised concerning "when" will an obvious failure be recognized as such by a sufficient number to force a change in "consensus".

I suspect that the feedback loop for rational utopianists is rather long - it took 70 years for the USSR to figure out that the tank was dry from the get go and it may take Europe another 30-40 to get to the same point. Deciding to elevate infant sacrifice as a "sacred symbol" of freedom should shorten things considerably in North America.

I would rate the French elections as being of equal interest with the revival in Holland. It will be very interesting to see if the rejection of failure leads to something more.

Loner,

There has never been any difficulty for people of superior intelligence to make rational choices concerning ethics and morality without resort to "religion". I believe that some have even managed to live with and by their choices in a manner which would put most "believers" to shame, should the believers own failures be acknowledged. The concept of "law unto themselves" isn't unknown, it just breaks down when "superior" drops from the equation. As it does immediately when the concept is applied to the mass.

Skookumchuk said...

And every place that makes a final compromise with evil becomes a model for someone else with insufficient spine.

Amen. No more giving up ground.

loner said...

rick—

Generalities are still generalities and "superior" is a judgment call. It's a judgment call I'm prepared to make regarding myself, usually in the negative. It's not a judgment call I'm prepared to make regarding others. That's why I try to avoid situations (and that includes fatherhood) where I'd be required in some non-trivial way to do so.

truepeers said...

Loner,

I certainly don't think you need to be a Christian to be free (though I'm questioning whether a political constitution founded by basically Christian people can long survive if the experience of Christianity is widely lost).

But I have a hard time with the idea that a person can have no religion in the most general sense of that word. Even atheism is derivative from and still dependent in ways on theism. As you say, something needs to provide a center, e.g. love of family, truth, justice. And the way you construct this center is something "religious", i believe, because it cannot just be a rational calculation but also involves somewhat irrational faith. The question is how to sustain that center over the generations, to give it to your descendants, given the difficulties people have today in commiting to families, with all the distractions, career competitions, living expenses, etc.

The point about the Christian separation of church and state is that it is paradoxically a "religious" gesture that is also a rather secularizing one. Our public life becomes increasingly divorced from priestly ritualism (I don't think it can completely divorce - as I say I see today's liberalism and social science as a kind of ritual, but it is not self-consciously so, and that's a key point) and in private religion, many Christians choose to opt out of liturgical traditions and selectively read the Bible. So people are increasingly without concrete "religion" but I don't think it's right to describe who we are as people without centers, living freely in an ethically neutral vacuum. When we begin to interpret liberalism in that way, we get lost and increasingly dependent on liberalism's own myths and rituals. It becomes tempting to see ourselvs as martyrs, e.g., to the new age burning Bush. A quarter of Americans believe in 9/11 conspiracy theories, and i bet they are disproportionately those who say they aren't religious.

loner said...

truepeers—

The experience of Christianity changes over time and when I left my father's house, after having been raised in a Catholic home for 18 years and educated in Catholic schools for the last 12 of those (I honored my parents wishes while they supported me), I ceased to be a practicing Christian of the Roman Catholic variety. I'd ceased to be a believing one long before. I didn't stop reading religious texts and I didn't stop debating religious questions and I didn't stop entering houses of worship altogether, but I ceased to be religious. I'm not an athiest. I'm not even agnostic. For many years I'd respond to questions about whether I believed there was a god by answering that I thought the question irrelevant no matter what the context. Now I just say I'm a deist.

I understand that in your understanding of the world we share you have a concept of the "religious" in general and Christianity in particular that I don't share. You could be right, but I've concluded that I'm probably beyond the reach of the arguments you offer.

From Montaigne's Of experience:

The difficulties and obscurity in any science are perceived only by those who have access to it. For a man needs at least some degree of intelligence to be able to notice that he does not know; and we must push against a door to know that it is closed to us.
Whence arises this Platonic subtlety, that neither those who know need inquire, since they know, nor those who do not know, since in order to inquire they must know what they are inquiring about.


Read Spengler yet? From 1928:

But by the time that Cicero wrote his De re publica for Pompey, and Sallust his two comminations for Caesar, nobody any longer paid attention. In the first century B.C. theories had become a threadbare school-exercise, and thenceforward power and power alone mattered.

For us, too—let there be no mistake about it—the age of theory is drawing to an end.


Carry on.

truepeers said...

Loner,

I agree with Montaigne's premise but not the conclusion. There is something we cannot know, a foundational mystery that will always be beyond us even as it is a part of everything we do. But what we can know does grow over time. New kinds of human events and experiences reveal new things.

I haven't made it to Spengler yet. Maybe he's right and we should all be buying guns or getting ready to fool our neighbors by studying con men. That kind of thing has been human experience for many, if not most people, historically. And yet, even in the worst of circumstances we can find people who feel that they must orient towards truth and beauty, often speaking and acting in potentially subversive allegory when certain social myths or rituals can't be broken openly. A need for human self-understanding is surely unerasable because our primary need is to survive each other. It's not a question of theory or power. Power, that can be held for any length of time, that can bring various key players into alliance, is not simply or even primarily a question of violence: it depends on some exchange of opinions and good faith, or on exchange of myths and rituals which are never entirely stable given the nature of things. Theory and faith and power are a trinity, it seems to me.

loner said...

truepeers—

Regarding Spengler, it isn't that. After all, it's been 80+ years since publication and plenty of terrible things have happened and threaten to happen and all things considered I don't think most of us have all that much to complain about—not that that stops us or anything. No, Spengler is a "fun" read (at least in the English translation I have.)

But when Jesus was taken before Pilate, then the world of facts and the world of truths were face to face in immediate and implacable hostility. It is a scene apppallingly distinct and overwhelming in its symbolism, such as the world's history had never before and never since looked at. The discord that lies at the root of all human life from its beginning, in virtue of its very being, of its having both existence and awareness, took here the highest form that can possibly be conceived of human tragedy. In the famous question of the Roman Procurator: "What is truth?" lies the entire meaning of history, the exclusive validity of the deed, the prestige of the State and war and the all-powerfulness of success and the pride of ancestry in an exalted destiny. The silence of Jesus answers this question by that other which is decisive in all things of religion—What is actuality? For Pilate actuality was all; for Him nothing. Were it anything, indeed, pure religiousness could never stand up against history and the powers of history, or sit in judgment on active life; or if it does it ceases to be religion and is subjected itself to the spirit of history.

That last is what happened to Christianity in my life. At a point relatively early on in my education a priest made a decision for me on a very minor thing that was not his to make (it had to do with my wanting as a prize I'd earned a religious text well above my grade level) and from then on Christianity more and more subjected itself to the spirit of history where I was concerned and as history it interests me greatly to this day.

Best.

truepeers said...

loner,

The faith I talk about is something often, perhaps always, beyond my grasp. And yet if I have come to believe in it nonetheless, and seek the grace to have it, it is not because I began my education with a frankly religious outlook (though I guess such was always there somewhere, unawares, unnamed) but because, after many failures in trying to understand the world, and history, I eventually came to see the historical process as inconceivable without faith, not that I can entirely grasp what faith is.

I grew up in a scientific-Gnostic household, with parents who had sworn off, or never had, much religion (or so they thought), and i studied history like the study was a Gnostic religion, as if, in the modern social scientific age, some great method, if not laws of history themselves, was almost in our/my grasp and we could look forward to shaping our destiny more rationally, overcoming a benighted age, by the grasp of the historiographical or symbolic key that opens all or many doors. I was not so much interested in the details of history, as in the methods of historians, the desire for method being something utopian I have since come to learn.

It's hard to tell this story clearly because what I was, as a student of history, was the opposite of humility, and I was trying to pull all ideas under the sun together in some grand system. So I was really many things confused.

Long story short, that way of thinking collapsed on me when I took it too far, when I got to the point when I really wanted it to collapse because I knew I was out of touch with the world and I didn't have the nerve to try and lord it any longer. And out of the humiliation and loss and depression, I struggled to understand human reality on some more realistic level. You have some sense of what I have come to think that is: we are all bound by a relationship to the sacred, even those who think they have found the way out of the religious age. I used to laugh at people like Marxists who were still obviously practising a religion and thinking it was science, but I was not all that different. I was not at all clear on what my religion was; i suspected i had the kernel of religion in me, but also that it was really something in formation, somewhere in that grand system of thought i was building.

It wasn't too many years ago, when I was starting (or maybe speeding up) my conversion, when a correspondent told me I was or had been a Gnostic, and after a little study of the idea - reading Eric Voegelin and like minds - I saw how true that was.

Now I see that the means by which lived experience is transcended by a meaningful narrative is always somewhat mysterious, to some degree beyond rational explanation. And yet, it is not in general anything to do with conspiracies of power, or "hegemonies" (as the successful Gnostics of the universities never stop claiming), but with genuine and shared human, social needs for sacred, transcendent, signs

History is made by men of will and of faith, not by those who think they have mastered how history works. Those who think they are mastering how history works never seem to get the stories right. The best story tellers are still the wisely humbled ones. The stories of the men of will and faith are validated by the human need for them, on both levels of social organization and its representation. The men of will and of faith act in ways that shape the stories that survive them, but they hardly have full control over the transcendent outcome.

Maybe you and i are moving in opposite directions, but that doesn't mean we can't find some common interests to spin around on our ways by. Perhaps the only key difference between religious thinking and thinking about religion lies with the question of faith. And perhaps faith only really matters in times of crisis when a new reality has to be constructed because the old one is going or gone. Most of the time it is pragmatic and to that extent wise to think more about the way things are. The problem of Christianity is that no one can live entirely up to the model He set and Christians and non-Christians alike are left to split the difference between truth and actuality.

loner said...

truepeers—

I always read your posts and those you link to. History and anthropology are two fields of study which have interested me since I knew what they entailed and the approach you're interested in, while not one that I'm likely ever to endorse, certainly makes for some interesting (and I must say sometimes amusing) reading.

I, sometime before I was out of my teens, pretty much adopted for myself the view of mankind and myself that Montaigne attributes to that "god at Delphi" at the conclusion of Of vanity:

"There is not a single thing as empty and needy as you, who embrace the universe: you are the investigator without knowledge, the
magistrate without jurisdiction, and all in all, the fool of the farce."


Best.

truepeers said...

Thank-you,

This last comment reminds me of a wonderfully beautiful and brilliant young woman I once knew. She couldn't decide whether to be scared witless or empowered by her beauty and wit, always winning and losing together. She used to get a kick out of seducing her therapists with her trials, only to pronounce to her friends that there is no vanity like pretending you have given up vanity. She eventually made her choice of half men and settled down, or so i guess

I also again think of something Dag and I typed up a few weeks ago: here

A fool, a fool! I met a fool i' the forest,
A motley fool; a miserable world!
As I do live by food, I met a fool;
Who laid him down and bask'd him in the sun,
And rail'd on Lady Fortune in good terms,
In good set terms, and yet a motley fool.
"Good morrow, fool," quoth I. "No sir," quoth he,
"Call me not fool till heaven hath sent me fortune."

As You Like It

Best,

Knucklehead said...

I find the discussion of how to go about determining what one will live by, and potentially kill and die for, in the absence of religion a fascintating endeavor.

As for me, having researched the matter to my satisfaction (which should not be confused with exhaustive), I've selected the following bits and pieces of "value statements" that should be familiar to most folks:

- Thou shalt not bow down thyself unto [graven images], nor serve them
- Honour thy father and thy mother
- Thou shalt not murder.
- Neither shalt thou commit adultery.
- Neither shalt thou steal.
- Neither shalt thou bear false witness against thy neighbour.

To that I add:

- Fight, always, against feelings of envy

and:

- all men are created equal, they are endowed with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
— That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,
— That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes

not to mention:

- in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America

and, last but not least, my fellow humans are entitled to the following rights provided they honor these same rights for everyone else:

Amendment I

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

Amendment II

A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.

Amendment III

No soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.

Amendment IV

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Amendment V

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

Amendment VI

In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense.

Amendment VII

In suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise reexamined in any court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.

Amendment VIII

Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

Amendment IX

The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

Amendment X

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.

It serves me pretty well. I cannot think of anyone who can, or would, make a claim that I have not treated them with common courtesy and respect or have seriously violated any of the values I've chosen to live by.

Religion, I gave it up one day, perhaps a Sunday, while sitting in a Roman Catholic church witnessing the latin ritual. I was young. I've never felt the need to explore it any further than I had to that point. I have no problem with those who take religion into their lives - except, of course, those who murder for the sake of it.

I sorely wish circumstances allowed me to contribute more thoughtfully. Excellent discussion guys, thanks.