Now much like many people here I would like to see an end to all religion, but I recognize how insanely difficult that would be. More feasibly, I would like to see a complete seperation of church and state:
1. The government and politicians make no concessions to religious people based on their fairy tale books or any other unfounded literature.
2. Religious people can tell me I'm going to hell all they want, choose not to associate with me, but lack any power to influence me with their harmful convictions.
3. Religion can no longer be used as a defense mechanism: You can no longer say "i do/don't do XXX because my religion permits/doesn't permit" if it causes harm for other people.
Obviously, this would piss a LOT of people off, which leads me to think its also a very hard thing to accomplish. So I'm looking for opinions on if its possible to completely seperate church and state in America.
Any law has an implicit moral basis, asserting that some action is forbidden or required for some presumably good reason. (My economics professor remarked once that, whenever you see almost everyone doing something in exactly the same manner, you may be sure that this reflects governmental coercion.) Many people (perhaps, most people) attribute their morals to Divine Revelation, implausible as that is to me. From their point of view, every law has God’s approval or disapproval. There seems to be no such thing as Divine neutrality in their view. So, laws are inseparable from moral ideas, and morals are inseparable from religion in today’s society, and therefore complete separation of church and state is not possible. (Of course, atheists have morals too and may support or oppose a particular law on a moral basis. We just don’t claim Divine support for our morals.)
If complete separation of church and state is not possible, we unbelievers can instead work to minimize government interference in private affairs in general. That seems to be the only way to keep religious opinion from having the force of law in unbelievers’ lives. That idea could move atheists in the direction of being social liberals and economic conservatives. How about the idea of a government that has only limited powers, the powers that the people have explicitly granted to it in written constitutions, with governmental powers distributed between various independent branches—legislative, executive, judicial—and levels of government —federal, state, local? That might sound familiar from American history or government classes.
It’s one of the main reasons why, although I am not a politically engaged person generally, the one strain of political thought that seems most appropriate for my way of viewing the world is, in rough and not in ideological terms, what most people refer to as libertarianism—namely the idea that the government should be as unintrusive as possible in people’s lives on all fronts, and should only intrude there to the absolute extent necessary to fulfill its core mission. Obviously a lot of arguments can be had about the details of what’s intrusive and what isn’t, what the core mission of the state is, and so forth, but in the face of a lot of people in the US who are “de facto” theocratic in mindset (by which I mean people who think that the statutory law should reflect Christian moral teaching), having a more minimalist approach to the powers of the state is a way to rein in the impact of this mindset in a sense that is particularly appealing to the American political landscape in general.
I don’t think it’s feasible to expect that the more theocratically inclined Christians are going to leave their faith at the door of the statehouse and simply cast legislative votes based on reason. That’s not to be expected. We can excoriate them for imposing their religious views on everyone through their position of power, undermining the ideas that underlie the constitution in the process, but ultimately because these people believe what they do, they will vote the way they do ... because they believe it’s the will of god for them to do it. So in that context favoring a more limited and restrained position for the state generally seems like a sensible way to limit, as a practical matter, the impact that these theocrats can have on the lives of everyone who happens to live in places where their legislative powers hold sway.
What I have always advocated is equally as radical, and just as unlikely to ever be implemented as what you have proposed. I would like to see religions untangled from the US tax code, and all exemptions for city, state and federal taxes ended. I would tax the actual church buildings as well, because, in the case of the megachurches, the buildings are actually whole complexes.
Why should these buildings, land and other vast real estate holdings not be taxed, especially when they are income-producing?