Unintended Consequences

The law of unintended consequences says that when we do something, results that were never contemplated often occur. This apparently applies even in Oklahoma. This monument was placed on the capitol grounds of Oklahoma City:


This is clearly a religious symbol. Does it establish a religion or prevent the free exercise thereof? If no other religion is allowed to put up monuments to their own doctrines or deities, the former looks to be the case. And so, the Satanic Temple has sought permission to add this:


to the same grounds. And good for them. In fact, a look at their beliefs shows the Satanic Temple to be a lot more rational than some groups I could name. Regardless of the theology, if one religion is allowed on state property, all must be allowed. Otherwise, the favored religion is established as the official belief of that state.

And that’s the point. Here in America, we have religious freedom and a long tradition of refraining from making any one faith the state religion. Perhaps as a result, we have rates of belief that are the highest in the First World. Our religions don’t require the support of government to thrive. But if the government starts picking favorite religions, our freedom to choose what we will believe and practice becomes constrained.

The better thing for the State of Oklahoma would have been to keep the capitol grounds a secular zone. But having decided to allow religious monuments, the state must permit everyone. And so this Satanist image is a welcome corrective.

Crossposted at English 301: Reading and Writing.


19 thoughts on “Unintended Consequences

  1. Sorchia D

    I agree wholeheartedly that governments should not pick and choose which religious symbols to display. These inevitable squabbles around Christmas time give me the pip. Thanks for expressing a sane and tolerant view. Government–local, state, federal–have plenty of other things to do without getting into matters of faith.

    1. orlin sellers

      Every single form of US currency has “in God we trust” engraved on it, kids all over the country recite the Pledge ‘under God’. So, the same question: which religion is God?

      1. Sorchia D

        Hi, Orlin;
        I think I get your point that God is a universal concept, which applies to many religions though the adherents may call their deity by another name such as Jehovah, Yahweh and so on. They all mean God. The issue, in my opinion, isn’t so much with the reference to God but to the reluctance of the particular government entity to allow anybody else to display their own version. If I get your point correctly, you mean that God can be sort of in the eye of the beholder and I agree totally. We all have our own version of deity. And that diversity doesn’t dilute faith. And yes, I think part of your point is that this stuff is a tempest in a teapot—which it is. I usually refrain from commenting on stuff like this, but sometimes ya just gotta vent and this blog post hit me at the right time. (Specifically, early in the morning before I finished my second cup of tea and when I was looking for an excuse not to work.) The part that I need to vent about is that someone else –in this case-put themselves in the position of deciding who can and who can’t display faith on public property. That God is mentioned on currency and in the pledge of allegiance smacks of the same thing though we let it slide. Wiccans, I know, would prefer to say “in the goddess or Universe we trust.” A matter of semantics, though, since as you rightly point out, deity is deity and by any other name would smell as sweet. Have I understood your question and the point you wanted to make with it?

      2. Greg Camp Post author

        I have to warn you, Orlin Sellers doesn’t mean what you think he means. He’s carrying on an old argument with me.

      3. Greg Camp Post author

        Those things were added in the 1950s as a contrast to Soviet communism. The intention, one that violates the Constitution, was to promote Christianity. But citing something wrong doesn’t help establish your point.

  2. orlin sellers

    Interesting name, I’ve never heard that before.
    Regarding the 10 Commandments, I don’t see posting them as an attempt to establish a religion, which is illegal under the 1st Amendment. As I asked, which religion would you be trying to establish? Also, what harm does it do to society to remind people to be good.

    The Pledge is another story, they can through that in the garbage heap as far as I’m concerned, but it is another example of the government using the word God, which establishes no religion. Same with In God We Trust, though I don’t care for it on currency, it harms no one, unless of course they are overly fragile beings.

    btw, I wish Greg would have told you which argument, because I have no clue.

    1. Greg Camp Post author

      God, as a religious concept, should not be endorsed by government. And God, written that way, is an endorsement of monotheism.

      1. orlin sellers

        Monotheism is not A religion. I would also point out that Jefferson swore at the “alter of God” to defend against tyranny, an established religion was a tyranny in his eyes, so do you think he was referring to a religious God, or a Deity, a natural God, the order of the universe God?
        You react like a Christian when you see the word God, it automatically means some religion’s God to you.
        Clearly, Jefferson believed in natural rights and natural law and wanted no part of religion but did refer to that natural order as God. As Sorchia pointed out, you can call it Universe if you prefer.

      2. Greg Camp Post author

        Using the word, God, in official texts is an endorsement of a religious point of view. It rejects atheism or polytheism, among other things. And in American culture, endorsing monotheism is tantamount to endorsing Christianity.

        You say that I can think “universe” while reading God. Indeed, Humpty Dumpty, we can distort words out of their meanings, but then rational discourse is impossible.

  3. orlin sellers

    I know that In God We Trust was on coins in the 1800s because Mark Twain made fun of it and said we should have gone with Ben Franklin’s motto: Mind Your Business. Also I have many old coins that contain the phrase.

    How do the 10 Commandments harm society?

    Fill me in, what argument is this some sort of continuation of.

    1. Greg Camp Post author

      Yes, I believe you’re correct about the money, but again, it’s a clear endorsement of a monotheistic god in the Christian context. The Ten Commandments are also a distinct element of two religions, and therefore the posting of them without other religious expressions constitutes an endorsement.

      You, as someone who objects to government power, should be against any government endorsement of any religion.

      And what we’re talking about here is what we’ve discussed before.

      1. orlin sellers

        What religion is established? How do the 10 commandments harm society?
        I guess Jefferson was more flexible and had a broader understanding than you. When I see or hear the word God I immediately think of the order of the Universe. You might wanna try letting go of you Christian hangup.

      2. Greg Camp Post author

        And you should stop ascribing things to me that are not my positions. I have no “Christian hangup,” whatever that might mean. I do recognize the position of Christianity in our society.

  4. orlin sellers

    Let’s see, the question was: What religion is the 10 commandments and how do they harm society.
    I have no idea how all those folks at Mikeb’s could ever accuse you of not answering questions.

      1. Greg Camp Post author

        Orlin, why do you continue to violate my wishes? You keep saying things about me that are false. I’ve warned you before. Now I’m making it official. Any more comments that do not conform to my request will be deleted.

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