How Scalia was appointed to the Supreme Court is mysterious — oh, wait, no it’s not, he was appointed by Reagan and congress basically rolled over for him — but he’s always saying such stupid stuff. The latest is a dismissal of the right of atheists to exist in America.
[Scalia] told the audience at Archbishop Rummel High School that there isno placein the country’s constitutional traditions for the idea that the state must be neutral between religion and its absence.
To tell you the truth there is no place for that in our constitutional tradition. Where did that come from?he said.To be sure, you can’t favor one denomination over another but can’t favor religion over non-religion?
That’s right. I thought it was clear: the government doesn’t get to interfere in private matters of conscience. It’s a concept that really isn’t that hard to understand. There should be no federal bias in favor of Baptists over Catholics, or Christians over Muslims, or religious vs. non-religious — it’s just not their job. It’s worrisome that a Supreme Court justice thinks it is their job.
His excuses are also incredibly stupid.
God has been very good to us. That we won the revolution was extraordinary. The Battle of Midway was extraordinary. I think one of the reasons God has been good to us is that we have done him honor. Unlike the other countries of the world that do not even invoke his name we do him honor. In presidential addresses, in Thanksgiving proclamations and in many other ways,Scalia said.
We won independence in the American Revolution not thanks to a god, but to the French. It wasn’t that extraordinary — the colonies were a sideshow in a clash between the two great world powers of the time.
Why the Battle of Midway? It wasn’t a particularly prayerful event, there were no miracles, no angels, no Jesii with flaming swords. There was code-breaking and the intelligent deployment of massive military resources, and there was death and destruction. Is that honoring his god?
He names some battles we won. But what about the War of 1812? We lost that. God must disfavor us now. What about our several failed attempts to invade Canada? Clearly, even if God likes us, he must really love Canada best. What about the Korean War, which ended in a stalemate? Does that mean he likes North Korea and the US equally? How about the Vietnam War? We lost that one badly, had to abandon the country altogether and retreat. And look at the mess in Iraq and Afghanistan — we were definitely not blessed to be left holding that bloody wreckage.
As for bland political rhetoric, it’s common. Other countries do invoke gods all the time; if the US is unusual (but not unique) in any way, it’s in refraining from calling on gods in our Constitution. If name-checking a god in a speech is a mark of special favor, then why aren’t the fundamentalist theocracies ruling the world?
Calling on a god to favor your cause is not at all rare or particularly indicative of merit, especially not when the success of those prayers is effectively random, as if name-dropping a deity wasn’t the useful part of an action.
But hey, the real divine match-up is this weekend, when the Seattle Seahawks battle the Minnesota Vikings. Does the winner get recognition of their divine favor in the distribution of federal largesse? Will Scalia take sides based on the religious fervor of the fans?