Freedom of Religion: Crash Course Government and Politics #24

Hi, I’m Craig, and this is Crash Course Government and Politics, and I’m excited. I’m excited because today, we start delving into Supreme Court jurisprudence, with the totally controversial topic of freedom of religion. Now, other than being fun to say, jurisprudence means all the important cases on a particular topic, but unfortunately,

I’m only going to be talking about a couple of them, because they demonstrate how the Supreme Court reasons its way through a tricky issue. Jurisprudence. Jurisprudence. [Theme Music] So the Constitution deals with religion right there in the First Amendment, which is also

The one that deals with speech and the press and assembly and petitions. Here’s what it says: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” It’s the first clause in the First Amendment of the Bill

Of Rights, so it’s pretty darn important. Notice it has two parts, and each one creates a separate religious liberty or freedom. The first part, “no law respecting an establishment of religion” is caused the establishment clause; can you guess what the second religious liberty

Is? If you said free exercise, you’re right. What do these two freedoms mean, though? Establishment of religion means that the US can’t create an official state church, like England has with the church of England. This means that the First Amendment ensures that the US

Does not have any state endorsed religion nor does it write its laws based on any religious edicts, and it’s also the clause in the Constitution that deals with religious monuments and school prayers and stuff like that. The free exercise clause in a way is more straightforward, it means you can’t pay for exercise.

Gym memberships are illegal. But freedom isn’t free. You’re gonna pay with pain! No pain, no gain. Actually, none of that is what we’re talking about. What it means is you can’t be prohibited from being part of a certain religion, although it doesn’t

Mean that any religious practice is okay. For example, if your religion requires human sacrifice, because you’re an Aztec, state, local, and federal law could prevent you from practicing that aspect of religion, for obvious reasons, although it couldn’t prevent you from believing that human sacrifices were necessary to make the sun rise every day.

We are gonna anger a lot of Aztecs with this video, Stan. There are a number of cases that establish this distinction between religious belief and religious practice, but my personal favorite is Church of Lukumi Babalu Aye vs. Hialeah,

Because I love saying Lukumi Babalu Aye. You probably figured out that what these two clauses mean in practice has been determined to some degree by Supreme Court decisions. There’s a bunch of them, but probably the most important one is called Lemon v. Kurtzman, from 1971.

Right off the bat, the Lemon decision is a little complicated because it combines two sets of facts, although they both involve public money and parochial schools. In one case in Rhode Island, the state was using taxpayer funds to pay teachers in parochial

Schools in an effort to educate Rhode Island children, which is generally a good goal. In the other case in Pennsylvania, the state was paying teachers in private schools to provide secular education services, but enough with the set-up, let’s go to the Thought Bubble.

The Supreme Court in Lemon vs. Kurtzman devised a three prong test to see if the state law violates the First Amendment religious freedom clauses. Under the first prong, the Court looks to see whether the law in question has a secular legislative purpose. In this case,

The purpose of the law was educating children, which you remember, is one of the powers reserved to the states, and for the most part, is a secular purpose. Under the second prong, the Court examines whether or not the law’s principal or primary

Effect neither enhances nor inhibits religion. Here again, the Court found that paying private school teachers or using private school facilities did not necessarily promote religion or prevent students from worshipping as they wanted to. The third prong requires that the law under consideration does not create excessive entanglement

Between a church and the state. This is the one where both the Rhode Island and Pennsylvania laws got into trouble. In Rhode Island, the school buildings where the children were learning were full of religious imagery, and 2/3 of the teachers were nuns. The Court paid close

Attention the fact that the people involved were kids, ruling, “This process of inculcating religious doctrine is, of course, enhanced by the impressionable age of the pupils in primary schools particularly. In short, parochial schools involve substantial religious activity and purpose.” In Pennsylvania, the problem was different. The Court ruled that in order

To make sure that the teachers were NOT teaching religion, the state would have to monitor them so closely that it would be excessive entanglement and give the state way too much control. They ruled that, “The very restrictions in surveillance necessary to ensure that teachers

Play a strictly non-ideological role give rise to entanglements between church and state.” Thanks, Thought Bubble. So it’s pretty complicated, and I’m not 100% sure that I find it convincing. First of all, the Justices engaged in some slippery slope reasoning about the Pennsylvania case.

The Court argued that even if, in this situation, the secular purpose was a good one, there’s a tendency for states to take more and more power for themselves. But my bigger concern is that all three prongs in this case were given equal weight, and I’m not sure that

They always should be. I mean, you got the one round one and then the two like, you know, long ones, and you can pull that round one, it’s just for grounding. What the ruling in this case meant was that the secular purpose, educating children, was

Not gonna happen, or at least would be made more difficult. Also, you could argue that it was kind of paternalistic, assuming that kids wouldn’t be able to block out religious imagery, but since they are kids, maybe a little paternalism is okay. You spit that gum out, Junior.

So Lemon vs. Kurtzman built on an earlier case, Engel vs. Vitale, which ruled that prayer in schools violated religious freedom. You would think that, taken together, this issue would be pretty much put to bed, yet every few years, a case comes along involving prayer

In school, and now they apply the old three prong Lemon test. For example, one state adopted a statute mandating a moment of silence at the beginning of each school day. One of the purposes of this statute is to provide students with an opportunity to pray in school. Another

Purpose is to create a calming atmosphere in the classroom to better promote learning. The first purpose doesn’t look so secular, and as for the second prong, doesn’t necessarily advance or inhibit a particular religion. Students can choose not to pray at all. Is

This excessive entanglement? That’s always gonna be difficult to say, especially since ‘excessive’ is pretty subjective, but if you go on the standard of the Pennsylvania case in Lemon, almost any religious practice in school could be excessively entangling, because the state is going to have to step in and monitor it.

Some school systems have tried to get around this by having the prayers led by students, because they aren’t agents of the state. But then you have the issue of how much a student-led prayer is really led by a student, and how do you find out without more monitoring and

More state entanglement? The Lemon test is an attempt by the Court to set up a framework for analyzing future situations where religion and the state might get mixed up. It’s probably better than having what legal scholars like to call “a bright line rule” about religion

In public spaces like schools and courthouses, but it does leave a lot of wiggle room and it seems that it encourages future cases because we keep seeing them. The funny thing is, religious freedom is one of the less controversial protections found in the First Amendment, if you don’t

Believe me, wait until our next episode on free speech. Just wait. You just — you just wait. Did you guys hear what he said? See ya next time. Crash Course Government and Politics is produced in association with PBS Digital Studios. Support

For Crash Course US Government comes from Voqal. Voqal supports non-profits that use technology and media to advance social equity. Learn more about their mission and initiatives at Crash Course was made with the help of all these jurisprudences, am I using that word right? Thanks for watching.

#Freedom #Religion #Crash #Government #Politics

The Problem of Evil: Crash Course Philosophy #13

Crash Course Philosophy is brought to you by Squarespace Squarespace: share your passion with the world. Why is the sky blue? Which came first: orange the color or orange the fruit? And why is C3PO afraid of everything? Like, who decided it was a good idea to teach a droid to experience fear?

There are some questions that we ask ourselves, either as kids, or adults, or both. They’re questions about weird, everyday things, and they’re weird because most of us don’t know the answers to them offhand. But most of the time, those questions turn out to be pretty answerable.

Like, for the ones I just mentioned, the short answers are: Because of the way photons interact with the molecules in the atmosphere. …the fruit; And…uh…’cause that’s what George Lucas wanted. Maybe because 3PO’s a protocol droid, and they need to be able to relate to humans.

Though, he could stand to turn his fear settings down a notch. Now, as you know, philosophers have a soft spot for questions that can never be answered. Most of the time, these puzzles make for great thought experiments – tests of our skills in logic and argument.

But there are some questions whose very lack of an answer can be downright troubling. Unlike the occasional fluke of physics or bit of Star Wars trivia, there’s a part of us that really wants, or even needs to have an answer to these things.

For the past month or so, we’ve been exploring the philosophy of religion, and we’ve been doing it mainly from a theistic perspective, looking into arguments that justify belief in God. But one of the most persistent challenges to god’s existence is also the root of one of the most-asked,

But least answerable, questions that we, as thinking beings, face. Why is there evil? [Theme Music] Evil comes in many forms. And likewise, for philosophers, poses many problems, especially vis a vis the existence of god. First, there’s what’s known as the logical problem of evil.

Like all rational people, theists can’t help but acknowledge that the world is full of evil. And here, we’re understanding “evil” to be all manner of bad stuff – like, not just Hitler or Darth Vader or Moriarty.

It’s everything that’s in the vast spectrum of badness, from stubbed toes to plagues and everything in between. Theists and atheists both agree that evil exists in this way. But they disagree about the next part. Many theists believe in an omniscient, omnipotent, omnibenevolent God.

But atheists argue that this creates a contradiction – a set of beliefs that can’t all be true at the same time. Because, evil is bad, right – whether it’s stubbed toes or genocide or paper cuts or epidemics? So, if there’s really an all-knowing God out there, he knows about all the evil.

He might even know about it before it happens. And if he’s all-powerful, he could stop it. And if he’s all-good, then he would want to stop it. And yet he doesn’t. The evil continues. Philosophically rational people shouldn’t hold inconsistent beliefs,

So atheists argue that you’re going to have to give something up – and the thing to give up is God. Some theists, however, take a different route. They choose to give up one or more divine attributes. They argue that maybe God isn’t powerful enough to stop evil,

Or maybe he’s not knowledgeable enough to know about it, or maybe he’s not even good enough to care about stopping it. That might sound weird to some of you, but if you’ve ever heard someone say that God is envious, or petty, or jealous, that’s basically what they’re doing –

They’re acknowledging the possibility that God is not actually good. If you’ve ever checked out the Old Testament, there is a God there who has some anger issues – one who’s not at all opposed to wiping out entire populations just because of some bad behavior.

Still, despite this scriptural evidence, many theists are committed to God’s omni-attributes, and are thus stuck with a problem. They have to resolve the logical problem of evil and find some way to explain why God would allow evil into the world.

And if you can do that, then you are presenting what is known as a theodicy. A theodicy is an attempt to show that the existence of evil doesn’t rule out the possibility of God’s existence. Yes, this is such a big deal that there’s a word for it.

And the most popular theodicy is called The Free Will Defense. This argument holds that God maximized the goodness in the world by creating free beings. And being free means that we have the choice to do evil things – a choice that some of us exercise.

This theodicy says that God doesn’t create evil, but evil can’t be avoided without depriving us of our freedom. And a world without freedom would be a worse place overall. This explanation preserves God’s goodness, because he created the best possible world, and also preserves his omnipotence and omniscience, because,

Although he does know about evil and could stop it, he has a good reason not to – to ensure our freedom. The problem is, the free will defense really only really addresses what’s known as moral evil – or the evil committed, on purpose, by humans.

Now, we’re certainly responsible for a lot of bad stuff, but you can’t blame us for everything. We can’t be held responsible for the fact that the plates of the earth sometimes shift, causing destructive earthquakes, or that a storm might knock a tree over that falls onto someone’s house.

This type of evil – the stuff we’re not responsible for – is called natural evil, and the free will defense can’t resolve natural evil. Religion is one of those philosophical issues that can make it hard for us to consider anything objectively.

That’s where fiction comes in handy because fictional stories can let us see how hypothetical people deal with hypothetical situations. And with that in mind, let’s go to the Thought Bubble for some Flash Philosophy! Let’s consider the case of Ivan, a good Russian who decides to break up with God.

In the novel The Brothers Karamozov, 19th century Russian writer Fyodor Dostoevsky presents us with Ivan, a man who claims to believe in God. But Ivan finds the fact that God allows evil to exist to be so unforgivable, that he decides worshipping such a god would be, just, unconscionable.

Ivan goes so far as to declare that he is “returning his ticket” to heaven. If the same God who allows evil – particularly the suffering and death of children – is also saving a cozy place in paradise for Ivan, well, Ivan wants nothing to do with it.

So, his way out of the problem of evil is to deny God’s goodness, and to conclude that a bad God is not only unworthy of his worship, he’s also not someone Ivan wants to spend eternity with. It’s like the ultimate un-friending.

Now, some readers have found Ivan’s decision to be noble, and full of integrity. After all, if you really think God is letting all of this bad stuff happen, why would you want to be on his team?

But other people think Ivan is being irrational – why condemn yourself to eternity in hell on principle? For theists, it’s another question that doesn’t have an easy answer. Thanks, Thought Bubble! Now, unlike Ivan, a lot of people aren’t willing to give up their ticket to heaven.

So they need to work on a way to keeping believing in, and worshipping, God, even though evil is still a thing. One way to do that, is to argue that good can’t exist without its opposite. The idea here is that you can’t understand the concept of pleasure without pain.

We don’t know what it feels like to be warm if we haven’t been cold. We can’t understand the goodness of filling our bellies if we’ve never been hungry. But there’s also another way, though it involves a little more work on your part.

20th century English philosopher of religion John Hick offered what’s known as the soul-making theodicy. Unlike the traditional view that God created a perfect world, which we ruined through our own poor choices, Hick argued that God deliberately creates us “unfinished,”

And our earthly lives are designed to toughen us up, in a sense, kinda like boot camp. The harshness of life, Hick said, gives us a robust texture and character that wouldn’t be possible without an imperfect world. Hick said that we’re not just God’s little pets, and he’s not our benevolent owner,

Whose sole job is to keep us in a safe, comfortable environment. Instead, he wants to build us, to train us, into a particular kind of being. So we need an environment that’s suited to the sort of growth that he wants – the sort that this world makes possible.

A lot of people find these and other theodicies to be pretty compelling. However, the problem of evil actually goes a step deeper. What we’ve been talking about so far is the logical problem of evil. This problem can be resolved, if we can explain why there’s evil.

But there’s also the evidential problem of evil. This problem points out that we might be able to explain why evil exists, but we still can’t explain why there’s so much evil in the world. For instance, let’s say that it’s true that we really do need evil in order to understand goodness.

In that case, why can’t we understand the contrast through some sort of low-level evil – like paper cuts and head colds and having to work straight through our lunch hour every now and then? I mean, slow, painful deaths from cancer, and city-destroying hurricanes…

They don’t really add anything valuable to our understanding of goodness. Do they? If God were truly good, and if a negative contrast were really needed in order for us to understand the goodness of the world, then why wouldn’t he give us just the very minimum dosage of necessary to achieve that goal?

A counterargument might suggest that there’s always a good that corresponds to, and is proportionate to, any evil. But empirically, such goodness is really hard to find. What good, for example, could possibly correspond to the horrors of a genocide? In cases like this, Hick’s soul-making doesn’t seem to cut it.

You can’t really argue that “whatever doesn’t kill us makes us stronger,” because, sometimes, evil does kill us. A lot of us. And sometimes it kills us before we have a chance to grow and learn from the suffering we’ve endured.

Despite these and other philosophical sticking points, a lot of people have found a theodicy that satisfies them – one that they believe reconciles the apparent evil in the world with God’s existence. Others find all of these theodicies to be flawed, and they reject God’s omni-nature,

Preserving their belief in God by finding him to be less than perfectly powerful, or knowledgeable, or good. Still others are convinced that the evil in the world is simply incompatible with the existence of a god, or at least any god worth worshipping.

Wherever you end up, this is a problem that needs to be grappled with. And you’ll probably be thinking about it long after this lesson has ended. After all, today we have considered the biggest problem in theism – the problem of evil.

We’ve thought about different theodicies – or ways that we might reconcile the existence of evil and the existence of god, and we’ve explored whether those responses are sufficient. Next time, we’ll consider what kinds of justification we need to have for our religious beliefs.

This episode of Crash Course Philosophy is made possible by Squarespace. Squarespace is a way to create a website, blog or online store for you and your ideas. Squarespace features a user-friendly interface, custom templates and 24/7 customer support. Try Squarespace at course for a special offer. Squarespace: share your passion with the world.

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