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Yes, you're right, George, there is an assumption being made here by Christians -- that IF Christianity is the true accounting of reality, then it would best explain the origin of principles such as these. Contrary opinion would assert that if Christianity is only A belief, then why are so many other religious principles similar? How dare Christianity claim to be the origin? It's the difference between mere similitude and a cause-effect relationship. You either have to believe in an origin of these things, or instead believe that man has come up with everything meaningful that exists (for how could chance create meaning?).

The death penalty in origin (according to the Bible) is a Christian thing (Genesis 9:6).
I have no idea where the right to bear arms comes from -- that always seemed to me an element of early America that was reacting against Britain (just like the third amendment -- why else would this be a priority?). Personally, I've never given significant support to the right to bear arms, but hey -- it's in the Bill of Rights. Not really a Christian idea. I'm not sure that people call it a Christian principle, and if they do, I guess you're right to call them on the carpet for it.
Homosexuality -- a well-documented no-no in the Bible (I Corinthians 6:9, Romans 1:26-27, among other passages). According to Christianity, if God created people as well as marriage, he gets to decide proper bounds for sexuality. Again, it's those who see Christianity as only a choice among many belief systems who see this as a transgression against freedom. I guess it all depends on how you define freedom. Perhaps Thomas Carlyle was right (freedom is being shown the right path and, if necessary, being made to walk in it). In almost every other avenue of life, it makes sense to us that we should look out for others to make sure they are operating within appropriate bounds -- for their good, not ours (like crisis counseling, drug rehab, mental institutions).
As I explained to a fellow student at Oxford a few years ago, as annoying as it was to her that people would stop her on the street and ask if she were going to heaven or hell, doesn't it make sense that if someone truly believed you were going to hell, it would be a loving thing for them to let you know about it? In other words, there is a difference between one who is a true believer in Christianity and someone who knows about Christianity -- the difference is in the way they look at the world and at the tenets of Christianity itself. Worldviews are like a set of glasses. And it's the worst when a person thinks he's not wearing any glasses, that he has no worldview.
And yes, Ken is right about Tillich. The center of true Christianity is Christ, not a set of principles.

Best wishes,
Will

>>> [log in to unmask] 11/04/04 09:42AM >>>
On Thu, Nov 04, 2004 at 09:12:37AM -0500, William Gray wrote:
> before. Perhaps you and I would differ in how we react to that. I find it comforting to a degree, since
> this nation was founded on Christian principles -- however, since Christians will always differ a little

I take the view, and I think it's supported by the often rabid disagreements between different factions of
Christianity, that there is no such thing as a "Christian principle".  What many Christians consider to be
principles unique to their faith are in fact general humanitarian principles shared by many faiths.  And as
with all such 'principles', they are *merely* principles and should not be taken as matters of dogma.  To
say nothing of the fact that "Christian principles" regularly seem to have very little to do with anything
that's written in the Bible except perhaps in the most tangential manner, and to have been cherrypicked
according to people's prejudices.  So it is that we have a nation founded upon "Christian" values that has
a death penalty and a right to bear arms but that gets riled up about homosexuals.

--George