"I Have A Dream" Speech Anniversary .......

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Cosima___J
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"I Have A Dream" Speech Anniversary .......

Post by Cosima___J » Tue Aug 24, 2010 12:29 pm

..... is coming up. Martin Luther King delivered this address in Washington, DC on August 28, 1963. Since that was before my time and since I've never read the speech, I decided it was high time that I looked it up. And here it is: http://www.mlkonline.net/dream.html

It is indeed a great speech! On another thread (atheist thread) we touched on the question of whether religion has been a source of good or bad. Well, MLK is certainly an example of the good influences of religion. Those of you who are familiar with the bible will note that he quoted from the bible in his "I Have a Dream" speech. The bible's ideals were reflected in so much of what he did. I can't point to the specific speech, but I know I've head this bible quotation in one of them: "Let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream." Isn't that a terrific phrase? You can find it in Amos 5:24.

I'm quoting from an introduction to the book of Amos: "Amos is Israel's prophet of social justice, proclaiming that true religion consists not just of ritual observances but in a moral life based on fair and equitable treatment of all members of society, powerful and powerless alike. This concern for justice lies at the heart of Israel's prophetic movement, but no other prophet expresses it with moe passion and substance."

"Amos demands justice in all areas of society - policical, judicial, and economic and mercilessly attacks Israel's elite for their abuse of power. And he regards the demise of Israelite society as the inevitable outcome of its internal corruption and injustices. The power of social justice in the imagination of Western society derives in large part from Israel's prophets and from Amos's passionate appeals in particular."

So I would contend that religion has played an important (and good) part in the evolution of society as we know it today.

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Re: "I Have A Dream" Speech Anniversary .......

Post by jbuck919 » Tue Aug 24, 2010 3:41 pm

Cosima___J wrote: So I would contend that religion has played an important (and good) part in the evolution of society as we know it today.
The SCLC as led by King was the right organization in the right place at the right time for the Civil Rights Movement that was paramount at the time. However, the same organization, like some other strains of organized Christianity, has been vehemently anti-homosexual and has pushed its positions on that subject in the political arena.

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Re: "I Have A Dream" Speech Anniversary .......

Post by diegobueno » Wed Aug 25, 2010 9:42 pm

I agree in principle with Cosima, that the Judeo-Christian values as found in the scriptures are a force for great good in the world. The same cannot always be said for the religious institutions charged with promulgating these values. But when they get it right, as Martin Luther King and the SCLC did with the civil rights movement, the force of religion can be powerful indeed. During this period my father often spoke out from the pulpit for civil rights and often got ugly letters and phone calls for his efforts. He was, in his own modest way, a force for good.

Needless to say not every church in the early 1960s was willing to lend their support to King's cause, and the Christian church's central symbol was often displayed as a fiery threat against blacks and those who sympathized with them.
Black lives matter.

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Re: "I Have A Dream" Speech Anniversary .......

Post by ch1525 » Wed Aug 25, 2010 10:11 pm

I love those shirts that blacks wear that has a picture of King and Obama on it that say "Dream fulfilled" or some crap like that. So you're telling me it was King's dream to have a completely unqualified, anti-American like Obama placed into office by the hands of the media that refused to report the truth about him? I think not.

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Re: "I Have A Dream" Speech Anniversary .......

Post by diegobueno » Wed Aug 25, 2010 11:05 pm

ch1525 wrote:I love those shirts that blacks wear that has a picture of King and Obama on it that say "Dream fulfilled" or some crap like that. So you're telling me it was King's dream to have a completely unqualified, anti-American like Obama placed into office by the hands of the media that refused to report the truth about him? I think not.
King would have asked you to examine the hatred that fills your own heart.
Black lives matter.

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Re: "I Have A Dream" Speech Anniversary .......

Post by ch1525 » Thu Aug 26, 2010 1:08 am

diegobueno wrote:
ch1525 wrote:I love those shirts that blacks wear that has a picture of King and Obama on it that say "Dream fulfilled" or some crap like that. So you're telling me it was King's dream to have a completely unqualified, anti-American like Obama placed into office by the hands of the media that refused to report the truth about him? I think not.
King would have asked you to examine the hatred that fills your own heart.
I don't think so. We would have talked about classical music. Besides, the only thing in my heart is blood. :roll:

John F
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Re: "I Have A Dream" Speech Anniversary .......

Post by John F » Thu Aug 26, 2010 3:40 am

Dr. King and the SCLC were indeed crucial to the civil rights movement in the south, and set us all an example of principled courage. We ought to celebrate them every day, and especially on this anniversary. It's not for nothing that Martin Luther King Jr. Day is a national holiday

But it's they in particular, and their many liberal and leftist collaborators and supporters (at least some nonreligious, like Pete Seeger and me :)), not religion or even Christianity in general, that deserve the credit and our thanks. Christianity had been the dominant religion of the North American colonists since before there was a United States - indeed, Massachussetts, Rhode Island, and Pennsylvania were founded by dissenting Protestant sects. Yet slavery and then segregation were legal, and practiced throughout the American south, until a lost civil war, then a Constitutional amendment, then a Supreme Court decision, television coverage of police violence against peaceful demonstrators, and finally passage of the Civil Rights Act at the very late date of 1964, finally compelled white Christians and other southerners to give it up.

Even after that, at least one Christian sect, the Mormons, maintained an anti-African-American policy of church membership for what were claimed to be religious reasons. Blacks were excluded from crucial events and privileges in the church that white members enjoyed, such as being married in the temple, and from the priesthood. Only the Constitutional separation of church and state prevented the Mormon church from coming under the civil rights act. This separate and unequal status only ended in 1978, when the church declared that divine revelation had led it to make black Mormons equal in all respects to non-blacks. Cynics have suggested that the revelation was actually prompted by the difficulty of expanding the church into multiracial countries like Brazil where it was all but impossible to find local members eligible to be priests. In other words, Mormon desegregation was about raised membership rather than raised consciousness.

And as I've suggested, it was not just Christians of Dr. King's sect, or Christians period, who marched in Alabama and put themselves on the line for desegregation. The words of their anthem, "We shall overcome," are all about freedom and not at all about Jesus, and were originally promulgated as a marching song of the labor movement by the non-religious Pete Seeger. Social and moral consciousness, not religious morality, was the basis and objective of the civil rights movement.

Dr. King's "I Have a Dream" is not a religious sermon but a political speech. Naturally his rhythms owe much to the pulpit, and he sometimes alludes to the language of the Bible, but only once does he preach: "I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; 'and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.'" (Which, when you think about it, is off the topic of the speech.) For the rest, anyone of any faith, or no religious faith at all, could have sincerely said much the same, though not with Dr. King's eloquence.

The Southern Christian Leadership Conference was founded by southern African-American Christian ministers and was opposed by southern white Christian ministers. It was eight white Alabama clergymen to whom Dr. King addressed his "Letter from a Birmingham Jail." He justifies the movement's nonviolent law-breaking on both secular and religious grounds, making the secular argument first and at length. He then cites St. Augustine: "An unjust law is no law at all," and in the following paragraph he refers to a relevant concept from the Christian theologian Paul Tillich. Considering who the Letter was written to, Dr. King could hardly leave theological morality out entirely. But he quickly returns to his secular argument: "An unjust law is a code that a numerical or power majority group compels a minority group to obey but does not make binding on itself." You'll find no such definition in St. Augustine or the Bible.

Why then a Southern Christian Leadership Conference? Because thanks to centuries of slavery and then segregation, there was no other basis among African-Americans for mobilizing and organizing social action than their Christian churches, which thanks to white racism and the segregation laws were not "diluted" with white members who had much to lose from desegregation. And without doubt, church leaders were in a better position than any other blacks in the American south to claim the moral high ground, though as I've said this was disputed by white church leaders. So the religious connection of the civil rights movement were indeed important - but on the grounds of social influence, not religious preaching.

So let's praise "I Have a Dream," and Dr. King, and the many (of course including himself) who lost their lives in the long and finally successful campaign to make the dream come true, and the many more who took less dramatic but still important risks - including President Kennedy who proposed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 before being assassinated in the south, President Johnson who despite being a southerner continued to push it through, and the 73 Senators and 289 Congressmen (almost none of them southerners) who passed it. But let's give credit only where it's really due, and not try to spread it around too far.
John Francis

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Re: "I Have A Dream" Speech Anniversary .......

Post by Donald Isler » Thu Aug 26, 2010 10:24 am

Thanks for the history lesson,, John F.

Let me use this opportunity to remind people of the contributions of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, one of the great Jewish thinkers of the 20th century, who marched in Selma with Dr. King and, in a television interview made just before his death in 1972 (and probably still to be found on Youtube) said "Race (skin color) is an eye disease" and "God is the God of all men, or of no man!"
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Cosima___J
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Re: "I Have A Dream" Speech Anniversary .......

Post by Cosima___J » Thu Aug 26, 2010 11:05 am

Well first of all John F., I wasn't referring to Christians, but rather to the Judeo-Christian inluence for good on our society. MLK represented such an influence --- he was, after all, a Christian minister. The following article indicates that religion played one important part in the abolition movement: http://americanabolitionist.liberalarts ... /brief.htm

An earlier proponent of abolition (and an ardent Christian) was the Englishman William Wilberforce. http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/REwilberforce.htm

I'm not saying that all people of the Judeo/Christian persuasion were uniformly good. What I am saying is that an awful lot of people who worked for the good of humanity in the Western world were Jews or Christians and were moved to do their good works by the tenets of their religious beliefs.

Also, I would maintain that the Judeo/Christian sense of morality is so ever-present and forms the backdrop of our society that most people living the Western societies are influenced by it whether they realize it or not. Now I can't prove that contention, but neither can you disprove it. So I guess that's where the matter must rest.

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Re: "I Have A Dream" Speech Anniversary .......

Post by Barry » Thu Aug 26, 2010 11:21 am

Cosima___J wrote: Also, I would maintain that the Judeo/Christian sense of morality is so ever-present and forms the backdrop of our society that most people living the Western societies are influenced by it whether they realize it or not. Now I can't prove that contention, but neither can you disprove it. So I guess that's where the matter must rest.
That's a point I tried to make when discussing this issue a few days ago. It's easier to demonstrate in clear terms what harm religion has caused by pointing to deaths from various religion-inspired wars (although as I also pointed out, if people weren't fighting about religion, they'd have fought over land, ethnicity, resources, etc.) that it is to clearly demonstrate the positive influence of religion on our society and culture because its influence on things like education, the arts, morality, family, etc., was so pervasive over such a long period of time that it defies a concise and easy-to-comprehend description.
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Re: "I Have A Dream" Speech Anniversary .......

Post by lennygoran » Thu Aug 26, 2010 11:58 am

>that's a point I tried to make when discussing this issue a few days ago. It's easier to demonstrate in clear terms what harm religion has caused by pointing to deaths from various religion-inspired wars (although as I also pointed out, if people weren't fighting about religion, they'd have fought over land, ethnicity, resources, etc.) that it is to clearly demonstrate the positive influence of religion on our society <

My position is that there are good and bad things that have occurred with religion--the article I pointed to spoke to that issue:

http://mwillett.org/atheism/religion-good-or-evil.htm

My point is let's keep the good parts of religion going but get rid of the bad parts--I would include Muslim fanaticism and the Catholic Church's keeping women from gaining more power in the church. I'm sure there are other bad things but I think you get the idea. Regards, Len

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Re: "I Have A Dream" Speech Anniversary .......

Post by John F » Thu Aug 26, 2010 1:59 pm

Cosima___J wrote:Well first of all John F., I wasn't referring to Christians, but rather to the Judeo-Christian inluence for good on our society. MLK represented such an influence --- he was, after all, a Christian minister....
Also, I would maintain that the Judeo/Christian sense of morality is so ever-present and forms the backdrop of our society that most people living the Western societies are influenced by it whether they realize it or not. Now I can't prove that contention, but neither can you disprove it. So I guess that's where the matter must rest.
Oh, I wouldn't try to disprove it, though I would point out that many if not most of those people you speak of may give lip service to the rules and teachings of Judeo-Christian morality, but don't actually observe and obey when it suits their purposes not to. So the influence on actual behavior is rather less than you're suggesting.

Many religions, including Judaism and Christianity, include moral philosophy, and share many basic ethical precepts with each other and with secular moral philosophies as well. The Golden Rule, "Do to others as you would have them do to you," known to Christians from Jesus' sermon on the mount, which is the foundation of the moral argument against discrimination, is not only part of many religious systems of morality, some of them much older than Judaism and Christianity, but is so logical that it can be based on reason alone with no reference to belief in God. (Socrates did it.)

When a moral precept is as obvious and universal as the Golden Rule, it's hard to credit it to any particular religion, or to religion in general. I suppose that some Christians, even many of them, may be taught it in something like this form: "Do to others as you would have them do to you, because Jesus said so," the appeal to religious authority, or "...because God will punish you if you don't," the appeal to divine judgment. Speaking for myself, I learned the Golden Rule from my parents and internalized it at an early age, without a day's religious instruction. Even a child can grasp it.

Moving on:
Cosima___J wrote:An awful lot of people who worked for the good of humanity in the Western world were Jews or Christians and were moved to do their good works by the tenets of their religious beliefs.

Certainly. And an awful lot of Christians have committed appalling acts in the name of their religion, such as the torture and burning of people for not conforming to the officially prescribed forms of worship. (I'm not just talking about the Inquisition but about the queens of England when the state religion shifted from Anglican to Catholic to Anglican again.) While an awful lot of believers in other religions, or no religion, have worked for the good of humanity throughout the world, not just the West. There may be a valid historical or psychological argument that religion, not just the Judeo-Christian religion, really does generally make people better than they'd otherwise have been; but I haven't seen it yet.
Cosima___J wrote:Also, I would maintain that the Judeo/Christian sense of morality is so ever-present and forms the backdrop of our society that most people living the Western societies are influenced by it whether they realize it or not. Now I can't prove that contention, but neither can you disprove it.
Quite so. But if you are right, and the Judeo-Christian sense of morality is as pervasive and effective as that, then it must answer for the darker side of Western conduct and character as well as for the brighter side. If Dr. King himself was a morally exemplary man, that can't be said of quite a few Catholic clergy who have abused their younger parishioners. And Bull Connor, the Birmingham police chief whose officers and men used violent force against Dr. King and the civil rights marchers in 1963, went to church on Sunday too. That Judeo/Christian sense of morality certainly didn't have much effective influence on him, though he would probably have claimed to be as good a Christian as anyone. Point taken?
John Francis

Cosima___J
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Re: "I Have A Dream" Speech Anniversary .......

Post by Cosima___J » Thu Aug 26, 2010 4:05 pm

Oh dear, where to begin. First of all, I never claimed that all Jews and Christians have at all times in history followed the religious teachings of their faiths. But when they commit heinous deeds, they are acting in exactly the opposite direction of their religious precepts.

And yes, they may falsely claim a religious backing for witch burning, etc.. But after a period of time, the madness passes and society turns in repentence and guilt back to their true religious beliefs.

As another example of religion working to the good, I would mention the great Lutheran theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer who was murdered by the Nazis: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dietrich_Bonhoeffer

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