I’ve noticed that two topics seem to get more responses than anything else: Ron Paul and religion. I’m not ready for Part 2 of my RP tirade, so we’ll go back to the latter.
It seems that whenever I write anything even moderately anti-religion, or even not at all anti-religion but rather anti-you-acting-like-a-jerk-about-your-religion, I get comments and email that either say I’m a terrible person and that someone is praying for me, or I should leave America because America is a Christian nation. How terrible I am is pretty debatable and I can’t really say these people aren’t praying for me (though I suspect they aren’t), but I can say with absolute certainty that America is not a Christian nation.
Oh sure, it’s citizenry is predominantly Christian and I can count on one hand the number of non-Judeo-Christians in Washington, but that just means that the American people are Christian. That’s obvious. America itself, however, is not. People have later attempted to turn it into one, I’ll agree, but the United States of America is not founded on the Christian religion.
Myth: How can you say that? It totally is!
Fact: No, it’s not. Washington said it himself in the Treaty of Tripoli, which was ratified by the Senate under then-president John Adams: “the government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion.” Unless you think this was a trick or a lie, in which case I’m not sure what to tell you.
Myth: Right, but, what about the pledge? It says “one nation under God”!
Fact: It didn’t always. In fact it wasn’t until the 1950s that the Knights of Columbus decided that “under God” should be a part of the pledge, and it wasn’t until 1954 that the words were officially changed to include them. For the first 62 years of its existence, there was no God in the pledge.
Myth: Okay, fine, but our money DEFINITELY says “in god we trust”. It’s the national motto, you can’t deny that!
Fact: I can’t deny that it’s on our coins and bills or that it’s the current national motto, but again this wasn’t always the case. The phrase didn’t start appearing on money until the Civil War, and it wasn’t until the 1930s that the phrase was on money nationally. As for our motto, up until 1956 it was e pluribus unum: from many, one. Interesting that it was changed from a declaration of unity to one of separation.
Myth: Well look on your calendar. I don’t see Darwin’s birthday or Ramadan as federal holidays. Christmas and Easter are, though!
Fact: Once again, it is now but it didn’t used to be. Christmas wasn’t declared a federal holiday until 1870. For the first nearly 100 years of the republic the birth and resurrection of Jesus were not considered federal holidays. Interestingly enough, prior to that, many Christians criticized it as the Bible never instructs followers to celebrate Christ’s birth and found the holiday too commercialized. So I suppose you could say that’s why it wasn’t designated a holiday initially, but that’s pushing it.
Myth: Yeah, yeah, but the important thing is our LAWS. They’re based on Christian laws like the 10 Commandments!
Fact: I have a feeling that most people who make this claim have not read either the Constitution or the Bible. Exodus 20:2-17 from whence the commandments come, numbering roughly 14 but varyingly grouped together to make it the more attractive 10, outlines a whole lot of things, but few are actually in American lawbooks. We have no laws against worshiping other gods, against graven images, mandating keeping the Sabbath holy, against coveting, legislating honoring your mother and father, or against adultery. In the whole list, we only have laws about murdering, stealing, and bearing false witness, none of which are exactly unique to the Decalogue.
Myth: But God’s in the Constitution!
Fact: Again, read the thing. No he’s not. The only mentioning of any deity is “their creator” in the Declaration which was intentionally worded so as to refer to the ambiguous cause of our being rather than “God” (basically saying “we’re born with them”), and “nature’s god” in the Constitution in a rather throwaway passage. Aside from that, God is not anywhere to be found. So if his laws aren’t used and he’s never mentioned by name, I think the conclusion is obvious.
Myth: No, I mean the founders were Christians, so whatever they wrote was inspired by God!
Fact: This is a big ol’ can of worms, but no matter how you slice it the majority of the men who founded this nation were at least deists, if not agnostics and a few atheists. Washington may have gone to church periodically, but he wasn’t exactly devout and hardly talked of his beliefs. Jefferson was particularly harsh against Christianity, as were others such as Adams and Franklin. Additionally they took much of their inspiration from secularists philosophers, not the devout.
Myth: That’s BS left-wing propaganda! They WERE Christians!
Fact: You know what? Let’s say you’re right. Every one was a Christian. That doesn’t negate their obvious efforts to keep Christianity out of the nation’s formation. God is not mentioned and the laws are not built around Christian principles. There are laws which coincide with those of Christianity, but generally only in cases where they also coincide with every other major religion (they all have anti-murder and anti-theft laws, for example). The founding fathers went out of their way to keep America secular, allowing all to practice as they want with neither the government interfering in worship or worship interfering in government.
Myth: Shut up, the 1st Amendment was to keep government out of church, not church out of government!
Fact: That’s semantical flim-flam at best and you know it. Keeping the government out of the church is the same as keeping the church out of government.
Fact: Yuh-huh. Let’s say Church A has a law that Church B does not. The government cannot enact Church A’s law because that would be encroaching upon Church B’s freedom of worship. Thus in order to protect Church B, Church A’s law cannot be put on the books. The only way to keep the government out of religion is to keep religion out of government. It’s a wall between them, as Jefferson wrote, not a one-way tunnel.
Myth: But that would mean that no laws could be made that disagree with any religion, so we’d have no laws at all!
Fact: Not quite. It means the laws must be made independently of religion. You don’t have to be a Bible-thumper to know murder and slavery are wrong, for example (although it was largely the religious who fought against civil rights advancements…), and as long as a law is made for secular reasons it is not “an establishment of religion”. That’s why sodomy laws had to go but perjury’s still around, or why there are laws against stealing but not saying God’s name in vain.
Myth: Right… but… hgnkgnl…
Fact: I thought so.
So you see, this is not a country founded upon the Bible and its teachings, and the nation’s founders would likely be mighty peeved to hear of George Bush saying God chose him to be president and hearing of the massive influence the likes of James Dobson have over public policy.
If anyone out there would like to continue trying to prove me wrong, go for it. I’ve got no problems making this little Q&A session longer.