Christians are fond of saying that this (the United States) is a “Christian Nation.” That we’re a nation founded on Christian principles and Christian ideals and that the Founding Fathers established this as a Christian nation. Some even believe that the United States was created by God himself.
There’s no doubt that most people in the 1700′s were Christian. The Fundamental Constitutions of Carolina, written in 1669, read, “[n]o man shall be permitted to be a freeman of Carolina, or to have any estate or habitation within it that doth not acknowledge a God, and that God is publicly and solemnly to be worshiped.” Then in 1776, after the Carolinas split, the newly formed state of North Carolina’s constitution read, “no person who shall deny the being of God or the truth of the Protestant religion, or the divine authority either of the Old or New Testaments” can hold office. “Protestant” was replaced with “Christian” in 1835.
Many of the newly formed states held similar such proclamations, that their elected officials “profess faith in God the Father, and in Jesus Christ…” in order to serve the people in a public office.
Yet the U.S. Constitution remains a secular document. It begins with “We the People” and says nothing of “God,” “Christianity,” or “Jesus.” It stipulates that “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust” and that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”
The Founding Fathers, regardless of their theism, deism or even agnosticism, were clearly aware of the many Protestants pushing for official religious idenfication. They clearly saw the danger in such state sponsored religion, and understood that allowing a single religious cult to dominate the others would give unfair advantage to followers of that cult. Had our Fathers not had this foresight, we could have found ourselves in a predictament similar ot that of the Sunni vs. Shia conflict where two Muslim cults in Iraq and other parts of the Middle East are literally killing each other for dominance.
Or, perhaps we would have gone the way of the Scandanavian countries and much of Europe where state sponsored religions have no competition for funding and, thus, no motivation to develop a customer base –the clergy get paid the same regardless of the number of parishoners.
Regardless of the religious beliefs of our Forefathers, we have the responsibility to base governmental decisions on the information of today. The fact is, there are hundreds of competing religions in the United States and a sizeable body of non-religious. Therefore, on this Fourth of July, a day commemorating our Independence from tyranny, we must not forget that to allow religion to dominate government; to allow the superstitious to influence policy and law; to stand by while science, education, and human rights are trampled by the ignorance and bigotry of fundamental and conservative Christianity –is to give in to tyranny and forfeit all that our Founding Fathers fought and bled for.
Standing up against religious superstition and bigotry is the most patriotic thing an atheist can do, even if it means just blogging or voting in a school district election.
Happy Independence Day to all Americans.
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