(Thanks to Left Hemispheres for posting this video)
The Thinking Atheist produced this brief and informative video clearly explaining that, far from establishing the United States as a Christian nation, the founding fathers did something revolutionary - they founded a secular nation where freedom of religious belief would be protected for individual citizens while individual citizens would also be protected from religious oppression by churches seeking to impose their religious dogma on the entire population. By protecting individual religious freedom rather than church power, the Constitution protects all people from being forced to follow the religious beliefs of whatever the majority religion is wherever they reside.
Contrary to right-wing propaganda, European nations based upon Christianity were the norm in the late 18th century, not something new and special that the USA brought to the world, thus (according to right-wing myth) securing "God's blessing" on America. Religious oppression by explicitly religious rulers and governments - backed by religious majorities - was also the norm until the United States embarked on its amazing and courageous journey to secular nationhood. And the journey certainly required courage, because the churches fought against the budding new Republic from the very beginning. It was the effort to create a "more perfect union" of states whose citizens would be free from religious and class tyranny - imperfectly executed though it has been - which has been the inspiration for people all over the world for generations. It is an inspiring story precisely because of how difficult it was to wrest power from the churches and to maintain a secular government which is prevented by the Constitution from oppressing people if their religious beliefs do not match those of the majority. The idea of a government by the people - free from religious control - is the single most important thing that sets the USA apart from other countries. In short, it is the separation of church and state that forms the base for that much-vaunted American Exceptionalism!
truth is that one of the most important driving principles behind the formation of the United States was the recognition by most of the founding fathers that the establishment of separation between church and state would be crucial to the American dream of finally and decisively escaping the ideologically-driven brutality and class inequality of the Old World. Ironically, early settlers who had fled to the New World to escape religious persecution in Europe had begun to create little microcosms of European religious communities from the moment they set foot on North American soil. Almost from the beginning, formerly oppressed minorities began to persecute people who did not share their religious beliefs. Instead of learning from their own experiences of the war, strife and vicious oppression that religious majorities and religious rulers had used in the rest of the world to consolidate power and control people, many early settlers set up exactly the same kinds of communities in the colonies - grabbing their own chance to be the powerful religion in their newly established "Christian" enclaves.
Wisely, the founding fathers recognized that no new or greater nation could ever be built in America unless those old patterns of church power and persecution could be prevented from usurping the shared governance of the people or from taking away the religious freedom of the American citizen. They fought hard to establish a secular nation in which all 'men' might be equal - and might all have the best chance for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. If one religion were to be established as the state religion, then immediately the liberty and happiness of persons outside that religion would be compromised and (as history has shown) their lives would soon be in danger, too. Powerful religions take no prisoners; the constant refrain has been "convert or die". The founding fathers saw, as many Enlightenment thinkers also understood, that a state religion virtually guarantees sectarian strife, cruel oppression of minorities, extremist insurgencies and holy wars.
Nearly everyone in that era believed in a god and belonged to a religion, but the genius of Thomas Jefferson and the other founding fathers was that they prevented any one of them from being declared the United States' national religion, thus enabling slow but steady progress in education, technology and economics to proceed relatively free from sectarian strife and religious tribalism. But at the core, nearly every religion is based upon a "one true religion" belief which is the foundation of the assertion of the "divine right" to govern that is always used by ambitious religious leaders to justify their insistence upon special status and power in society. When taken to its logical conclusion, a belief that theirs is the "one true faith" means that its adherents must ultimately conclude that the only righteous course is to convert everyone else to their religion - or eliminate them. The language of "choice" is used in this context to assuage any discomfort the rank and file may have about waging a ruthless campaign to eliminate other religions (and in the process, usually the people who faithfully follow these other religions): if non-believers will not "choose" to convert, then they can be dismissed as willfully evil and eliminated as enemies of the one true god. This has been the moral basis for religious ambition and oppression for thousands of years.
|Not so fast, non-Christian Americans! |
The GOP says that only Christians
are protected by the Constitution!
An individual has the inalienable right to freedom of religion including freedom from the oppression of other religions which would interfere with individual freedom. Neither Biblical law, nor Sharia law, nor Halakhah law can be imposed by Christians, Muslims or Jews on people who do not share their faith or who do not choose to follow those religious practices. Not via government, not via private business, not in any way is it legal to impose one set of religious beliefs on the public. Religious practice and belief is a private individual freedom. The Constitution guarantees it and, although it has been under constant attack by religious people from the day it was signed into law, the separation of church and state is quite possibly the only flimsy firewall which has (usually) prevented sectarian strife from exploding in the USA at various times in our history as it has done in every country lacking a Constitutional protection of individual religious liberty.
The idea that the American government or legal system is or should be based upon the Bible - or any holy book - is not only utterly contrary to the founding principles of the country, but it is also inimitable to individual liberty and sectarian peace. A "Christian nation" will mean a nation where non-Christians are second-class citizens, directly challenging the promise of equality in the founding documents. A "Christian nation" will be a nation where, after this brief period of uneasily ecumenical Christian unity which is the final strategy culminating a 200+ years battle to become the established religion, the hundreds of Christian sects will splinter and squabble over whose version of Christianity, in fact, is the true American Christianity. Freed of the founding fathers' restrictions on religious influence in government, the only thing the Christian sects will remain united on is the righteousness of imposing Christianity - some version of it, at least - upon the non-Christians in their midst. Oppressing minority religions and sectarian infighting is something with which the world is sadly all too familiar and it is a very real threat to America if the GOP succeeds in fulfilling the agenda of the Christian right-wing.
The principle of separation of church and state, laid out in the Constitution and supported repeatedly by the founders' writings, is the singular amazing idea which made this country exceptional. Freedom from overt religious rule lifted the United States out of the constant, grinding religious conflicts which have historically torn other nations apart. In pushing so relentlessly for the destruction of the wall of separation between church and state, the Christian right - and its political arm, the Republican party - will undoubtedly make life miserable for millions of Americans who do not agree with them, and they would be completely fine with that. What conservative Christian Republicans may not expect or even intend to do by voting God's Own Party into power, is that they could literally destroy the United States itself, unintentionally thwarting even their own ambition to control what had been the greatest country on earth.
Further Reading (List courtesy of The Thinking Atheist):