- Politics and Social Issues»
- Church & State Relations
Is the United States One Nation Under God?
One Nation Under God?
I am sick of political advertisements in general, but my overall disgust reached a new height on Friday afternoon. I was listening to the radio on the way home from work and was disturbed to overhear an independent advertisement from a local religious organization that stated bluntly that to vote for Obama was to give up your religious beliefs - because he is currently involved on a war against religion in general - and Christianity specifically. These people don't seem to understand that Obama himself is a Christian and as the current president, it is his job (and he swore an oath) to protect and uphold the constitution of the United States of America.
Is the United States of America a Christian nation?
While the answer may not be popular, it is definitive. The United States of America is NOT a Christian nation. Furthermore, it is not a nation that is based on the principles of ANY religious belief, and it is supposed to be illegal to require a religious test in order to attain political office.
The founding fathers (many of whom were Deists, not Christians) wanted to develop a nation that was free of religious tyranny. They were more than familiar with the wars over religion occurring throughout Europe, and wanted to avoid that in their new country. Regardless of an individual's personal religious beliefs (which I'll be the first person to admit they have a right to) they are not supposed to be able to use those religious beliefs to dictate law, policy or requirements for others. Not only does America allow each individual the freedom to believe in the god of their choice, it also allows them the freedom to not believe, if that's what they wish - and works to ensure that personal faith should not be a matter dictated by or enforced by the government.
I don't have a problem with people of religious backgrounds holding office. I do, however, have a problem with those elected officials dictating policy or laws that affect all of their constituents based on those religious beliefs, and not considering the overall good or will of the people they were elected to represent. Not all of those people are going to agree with their religion. Why should members of different sects, different faiths or no faith at all be forced to abide by laws that were based on religious dogma.
Did the Founding Fathers want a Christian Country?
If we were going to start allowing laws to be dictated based on the current elected officials' religious beliefs, it would be determined by their particular beliefs. That means that a protestant could dictate law based on his own dogma. A catholic could do the same. So could a Jew - or a Muslim. Protestants carry their own problems - which denomination do you use? With over a thousand to pick from (none of which agree, or they wouldn't be a different denomination) do you go with baptists, Lutherans or the Westboro baptist church? Laws would be vastly different based solely on denomination, let alone religion as a whole.
If a Jew was elected, it may be more compatible with Christianity - at least in theory. They do share half of the same holy book. Christians are the first to distance themselves from the Old Testament when it suits them, however. They don't tend to believe that we should stone unruly children or force women to marry their rapists. In fact, some of them will say it's blatantly immoral - yet it's the same god overall they claim to believe in. They will not, however, admit that the laws of their god were immoral. They cling to the belief that the sacrifice of Christ was enough to establish a new covenant - so those laws (you know, the ones they don't happen to like) are no longer applicable.
Take things a step further: what if a Muslim was elected? Would sharia law be put into effect? Chances are high that Christians would be the first to take up arms and try to defend their freedom of religion - and stand behind the concept of the separation of church and state, which they adamantly seem to ignore now.
The problem with desiring a theocratic society as opposed to a democracy is that each group or sect tends to want a theist government - as long as it's their god. It doesn't seem to apply when they consider the beliefs of other faiths.
When Obama stated in public that the United States of America is NOT a Christian nation, he was hardly the first person to say so - and he had every right to say it. This does not mean he's against Christianity (again, he claims to believe in it) or that he's trying to start a religious war on home soil. If you want to get to the heart of the matter, you can start with the treaty of Tripoli.
Signed by president John Adams and unanimously passed in the Senate in 1797, things could not be any clearer.
"As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion,—as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquility, of Mussulmen [Muslims],—and as the said States never entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mahometan [Muslim] nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries."
The founding fathers had a lot to say about religion, religious government and Christianity in particular. From John Adams - the same president that signed the treaty of Tripoli Above:
"I almost shudder at the thought of alluding to the most fatal example of the abuses of grief which the history of mankind has preserved - the cross. Consider what calamities that engine of grief has produced!"
"The question before the human race is, whether the God of Nature shall govern the world by his own laws, or whether priests and kings shall rule it by fictitious miracles?"
"This would be the best of all possible worlds, if there were no religion in it"
"On the dogmas of religion, as distinguished from moral principles, all mankind, from the beginning of the world to this day, have been quarreling, fighting, burning and torturing one another, for abstractions unintelligible to themselves and to all others, and absolutely beyond the comprehension of the human mind."
"I have recently been examining all the known superstitions of the world, and do not find in our particular superstition (Christianity) one redeeming feature. They are all alike founded on fables and mythology."
"Christianity neither is, nor ever was, a part of the Common Law"
"In the affairs of the world, men are saved not by faith, but by the lack of it"
"The bible is not my book, nor Christianity my profession"
Adding Christianity to the Constitution:
A lot of Christians like to perform a version of revisionist history - the same type of history that makes thanksgiving a friendly dinner over turkey - and not the slaughter, enslavement and displacement of a whole race of indigenous people in order to take over their lands. They claim that the money says "In god we trust" and that the pledge of allegiance says "under god" and that somehow proves that this is a christian country - and always has been. The fact of the matter is that god appears nowhere in the constitution.
Like their knowledge of the bible, their knowledge of history is somewhat skewed. The facts are simple - and are easily available if they attempted some research. "In God we trust" was only added to the money of the United States in 1956, when it replaced "E pluribus unum" as the motto that was established by the writers of the nation's constitution. This was, in part, a response to the soviet red scare that overwhelmed and frightened Americans under threat of an attack by communist Russia.
The pledge of allegiance is no more helpful to the Christian's cause. The controversial phrase "under god" was added to the pledge in 1948. I find it ironic to the extreme that these two words were inserted to split the phrase "one nation, indivisible" and that religion in general is one of the most divisive things on the planet.
Religion is not a fundamental part of the founding of our government. Compared to secular societies throughout Europe, the United States is easily the most religious - and has the highest rates of crime, abortion and intolerance. Whether it comes into play over the marriage equality fight or the opposition to the pro-choice position, it's clear that religion is playing a pivotal role in American politics. Republicans in particular are known for playing to the religious right. The upcoming election proves to be a challenge for many right-wing die-hard republicans. Their choice is to vote for a self-proclaimed christian and retain the presidency of Barrack Obama or to cast their vote for a Mormon ex-bishop - a faith that the majority of Christians believe to be a cult.
Cult status is nothing new, however. After all, Christians were considered to be a cult sect of Judaism in the early days of their history.
© 2012 Julie McFarland