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One Progressive’s Viewpoint-Religion in American Life

Updated on August 25, 2011

First Amendment of the Bill of Rights-

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances”

That, above, says it all. In the face of centuries of blood baths as to whose religion is the right one, the Founding Fathers well understood the association of ‘State Religion” with tyranny and despotism. Conservatives like to say that the republic was built on a Judeo-Christian foundation as justification as to why we are to assaulted with this whether we want it or not. On the contrary, the Founding Fathers just all happened to be of Judeo-Christian background. I do not think that it was their intent to put pressure on the Quakers or Shakers. If there were Muslims or Buddhists there at the time, I, when examining the language, did not see how Founding Fathers would have excluded these or any other religion as not applicable under this amendment.

Government is neither to promote not discourage religious association and worship, anyway, that is how I see it. The term’establishment’ is very important. It says for example that I have a right not to have my children indoctrinated in public school with the dogma from any religion. Conservatives like to say that progressives have a problem with any mention of God. Not so, if you want to indoctrinate your children in the tenets of a particular faith, whichever that may be, you can set up private schooling for that purpose or home school if you are so inclined. In public schools, you can pray silently to yourself or with others who volunteer on their own time during the school day. No particular religious faith should be showcased by authority figures as that is a form of establishment. I don’t have a problem presenting Creationism as a proposed alternative theory to Evolution, as long as the subject is treated clinically and the classroom does not become a pulpit as a result.

I never considered myself either immoral or amoral. I grew up in the Southern Baptist tradition of ‘hell fire’ preachers, ‘expressive worship’ and all that. I was generally a kid that was obedient and did not cause my folks a great deal of trouble. As I reached my early teens, I started to question why we went to church. I saw it as more of a social club, where gossip was exchanged and the latest fashions worn and commented upon. I did not see that as worth my time away from the ‘funny pages’ in my Sunday paper. Looking at the experience from a positive prospective in the early days, the church was the focal point of the Black Community. While, I appreciated the monumental role, it was difficult to buy into it on an individual level. I learned to detest people with fuzzy brains and reasoning that tell me that I need to accept a premise because that is what our forebears accepted. You had a spiritual problem if you did not. I disliked people that were determined not to think for themselves and expected you to do the same. These are the people that carried Bibles around all the time, kept them on the coffee table for public display but never really took the time to read and know what was in it. In the meantime, they were ready to beat you over the head with that large bible if you question any of the tenets of the ‘old time’ religion. It still was quite annoying when I read how the strategy of the Democratic Party candidates for president was so formulistic. They all come to the Black churches, stand with the minister who then advises his ‘flock’ to support this person or that. To get our allegiance by simply ‘pulling a chain’ was so embarrassing to me. As a result, I never thought much of those that are too lazy to bother thinking and who resign themselves to follow the herd, for social acceptance and convenience. Furthermore, they expect you to put your brain on the shelf in the same way. I say that the Conservatives use the Judeo-Christian background of the Founding Fathers as the national equivalent of the ‘old time’ religion. They say, “this is what the ‘Founders’ believed, should this not be America’s religion”? “If you are an American, why is it not your religion?” This Herman Cain fellow, one of the 2012 GOP presidential hopefuls show how easily demagoguery can take over ones thinking. This is referring to an issue regarding the building of a mosque in a Tennessee town. Based on the principles of the First Amendment, no community can say that a mosque cannot be built just because the community as a whole takes issue with the Islamic faith for cryptic reasons. Cain took on the fool’s errand of handing out red meat for right-wingers making himself appear un- presidential as a result.

In regards to all the points that are really of crucial importance in a discussion of this topic, the individual having scholarly credentials in theology really knows no more than you do. Until God comes and settles this issue, I accept the fact that the beliefs of my neighbor or lack of same is just as valid from his point of view as my viewpoints are for me. Conservatives need to realize that this is one of the important decisions and acknowledgements that an individual can make. It is personal and as individual as a fingerprint and cannot be subject to a herd mentality. While I subscribe to Judeo-Christian principle, it is now for my reasons and not merely to follow the herd. Credence’s tireless and relentless logic has got to have a little to do with that. (Laugh track) In a democracy, the art of persuasion is how you get people to see a different course. We have plenty of televangelists’ programming and even networks devoted to specific religious faiths. Most people don’t like to be coerced, but can be, if so inclined, persuaded by your good example that is free from hypocrisy when your tenets are closely examined.


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    • Nathanville profile image

      Arthur Russ 4 months ago from England

      Thanks Credence2, very informative as always; that was my impression but it’s good to get confirmation from source.

    • Credence2 profile image

      Credence2 4 months ago from Florida (Space Coast)

      Thanks Arthur, for reading this article. As for your question as to whether America is still a "religious country"? Yes, relative to Europe it is, people still go to church regularly here in substantial numbers. There are just so many sects and denominations, that you can't put your finger on any one group. The Christian Right as a group was once a very powerful influence in politics. I thought they were compelling people into a religion rather than to let secular principles remain secular. Thus, with the greater diversity in our society and the necessary secularization that follows, their power has waned a great deal over the years.

    • Nathanville profile image

      Arthur Russ 4 months ago from England

      As always, another interesting read Credence2. For years, I’ve been conscious that Americans seem generally far more religious than British people; so reading your article and the comments have helped to give me a little more understanding of American cultural beliefs.

      I don’t know about America, but religion has been on the decline in Britain since the 1950s; the 2011 UK census, which asked what religion people belonged to showed:-

      • Christianity 59.5%

      • No religion 25.7%

      • Not stated 7.2%

      • Islam 4.4%

      • Hinduism 1.3%

      • Judaism 0.4%

      • Other religions 1.5%

      However, asking people what religion people belong to and whether they are religious or not is two different questions. When I was a child it was a standing practice for people bought up in the Christian faith, who were not religious, to put ‘Church of England’ on official forms as their religion rather than admit that they were not religious. However, these days people are more open and electronic official forms (with drop down menus) often list atheist and agnostic as options.

      Other surveys done around the time of the census (before and after) that ask more probing questions e.g. which religion do you belong to, are you religious and do you attend church etc. reveals some interesting results.

      For example, in one survey done in 2006 which asked which religion people belonged to 64% stated ‘Christian’, while in the same survey, when asked if they were religious, 63% said no.

      A detailed survey done in the UK in 2009 which ascertained whether people were religious and if so what faith (rather than just asking which religion they belonged to) produced the following results:

      • Not religious 50.7%

      • Church of England 19.9%

      • Christian (no denomination) 9.3%

      • Roman Catholic 8.6%

      • Presbyterian 2.2%

      • Methodist 1.3%

      • Protestant 1.2%

      • Christian (other denominations) 0.4%

      • Muslim 2.4%

      • Hindu 0.9%

      • Sikh 0.8%

      • Judaism 0.4%

      • Other religions 0.3%

      Also, in Britain, which indicates how unreligious Britain has become since the war (WW2) is the fact that in 2012 only 6% of the British population attended church.

      Do you have similar trends in America, or is America still firmly a religious country?

    • profile image

      Vikash 2 years ago

      Basically to follow up on the up-date of this topic on your wsitbee and would wish to let you know how much I prized the time you took to generate this helpful post. Within the post, you spoke on how to actually handle this issue with all comfort. It would be my personal pleasure to get together some more ideas from your blog and come as much as offer others what I have benefited from you. Many thanks for your usual great effort.

    • Credence2 profile image

      Credence2 5 years ago from Florida (Space Coast)

      Hello, James, thanks for reading and providing comment. Your reply is most stimulating. Here is my take on this:

      Yes, working people all pay for the public schools, secular humanism is interpreted by me as not promoting one religious faith or the other, public entities have to stay neutral. What about the tax dollars of agnostics atheists, Hindus, etc? The vast variety of religious beliefs are so extensive, it is just best to keep all of the tenets out. Secular humanism must be interpreted as an approach devoid of religion rather than being deliberately hostile to it otherwise we will have what is the equivalent of jihads in the classroom. So what is the alternative? There are 10,000 different definitions for God, whose can be said, objectively, is the right one? I say all religious indoctrination is out and if that is how you define secular humanism, then so be it.

      Gutting the public schools were the vast majority of people are educated by destroying the tax base in favor of private schools that can only really be of advantage for the privileged few is not a working option for me.

      Thanks again, Cred2

    • James A Watkins profile image

      James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago

      I sincerely appreciate your well-written article. You made many good points. There is one issue on which I think you do not understand the conservative mindset fully.

      You wrote: "if you want to indoctrinate your children in the tenets of a particular faith, whichever that may be, you can set up private schooling for that purpose or home school if you are so inclined."

      But therein lies the rub. All working people pay for the so-called public schools. The public schools do indoctrinate children with religion—Secular Humanism. Just as the father of modern public education, John Dewey, prescribed.

      Dewey was a Socialist and an Atheist. He sneered at religious people as misguided simpletons. Dewey sought to spread his ideas through the American Public School System, but also through all forms of education—which Dewey recognized as all forms of communication. His goal was to use the schools and the media to undermine faith in God and faith in the American Way.

      I do not think the tax dollars of Christian Americans should pay for such a system of education that seeks to undermine what they cherish and believe in.

      Let us change the system so that dollars for education from taxpayers may be used to send their children to the school of their choice—be it Christian or Secular Humanist. Thank you.

    • Credence2 profile image

      Credence2 5 years ago from Florida (Space Coast)

      D. religion is inextricably bound as part of American life. People go through the rituals daily and the holier than thou attitudes persist. Also, there can be fine line between religious tenets and ethics, which can be different. While I cant remove religion from life and have not desire to do so, I can insist that there be no establishment by government entities in regards to it and that there by no litmus test in regards to it pro or con in regards to a citizen's rights as American. The introduction of religion in the abortion issue just serves to confuse people and make it probable that one group and their desires oppress the rest of us. There is a line to be drawn and I, for one, am determined that the line not be breached. Thanks for your comments, Cred2

    • d.william profile image

      d.william 5 years ago from Somewhere in the south

      Good article. I will go one step further and say that there should be absolutely NO religious influences on the enactment of laws in this country. No one has the right to mandate morality onto another person in any form. Universal laws regarding murder, theft, rape (or other abusiveness against another person, etc.. are not mandating morality, but protecting individuals against those atrocities that mankind inflicts upon itself.

      The current attempts to mandate that abortions (for instance) be made part of our constitutions (both federal and state) is based mainly on morality views and has no place even being addressed by politicians. Passing a blanket policy for such an issue has farther reaching implications than just trying to mandate a "moral issue" on women. It takes away any decision by women to address their right of choice to terminate pregnancies by rape, incest, or malformed/deformed fetuses.

    • Credence2 profile image

      Credence2 5 years ago from Florida (Space Coast)

      C, thanks for your reply. No man can go against his conscience, this is primarely a Judeo-Christian society and I as the millions of others certaintly appreciate this.

      As long as beliefs to not rise to the level of law or statute, I do understand and agree with you. The second sentence of your second paragraph does explain it quite nicely.

      With that understanding this shown below would not be appropriate:

      "Many states even included articles that denied anyone to hold an elected office if they did not believe in God".

      Again thanks for your visit, please feel free to drop in again or check into other articles and provide the alternative view. So who says that 'you can't argue with a liberal"? Have a nice week, Cred2

    • CMerritt profile image

      Chris Merritt 5 years ago from Pendleton, Indiana

      Credence, to keep it simple with my opinion....I understand it should/must never be something that is manditory or enforced by law.....the significance is merely "stressed" by our forefathers (1) as a means to keep a strong moral presence in our governing bodies...(2) and to those who truly "believe", it is imperative to maintaining properous and free country.

      With that being said, as Christian, to go against that denigrates this ideology. Now this is an opinion, that is shared by millions across this nation, and to roll over and ignore this is mostly impossible. I think it is important, and I think I can speak for a large volume of Christians with this, and that is we KNOW and UNDERSTAND the importance of that we are NOT a "Christian" Nation, but a Nation that was built on Christian beliefs.

      We also know that the First Amendment forbids federal laws which interfere with a citizen’s free expression of religion and the Fourteenth Amendment extends the prohibition to the states....which fully acknowledges the importance of God in their own state constitution.

      Did that make sence?...

    • Credence2 profile image

      Credence2 5 years ago from Florida (Space Coast)

      hello, CMerritt, Welcome to the left bank, you will find some intelligent commenters that are anything but inane in their thinking.

      I wanted to review your question and comment carefully so that I understand where you are going with it.

      As for the fact that each of the 13 original states had reference to God is noted by not unexpected, the term "In God we trust" is on our currency. I cannot make any profound judgment based on that...

      I think these men are extraordinary, but they are still men just the same with all frailities and shortcomings of men. How does acknowledgment of the Founding Fathers faith compare with the First Amendment that prohibits establishment of religion as part of the Government?

      Gosh, C...

      It is illegal for any state to have a litmus test in regards to religious faith or lack of same as a condition to holding public office. The 14th amendment made sure that Federal Protection in the form of the (Bill of Rights) must also be supported the states in regards to its residents.

      I would like you to elaborate on this more, this is great debate material. We don't accept the idea of one group's deity as being 1 size fits all. i would like to better understand where you are coming from...

      I do understand that the forefathers may have well saw the significance, but whether or not it means that we all have to accept the hegemony of Judeo-Christian in our lives regardless of many that adhere to other beliefs is not clear. Let's get this out in the open....

      Thanks, C!, regards Cred2

    • CMerritt profile image

      Chris Merritt 5 years ago from Pendleton, Indiana

      Hi Credence,

      One thing that always sticks with me regarding God and our forefathers, and to why I beleive they felt it was important to revere God as part of our daily lives and our ability to govern, points to each states preamble to the constitution. All of them make reference to God.

      That they are "grateful to Almighty God" ...."with profound reverence for the Supreme Ruler of the Universe"..."relying upon the protection and guidance of Almighty God"....

      Many states even included articles that denied anyone to hold an elected office if they did not believe in God.

      I think there this is a great indicator of the line of logic that they felt important to govern the people of these individual states.

      Progressives and you call them, in most cases will not accept this....but it is what it is...Conservatives still cling to the importance of this.

      I'm not saying that I think it should be shoved down anyones throats or forced upon, but our forefathers DID see the significance of this....that is all I'm saying.

    • Credence2 profile image

      Credence2 5 years ago from Florida (Space Coast)

      Hi, Justsilvie, thanks for taking the time to read and comment. Sounds interesting, in regards to the excerpt:

      I am religious believer, but I don't see why religious people and secular liberals cannot avoid stepping in one anothers space. But conservatives also have this problem with concept of diversity, perhaps because we cannot all agree on one religion to rally around. It would be nice if more people could enjoy the benifits of religious faith, however, while you can take a horse to water.....

      I guess I wonder why it has always comes down to a choice of being entrenched in one camp or entrenched in the other?

      I will have to check this out to understand more, it is interesting to know that this issue is of vital concern for you as well.... Cred

    • Credence2 profile image

      Credence2 5 years ago from Florida (Space Coast)

      Thanks H.S, the the religious right is far more about political and economic manipulation of the masses, with 'religion' a mere side show.....

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      Justsilvie 5 years ago

      Excellent Hub, Creedence,

      I keep reading and reading trying to get a grip on how people think, especially those who think different than I do.

      I keep on trying to understand the other side of the fence, since they are also friends and family.

      I found Jonathan Haidt’s article “Moral Psychology and the Misunderstanding of Religion “ very interesting.

      This paragraphs made me want to read more …

      It might seem obvious to you that contractual societies are good, modern, creative and free, whereas beehive societies reek of feudalism, fascism, and patriarchy. And, as a secular liberal I agree that contractual societies such as those of Western Europe offer the best hope for living peacefully together in our increasingly diverse modern nations (although it remains to be seen if Europe can solve its current diversity problems).

      I just want to make one point, however, that should give contractualists pause: surveys have long shown that religious believers in the United States are happier, healthier, longer-lived, and more generous to charity and to each other than are secular people.

      It is worth a read, wheter one agrees with his views or not.

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      Howard Schneider 6 years ago from Parsippany, New Jersey

      Well said Credence2. No one knows if there really is a God or what that God is. It is personal faith and should remain as such. Believers should also stop advocating for issues and say it is the will of God. That is unknowable. Our Founding Fathers knew this and I wish more of us knew it.

    • Credence2 profile image

      Credence2 6 years ago from Florida (Space Coast)

      Hello, Peter, It is nice to get instant feedback from someone who is still enjoying daylight. What is it the righwingers say? I God were here he would be a conservative Republican, yeah right. Thanks for weighing and and have a pleasant evening... Cred2

    • PETER LUMETTA profile image

      PETER LUMETTA 6 years ago from KENAI, ALAKSA

      Two things you can't do, talk bad about jesus and two, try to take my gun. The only reason jesus didn't promote gun ownership was they weren't invented yet, otherwise he would have noined the NRA. Say amen.

      Hi Credence, Peter