Church and State

A US District Court in Wisconsin recently decided that the National Day of Prayer was unconstitutional. The main reason for this decision was that government cannot encourage prayer under the Constitution and its First Amendment. This does not preclude any private group from organizing such an event, just that the government cannot promote such.

The Christian Evangelicals, as expected, have been very vocal in opposition to this decision. Why was such opposition expected? Because it was that religious political block that proposed the event in the 1950's, under the leadership of Billy Graham. It was never intended to unite the country under a pluralistic banner but to subtly declare that we are a "Christian Nation". Don't believe me? Just really listen to what they are saying.

Now, what is the evidence that the United States of America is a "Christian Nation"? Yes, the majority of people are Christian. But that does not make us a "Christian Nation". The Declaration of Independence does mention god, but in a generic and in a naturalistic way. The Constitution, the supreme law of the land, does not even mention god and, in fact, explicitly states that the state and church should not become entangled.

Consider that the Founding Fathers essentially were Deists, which is a belief that there is a god but after it created the universe it does not interact with such. Also consider the zeitgeist ("spirit of the times") of the founding of the USA. To be an open atheist during that time would literally incur a high risk of death or imprisonment. Also, this period was well before Darwin and the understanding of evolution through random mutation and natural selection. Thus, it was quite rational to believe that a top-down "creator" was responsible for life rather then a "bottom-up" process.

Also ponder the following:

  • "By the end of the 18th century deism had become a dominant religious attitude among upper-class Americans, and the first three presidents of the United States held this conviction, as is amply evidenced in their correspondence." ~Encyclopedia Britannica, 7:183, 1971 (ninth edition)
  • "Among all of our Presidents, from Washington downward, not one was a professor of religion, at least not of more than Unitarianism." ~Episcopalian minister Bird Wilson (sermon in October 1831)
  • "As the Government of the USA is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion ---" ~John Adams (Treaty of Tripoli, 1797)
Was there a Christian influence within the founding fathers? Yes. However, many of them were also for slavery and were against women's rights. Does that make these opinions correct?

2 comments:

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  2. Great post Tom. I agree as always.

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