Why We Don’t Want a Christian Nation

A letter to the editor and a blog post both got me thinking about the separation of Church and State, and history.

I already talked a bit about the letter, but it is one line that sticks out (emphasis mine):

THE GLOBE does a public service in publishing letters like that of the Rev. George Szal (”Womb, woman, and child,” April 29), in which he espouses the breathtakingly medieval notion of blaming the world’s troubles on a woman’s choice — in this case, the biblical Eve. It serves as a useful reminder of how far most people’s concepts of morality have evolved since the Middle Ages, and at the same time of how much remains to be accomplished.

ANDY GOLDSTEIN
Hudson

There is sometimes talk of whether or not religion played an active role in the formation of our country. Even if it did, why would we want to return to that? Supposing our country was formed in the bonds of a theocracy reminiscent of the worst the dark ages had to offer, why would we seek it again? Does anyone seriously refer to our history as a country built on slavery as a positive, or as a compelling reason to justify more racism in government?

The blog post is by Marcelonious over at Silent No More:

Just a couple interesting thoughts for you. Someone sent me the following quote by Thomas Jefferson:

“Can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of people that these liberties are a gift of God?”

Consider then, this man, who obviously had some affiliation with religion and God, proposing the “Wall of Separation”, aka separation of church and state. Why would a man who said the previous quote propose such a thing, unless he obviously had the safety of religion (as well as government) in mind?

The wall of separation does indeed protect religion from the state. However, what Thomas is clearly saying is that our liberties are intrinsic. They are human rights, not civil rights. Civil rights are granted at the pleasure of government.  Human rights transcend governments and simply are.

Now, obviously, I don’t think that such a wall is impossible to bypass. Whether one chooses to acknowledge the fact or not, people carry their religion with them wherever they go. To say that the First Amendment nullifies religion within government is poppycock. But to say that the 1st Amendment nullifies government within religion is not. Government is not allowed to interfere with religion, but religion is allowed to interfere government.

No, religion is not allowed to interfere with government. If the people of one religion interfere with government, and get a law passed that establishes that religion, then government would be interfering with other religions. So much for the first amendment!

But even if this were the case, why would it be desirable in the least? What Marcelonious is describing is a return to the middle ages, a return to one state religion writing the laws of the land. We do not want a Christian nation because it would mean an end to religious freedom. Eventually even how you choose to practice Christianity would be the domain of the government.

This is something to keep in mind as we listen to our Presidential Candidates. We do not want a Christian nation. We want an America where every person is free to practice or not practice as they see fit. We do not want a Theocracy, we want a Democracy.

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7 Responses

  1. Great post! I would argue that there is in fact no such thing as a “Christian Nation” at all. It is hard enough pinning down if an individual person can be termed “a Christian”. As far as I can see, God works from the inside out in each of us (I think regardless of what label we want to stick on ourselves), but any attempt to impose any “God-connection” from the outside is doomed to end in a simple expression of religion.
    Jon

  2. The Founding Fathers “got it.”

    While morons like Bush, Cheney, Dobson, Robertson and Falwell are clueless.

    If they want to live in a theocracy, they should move to Iran or Iraq.

  3. I have to ask if it is only a Christian nation you fear?

    If it is I am sorry for driving such a fear into you because I did not realize that we Christians were so oppressive.

    I also have a suggestion: try seeing this from our side as well (we do not want a theocracy), Christians can be oppressed by the government as well.

    So instead of drawing the line through the US that has Christians on one side and the rest of America on the other, lets erase the line and try working together.

    Now I am not naive enough to think that this will happen with our government, but it can happen with us.

  4. jonfeatherstone,
    A great point. Spirituality is at its core an internal process. The obsession over laws that promote public expression of belief has never made much sense.

    Christopher,
    And then bomb themselves into a civil war? I like the way you think Chris!

    elqueso,
    Nope. Any religion enforcing its belief system on everyone.

    We can work together, but why does that mean basing laws on Christian beliefs? Shall we also base laws on Hindu beliefs? Why not erase that line and work together?

    As Americans, the goal is to make our country a great place to practice or not practice any religion. It is a common goal, and many Christians and people of all faiths support it. Keeping religion out of government isn’t anti-Christian at all. Its pro freedom of religion.

  5. Maybe it is becaue I am a Christian that I do not notice this but can you tell me exactly what “Christians” in government are doing that you think is hindering freedom of religion?

  6. This country was built on tolerance for and of religion. Whether anyone wishes to acknowledge this today I do not care, but the majority of people in the nation have been Christian (defined as believing in some form that Jesus Christ, born Jewish, was divine). Our history is not one of Christian killing Jews, Muslims, and other minority religions. Rather it has been one of general tolerance and protection for alternative points of view. The intense need to redefine this may come from the intolerance and hatred these people have for Christianity as I observe in some of these comments.

    I understand your interpretation of Jefferson’s letter, written years after he left office and decades after the 1st amendment was ratified. Jefferson was arguing that the government should not interfere in religion but somewhere in our modern understanding and dogma we got it backward. Still, I agree with your premise that we don’t want an established religion in this country. I don’t want any particular religion state-sponsored nor do I think anyone would. Such things historically backfire. So does this mean we want religion and the religious excluded from government? By no means! Such litmus tests are prohibited in the U.S. Our nation was founded on TOLERANCE, something many in this country think is for other people!

    I have written extensively about tolerance, in my blog. Please visit. I promise to tolerate you even if I don’t agree.

  7. elqueso,
    Certainly, here are a few examples: Pushing creationism and abstinence only education into our schools, display of religious icons into our courts and public places. Restricting the civil rights of gay people. Removing a woman’s right to choose.

    anamericanidiot,

    Rather it has been one of general tolerance and protection for alternative points of view. The intense need to redefine this may come from the intolerance and hatred these people have for Christianity as I observe in some of these comments.

    Wrong. One need only look at the Salem witch trials, prejudice against even the type of Christian lawmakers that assailed Kennedy (and against Muslim lawmakers today) to see examples of Christian vs “Other” religious viewpoints. Plus there’s social issues like the right to choose, gay marriage where alternative points of view are smashed.

    Our nation wasn’t founded on tolerance, it was founded on the ideals of liberty and equality. Tolerance is such a trifling thing next to acceptance.
    The problem is that religious institutions seek to interfere in government, reducing it to a tool to enforce their view of the world on the whole population. I object to this.

    By the way, I don’t see a single comment here that espouses hate for Christians. Could you point it out for me?

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