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"It does not require a majority to prevail, but rather an irate, tireless minority keen to set brush fires in people's minds."-Samuel Adams

Political Frivolity (maybe)


Sunday, May 10, 2009

Christian Nation? Uh, No.

"In politics, as in religion, it is equally absurd to aim at making proselytes by fire and sword. Heresies in either can rarely be cured by persecution." --Alexander Hamilton
"If you cannot control the heart, you cannot control behavior...Religion deals with the heart."-Thomas Jefferson

To put in proper context, Messrs. Hamilton and Jefferson were referring to what may be described as dangerous “ideologies”, generated by emotion and passion that would be detrimental to the formation, evolution, and preservation of a republic. The Church of England was formed for the sole purpose of allowing divorce, as opposed to Catholicism, which forbade it. Martin Luther, through the Edict of Worms, suggested that there was a better way to practice faith than what the Pope had to offer. What followed became known as the “dark ages”, and for good reason.

To put a number on deaths attributed to religious conflicts is difficult at best, but up to and including the end of the 18th century, it is estimated that nearly 24,000,000 deaths were a direct result from ideological differences with respect to faith. This includes the (10) Crusades, The Thirty Years War, the French Wars of Religion, etc. I use the European conflicts because I believe the founders used this history as a basis for the U.S. Constitution.

The common thread, whether it be “divine approval” to slaughter as many Muslims as possible during the Crusades, or making a date with 72 virgins through Islamic martyrdom, is religious fanaticism, or “my God is better than your God”. As Mr. Hamilton alluded to in his writings; this doesn’t work. Converts are not generally made “by fire and sword”. Religious doctrine tends to make widows and orphans, and at the end of the day, “my God is STILL better than your God”.
Genocide is certainly not limited to religion. World War II produced anywhere from 40-70 million deaths, mostly due to differences in geographical boundaries and ethnic hatred. Add Cambodia, Stalin’s Soviet Union, Amin’s Uganda, Rwanda, Vietnam, et al, and the number rise into the 100+ million range.

(More on that at another time.) The history of martyrdom reaches around the globe, but the focus will be on European history, because that is primarily the piece of history that the founders were interested in.

The Catholic Church, during the thousand years or so prior to the birth of our nation, controlled Europe with an iron fist. The church controlled the land, the money, dictated state policy, and provided the Crusaders with “divine protection” during the march to annihilate the Islamic warriors. This was the main goal, but as a sidebar, the crusaders did their best to persecute and slaughter pagan Slavs, Jews, Russian and Greek Orthodox Christians, Mongols, Cathars, Hussites, Waldensians, Old Prussians, and political enemies of the popes. Crusaders were granted “divine immunity” for “past discretion’s”. History remains divided on whether or not this was a “noble” cause, or simply one of aggression and barbarism. This author believes the latter.

The Thirty Years War was largely fought in the Germanic states, and was, for the most part, a battle between Catholics and Protestants. Nearly 30% of the Germanic population was lost, and 50% of the male population. The region was devastated, and, as a result the region was carved up into political and religious states.

The founders took note. The Church of England was oppressive and prejudicial, outlawing virtually any faith outside of the Church of England. The New World, long before the U.S. Constitution, became of refuge for Jews, Huguenots, and any other faith that was being persecuted in the Old Country.

As the First Amendment says, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”

Pretty clear, and for good reason. The founders envisioned a country free from the religious conflict that paralyzed Europe and others for the better part of a thousand years. While the founders were largely men of faith, (the debate continues whether or not they were Deists), and used the phrases “The Creator”, and “God Almighty”. Nowhere within the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution, or the Federalist Papers is there a mention of Jesus Christ, Mohammed, Buddha, the Hindu Gods, Moses, Martin Luther, or Jim Jones. As painful as this may sound to Christians, The United States of America is NOT a Christian nation. That our country was founded on “Judeo-Christian” values will be debated forever. But what should not be controversial is the notion that the usage of “God” in founding documents, currency, government buildings, etc., is one based on cultural values taken from the Old Testament, and was not intended to be perceived as theological in nature. This, taken with hundreds of years of English Common Law, the historical nature of religious conflicts, and the concept of personal freedom and self-government was what inspired these great men to establish a secular government, leaving the masses to worship as they pleased. To refer to the USA as a “Christian nation” is at least revisionist, and at best a slap in the collective faces of Madison, Jefferson, Hamilton and company.

I offer no apologies to the religious right, for they are the one group that would take the very basis of the U.S. Constitution, twist it and distort it for political influence and accentuate agenda items that have nothing to do with politics and the Federal government. Abortion and gay marriage come to mind when I think of the religious right. These are just two of many, many issues that should be, must be handled at the state level.

Faith and Religion are two, entirely different matters. Faith was a personal feeling the founders understood. Religion was a cancer that has caused the deaths of countless millions. The founders knew this to be true.

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." --- Thomas Jefferson 1816

A person’s faith is their own. A person’s lack of faith is also their own. There is not a place in public life for religion. There is room for faith, not religion. As long as we bang our drums and exploit religious issues in political arena, we will stagnate and quite possibly regress as a nation. I think we have begun that dark journey. The Libertarians understand that. Students of history that have their eyes open understand that. We, as a nation, have to understand that. Worship as you please, but allow others not to. The founders would be proud.

1 comment:

  1. I found your essay on Christian nation to be well thought out,not insulting to persons of faith, and succint..then I read the other posts..the Democratic Communist Party? The United Socialist States of America? How about the Republican Torture Party? Or the Rewrite the Consistution Party? In your post on organized religion you wrote about my God is better than your God as a cause for about my philosphy on politics is better than yours? Then there is Cheney....."there have been no attacks on our country after 9/11"....yeah Dick, how about before 9/11?