No, America is not a Christian nation – Salon.com

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It’s common to hear conservatives say things like Paul Ryan did during the campaign: “Our rights come from nature and God, not from government.” Liberals shrug most of the time when they hear such rhetoric. It sounds like an empty platitude, much like praising the troops or waving the flag, that makes audiences feel good but doesn’t actually have any real-world importance. What liberals don’t understand, however, is that what sounds like an empty platitude actually signifies an elaborate, paranoid theory on the right about sneaky liberals trying to destroy America, a theory that is being used to justify all manner of incursions against religious freedom and separation of church and state.

 

The Christian right theory goes something like this: Once upon a time, a bunch of deeply religious Christian men revolted against the king of England and started a new nation with a Constitution based on the Bible. Being deeply religious fundamentalist Christians, they intended for their new society to reflect Christian values and the idea that rights come from God. But then a bunch of evil liberals with a secularist agenda decided to deny that our country is a Christian nation. Insisting that rights come from the government/the social contract/rational thinking, these secularists set out to dismantle our Christian nation and replace it with an unholy secularist democracy with atheists running amok and women getting abortions and gays getting married and civilization collapse. For some reason, the theory always ends with civilization collapse. The moral of the story is that we better get right with God and agree that he totally gave us our rights before the world ends. Insert dramatic music here.

None of this actually went down that way, but there are Christian right revisionist historians who are pushing this claim hard. David Barton is a major advisor to all sorts of Christian right figures and he has long promoted the completely false theory that the Founders wanted something very close to a Christian theocracy. Indeed, in their desperation to make people believe what simply isn’t true, activists on the right have even gone so far as to try to push Barton’s lies about the Founders into public school textbooks. The notion that America’s founders believed rights come “from God” goes straight back to Barton’s making-stuff-up style of “history.”

Written By: Amanda Marcotte
continue to source article at salon.com

24 COMMENTS

  1. I’ve wondered about this for a while. Could it be that many Americans are just conflating the Pilgrims with the Founding Fathers? The former were deeply religious while the latter were not. I wouldn’t be surprised if this were the case and all talk about how the US was founded on Christian principles has to do with simple ignorance of the nation’s history.

    It may be apocryphal, but there was a story a few years ago in which a survey was undertaken of red state college students and a substantial number of those canvassed thought the biblical Noah’s wife was called Joan. As in Joan of…

    It would be interesting to commission a poll of American conservatives and see if they think John Adams, Benjamin Franklin et al left England to escape religious persecution.

    I’d bet money that a sizable number would say the boat General Washington crossed the Delaware in was called the Mayflower, and if you asked where the first settlers landed and gave the options Chris Rock, Plymouth Rock or Fraggle Rock, the answers would be broadly divided among all three.

    …Since rights come “from God,” in [Santorum's] view, an employer who believes that God has a right to toy with a woman’s insurance benefits to try to stop her from using contraception. The “rights come from God” argument is used to distort the very idea of religious freedom.

    A salutary warning to those with children that when they begin asking questions the wise thing is to engage with them, even if one is busy or tired. I have a feeling that many of those like Santorum who advocate unquestioning obeisance to authority figures, particularly your man Jehovah, frequently had the words “Because I said so!” shouted at them during their formative years.

    • Katy,
      I had never thought of the “pilgrims/founding fathers conflation”. I am arching one eyebrow and pondering it, and…. well… I think that there is definitely something to your hypothesis. I am going to ask people this from now on to see just who I am dealing with when debating or discussing the point of the US being a christian country. Thanks a bunch for making me think.

      As for Noah’s wife… wow! Ignorance never sounded so funny.

      In reply to #3 by Katy Cordeth:

      I’ve wondered about this for a while. Could it be that many Americans are just conflating the Pilgrims with the Founding Fathers? The former were deeply religious while the latter were not. I wouldn’t be surprised if this were the case and all talk about how the US was founded on Christian principle…

    • In reply to #3 by Katy Cordeth:

      I’ve wondered about this for a while. Could it be that many Americans are just conflating the Pilgrims with the Founding Fathers? The former were deeply religious while the latter were not. I wouldn’t be surprised if this were the case and all talk about how the US was founded on Christian principle…

      Great stuff! Presumably they spelt it ‘Arc’ as well!

      • Joan of Arc was Noah’s wife? Bill and Ted strike again.
        In reply to #16 by Billy Joe:

        In reply to #3 by Katy Cordeth:

        I’ve wondered about this for a while. Could it be that many Americans are just conflating the Pilgrims with the Founding Fathers? The former were deeply religious while the latter were not. I wouldn’t be surprised if this were the case and all talk about how the US w…

    • In reply to #3 by Katy Cordeth:

      . . . Noah’s wife was called Joan. As in Joan of…

      Katy, your message is hilarious, and politically astute. More than that, it is psychologically astute. Humans really do think, remember, and believe based upon the associations contained within their minds. The way that words are associated, and the way that ideas are associated, goes a long way to explaining how we think and what we believe. – - – Never underestimate the power of semantics.

  2. Abraham Lincoln used to pepper his speeches with the word “God”, and he got away with it. So there some basis for Christians thinking they at least once owned the country. Lincoln had a religious delusion that the civil war was God scouring America to punish it, and the war should be allowed to progress even to the point of killing everyone, and destroying all property because that was God’s will.

    The history of England and Europe is largely about Catholics and Protestants trying to force their religious ideas on each other, or even better, killing each other off. That is why the notion of separation of church and state was so central in the USA. With immigrants from all over they would relieve the European wars without some constitutional truce.

    That is just a temporary solution. A long term solution is to drum out superstition and religion altogether.

    • In reply to #4 by Roedy:

      Lincoln had a religious delusion that the civil war was God scouring America to punish it, and the war should be allowed to progress even to the point of killing everyone, and destroying all property because that was God’s will.

      Bullshit. Lincoln was a political realist not some religious nut. He talked that way for three reasons. One was it was just the convention of the times. Any speech in the US and any western nation of the time people would pepper speeches with references to how God supported their cause. Two, he actually was a devout man in his own way and had deeply held convictions (which I think are totally rational) that slavery was immoral, and the third was that a key part of his support was from the abolitionist movement who did have a lot of religious nuts. Lincoln was just essentially “pandering to his base” like any good politician.

    • In reply to #4 by Roedy:

      The history of England and Europe is largely about Catholics and Protestants trying to force their religious ideas on each other…

      Presumably the words “As it is taught in the USA” follow that statement.

  3. @OP – None of this actually went down that way, but there are Christian right revisionist historians who are pushing this claim hard. David Barton is a major advisor to all sorts of Christian right figures and he has long promoted the completely false theory that the Founders wanted something very close to a Christian theocracy. Indeed, in their desperation to make people believe what simply isn’t true, activists on the right have even gone so far as to try to push Barton’s lies about the Founders into public school textbooks.

    Read through faith-blinker-specs, any text can be “interpreted” to mean whatever the reader chooses.

  4. The answer to Barton is deceptively simple. The genius of the Founders is evident in Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. Both these documents began, quite literally, as blank sheets of paper. Either or both documents could have been caused to contain a statement such as ‘The United States is established as a Christian nation’. Instead, the Founders established the separation of church and state as the key building block of the constitution, for which everyone, including those who worship God, owes them a debt of gratitude.

  5. The only solution to this parasitic virus called religion is to Silence the Clergy! hold the greedy snake oil peddlers accountable for their rhetoric and for perpetrating fraud upon the gullible sheep they lead to financial and spiritual emptiness. As for the politicians, it is criminally prosecutable to violate their oath of office, so the justice department or the FBI should arrest these (in this case) christian infilTRATORS, and charge them with treason for premeditated subversion of “our” Constitution. You want to save the world? or this once beautiful system of government? then SILENCE THE CLERGY!

    • In reply to #12 by pseudonihilist2sc:

      The only solution to this parasitic virus called religion is to Silence the Clergy! hold the greedy snake oil peddlers accountable for their rhetoric and for perpetrating fraud upon the gullible sheep they lead to financial and spiritual emptiness. As for the politicians, it is criminally prosecutab…

      So what exactly are you proposing? We pass laws that outlaw preaching specific religions? Or all religion?

    • In reply to #12 by pseudonihilist2sc:

      The only solution to this parasitic virus called religion is to Silence the Clergy! hold the greedy snake oil peddlers accountable for their rhetoric and for perpetrating fraud upon the gullible sheep they lead to financial and spiritual emptiness. As for the politicians, it is criminally prosecutab…

      I don’t know how far you would want to go to silence the clergy but I couldn’t disagree with you more on that principle alone. It seems like I have been saying this a lot this week but they have the right to express themselves and their beliefs. What happened to personal responsibility? The people that attend these churches at some point have to be responsible for their own decisions and if they are being deceived I can’t help but think that some of that is their own damn fault. You aren’t forced to be religious in this country.

      • In reply to #14 by Mormon Atheist:

        In reply to #12 by pseudonihilist2sc:

        The only solution to this parasitic virus called religion is to Silence the Clergy! hold the greedy snake oil peddlers accountable for their rhetoric and for perpetrating fraud upon the gullible sheep they lead to financial and spiritual emptiness. As for the p…

        It’s amazing how people end up advocating what amounts to totalitarianism and fascism on this site fairly regularly in the name of atheism. Psuedo wants the FBI to arrest people for what is actually guaranteed free speech in the constitution. Godbuster takes a simple comment from Neil Degrasse Tyson about how creationists have a constitutional right to free speech and equates Tyson with holocaust deniers. And I regularly see people who advocate treating all religion as a mental illness and (as the Soviet Union did) using the mental health system as a weapon against people of faith.

        Then again, I often miss sarcasm, perhaps all these people are just in on some elaborate joke that I’m not getting. I sure hope so because otherwise I will have to admit I was wrong to some of my theist friends when they said that atheists could be as close minded and irrational as theists. I used to think that wasn’t true but not after what I read here every day.

        • I rarely post, but I do frequently read the comments on this site. Without trying to brown nose, I just wanted to thank you, specifically, along with Ignorant Amos and Katy for contributing to meaningful discussion on a regular basis on this forum. It is refreshing to read insightful, well-reasoned comments instead of the usual close-minded nonsense one reads here and elsewhere.

          In reply to #15 by Red Dog:

          In reply to #14 by Mormon Atheist:

          In reply to #12 by pseudonihilist2sc:

          The only solution to this parasitic virus called religion is to Silence the Clergy! hold the greedy snake oil peddlers accountable for their rhetoric and for perpetrating fraud upon the gullible sheep they lead to financial a…

          • In reply to #21 by TickleFour:

            I rarely post, but I do frequently read the comments on this site. Without trying to brown nose, I just wanted to thank you, specifically, along with Ignorant Amos and Katy for contributing to meaningful discussion on a regular basis on this forum. It is refreshing to read insightful, well-reasone…

            Thanks very much. I’ve been really sick the last couple of days (just the flu) and that comment made my day! :)

      • In reply to #14 by Mormon Atheist:

        In reply to #12 by pseudonihilist2sc:

        The only solution to this parasitic virus called religion is to Silence the Clergy! hold the greedy snake oil peddlers accountable for their rhetoric and for perpetrating fraud upon the gullible sheep they lead to financial and spiritual emptiness. As for the p…

        Can the same be said of Islamic countries? Absolutely not. Too often we view religion as exclusively christianity, judaism, etc.
        Can’t see why any religion should get a free pass for spreading brainwashing of children, for example. That means ALL of them.
        Keep thy idiotic religious ideas to yourself and we can tolerate you, I say- to some degree at least.

        • In reply to #17 by Billy Joe:

          In reply to #14 by Mormon Atheist:

          In reply to #12 by pseudonihilist2sc:

          The only solution to this parasitic virus called religion is to Silence the Clergy! hold the greedy snake oil peddlers accountable for their rhetoric and for perpetrating fraud upon the gullible sheep they lead to financial a…

          I have to say I am not sure what your point is? As for the brainwashing of children I think you must be referring to other countries besides Western Europe and the U.S. right? Please clarify.

    • In reply to #12 by pseudonihilist2sc:

      The only solution to this parasitic virus called religion is to Silence the Clergy!

      Pseudonihilist, you bring to mind the man who said: “The great strength of the totalitarian state is that it forces those who fear it to imitate it.”

  6. Mitt Romney made the argument that rights come from God. Mormons believe that this nation was created specifically for the restoration of the one true church (Mormonism) and that the founding fathers were divinely inspired. The more conservative Mormons have taken this to the extreme to say that the U.S. as it was founded was a divine instrument that has later been corrupted. Mormon prophet Ezra Taft Benson, a believer in strict interpretation of this divinely inspired U.S. Constitution inspired his protege W. Cleon Skousen to form the “Freeman Institute” to preach this vision. Skousen and his views have had influence well outside Mormonism and have great traction among fundamentalist Christians. BTW, Glenn Beck, is also a Mormon of this cloth, as is Sen. Mike Lee, Ted Cruz’s co-conspirator in shutting down the government. Most Mormons consider fellow Mormon Harry Reid a betrayer of the correct and true vision that Mormonism holds for the future of the country.

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