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Secularism Means Religious Freedom
Some nations, such as the former Soviet Union, have expressed outright hostility towards religion. Others, such as Iran ("one nation under God"?) have welded church and state. America has wisely taken the middle course: neither for nor against religion. Neutrality offends no one and protects everyone.
Regardless of any cherished personal beliefs we may hold, bringing unprovable religious creeds or texts such as the Bible into the secular political arena is comparable to bringing "Grimm's Fairy Tales" into a Strategic Defense meeting. America was not founded upon Christianity, nor were all its founding fathers Christian.
According to Isaac Kramnick, a professor of government at Cornell University, America was founded as a secular state-completely neutral towards all forms of religious expression. "In 1787," Kramnick writes, "when the framers excluded all mention of God from the Constitution, they were widely denounced as immoral and the document was denounced as godless, which is precisely what it is."
Opponents of the Constitution challenged ratifying conventions in nearly every state, calling attention to Article VI, Section 3: "No religious test shall be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States."
An anti-federalist in North Carolina wrote: "The exclusion of religious tests is by many thought dangerous and impolitic. Pagans, Deists and Mohammedans might obtain office among us." Amos Singletary of Massachussetts, one of the most outspoken critics of the Constitution, said that he "hoped to see Christians (in power), yet by the Constitution, a papist or an infidel was as eligible as they."
The United States Constitution is a completely secular political document. It begins "We the people," and contains no mention of "God," "Jesus," or "Christianity." Its only references to religion are exclusionary, such as the "no religious test" clause (Article VI), and "Congress shall make no laws respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." (First Amendment)
The presidential oath of office, the only oath detailed in the Constitution, does not contain the phrase "so help me God" or any requirement to swear on a Bible (Article II, Section 1). The words "under God" did not appear in the Pledge of Allegiance until 1954, when Congress, under McCarthyism, inserted them. Similarly, "In God we Trust" was absent from paper currency before 1956, though it did appear on some coins. The original U.S. motto, written by John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, and Thomas Jefferson, is "E Pluribus Unum" ("Of Many, One") celebrating plurality and diversity.
In 1797, America made a treaty with Tripoli, declaring that "the government of the United States is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion." This reassurance to Islam was written under Washington's presidency and approved by the Senate under John Adams.
We are not governed by the Declaration of Independence. Its purpose was to "dissolve the political bonds," not to set up a religious nation. Its authority was based upon the idea that "governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed," which is contrary to the biblical concept of rule by divine authority. The Declaration deals with laws, taxation, representation, war, immigration, etc., and doesn't discuss religion at all.
The references to "Nature's God," "Creator," and "Divine Providence" in the Declaration do not endorse Christianity. Its author, Thomas Jefferson, was a Deist, opposed to Christianity and the supernatural. "Of all the systems of morality, ancient or modern, which have come under my observation, none appear to me so pure as that of Jesus," wrote Thomas Jefferson. However, Jefferson admitted, "In the New Testament there is internal evidence that parts of it have proceeded from an extraordinary man and that other parts are the fabric of very inferior minds..."
According to Isaac Kramnick, it was Thomas Jefferson who established the separation of church and state: "Jefferson was deeply suspicious or religion and of clergy wielding political power."
Jefferson helped create the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom in 1786, incurring the wrath of Christians by his fervent defense of toleration of atheists: "The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts as are only injurious to others. But it does no injury for my neighbor to say there are 20 gods or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg."
Jefferson advocated a "wall of separation" between church and state not to protect the church from government intrusion, but to preserve the freedom of the people: "I consider the doctrines of Jesus as delivered by himself to contain the outlines of the sublimest morality that has ever been taught;" he observed, "but I hold in the most profound detestation and execration the corruptions of it which have been invested by priestcraft and established by kingcraft, constituting a conspiracy of church and state against the civil and religious liberties of mankind."
Jefferson and the founding fathers were products of the Age of Enlightenment. Their world view was based upon Deism, secularism, and rationalism. "The priests of the different religious sects dread the advance of science as witches do the approach of daylight," wrote Jefferson. "The day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus, by the Supreme Being as his Father, in the womb of a virgin, will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerva in the brain of Jupiter...we may hope that the dawn of reason and freedom of thought in these United States will do away all this..."
As late as 1820, Jefferson was convinced everyone in the United States would die a Unitarian. Jefferson and Paine's writings indicate that America was never intended to be a Christian theocracy. "I have sworn upon the altar of God," wrote Jefferson, "eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man."
Go on to: Should Hindus Be Vegan? Case Study: The International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON)
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