Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Of Course The US Is A Christian Nation

I despise the New Atheists because they're ignorant, irrational, uneducated -- stupid, in a word -- and claim to stand for enlightenment and education. I had been an atheist for about 30 years before encountering the New Atheists, and during that time I had assumed, as New Atheists seem to do, that shedding religious belief equaled a gain in intelligence. But the New Atheists demonstrate that it can be a lateral move rather than an advance.

The evidence keeps wearing down my objection to referring to the New Atheists as "fundamentalist atheists." They really are our counterpart to the believers' fundamentalists, the loud, crude, stupid wing of the group of atheists seeing everything through the prism of religion, claiming to speak for the whole group, making us all look bad.

You want to see an fight among idiots? Get some fundamentalist Christians and some New Atheists together and ask them whether or not Amurrka is a Christian nation. Then sit back and marvel at this truly rare display of stupidity. Note how each side simply ignores every bit of the historical record which does not fit into the one-sided case they try to make. If one takes the entirely of the history of English-speaking people in the Western hemisphere (and, seriously, good luck finding a Christian fundamentalist or a New Atheist who isn't monolinguistic), and removes every part of the record which either side either blithely ignores or blatantly falsifies, one is left with just about nothing.

On the one side, one of the earliest English settlements in Amurrka, representing one of the most influential religious threads in Amurrka down to the present, were the Pilgrims. On the other side, the people who led the Revolution against Britain and wrote the Constitution included several somewhat unconventional thinkers, one of whom, Benjamin Franklin, was occasionally so bold as to say things publicly or wrote things for public publication which seemed to contradict other statements of his, that he was a Christian, unlike all of the other leaders of the Revolution. (Tom Paine was an atheist -- and also an idiot, so of course he's well-beloved by the New Atheists -- but he was also an Englishman, not an Amurrkan, and though he roused segments of the Amurrkan populace with his written screeds, he never participated in the founding of the US. Most of the founders found looked at Paine with some horror, finding him to be a ruffian, no sort of gentleman, and so certainly not one of them, and found their horror justified by Paine's participation in the French Revolution, which most of the leaders of Amurrka thought went far too far.) This group of leaders of the Revolution, although, has also been very influential. It's a great oversimplification, but a useful one, to say that the Pilgrims are still struggling with the founders for control of the country. It's an oversimplification, but it's still much better than simply ignoring either the Pilgrims and Puritanism, or the founder, when asking what Amurrka is.

Here's a very striking example of the New Atheist ability to ignore plain facts, from the Rational Wiki article "The United States as a Christian nation":

"[...]the majority of Americans were, and many still are, Christians[...]"

That sounds as if they're saying that there once was a time, somewhere in the past, when most Americans were Christians, but no more. Meanwhile, back here on planet Earth, about 70% of the US population are Christians who belong to churches. Then there are 15% who are religiously unaffiliated. Of that 15% 3% atheists, 4% agnostics, and most of the rest are those religious people who call themselves "spiritual but not religious," -- you want to see a 3-way argument between real Bozos? Put religious fundamentalists, New Atheists and SBNR's in a room -- and most SBNR's are Christians who haven't been to church in a while. Which means that about 3/4 of the American population is Christian.

It's true that the first money issued by the US didn't have the words "IN GOD WE TRUST" on it. It's also true that there were no great riots over President Lincoln's decision to put those words on the money, or in the 1950's when the US adopted it as our official motto. The US has a National Cathedral and a National Prayer Breakfast. 2 US Senators are unaffiliated, 1 is Buddhist, 9 Jewish and that leaves 88 Christians.

And of course all of the US Presidents so far have been Christians. If you want to hear some arguments that Lincoln wasn't religious, you're going to have to find a New Atheist, because nobody else is going to go for something as ahistorical and just plain ridiculous as that. And not even all New Atheists try to claim Lincoln as one of their own: some, for example, have heard that, as I mentioned above, it was Lincoln who put "IN GOD WE TRUST" on the money.

Some other New Atheists have stopped claiming that Lincoln was Jewish, and have learned that some first names from the Old Testament were more popular among Amurrkan Christians in the 19th century than they are today. It's not as though absolutely none of them ever learn anything about history. It's close, but some of them occasionally do.

And speaking of inconvenient facts which a few New Atheists may eventually learn: the separation of church and state in the US Constitution was not motivated by atheism, as some New Atheists want to believe. It was not even motivated by Theism or Deism, public or secret. It was primarily motivated by the wish on the part of non-Anglican Christians that the Anglican (also known as Episcopalian) Church not be the official state church of the US as it is of the UK. Anglicans such as Thomas Jefferson went along.

Of course the US is a Christian nation. I don't like this fact, but I don't think that sticking my head in the sand is an effective way to react to unpleasant facts.

2 comments:

  1. I respect your realism and honesty here. How, though, do you respond to the line in the treaty of Tripoli that "The government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion"? Would you agree that while the people and culture of the US are overwhelmingly Christian, the government is not (officially at any rate)?

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  2. That line in the Treaty of Tripoli was addressed to the Ottoman Empire. Politicians are crooked and devious today, and they were 200 years ago. They put some wording into the treaty to please the Ottoman government, and back in the US they didn't quote those words in a lot of stump speeches. They told different people different things. Every day, the US Senate and the US House of Representatives begin with a prayer by a chaplain who is usually Christian. Every day they've been open for business, for 237 years. It would be interesting to know how many of these prayers have been delivered by Jewish or Muslim or other non-Christian preachers, and when the first such non-Christian prayer was delivered in either house. US Presidents deliver public prayers all the time. All of them have. No, I disagree: the US government is overwhemingly Christian, probably more Christian than the country in general, despite occasionally paying lip service to the contrary when it's convenient to do so.

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