Over and over, New Atheists with whom I disagree about anything assume that I am a Christian. It's a standard reflex with them: NEW ATHEIST: When the Council of Nicea convened in AD 346 -- ME: Actually, they met in 325. NA: Look, pal, your precious God isn't going to come to your rescue here! Not in this discussion!
Don't I know it! It happened again today: someone supposedly responding to my blog post Of Course The US IS A Christian Nation referred to "your mythical deity."
He also mentioned the one line in the Treaty of Tripoli which another reader quoted 2 days ago in a comment here on the blog:
"The government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion."
Talk about cherry-picking. Going on 240 years of history of hundreds of millions of people, and one line in a treaty addressed to the Ottoman Empire is the best they can do when challenged by the suggestion that the famous American separation of church and state is lip-service occasionally paid to a principle, as opposed to an honest reflection of the way things are actually done here in the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave. It's not so surprising that two New Atheists separately mentioned a line from a treaty about which presumably neither of them knows anything else, a treaty very rarely discussed by anyone in the US outside of academic journals and graduate courses in US history. When you've got so very few straws to cling to defend a talking point, you've got to make sure that those straws are widely known.
What would the alternative be? Why, they'd had to abandon some preconceived ideas, and re-think some things! And we know they're not going to do that! No more than they're actually going to read the entire Declaration of Independence or Gettysburg Address from beginning to end.
The New Atheists' favorite American statesman when they insist that church and state really are separated in the US is Thomas Jefferson. Yes, Thomas Jefferson spoke out quite boldly against religion -- in some of his private letters to John Adams. What a firebrand! Jefferson is the most popular choice among New Atheists to replace Jesus. Jefferson himself sort of did this when he -- secretly, again -- cut out the parts of the Bible which offended him, creating the "Jefferson Bible," highly revered among New Atheists. Makes sense that they would love a book with many passages cut out. Makes sense that they would lionize this staunch opponent of slavery -- publicly. Occasionally. Depending upon his audience -- who never freed one of his hundreds of slaves during his lifetime, and in his will freed 5 of them, 2 of his children by Sally Hemings and 3 further members of the Hemings family, leaving the Jefferson family free to sell the other 130 to help defray the enormous debts he also bequeathed to them. I agree with the New Atheists: Jefferson is a fitting symbol for them.
(Besides the 2 of his children with Hemings freed in Jefferson's will, 2 others escaped during his lifetime. Unlike all the other slaves who escaped from Jefferson, no effort was made to re-capture these 2. What a great Dad, huh? What a statesman!)