Patriotic Americans have the right not to believe in any God

Dec 10, 2014

Image credit: Alex Wong / Getty Images

By The Times Editorial Board

Belief in God is obviously not a legal requirement for U.S. citizenship. Yet, as we observed in the first editorial in this series, citizenship has meanings that are deeper and more subtle than legal permission to live in this country. For many Americans, one important aspect of citizenship in this broader sense is loyalty to “one nation under God” — the God of the Old and New Testaments. Furthermore, they believe that the institutions of government should acknowledge that fact. The result is that nonbelievers and adherents of minority faiths sometimes are made to feel like second-class citizens.

In Mississippi there is currently a campaign to amend the state constitution to acknowledge the state’s “identity as a principally Christian and quintessentially Southern state, in terms of the majority of her population, character, culture, history, and heritage, from 1817 to the present; accordingly, the Holy Bible is acknowledged as a foremost source of her founding principles, inspiration, and virtues; and, accordingly, prayer is acknowledged as a respected, meaningful, and valuable custom of her citizens.” (Bizarrely, the text says the amendment “shall not be construed to transgress either the national or the state constitution’s Bill of Rights.”)

The commingling of citizenship and Christianity isn’t confined to the Bible Belt. In May, the Supreme Court upheld a New York town’s practice of opening its public meetings with invocations that overwhelmingly were offered by Christian clergy members who frequently prayed in Jesus’ name. The notion that the U.S. is a Christian nation also underlies claims, fanned by talk show hosts and other non-serious hysterics, about a secularist “war on Christmas” and the continued complaints about Supreme Court decisions in the 1960s that ended the practice of beginning public school classes with prayers and Bible readings.

Even some Americans who reject the notion of America as a Christian nation identify this country with “Judeo-Christian principles” and applaud politicians who do the same. Many agree with the late Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas that “we are a religious people whose institutions presuppose a Supreme Being” — and not just any Supreme Being. There were protests when the Washington National Cathedral, recently hosted a Muslim prayer service. Those who attempt to delegitimize President Obama whisper that he is a secret Muslim, as if Islam were somehow un-American. And if being a Muslim is bad in some peoples’ eyes, being an atheist is worse. In a 2012 Gallup poll, 40% of respondents said they wouldn’t vote for a Muslim for president; 43% said they wouldn’t support an atheist.


 

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8 comments on “Patriotic Americans have the right not to believe in any God

  • @OP – In Mississippi there is currently a campaign to amend the state constitution to acknowledge the state’s “identity as a principally Christian and quintessentially Southern state, in terms of the majority of her population, character, culture, history, and heritage, from 1817 to the present; accordingly, the Holy Bible is acknowledged as a foremost source of her founding principles, inspiration, and virtues; and, accordingly, prayer is acknowledged as a respected, meaningful, and valuable custom of her citizens.” (Bizarrely, the text says the amendment “shall not be construed to transgress either the national or the state constitution’s Bill of Rights.”)

    Disingenuous self contradiction, has never been a problem for those exercising cognitive dissonance while wearing “Faith-blinkers”!



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  • Bizarrely, the text says the amendment “shall not be construed to transgress either the national or the state constitution’s Bill of Rights.

    Interesting legal concept. A state enacts a law that breaches the constitution, but thinks that by putting this clause in the bill, somehow the constitution is extinguished or suspended, to allow this law to stand. I don’t think so Tim. You can’t legislate at a state level to overrule a national constitution.



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  • Ah, the theological intricacies of the Christian lawyers ! Not quite as great as the Christian philosophers, when it comes to making a fudge of reality, but pretty darn close !



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  • Intellectual contortionism in spades.

    “…talk show hosts and other non-serious hysterics,”; I like it.

    It makes me laugh; nervously, ’cause it’s no joke, they mean it.

    We could be heading for a clash between Christian and Islamic fundamentalists; the clash of the bone heads.

    And guess who’s going to be stuck in the middle.

    “Stop the World – I want to get off!”



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  • 5
    Cairsley says:

    Even in the relatively short history of the United States of America the addition of the words “under God” to the Pledge of Allegiance was very recent (1954) and hardly consistent with the nation’s constitutional secularism. If anything is un-American, it is these two words latterly inserted into its Pledge of Allegiance.



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  • It never seems to amaze me how ignorant many Americans are of their own country. I just couple of days ago saw a letter to the editor in a US newspaper, in which the writer demanded that atheists are kicked out of the country, and that USA has freedom of religion which means you can believe in God any way you want (she listed methodist, catholic, baptist etc), but “nowhere does it say no god, so you have to believe”. I was dumfounded that anyone could believe that.

    Also there´s lots of religious history-twisting going around. According to christians, all founding fathers were devout christians and based their views and the country on the ten commandments. And they claim founding fathers prayed in the capitol prayer room, which was built long after all of them were dead. When you try to explain the historical facts, they say it´s misinterpretations and lies.



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  • The Christian root is no doubt part of the history. US nation has been blessed thanks to the fact the nation followed the principles of founding fathers. Destroying these principles can cause serious decline in economy, moral etc. We can see the terrible consequences in the last years during Obama.



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  • Tibor Dec 28, 2014 at 2:07 pm

    The Christian root is no doubt part of the history. US nation has been blessed thanks to the fact the nation followed the principles of founding fathers.

    Fortunately they recognised the divisive forces of religions and put the separation of church and state into the US constitution.

    Destroying these principles can cause serious decline in economy, moral etc.

    As Bush showed in unregulated banking and wasting an estimated $6 trillion in silly wars creating dire conditions in Afghanistan and Iraq!

    We can see the terrible consequences in the last years during Obama.

    That is “terrible” as in making a start on a decent public health insurance system to care for its citizens, rather than the previous poor rip-off service for twice the price other OECD countries pay.
    http://thesocietypages.org/graphicsociology/2011/04/26/cost-of-health-care-by-country-national-geographic/



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