Wednesday, February 21, 2007

One Nation Under God

I was listening to this story on NPR yesterday morning and was struck by a comment that one of the interview subjects made, related to GOP values. She says we need to "..stick to the basic issues of the family. Do away with abortion and the gay business. We are one nation, founded on God."

Coincidentally, I am reading Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion and had just read a chapter that directly addressed this notion. This country was not, in fact, founded on (or under, or inside, or anywhere to do with) God. Who has never heard of the notion of separation of church and state? The first amendment to the U.S. Constitution reads that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." In 1797, in a treaty with the Muslim nation of Tripoli, George Washington wrote "As the Government of the United States of America was not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion..."

Our president is a born-again Christian. He has been often quoted as receiving guidance from God, believing that God speaks through him. While a handful of different religions are represented in our senate, there is not a single atheist in the U.S. Senate - and the vast majority are protestant Christian - despite the fact that 15% of the U.S. population describing themselves as secular or atheist in the 2001 census.

This country was founded as a free country, not a doctrined one. But it looks like we were more enlightened two hundred years ago than we are today as far as freedom of thought goes. The biggest legislative issues in our country are exactly about religion - gay rights and marriage, abortion, evolution. The founding fathers enacted a treaty with a Muslim nation in 1797 that affirmed our lack of prejudice against any religion. Today, prejudice against non-Christian or non-religious thought is practically mainstream thought in our country and our legislation.

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