Once upon a time, a nation was created by admirable men who wished to be free to choose their own leader and have a say in the government. They created a government “of the people, by the people and for the people.” They called this nation the United States of America.
These founding fathers wrote a Constitution outlining the government of their nation. Not once in this document did they use the word “God.” Despite the fact that most of these men had Christian heritage, they were not all Christian. For example, there is evidence that supports the idea that Thomas Jefferson was what is known as a deist. He edited the Bible to create his own version which he titled The Life and Morals of Jesus Christ. His version lacks all references to the supernatural, and is, essentially, a philosophical text. More commonly, people know him for his emphasis on the secular nature of our government.
Today, it is possible to read statements by elected officials on both sides of the political spectrum that claim the United States is a Christian nation. This is in direct opposition with the desires of the founding fathers. A famous quote from Article 11 of the Treaty of Tripoli states, “As the government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion…” The Treaty of Tripoli was ratified by Congress in 1797 while the government of the United States under the Constitution was still very young. Furthermore, as I said, there is no mention of God in the Constitution. The United States is not, and has never been, a Christian nation.
Many people cite the fact that our national motto is “In God We Trust” as evidence that we are a Christian nation. Similarly cited are the inclusion of “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance and the appearance of “In God We Trust” on our money. The truth, that is so often left unsaid, is that “In God We Trust” was created our national motto in the 1950s, at the height of McCarthyism and anti-communism. The “under God” part of the pledge was also added in the 1950s. “In God We Trust” was not included on our money until after the Civil War.
Why does all of that matter? There are countless accusations in the media that atheists, agnostics and other secularists are trying to rewrite the history of this great country. The truth is that it was already rewritten, to the detriment of our government and our civil liberties. Lawmakers think they are upholding our “Christian values” when they do not support equal rights for LGBT individuals. They think they are supporting the ideals of our government when they write language into a bill to pay for spiritual care, when they bend over backwards to prevent federal dollars from funding the completely legal procedure of abortion and when they try to waste money on ineffective abstinence-only-until-marriage sex education programs. When they voted to put “In God We Trust” on the Capital Visitor’s Center, it apparently did not occur to them that would effectively exclude the minority known as nonbelievers that make up 15% of the population. Lawmakers are blind to their affronts to the founding fathers, to the Constitution, and, more importantly, to the citizens of the United States. All of these little things add up, it seems our country has forgotten its true roots.
Every citizen of this country deserves the freedom of religion. They also deserve to be allowed to live a life free of religion if they so choose. The government should have nothing to do with religion, directly or indirectly. It should not be allowed to cloud lawmakers’ reasoning about foreign policy, domestic issues or anything else. This is what the founding fathers wanted, and this is what is best for our government. I wish I could say that our government is not, has never been and will never be a Christian nation, but, unless we do something, our future as a secular country is in jeopardy.