Independence Day Celebrates The Founding Of Our Secular Nation – It’s Not A Religious Holiday
(This is a transcript of Al Stefanelli’s “Voice Of Reason” segment on my American Heathen® Internet Radio Show)
“Millions of innocent men, women and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined and imprisoned; yet we have not advanced one inch towards uniformity.” – Thomas Jefferson, Notes on Virginia, 1782
The USA just celebrated another birthday a few days ago. As an author, journalist and commentator, I write and speak a lot of words throughout the year. Without fail, every fourth of July brings forth the usual cacophony from the religious right about how we were founded as a Christian Nation, blah, blah, blah. Consequently, every year I write and speak the same words that pertain to Historical Revisionism, Politics And The Religious Right. This year is no different, so if you’ve heard or read this before and wondering why you are hearing or reading it again, I’ll tell you why… Because it needs to be said, and nothing has changed throughout the years regarding the denizens of douchebaggery like David Barton and his ilk who are regularly pulling the wool over the eyes of our already largely ignorant citizenry.
On June 7, 1797, the Treaty of Tripoli was signed, then ratified by the Senate. In this treaty are the words, and I quote,
“As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion…”
The sheer number of people who are ignorant about the precepts, concepts and motivation behind the founding of the United States is mind-boggling. The lack of understanding about the purpose behind the American Revolutionary War is equally astounding. The individuals who are insistent that the United States was founded as a Christian nation, on biblical principles (including just about the entire slate of Republican Presidential candidates) have, as my Grandmother used to say, “rocks in their heads.”
They do not understand why we endured those bloody battles, the reasons we decided that we could no longer be part of the Monarchy of United Kingdom or why the Founding Fathers felt it mandatory to dissolve our connection with Britain’s history of repeated violations to the basic human rights of those under it’s rule at the time.
A Little Non-Revisionist History…
The Royal subjects of the colonial-era British Empire were the constant targets of tyranny. The Monarchy was hostile to what was wholesome and necessary for the public good and it is no secret that the residents of the original thirteen colonies were denied protection unless they agreed to relinquish the right of representation. In fact, it was not uncommon for entire legislative bodies to be relieved of their duties because they were not in agreement with the Crown. As well, the members of the Royal Armed Forces were held immune to prosecution, no matter how heinous the crimes against the Subjects of the Crown.
Contrary to what many believe, the American Revolution was not about taxes alone and it had nothing at all to do with establishing a Christian nation. As the Declaration so aptly states, it was about being deprived of such things as the benefits of trial by jury, for taking away our charters, abolishing our most valuable laws, and fundamentally altering the forms government without any input from the people. It was about the Crown suspending its own legislatures and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate in all cases. It was about the ability of the Monarchy to wage war on it’s own citizens and, without reservation, to plunder our seas, ravage our coasts, burn our towns, and destroy the lives of our ancestors without any judicial or legislative regulation.
The list of charges levied toward the Monarchy, and specifically King George III, in the body of the Declaration are numerous and largely unknown by our own citizenry. The crimes against humanity that were committed by the Crown were egregious and many. But instead of recognizing the Declaration of Independence as an important document stating our insistence to individual freedom and a government of the people, by the people and for the people, it has been relegated by the religious right as a weapon to promote their desire to bring the United States back to a form of government that is almost identical to the one we originally fought so hard to be free of.
The sole purpose of the Declaration was to “dissolve the political bands,” not to set up a religious nation. Its authority is based on the idea that “governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,” which is contrary to the biblical concept of the Theocracy that the Religious Right seek to impose upon us.
Fundamentalist Christians work hard to convince us that the founding fathers intended to establish this country on “biblical principles.” History does not support this. Many of the men who signed the Declaration were not bible-believing Christians. This is reflected in the eventual adoption and ratification of the document that actually governs us, the US Constitution, which is a secular document that very purposely begins with “We the people” and does not contain any mention of God or Christianity. It should also be noted that the author of the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson, was a Deist who was vehemently opposed to orthodox Christianity and all things “supernatural.”
“I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should ‘make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,’ thus building a wall of separation between church and State”
The famous “wall of separation” quote that Thomas Jefferson wrote in a letter to the Danbury Baptists in 1802 also includes the statement that, “the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions.” Our government has no right to promulgate religion. The Supreme Court and lower courts have used Jefferson’s “wall of separation” phrase repeatedly in major decisions upholding neutrality in matters of religion.
A Word About Patriotism…
The continued efforts of many secularists to remove the phrase “Under God” from the Pledge of Allegiance are very patriotic and true to the principles that our country was founded upon. Those words did not appear until 1954, under McCarthyism, which was not one our finest hours. Likewise, “In God We Trust” was absent from paper currency before 1956. Our original motto, chosen by John Adams, Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson was “E Pluribus Unum” (Of Many, One) and was meant to celebrate plurality, not theocracy.
The United States of America is not one nation under God, but one nation under a Constitution. The fact that a majority of our citizens are Christian does not make us a Christian nation. On constitutional matters, there is no “majority rule.” The majority has no right to tyrannize the minority on matters such as race, gender, or religious belief (or the lack of religious belief) and the wisest policy is the Constitutional one – neutrality.
The religious right is being decidedly unpatriotic in their quest to drive us back toward the Theocracy that our revolutionary soldiers spilled gallons of blood to be freed from. They are behaving like petulant, spoiled children and are blinded by their own ignorance. They seem to have forgotten that the “due process” clause in the Fourteenth Amendment assures no public official may violate the human rights embodied in our Constitution. At every level, the government must respect the separation of church and state.
The actions of the religious right are mirroring the tyranny of the eighteenth century British Monarchy, which only prove that ignorance of history results in its repetition. It cannot be stated emphatically enough or often enough that the United States of America has never been a Christian nation, nor was it founded on Christian or Biblical principles. It would do good for all of us to remember that the privileges we enjoy as citizens do not come from religion or any deity, but are guarantees that are set forth in our secular constitution.
There is no room in our government for the arrogance of religious belief. It clouds judgment, divides our citizenry, promotes hatred, thwarts scientific discovery, denigrate the human condition, is an affront to the collective of human intelligence and spawns bigotry, discrimination and inhumanity. When religion and government become one, the results are poisonous.
If the tides are not turned back toward the original intentions of our Founding Fathers with respect to a completely secular government, we stand the chance of becoming victims of the same fate as nearly every other country that has fallen under Theocratic rule by religious zealots. If you don’t know what that fate is, you are truly living your life inside a bubble of delusion.