We are not a Christian nation

By Phil Plait | May 7, 2010 9:14 am

I have no problems with people being religious per se. I think that people have the right to believe in whatever they want. If they happen to believe in something that is demonstrably wrong, well then, they should be prepared to suffer the slings and arrows of reality.

The problem tends to come in when some religious people try to impose their religion on others. If you go through my posts on religion, you’ll find that this is where I tend to step in. Want to teach creationism in the classroom? Uh uh. Want to oppress women? Sorry, fella. Think abstinence-only education works and you should get government grants to teach it? Keep it in your own pants, please.

ffr_jfk_religion

The problem is amplified by the fact that pretty much every religion tends to think of itself as the One True Belief. And when they get some political clout, things get very itchy indeed. Or have we already forgotten what the Taliban did to the Buddhas of Bamyan?

That’s why I worry when I hear politicians in the U.S. saying we’re a Christian nation. We’re not. We’re a nation of mostly Christians, to be sure, but there are other religions here as well, and a bunch of non-believers too.

When confronted with this, most of these politicians tend to say the Founding Fathers were Christians, and based this country on Christian beliefs. But that’s not true either: the basis of our country’s law is the Constitution, and the Founders took a great deal of care making sure it kept religion at arm’s length (despite what some politicians believe).

With the far-right going apoplectic every time someone mentions non-believers or religions other than Christianity (remember this?), I imagine the 2012 Presidential election will be one where every candidate tries to out-religious the next. But we have the 2010 midterms coming up, and it’ll be an issue there too.

That’s why I like very much what the Freedom From Religion Foundation is doing: they’ve created wonderful ads with quotes from the Founding Fathers showing precisely how they felt on this issue. The one above of JFK is cool, because his candidacy was attacked for him being a Catholic, of all things. The thing is, he was a religious man, and still understood that religion must be kept away from politics.

But far and away, I love this one the most:

ffr_adams_tripoli

Not a lot of wiggle room in that, is there? Sarah Palin, of course, disagrees (read that link; Barry Lynn’s — sorry, I mean the Reverend Barry Lynn’s — comment there is wonderful). But I suspect that her grasp of the actual history of this nation is somewhat tenuous, given her many inaccurate statements about it and about reality in general.

Anyway, these banners (seven in total) will run on buses, and it’ll be interesting to see how the far-right religious folks will react. I’ll note that the FFRF ran a full-page ad in the New York Times yesterday about how the National Day of Prayer is unconstitutional, which I agree with. Strongly.

What strikes me as funny is how the über-religious in the US fight to tear down the wall of separation, not realizing that they are weakening themselves. What stands between their religion being dominant and, say, Muslims? This is one of the many problems with having religion intertwined with government. As long as it’s your religion, hurray. But see those guys over there praying in a place of worship with slightly different architecture from yours? They feel exactly the same way about their religion as you do about yours. The only way to protect your own freedom of religion is to protect your freedom from theirs.

There are two ways to do that. You can either emulate the Taliban… or you can make sure that laws, politics, and government are kept wholly and, I dare say, fundamentally separated from religion.

The choice is ours.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Piece of mind, Politics, Religion

Comments (327)

  1. rob

    what i like about the link to Keith Ellison’s swearing in oath is that he used a copy of the Koran that THOMAS JEFFERSON owned.

    chuckle.

  2. The issue of which religion is foremost in the government was a problem for the founding fathers just within Christian sects! Each sect viewed itself as the “right” version of Christianity. A good book about this and the founders’ thoughts on the matter is Moral Minority: Our Skeptical Founding Fathers.

  3. Old Bob M

    WHAT DOES THIS HAVE TO DO WITH ASTRONOMY???

    This is an astronomy blog. I open it to read about astronomy and see awesome pics.

    If you want to talk religion or politics please start another blog.
    The people who want to hear your political opinions can read about it there and the rest of us won’t be subjected to it.

    PLEASE!

  4. Patrick

    Well, you’re right up to a point. But note that the constitution says nothing about separation of church and state. That phrase embodies a more modern idea about the concept.

    What the founders sought to avoid was a NATIONAL religion, and more to-the-point, compulsory membership in some national church. They had no problem with the notion that each state might declare an official religion, and at the time, many of the colonies/states DID have official religions.

    The modern idea of “government sponsorship” of religion is so sensitive, that many would view as a violation even the acknowledgment of or engagement with a religious organization by any public entity. It’s starting to get to the point of being crazy.

    I think it’s hard for modern Americans of any viewpoint to grasp how the founders viewed this issue, because our ideas about the role of religion in life (public and private) are so different from those of 200-250 years ago.

    I also have a problem with the very idea of the FFRF, because the main reason for the establishment clause in the first amendment was to protect the free (unfettered, unregulated, unrestricted) exercise of religion. The FFRF and many other groups today clearly seek to prevent any publicly visible expression or exercise of religion – they want to push religion underground. This is in clear conflict with the aims of the first amendment.

  5. Scott

    I actually went to a Tea Party rally recently just to see for myself what it’s all about. One of the speakers (a minister) went on and on about how this country was founded to be a Christian country and how Christians have to take back their country. It was really disappointing to hear. I won’t go into details, but I’ll say that the only points that were made which may have had some merit they didn’t present enough factual evidence to further prove anything they had to say. It’s pretty sad, too, because the audience seemed to have plenty of decent people listening.

  6. Neill Raper

    I absolutely agree with the sentiment on the billboards, and it is true that the founding fathers did not found this nation as a christian nation. Even if they did though, who cares? Every old white guy in history could have been a raging theocrat and that would not make church state separation a bad idea or theocracy a good one.

    Something as important as church state separation should not stand or fall on the specifics of the history of our nation, even if the history is on the right side.

  7. Plutonium being from Pluto

    Generally I agree here but with a few caveats worth keeping in mind :

    With the far-right going apoplectic every time someone mentions non-believers or religions other than Christianity

    In fairness, that’s only some (okay many – sadly & for now) on the far-right NOT all.

    There *are* I think some Libertarians out there on the far-right who will – in the famous phrase commonly attributed to (but apparently not actually said by) Voltaire :

    “Disagree with what you say but will fight to the death for your right to say it.”

    I imagine the 2012 Presidential election will be one where every candidate tries to out-religious the next.

    2012 is still a very long way away. A week is a long time in politics, never mind another two years. ;-)

    But we have the 2010 midterms coming up,

    Plus there’s a federal election in Australia & there’s just been an election in the United Kingdom (result still unclear) & my own state of South Australia has just had an election a few months ago as well. Seems its election year everywhere.

    No wonder the political temperature seems to have risen. ;-)

    What stands between their religion [Christianity] being dominant and, say, Muslims?

    People. A given nation’s prevailing demography and culture (which is, in turn, derived from said nation’s history & includes said nations generalised set of cultural norms and values) that’s what determines it I’d say. ;-)

    The problem tends to come in when some religious people try to impose their religion on others.

    Yes I agree – but I think you need to extend this to the new semi-religion of being “green” too.

    Now I ‘m in favour of behaving responsibly as far as the environment goes – reduce, recycle, reuse, all that jazz. But I think we have to be careful to avoid a situation where the modern “green morality” is imposed by government fiat against everyone regardless of other things incl. common sense & economic & social fairness.

    I do NOT think you can legislate morality whether that is teetotal-ism eg. the Prohibition, Puritanism eg. witch-burnings or modern extreme green-ism.

    Government should, as much as possible stay out the way – it should fund NASA, fund the army, help the poor and keep the peace but not poke itself into people’s faiths or impose other people’s ideologies or nanny-state laws on everyone.

    I think there is much to be said for a mildly libertarian system of governance.

    I think Robert Heinlein spoke quite a bit of sense and imagined some good possible examples of how we could do things eg. his lunar society.

    See : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Moon_Is_a_Harsh_Mistress#Politics_and_society

  8. “There are two ways to do that. You can either emulate the Taliban… or you can make sure that laws, politics, and government are kept wholly and, I dare say, fundamentally separated from religion.”

    in general i agree with the post. but i disagree that there are two ways. many european nations have much more mixing of church & state than the USA on paper, with england, norway and denmark having established church. but i don’t think that means that they’re necessarily on a slippery slope to the taliban. in fact, they’re all way more secular in terms of personal piety than the USA is.

  9. timebinder

    This is Thor’s world, and we’re just living in it.

  10. ozprof

    Hi BA,

    If you are so interested in promoting seperation of church and state (something I totally support) then how come you have never promoted the International Religious Liberty Association? http://www.irla.org/

    For well over 100 years they have been foremost in the promotion in the promotion of religious freedom, including freedom FROM religion, both in the USA and internationally. In the USA for example, they have been the leaders in promoting the overturning of so-called “blue laws” restricting peoples’ freedom to do what they wish on a Sunday.

    They have a magazine called “Liberty”. It is available either by subscription or online. http://www.libertymagazine.org/

    If anyone is interested in seperation of church and state, this magazine provides wonderful insights into the history of church/state relations, current trends, court cases, etc.

  11. Doug Little

    Here we go again. Paging all concern trolls to Phil’s blog there are plenty of fainting couches available, pick up your complimentary string of pearls to clutch on the way through.

    How many comments before we are gonna get someone telling Phil that they really like his blog but that he should just stick to astronomy based posts and that he has offended their delicate religious sensibilities and won’t be visiting here again?

    My vote is 10.

    Oh and good on the FFRF, its about time someone started to correct the revisionist history buffs out there. I wonder if the Texas board of education will try and cut anybody that appears on these billboards out of their curriculum.

  12. What strikes me as funny is how the über-religious in the US fight to tear down the wall of separation, not realizing that they are weakening themselves. What stands between their religion being dominant and, say, Muslims?

    This always amuses me. When people say there should be prayer in the schools, they really mean “There should be prayer in the schools that matches my religious beliefs.” If you say “Sure” to those pro-prayer groups and then put some Wiccan prayer in the schools, you’d get to watch them quickly shift to claiming that being forced to say Wiccan prayers was a violation of their Constitutional right of Freedom of Religion.

    You can either emulate the Taliban… or you can make sure that laws, politics, and government are kept wholly and, I dare say, fundamentally separated from religion.

    Whatever you do, don’t give the religious right that choice. They would love to turn America into The Land Of The Christian Taliban.

    Oh, one last point, they tend to couch their terminology as “judeo-christian” but you know that, were they to implement a Christian Taliban, the “judeo” part would be dropped quickly. Suddenly, not worshiping Jesus would be a crime and Jews would be forced to convert (possibly practicing in secret). It’s happened before in history when Christianity had Taliban-level (or greater) power. As someone who’s Jewish, this frightens me. (Don’t think it’d happen here, look to the Southern Baptist ministers who repeatedly claim that it’s their purpose in life to convert the Jews.)

  13. To tack on to what Razib said, Japan’s officially a Shinto nation, though the populace generally seems a bit more secular.

    @Techy Dad

    They would love to turn America into The Land Of The Christian Taliban.

    John Stewart did an amusing bit on The Daily Show several weeks back satirizing Glen Beck where he made that connection. Worth the watch, for those who haven’t seen it.

  14. Jim

    Well, in honesty, those weren’t specifically Adams’ words, they were the Treaty’s words. The Treaty was drafted under Jefferson and approved unanimously under Adams. Adams did say, “Rulers who wish to subvert the public liberty may have found an established Clergy convenient auxiliaries. A just government, instituted to secure & perpetuate it, needs them not.”

  15. @Neill Raper,

    There’s a very good reason (one that the religious right ignores) as to why the Founding Fathers separated the government and religion. They came from England where the King was the head of the Church. They saw all of the abuses that led to and didn’t want a similar situation arising here. So just like they put checks and balances to prevent any one section of government from getting too powerful, they separated religion and government so no governmental figure could claim divine mandates and abuse his authority.

  16. jasonB

    Sarah Palin and the Taliban in the same post. Not one mention on Barack Obama sitting in the Rev. Wright’s happy little church for 20 years.

    Priceless.

    P.S. Please don’t bother with the “He’s not trying to push his beliefs on us.”.

  17. Adam

    I myself am religious, but I agree 100% with these ads and what they stand for. This country was founded on the right of ANYONE to practice their religion as freely as anyone else. It worries me how much religion has started playing a role in things in the last decade.

  18. If this country is based on Christianity, why are the Bill of Rights (the country’s founding principles) antithetical to the ten commandments (Christianity’s founding principles)? The first amendment allows me to loudly proclaim my interest in a variety of gods and in my neighbor’s ass.

  19. Sir Craig

    I frequently encounter the “America is a Christian nation” types, and if they are speaking directly to me (otherwise I just tend to ignore them – I don’t suffer fools lightly) I will correct them and say, “No, this is a nation primarily of Christians.”

    Of course the distinction seems to go over most of their heads, so I elaborate: “Saudi Arabia, Iran, etc., are Muslim nations – their laws are based on strict adherence to the Qur’an. America is not a Christian nation because our laws are not based on strict adherence to the Bible. Our laws are secular (as long as you don’t include ‘blue laws’), hence America is a secular nation.”

    Sometimes this gives the less fervent among the “Xtian nation” types pause for thought, but usually the ahistorical revisionism breaks out at that point and I simply walk away – it would take too long and the goalposts tend to be moved far too often by these loons…

  20. Old Bob M (#4): Funny, I didn’t see your name on this blog. Since my name is on it, I get to write what I want. And oh– you might want to read this.

  21. jasonb (#17): When Obama tries to foist his own religious beliefs on the public, then I’ll write about him, too. Or did you miss my entire point in the second paragraph of this post?

  22. BJN

    @jasonB

    He’s not trying to push his beliefs on us.

  23. NewEnglandBob

    I disagree with nearly 100% with the conclusions Plutonium being from Pluto Says said above.

    Libertarianism has been proven wrong.

  24. “We’re a nation of mostly Christians, to be sure….”

    Well, no, actually. We’re a nation of people, most of whom try to kid themselves into thinking that they’re Christians, but who couldn’t, say, explain the Nicene Creed to a curious Martian if their lives depended on it.

    “[T]he basis of our country’s law is the Constitution….”

    A trap that right-wingers and left-wingers both fall into. The basis of American law is the Common Law, incorporating Equity, of England. The Constitution (and its amendments) merely does some limiting and reshaping thereupon, as well as laying out the basic rules of a new federal and republican structure to operate under.

    As to Razib Khan’s point, yes, the American system is not the only one possible. The Church of England is still an established church, after all, with Queen Elizabeth as its head, and England has not descended into a maelstrom of sectarian tyranny. But one must also ask, is that sort of thing good for the church? Speaking as an American observer, I might have thought that fifty, or even forty years ago. Today, what is left of the Church of England? As St. Paul learned, the appeal to Caesar is a two-edged sword.

  25. Utakata

    You’re are supposed to add one of these ;) NEB @ #24.

  26. John Paradox

    @13. TechyDad Says:

    This always amuses me. When people say there should be prayer in the schools, they really mean “There should be prayer in the schools that matches my religious beliefs.” If you say “Sure” to those pro-prayer groups and then put some Wiccan prayer in the schools, you’d get to watch them quickly shift to claiming that being forced to say Wiccan prayers was a violation of their Constitutional right of Freedom of Religion.

    Check out this classic cartoon about ‘organized school prayers’…..

    J/P=?

  27. I am all for a small government. First step: Remove all the religious parasites.

    That leaves religious folks with… everything they had to start with. Prayer, fellowship, the right to vote their conscience, etc.

    It does put a bit of a kink in church income, though. No more tax free ride there. :P

  28. @5. Patrick Says:

    The FFRF and many other groups today clearly seek to prevent any publicly visible expression or exercise of religion – they want to push religion underground. This is in clear conflict with the aims of the first amendment.

    Patrick,

    You are wrong in your belief that FFRF (can’t speak for “other groups?”) wants to push religion underground by preventing any public visible expression or exercise of religion. What we try to prevent is government, at any level, expressing religion. We believe in freedom of religion or conversely from religion, but do oppose religion being advocated by government through governmental public displays. We will never stand in the way of religion to enjoy the right to free speech. We believe in protecting the Constitution of the United States of America, are deeply patriotic and by our actions will protect your right to freedom of religion by maintaining separation of church and state.

  29. I’m swiss and worried : I have some US dollars notes on which I can read “In God We Trust”. Are they counterfeits ?

    On older coins and official papers I can read “E Pluribus Unum”, so I guess your country wasn’t based on religion at Adams time, but now it is.

    G.W. Bush (remember, he was a president to…) was very clear on this : “No, I don’t know that atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered patriots. This is one nation under God.” (http://www.positiveatheism.org/writ/ghwbush.htm )

  30. DataJack

    Patrick @5 “The FFRF and many other groups today clearly seek to prevent any publicly visible expression or exercise of religion – they want to push religion underground” – This is simply not true. They don’t want ” publicly visible expression or exercise of religion” on the government’s (read: tax payer’s) dime or on the government’s (read: tax payer’s) property. That’s it. They don’t care at all what the religious do on their PRIVATE property with their PRIVATE money.

  31. Elice Farlin

    Patrick, the phrase “Separation of Church and State” is not a modern one. It was coined by none other than Thomas Jefferson:

    “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 prohibit the free exercise thereof, thus building a wall of separation between church and state. ”

    A separation was indeed what the founding fathers had in mind.

  32. Um, Phil, what about Obama directing the Justice Department to appeal the decision that stated the National Day of Prayer was on consutitutional?? Isn’t that Obama in some way pushing his beliefs into law?

  33. Tod

    @Old Bob M: Sorry to disagree but it is Phil’s blog and while astronomy is the chief topic around here, Phil does have opinions on many other (and interesting) topics. I for one enjoy the occasional breath of fresh air when he writes about religion, paranormal quackery, “intelligent” design, and such. If such topics don’t interest you, click your version of the “next” key or the “delete” key or whatever. Move smartly along…

    In fact, Phil in not merely an astronomer, he is a person of letters who is a natural teacher in that he is able to explain some pretty heavy subjects in language that I (decidedly non-math/science-oriented) and my kids can understand.

    @BA: Keep up the great work! You are my morning companion to my first cup of coffee.

    -Tod

  34. Doug Little

    Crap I was wrong on my prediction it only took 4.

  35. DataJack

    jasonb (#17) That’s because he is not trying to force his religion upon us. :) (And he is also not trying to rewrite our history.)

  36. TheBlackCat

    Old Bob M:

    This is an astronomy blog. I open it to read about astronomy and see awesome pics.

    No, this is primarily a skeptical blog. It’s original purpose was dealing with skeptical issues that had to deal with astronomy, but it has branched out into more general skepticism and more general astronomy. In fact the original Bad Astronomy website, which this blog replaced, dealt almost entirely with skeptical issues that had some relation to astronomy. There was very little plain astronomy. It was never a straight astronomy blog, it always dealt with attacking pseudoscience, pseudohistory (which this qualifies as), and irrationality. I am not sure where people got the idea this was ever exclusively or even primarily a blog about astronomy, anyone who has followed the blog since the beginning would know this idea bears no relation to reality in any way.

  37. I’ll add my chorus of support for Phil and FFRF. Mostly because I have a mancrush on Phil, and I am a member of FFRF.

    And here is a contribution from Jim Walker on the subject as well: http://larianlequella.blogspot.com/2008/12/not-christian-nation-just-nation-of.shtml

  38. Ian

    Hey Phil,

    I’m very disappointed that you’ve missed the real truth here. As I Buddhist, I can assure you that this is a Buddhist nation. As you may know, the syllable “om” is the start of our most common mantra. The 2 letter combination “om” appears 8 times in the Bill of Rights, which is clearly a mandate from our founding fathers that this country should be based on Buddhist beliefs.

    JEFFERSON AND ADAMS WERE CLOSET BUDDHISTS!!!!

    Sorry about that. I just felt that Christians have been bogarting the crazy talk for far too long and I wanted to try it out.

    Mad props to FFRF for doing this.

  39. DataJack

    Shane Brady (#33): I have to admit it is baffling what President Obama is doing concerning the National Day of Prayer (and faith-based initiatives, and meeting with Billy Graham, etc.).

  40. Tomisitalouisa

    AMEN! This post should be read by every American!

  41. Sir Craig

    Dr. Goulu:

    I cannot figure out if your sense of humor is simply lame or you are that clueless. One hint: E Pluribus Unum is Latin for, “From Many, One”. There is no inherently religious meaning to it. Also, the “In God We Trust” was a (relatively) recent addition to our country’s currency and did not actually become our national motto until 1956, courtesy of a kneejerk reaction to communism. (source)

    I won’t allow you to blame this on you being Swiss, because I’ve known quite a few Swiss who would understand what Phil has written, but had you taken the time to read the freaking article you’d notice there is nothing in it about Phil or anyone else running for political office; this is about maintaining a very concrete separation between church and state and its historical roots.

  42. TheBlackCat

    @ Sir Craig: I think that was his point, that the religious In God We Trust has replaced the older, secular E Pluribus Unum.

  43. sean

    love this blog …. love the response … enough said i think!

  44. @Dr. Goulu

    I’m swiss and worried : I have some US dollars notes on which I can read “In God We Trust”. Are they counterfeits ?

    While a lot of people today argue that the “In God We Trust” is not a statement of religion, that it does not refer to a specific deity and that it is a mere colloquialism, the original law that added the phrase to U.S. currency was passed in the mid 1900s and could be argued to have been unconstitutional. This is similar to the addition of “under God” to the Pledge of Allegiance, also in the mid 1900s.

  45. @Patrick

    They had no problem with the notion that each state might declare an official religion, and at the time, many of the colonies/states DID have official religions.

    While it is true that at the time, some of the states did have official religions, the law, as it stands, is that the Constitution is the supreme law of the land and states shall not abridge any of the rights or responsibilities established by the Constitution. In other words, separation of church and state applies at both the Federal and State levels.

  46. Excellent post, Phil. The revisionist nonsense regarding the clear intent of the drafters of the Constitution, particularly Amendment 1, irritates me to no end. It is important to note that the Treaty of Tripoli quote not only explicitly and contemporaneously states the intent of Amendment 1, and the Constitution generally, but the Treaty itself retains the full force and effect of any US law today. It has never been revoked nor repealed.

    Mad, mad props to the FFRF!

  47. Oscar

    I don’t want to sound like a lowly plebian among al of these really comments (which I just learned a lot from btw) but I’m not really sure what the problem with the National Day of Prayer is. For one, I never even knew it existed and it isn’t mandatory that we participate, right? It’s like when people have a problem with Black History Month because they feel as if black people shouldn’t have “a month all to themselves”…its fine to think this way, so just don’t participate in it, but that doesn’t mean we have to get rid of it. can someone please explain. Thanks!

  48. QuietDesperation

    I actually went to a Tea Party rally recently just to see for myself what it’s all about. One of the speakers (a minister) went on and on about how this country was founded to be a Christian country and how Christians have to take back their country.

    I really wish someone would start a moderate movement or party focused strictly on politcial issues and devoid of religion. Religious people are welcome, but be advised there will be NO policy or platform planks based on theology.

    There’s nothing left in any political party (majord or minor) here in the USA for a sane person. It’s just tribes of fools sitting around in echo chambers. :-(

    I’m swiss and worried : I have some US dollars notes on which I can read “In God We Trust”. Are they counterfeits ?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/In_God_We_Trust

    Took five seconds to find that. The Internet is a powerful tool, folks, and even better when you learn how to use it.

  49. MoonShark

    Great post, good use of links, and I couldn’t agree more. Unfortunately I was ill and missed an opportunity to meet FFRF’s Dan Barker a few weeks ago. Darn it.

  50. I was a student of Leo Pfeffer, who was a leading Constitutional litigator of the 1960’s and 1970’s and had the privilege of attending several of his arguments before SCOTUS. Prof. Pfeffer was the person who coined the term ‘secular humanism’ but was a devout Jew. Years ago someone asked me what kind of Jew I am (meaning Reform, Conservative or Orthodox). My reply was simple, “By Choice.” My father escaped a Luftwaffe POW camp in 1943 and spent time in Switzerland before being repatriated to the US. He saw what the Swiss did for their Nazi friends, and, in protest, converted. He was quite content with that choice. Government and religion in the US should never, ever mix. Period.

  51. Japhy

    (48) Please just snopes.com National Day of Prayer. Obama has not “canceled” it, he is just breaking from the very recent tradition set forth by George W Bush in not having a public ceremony. Since it’s creation in the 1950, only W has had annually held very public ceremonies. Not Reagan, not Carter, not Clinton, and not George H.W. Bush, only George W. So if anything Obama is going back to the standard tradition of privately held ceremonies.

  52. A little note on the Treaty of Tripoli: The treaty was drafted during the Washington administration and ratified under Adams. Shows that even Washington, a theist, understood the new government to be secular.

  53. Mark Smith

    Same argument goes for granting government ANY power that a subsequent administration could come in and use for unintended purposes.

  54. James

    The smugness of some atheists is pretty astounding. Hell, I’m agnostic, but the “I don’t believe in god therefor I am smarter than you” attitude its freakin’ hilarious sometimes :). Keep it up, you only make yourselves look like idiots.

  55. Mike

    NewEnglandBob
    “Libertarianism has been proven wrong.”

    Really? Then it’s strange how “live and let live” is so darn popular!

  56. Re: People responding to Dr. Goulu. Is there some kind of Internet meme similar to Poe’s Law, that no matter how obviously sarcastic a comment may be, there will still be dumbasses who take it seriously?

  57. Kirk

    @33 Shane Brady

    The explanation given by the Obama Administration is probably that, as the executive branch, he has a duty to enforce current laws, etc., even if he doesn’t personally agree with them. Now, I don’t know if the Day of Prayer is actually in the statute, but the DOJ directive at least feels along the same lines.

    So, welcome to my world! I, along with most other politically active gay folks in the country have seen this sort of thing in action throughout Obama’s first term. The DOJ dutifully goes out to fight to maintain laws that discriminate against gay people, as Obama wrings his hands and says that he just HAS to enforce them, even if he hates them himself. It’s up to Congress, he says, to change laws, not seeming to accept that courts can reject laws, and the executive can then accept the decision.

    So now, atheists and skeptics could be seeing a little of this too. Obama does a good job actually including non-believers in his speeches, but then maintains a practice that actively excludes them. Feel free to join the fight on my side, since I’m all for rejecting the Day of Prayer, too, and maybe together, we can get Obama to start practicing what he preaches on these politically touchy issues.

  58. Terry

    I am not religious at all, and I wholeheartedly believe in the separation of church and state. But I don’t see what the big deal is about a National Prayer Day.

    To those who think it is unconstitutional, do you also fight to have Black History Month eliminated because it is racist? Should I fight to get National Secretaries Day revoked because I am not a secretary?

    Why can’t we just ignore those things that do not apply to ourselves, and let others have their fun? If it does not apply to me, I can ignore it without feeling the need to impose my intolerance on others. As long as it is not compulsory, who cares what others do with their free time.

  59. jasonB

    Phil

    You and I probably aren’t that far apart on this. Although our motivations are more than likely light years apart. I’ll let you, whom I’m positive is A LOT better at the math than I am, convert that to Kilometers or Miles. I just thought the Palin/Taliban connection was a bit of a reach. That’s all.

    This is why a very limited government is desirable. Let a politician stand up and scream about God, Allah, Buddha, Santa Claus or socialized medicine. If he or she she has specified, limited power then their rants/beliefs won’t be nearly as ominous to all.

  60. JamesH

    @ John W. Kennedy (25):

    “The Church of England is still an established church, after all, with Queen Elizabeth as its head, and England has not descended into a maelstrom of sectarian tyranny”…

    No indeed, but Ireland hasn’t exactly been without sectarian problems related, at least in part, to the establishment of religions and the Queen’s role therein (though, as the phrase goes, I think you’ll find it’s a bit more complicated than that).

  61. Somedays I think Phil just likes to stir things up a bit.

  62. @58 Kirk

    But once the law is declared unconstitutional, he’s not compelled to continue to enforce it. He doesn’t have to appeal it.

  63. John

    @Oscar (#48)

    Obviously nobody is REQUIRED to pray on the NDoP, but that isn’t the objection. By having a NDoP, the government is implicitly valuing “those who pray” over “those who do not pray”, which is inappropriate.

  64. The Panic Man

    James @55: Pot, kettle, black.

    Mike @56: Here’s a hint; that philosophy has existed long before your pathetic, childlike political system.

  65. Doug Little

    The smugness of some atheists is pretty astounding. Hell, I’m agnostic, but the “I don’t believe in god therefor I am smarter than you attitude its freakin’ hilarious sometimes”

    And that smugness is present in this post where? I guess mentioning factual information about the history of this country is now considered smug.

    Oh and it is hilarious, but I don’t think in the way that you think it means.

    Keep it up, you only make yourselves look like idiots.

    Yeah, that’s right, I’m an idiot for NOT believing in a magic man in the sky that will hand out personal favors to people if they prop up his ego enough and that my particular magic man is correct over the thousands of other magic men that I could have chosen from.

  66. Jojo

    Has anyone considered that religion was really an early attempt at social networking? Most people want to belong to a group and many are most comfortable associating with people who think just like they do. Religions serve these purposes nicely.

    Through much (all?) of history, being a member of a [dominant] religion was good protection and insurance. You paid something in the form of a tithe, which kept you in good standing and helped propagate the underlying organization that provide you with protection. It was a good deal all around.

    Now, younger people are moving away from religion in ever increasing numbers, perhaps replacing old style region with membership in social networks like Facebook, MySpace, etc.

    —————
    Young Americans Losing Their Religion
    New Research Finds Number Who Claim No Church Has Risen Sharply
    May 6, 2009–

    New research shows young Americans are dramatically less likely to go to church — or to participate in any form of organized religion — than their parents and grandparents.

    “It’s a huge change,” says Harvard University professor Robert Putnam, who conducted the research.

    …..

    http://abcnews.go.com/print?id=7513343

  67. JT

    @ 55, James

    Perhaps you would care to point out where anyone actually said that in this topic?

    LOL, who am I kidding, of course you wouldn’t. You’re so naturally superior that no such proof is needed, right?

  68. Neill Raper

    TechyDad:
    I completely agree. All I was saying is it is the very good reasons like the one you mentioned, and not the somewhat weak argument of “founding fathers said so” that should determine the validity of church state.

    It is true that the false historical claims about America being a “christian nation” need to be countered, but not in the context of defending church state. Church state separation can be defended on its own merits (as you just demonstrated) and I think it is a mistake to conflate an argument against someone who is making those false historical claims and an argument for church state separation.

    I’m not really saying Phil did this either, I was just making an observation. Sorry if it seemed like I was being more contentious than I was trying to be.

  69. Jojo

    btw: The FFrF link only generates an error:

    Database Error: Unable to connect to your database. Your database appears to be turned off or the database connection settings in your config file are not correct. Please contact your hosting provider if the problem persists.

  70. sophia8

    JasonB @59: …the Palin/Taliban connection was a bit of a reach
    Not all that much of a reach. Try Googling “Dominion Theology Sarah Palin”.

  71. Gus Snarp

    Some great quotes on religion by Jefferson are compiled in this video. Old TJ sounds almost like PZ. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5j5ncmZizJ0 Take Olbermann and Kos’s commentary on Palin as you will, but you can’t get around that at least some of the founding fathers were decidedly opposed to the notion of this as a Christian Nation. That’s why Texas wants to expunge as much of Jefferson’s legacy as they can from history books.

  72. Richard Wolford

    The smugness of some atheists is pretty astounding. Hell, I’m agnostic, but the “I don’t believe in god therefor I am smarter than you” attitude its freakin’ hilarious sometimes :) . Keep it up, you only make yourselves look like idiots.

    Citation please? Oh, and you do know Phil worked on Hubble, right? What have you done exactly other than troll blogs?

  73. A friend wrote on this topic. The Myth – Part I begins his 4 part series.

    This is important for those of us interested in critical judgment, not just interested in astronomy, although the concern trolls don’t comment on the astronomy posts.

    Without critical judgment, we become just a nation of blind followers. We might as well just be members of a less evolved species.

  74. “The problem is amplified by the fact that pretty much every religion tends to think of itself as the One True Belief. ”

    Though they are hardly dominant in American culture, few east asian religions think of themselves as the “One True Belief”…that is a paradigm largely occupied by western monotheism.

  75. Theron

    Bob – Phil’s site. He can post what he wants.

    Patrick – You obviously have no clue what it means to be a religious minority.

  76. Woody Tanaka

    “I don’t want to sound like a lowly plebian among al of these really comments (which I just learned a lot from btw) but I’m not really sure what the problem with the National Day of Prayer is. For one, I never even knew it existed and it isn’t mandatory that we participate, right?”

    Because, voluntary or not, it is a call from the secular government to perform a religious ritual. That is improper, as it can have no secular purpose, favors religion over irreligion and improperly entangles religion in government.

  77. QuietDesperation

    Libertarianism has been proven wrong.

    Bwuh?

    You know, there *are* some places where the tropes of science simply do not belong.

    You can’t prove “Libertarianism” wrong or right. Any ideology, in general, is a set of basic ideas and approaches to how to make a society function. Any ideological tribe will have different schools and sects and splinter groups. Thinking that you can prove something as amorphous as an ideology “wrong” is just playing into the idea that there is One True Path to a functioning civilization.

    I’ve yet to find a politcial/economic ideology that is 100% wrong or right. My personal beef is people picking one and refusing to entertain anything outside their selected reality bubble. Most of the time the answer to “does this part of it work” is “it depends.” It’s a complex world, and every ideology might score a hit somewhere while the same thing utterly fails somewhere else.

    Until people can stop viewing the world as some sort of fixed, simple machine that will only run a single operating system it will be a big mess.

  78. @ QD:

    Until people can stop viewing the world as some sort of fixed, simple machine that will only run a single operating system it will be a big mess.

    Vote for MAC in 2012!

    :P

  79. Steve

    Not for nothing, but there seemed to be a strong Deist and Unitarian trend to the founding fathers. That should give some of those “Chrtistian Nation” folks a bit of a coniption.

  80. el jefe

    Hey Phil, I agree with Old Bob M in as much as you should write more content about both astronomy and your political/religious views; yet rather in the same place. If only you weren’t so busy with seekrit projects and the like, we could pick your brain more.

    I have been riding the fence between atheism and faith based belief in God for a long time now; I saw faith based rather than “Christian” because there is a huge difference, mainly that it doesn’t involve religion or bunches of idiots babbling nonsense, just faith. After perusing your open brain along with that of James Randi, I’m fairly certain that I can soon rid myself of the “faith” training wheels that are lopsided and not really grounded in any way that I have been living with for nearly 32 years. I can’t claim to be agnostic since I personally don’t believe there is a middle ground to the issue, wither God (Allah, whatever) exists or he/she/it doesn’t. Regardless, these belief systems only serve to cloud up politics that are only clear as mud to begin with and should be left at home or in church.

    Keep up the good work, you do us proud.

  81. ssurell

    I despise politicians who invoke God’s name. HOW DARE THEY! These are men and women who, mostly, lie and cheat and some even kill to get and keep their office! HOW DARE THEY!

  82. Kassul

    @el jefe:
    (A)Theism and (a)gnosticism aren’t points along a single-dimensional line, they’re orthogonal.

    (A)Gnosticism is a marker for if you claim to ‘know'(gnosis) if a claim is true or not, and (a)theism is a stance on belief on the claim of the existence of a god or gods.

    One may be an agnostic atheist(don’t believe that any god(s) exist, but don’t claim to know it), an gnostic atheist(claims to know that no god(s) exist), an agnostic theist(I believe that there are god(s), but doesn’t claim to know it) or a gnostic theist(claims to know that god(s) exist).

    Agnostics aren’t a middle ground between atheist and theists, they’re just talking about a stuff along the y-axis instead of the x-axis. They can be(and agnostics are) all over the place along the x-axis too.

  83. Sili

    What stands between their religion being dominant and, say, Muslims?

    Arizona immigration laws.

  84. Keep in mind also that the Founding Fathers were not some monolithic group where everyone agreed and believed in the same things. The Constitution is a compromise document written by a convention with disparate interests. The prohibition on the federal government making laws favoring one religion over again is a good example, as it was intended to head off potential confessional schisms in the country as the form of Christianity practiced in Massachusetts differed greatly from that practiced in Virginia.

    And Thomas Jefferson was an odd duck (though there is no excuse for Texas not including him in the curriculum). Great intellect, decent president, but I am glad he wasn’t president in the early 1790s, when he probably would have gotten us involved with France’s genocidal government.

  85. Mike

    @65 The Panic Man Says
    “Here’s a hint; that philosophy has existed long before your pathetic, childlike political system.”

    There’s nothing like being called names! Does anyone moderate this website on behalf of the grown-ups?

  86. SLC

    Re Steve @ #80

    It should be noted that Jefferson, Adams, Franklin, and Madison were not believing Christians, rather cultural Christians. They all rejected the deification of Yeshua of Nazareth, the Virgin Birth, the Resurrection, and the Trinity. They might best be describe as non-Christian theists (not Deists as they believed in an intervening god). It is also somewhat doubtful that Washington was a believing Christian as, although he attended church services and was a vestryman at several Episcopal Churches, he always left after the sermon and never took communion.

  87. mike burkhart

    In answer to your frist question :no and to your secnod no (I refuse to answer the third) Look the problem is not religon it extremism on both sides. Athests (maybe not all but some)seem to think they can wipe out religon well good luck people have tried to do that for 1000 of years the Christian right seem to feel that they impose Christaianty on this nation and maybe the worldgood luck the church tried that in the middle ages with out sucess(by the way Jesus dose not want people forced to worship him they seem to have cut out of there Bibles that man is free to accept or reject God)Insted of trying to be tolerent they are both trying to destory the other I’m going to sit back and watch because this will end like the Star Trek episode “Let that be your last battlefeld” I think all should watch that episode

  88. mike burkhart

    In answer to your frist question :no and to your secnod no (I refuse to answer the third) Look the problem is not religon it extremism on both sides. Athests (maybe not all but some)seem to think they can wipe out religon well good luck people have tried to do that for 1000 of years the Christian right seem to feel that they impose Christaianty on this nation and maybe the worldgood luck the church tried that in the middle ages with out sucess(by the way Jesus dose not want people forced to worship him they seem to have cut out of there Bibles that man is free to accept or reject God)Insted of trying to be tolerent they are both trying to destory the other I’m going to sit back and watch because this will end like the Star Trek episode “Let that be your last battlefeld” I think all should watch that episode

  89. Daniel

    Some founders were quite religious and others were not. There also never was, and never has been, a wall of separation between religious beliefs and the state. If the founders believed that, they would not have opened every day at Congress with a prayer.

    I personally am not at all religious, and while I don’t purport to speak for religious people, but if I had to venture a guess, much of the religious fervor recently, especially in the political realm, is a response to people like the guy who wanted to a court order taking the word “god” out of the pledge of allegiance and folks who have nothing better to do with their time than go after nativity scenes on public property.

    A lot of people are religious and believe in weird things. Like anyone else, they tend to take these personal beliefs where they go, which includes the political realm. They aren’t forcing anyone to go to church, a mosque, or wherever, and aren’t coming into your house and confiscating your Richard Dawkins books.

    Sometimes they do go over the line when, for example, they try to get public schools to teach creationism as science. But on the whole, people just have to get over it.

  90. I dare say what Obama is chiefly doing is kicking the matter upstairs to the Supreme Court to get it settled once and for all.

  91. Matt

    A person may practice his or her chosen religion as he or she wishes right up to the point that it interferes with the practice of another person’s religion. QED: no formal prayer in school, the government doesn’t want to deal with sorting out whose prayers are whose. If you feel the need to pray in school, go ahead, nobody’s stopping you. The law is meant to protect the people from themselves, that’s why religion is separate. There are too many beliefs out there to choose just one set to base our country on. We’re supposed to take pride in being diverse; I don’t want this Great Melting Pot to become a Great Boiling Pot.

  92. Problem is Phil, you are a zealot Atheist and that too is a religion.

    Also you focus only on the religious right, but that goes back to you being a sub-par political blogger.

  93. jasonB

    sophia8

    I guess if it’s on the internet, it just has to be correct.

    When Palin starts advocating the blowing up of heathen idols, killing of rape victims, murder of educated women and suicide bombings the whole Palin/Taliban thing will stick. Until then it’s a bunch of nonsense.

  94. @The Arquette Sisters

    Do you have a substantive example of where Phil’s argument is flawed? Be specific.

  95. vel

    If we are a “Christian Nation” then why did the people who founded the US forget to mention the bible once or religious laws once in the offcial documents of creating the nation? Why didn’t they just say “see the bible” when coming up with laws? The constant lies that some Christians tell to fabricate a false history is sad and evidence that their supposed “faith” is worthless since they do not care that their God supposedly hates lies and liars. Atheism isn’t a religion any more than not playing baseball is a sport. “Arquette sisters” you are an example of type of Christian who is too lazy and willfully ignorant to say anythign true. You simply prate what you have been told.

  96. Tikki

    If you want to keep religion and politics separate, encourage Congress to vote against HR 397 (formerly introduced as HR 888) http://www.govtrack.us/congress/bill.xpd?bill=h110-397
    You can find plenty of well explained debunking of the myths expressed in this House Resolution here http://www.talk2action.org/story/2009/7/19/181910/929

  97. Theron

    Arquette Sisters @92:

    No, atheism is not a religion. It is no more a religion than eating beef is a religion. That some people have a religious belief about not eating cows does not make eating cows a religious act for others. That some people believe in an invisible magic man in the sky does not mean that those who do not are religious. Atheism, to the contrary, is a rationalist position, based on the fact that there is no evidence for the existence of any supernatural beings. Religion is faith – things believed in the absence of evidence.

    We’re not part of your club, really. It’s not all about you – get over yourself.

  98. We are a Christian nation. We aren’t a Christian nation. It’s just a question of semantics really. Is it a library because their are books in it, or are there books in it because it’s a library? It’s a hollow slogan, and like so many slogans, it means nothing if you deign to think on it, and thus it’s not really vulnerable to direct attack. I personally prefer not to obsess over it. We are a nation run by laws, enshrined in these laws are inalienable rights. Among them, the right to expect our government to leave the preaching to us. That for me is enough. Regardless of whatever insufferable slogan waving people want to do, the best approach is to ignore them until they say something at least entertaining. Make them sing for their supper.

  99. Mark

    @ Old Bob M:

    If you don’t have the ability to connect the relevance of posts about religion to astronomy then I’m pretty sure even Phil’s blogs purely about astronomical topics are wasted on you.

    Let me connect the dots for you.

    As Phil pointed out, many politicians are trying to “out-religion” their opponents especially among the far-right. What do these religious zealots like to do when they get power? Maybe propose laws that require creationism is taught in schools while real factual based science is given less time? How about create laws to oppress people, like gay marriage bans, while those with “faith” are rewarded with government money? *cough* unconstitutional *cough*.

    Alas, I doth protest, for science and astronomy shows there is no proof of creationism or any religion for that matter (dot connected), but laws are still being created and policies are being instituted that affect everyone, *cough* religion in schools *cough* and those without the population size to have a voice and a say in their own lives, *cough* gay marriage bans *cough* based on these religions that have no proof of what they preach. Woe is us. They can’t even agree within their own religions on what their doctrines even mean yet their policies and misguided ideals are still making their way into our government and affecting everyone, especially astronomers.

    Phil is just fighting the good fight and he does so with his blog. He’s fighting for his job because like all science, it is under attack from religion. So I love seeing posts that keep me up to date on the next whack job that is trying to attack science, and my personal freedom from religion. And I love seeing posts about astronomy on that same blog.

    If you don’t like it, scroll down to the next blog until you find one about astronomy because the majority of the posts are about astronomy still.

  100. A quick internet search turns up a raft-load of first hand accounts refuting the idea that the Founding Fathers wished America to be a christian nation.

    “That he was not just striking a popular attitude as a politician is revealed by the absence of of the usual Christian terms: he did not mention Christ or even use the word ‘God.’ Following the phraseology of the philosophical Deism he professed, he referred to ‘the invisible hand which conducts the affairs of men,’ to ‘the benign parent of the human race.'”
    — James Thomas Flexner, describing Washington’s first Inaugural Address, in George Washington and the New Nation (1783-1793) (1970) p. 184, quoted from Ed and Michael Buckner, “Quotations that Support the Separation of State and Church”

    “Washington’s religious belief was that of the enlightenment: deism. He practically never used the word ‘God,’ preferring the more impersonal word ‘Providence.’ How little he visualized Providence in personal form is shown by the fact that he interchangeably applied to that force all three possible pronouns: he, she, and it.”
    — James Thomas Flexner, in George Washington: Anguish and Farewell (1793-1799) (1972) p. 490, quoted from Ed and Michael Buckner, “Quotations that Support the Separation of State and Church”

    Many of the more devote church leaders of the day actually accused Washington, Franklin and Jefferson of being atheists. Many of the accounts of their piety were, like some of the accounts concerning Lincoln, fabricated by later biographers especially during the Second Great Awakening. The modern idea of a “Christian America” didn’t really take hold until the early 1950s as the nation reflected upon the horrors of WWII and prepared for the long ideological battle against “the godless commies.” The National Day of Prayer did not come about until 1952, about the same time that “under God” was added to the Pledge and “In God We Trust” was placed upon all of our money. One would think that if America had been founded as a christian nation from the get-go these little shout outs to the Lord would have been been around from day one. Nope it took 176 years for the fundies to get enough power to ram their beliefs down everyone’s throats.

  101. JT

    @ The Arquette Sisters

    Why is it that when religious zealots try to insult atheism the worst insult they can possibly come up with is to call it religious? Do they even realize what they are implying?

  102. Daniel

    I’ll also venture a guess that the JFK quote wasn’t so much an endorsement of a wall of separation between religion and state as such, but more to dispel beliefs that he would be taking his marching orders from the Vatican.

    Benjamin: One of the main reasons why you see religion getting injected into politics at the federal level, so to speak, in the mid-twentieth century, is that up until around the Progressive era, but closer to WWII, the role of the federal government in everyday life was much more limited then it is today. Just one example, up until around WWI, the idea that the federal government would be injecting massive amounts of cash into public education, like it does today, was unheard of.

    The founders and earlier generations of political leaders, some of whom were very religious, would not be interested in putting a lot of god-talk into government affairs, because they felt the role of federal government should be limited as a general matter, not because they had an aversion to mixing religion and politics. Many of the same people had no problem doing the same things at the state and local level.

  103. Absolutely love this post. Our country was not founded on Christianity, it was founded on religious freedom. We should have the freedom to believe whatever we want and not have one religion celebrated by the government. This is offensive to anyone who is not Christian.

  104. kevbo

    @Old Bob M…what’s your problem? Maybe a GOOD Astronomy blog would certainly stick to stars and pulsars and stuff. I see no false advertisement here…

  105. Nemo

    That’s why I like very much what the Freedom From Religion Foundation is doing: they’ve created wonderful ads with quotes from the Founding Fathers showing precisely how they felt on this issue. The one above of JFK is cool

    I know it was unintentional, but you do realize you just implied that JFK was a Founding Father? :)

  106. JJ

    #16 TechyDad:

    “There’s a very good reason (one that the religious right ignores) as to why the Founding Fathers separated the government and religion. They came from England where the King was the head of the Church. They saw all of the abuses that led to and didn’t want a similar situation arising here”

    Bears
    Bears
    Bears
    Er, that is to say, the above bears repeating.

    #92 The Arquette Sisters:

    “Problem is Phil, you are a zealot Atheist and that too is a religion.”

    If either point above is true (one is a bare assertion, the other is contentious) then all the more reason to keep any religion from running the show.

  107. Calli Arcale

    Todd W nailed it:

    The issue of which religion is foremost in the government was a problem for the founding fathers just within Christian sects! Each sect viewed itself as the “right” version of Christianity.

    A lot of people don’t realize just what the religious context of 1776 was. Different Christian sects were battling each other out: literally! Take Georgetown. It’s not named for George Washington; it’s older than that. It’s named for George Beall, who owned a good deal of it and founded a village on it. His father, Ninian, had come to the colony of Virginia in the latter part of the 17th Century — not entirely willingly. He’d just finished his sentence of intdentured servitude in the Barbados, part of his punishment for being on the losing side of the English Civil War, which was in large part a religious war.

    The religious context of the time was a series of painful lessons in just how devastating religion is when it joins with government. The Founding Fathers knew perfectly well what they were doing. If we do not listen to their lessons, we will be doomed to repeat the history they were trying to avoid.

  108. izik5

    What does this have to do with Astronomy? You are totally entitled to share your political and/or religious thoughts, I just question your choice to post it on an Astronomy blog.

    Just my 2 cents.

  109. Radwaste

    Point 1: The National Day of Prayer is costing you tax money. It does not demand that you pray to a specific entity, but your Federal employees are generating posters, e-mails and other promotional items. At Savannah River Site (srs.gov), there is an admonishment to “do this on your own time”, but this is ridiculous on its face. The half-hour allotted at SRS would be the lunch period specified for employees not exempted from the Fair Labor Standards Act, and nobody’s gonna go hungry to stand out by the flagpole and beg somebody they can’t see to do something they’ve never seen.

    Point 2: There are a lot of people in the USA claiming “this is not a Christian nation”, but this is at best an oblique statement, not a definitive one. We owe our current status to English Protestants. That is why we are not French Canadian, Spanish-American, or Portuguese Catholics. Please do not mistake the endless power struggle for the sense of duty and sacrifice the Founders envisioned: rights paid for by the commensurate exercise of responsibility. The central tenet of Christianity is the unsung sacrifice – something ignored by the outraged and the righteous, who are such simply because they feel ignored and powerless. Such simple people imagine that if they declare the USA “Christian” that all problems will fall away from them.

    They are deluded. Some are insanely so.

  110. Ledotter

    WHY do Christians want to encourage public prayer, especially during governmental meetings, in public schools, on military bases etc. when their own scriptures state:

    Matthew Chapter 6 vs5 “And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. 6 But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly. 7 And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words.”

    Are they embracing “hypocrisy” or declaring themselves “heathen”??

  111. harry

    “The problem is amplified by the fact that pretty much every religion tends to think of itself as the One True Belief.”

    I think this applies to atheists as well. There are people in every group who believe they are superior to those in other groups. Not everyone believes it but there are always some.

    “And when they get some political clout, things get very itchy indeed. Or have we already forgotten what the Taliban did to the Buddhas of Bamyan?”

    http://www.vfw.org/index.cfm?fa=news.newsDtl&did=5457

    While I agree with the blog in principle, I think we have to be very careful that we do not engage in a hysterical witch hunt against religion that violates the actual first amendment, especially the “prohibiting the free exercise thereof” clause as well as the freedom of speech clause:

    “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

  112. Jeffersonian

    @78 Quiet D
    There are people here who are convinced that anytime anybody on the internet talks about a Libertarian, they are talking about pure libertarianism in its most extreme philosophical state (which doesn’t exist; thank FSM) as opposed to the way most of us use the term: local libertarians who run for office in order to advance social libertarianism (as opposed – yes opposed – to economic libertarianism), a cause which most of them actually agree with. Though it’s unlikely you can have a meaningful online convo with someone whose knees jerk so much they could power a jacuzzi, you can get part way by defining “large L” versus “small l” libertarianism (to slightly abet their confusion). Just don’t utilize the concept of “political elements”; it will cause apoplexy.

  113. Eric TF Bat

    Phil, Old Bob M has a point. This is supposed to be an astronomy blog. Please refund him all the money he spent to read this site, and in future don’t charge him any more subscription fees. Thank you.

  114. IVAN3MAN AT LARGE

    The Arquette Sisters (#92):

    Problem is Phil, you are a zealot Atheist and that too is a religion. Also you focus only on the religious right, but that goes back to you being a sub-par political blogger.

    From Dictionary.comATHEIST:

    noun
    a person who denies or disbelieves the existence of a supreme being or beings.

    Origin:
    1565–75; from Greek áthe(os) “godless”.

    Synonyms
    ATHEIST, AGNOSTIC, INFIDEL, SKEPTIC refer to persons not inclined toward religious belief or a particular form of religious belief. An ATHEIST is one who denies the existence of a deity or of divine beings. An AGNOSTIC is one who believes it impossible to know anything about God or about the creation of the Universe and refrains from commitment to any religious doctrine. INFIDEL means an unbeliever, especially a nonbeliever in Islam or Christianity. A SKEPTIC doubts and is critical of all accepted doctrines and creeds.


    Enough said! :cool:

    (Thank the FSM for this editing facility!)

  115. Kevin F.

    The same people who complain about the uber-religious Islamic governments are often the same people who want America to be a Christian nation.

    Religious faith works to bring peace.
    Theocracies DON’T.

    @Old Bob M: I only skim this blog these days. Phil runs a little hot for my tastes and I really miss the days when he’d just focus on Bad Astronomy. He hasn’t reviewed the astronomy in a movie for too long. If you want straight astronomy go to Universe Today, a true Astronomy blog.

  116. IVAN3MAN AT LARGE

    Deleted: This was submitted in error.

  117. Jefferson

    Phil,
    Excellent post! And *I*, for one, quite enjoy the diversity of your posts!

  118. Ray C.

    @#17 jasonB: Not one mention on Barack Obama sitting in the Rev. Wright’s happy little church for 20 years.

    http://img99.imageshack.us/img99/7829/goddamnamericanf2.jpg

  119. JB of Brisbane

    The way I see it, are you allowed to say, “We are a White Caucasion nation”? If not, is it not just as discriminatory to say, “We are a Christian nation”?
    P.S. – Don’t feed the trolls.

  120. momintum

    Time will prove the fallacy of all religions. The human specie with a developed imagination has fantasized itself individual and eternal continuance. Humanity has an affinity for dogma so the seemingly securities associated with supernatural divinity to some carries a mythical shelter that the more emotionally inclined find deceptively comforting. Judge Crabb should be commended for standing up and being counted. “To the common man religion is true. To the wise it is false. To the rulers it is useful.” Seneca the Younger.

  121. Matthew Bowler

    The founders did not create a nation! We are NOT a NATION. We are “WE THE PEOPLE” and we have a federation of sovereign states.

    We have become the State of America.

  122. Being non religious, I tend to adhere to what Robert Heinlein wrote along the lines of “do whatever you want as long as you hurt no one Physically, Psychologically or Financially”

    I talked to god about it and she says she’s “down with that”

  123. Al

    Congratulations Phil – This post made the front page of Digg!

  124. Peter B

    I’m curious about the courts and other government buildings which have the Ten Commandments on display. If the people who insist on these displays are Christian, why do they display Jewish commandments? Why not the Two Commandments? (That is, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength”, and “Love your neighbour as yourself” for those who forget.)

  125. jj

    while i am a catholic [by birth] i deeply resent any intrusion by the church to interfere in politics or government. i believe that Christ is the son of God, i accept his teachings. but formal religion has only one goal; to seperate money from my wallet into theirs. conversely i also do want the government involved in any religion. the government has the same goal as formal religion, to seperate money from my wallet and into theirs. our job is to keep them as far apart as we can, if they ever get together, well, hold on to your wallets.

  126. Bravo!

    “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion”

    The Constitution is clear on the separation of church and state. The Judeo-Christian faith has been a huge influence on the USA and continues to be the foundation of our values and morals but the USA is not a Christian nation. Never was and never will be. Many men and women gave their lives in battle because they believed in the Constitution. I hope we don’t dishonor the sacrifice of these men and women!

  127. Ariock

    The far right believes that the word “God” is in the US Constitution and the word “Welfare” is not.

  128. Trebuchet

    I, for one, don’t think Phil does enough non-astronomy posts. To the extent where I’ve started reading Pharyngula semi-regularly.

    @Kevin F — If you think Phil “runs a little hot”, try P.Z Myers!

    Phil is absolutely correct to call the religious right on their denial of science and desire to force their beliefs on others, in ignorance or defiance of the constitution. And it’s his blog, so he can say so if he wants.

  129. D. Fuller

    There are two things which really annoy me. The first is when people tell me that the United States of America is a democracy… we aren’t. We are a Republic. Second is that “separation between Church and State” is part of our constitution.

    For those who want to know, the statement has actually been reversed from its original intent. The statement about a wall of separation between church and state was made in a letter on January 1, 1802, by Thomas Jefferson to the Danbury Baptist Association of Connecticut. The congregation heard a widespread rumor that the Congregationalists, another denomination, were to become the national religion. This was very alarming to people who knew about religious persecution in England by the state established church. Jefferson made it clear in his letter to the Danbury Congregation that the separation was to be that government would not establish a national religion or dictate to men how to worship God. Jefferson’s letter from which the phrase “separation of church and state” was taken affirmed first amendment rights. Jefferson wrote:

    I contemplate with solemn 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 reason Jefferson choose the expression “separation of church and state” was because he was addressing a Baptist congregation; a denomination of which he was not a member. Jefferson wanted to remove all fears that the state would make dictates to the church.

  130. Peter B

    izik5 @ #112 said: “What does this have to do with Astronomy?”

    On the surface, not a lot. But if the separation of church and state in the USA breaks down to the extent that it affects the conduct of science, then it has a lot to do with science. Remember, a lot of people who try to promote the idea of the USA being a Christian nation also believe the universe is only 6,000 to 10,000 years old, which flies in the face of a lot of astronomical evidence.

    “You are totally entitled to share your political and/or religious thoughts, I just question your choice to post it on an Astronomy blog.”

    Well, strictly speaking, it’s not “an Astronomy blog”, it’s “the Bad Astronomy blog” because Phil Plait is the Bad Astronomer. On that basis I’d say there’s no need to limit posts to astronomy.

  131. Doug Little

    Trebuchet,

    Yeah, I tend to go to PZ’s site to let off steam after visiting here. There is way to much pearl clutching and fainting couch usage here sometimes. Unfortunately you can’t deal with them the same way as you can on Pharyngula.

  132. ND

    swine,

    “Being non religious, I tend to adhere to what Robert Heinlein wrote along the lines of “do whatever you want as long as you hurt no one Physically, Psychologically or Financially”

    I talked to god about it and she says she’s “down with that””

    Funny :)

    And that’s the extent of my contribution to this discussion.

  133. Dwight

    I liked this post because I totally agree with it and it’s nice to get some validation of my opinions. Thanks.

  134. “If you go through my posts on religion, you’ll find that this is where I tend to step in. Want to teach creationism in the classroom? Uh uh. Want to oppress women? Sorry, fella. Think abstinence-only education works and you should get government grants to teach it? Keep it in your own pants, please.”

    It is interesting the concern here is not Christians pressing Jesus and redemption on others, but philosophical issues and possibly bad science. Hundreds of ideas about where we all came from in the world, but only one is allowed to be discussed in school…who’s narrow minded?

  135. m

    false dichotomy

  136. Brad G

    It’s his blog, he can post whatever the F he wants.

  137. andrew1193

    “The problem tends to come in when some religious people try to impose their religion on others. If you go through my posts on religion, you’ll find that this is where I tend to step in.”

    I doubt you “tend to step in” when the schools teach Gaia theory, radical environmentalism, far-left ideology, or anything you agree with politically.

    “Want to teach creationism in the classroom? Uh uh. Want to oppress women? Sorry, fella. Think abstinence-only education works and you should get government grants to teach it? Keep it in your own pants, please.”

    I agree. All sex education should be left to parents, not government-funded schools.

  138. richard

    One theologian seems to get it right:

    Where are the people turning for spiritual direction? Books on atheism were the best selling books in the “spirituality” genre last year. The cults and false religions are growing at an alarming rate. The New Age philosophies of the world are attracting new converts daily.

    Only the foolish try to argue the fact that this nation was not founded by men and women that believed in the God of the Bible and had a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. There is no way to deny that the largest percentage of the first several generations of people in this country were Christians. It was clearly a nation that honored God, followed His Son Jesus, and accepted the Bible as the inspired, inerrant Word of God, representing absolute truth, and our final authority in all matters. However, that is no longer the case, and has not been for many years now.

    How can I make such a definitive statement? How can you call this a Christian nation when the Federal Government legally protects the murder of app. 2 million babies every year? How can you call this a Christian nation when people that have chosen lifestyles that God calls an abomination are now accepted and promoted as normal? How can you call this a Christian nation when God’s gift of sex has been perverted and is now marketed and accessible to anyone, of any age, at any time?

    How can you call this a Christian nation when God’s Holy Institution of Marriage has been mocked and turned into little more than a legal date? How can you call this a Christian nation when God’s definition of a family is being rewritten daily by those who reject God in their life? The answer is, you can no longer call this a Christian nation for these and numerous other reasons.

  139. fred edison

    I can see where that could be a problem. Why one religion should pass laws in its favor and why another religion should have to abide by those laws. It’s far wiser to keep religion and religious favoritism out of government. Of course, in practice it isn’t perfect.

    There are certain politicians who flaunt their religious pompousness (while often being hypocrites as they spread fearful paranoia) to win support and votes. They are excellent examples of why religion mixed with politics (or tea) is a terrible idea.

  140. Bren

    can someone please make bumper stickers or t-shirts of those banners? !!

  141. Plutonium being from Pluto

    @117. Jeffersonian Says:

    @78 Quiet D : There are people here who are convinced that anytime anybody on the internet talks about a Libertarian, they are talking about pure libertarianism in its most extreme philosophical state (which doesn’t exist; thank FSM) as opposed to the way most of us use the term: local libertarians who run for office in order to advance social libertarianism (as opposed – yes opposed – to economic libertarianism), a cause which most of them actually agree with. Though it’s unlikely you can have a meaningful online convo with someone whose knees jerk so much they could power a jacuzzi, you can get part way by defining “large L” versus “small l” libertarianism (to slightly abet their confusion). Just don’t utilize the concept of “political elements”; it will cause apoplexy.

    Seconded by me. :-)

    Avoiding extremes is usually a good thing and lately Phil (who I fear is suffering a nasty case of Obama-mania) has been a bit too tilted to the Left IMHON.

    There is a difference between the Right wing and the Religious Right wing and there are still some good people on the political right. My guess – my hope certainly – is that the “Tea party” phase will prove to be a passing aberration that Republicans look back on with embarrassment and that their candidates for the 2012 poll will be moderates or Libertarians, eg. Ron Paul or Rudy Guiliani – or people like that .

    Let’s not forget that the political scene can change very quickly & none of us can predict the future for sure.

    I certainly think it is unlikely that Sarah Palin or someone from the very far Religious Right will really end up running for the Republicans for the 2012 Presidential election *because* they are viewed as divisive and extreme figures and therefore not so electable as more mainstream, moderate ones.

    So all the Left-wing hatred generated by their misplaced fear directed towards the amazing political phenomena that is Sarah Palin is most probably needless anyhow. One day I think people like the BA will look back at some of the hyperbole about Palin now and think “gee why were we ever so worried by her – and so nasty about her too?”

    (She is after all a real person and not the “caribou barbie” caricature that some make her out to be. She’s just a woman – and mother – and politician not the atheist’s version of the devil incarnate!)

    The need to compromise and win over opponents and take the middle ground pretty much guarantees that even *if* Sarah Palin did become President (which I would rate as remote) Palin wouldn’t institute a theocracy or ruin the country by imposing Taliban-style anything. Indeed there is the (faint but present) potential for her to just possibly become a unifying motherly type figure like Golda Meir. After all, remember the mockery directed at Ronald Reagan who became one of America’s greatest Presidents despite not being a major intellectual power like, say, Jimmy Carter who most agree was one of the worse ones?

    Not for the first or – no doubt – last time, I think the Leftwing types are wa-aay over-reacting and whipping up far too much fear and concern over a boogeyman that either isn’t there at all or will turn out to be much less bad than they fear it will.

    PS. Off topic but this is an interesting take on Obama’s space plan by aguy who really should know – Chris Kraft was a former NASA director during the Apollo years :

    http://www.hcnonline.com/articles/2010/05/05/bay_area_citizen/news/5chriskraft6.txt

  142. I’ve never understood why conservatives are so set on mixing government and religion. They don’t trust the government to do anything. Why do they trust it to not mess up their religion. Because you know that if the government was able to regulate religion it would be ultra-PC crap that everyone would hate.

  143. andrew1193 (#143): Interesting claim on your part. Would you care to give any evidence on why you might think I would agree with the Gaia theory or radical environmentalism? In fact, where have I expressed a “far left” ideology? Because if you actually had any familiarity with what I write, as opposed to simply making knee jerk comments based on reading one post, you might find I do in fact fight a lot of “far-left” ideology on this blog as well.

    But why actually base something on evidence when you can troll? I know, actually having to formulate an opinion based on evidence is harder than just trolling, but sometimes, y’see, it shows people you actually know what you’re talking about.

  144. Plutonium being from Pluto

    @ 127. swine Says:

    Being non religious, I tend to adhere to what Robert Heinlein wrote along the lines of “do whatever you want as long as you hurt no one Physically, Psychologically or Financially”

    I talked to god about it and she says she’s “down with that”

    Great quote, great comment. 8)

    I see ND (#138) has already seconded it so I’ll have to third it now too. ;-)

    Like I said before, Heinlein spoke a lot of sense.

    The polarised high-intensity sound and fury of modern politics is frankly, pretty unhealthy and not overly constructive for the US or other Western nations increasingly falling into the pattern of political over-hype and failure to make calm and rational appraisals of the opposition instead of demonised OTT caricatures.

    Is it possible to somehow calm the political scene down and lower the extremes in this whole area. I know its more excting to have hyped up them good us evil or vice versa but really can we try and be a bit more rational and skeptical when it comes to politicans on both the side we support and the side we dislike? For instance, here on this blog specifically, can the BA realise that Obama ain’t no angel and Palin ain’t no devil?

    PS. Yes I know that the BA has never outright stated that Obama descended from heaven and his belches smell like scented perfume while Sarah Palin is OMG! the beast from the depths of Hell but that’s pretty much the impression he gives in the tone of his political posts. ;-)

  145. Plutonium being from Pluto

    @148. Iason Ouabache Says:

    I’ve never understood why conservatives are so set on mixing government and religion. They don’t trust the government to do anything. Why do they trust it to not mess up their religion. Because you know that if the government was able to regulate religion it would be ultra-PC crap that everyone would hate.

    (Emphasis added.)

    Spot on & well said.

    Of course some would argue that the govt. is *already* imposing Political Correctness as the official religion along with the rites of the Beaucratese ceremonies and mandatory Green-ism. ;-)

    ——————–

    PS. If I was an Amercian & voted in the last election I would’ve voted for Obama over McCain – as usual as the lesser of two evils. However, while Obama is better than his predecessor & has some good aspects – he isn’t perfect and has a number of flaws and pretending he’s all good (or all bad either) is silly.

    I do think Obama has betrayed us all with the US manned space program being at best given an uncertain future by his policies esp. scrapping ‘Constellation’ & his first space policy was a major watershed in my perception of him because I did feel hurt and saddened by him deciding upon such a short-sighted, non-visionary future direction. Given Obama’s continued policy failures I think it is likely he will go down as a symbolic president who promised much and delivered little – and perhaps as the one who ended the USA’s space progarm and oversaw the decline of the US as a global superpower. :-(

  146. AL

    “Problem is Phil, you are a zealot Atheist and that too is a religion.” — The Arquette Sisters

    It’s always comical to see the desperate attempt to level the playing field in defense of their religion by declaring opposition to it to be a religion. Atheism most certainly is not a religion by any reasonable definition of religion, but this is a red herring. Let’s suppose for a second that you are correct (haha) and that it is a religion. And this proves that therefore atheism must be dubious or wrong…how? Lumping atheism under the label of religion proves nothing about its philosophical merits or demerits, anymore than is the case with any other religion. Those of us skeptical of religions don’t object to them BECAUSE they are religion; we object to them because the specific claims made don’t hold up to rational scrutiny. “Religion” in and of itself doesn’t necessarily tell us whether the ideas are rationally tenable or untenable, so calling atheism a religion accomplishes exactly nothing in defense of theism.

    Try refuting a math professor’s claim that 2+2=4 by telling him he’s being dogmatic in his unyielding belief in that claim, and that mathematics is a religion. Good luck with that.

  147. sylva333

    Dear Ivan3man at large:

    Sometimes in the midst of all the crazy talk, you make me happy.

    P.S. I only like trolls when they are the type that live in the mountains of Scandinavia.

  148. jcm

    Here’s a nice discussion on this topic:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5j5ncmZizJ0

  149. Mark

    I wonder if Christians realize that they aren’t the largest religious group on the planet? Also, what happens to them if in the future they’re represented by less than a majority of the population? Are we then a nation of whomever has the most representatives in the government? How would they feel about that if we had a day where people were encouraged to face Mecca while they worked, or changed the pledge to say “under God and Allah”? I guess it’s all about being right, and of course, out of all the magical sky people believers, their magical sky person is the real one..

  150. trollisobvious

    Your arguments are pathetically weak, cliche and redundant. I scoff at your boring lifeless trollism.

  151. Truth

    It is easy to pick and choose quotes.

    John Adams and John Hancock: We Recognize No Sovereign but God, and no King but Jesus! [April 18, 1775]

    John Adams:
    “ The general principles upon which the Fathers achieved independence were the general principals of Christianity… I will avow that I believed and now believe that those general principles of Christianity are as eternal and immutable as the existence and attributes of God.”

    “[July 4th] ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty.”
    –John Adams in a letter written to Abigail on the day the Declaration was approved by Congress

    “We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge, or gallantry, would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” –October 11, 1798

    “I have examined all religions, as well as my narrow sphere, my straightened means, and my busy life, would allow; and the result is that the Bible is the best Book in the world. It contains more philosophy than all the libraries I have seen.” December 25, 1813 letter to Thomas Jefferson

    “Without Religion this World would be Something not fit to be mentioned in polite Company, I mean Hell.” [John Adams to Thomas Jefferson, April 19, 1817]

    John Quincy Adams:
    • “Why is it that, next to the birthday of the Savior of the world, your most joyous and most venerated festival returns on this day [the Fourth of July]?” “Is it not that, in the chain of human events, the birthday of the nation is indissolubly linked with the birthday of the Savior? That it forms a leading event in the progress of the Gospel dispensation? Is it not that the Declaration of Independence first organized the social compact on the foundation of the Redeemer’s mission upon earth? That it laid the cornerstone of human government upon the first precepts of Christianity”?
    –1837, at the age of 69, when he delivered a Fourth of July speech at Newburyport, Massachusetts.

    “The Law given from Sinai [The Ten Commandments] was a civil and municipal as well as a moral and religious code.”
    John Quincy Adams. Letters to his son. p. 61

    Benjamin Franklin:
    “ God governs in the affairs of man. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without His aid? We have been assured in the Sacred Writings that except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it. I firmly believe this. I also believe that, without His concurring aid, we shall succeed in this political building no better than the builders of Babel” –Constitutional Convention of 1787 | original manuscript of this speech

    “In the beginning of the contest with Britain, when we were sensible of danger, we had daily prayers in this room for Divine protection. Our prayers, Sir, were heard, and they were graciously answered… do we imagine we no longer need His assistance?” [Constitutional Convention, Thursday June 28, 1787]

    In Benjamin Franklin’s 1749 plan of education for public schools in Pennsylvania, he insisted that schools teach “the excellency of the Christian religion above all others, ancient or modern.”

    In 1787 when Franklin helped found Benjamin Franklin University, it was dedicated as “a nursery of religion and learning, built on Christ, the Cornerstone.”

    Thomas Jefferson:
    “ The doctrines of Jesus are simple, and tend to all the happiness of man.”

    “Of all the systems of morality, ancient or modern which have come under my observation, none appears to me so pure as that of Jesus.”

    “I am a real Christian, that is to say, a disciple of the doctrines of Jesus.”

    “God who gave us life gave us liberty. And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are a gift from God? That they are not to be violated but with His wrath? Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just, and that His justice cannot sleep forever.” (excerpts are inscribed on the walls of the Jefferson Memorial in the nations capital) [Source: Merrill . D. Peterson, ed., Jefferson Writings, (New York: Literary Classics of the United States, Inc., 1984), Vol. IV, p. 289. From Jefferson’s Notes on the State of Virginia, Query XVIII, 1781.]

    James Madison
    “ We’ve staked our future on our ability to follow the Ten Commandments with all of our heart.”
    … See More
    “We have staked the whole future of American civilization, not upon the power of government, far from it. We’ve staked the future of all our political institutions upon our capacity…to sustain ourselves according to the Ten Commandments of God.” [1778 to the General Assembly of the State of Virginia]

    • I have sometimes thought there could not be a stronger testimony in favor of religion or against temporal enjoyments, even the most rational and manly, than for men who occupy the most honorable and gainful departments and [who] are rising in reputation and wealth, publicly to declare the unsatisfactoriness [of temportal enjoyments] by becoming fervent advocates in the cause of Christ; and I wish you may give in your evidence in this way.
    Letter by Madison to William Bradford (September 25, 1773)

    • In 1812, President Madison signed a federal bill which economically aided the Bible Society of Philadelphia in its goal of the mass distribution of the Bible.
    “ An Act for the relief of the Bible Society of Philadelphia” Approved February 2, 1813 by Congress

    “It is the mutual duty of all to practice Christian forbearance, love, and charity toward each other.”

    • A watchful eye must be kept on ourselves lest, while we are building ideal monuments of renown and bliss here, we neglect to have our names enrolled in the Annals of Heaven. [Letter by Madison to William Bradford [urging him to make sure of his own salvation] November 9, 1772]

    At the Constitutional Convention of 1787, James Madison proposed the plan to divide the central government into three branches. He discovered this model of government from the Perfect Governor, as he read Isaiah 33:22;
    “For the LORD is our judge, the LORD is our lawgiver,
    the LORD is our king;
    He will save us.”

    Together, Jefferson and Madison proposed bills in Virginia such as “A Bill for Saving the Property of the Church Heretofore by Law Established,” “A Bill for Punishing Disturbers of Religious Worship and Sabbath Breakers,” “A Bill for Appointing Days of Public Fasting and Thanksgiving,” and “A Bill Annulling Marriages Prohibited by the Levitical … See MoreLaw and Appointing the Mode of Solemnizing Lawful Marriage.”

    The Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States (Washington: Gales & Seaton, 1853), Twelfth Congress, Second Session, p. 1325: “An Act for the relief of the Bible Society of Philadelphia. Be it enacted, &c., That the duties arising and due to the United States upon certain stereotype plates, imported during the last year into the port of Philadelphia, on board the ship Brilliant, by the Bible Society of Philadelphia, for the purpose of printing editions of the Holy Bible, be and the same are hereby remitted, on behalf of the United States, to the said society: and any bond or security given for the securing of the payment of the said duties shall be canceled. Approved February 2, 1813.”

    tl;dr version.

    It’s easy to pick quotes to “prove” the USA was not founded as a Christian nation, but it is easier to find many more quotes that prove it was.

    I will become an atheist the day that atheists can scientifically prove that atheism is correct,

  152. Chip

    Phil – Simply put, your thoughts are refreshing and clear-cut in their rationality. Thank you!

  153. Mark Hansen

    mike burkhart @ 88/9
    Does your religion have something against punctuation keys? Are they the devil’s playthings or something? Just curious…

  154. Matt

    Cool article, I think that the church and state should be separate. And I think that everything is up for interpretation. I mean look at what President Adams said, That is one person. And Thomas Jefferson had a Koran because he was a collector of books and studied other religions in order to understand them better. I think it is wrong to flat out say that this country is not a christian nation because there are some clear cut things that are based from the bible, I mean some of the most basic things are from there, do not steal, do not kill all of that stuff and also, the bible by no means degrades women, it says in the bible that men and women are equal but we are clearly different and clearly have different jobs in life, I by no means am saying that a woman should stay in the kitchen because that is not right at all, but I do think that there are something that are stated in the bible that should be kept up.

    Why is it okay to have gay rights parades but a day of prayer is a no no? Please that is holding a double standard.

    Creation in the class room? That is the other theory with proven facts and ways that it Could have happened, just like with evolution, there is nothing proven with it, we are all just assuming that that is how things happened, we werent there to see how it all went down. I am not saying either way, but I am saying that if people are supposed to be open minded then maybe we should be open minded to everyones ideas and listen and see their point of view rather then if someone is a christian or a atheist or whatever we dont just cut the other person off and bash them. Open minds are a great thing but not one single person, not a one has a totally open mind.

  155. flip

    @Phil, hear hear!

    …Has anyone else noticed the only time The Arquette Sisters (#92) turns up to comment, it’s to complain?

  156. Joey Joe Joe

    55. James Says:

    The smugness of some atheists is pretty astounding. Hell, I’m agnostic, but the “I don’t believe in god therefor I am smarter than you” attitude its freakin’ hilarious sometimes

    The smugness of some agnostics is pretty astounding. Hell, I’m atheist, but the “We can’t know if there’s a god, therefore I am smarter than you” attitude is freakin’ hilarious sometimes.

    51. FreeSpeaker:

    Can I steal that?

    93. The Arquette Sisters Says:

    Problem is Phil, you are a zealot Atheist and that too is a religion.

    Good news, everyone! The national unemployment rate is now zero, thanks to a recent discovery that being unemployed is actually a job!

    137. Doug Little Says:

    Unfortunately you can’t deal with them the same way as you can on Pharyngula.

    Why, “unfortunately”? PZ’s comment section is a cesspit.

    152. AL Says:

    Try refuting a math professor’s claim that 2+2=4 by telling him he’s being dogmatic in his unyielding belief in that claim, and that mathematics is a religion. Good luck with that.

    2+2=4, but so does 12-8. Therefore, God.

  157. What will the other side do? Post quotes from the men in question that say exactly the opposite what’s being asserted. For example, John Adams said:

    “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”

    Further comes this utter lack of comprehension, frighteningly so, of the basic English words “of” and “from”. Separation “of” Church and state is entirely different than separation “from” Church and state. Those intent on further molding popular perception will not volunteer any historical insight into what exactly was going on between the mentality of early settlers and the Church of England (which is what the whole thing was really about). I too, by the way, wish our government to remain apart from the Church of England. No sir, we should not reunite.

    Anyone who considers themselves a “critical thinker” by all means should investigate the possibility that the whole picture is in fact, not being painted by this article, nor the proponents of such “critical thought”. A little googling would do the scientific minded a bit of good, as far as those concerned with empirical evidence go.

  158. ZiaTurtle

    I just bookmarked this blog after an hour of reading posts. My 2 cents:
    1) You will have a more effective argument if you remove personal insults.
    2) Spirituality and/or philosophy is a way to express our views of life and the world and, at times, offers some comfort or the pleasure of enlightenment.
    3) religion (IMO) creates moral rules that differ from culture to culture or person to person and often are used to justify oppression in one form or another.

    You guys rock. :-)

  159. Eric T

    “politicians tend to say the Founding Fathers were Christians, and based this country on Christian beliefs. But that’s not true”

    Exactly.

    What are these so-called “Christian beliefs”, anyway? The 10 Commandments should be among them, right? God certainly thinks so.

    Only TWO behaviors forbidden by Commandments (murder and theft) are broadly illegal under American law, and these prohibitions are hardly unique to Christians. A third Commandment prohibition (don’t lie) is illegal in court for obvious reasons having nothing to do with Christianity, but in many contexts is actually a protected right.

    So what specific, uniquely *Christian* beliefs was this country founded on? What Commandments did we codify into law which are NOT common to every first world nation? Thou shalt not:

    – Worship other gods? Not only is it legal, it’s a protected right.

    – Create graven images? Legal and protected.

    – Take the Lord’s name in vain? Legal and protected.

    – Dishonor your parents? Legal and protected.

    – Work on Sunday? Legal.

    – Commit adultery? Legal.

    – Covet your neighbor’s belongings? Legal, and practically the America way of life.

    So most the Commandments are NOT laws in this country, and in fact the right to violate them is protected by our constitution and bill of rights.

    And thank goodness, because if we DID follow the Bible, we could be WORSE than Taliban. You wanna talk about bronze age values; the Bible is older and scarier than the Qur’an. The Bible commands followers to KILL (often by stoning): people who don’t listen to priests (Deu 17:12), witches (Lev 20:12), homosexuals (Lev 20:27), fortunetellers (Lev 20:27), anyone who strikes his mother or father (Exo 21:15), anyone who curses his mother or father (Lev 20:9), adulterers (Lev 20:10), any woman who is not a virgin on her wedding night (Deut 20:20-21), anyone who works on the Sabbath (Exod 21:12-15), anyone who worships another god (even your spouse or children; stone them to death ‘without pity': Deu 13:13-19), atheists (Chron 15:12-13), and much more.

    Thank goodness we live in a SECULAR nation.

  160. Pi-needles

    Anyone else remember that selective quoting post here? I would have to predict that it won’t be long before religious types selectively vandalise these ads to read:

    “I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute.”
    – JFK

    &

    “The United States government is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion.”
    – Presdent John Adams, Treaty of Tripoli 1797.

    Sadly, that’s pretty much inevitable. :-(

    Still, good on the Freedom From Religion Foundation for trying & yes the BA is right. :-)

    Funny how for all the people who complain about the politics posts here they always seem to get the most comments quickest isn’t it? ;-)

  161. Mark Hansen

    @Pi-needles,
    It gets funnier. Check the astronomy posts for the names of the loudest complainers. They very rarely post in the very astronomy posts they so vociferously demand!

  162. Pi-needles

    From one of the sources the BA linked:

    Palin told the women in attendance, whom she referred to as a “mom of faith movement,” that they should not listen to critics who would make them feel that their movement is “all a low-cost brand of ignorance.

    “Really, it’s just the opposite,” said Palin.

    Which, would, of course, make it a *high-cost* brand of ignorance. Finally something I can agree with her on. ;-)

    @ 158. Mark Hansen: Yes indeed – although I’m not sure whether that’s funnier or sadder.

  163. Sarah Pressman

    I think we should ditch the Bible and have a book full of the aphorisms of Ayn Rand and Robert A Heinlein. Now that would be a book full of sense!
    We should also double our efforts to get to the moon, and start a rational libertarian colony there, as an example to humanity of the deep wisdom of saint Heinlein. We could build a church and start a new faith on the moon; the lunitarian skepticarian faith!

  164. Joey Joe Joe

    158. Mark Hansen Says:

    It gets funnier. Check the astronomy posts for the names of the loudest complainers. They very rarely post in the very astronomy posts they so vociferously demand!

    To be fair, it could just be they don’t post unless they have something to say. I enjoy Phil’s astronomy posts, but don’t feel I really have anything to add beyond what Phil has already said, so I don’t post in those very often.

  165. Radwaste

    “PZ’s comment section is a cesspit.”

    Agreed. It is unfortunate that professional thinkers – when present and posting – often use none of the rigor in political argument that they demand of their profession. Peter Drucker calls this, “the arrogance of the learned”, where a person wrongly assumes that because they are educated in their field and it is complex, others have lesser abilities, and that their expertise automatically transfers to all other observations they make.

    “Good news, everyone! The national unemployment rate is now zero, thanks to a recent discovery that being unemployed is actually a job!”

    Correct – and it’s a government job. For your unemployment benefits, your task is to vote for the people who pay you, and to bring more people to “work”.

  166. michael

    While I agree the founding fathers had some good ideas about government, I really do not understand people’s fetish about their beliefs and intentions, or the absolute holiness of the Constitution.

    It is very clear that these guys held beliefs that are abhorred to modern sensibilities, and we have had to, as a nation, fix their hallowed Constitution on numerous occasions.

    Nearly everyone of these guys owned slaves, almost none of them believed in the equality of women, most of them thought native americans to be savages who need to be domesticated or killed, and they all believed that only rich white men who owned land should have any role in government.

    Thomas Jefferson and George Washington where both known to hang dogs from trees to kill them and to discourage their slaves from attempting to have pets, and Thomas Jefferson’s Vice President Aaron Burr shot and killed the current Secretary of State, Alexander Hamilton, because he refused to apologize for insulting him at a dinner party that VP Burr was not even present at.

    We should definitely learn from their experiences and trials, but we shouldn’t have our modern worldview formed by 18th century aristocracy.

  167. scott

    I mostly agree with the blog, it even concludes with something similar I’ve explained to others before about the difference between the words “of” and “from”. However, it’s a little sad that the author focuses so much on presidents like Kennedy, Adams, and hopeful Palin when this separation was only discovered by the judicial branch. There is no “separation” statement found anywhere in the documentation that founded this country, it was the Supreme Court which decided that there was a separation of church and state. What do you feel about unelected government telling you they figured out this was best for all of us? Oh, and what they found was a separation “of” church and state, not a separation of church “from” state. So, while I agree we don’t want there to be an official church recognized by the USA, I also don’t have an issue with “in God we trust” on our money, or if a school wants to have a prayer before a football game, or when we have a prayer at the inauguration of the new president, etc.

  168. mike burkhart

    By the way this country is not a Christian nation.The Christian right how ever would like to make it one.And I don’t want live in a theocy .

  169. fauxhoax

    Babble on and on.
    As if any of this incessant talk means squat.

  170. Jerry in Detroit

    Sorry folks, we already live in a theocracy. This religion has hijacked the curriculum of our schools to proselytize our children. I am, of course, referring to atheists. While I know many fine atheists and respect their faith, there is no valid scientific method by which they can prove the presence or absence of God nor do I necessarily trust them to do so if such means were developed. The teaching of any and all religions should not be supported by public funding in our schools; Christian, Islam, Buddhist, Atheist, whatever. (Atheism is indeed a religion; The Supreme Court of the United States has already declared it so and atheist military veterans can even request an atheist symbol on their grave markers.)

    On another note, I wonder just what message Keith Ellison thought he was sending when he took his oath of office on Thomas Jefferson’s Koran. This is the same Koran that Jefferson read before sending the Marines into Tripoli. Was Mr. Ellison declaring war on Islam?

  171. Gary Ansorge

    140. ryan

    “Hundreds of ideas about where we all came from in the world, but only one is allowed to be discussed in school…who’s narrow minded?”

    ,,,and of ALL those hundreds of ideas, only one is based upon PHYSICAL EVIDENCE. THAT’S why it’s taught in schools. So, yes, those of us who BELIEVE in physical evidence are narrow minded and the reason for that is because interpretations of reality based upon evidence actually, you know, WORK!

    GAry 7

  172. Gunnar

    I whole-heartedly agree with #163. I find it ironic that those who insist that the USA was intended by its founding fathers to be a Christian nation, based on Christian principles and doctrine, are not only mistaken about that, they fail to realize that the actual secular nature of the US constitution and government is the very thing that made possible the unprecedented religious freedom enjoyed by its citizens.

    This unprecedented religious freedom, in turn, is almost certainly the main reason why, of all leading, industrialized nations, this country’s population has the highest proportion who claim to be strongly (or at least moderately) religious!

    I have to laugh when conservative pundits such as Newt Gingrich deplore the “increasing secularity” of this country. How can he (who claims to be an historian) fail to realize that this very secularism he complains about is what made it possible for this country to eventually become the great bastion of individual freedom that it is?

  173. Alan

    The colony of Rhode Island was the last to sign on to the US constitution,insisting on a separation of church and state.That guaranteed separation came in the form of the 1st amendment.

  174. Damien

    Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions, 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 & State.”

    “Because religious belief, or non-belief, is such an important part of every person’s life, freedom of religion affects every individual. Religious institutions that use government power in support of themselves and force their views on persons of other faiths, or of no faith, undermine all our civil rights. Moreover, state support of an established religion tends to make the clergy unresponsive to their own people, and leads to corruption within religion itself. Erecting the “wall of separation between church and state,” therefore, is absolutely essential in a free society.

    We have solved, by fair experiment, the great and interesting question whether freedom of religion is compatible with order in government and obedience to the laws. And we have experienced the quiet as well as the comfort which results from leaving every one to profess freely and openly those principles of religion which are the inductions of his own reason and the serious convictions of his own inquiries.”

    “And let us reflect that, having banished from our land that religious intolerance under which mankind so long bled and suffered, we have yet gained little if we countenance a political intolerance as despotic, as wicked, and capable of as bitter and bloody persecutions…. error of opinion may be tolerated where reason is left free to combat it…. I deem the essential principles of our government…. Equal and exact justice to all men, of whatever state or persuasion, religious or political; … freedom of religion, freedom of the press, and freedom of person under the protection of the habeas corpus, and trial by juries impartially selected.”

    “I know it will give great offense to the clergy, but the advocate of religious freedom is to expect neither peace nor forgiveness from them.”

    “The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods, or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.”

    “[N]o man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burthened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer, on account of his religious opinions or belief; but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish, enlarge, or affect their civil capacities.”

    “I am for freedom of religion, & against all maneuvres to bring about a legal ascendancy of one sect over another.”

    “I never will, by any word or act, bow to the shrine of intolerance, or admit a right of inquiry into the religious opinions of others.”

    Thomas Jefferson

  175. ace

    ….”that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

    Sounds Christian to me.

  176. Eidolon

    Jerry @176:
    Well, you made it 3 sentences into your post before you failed. What part of the definition of ‘atheist’ do you not understand? To be an atheist means simply that you do not believe in ANY god(s). Period. It is not a religion. The fact that I may wish to state in public that I am an atheist and even have that fact commemorated in some manner when I die tells you nothing more about me than the fact that I do not believe in any gods. Not the invisible sky fairy, God, the Flying Spaghetti Monster, Zeus, Ra or any of the 1000’s of gods invented by man.That’s it.

    In schools, we teach stuff based on, as Gary @177 put it, physical evidence. You can believe whatever you want but you cannot have your own physical reality.

  177. Pdcant

    #39. Ian,
    Am I the only one who thinks Jesus was a Buddhist? He even taught his apostles how to reach enlightenment. The Jesus story has been twisted, mostly with the help of a Jewish man named Saul, who changed his name to Paul. Jesus was saying the god is within you. This is an abhorrent idea to Christians: Buddha was bad; Jesus was good…

  178. ace (181): So no other religion has a creator?

    And by the way, that’s from the Declaration of Independence, not the Constitution. Kind of a big difference there.

  179. Messier Tidy Upper

    A few quotes from various places that may possibly be of interest :

    “May God save us from false religion.”
    – (Dr) Stephen Franklin, Babylon 5, “Believers” epsiode.

    “Who loves not women, wine and song remains a fool his whole life long.”
    – Martin Luther (Yep, the founder of Lutheranism, Believe it or not!)

    “Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing had happened.”
    – Sir Winston Churchill

    “Men will never be free until the last king is strangled with the entrails of the last priest!”
    – Dennis Diderot (1713-1784)

    God wants Spiritual Fruits, Not Religious Nuts.
    – Sojourners’ slogan(s) / Turn-Left.com

  180. Phil: “he problem is amplified by the fact that pretty much every religion tends to think of itself as the One True Belief.”

    Wrong. Just plain wrong.

    For all the rambling you do on religion, it’s obviously an important topic to you. You desperately need to take a good course on World Religions. You paint with very, very broad brushstrokes, a complete lack of nuance on the subject of religion and belief.

  181. Doug Little

    Jerry In Detroit,

    For the last bloody time Atheism is NOT a religion. It is as much a religion as bald is a hair color.

    This religion has hijacked the curriculum of our schools to proselytize our children. I am, of course, referring to atheists

    So by atheism I will assume loosely that you are talking about science, history, mathematics, geography and literature. Well yes reality is what we should be teaching to our kids, all these disciplines have a backbone of physical evidence to prop them up. What are you suggesting they teach?

    atheist military veterans can even request an atheist symbol on their grave markers

    Well gee, sorry for wanting to live in a society where someone who has fought and died for the country can have what ever they bloody well want on their grave.

    @Matt

    Creation in the class room? That is the other theory with proven facts and ways that it Could have happened, just like with evolution, there is nothing proven with it, we are all just assuming that that is how things happened, we werent there to see how it all went down. I am not saying either way, but I am saying that if people are supposed to be open minded then maybe we should be open minded to everyones ideas and listen and see their point of view rather then if someone is a christian or a atheist or whatever we dont just cut the other person off and bash them

    There is no other theory/side, you know what a scientific theory is right? Evolution is most definitely happening, look up Richard Lenski’s latest experiments, it is a proven fact that life changes over time. Creationism on the other hand has no physical evidence backing it up, no experiments, no predictions of what the results of those experiments should be, no explanatory power what so ever. People are open minded to the ideas, it’s just that some ideas have already been dismissed because they don’t explain the physical evidence, or a better idea that explains more has replaced it. Do you think that geocentrism should be taught in astronomy? or flat earthism taught in geography?

    And finally for all you tone trolls out there, the reason why people get a little curt with some people on a blog such as this and Phayngula is that we get sick of repeating our selves over and over, just like our good man Jerry stating that Atheism is a religion and Matt stating that creationism is a competing theory to evolution.

  182. Goen

    You, Sir, are an idiot.

    The historical practices of the government disproves your doctrine of absolute separation of church and state. Do you dare presume that the people who wrote the constitution were unable to enact and adhere to it? I see that you aren’t by any means a logical man — assumptions, generalizations, and outright lies are void of logic, and your posts are full of them.

  183. Bounrith Ly

    As an immigrant in this country for the last 32 years, I wish this country is a Christian Nation, and I am not a Christian. Values know no border and I would love to live under America’s Christian “oppression” ANY DAY than to breath the fresh air of Europe’s secularism.

  184. Spooner

    People have the common misconception that “separation of church & state” was not in the Constitution. This is incorrect. The phrase “Separation of church & state” was not used specifically, but freedom of religion was, and therefore, freedom from religion. There is an implication there because the Constitution didn’t grant anyone any rights. It just restricted whatever government came to be to very specific functions. The state was not meant to be involved in our lives. There was no need to say anymore.

    The Constitution didn’t give us rights. It restricted the state from impeding on the rights that all humans have inherently.

  185. Spooner

    Paul S.,

    Those quotes only prove what these men had as personal opinions, which they didn’t confuse with being state business.

    Insisting that there should be no absolute separation between church & state means endorsing the subjugation of the nation by the religious beliefs of the largest voting block (never the majority), be they satanists, pastafarians, or otherwise.

  186. Bill

    An Agnostic is an atheist who is too cowardly to admit it.

  187. Phil, I would still like your comment on Obama directing the Justice Department to appeal the National Day of Prayer ruling.

  188. The notion that this country did not inherit Christian characteristics, too, is merely an (albeit misguided) opinion.

  189. TheBlackCat

    @ ace: You do realize that Thomas Jefferson, the guy who wrote the Decleration of Independence, was a very vocal opponent of Christianity? He thought Jesus existed, but was an ordinary mortal human who had some good philosophical ideas. He rejected Christianity and everything remotely miraculous or supernatural in the Bible.

    He actually wrote his own version of the Bible which removed everything about God and everything remotely miraculous or supernatural, leaving only the secular moral teachings from the book. Quoting the declaration of independence as support of Christianity when it was written by someone who outright hated the religion is frankly bizarre.

  190. Peter B

    Matt @ #160 said: “I think it is wrong to flat out say that this country is not a christian nation because there are some clear cut things that are based from the bible, I mean some of the most basic things are from there, do not steal, do not kill all of that stuff…”

    Does this mean that any country which has laws about not killing or stealing is a Christian country? If so, that would make every country in the world Christian. Think about it – which countries don’t have laws about killing and stealing?

    “…and also, the bible by no means degrades women, it says in the bible that men and women are equal but we are clearly different and clearly have different jobs in life, I by no means am saying that a woman should stay in the kitchen because that is not right at all, but I do think that there are something that are stated in the bible that should be kept up.”

    So what should women not be allowed to do that men can do?

    “Why is it okay to have gay rights parades but a day of prayer is a no no? Please that is holding a double standard.”

    What do you mean when you say “a day of prayer is a no no”? My understanding is that President Obama has done nothing to cancel it.

    “Creation in the class room? That is the other theory with proven facts and ways that it Could have happened…”

    Which facts have been proven about Creation? None that I know of.

    “…just like with evolution, there is nothing proven with it, we are all just assuming that that is how things happened, we werent there to see how it all went down.”

    If you have to be present at an event to know how it happened, you are effectively saying that police can’t solve a crime unless they happen to be present at the crime. In reality, it’s quite possible to work out what happened at an event by looking at the evidence left behind.

    “…Open minds are a great thing but not one single person, not a one has a totally open mind.”

    You don’t want to have such an open mind that your brain falls out.

  191. TheBlackCat

    @ Truth: You provide a lot of evidence that the founding fathers had their own religious beliefs. That does not in any way support the idea that the Country was intended to be a Christian country or that it was founded on Christian ideas. You provide some evidence that some of them thought highly of religious people in general, but that doesn’t support the idea that this is a Christian country in particular, and it isn’t that out of line with the times were atheism was uncommon and there was no valid non-religious explanations for many facts of nature.

    On the other hand we have a direct statement, ratified unanimously by the Senate without any disagreement, published widely in the country with little or no record of any disagreement, explicitly stating “the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion”.

    So on one side you have a bunch of personal opinions about religion by the founding fathers, and a few state-specific issues. On the other hand you have an explicit statement by the U.S. government, ratified unanimously, and which everyone or nearly everyone who read it at the time agreed with stating the U.S. was not founded on Christianity. You really think the first trumps the second?

  192. Kyle

    Absolutely agree.

  193. TheBlackCat

    I think it is wrong to flat out say that this country is not a christian nation because there are some clear cut things that are based from the bible, I mean some of the most basic things are from there, do not steal, do not kill all of that stuff and also,

    You mean those things in the Bible that are also practiced by every other country in the history of the world, even those that far predate any of the Bible? So you are saying every country in the world, even those that came thousands of years before the Birth of Abraham (not to mention Jesus) is or was Christian? Talk about arrogance.

    the bible by no means degrades women, it says in the bible that men and women are equal but we are clearly different and clearly have different jobs in life, I by no means am saying that a woman should stay in the kitchen because that is not right at all, but I do think that there are something that are stated in the bible that should be kept up.

    That is a flat-out lie. The Bible not only does not say anywhere that mean and women are equal, it flat-out says that women are inferior to men:
    1 Corinthians
    11:7 For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God: but the woman is the glory of the man.
    11:8 For the man is not of the woman: but the woman of the man.
    11:9 Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man.

    It also says that women are not allowed to teach, or hold any position of authority over men:
    1 Timothy:
    2:11 Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection.
    2:12 But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.
    2:13 For Adam was first formed, then Eve.
    2:14 And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression.

    I can quote many other such statements from the Bible. Can you tell me where the Bible says men and women are equal?

    Why is it okay to have gay rights parades but a day of prayer is a no no? Please that is holding a double standard.

    There is a huge difference: one is a government-run and government-sponsored event, while the other is a privately-run and privately-sponsored even. There is nothing stopping people from holding Christian parades, in fact that do so all the time. It would be unconstitutional to prevent it, since the constitution gives people the right to peacefully assemble. The national day of prayer would be more like the federal government telling everyone they should have homosexual sex on one particular day of the year.

    Creation in the class room? That is the other theory with proven facts and ways that it Could have happened, just like with evolution, there is nothing proven with it, we are all just assuming that that is how things happened, we werent there to see how it all went down.

    Creationism contradicts everything we know about the universe, every branch of science, and much of ancient history. It has no proven facts, it has no facts whatsoever.

    I am not saying either way, but I am saying that if people are supposed to be open minded then maybe we should be open minded to everyones ideas and listen and see their point of view rather then if someone is a christian or a atheist or whatever we dont just cut the other person off and bash them. Open minds are a great thing but not one single person, not a one has a totally open mind.

    I see, so I suppose you think we should teach the Hindu creation story, the Zoarestrian creation story, the Australian Aboriginal creation story(ies), the Native American creation stories, the Wiccan creation story, the Druid creation story, and the creation story of every other religion on the planet?

  194. randall

    1. John Kennedy’s quote is speaking about the fact that he was Catholic. His speech talked about America having freedom OF religion and that that is a personal matter.
    2. John Adam’s quote is talking about how our laws are not “Christian” laws. Although they are based off the 10 commandments, they were laws set to accommodate ALL people.

    The founders were trying to avoid a National religion. Their arguments about religion were about which denomination. There were no Muslims, buddhists, zoroastrianist to take into account.
    Were we founded as a Christian nation? In a sense, no.
    But we were founded as a RELIGIOUS nation. As the FFRF promotes their ideals, they have the freedom to do so, but they do not have the right to limit anyone else’s beliefs. It seems they want freedom as long as it’s their ideas that are free. Not anybody else’s.

    Its freedom OF religion (atheism is a religion) not freedom FROM religion.

  195. Chip

    When JFK stated the oath of office he chose to include “so help me God” which is OPTIONAL. The founding fathers did not include it in the original oath and there is no record of George Washington stating it. The constitution does not endorse any state religion. This is to prevent America from becoming a theocracy with religion being wheeled for political power, be it by groups as diverse as the Church of England in King George’s time or present day Creationists who want to suppress knowledge for political gain and it leaves you free to be in any religion or non-religion without government interference.

    “The oath of the President is the only oath specified in the Constitution. It does not include the closing phrase “So help me God”, and it also allows for the optional form of an affirmation which is not considered an oath. ” – Wikipedia

    So Paul S’s parodies of FFRF.org do not negate Phil’s observations.

  196. Wonder where he got the idea?

  197. Let us not disagree about semantic differences. It is very simple.

    Our nation was founded in a firm belief in GOD.

    Christians are those, myself included, who are followers of Jesus Christ.

    God is defined when capitalized : the supreme or ultimate reality: as a : the Being perfect in power, wisdom, and goodness who is worshiped as a creator and ruler of the universe.

    Jesus Christ is defined as Christ Jesus, Jesus of Nazareth. born 4? b.c., crucified a.d. 29?, the source of the Christian religion.

    Our nation’s history and founding are certainly ensconced in the belief of a supreme being referenced throughout our history as GOD.

    All citizens are free to believe or not believe any form they wish.

    If you do not agree with this solution you are also free to remove yourself from our beloved country.

    Life is full of choices… all choices have consequences.

  198. Keith (the first one)

    Wow! 205 replies and still people trying to suggest atheism is a religion. Those people are thick. As someone said, it’s like describing bald as a hairstyle.

  199. Disappointed

    ‘This blog has my name on it and I can say whatever I want’ may be accurate, but it’s the defense of a four year old.

    Phil, you’re not engaging intelligently, nor reasonably, with those who have added value to your statements by either showing they are not totally accurate or by offering another viewpoint, just as you did with Climategate. And that’s why ‘Scientists’ are no better than anyone else; they’re human, and can plot, scheme and modify data to further their own, closely held belief systems.

  200. Mark

    Re: Paul S.

    You realize that some of what you’re quoting doesn’t mean what you think it means don’t you?

    It’s one thing to use the 10 commandments as a basic guideline, it’s another to say they’re law.

    The principles of Christianity to a certain degree are indeed don’t kill, steal, etc. What you want that quote to say is:
    “The highest glory of the American Revolution was this: it connected in one indissoluble bond the principles of civil government with the bible.”

    There’s a huge difference between principles and actually using something to govern.

  201. TheBlackCat

    @ Paul: You do realize that John Jay quote was highly contentious even at that time right?

  202. Disappointed (212): You are incorrect in your assumption. When I say I can post what I want, that is only defending against the people complaining that I’m writing about topics other than astronomy. I thought that was clear, but then I thought my entire post was pretty clear as well.

  203. Joey Joe Joe

    All this dissecting of what the Founding Fathers said regarding religion is a bit pointless. The only thing that matters is this:

    Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

  204. TheBlackCat

    Oh, and Paul, your quote in #206 is a flat-out fabrication, a Christian fundamentalist just made it up. What Madison actually said was:

    “Religion & Govt. will both exist in greater purity, the less they are mixed together.”

    I find it ironic that a group calling themselves “freedom from lies” uses a quote that is itself a blatant lie.

  205. The success of science, and by extension evolution, biology, astronomy, physics and chemistry, to explain our world has negated the real need for religion. It has moved religion to the realm of philosophy, myth and personal belief. Where religion once had incredible power to shape every day beliefs and life it now is nothing more than a social club or personal fad. New age religions now compete with 2000 year old dogma and recent surveys show that young Americans willing switch religious beliefs as easily as they purchase a new car. And this is what really scares many of the staunch religious fundamentalists. Religion is now just like every other come and go fad. It fills a philosophical void in some people but has no real meaning. Sure a person may kill or die for their religion but that doesn’t make evolution or the Big Bang any less real. They are fearful because they can’t undue reality. The religious people have lost control. And lets face it fore humans, it’s all about control. Governments want it, religions want it, everyday people want more control over their own lifes. Religion is providing this mental security less and less as we learn more and more about or Universe. I think we’re going to see hard core religious people going even more nuts as the reality of the situation crushes down upon them. Their world view is being shattered by science and they’re scared. I kind of feel sorry for them but its inevitable just as the spread of monotheism wiped out gods from Thor to Athena…the Christian God is dying. While I don’t think religion is dead I do hope these people can make the transition back to the metaphysical non-interventionist Creator that many of our Enlightenment educated Founding Fathers believed in. If they don’t we as a nation are in for some major trouble.

    Now

  206. Keith (the first one)

    Nice one TheBlackCar. I had a feeling at least one of those were made up, but it would have been foolish to claim that without evidence (a common theme with reality deniers I might add)

  207. Steve in Dublin

    What? Fundies just make stuff up? I’m going to have to be more careful in future. Previous to this, I took everything they wrote at face value. Oh, wait…

  208. Joey Joe Joe

    @224:

    It’s even funnier when they admit that they’re making the quotes up.

    Others carry the same message but with fictional attribution, as with one billboard citing George Washington for the quote, “It is impossible to rightly govern the world without God and the Bible.”

    “I don’t believe there’s a document in Washington’s handwriting that has those words in that specific form,” Kemple said. “However, if you look at Washington’s quotes, including his farewell address, about the place of religion in the political sphere, there’s no question he could have said those exact words.”

  209. It a broad statement to say America should not allow “religion” to impose influence on the government.
    Everyone has a religion…It might be Christianity,Muslin,Judism or a religion of no religion..Atheism or
    Secularism..everybody is right or no one is absolutely right or wrong…However,like it ir not..Our religious convictions are part who we are and what we value..Religion has to play a role in the laws that govern .And freedom in America allows each man or woman with his religion to petition the government to sanction laws consistent with their absolutes founded on their religious convictions..And the fact that everyone has religious convictions..right or wrong…will always create laws that everyone does not agree..However,any civilized society cannot function without absolute laws of the land to govern mens actions…And if the laws adopted happen to be consistent with religious absolutes,that does not make the laws less significant to a healthy society,even if they are consistent with Christian values.

  210. Reading a couple of posts on Agnostics vs Atheists, which is ironic. They are almost the same thing with one difference: Atheism states firmly there is no God; Agnosticism states there is no way to prove a God exists.

    Neither is a religion, in my opinion. You don’t meet up with others to talk about something you don’t believe in, do you? So, stating that an agnostic is a cowardly atheist isn’t exactly right. By that measure an atheist claims to be 100% sure.

    We live a Universe where you have to prove or disprove something using the scientific method right? God isn’t provable or disprovable. So, it kinda falls into the thought experiment arena where you just can’t test a damn thing.

    To me that makes agnosticism the right choice for me. I will claim that there is no way I can absolutely know one way or another. :)

  211. Weed Monkey

    #226 David Burlison says:

    It[‘s] a broad statement to say America should not allow “religion” to impose influence on the government.

    See, you got that completely upside down. Actually, it’s the government that should not be allowed to impose influence on religion, or lack of thereof.

  212. TheBlackCat

    They are almost the same thing with one difference: Atheism states firmly there is no God; Agnosticism states there is no way to prove a God exists.

    Few, if any, atheists actually say that. Athiest may say that God is unlikely, that the balance of evidence is against God, that God is no more likely than leprechauns or Santa, that God fails as a hypothesis, that the best conclusion given what we know now is that God does not exist, that certain formulation of God are self-contradictory or refuted by the evidence, but that is not the same thing as “stating firmly there is no God”.

    The rest of your argument fails because it deals with a strawman version of atheism. I agree anyone who claims absolute knowledge on anything is wrong, but I have never personally even heard of an atheist that does so.

  213. Joey Joe Joe

    227. Lewis Says:

    They are almost the same thing with one difference: Atheism states firmly there is no God; Agnosticism states there is no way to prove a God exists.

    No. Atheism states nothing. It is simply a lack of belief in a god. It is not a claim of knowledge that there are no gods. A-theism means, literally, not-theist.

    So, stating that an agnostic is a cowardly atheist isn’t exactly right. By that measure an atheist claims to be 100% sure.

    The main objection I have with agnostics is the insinuation that atheists are claiming knowledge of the non-existence of gods. I call myself an atheist because I don’t believe in any gods. Agnostics are called cowardly atheists because of the perception that they don’t believe either, but refuse to admit it.

    We live a Universe where you have to prove or disprove something using the scientific method right? God isn’t provable or disprovable. So, it kinda falls into the thought experiment arena where you just can’t test a damn thing.

    We can’t prove/disprove any number of things. Fairies, Santa, invisible pink unicorns. Are you agnostic about these things? Or perhaps you feel that, although non-falsifiable, these claims have not met the simplest burdens of proof which would warrant further investigation? A kind of “skeptical triage”, if you will.

    To me that makes agnosticism the right choice for me. I will claim that there is no way I can absolutely know one way or another.

    How do you know you can’t know? You poo-poo atheists for (in your mind) claiming absolute knowledge about the non-existence of a god, yet here you are making a claim of absolute knowledge about what is knowable.

    The only relevant question is, do you believe in any gods? The funniest answer I have ever heard to that one from an agnostic is “I don’t know”.

    EDIT:

    Saw this priceless definition of agnosticism on urban dictionary. Too bad it has been voted down:

    Agnosticism considers matters of belief as matters of knowledge. This is why atheists reject it: while it is true that we can never know for sure God doesn’t exist, in the light of our current evidence we have no reason to either believe in His existence or to even consider the possibility of His existence.

  214. Joseph

    Are we (royal) going for three hundred replies? Do you read each post Phil? At what point do you lock threads?

  215. newsgetsold

    If religion is your belief of where we came from and what happens when you die, then everyone has a religion. From that point of view you can never separate religion from state. In fact, the ‘state’ is already very infiltrated with ‘atheist religion’ if that makes sense.

    “If they happen to believe in something that is demonstrably wrong, well then, they should be prepared to suffer the slings and arrows of reality. ”

    It’s a two-way street. Christians would say that what atheists believe is demonstrably wrong, and indeed the bible says you’ll find that out when you die. Death is reality is it not?

  216. Joey Joe Joe

    233. newsgetsold Says:

    If religion is your belief of where we came from and what happens when you die, then everyone has a religion.

    Sure… and if religion is a ham sandwich, then I just ate my religion. But I’ve never heard anyone use your definition of religion. I think the first part of the Wikipedia definition is more useful: A religion is a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe.

    I don’t believe the universe has a purpose; it just is.

    From that point of view you can never separate religion from state. In fact, the ’state’ is already very infiltrated with ‘atheist religion’ if that makes sense.

    Once again, sure… If you define religion in such a way that everyone and everything is religious. It’s a tautology.

    “If they happen to believe in something that is demonstrably wrong, well then, they should be prepared to suffer the slings and arrows of reality. ”

    It’s a two-way street. Christians would say that what atheists believe is demonstrably wrong, and indeed the bible says you’ll find that out when you die. Death is reality is it not?

    There are so many things wrong with this paragraph (after your first sentence, which I agree with) that it’s hard to work out where to begin.

    First, the label “atheist” only tells you one thing about a person: They don’t believe in any gods. So what these things that “atheists believe” are supposed to be is anyone’s guess. It sounds like your angling at the straw-man caricature of atheists we see so often.

    Second: Indeed, the holy books of most religions make grand claims about things which you will find out after you die. Of course, we (conveniently) can’t verify any of these claims because once someone is dead, they tend to stay that way.

    Finally, your statement about death being reality is oddly placed here. It almost seems like you are asserting that a natural death is the Christian god’s punishment for not believing in him. I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt that this is not what you meant, since that would be retarded.

    In any case, death is reality, but what happens to “you” after death is not a part of our reality, so I can’t say much about it other than this old favourite: I was dead for 14 billion years before I was born, and it didn’t inconvenience me then.

    @Joseph (231): I’m trying! ;)

  217. TheBlackCat

    If religion is your belief of where we came from and what happens when you die, then everyone has a religion.

    “Nothing happens when you die” is not a religion, anymore than no food is a type of food.

    In fact, the ’state’ is already very infiltrated with ‘atheist religion’ if that makes sense.

    No, as we keep saying that doesn’t make any sense whatsoever. What you are saying is that the government completely and totally ignoring religion in every way is somehow endorsing the religion of ignoring religion. That is completely nonsensical. It is like saying the government not telling people what hobbies they should do is somehow the same thing as endorsing the hobby of not telling people what hobby to do.

    It’s a two-way street. Christians would say that what atheists believe is demonstrably wrong,

    They say it all the time, but they never bother to actually show these supposed demonstrations, or when they do they are hopelessly flawed.

    and indeed the bible says you’ll find that out when you die.

    That is by definition not a demonstration, because it can only be known to the person it is happening to. A demonstration necessarily entails showing something to other people. Most of the supposed “demonstrations” proposed by religions are like this, they are not demonstrations at all because they can only ever be experienced by the person undergoing it. That sort of argument could be used to demonstrate anything, and it is used to demonstrate numerous contradictory “facts”, so it is utterly useless as a method of determining what is true and what isn’t.

    Death is reality is it not?

    All evidence indicates that it is. It is the Christians, and some other religions, that think otherwise.

  218. Peter B

    Newsgetsold @ #231 said: “It’s a two-way street. Christians would say that what atheists believe is demonstrably wrong, and indeed the bible says you’ll find that out when you die.”

    Let’s try a substitution game…

    “It’s a two-way street. Muslims would say that what Christians believe is demonstrably wrong, and indeed the Koran says you’ll find that out when you die.”

    Why is the Bible a definitive guide to what’s “demonstrably wrong” and not, for example, the Koran?

    This is the big beef I have with anti-atheist Christians – so many frame their arguments as Christianity vs Atheism as if these are the only two teams in town. And here is the problem for Christian apologists: If Atheism is wrong because Christianity is right, then all other religions are also wrong. But if Christianity is right because Atheism is wrong, then all other religions are also right.

    You can’t have it both ways. Either all the other religions are wrong, in which case you can’t stop after refuting just atheism; or all other religions are as right as Christianity, in which case there’s no specific reason for atheists to become Christians, as opposed to any other religion.

  219. AL

    “They are almost the same thing with one difference: Atheism states firmly there is no God; Agnosticism states there is no way to prove a God exists.” -Lewis

    I consider myself an atheist, but I think the definition you give of atheism here is a very poor one. Atheists don’t necessarily state firmly there is no god for quite a simple reason: there is more than one conceptualization of what a god is. So if asked “do you believe in god?”, my first response as an atheist is not “no,” but rather “which god?”

    Some theists’ notions of god are very easily refutable in the same way you can refute the existence of a married bachelor or an even prime number greater than two. These are theists that straightforwardly assign mutually contradictory properties to their god, such as naive absolute omnipotence (“god makes rocks so heavy he can’t lift it”) or incoherent traits (“my god exists before time and outside space”, as though before were not a temporal concept, or outside not a spatial one).

    Some other theists’ notions of god, while they can’t quite be refuted analytically, can still have overwhelming evidence stacked against it, such as the preponderance of evidence to suggest there wasn’t a god who got off his ass 6,000 years ago to spawn the universe in 6 days. This god doesn’t simply defy all evidence the universe is much older, but even defies the ordering of the appearance of things in the universe (e.g. god made day and night before the sun). Strictly speaking, you can’t absolutely refute these gods, but you can render them absurd to the point that anyone willing to take their chance on this god is someone you should consider playing poker with if they have lots of money, because they don’t know how to draw reasonable conclusions from uncertain information, and may bet big with a crappy hand.

    There are other categories of theist besides these two. Though not quite as common as they used to be, there are theists that consider ordinary natural things to be gods, an example being sun-worshippers. In this case, my atheism isn’t so much that I don’t believe that the sun exists, but rather more about seeing the lack of intellectual and epistemic utility in conceptualizing the sun as a god.

    So as others have mentioned above, the best definition of atheism is NOT “belief with certainty that there is no god” but “lacks belief in a god.” Despite what some will say, these are not equivalent, because the latter covers my objections I’ve laid above while the former is a complete misrepresentation of not just my own position as an atheist, but that of just about every atheist I know.

  220. olderwithmoreinsurance

    Daniel @104 is of course right about the reason JFK felt compelled to say what he did about religion. there’s little demonstrable evidence that he was particularly religious himself, though he probably was above today’s average in attendence at Mass (of course, lots of people were watching). You hear the same thing today, unfortuantely, about “Jews always siding with Israel” etc. etc.

  221. Pi-needles

    @ 234. Joey Joe Joe

    Sure… and if religion is a ham sandwich, then I just ate my religion.

    If a religion is a ham sandwich then it probably ain’t the Jewish one! ;-)

    @ 231. Joseph Says:

    Are we (royal) going for three hundred replies? Do you read each post Phil? At what point do you lock threads?

    Fas as I’m aware, the BA *never* locks these threads. As for 300 posts, hey why not, – maybe even 400 or 500. More posts is a good thing right? Or is it?

    @ 209. Bob Fox Says:

    If you do not agree with this solution [apparently that means being Christian if I understand him right? – ed.] you are also free to remove yourself from our beloved country.

    You are making the false assumption there that everybody here is American and that “our beloved country” is the United States. My “beloved country” is Australia – as is also the case for a number of others here while others come from Canada, England and a whole range of other places.

    Plus you are totally wrong :

    Our nation was founded in a firm belief in GOD.

    The whole OP here was explaining exactly why that is just NOT TRUE.

    @ Paul S. : You don’t know when to stop do you? Or which quotes are actually true and which side is telling lies as # 219. TheBlackCat & # 225. Joey Joe Joe have pointed out. Please either find a new schtick like making your case rationally and honestly or just go away. You are being very boring .

  222. TheBlackCat

    That is another totally fabricated quote, Paul.

    I thought you might have learned your lesson the first time and started checking the quotes before you posted them, but apparently you are perfectly content to spread lies in attempt to sway people to your side. That is not to say you are a liar, but you obviously don’t care whether the quotes you post are real or fake.

  223. If you can give specific details on “fabricated quotes” I will certainly investigate the claims. “another fabricated quote” is vague. Be specific. Cite the individual quote and your source indicating that it’s “fabricated”.

  224. Peter B

    Paul S said: “If you can give specific details on “fabricated quotes” I will certainly investigate the claims. “another fabricated quote” is vague. Be specific. Cite the individual quote and your source indicating that it’s “fabricated”.”

    How about instead you provide evidence of when these people said these things, and in what context?

  225. TheBlackCat

    Here is the website where the guy who spread the quotes in the first place admitted that there is no record of them actually being uttered:

    http://www.wallbuilders.com/LIBissuesArticles.asp?id=126

  226. TheBlackCat

    Paul, as I pointed out before Thomas Jefferson was strongly and vocally opposed to Christianity as a religion. He thought Jesus was a secular moral teacher whose philosophy had been manipulated by priests for their own personal gain. Citing him for support for anything even remotely related to Christianity as a religion is downright dishonest.

  227. DaveS

    I think it’s interesting that if you visit DC, and look at all the monuments, it isn’t hard to believe that the founding fathers shared a lot of beliefs with modern fundamentalist Christians. I went there around New Years this year, and my fundamentalist brother was quick to point this out to me as we toured.

    I know better. I’ve read a lot of the writings of these people. I know Lincoln was a believer, of course, but I also know that Jefferson was as close to a modern ethical-humanist-agnostic-atheist (post-Christian, IOW) as someone of his era was likely to be. But go to the Jefferson Memorial, and right there on the wall is his words (I paraphrase) that he’s fearful for the country for the removal of God’s Providence, and for God’s Wrath. WTF? Who was it that chose THOSE particular writings, over the many, many less theist statements he made?

  228. TheBlackCat

    I decided to check your Jefferson quote, since although it is not one of the ones on that list of fabricated quotes I can’t help but be suspicious of anything coming from that series. I am not certain about the second sentence, but the first sentence is genuine but taken out of context (it is not even the complete sentence, just part of it). The second sentence certainly does not belong with the first. Here is the full quote, with the first sentence highlighted so you can see how dishonest the quotation is:

    I, too, have made a wee-little book from the same materials, which I call the Philosophy of Jesus; it is a paradigma of his doctrines, made by cutting the texts out of the book, and arranging them on the pages of a blank book, in a certain order of time or subject. A more beautiful or precious morsel of ethics I have never seen; it is a document in proof that I am a real Christian, that is to say, a disciple of the doctrines of Jesus, very different from the Platonists, who call me infidel and themselves Christians and preachers of the gospel, while they draw all their characteristic dogmas from what its author never said nor saw. They have compounded from the heathen mysteries a system beyond the comprehension of man, of which the great reformer of the vicious ethics and deism of the Jews, were he to return on earth, would not recognize one feature.

    So ironically the quote taken to support Thomas Jefferson as a Christian is taken from a passage where he once again re-iterates his outright rejection of Christianity as a religion. He even discusses the book I mentioned previously, where he literally cut out all of the supernatural and miraculous bits.

    I still can’t get over the sheer audacity of fundamentalists taking a passage that directly contradicts their position and twisting it so it seems to support them.

    And whatever the case is the quote still counts as a fabrication, since the second sentence does not belong with the first if Jefferson said it at all. I can’t find any independent source that contains that quote, just hundreds upon hundreds of website that have all copied and pasted a single essay

  229. bad Jim

    Actually, that last quote from Jefferson is impeccably unitarian. “The unity of our creator” is asserted in opposition to the doctrine of the trinity. He was mostly likely referring to the trend towards Unitarianism during the revolutionary period, which was regrettably followed by the second Great Awakening.

    (I see that TheBlackCat is all over this. Steve already mentioned the Unitarian trend of the time.)

  230. TheBlackCat

    I found what might be the source for the second sentence. As Jim predicted, it was actually a quote were Thomas Jefferson was saying how he thought unitarianism was going to become the dominant religion in the U.S. Here is the quote:

    The pure and simple unity of the Creator of the universe, is now all bascendantatn in the Eastern States; it is dawning in the West, and advancing towards the South; and I confidently expect that the present generation will see Unitarianism become the general religion of the United States.

  231. Thiagan

    Allegedly the greatest, most powerful, and most democratic nation on the earth! How mixed up you seem. Let us look at this situation a step at a time. 1. “A Christian nation?” a simple Google search will elicit the fact that at present there are over 38,000 Christian denominations on earth. 2. Since there is only one Jesus Christ, from whose name the term Christianity has originated, it will be obvious that only one of these groups could be right while all others must essentially be wrong. 3. Clearly therefore since Christ is God, and Christianity originated from Him, such a unique group cannot be wrong. 4. It follows that such a perfect group, created by God, cannot under any circumstance be responsible for killing even a single human being, right? 5. Obviously therefore the USA is not a Christian Nation. 6. I am sure many Americans, since they are or maybe in one of the above 38,000 denominations, actually think they are Christians, but since only one of the above groups can be truly Christian and absolutely accurate followers of Jesus Christ, mathematically, only 0.002634% of Americans can in truth, be Christian. 7. Conclusion, America is not a Christian Nation, not even close, right?

  232. SLC

    Folks, Mr. Paul S. gets his quotes from faux “historian” David Barton, a totally discredited writer. For more information on Mr. Barton, consult Ed Braytons’ blog, Dispatches, on Scienceblogs where multiple threads dissecting Mr. Bartons’ false claims are documented. Mr. Barton just makes stuff up.

    However, I would appreciate it if Mr. Paul S. could inform us as to how he could possibly consider Thomas Jefferson, a man who rejected the Virgin Birth, the divinity of Yeshua of Nazareth, the Resurrection, the Trinity, and the miracle tales in the Christian and Hebrew scriptures, a believing Christian.

  233. SLC

    Re Matt @ #160

    Creation in the class room? That is the other theory with proven facts and ways that it Could have happened, just like with evolution, there is nothing proven with it, we are all just assuming that that is how things happened, we werent there to see how it all went down.

    Unfortunately for Mr. Matt, there is not a jot or a tittle of evidence that the stories of creation as described in the first two books of Genesis have any basis in reality. That, of course, is in addition to the fact that the creation stories in the two books differ in that in the first, humans were created after the other animals while in the second book, humans were created before the other animals.

    The evidence from multiple areas of science, namely physics, astronomy, geology, biology, genetics, and paleontology overwhelming points to a 4.5 billion year old earth and common descent of all living things from single cell beginnings.

  234. Steve in Dublin

    Paul S., liar for jebus extraordinaire. Impossible to have rational discourse with deluded idiots like you who copy and paste stuff from other deluded idiots who quote mine, or just make sh#t up. What a complete waste of everyone’s time you are.

    Threads like this one, or ones on creationism, are becoming increasingly frustrating to participate in when the fundie side of the debate has nothing to bring to the table other than variations on: “It’s in the bible, so it must be true!” It’s either that, or putting up a long line of straw men and knocking them down. They can’t even remotely comprehend concepts like atheism, or the scientific method.

    Have to admit though, some of it does make for a good chuckle. That, and slaking the thirst for a SIWOTI that needs rectifying.

  235. Here is a web site that refutes many of Paul S.’ quotes.

    http://www.positiveatheism.org/writ/founding.htm

    Author and liar, David Barton, has admitted that many of these quotes were fabricated and others were taken greatly out of context. Unfortunately this won’t change any minds because if their entire worldview is built upon a single book that is more myth then reality, these people won’t care if a few quotes are utterly made up.

  236. aveteran

    @#239, Paul S: Your Patrick Henry citation is a fraud. You can find several sources refuting it. Your steadfast defense of ignorance is amusing.

    http://scienceblogs.com/dispatches/2009/07/fake_patrick_henry_quote_found.php

    wallbuilders.org – look for “unconfirmed quotations”

  237. aveteran

    @Paul S.: Have you found freedom from yourself yet?

  238. I have yet to see anyone define what is a “religion”…To some just the mention of the term
    “religion” in the political arena, is considered an enemy of democracy. However, a true democracy allows all religions to have their say.

    Was this nation intended by our forefathers to be a Christian theocracy..No..

    However, the constitution allows the free expression of religion, even in the political arena..
    Including the expression of Christian beliefs and convictions..In many countries in the past and presently this has not been allowed and I take it that some of the commentators take issue with this freedom of expression allowed to Christianity..This free expression mandate of law is what makes American democracy unique and the land of the free..

    Considering all, it is naive to say that Christian values have not been a major influence
    on the governing laws of this country..A cursory examination of American jurisprudence
    will inform you that our common laws were modeled after principles of law found in the Bible..The legal writings of William Blackstone, who influence every lawmaker and jurist in the founding of American jurisprudence, constantly made reference to Christian principles in directing the course of legal doctrine that still exist today.

    The republican form of government itself was modeled after governing principles of the early American Christian church.

    Is summary…Is this a Christian nation..Not in the sense of a theocracy.. However, Christian principles of right and wrong are evident in our laws of society, in the constitution and in what most Americans value…And if anyone can offer better principles to govern a democracy, you have every constitutional right to make your petitions..

  239. AL

    Patrick Henry really was a staunch Christian, so people like Paul S. and David Barton could’ve just left it at that. But no, they just have to make up fake quotes from the man too.

    And seriously, Paul S., what do you hope to accomplish by putting up fake quotes, or out-of-context quotes that don’t quite mean what you’re attempting to pass them off to mean? As others have pointed out above, none of what any of the Founding Fathers thought privately really matters with respect to establishing what religion our government must pay homage to. The only thing that matters is what is in the Constitution, which unfortunately for the theocrats, mentions nothing about any official religion, or that the government was founded on Christian principles (because, really, the Constitution reads like Jesus or Moses wrote it, right? C’mon now.).

  240. Doug Little

    However, Christian principles of right and wrong are evident in our laws of society, in the constitution and in what most Americans value…And if anyone can offer better principles to govern a democracy, you have every constitutional right to make your petitions

    Sorry to disappoint you but first of all our legal system is based on English common law. There are only two of the ten biblical laws that are actually part of our current legal system, and those are pretty much universal and have been evident in social groups for thousands of years before the Xtian religion even emerged.

  241. TheBlackCat

    I have yet to see anyone define what is a “religion”

    Have you read the comments? See commetn 234, specifically.

    …To some just the mention of the term “religion” in the political arena, is considered an enemy of democracy.

    Who are these “some”? Where has anyone said anything remotely similar to this?

    However, a true democracy allows all religions to have their say.

    Please show me where anyone has disagreed with this.

    ..This free expression mandate of law is what makes American democracy unique and the land of the free..

    It is far from unique.

    ..A cursory examination of American jurisprudence will inform you that our common laws were modeled after principles of law found in the Bible..

    Please provide specific examples of common laws that “were modeled after principles of law found in the Bible” and are not commonly found in other non-Christian countries. I can provide countless examples of laws that directly contradicts laws found in the Bible. It seems to me that most biblical laws that are used in the U.S. are those laws that are shared across all cultures, and those laws that are unique to Christianity are not generally not followed in U.S. law. This excludes, of course, things like having Sunday off.

    The legal writings of William Blackstone, who influence every lawmaker and jurist in the founding of American jurisprudence, constantly made reference to Christian principles in directing the course of legal doctrine that still exist today.

    That doesn’t imply that the founding fathers thought the laws were good because they were presented as being based on the Bible, which would be necessary for your argument to hold. The founding fathers used a lot of British common law, but they also rejected a lot of British common law. They picked and chose those pieces they thought were good based on their own ideas and rejected those pieces they thought were bad based on their own ideas. In order for your argument to hold you would need to show that the founding fathers used Christianity to determine which parts of British common to accept and which to reject. If they didn’t then the formulation of U.S. law was not based on religion.

    I should also add that they also used a lot of ideas from Rome and Athens republics as well, neither of which were Christian (Rome became Christian long after it turned to a dictatorship). And it is important to point out that people commonly use their religion to justify ideas they got through other means, so the fact that someone used religion to justify their ideas is not really that relevant to begin with. In fact there was a recent study that shows that people very readily attribute their own opinions to God, much more so then they do to other people.

    The republican form of government itself was modeled after governing principles of the early American Christian church.

    Wait, what? The republican form of government predates Christianity by centuries at least. The British republic, which you were claiming above is the basis for our current laws, had the beginnings of a republican form of government centuries before the discovery of the Americas by Europeans.

    I should also add that many early American Churches, like the Puritans, were commonly thought to have had some good (but far from unique) ideas, but also a lot of very bad ones and so wasn’t used as a general model, especially because of the religious violence and intolerance they promoted.

    However, Christian principles of right and wrong are evident in our laws of society, in the constitution and in what most Americans value…

    Once again, you make this sweeping claim, but you provide no examples supporting this conclusion. I can provide numerous examples, however, in Biblical law that contradict this position. If you just look

    And if anyone can offer better principles to govern a democracy, you have every constitutional right to make your petitions..

    Oh, so you are saying, for instance, that India or Japan are not republics, or are bad republics? What about Rome and Athens?

    Actually, I would very much like to see where in the Bible the idea of a republic is even mentioned. I would also very much like you to tell me what specific aspects of Christianity are unique to Christianity, consistently accepted by Christians throughout history, and are important to a well-working rublic. If it isn’t unique to Christianity, then it doesn’t support you conclusion that Christianity is important. If it wasn’t consistently accepted, that implies that it may just be people interpreting the Bible to fit with their own ideas (especially if it is an idea that is commonly-held now but wasn’t a few hundred years ago, which implies that republican government is influencing Christianity and not the other way around).

  242. Roderic Rinehart

    Enough has been said already.

    TO THE AUTHOR – THANK YOU

    Do not write separate blogs for this and that. I come here to read your educated, reasoned opinion on whatever it is you decide to opine about. This is your space. Do what you want. I applaud this article.

  243. @ 245-246

    The John Quincy Adams quote is confirmed since the original article. I will do my best to confirm the Patrick Henry and James Madison quotes. No other quote I posted is on that page you referred to. So you spent a little effort and were rewarded in “knocking down” two quotes. You’re still left the problem of John Adams, John Jay, and the others (including the treaty of Paris which I will be doing shortly).

    Using Thomas Jefferson quotes is entirely relevant. Regardless of what he thought about the divinity of Christ, the moral principals of Jesus are what he animately agreed with, and wished to bring to the nation (which is overwhelmingly apparent).

  244. Don Gisselbeck

    264 posts! ok 265 Further proof (if any were needed) that God (if there is a God) is not a control freak.

  245. Paul S.

    Odd, my last post seems to have been deleted.

    The “debunking” website addresses TWO of the quotes as “unconfirmed”. I will attempt to confirm them. Don’t worry, my next series will provide citations.

  246. TheBlackCat

    @ Paul S.: So you are just going to continue throwing out irrelevant quotes? Care to actually address any of our points?

    And if you can confirm them it would make you world famous. The most respected experts on those people searched through all existing writings by them and could find no trace of the quotes, nor anything remotely similar to them. On the contrary their stated opinions on the matter quite explicitly contradict what the quotes said.

  247. Brian Too

    This thread is too long and is making me tired!

  248. brad

    I found it funny that the advertisement banner that showed up next to this post was a roll-out ad for the Templeton Foundation talking about morality.

  249. Messier Tidy Upper

    @264. TheBlackCat:

    Actually, I would very much like to see where in the Bible the idea of a republic is even mentioned.

    Yes indeed. OTOH, There’s the Biblical line about “Render unto Caesar” which surely taken literally implies that the divinely ordered Biblically based model of governance is having a governing Caesar or Emperor ruling the entire nation as well as a large territory of conquered peoples & many puppet or client states.

    Truly Bible believing fundamental Christians should therefore be calling for an end to the Un-Biblical US Republic along with the unholy principle of democracy and its blasphemous, hubristic elections. (Everybody knows God always appoints the king via His Prophets and that *always* works out right – just look at the story of Israel / Judea’s King Saul! ;-) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/King_Saul )

    True Christians must be governed as Jesus Himself decreed thus Christians are Bible -bound to call for the establishment of an Imperium led by a hereditary dictator (“Caesar”) with absolute powers regardless of personal depravity. (Eg. Nero, Caligula.) Variety of – strictly dynastic mind you – leadership and change of rule is then provided with occassional overthrow of weak emperor’s by their (“Praetorian”) bodyguards. After all the Bible say so! Thus it must be right & must be made so! No? ;-)

    PS. Variants of the Caesar Roman Imperial title incl. ‘Kaiser’ (German) & ‘Czar’ or ‘Tsar’ – (Russian) – sadly these ruling titles have been blasphemously abolished after coming to sticky revolutionary ends. An “ungodly” error which obviously must be rectified ASAP! ;-)

  250. Greer

    I totally agree with the main thrust of the article, but was that first paragraph dig at religious people in general really necessary? The point of religion in general is that it’s unknowable and unprovable, and by definition cannot be disproven (it can be unlikely and silly-sounding, but god is not exactly testable).

    I’m Jewish, and if history has taught me anything it’s that religion should be kept far, FAR away from the halls of power. I also love the billboards, but that first paragraph just made me ridiculously defensive and seemed to have no point other then to make religious people irritated.

  251. Penh

    PaulS, it may be true that Thomas Jefferson agreed with the principles that Jesus is said to have taught, but citing his belief that Jesus was a good moral teacher but not in any way divine isn’t exactly support for the idea that America was founded as a Christian nation. When people proclaim that this is a “Christian nation,” they aren’t saying that this is a country which was founded in the belief that Christ had some pretty good ideas that are probably worth listening to, and I would hope you’re aware of that. I think you need to look at the quotes you’re providing (the genuine ones, of course, not the fabricated ones) and ask yourself exactly what you think they’re going to prove?

  252. Steve in Dublin

    OK Paul S., gloves are off. You are lifting all these ‘quotes’ from David Barton, who has been repeatedly demonstrated to either:

    1. Quote out of context (‘quote mine’) to make it look like a person said something which they did not mean at all.
    2. Make stuff up to suit his agenda, or quote secondary sources as if they were the primary source.

    I’m going to show every one of the quotes you posted to be the twisted falsehood that it really is. We shouldn’t have to do this, but it looks like we have to lay it out like we would for a second grade student as all attempts to treat you like an adult have failed. First off then, there’s this one:

    “We have staked the whole future of our new nation, not upon the power of government; far from it. We have staked the future of all our political constitutions upon the capacity of each of ourselves to govern ourselves according to the moral principles of the Ten Commandments.” — James Madison

    It has been debunked here by Jim Allison:

    http://candst.tripod.com/misq1.htm

    In fact, you have even distorted the original misquote, which was actually:

    “We have staked the whole future of American civilization not upon the power of government, far from it. We have staked the future of all our political institutions upon the capacity of mankind for self-government, upon the capacity of each and all of us to govern ourselves, to control ourselves, to sustain ourselves according to the Ten Commandments.”

    That quote was taken from page 120 of David Barton’s book The Myth of Separation. Jim Allison has this to say about it:

    The only problem with the above is, no such quote has ever been found among any of James Madison’s writings. None of the biographers of Madison, past or present have ever run across such a quote, and most if not all would love to know where this false quote originated. Apparently, David Barton did not check the work of the secondary sources he quotes.

    One down. Do you wish me to continue, Paul S.? I’m not going to waste my time further if you are no longer following this thread.

  253. TheBlackCat

    @ Paul: to extend what Penh said, and many others, quotes about the personal religious beliefs of individual founding fathers are not relevant even if they are true and not intentionally misleading. The fact that they had religious beliefs, which no one denies, does not in any way imply that they based the U.S. government on those beliefs, or that they intended the U.S. to only be for people who shared their beliefs, or that they intended the U.S. to support those beliefs at the exclusion of all others. You need quotes showing that they thought one of those three things. Further, you need to show that it applied to the current U.S. government (not to state governments at the time, not to the Continental Congress, and not to the Articles of Confederation, none of which had prohibitions about establishing an official religion or many of the other liberties now protected by the Bill of Rights), and that their beliefs were actually Christian in the same sense you are (as I said, several thought highly of Jesus’s moral teachings but were much less supportive or downright opposed to many or all of the Christian churches). If your quote does not show all of that, then it doesn’t support your conclusion.

    Even then, you need to explain why the personal opinion of one person trumps an official statement ratified unanimously and without dissent by the U.S. senate, signed without disagreement by the President, and for which there is no recorded disagreement anywhere in the country despite the fact that it was published on the front page in most or all newspapers in the country at the time.

  254. @Dave S:

    Umm, you’re aware the Founding Fathers didn’t build the monuments in DC?

  255. Exactly. I cannot comprehend how the Christian Right could get it so wrong. Yes, our founders were deeply religious. Many of us are now, too. But if you have the sense [pick a deity] gave you, you understand that the founders wanted to keep the freedom for which they fought to include religious freedom. And religious freedom is not possible with a state religion.

    The true enemy of freedom is the insistence of some people that their way of thinking is the One True Way and the ways of others are not. Eventually that ends up like the Taliban or the Communists (a religious creed if ever I saw one). If there is no disagreement there is no freedom.

  256. dachs_dude

    Let me get this straight. The same people who discount The Holy Bible because it “supports slavery” get their talking points about religion from Thomas Jefferson who owned slaves, procreated with slaves and on his deathbed, didn’t set them free? THAT Thomas Jefferson?

    Maybe it’s someone else.

    Also, freedom of religion doesn’t mean, as many would like to see, a complete abolishment of any and all public references to religion. It means that that expression is protected speech. I have a right to my beliefs and a right to express them, as do you. Or your lack of beliefs if that’s the case.

    You have right to ignore my beliefs, but you cannot silence them. Also, if we’re talking tolerance, just as we might dis-agree on certain subjects, (Jesus’ Deity/Resurrection e.g.), we can respect and honor each others opinions.

    In the public sphere, on any subject, I have the right to express my opinion and beliefs, for example gay-marriage: I should be able to support or oppose for religious or non-religious reasons gay-marriage without fear of someone silencing me through law or intimidation as this is a matter of opinion.

    As to Phil’s point, I may be wrong, but I think that Phil thinks that his atheist position is correct and that all religious points of view are wrong by definition. That’s a false dichotomy. One religion could be true and the others false, or all religions could be false, but they can’t all be true as they many make opposing claims. Since they can’t all me true, it doesn’t make any one religion false, just the idea that all of them could be true.

    Just my .02.

  257. TheBlackCat

    The same people who discount The Holy Bible because it “supports slavery”

    Who here said anything about slavery period, not to mention discounting the Bible because of it? The only mention of slavery before you posted was to point out that the founders were not perfect.

    get their talking points about religion from Thomas Jefferson who owned slaves, procreated with slaves and on his deathbed, didn’t set them free? THAT Thomas Jefferson?

    Who here got “their talking points about religion from Thomas Jefferson”? As far as I can see the only ones who did that were the ones opposing the separation of church and state. The rest of us simply pointed out that Jefferson rejected the Christian religion and thus it is disingenuous to quote him in support of Christianity as the official religion of the U.S. I don’t recall anyone here even explicitly agreeing with Jefferson’s religious views, not to basing their views on his.

    Also, freedom of religion doesn’t mean, as many would like to see, a complete abolishment of any and all public references to religion.

    I’ve asked before, but have yet to get an answer, who is this “many” that would like to see this? I have certainly not seen anywhere here propose anything remotely similar to this. Who, specifically, are you referring to?

    It means that that expression is protected speech. I have a right to my beliefs and a right to express them, as do you. Or your lack of beliefs if that’s the case.

    Who, specifically, has disagreed with this?

    In the public sphere, on any subject, I have the right to express my opinion and beliefs, for example gay-marriage: I should be able to support or oppose for religious or non-religious reasons gay-marriage without fear of someone silencing me through law or intimidation as this is a matter of opinion.

    Who has disagreed with this?

    As to Phil’s point, I may be wrong, but I think that Phil thinks that his atheist position is correct and that all religious points of view are wrong by definition.

    Where has Phil said anything remotely similar to this?

    That’s a false dichotomy. One religion could be true and the others false, or all religions could be false, but they can’t all be true as they many make opposing claims. Since they can’t all me true, it doesn’t make any one religion false, just the idea that all of them could be true.

    Where has Phil disagreed with this?

    I am frankly dumbfounded. You have 6 paragraphs that contain nothing whatsoever besides strawman arguments. Not one position you attribute to your opponents bears even the slightest resemblance to anything anyone has said in the entire comment section of this post. No one has disagreed with any of the positions you put forward.

    Are you sure you are commenting on the right blog post? Your comment really seems to be directed at an entirely different conversation than the one that has been going on here.

  258. Plutonian

    @278. Louis Bookbinder Says:

    … Eventually that ends up like the Taliban or the Communists (a religious creed if ever I saw one).

    The Communists were militant atheists. Yes, Communism (a.k.a. & with sects of Bolshevism / Leninism / Stalinism /Trotskyism / Maoism, etc ..) was/is a political & very cult-like ideology but it is godless – without supernatural elements – and actively tried to crush and suppress genuine religious beliefs such as the Russian Orthodox faith and Confucianism.

    It is also worth noting that Communism failed totally in that anti-theistic quest as once the repressive totalitarian rule of Communism ended most Russians abandoned atheism and returned to their previous Russian version of Christianity.

    Semantically and practically, Atheism *is* a religious belief if perhaps NOT a full “religion” as such because it makes a firm statement concerning the supernatural – even if that statement is an utterly negative one.

    After all, atheist (or for that matter agnostic) is what someone holding that .. um .. philosophy (shall we say?) would put on their census form in the ‘religion’ box. Or asked what when asked generally what they believe in they’d have to answer atheism.

    So, like it or not, it does seem to me to be fair to describe atheism as a religious belief.

    It also does seem – to me – fair also to describe Richard Dawkin’s & Christopher Hitchens among others as “fundamentalist” or “militant” atheists because of their fanatical (how else would you put it?) and overly certain insistence on spreading their very intolerant and sometimes downright offensive views and having the “we alone are absolutely right and all others totally wrong!” attitude.

    Actually anti-theist’ is probably a better word than ‘a-theist’ for some on the fundamentalist extreme of a-theism because they are NOT content just to think there is no God they insist on fighting and attacking and imposing their “dogma” upon all those who don’t share their view or so it appears.

    Yes atheist make a good logical case at times & yes religion can sound silly to unbelievers but then religious people are not all stupid and caricatures of faith and strawmen are found in great profusion on *both* sides. (Eg. Dawkin’s sets up a lot of straw men and cherrypicks and focuses excessively on the negative side of religion in his ‘Delusion’ book.)

    Its worthwhile too remembering that there are also examples of people such as Prof. Anthony Flew & C.S.Lewis who converted from atheism to Christianity or Theism after being convinced by logic and reasoning.

    Agnostics and a-theists who are content to admit “we don’t know” and look or study further without judging the correctness or otherwise are quite different from those anti-theists like Dawkin’s who seem to want to abolish all religion and destroy the faith of others in their own certainty that they know best and are unwilling to hear otherwise.

    Personally, I would describe myself as agnostic – I’m not sure whether or not God exists and not sure we have enough evidence (or ever could) to say for certain one way or the other.

    I would like to believe in Something Good Beyond This World sometimes – things like Justice happening post-death and more beyond just materialism – and it is true that science cannot explain a lot of things and isn’t the only aspect of life.

    I would describe an agnostic as an honest or moderate atheist that admits we don’t and maybe can’t know whether God exists for sure and an atheist as an arrogant or excessively certain (better word?) anti-theist.

    Many people – some of who I know personally – have experienced strange things and “supernatural” presences in their lives. Who am I to tell them they’re wrong?

    – Ex-Plutonium being from Pluto

  259. Plutonian

    CORRECTION :

    That para was supposed to read :

    Agnostics and a-theists who are content to admit “we don’t know for sure” and will look or study further without judging* the correctness or otherwise of other religous perspectives & respecting such beliefs of others are quite different from those “anti-theists” who seem to want to abolish all religion and destroy the faith of others because of their own certainty that they know best and are unwilling to hear otherwise, eg. Richard Dawkin’s .

    #@!@$! typos and lack of adequate editing time. (Course for some people *no* amount of editing time will ever seem enough – like me. ;-) )

    —-

    * “Judging” might not be quite the right word here either .. something in the way of not just thinking this sounds right /wrong tome but that X is crazy or deluded in thinking so & having contempt for otherpeopel’s opinions. Sorta. Still not quite clear but that kind of aspect where you don’t invalidate other people’s perspectives and opinions even if you don’t necessarily share them or understand them.

    For an example :

    An *agnostic* will say to a Believer in X : “I don’t know that you are right, I don’t think so myself but respect your views and, yes, X could be true *for you.*

    Whereas

    An *a-thiest* will say to a Believer in X : “I don’t agree with you and you think are wrong and X is totally false.”

    While

    An *anti-thiest* will say to a Believer in X : “I disagree with you and am certain X is totally wrong – and I will add that you are a superstitious, deluded, idiotic dumbass for ever believing anything so utterly stupid and I know I’m totally right!”

    Which is, oddly, quite close to a *fundamentalist Believer* in X who will say : “X is the One & Only True Faith & I know this for sure and non-belivers in X are going to hell for NOT believing in exactly X!”

  260. Plutonian

    Arrgh! Typo – again! – got crucial words the wrong way round :

    An *a-thiest* will say to a Believer in X : “I don’t agree with you and think you are wrong and X is totally false.”

    Nutshell summary :

    Fundamentalist : “I KNOW X is the ONE True Belief.”

    Agnostic : “I am unsure what – if anything – is the True Belief.”

    Atheist : “I KNOW X is NOT a True Belief!”

    Anti-theist : “I KNOW X is NOT a True belief – & anyone who believes in anything at all is a moron for doing so because my Belief in having NO beliefs is the ONE True belief!” ;-)

    Of course, I’m sure the Dawkins-style anti-theists here will call this a “strawman” caricature of their views &, in pre-emptive advance, I’ll say I think it *is* a fairly valid summary of their thinking.

  261. Plutonian

    Finally, to bring this back to the issue at hand, I think the Freedom From Religion Foundation like Dawkins clearly fall into the anti-theist category above and this ad campaign of theirs will probably turn out to be counter-productive if anything.

    Just as I think average people who are NOT already fans of Dawkin’s find him rude and mean in his constant attacks on anyone and anything religous so too will the average man on the street probably find this advertising campaign by the FFRF just pointless and annoying and something that will rub them up the wrong way.

    The atheist minority will, no doubt, cheer and applaud on seeing these FFRF ads.

    However, realistically *if* they notice these FFRF’s ads at all ( & they mostly probably
    won’t)
    , the average bloke or lass on the street will most likely just sigh or give an exasperated comment along the lines of :

    “Yes, we already *know* you guys hate God and religion – now fer Eff’s sake just go away & find something more useful to do with your lives!”

    Not that that’s what *I’d* say or think necessarily but it’s how I think the *average* American – who is, btw., Christian – is likely to react.

    Like the anti-Apollo 8 astronauts lawsuit by Madalyn Murray O’Hare (See : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apollo_8_Genesis_reading#Lawsuit & http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Madalyn_Murray_O%27Hair#Atheistic_activism ) this will be seen as pretty much an annoying, petty, mean-spirited, irritation by an atheist religious group that wants to ram its opinions down everyone’s throat – much as the “god-bothering” fundamentalists and Mormon door-knockers are seen too. (Again, this is how I think most ordinary folks will feel about it rather than my personal view.)

    That’s because this topic that obsesses the FFRF & some here simply isn’t a significant issue for most American individuals who would rather just get on with their lives in peace & are quite happy letting religious people be religious and atheist be atheists without getting involved in the clash.

    Incidentally, while its NOT a Christian theocracy and the laws of the United States of America do NOT come directly from the Bible; it is true to say that the USA is a nation with a majority Christian population and a traditionally Christian culture and history so in that sense – if not an ‘established religion’ one – the USA *is* a Christian country. Religion is an important factor in most American people’s lives & Christianity is something a majority of Americans believe in & value highly.

    Whether we believe in it or not & whether we like it or think that’s a good thing or not that’s just the reality.

    If the Freedom From Religion Foundation think they’re going to change that with this ad campaign then I think they’re going to be unsuccessful and disappointed – and would be better off using their money for a more significant and important cause / case when religious fundamentalists are *really* threatening to do something serious new & bad.

    I’m not sure at all sure what the FFRF hope to accomplish by running these ads now.

  262. Plutonian

    PS. Personally speaking, if the FFRF were fighting something like enforced teaching of Creationism or mandatory prayer / religious class’es at school or suchlike then I’d be with them and support their campaign.

    This specific case tho’ (advertising to raise awareness of a dubious abstract philosophical proposition rather than fighting fundamentalists compelling their way on others) not-so-much.

    As you might have gathered, my feelings are divided on this because I think the FFRF are technically correct – at least partially in some major respects – but are making a tactical /strategic mistake &, as noted, I’m not sure what they hope to achieve.

  263. Peter B

    Plutonian @ #281 said: “The Communists were militant atheists. Yes, Communism…was/is a political & very cult-like ideology but it is godless – without supernatural elements – and actively tried to crush and suppress genuine religious beliefs such as the Russian Orthodox faith and Confucianism.”

    I think you’re missing the point Louis Bookbinder was making: Communist regimes have borrowed many aspects and techniques of religion and incorporated them into their own practices. For examples: Marx = Prophet of the True Faith; Lenin = Jesus; Das Kapital, as interpreted by the current leadership = the Bible, as currently interpreted by the leadership; the Workers’ Paradise which will be built some time in the future = Heaven; the current necessary limits on your freedoms = the hard path of the faithful; criticism of the current leadership = Heresy; re-education camps and self-criticism = Confession.

    There might not be a belief in supernatural elements (though see below) but the parallels between Communist societies and religious societies are noticeable.

    * No supernatural elements? Well, apparently Kim Jong-Il and his father have been deified in North Korea, and he is reported by North Korean media as routinely scoring a few holes in one in every round of golf he plays (source: Wikipedia).

    “Semantically and practically, Atheism *is* a religious belief if perhaps NOT a full “religion” as such because it makes a firm statement concerning the supernatural – even if that statement is an utterly negative one.”

    I disagree. Withholding belief in the absence of evidence is the exact opposite of faith (faith being necessary for religious belief). As others have so eloquently pointed out on this thread, bald is not a hair colour. Likewise, my lack of interest in ice hockey does not make me an ice hockey fanatic. Or, to put it another way, I have no evidence you’re an axe-wielding maniac; I therefore don’t think it requires an act of faith on my part to believe you’re *not* an axe-wielding maniac.

    “After all, atheist (or for that matter agnostic) is what someone holding that .. um .. philosophy (shall we say?) would put on their census form in the ‘religion’ box. Or asked what when asked generally what they believe in they’d have to answer atheism.”

    I beg your pardon? Are you defining atheism as a religious belief because it’s listed with religious beliefs on a *census form*? What if, in response to the “religion” question, you answered “none”. That’s what we do here in Australia.

  264. TheBlackCat

    Semantically and practically, Atheism *is* a religious belief if perhaps NOT a full “religion” as such because it makes a firm statement concerning the supernatural – even if that statement is an utterly negative one.

    As others have said, by that logic “not collecting stamps” is a hobby. Is not believing in gremlins a religion? That is certainly just as firm a statement concerning the supernatural. What about not believing in homeopathy? How is “I don’t think that there is sufficient reason to justify that conclusion” even remotely a religion? Because that is all that atheism means.

    It also does seem – to me – fair also to describe Richard Dawkin’s & Christopher Hitchens among others as “fundamentalist” or “militant” atheists because of their fanatical (how else would you put it?) and overly certain insistence on spreading their very intolerant and sometimes downright offensive views and having the “we alone are absolutely right and all others totally wrong!” attitude.

    “Militant” is almost always used to describe those who use violence to get their way…except when it comes to atheists. Islamic militants fly airplanes into building. Christian militants blow up abortion clinics. Atheist militants write books explaining why they think that religious claims don’t stand up to scrutiny. You really don’t see any disconnect there?

    Fundamentalist is used to describe a group that follows a certain consistent set of practices and beliefs based on the inneracy of a particular scripture. That is the case for both Christian and Muslim fundamentalists. No one calls a Christian a fundamentalist when they write books explaining why they think Christianity is the best religion. No one called Francis Collins a fundamentalist when he made the Biologos website where he explained why he thinks that Christianity is the religion that best fits the scientific evidence and has particular moral benefits. Those sorts of things are common with Christians.

    Certainly no one even bats an eye when Christians go on and on about how accepting Jesus into their hearts leads you to have a happier, more productive, more moral life. On the contrary it is put in the inspirational section. But what that is actually saying is that non-religious are not as happy, not as productive, and not as moral as the religious. It is an outright attack on the non-religious. And this message has become so common that it is taken for granted. Yet when a non-religious person writes a book with the exact same message but in the opposite direction suddenly it is a huge travesty and they are being insulted and he is a fundamentalist and all his arguments are stupid and why can’t everyone just get along.

    If someone wrote a book saying they think the evidence indicates acupuncture is ineffective and dangerous and it would be better if people stopped doing it, would you consider that person a “fundamentalist”? What about someone writing a book saying postmodernism is stupid and leads to sloppy thinking? If not, what is the difference? How is what Dawkins does any different than anyone else who writes a book criticizing a certain position?

    Actually ‘anti-theist’ is probably a better word than ‘a-theist’ for some on the fundamentalist extreme of a-theism because they are NOT content just to think there is no God they insist on fighting and attacking and imposing their “dogma” upon all those who don’t share their view or so it appears.

    How is “I don’t think there is sufficient reason to accept that conclusion” a dogma? And where has Dawkins and Hitchens even proposed imposing anything on anyone?

    Dawkins and Hitchens fight back against those trying to impose views on others, but I have never heard either claim that they want to impose anything on anyone.

    That is what you don’t seem to understand, the current vocal atheists are a response to efforts by the religious to impose their views on others. It is not a pre-emptive strike, it is a response to thousands of years of religious behavior.

    anti-theists like Dawkin’s who seem to want to abolish all religion and destroy the faith of others in their own certainty that they know best and are unwilling to hear otherwise.

    Where has Dawkins said this? He has said explicitly he does not want to force anyone to not be religious, what he explicitly stated was that he wants religion to not have the huge power it has over our society. He stated outright he would be perfectly happy if religious people just kept their religion to themselves and the non-religious did the same.

    Agnostics and a-theists who are content to admit “we don’t know for sure” and will look or study further without judging* the correctness or otherwise of other religous perspectives & respecting such beliefs of others

    Why is it only non-religious people who have to fit this mold? At least for Abrahamic religions all members of the religion have judged their religion to be the correct one. It is a basic requirement of the religion, in fact. If you applied the same criteria you apply to the non-religious to the religious then there would be practically no non-fundamentalists amongst any Abrahamic religion.

    Fundamentalist : “I KNOW X is the ONE True Belief.”

    Most religious people fit this criteria. Most are far more confident in their beliefs than Dawkins is in his.

    Atheist : “I KNOW X is NOT a True Belief!”

    Please show me anyone who has actually said this.

    Just as I think average people who are NOT already fans of Dawkin’s find him rude and mean in his constant attacks on anyone and anything religous so too will the average man on the street probably find this advertising campaign by the FFRF just pointless and annoying and something that will rub them up the wrong way.

    Some, yes. Others have come forward and said they were convinced to abandon religion specifically by the God Delusion. Whatever the case is at the very least people are noticing that the issue exists.

    However, realistically *if* they notice these FFRF’s ads at all ( & they mostly probably
    won’t), the average bloke or lass on the street will most likely just sigh or give an exasperated comment along the lines of :

    “Yes, we already *know* you guys hate God and religion – now fer Eff’s sake just go away & find something more useful to do with your lives!”

    Why don’t they say that about the countless pro-religious ads all over the place? Why is it only the pro-atheism ads that are vandalized, have their owners get death threats, cause people to quit their jobs, cause a huge public uproar? Pro-religious ads and bilboards are everywhere, why does nobody care about them? The fact that this is such a controversy in the first place completely contradicts your argument that people are content to just let religious be religious and non-religious be non-religious, the truth is the religious are perfectly content to let people shove their beliefs down everyone elses’ throats. Bilboards with Bible messages saying how great Christianity is and how everyone else is going to burn in Hell are considered ordinary, yet a bilboard that merely says that atheist exist is considered highly offensive.

    That’s because this topic that obsesses the FFRF & some here simply isn’t a significant issue for most American individuals who would rather just get on with their lives in peace & are quite happy letting religious people be religious and atheist be atheists without getting involved in the clash.

    That is exactly what people like Dawkins, Hitchens, and the FFRF have explicitly stated that they want. The problem is that many religious people are not content with this. If you look at how things are going in the U.S., a great many religious people, including much of our government, are perfectly happy to use the law to enforce their beliefs and/or religious practices on those who do not share them. Non-religious people tried what you are suggested, the whole problem we have now with the absolutely massive power that religion has over own government right now is a result of that. Prior to the end of WWII religion didn’t have anywhere near as much power as it does now, but when everyone became convinced it was communist to not support religious inroads into our government religion was able to gain a huge amount of political power.

    Remember: atheists are the single most distrusted group in the U.S. A majority of people would not let their daughter marry an atheist, more than any other group. A majority would not vote for an atheist for president even if he was the most qualified for the job, more than any other group. And these stats are not new, they have been consistently true since a while before the more vocal atheists started speaking up. This is what happens when one side keeps their mouth shut. The other side can and will spread any lies they want, and people will believe them because no one is saying anything different.

    The religious side has been saying all sorts of slanders against atheism for decades, that they lack morality, that they are anti-american, that they are criminals, that they are dishonest. And no one has been saying otherwise because the atheist have just been patiently waiting for things to get better. Your idea may sound good to you on paper, but we already tried it and it didn’t work. Quite the contrary, it made things much, much worse.

    Please name a single instance in all of history where just sitting back and waiting for people to accept you has ever worked. Just one. It hasn’t happened, it can’t happen. Out of sight out of mind, if people aren’t reminded it is an issue they will ignore it. They may not like being reminded, but it is the only way to even get the issue thought about.

    Not to put us on the same level as these groups, but lots of people were very offended by the Civil Rights movement and Womens’ suffrage movement as well. Lots of people thought it was annoying, that they were too confrontational, that is was better if they didn’t speak up. All of the arguments you are using now were used against these groups in the past.

    Incidentally, while its NOT a Christian theocracy and the laws of the United States of America do NOT come directly from the Bible; it is true to say that the USA is a nation with a majority Christian population and a traditionally Christian culture and history so in that sense – if not an ‘established religion’ one – the USA *is* a Christian country. Religion is an important factor in most American people’s lives & Christianity is something a majority of Americans believe in & value highly.

    It is not a Christian country, it is a country with a lot of Christians. There is a big difference.

    PS. Personally speaking, if the FFRF were fighting something like enforced teaching of Creationism or mandatory prayer / religious class’es at school or suchlike then I’d be with them and support their campaign.

    This specific case tho’ (advertising to raise awareness of a dubious abstract philosophical proposition rather than fighting fundamentalists compelling their way on others) not-so-much.

    Then you are grossly ignorant of what has actually been going on in the U.S. The claim that the U.S. was established by the founding fathers as a Christian country is has been a key argument used in support of the very things you claim to oppose. It is not “a dubious abstract philosophical proposition”, it is central to the arguments put forth by people who want the government to support their beliefs.

  265. Peter B

    Plutonian @ #281 said: “Its worthwhile too remembering that there are also examples of people such as Prof. Anthony Flew & C.S.Lewis who converted from atheism to Christianity or Theism after being convinced by logic and reasoning. ”

    Neither of their conversions is entirely convincing to me.

    The only arguments I’ve read of Lewis presenting were:

    1. Jesus said he was the Son of God, a statement so extraordinary that he must have been either mad or actually the Son of God, and as there’s no evidence he was mad, he must therefore have been the Son of God. This is a good example of a false dichotomy – Lewis doesn’t address the possibility that Jesus could have been mistaken.

    2. God must exist as He’s the only possible source of morality. To which my response is, humans are social animals, and human morality is well suited to governing the lives of social animals; there’s fairly good evidence of equivalently moral behaviour in other social animals; so it’s reasonable to believe our morality is something our early pre-human ancestors had.

    Flew claims to have been convinced to become a Deist because he was convinced of the reality of Intelligent Design “theory”. ID “theory” is actually nothing of the sort, as it has none of the characteristics of a scientific theory – it has no supporting evidence, it makes no predictions and it isn’t falsifiable. It essentially consists of statements along the lines of “I don’t believe [body part/organism] could have evolved, therefore it must have been designed by an intelligent designer”.

    So forgive me for not being convinced by what convinced Lewis or Flew.

  266. TheBlackCat

    Lewis doesn’t address the possibility that Jesus could have been mistaken.

    Or that the Bible could have been an inaccurate record of Jesus’s statements, or that it has been misinterpreted, or that Jesus (at least as described in the Bible) did not exist at all (or was not a single individual).

  267. TheBlackCat

    @ Paul: great, a document signed in 1783, 5 years before the writing of the U.S. constitution. Do you have anything that is actually relevant to our current country as founded by the U.S. constitution?

    It is also once again quoted out of context. Look at the beginning of the next sentence:

    It having pleased the Divine Providence to dispose the hearts of the most serene and most potent Prince George the Third, by the grace of God, king of Great Britain, France, and Ireland, defender of the faith, duke of Brunswick and Lunebourg, arch- treasurer and prince elector of the Holy Roman Empire etc., and of the United States of America,

    Notice how all the religious language is associated with the England, “the United States of America” has absolutely no religious language associated with it. If my understanding is correct, and someone please correct me if I am wrong, at that time it was expected by many European countries (which had powerful and influential state religions at the time) that this sort of thing would be included in treaties. It was basically the standard opening to their treaties (and I think other sorts of official documents as well).

    If I recall correctly the U.S. only used this sort of language with such countries, it did not put it on internal official documents or on treaties with countries that did not require it. So this seems to be more something done to satisfy the customs of other countries rather than something done as a matter of U.S. policy.

  268. TheBlackCat

    Also, I can’t believe you are still using that group. At least three of the quotes you got from them were shown to be fraudulent, yet you still think they are a good source to use? How can you continue to support a group called “Freedom From Lies Association” after they spread blatant lies? The fact that you continue to use them so prominently indicates you support them despite their dishonesty, so you shouldn’t be surprised if people conclude you are just as dishonest as they are.

    And I am still waiting for you to actually address any of the points we have brought up.

  269. Sandy

    Just a quick note from a long time history teacher to the person who felt this topic did not belong on an astronomy page…You need to read another of the Founders… Thomas Paine- author of Common Sense and The Crisis- but also author of The Age of Reason- Chapter 9- “The Word of God is in the Creation we behold: And it is in the work, which no human intervention can counterfeit or alter, that God speaketh universally to man.” And from Chapter 11 he continues by saying, “That which is now called natural philosophy, embracing the whole circle of science, of which astronomy occupies the chief place, is the study of the works of God, and of the power and wisdom of God in his works, and is the true theology.”
    Just another view of the Founding Fathers, a philosophically and religiously diverse group!
    In response to other commentary herein- read Alexander Hamilton in The Federalist 78. He discusses the need of a federal judiciary that is fully independent to be able to protect the rights of citizens from a tyrannical majority faction and states, …”no man can be sure that he may not be to-morrow the victim of a spirit of injustice, by which he may be a gainer today.” As relates to this conversation- only the precedent of separation of church and state protects one from the day in which his/her faith may no longer be the majority faith!
    Keep chatting astronomy and country lovers!

  270. Blackcat, the sentence in the image, as much as it bothers you, is the OPENING STATEMENT of the ENTIRE DOCUMENT. The treaty that FOUNDING FATHERS signed, OPENED WITH that statement.

    As for your claims of FRAUD, perhaps you would care to rephrase. The “debunking” website calls them not frauds, but UNCONFIRMED. One quote took ten years to find the source of. Don’t worry, this, (series 2) will always include citations.

  271. TheBlackCat

    Blackcat, the sentence in the image, as much as it bothers you, is the OPENING STATEMENT of the ENTIRE DOCUMENT. The treaty that FOUNDING FATHERS signed, OPENED WITH that statement.

    Care to explain how that is relevant to either of my points? It was a document that long proceeded the concept of the separation of Church of State, and (if I recall correctly) it was done to satisfy the British who expected it in there. So it is both irrelevant and taken out of context. Nice try, though.

    As for your claims of FRAUD, perhaps you would care to rephrase. The “debunking” website calls them not frauds, but UNCONFIRMED. One quote took ten years to find the source of. Don’t worry, this, (series 2) will always include citations.

    Continuing to claim someone said something even though there is absolutely no evidence whatsoever that the person ever actually said it (or anything remotely similar to it) I think most certainly counts as being fraudulent. If evidence turns up in the future that the quote is legitimate then it is fine to use it then, but in the absence of such evidence continued claims that the quotes are legitimate are lies.

    Besides, that doesn’t help with the Jefferson quote, which is a combination of two different quotes from two different documents, both heavily manipulated, and both of which in context say the exact opposite of what they are presented as saying. That quote is a blatant fabrication.

  272. Reggie

    Bill spewed: “An Agnostic is an atheist who is too cowardly to admit it.”

    You know where you can stuff that one, Bill. You have enough to do standing up to the religious. Don’t open up a new front against allies because you are pig ignorant about agnosticism and how a person arrives there.

  273. I like I said BlackCat, I would investigate the claims. As a result, all new banners will include citations.

    Photobucket

  274. By the way TheBlackCat, how about calling the FFRF on context? The JFK quote comes to mind…

  275. TheBlackCat

    @ Paul S.: Once again, irrelevant quote. That he thought highly of Christianity as a source of morals does not mean the he thought that the U.S. is a Christian country or that the government should be in any way involved in religion.

    Also, you left out the ellipses in that quote. Ellipses in quotes always worry me. I would very much like to see the full quote, but haven’t been able to find it yet.

    And what, specifically, is the problem with the context of the JFK quote?

    I’m still waiting for you to actually address any of our points.

  276. AL

    Anti-theist : “I KNOW X is NOT a True belief – & anyone who believes in anything at all is a moron for doing so because my Belief in having NO beliefs is the ONE True belief!”
    Of course, I’m sure the Dawkins-style anti-theists here will call this a “strawman” caricature of their views &, in pre-emptive advance, I’ll say I think it *is* a fairly valid summary of their thinking.

    Well, it is a strawman, and you nakedly asserting that it isn’t doesn’t establish that it isn’t. It is. I do not know any atheists personally or publically that hold the view that “anyone who believes in anything at all is a moron for doing so.”

    You have only named one name as a guilty party, and that is Dawkins. Dawkins has never stated anything even remotely like this, and he has never claimed to have absolute certainty regarding the non-existence of a very generic concept of god. His arguments have always been that where religions make specific empirical claims, the preponderance of evidence tends to be against, and that where proponents of theism claim god is necessary to explain some phenomenon, there is a far more parsimonious explanation. When asked to rank himself on a theist-atheist scale of 1-7, where 1 is absolute certainty there is a god, and 7 is absolute certainty there is no god, Dawkins cast himself as a 6. As he states himself: “I cannot know for certain but I think God is very improbable, and I live my life on the assumption that he is not there.”

    Even I would be considered more of an anti-theist than Dawkins, as I am willing to go all the way to 7 for many ultra-naive definitions of god that demonstrably in the QED sense refute themselves, but for some of the better thought out forms of god-belief (such as deism), I’d hover around 5-6. But despite this, I still think your caricaturization of atheists is way off.

  277. Plutonian

    @ 300. AL :

    I do not know any atheists personally or publically that hold the view that “anyone who believes in anything at all is a moron for doing so.”

    They may not have outright stated it that bluntly but that is certainly the impression you get from reading their books and hearing them speak.

    You have only named one name as a guilty party, and that is Dawkins.

    Pretty sure I mentioned Christopher Hitchens name somewhere there too.

    I think Dawkins is being disingenous in his own ranking of himself as a 6 on that scale. I cannot recall too many places where Dawkins has honestly confessed to doubting his own philosophy or has conceeded that the other side also, occassionally, has some valid points and things in its favour. If Dawkin’s doesn’t intend to come across a fundamentally ( ;-) ) fanatical and totally certain anti-theist who lives to bash religion then he might want to tone down some of his own fierce and confrontational rhetoric and start sounding a bit more willing to listen respectfully to other people’s perspectives.

    @286. Peter B Says:

    Withholding belief in the absence of evidence is the exact opposite of faith (faith being necessary for religious belief).

    “Withholding belief” – yes that is why I am agnostic. ;-)

    Religious people believe that there is enough evidence *for them* to say they are certain there is a God.

    Atheist people believe that there is enough evidence *for them* to say they are certain there is NOT a God.

    I don’t claim to know for sure that there is or is NOT a God because there is inadequate evidence to prove the case either way, IMHON.

    As others have so eloquently pointed out on this thread, bald is not a hair colour.

    No, but it does pertain to hairstyles – if someone asks “what was that persons’ hair colour” & they say “oh he’s bald” we still know what subject we’re talking about and it is still something directly relevant to the question. In the same way, atheism isn’t a religion but it *is* a belief pertaining to religion or, in other words, a religous belief.

    I would define any belief pertaining to the existence of God or spirits or non-material supernatural entities as being a ‘religious belief’ – & I think that would be fairly standard definition. Atheism, agnosticism and any religion you wish to name all fall into that sphere or magisteria.

    Semantics I know but there it is. ;-)

  278. Plutonian

    @288. Peter B Says:

    Plutonian @ #281 said: “Its worthwhile too remembering that there are also examples of people such as Prof. Anthony Flew & C.S.Lewis who converted from atheism to Christianity or Theism after being convinced by logic and reasoning. ”

    Neither of their conversions is entirely convincing to me. The only arguments I’ve read of Lewis presenting were:

    So .. er ..how much of Lewis’es work and arguments have you personally read then to base that on?

    Lewis’s interest in the works of George MacDonald was part of what turned him from atheism. This can be seen particularly well through this passage in Lewis’s The Great Divorce, chapter nine, when the semi-autobiographical main character meets MacDonald in Heaven: […SNIP..] Influenced by arguments with his Oxford colleague and friend J. R. R. Tolkien, and by the book The Everlasting Man by G. K. Chesterton, he slowly rediscovered Christianity. He fought greatly up to the moment of his conversion noting that he was brought into Christianity like a prodigal, “kicking, struggling, resentful, and darting his eyes in every direction for a chance to escape.”[27] He described his last struggle in Surprised by Joy:

    “You must picture me alone in that room in Magdalen, night after night, feeling, whenever my mind lifted even for a second from my work, the steady, unrelenting approach of Him whom I so earnestly desired not to meet. That which I greatly feared had at last come upon me. In the Trinity Term of 1929 I gave in, and admitted that God was God, and knelt and prayed: perhaps, that night, the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England.”

    After his conversion to theism in 1929, Lewis converted to Christianity in 1931. Following a long discussion and late-night walk with his close friends Tolkien and Hugo Dyson, he records making a specific commitment to Christian belief while on his way to the zoo with his brother. He became a member of the Church of England — somewhat to the disappointment of Tolkien, who had hoped he would convert to Roman Catholicism.

    – Wikipedia : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CS_Lewis#Conversion_to_Christianity

    So the situation for CS Lewis conversion isn’t just those two arguments you put there but conversion following many nights of deep reading and discussions and much intellectual struggling. I don’t think that can be glibly dismissed as you have tried to do.

    Flew claims to have been convinced to become a Deist because he was convinced of the reality of Intelligent Design “theory”.

    Well, not really as it turns out there’s a lot more to it than just that. I would recommend reading Flew’s book on the subject (There is a God) which goes into the details although I’ll also admit there are some problematic elements in Flew’s case.

    Again via Wikipedia :

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antony_Flew#Conversion_from_atheism

    So forgive me for not being convinced by what convinced Lewis or Flew.

    Sure – I forgive you, you don’t even need to ask & I’m not expecting you to be convinced by the exact same arguments or cases they make. Besides, it’s not like I’m your priest or anything! ;-)

    What convinces one person is often quite different to what convinces another and people come to their religious beliefs in a whole range of ways and often have experiences & reasons that are unique to them.

    Religion is a very personal thing methinks.

    I don’t think we should say it is always wrong or always right – it should be a choice & it should be without compulsion or coercion from any side.

  279. Plutonian

    @286. Peter B :

    Are you defining atheism as a religious belief because it’s listed with religious beliefs on a *census form*?

    In part, yes. Why, what’s wrong with that? ;-)

    What if, in response to the “religion” question, you answered “none”. That’s what we do here in Australia.

    If you answer like that then I could be wrong but I think it’s most likely you will be added to the “atheist” / “agnostic” or just maybe “other” numbers when they tally up the demographic statistics for the religion figures.

    So saying “none” is essentially the same as writing “atheist” or maybe “agnostic” in the religion box.

  280. Plutonian

    @287. TheBlackCat Says:

    [me – ed : ]”Semantically and practically, Atheism *is* a religious belief if perhaps NOT a full “religion” as such because it makes a firm statement concerning the supernatural – even if that statement is an utterly negative one.”

    As others have said, by that logic “not collecting stamps” is a hobby. Is not believing in gremlins a religion? That is certainly just as firm a statement concerning the supernatural.

    Well that depends on the context but pretty much so, yeah. It can be – if, say, you make a hobby of deliberately going out of your way NOT to collect stamps and to mock and insult people that do so. In that case, as well as being a jerk, you could say *that* was your hobby. Similarly, Dawkins & some other extreme atheists go out of their way and devote a lot of time & energy to NOT believing in God and attacking people who do.

    How is “I don’t think that there is sufficient reason to justify that conclusion” even remotely a religion? Because that is all that atheism means.

    We’re arguing semantics here but :

    1. That sentence describes agnosticism NOT atheism to me.

    2. Is that *really* all “atheism” means or is there a bit more to it than that? Atheists don’t just decide they can’t reach a conclusion – they reach and preach their own negative one.

    3. See my comment # 301 above defining what I mean by religious belief – & note that I call atheism a ‘religious belief’ & NOT a religion per se.

    “Militant” is almost always used to describe those who use violence to get their way…except when it comes to atheists. Islamic militants fly airplanes into building. Christian militants blow up abortion clinics. Atheist militants write books explaining why they think that religious claims don’t stand up to scrutiny. You really don’t see any disconnect there?

    No. Because “spiritual leaders”, preachers and recruiters for a cause are *also* (correctly methinks) termed militants. The late and unlamented wheelchair-bound “spiritual leader” of the Hamas terrorist group Sheik Ahmed Yassin is one such example of someone who physically did nothing violent but espoused an aggressive militant philosophy and would be termed a militant.

    Dawkins is, ironically, enough, the equivalent albeit far less murderous “spiritual leader” of the militant “New Atheists” movement. This happens to be true whether you agree with his arguments and sympathise with him or not.

    Also there are forms of violence beyond the merely physical – I think violence can be emotional, rhetorical, and even intellectual and Dawkins is certainly strident, extreme , hurtful and, yes, militant in his anti-theistic writings.

    No one calls a Christian a fundamentalist when they write books explaining why they think Christianity is the best religion.

    Er .. Hang on! Yes they definitely *do* & your assertion there is just wrong.

    Many Christians are indeed termed fundamentalists for their writings such as Jacques Trémolet de Villers a Catholic fundamentalist writer, Dave Hunt a Christian apologist and Creationist activist, Arthur Tappan Pierson a Christian preacher who wrote over 50 books espousing his fundamentalist faith, et cetera, etc .. (That’s just from typing ‘fundamentalist writers’ into the search box on Wiki.)

    Reply – Part I above, reply part II to follow .. Hopefully not too much later.

  281. JTG

    If National Day of Prayer is unconstitutional, so is Black History Month.

    “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

    How, exactly, does a day that in no way compels people to pray- but suggests it- constitute a law respecting an establishment of religion.

    Sounds like another person who doesn’t actually know what the text of the First Amendment says.

  282. Plutonian

    Part II
    ————————————
    NB. (#304) I’m not saying such writers aren’t accurately termed ‘fundamentalists’ or that calling them such is incorrect. Just that fundamentalist books writetn by Christians do get called as “fundamentalist” just a fundamentalist tracts by atheists *also* get – accurately -termed fundamentalist.
    ————————————-

    Certainly no one even bats an eye when Christians go on and on about how accepting Jesus into their hearts leads you to have a happier, more productive, more moral life. [False premise there methinks btw. – ed.] On the contrary it is put in the inspirational section. But what that is actually saying is that non-religious are not as happy, not as productive, and not as moral as the religious.

    Is that actually necessarily so? Or is that just one particular interpretation?

    It is an outright attack on the non-religious.

    Not really.

    1. It is indirect and by inference rather than outright assertion.

    2. Calling one thing different from another isn’t necessarily saying the latter is worse eg. chocolate is sweeter than apple but that doesn’t make one flavour “superior” to another or make apple less valid than chocolate.

    3. People saying “believing in Jesus does X good thing for you” does NOT automatically rule out that you can also get X good thing via a different non-religious route.

    And this message has become so common that it is taken for granted. Yet when a non-religious person writes a book with the exact same message but in the opposite direction suddenly it is a huge travesty and they are being insulted and he is a fundamentalist and all his arguments are stupid and why can’t everyone just get along.

    Well why can’t we? ;-)

    Besides, I think you’ve got tangled up somewhere in that analogy and I don’t agree that the situation is as you present it here.

    Specifically, I don’t think Dawkin’s book has the exact same message as, say, the Bible only opposite. I don’t think the metaphorical /literary symmetry between those is there.

    Nor do I think people jump to the conclusion that, for example, Dawkins has stupid arguments – although most people do know an insult when they hear one.

    If someone wrote a book saying they think the evidence indicates acupuncture is ineffective and dangerous and it would be better if people stopped doing it, would you consider that person a “fundamentalist”? What about someone writing a book saying postmodernism is stupid and leads to sloppy thinking?

    It depends how they go about it & what they specifically said to supprot their case. Maybe I would, maybe I wouldn’t.

    If not, what is the difference? How is what Dawkins does any different than anyone else who writes a book criticizing a certain position?

    Dawkins has his own unique style and opinions. As do you & I alike. No book is the quite the same as another just like all humans have different fingerprints – unless their identical copies of the same book natch! ;-)

    There are commonalities between eg. Dawkins and the BAs books or Patrick Moore’s – but each bears the authors unique voice and style. The BA’s style, personally, is one I find more appealing than Dawkins. Dawkins tone tends to be a lot of angry yelling whereas the BA comes over to me as a lot more patient and willing to respect others. That’s one notable difference anyhow.

    How is “I don’t think there is sufficient reason to accept that conclusion” a dogma? [Not what I think they’re saying – ed.] And where has Dawkins and Hitchens even proposed imposing anything on anyone? Dawkins and Hitchens fight back against those trying to impose views on others, but I have never heard either claim that they want to impose anything on anyone.

    Well Dawkins stated in his God Delusion book that he wanted the Amish way of life to vanish and wanted to convert people from religion to atheism. You could see that as a big imposition. Dawkins argues like a furious prosecution lawyer – he makes a case which he tries to push & like a prosecution lawyer he is only presenting one side of a much more complex story.

    That is what you don’t seem to understand, the current vocal atheists are a response to efforts by the religious to impose their views on others. It is not a pre-emptive strike, it is a response to thousands of years of religious behavior.

    This may well be correct – but it doesn’t make them right either. A response and a counter-reaction can sometimes (not always but sometimes) go too far the other way.

    [Dawkins] … has said explicitly he does not want to force anyone to not be religious, what he explicitly stated was that he wants religion to not have the huge power it has over our society. He stated outright he would be perfectly happy if religious people just kept their religion to themselves and the non-religious did the same.

    But yet he gives a difffernet impression to me and many like me who are uncomfortable with the Over-The-Topness of his anti-religion tirades and total one-sideness.

    I think Dawkin’s is right in some respects and makes a good case but that it is NOT the whole case and that he is also too extreme and wrong in some (not all) aspects.

    Fundamentalist : “I KNOW X is the ONE True Belief.”

    Most religious people fit this criteria. Most are far more confident in their beliefs than Dawkins is in his.

    Really? You think so? How many religious people do you know and how well do you think you understand them? Because honestly I’m not sure that’s the case.

    Atheist : “I KNOW X is NOT a True Belief!”
    Please show me anyone who has actually said this.

    Dawkins & Hitchens have said & written words, indeed whole books, to that effect.

    . Whatever the case is at the very least people are noticing that the issue exists.

    Like people didn’t know this issue exists before without having to see an FFRF ad? Really? :roll:

    I guess that may possibly be true of a very tiny sheltered minority but not for most people.

    Why don’t they say that [“Yes, we already *know* you guys hate God and religion – now fer Eff’s sake just go away & find something more useful to do with your lives!”] about the countless pro-religious ads all over the place?

    You assume they don’t say that about religious ads too? I find most adverts annoying. For anything. For religious and political ones generally, I am especially cynical. Plus I’m pretty sure people vandalise religious billboards too.

    Bilboards with Bible messages saying how great Christianity is and how everyone else is going to burn in Hell are considered ordinary, yet a bilboard that merely says that atheist exist is considered highly offensive.

    That’s true &, yes, its unjust but its just the way it is in our culture. Plus its not so much “highly offensive ” as just mildly exasperating. I’m not thinking the average person will think “Oh Blasphemy How dare they!” so much as “Just go away, I don’t care.” or “Sigh, the atheists are at it again.”

    That [letting religious people be religious and atheist be atheists without getting involved in the clash.] is exactly what people like Dawkins, Hitchens, and the FFRF have explicitly stated that they want.

    Then they are not communicating this tolerance of theirs towards the religious very well because that’s not how the majority percieve it. Whether they like it or not, whether justified or not, they are seen as zealots who hate religion rather than tolerant types willing to get along.

    The problem is that many religious people are not content with this. If you look at how things are going in the U.S., a great many religious people, including much of our government, are perfectly happy to use the law to enforce their beliefs and/or religious practices on those who do not share them.

    Some religious people NOT all. When these religious people try and impose their views I am against them. I agree with some of what the FFRF say and think that Church & State are & should remain separate. but I don’t think this particular campaign is doing anything too helpful.

    …when everyone became convinced it was communist to not support religious inroads into our government religion was able to gain a huge amount of political power.

    Influence yes, but the Constitution and Church-State separation *has* endured.
    Yes, most politicians are religious – but then so are the voters and that’s who they have to represent.

    Remember: atheists are the single most distrusted group in the U.S. A majority of people would not let their daughter marry an atheist, more than any other group. A majority would not vote for an atheist for president even if he was the most qualified for the job, more than any other group.

    True enough and not good. But is the way to change this having this same distrusted group running a series of ads selling them the distrusted FFRF’s messages? You think people will buy it? Would you buy a second hand car from some particularly slippery car dealer who you dislike and distrust?

    Atheists – unjustly but as a known fact – aren’t trusted by average people. Average people therefore aren’t going to take these ads as gospel or anything more than just “oh they';re at it again” -which is why I think the FFRF are wasting their money and engaged in an excercise in futility here. I could be wrong – I hope I am – but that’s what I think is realistic.

    The other side can and will spread any lies they want, and people will believe them because no one is saying anything different.

    People *are* saying different things – but the majority don’t trust or listen to the athiest side.
    And having Dawkins’ telling parents that teaching the kids abut their family’s traditional religion is a form of child abuse is NOT going to make things better methinks. Dawkins is a polarising figure. His supporters love him, most average people hate him. Same for the FFRF. If you want to sell something – even or indeed especially an idea -to the average person – its best to use a salesperson they trust and like NOT one they can’t stand.

    The FFRF has an image problem – best they try to fix that before sticking their head out the parapet.

    It [The USA] is not a Christian country, it is a country with a lot of Christians. There is a big difference.

    Well taht’s amatter of perception again. What do you call a country with a lot of Christians, with a culture and history of traditional Christianity?

    You could spell out that whole line above but its kinda long and clunky and abbrievating it to the shorthand of “Christian country” is good enough for average people. In many respects (not *all* but many) it is.

    … The claim that the U.S. was established by the founding fathers as a Christian country is has been a key argument used in support of the very things you claim to oppose. It is not “a dubious abstract philosophical proposition”, it is central to the arguments put forth by people who want the government to support their beliefs.

    When it used to justify a particlar wrong eg. imposing creationism *then* it should be demolished where it is clearly evident that the Fundamentalsits are trying to lie to do X wrong. Just trying to push the message generally *now* without such a clear issue at stake or context of they are doing this right now & need to stop makes the FFRF *seem* like the bad guys.

    People will wonder what they’re saying it for, what the point is. If they don’t see a burning need for these ads it just looks like religion bashing (actually specifically Christianity bashing) just for the sake of it.

    Pick & choose your battles & when to fire your best ammunition is what I’m arguing for here I guess.

    Fun debating this with you tho’ – BlackCat hope it is for you as well. :-)

    PS. I actually have a black tortosieshell at home brushing up against tehkeyboardas Itype!
    ;-)

  283. Plutonian

    Black tortsoiseshell *cat* (Felis Domesticus) that is. ;-)

  284. Peter B

    Plutonian @ #303 said: “So saying “none” is essentially the same as writing “atheist” or maybe “agnostic” in the religion box.”

    Can I just clarify then?

    1. You say @ #281 “Atheism *is* a religious belief…”

    2. You say @ #313 “saying “…none” is essentially the same as writing “atheist”…”

    So, according to you, having no religious beliefs means you have a religious belief.

    As I said at #286, “…my lack of interest in ice hockey does not make me an ice hockey fanatic.”

    Or do you disagree?

  285. An atheist nation wouldn’t be using a bible as word of law and how people should conduct their morals. Countries with more atheists and non theists tend to be some the happiest and healthy nations.

  286. SayBlade

    In my reading about people in the strange nation of America, I am puzzled at those who call the US a Christian nation and quote nothing but scriptures in from the ancient Hebrew scriptures (a.k.a. Old Testament). It is so rare that I see anything of “Christ”, i.e. Jesus quoted. It is Christ that makes the Christian. The two great commandments, sermon on the mount (and on the plain) and many parables come to mind. But, then I have heard interpretations of those that are so twisted out of shape, it is difficult to recognise the original text from which they came.

  287. Chrii

    Good God, I love you.

  288. Way up at the top, Patrick said: “Well, you’re right up to a point. But note that the constitution says nothing about separation of church and state. That phrase embodies a more modern idea about the concept.”

    Patrick, Thomas Jefferson is credited with coining that phrase in 1802, which would make the idea at least 208 years old. I’d hardly call that a modern interpretation of the concept.

  289. boomer2

    Three points:

    1-What does, “…that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” mean?

    2-Are atheists so weak minded that the very sight of the Ten Commandments on the wall of public building will cause them to become Christians? Man, I wish evangelism was so easy!

    3-If starting on June 1, everyone living in USA started living according to the Ten Commandments, would we be better or worse as a society?

  290. Boomer (313): Tell me, would you like to see the Koran written out on the wall of a public building? How about some Satanic verses? Or the phrase “There is no god?”

    And let me turn around your second question: are Christians so weak-minded that they need the very sight of the Ten Commandments on the wall of a public building to remind them to stay Christian?

    Do you see now how patently offensive your claims are?

    You have made my point beautifully. The whole idea here is not specifically Christian motifs, but that the government shall place no religion higher than any other, and that the only way to do that is to remain secular.

  291. Peter B

    Boomer2 asked: “What does, “…that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” mean?”

    That the people who wrote that weren’t Christians, because they used the weasel word “Creator”.

    “Are atheists so weak minded that the very sight of the Ten Commandments on the wall of public building will cause them to become Christians? Man, I wish evangelism was so easy!”

    Why is it that American Christians want the *Ten* Commandments on public buildings? Why don’t you want the *Two* Commandments? (You know, love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, and love your neighbour as yourself.)

    “If starting on June 1, everyone living in USA started living according to the Ten Commandments, would we be better or worse as a society?”

    If you want to live by the *Ten* Commandments does this mean you want to live by *all* the Jewish laws, like the ones about stoning to death sabbath breakers, not eating pork, and not wearing clothes of mixed fabrics?

  292. eventually_the_

    Conceited to act on the assumption that a silent god has been or ever will be either pleased or displeased by anything anyone might say or do.

    Whereas the business of government is to deal with complexity, not the least of which is the Kruger-Dunning Effect absurdity that those least fit to deal with complexity are the most confident that they can.

  293. BadJoke

    …The U.S. Constitution was drafted on hemp paper, and the final draft was written on animal parchment…

    Wouldn’t that really mean the U.S. is really based on hemp and animal products, and not on religion?

    /s

  294. To “Boomer2″:

    So, picture this:

    You, as a Christian, are to say the pledge of allegiance every morning at school, but instead of saying God, you have to say “Allah”. You, as a Christian, are to use American money with the words, “In Allah We Trust”. You, as a Christian, listen to the news and hear politicians scream about how a candidate is not Muslim enough. You, as a Christian, have to go to court, for whatever reason, and have to enter buildings with maybe this quote from the Quran engraved in the stones above its doorway, “The recompense for an injury is an injury equal thereto: but if a person forgets and makes reconciliation, his reward is due from Allah.” [62:40] or maybe this verse “The only true faith in Allah’s sight is Islam”.

    You, as a Christian, hear that Republicans want to change the law and want to have prayer in all public schools, therefore the students would now have a prayer mat and pray to the west at least once during the day. You also hear that Republicans want to change all of the text books, because they feel that more leaders, with strong Muslim roots, should be taught rather than actual historical events. Now, your tax dollars have paid for the school buildings, text books, and teacher salaries. Your tax dollars pay for the court house, for the politician’s salaries that voted in the word “Allah” into the American creeds and so fourth. Now, do you feel that America is living up to it’s creed of tolerance and openness? Do you now feel degraded and feel that you are not valued as a citizen? It is quite arrogant of that one particular religious group isn’t it, who feel they own America and that nobody else really seems to matter or count?

    My point is, Christians do not own America, and it is arrogant to think otherwise. Excuse this analogy, but it’s like a dog peeing everywhere to mark his territory. Nobody is trying to take “God away.” It’s just the case of trying to keep certain places, especially those owned by Government/tax payers, neutral or to keep things on an even playing field so to speak. If things are neutral, and one group isn’t receiving special attention over another, then there isn’t a reason for anyone to get offended or to feel that they are less American. Or, you could do the opposite, you can make sure that every single religion/non-religion is represented on court houses, money, and so fourth….but I would think that would get a little pricey and ridiculous.

    Nobody is trying to take the Christian religion away. A belief lies within your heart, your teachings to your children, your church (or religious meeting place) and religious community, and within the choices you make for YOURSELF. However, your religion does not belong on the front of a court buildings. And, taking down religious phrases off court buildings does not take away from your beliefs…you still have the right to practice whatever faith you so choose….that’s the great thing about Freedom of Religion!

  295. I love the argument that we atheist must “scientifically prove” that a god does not exist.

    Once again proving my point that the difference between ignorance and stupidity is that one is curable while the other is a choice.

    No one cannot prove that a mythical being does not exists. People thinking they can stump us by challenging us to prove, with science, that their god does not exist are stupid, and by conscious choice.

    Borrowing from their own so called “logic” I challenge them then to prove, through science, that other gods do not exist. The religious need to develop the proofs and foster the science.

    For it is the religious that make the extraordinary claims that their mythical magical dude in the sky does exist.

    Therefore the burden of proof lies with them.

    Why is that religious people are so freaking lazy that they want everyone one else to do the work for them?

    The same holds true for their thinking on evolution versus creationism (ID). They want the supernatural magical powers of a mythical being to be on par with science and to be treated with the prestige and intellect of a scientific theory like evolution or gravity yet they will not do the work to support their claims and will only point to a book that is completely irrelevant to science and really belongs in the fiction section of a library or book store.

    The religious folk, not all mind you, but a lot of them, want us to prove their religious belief is not a theory, when in fact the burden of proof lies with them.

    Religious people, please stop being lazy, stop forcing your snake oil on people that don’t buy it.

    Religion is a personal and private thing.

    In fact, religion is like a penis, you don’t just go around whipping it out and try to share it with everyone you meet.

  296. Prescott Small – You are my new hero!!! ;-)

  297. Lonny Eachus

    Anyone who says that “social libertarianism” is opposed to “economic libertarianism” doesn’t understand what “libertarian” means. Here is a brief but to-the-point explanation:

    http://www.theadvocates.org/quiz

  298. Several states had established churches in the founders’ time. The first amendment was passed to keep the federal government from favoring one sect over another, not to separate church and state. 52 of the 55 signers of the Declaration of the Independence were church members in good standing the other three were independent Christians.

    A treaty is a document of state, not a personal statement of the president who signed it. John Adams was perhaps the most openly and devoutly Christian of the founding fathers, but here things are twisted around so he can be recruited for the atheist cause. The “not in any sense a Christian nation” quote does not appear in the Arabic version of the treaty of Tripoli. The line seems to represent only the views the official translator, Joel Barlow, the U.S. consul in Algiers.

  299. Read your history a little closer. John Adams WAS a “Christian.” He even went to school to become a minister…that is when he began to question, and turned into a “free-thinker.” He lived his life more according to John Lock’s philosophies and the idea of Nature’s God rather than the Bible. Adams adored his Unitarian Church where he could freely and openly practice being a deist. But he did not proselytize or seek to impose Christianity/religion on the rest of the world. He was also among many in the congress that abolished the religious oath that was used when voted into office. Members used to have declare that the Bible was the ultimate truth and they believed every word. Adams spent a lifetime studying religions. He learned that all religions have the same creed to be “just and good,” but he did not believe that religion had a place in government and vice versa.

    Nobody is denying that there were men who were devoted Christians, but they had zero intent to make Christianity the National religion. They knew of the abuse and torture that took place in England where Religion was concerned. They saw first hand the suppression that took place in much of the Puritan religion and the consequences of religion within the Salem Witch Trials. Why in the world would they want more of the same?

    Religion can, and usually is, divisive. Nobody is trying to take “God” away. It just helps us to all live together in peace if we respect each other’s boundaries, and all of us strive to be “just and good!” Live, practice, and worship anyway you want to, just don’t wave it in everyone’s face on tax paying property/state property.

  300. Eric

    Even if we started as a Christian nation we don’t act like one, and we are certainly not on any kind of path to exist as a Christian Nation in the future.

    All one has to do is look at how shun our Christian brothers and sisters in Armenia. (Christian Nation surrounded by mostly Muslim nations.) The Turks are our ally and we don’t even acknowledge the Genocide that the Turks committed against the Armenians. If we can decide to fight for Iraqi freedom, we should be at the very least been able to support a Christian Nation in even a small way. We Support Israel all the way! Why not a Christian Nation?

    The future appears to belong to the Muslims with their extremely high birth rates we as Christians will be like the native Indians were to the white man. Maybe we should let anyone that is Christian immigrate to the United States. The Fox news junkies sure aren’t knocking out the kind of numbers we need to shore up the levy against rising tide of Islam.

  301. Bill

    It’s an old observation, but true, I do believe….

    An Agnostic is really an Atheist that is too chickensh** to admit it, even to himself.

    Me? A full on Atheist. There are just too, too many things wrong with the superstitious God belief, not the least of which is the simple realization that given “omnipotence” , even I could do better than us.

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