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from crux № 4 — The U.S. is not a "Christian nation"

Before I begin, let me point out a couple of things.

I did not say that the United States exists despite Christianity.

I did not say that the United States can exist without Christianity.

And I did not say that the Founders were not Christian. Although technically, some of them were not.

Just so there is no misunderstanding, I said that the U.S. in not a “Christian” nation.

And here is where I am about to offend many of you. Are you paying close attention?

Nor should it be.

Did you get that?

You might want some background. Previously I wrote “A Pagan looks at “Christian” America, Christian America Redux, and Faith and the public sphere. Ready?

This is not an attack on Christianity.

"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.”

Neither help nor hinder, that is religious freedom.

Faith is between the individual and the Divine, and it's wrong to involve government. The only way we'll have freedom of religion is to demand that government stays out of it.

The argument is not over practices but who gets to call the shots.

Let’s leave aside the fact that “Judeo-Christian” excludes every person who is not a Jew or a Christian. Let’s leave aside the face that many Jews are offended by the notion of being lumped in with the Christians. Let’s even leave aside the point that “Christians” includes faiths such as Baptists, Mormons, and Catholics who are barely even on speaking terms with each other.

The real question is why should any group be in charge? Why should one morality have the force of law while others do not?

Competition keeps us honest. If you can’t convince people that your morality works without being backed by law, then you’re doing it wrong. “Do it our way or we’ll force you.” “Do it our way or The Officially Sanctioned Authority Figures will point guns at you.” “Do it our way or you’ll be tossed in jail.”

If you don’t like what they are doing, fine. They shouldn’t force you. But that means you shouldn’t force them either.

The United States wasn't based in Christianity. Look at the Constitution. Other than the date, there is not a single mention of Christianity. This was very unusual for any government document at the time. This was deliberate.

The Founders were among the best educated and most enlightened men of their time. They were also scared that they were about to screw things up big time. They made some mistakes, but they got most of it right.

Why did they do it? Why did they go out of their way to not invoke Christianity and Christianity’s god? It’s not because they weren’t men of faith. It’s not because they did not believe that men should be moral. It’s not because they did not believe morality was rooted in faith.

It’s because they knew that faith must be freely chosen. You can’t convert someone when they have a sword to their throat. Oaths given at the point of a gun are worth exactly nothing. But when someone chooses, miracles can happen.

Christianity was only one of many influences. It's amazing I even have to mention this when one house of the national legislature is called the Senate and the other has a ceremonial mace based on a Roman fasces.

E pluribus unum. The original motto of the United States, roughly translated into "one from many." Or as I prefer, "united we stand." It's not just the people, it's the ideas.

And it is not specifically or even mostly Christian.

The most important thing I can tell you is that it’s absolutely vital that the moral and legal foundations of society must be separate. Freedom demands that religion watches over government’s shoulders. Freedom also demands that religion may not use the threat of force.

Religion can't be allowed the coercive power of government, government can't be allowed the moral justification of religion.

Live free or die.

I started keeping my crux files because I noticed I kept getting into the same discussions in comment threads on other people’s web sites. After a while it just made sense for me to organize my thoughts by topic. These are snippets. It’s not in any particular order, it’s just discussions I have again and again.

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