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Viewing the U.S. as a pluralistic nation with freedom of religion

An essay donated by Jason Miller

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Jason Miller is a 39 year old activist writer with a degree in liberal arts. When he is not spending time with his wife and three sons, researching, or writing, he is working as a loan counselor. He is a member of Amnesty International and an avid supporter of Oxfam International and Human Rights Watch. He welcomes responses at willpowerful@hotmail.com  or comments on his blog, Thomas Paine's Corner, at http://civillibertarian.blogspot.com/.

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How about calling us a pluralistic nation with freedom of religion?

The notion that the United States is a Christian nation is false on numerous levels. Certainly we are heavily influenced Christianity, but to say we are a Christian nation flies in the face of the raison de’ ętre of America.

Consider the following:

1. According to the 1990 US Census, 91.6% of Americans were Christians. By 2000, the percentage had decreased to 85%. We 42 million “heathens” represent a pretty significant portion of the population.

2. Many of the Western Europeans who settled the original thirteen colonies fled their nations of origin to evade religious persecution and state-imposed religions. 

3. Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin, two of our most prominent Founding Fathers, were Deists. Washington and Jefferson were not particularly religious but tended more toward Deism than Christianity.

4. Thomas Paine, whose writings were a powerful catalyst for the American Revolution, vehemently attacked Christianity in one of his polemical works and refused to embrace Christianity, even on his death-bed.

5. God is not mentioned in our Constitution. The Declaration of Independence simply mentions "Nature's God" and a "Creator", neither of which specifically imply a Christian god.

6. Per the Treaty of Tripoli, endorsed by President John Adams and ratified unanimously by the US Senate in 1797: "As the Government of the United States is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion..."

7. If Christians lay claim to the United States as their nation, that means they bear the sole responsibility for the evils of slavery, the virtual annihilation of the Native Americans, and the many acts of state terror perpetrated by the US military and CIA over the years.

8. In 1864, the equivalent of today's Religious Right cowed Congress into passing legislation mandating that the US begin stamping "In God We Trust" on several of our coins. Besides caving to the powerful influence of Christian fundamentalists, our federal government also recognized the psychological boost the power of Christian symbolism would give them after the blow to their authority rendered by the Civil War.

9. McCarthy-inspired anti-Communist hysteria motivated Eisenhower to sign Public Law 140 in 1956. Going forward, all US coins and paper money bore the propagandistic slogan "In God We Trust" to reassure Americans that we were better than the godless Communists. The same year, the words "under God" were added to the Pledge of Allegiance. It took 180 years for this Christian nation to fully embrace its identity. Or perhaps it simply took our plutocratic rulers that long to recognize the power of spiritual
coercion….As an aside, the original motto on the United States was E Pluribus Unum (Latin for "Out of many, one"), which obviously encourages more unity and cohesion than an exclusionary national motto dedicated to a god worshipped by one segment of the population.

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Originally posted: 2006-MAR-08
Latest update: 2006-MAR-08
Author: Jason Miller

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