Friday, November 25, 2005

The Godless Constitution Chapter 1 - Is America A Christian Nation?

This is a question that has puzzled me many times; particularly when I am presented with somebody asserting vigorously that we are a Christian Nation. My first response is usually something along the lines of what do you mean by the phrase "Christian nation."

Given the tone of such pronouncements, I know it does not in fact mean "Statistically speaking, there are a lot of Christians in the U.S."

And such people are usually quick to deny that it means "Non-Christians should not have the same rights as Christians." The then move to the theory that Christians are persecuted in America (a theory one step removed from "White Males have it tough in this country" on the ludicrousness scale). So somewhere in between those two I would guess?

Kramnick and Moore have a term to describe the philosophy of those who favor the assertion that America is a Christian Nation; Religious correctness.
It [religious correctness] maintains that the United States was established as a Christian nation by Christian people, with the Christian religion assigned a central place in guiding the nation's destiny.
The authors do note the importance of the Christian religion in our nation and in our current culture; but they disagree on the notion that it has a special role in our political culture.

They also believe that the injection of religion into politics hurts both politics and religion. Religious leaders who stand on the public square suffer the same slings and arrows that every other politically active person or movement has to suffer. They quote Alexis de Tocqueville, who asked, ". . . what would become of its [religion's] immortality, in the midst of universal decay?"

I'd also like to point out something on the burden of proof in this book. Obviously Kramnick and Moore believe in the secular state (as do I). But even if you are not convinced that the secular state is the way to go, an honest reader of this book would have to concede that the proponents of a Secular Politics and Government have at least as much of a claim on the American tradition as proponents of religious correctness.

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