Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Religious Test is Alive and Kicking in American Politics. Again.

As a non-religious person I have faith that religion will always be with us.  It's the way of the world, and if I'm baffled by its constancy, by its influence, by the sheer numbers of people involved, I'm even more befuddled watching the move away from any pretense at goodness and mercy in favor of a peculiar form of public political bullying by the Religious Right.

There are many churches that do good works and act as sanctuaries in a cold, cruel world.  Their congregations are loving and generous and, by the way, have no problem accepting non-believers like me. We work well together.  There is that understanding that, while our goals are the same; the paths we take to get there take a different turn.

I've hesitated to get into this, mainly because I have family and friends who are religious and I love those people.  Most of them have enough respect for me to lay off any proselytizing, but I know that a number of them can't help but pray for my damaged soul.  I'm good at pretending that's okay.  They mean well.

But what's not okay is what brings me to this:  Rick Perry.  His phony piety, his bad acting, his destructive actions as governor of Texas showing him for the hypocrite he is.  It should have been Michele Bachmann's lame and lazy preaching that capped it, but Rick Perry has finally done it for me.  His performance at Jerry Falwell's Liberty University was as loathsome as Jimmy Swaggart sobbing open-mouthed on close-up for forgiveness or Jim Bakker weeping at the loss of his empire.  Rank insincerity is what bonds them all.  The significant difference is that, so far, Jimmy and Jim haven't aspired to be president of these United States.

Billboard in South Carolina

I listen to the calls to Jesus by Presidential candidates like Rick Perry, Michele Bachmann, Mitt Romney, Jon Huntsman, and even Ron Paul.  I see our presidents and members of congress fighting to one-up their Jesus-is-my-lord-and-savior status, and it's clear that  scrupulous avoidance of religious tests for political candidates is a thing of the past.

An avowed Atheist has never had a chance -- a fact that makes no sense in a democracy -- but even a quiet Christian wouldn't have a chance today.  If you're thinking of running for anything, you had better be out there professing your undying love of an accepted and specific God as defined by the one and only Holy Bible or forget about any future in 21st Century American politics.

This new century of ours is a puzzler.  It's suffering the worst kind of growing pains, but it's not as if it came from nowhere.  It's roots are in several centuries of ups and downs and lessons ripe for learning, yet it's as if American history is some quaint, nostalgic throwback having almost nothing to do with this modern world.

There are reasons for the need to see ourselves as a nation and not just as a country.  We're peopled with citizens as diverse as the world.  The fervent bleating of the more vocal Christian politicos cannot change the fact that not all Americans are Christians. We are not a Christian nation.  We never set out to be a Christian nation.  By clear Constitutional design,  there is no religious test for any candidate in this country.

If they can't get that one simple fact straight, one wonders what hope there is for understanding issues even more complicated.  Like the meaning of "Of the people, by the people, for the people", for starters.


  1. I agree with you and I stand firmly on the ground that separates Church and State. One thing we lose track is simply that the early Colonists that came here, came for religious freedom. We have never had a national faith anymore than we have a national language. And the early founders did believe in the We the People, as inclusive of all. I think that this emphasis on the religious Right for all things Religious is a dangerous ground to stand on as it is not inclusive to all, and that includes atheists. The history of religions and established dogma as a pre-requisite to citizenship is shrouded in violence and wars. Enforced religious beliefs violates all the basic freedoms that are outlined in our Constitution and if you believe in the core beliefs outlined in this document, you will then see that a Christian Nation is not the United States of America.

  2. Thank you, Neena. The concept of separation of church and state is so simple, so clear, so necessary that you would think the argument would be dead and buried by now. Instead, it's had a really ugly resurgence. We're going backward instead of forward.

    This new century sucks so far.

  3. What was ugly was a judge that hated Catholics was allowed to make it to the U.S. Supreme Court and upon his ruling undermined the principles of which this country was founded. There is no mention of separation of church and state in the Constitution...there is mention that we should not have a state sponsored church. To claim that we should not abide by the "principles" set forth in that precious document is to ignore everything our Founding Fathers desired...those 'principles' were Christian principles...this cannot be denied, else we would not have survived. It wasn't until anti-Christians began to multiply deterioration crept into our sysmtem of government. Chief Justice Hugo Black although he claimed to be Christian, was very adamant about any reference to a Christian God and used a letter written by Thomas Jefferson as a source document to remove God from the public arena. Clearly, the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution is our source documents and references to God are integral verbiage... Our Creator? Is he not God? Again, its the principles of Christanity we should be following...you, you would think the argument would be dead and buried by now! (Note: This does not mean we should all be Christians. We can use the familiar term, "Judeo-Christian" and the 'principles' we practice would not change. Even if one claims to be an atheist, following the 'principles' outlined in the Constitution does not force a government mandate that one should believe in God. But a court ordered, "Thou shalt not pray in Jesus's name Amen." is a dictaorial mandate by the government and not by we the people.)

  4. This essay is about religious tests for candidates.

    Article 6, paragraph 3 of the Constitution says,
    “The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.”

    But beyond that, separation of church and state is in the forefront again because the Religious Right is making it an issue. Their mission is clear: They are out to make America a theocracy. Every Republican candidate is trying to our-Christian the other, to the point of shunning Mitt Romney, who “is not one of them” because of his religion. They are running for the presidency, not pastor or pope. They need to be reminded of that.

    Btw, non-believers aren’t necessarily anti-Christian – a point I made in my piece. You, on the other hand, make it clear that you have no use for anyone who doesn’t believe as you do. That’s the point of keeping religion out of government. We’re all equal under the law, and the law cannot discriminate based on religion or non-religion.

    We are not a Christian nation. We are not a Judeo-Christian nation. Governing has to be secular, but you still have the right to worship as you choose, to believe as you choose. And so do I, thanks to the wisdom of the Founding Fathers.

  5. Ref:"...but no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.” This is true!

    Ref:"...because the Religious Right is making it an issue. Their mission is clear: They are out to make America a theocracy" This is not true!

    Ref:"You, on the other hand, make it clear that you have no use for anyone who doesn’t believe as you do." This is not true...its not even implied in my commentary...be careful about your assumptions (you know the old saying)

  6. Following 'Principles' is not a religious test!

  7. SN, I apologize for being a bit harsh. I misread your intent. (Hint: paragraphs would help.)

    The Founding Fathers said nothing about Christianity in either the Declaration or the Constitution. The words "God" and "endowed by their Creator" were included, but there is no indication that the Founders favored Christianity or were using Christian principles as guidelines for either document.

    The three principals that guide our Constitution -- fairness, decency and law, are societal traits, not necessarily religious. We can't function as a society without them. "Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" can be achieved without the inclusion of religion in our governing.

    I don't take the word "Theocracy" lightly. There is big money behind the current effort to put religion in the forefront -- specifically right-leaning Christianity -- steering our laws and our entire way of life in that direction. Every citizen, religious or not, should fear it and fight against it.

    As to your first and last sentences in your first comment, I don't understand the context, so I can't comment.

    Thanks for writing.

  8. I wanted to let you know, I used your church state photo in a post for the Firebrand http://thefbm.com/?p=2980

  9. Thanks for the courtesy, Dan. But damn. . .now I have to admit I took it from somewhere else without so much as a thank you. I'm trying to mend my ways about that sort of thing, but this piece is from before my epiphany.

    Thanks again.

    I visited your website and I have to admit, while I'm not quite the firebrand you guys are, when it comes to labor I'm with you all the way. Good work.


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