Religionization of American Politics August 30, 2010Posted by tkcollier in philosophy & politics, Religion.
Tags: Obama, philosophy & politics, Religion
Obama isn’t the first president to have to deal with this. Abraham Lincoln, who never joined a church and was notoriously ambiguous and secretive about his religious beliefs, famously said, “The Bible is not my book nor Christianity my profession.” In his later years, despite denouncing those who were “enemies of” or “scoffed at” religion, he reiterated, “My earlier views of the unsoundness of the Christian scheme of salvation and the human origin of the scriptures, have become clearer and stronger with advancing years and I see no reason for thinking I shall ever change them.”
And Lincoln wasn’t alone, either. In fact, the United States was created by a very skeptical group of Founding Fathers.
The Treaty of Tripoli, ratified by the Senate and signed by President John Adams in 1797, stated clearly in Article 11 that the US government is “not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion.”
Thomas Jefferson, who famously wrote to Joseph Priestley in 1801 that Christianity was “the most perverted system that has ever shone on man,” constructed his own version of the Bible, the Jefferson Bible, by snipping out the supernatural aspects of Christianity like angels and the Trinity, and including only the aspects relating to the life and morality of Jesus Christ.
Benjamin Franklin, also famously suspicious of organized religion, penned a dissertation detailing his criticism of Christian principles, and openly questioned the divinity of Jesus Christ.
And even though George H. W. Bush declared in 1987, “I don’t know that atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered as patriots,” another George — George Washington — said of the workmen he sought to employ at Mount Vernon, over two hundred years earlier in 1784, “If they are good workmen, they may be of Asia, Africa, or Europe. They may be Mohometans, Jews or Christians of any Sect, or they may be Atheists.”
The words “under God” weren’t added to the Pledge of Allegiance until 1954, and America’s current “In God We Trust” motto didn’t appear on coins until 1864, although it only became the official US motto in 1956, when the country was undergoing a religious revival buoyed by the likes of then Secretary of State John Foster Dulles’ belief that opposition to communism was justified not because of the Soviet Union’s totalitarian regime, but because of it being run by atheists.
Currently, agnostics, atheists, and those with no religious affiliation constitute 16 percent of the US population. That’s more than Hispanics (15 percent), blacks (12 percent), or Jews (2 percent). In one of the most stark turnarounds in decades, the United States seems to have a president, raised by agnostic skeptics, who has an approach of inclusion not only towards those of all religions (“No regrets”), but also of no religion.
It’s irrelevant whether Barack Obama is a Christian or a Muslim — as long as he governs like he’s neither.