Christian nation trap ensnares John McCain


Let’s put an end to the silly “Christian nation” notion once and for all. Can we?

I am a hopeful person. Of course, I realize that it is highly unlikely we would ever be able to disabuse people of the Christian nation myth.

Okay — then let’s at least lay some facts on the table.

John McCain, perhaps as Popeye

First, some background. John McCain, U.S. Senator from Arizona and candidate for U.S. president, granted an exclusive interview to a reporter from Belief.net. Read excerpts here.

In the interview McCain falls into the Christian nation trap:

Q: A recent poll found that 55 percent of Americans believe the U.S. Constitution establishes a Christian nation. What do you think?
A: I would probably have to say yes, that the Constitution established the United States of America as a Christian nation. But I say that in the broadest sense. The lady that holds her lamp beside the golden door doesn’t say, “I only welcome Christians.” We welcome the poor, the tired, the huddled masses. But when they come here they know that they are in a nation founded on Christian principles.

Second, David Kuo properly, but gingerly, takes on McCain′s argument (hooray for Belief.net).

Then, third, Rod Dreher (the Crunchy Con from the Dallas Morning News) agrees with McCain, mostly.

McCain’s blithe endorsement of this myth, based in error and continued as a political drive to shutting down democratic processes. McCain may be starting to understand some of the difficulties with this issue. His remarks are a week old, at least, and there’s been a wire story a day since then. Will it make him lean more toward taking my advice?

Below the fold, I post a few observations on why we should just forget the entire, foolish claim.

Understand the history: In 1775 the Continental Congress notified the legislatures of the 13 colonies to revamp their charters with an eye toward keeping government going during a period of hostility with England. In each case where religious freedom was not already guaranteed, the colonies disestablished their churches. For some of the Anglican-affiliated colonies this was simple pragmatics, since the Church of England could not be counted on to provide anything during hostility. For others, it was a matter of the general expression of freedom. For some colonies — Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, the Carolinas — their charters already provided religious freedom.

In setting up the Articles of Confederation in 1777, the notion of religion did not appear. The American Revolution was fought and won without a claim that the nation had any religion at all.

After the war, there was no drive to bring back state churches. The trend to religious freedom continued, with one notable exception: In Virginia, Patrick Henry proposed that the state should pay the salaries of preachers, who could double as teachers. Virginians had jailed Baptists and Presbyterians a decade earlier, just for not being Anglican. But when Henry’s proposal got to the legislature, a petition written by James Madison garnered thousands of signatures, and the legislature instead took up Thomas Jefferson’s proposal to pass a statute guaranteeing religious freedom (and freedom from religion) for everybody.

When the issue came up in discussions for the Constitution a year after the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, the definitive answer came down in the form of Article VI, which prohibits the use of religious tests for all government offices — and, read it carefully — federal, state and local. When the states ratified the Constitution, none asked for permission to establish a state church, or create a national church (though, in debate a few minority view people complained there was no mention of God in the document); but five states specifically asked for a Bill of Rights including a right to religious freedom.

So, historically, there is no record to support a claim that the founders intended a “Christian” nation in any form.

Advocates of Christian dominionism and others who complain — without foundation, in my view — about “efforts to expunge mentions of God from the public square,” tend to base their claims on a series of “quotes” from “founding fathers.” These quotes typically note the particular founder’s approval of some part of Christianity.

A more careful reading of history, and attention paid to the actual laws the founders wrote, suggest they had a much different view of Christianity. While they approved of morality in general, and while they hoped most people would strive for virtuous action, they recognized that “men are not angels” as Madison put it, and they recognized and tried to prevent abuses of human rights and culture that had been done in the name of Christianity in the past. Specifically they wished to avoid the nation-rending religious strife England experienced, where Catholic sovereigns murdered Anglicans and Protestants, and Anglican monarchs murdered Catholics.

In short, America’s creators strove for a government that featured tools to accommodate any faith, or lack of it, so long as the citizens strove for virtuous action and would debate and discuss the issues.

A few more observations:

  1. The trend to religious freedom included disestablishment, completely, in the four states that had kept vestiges of establishment. Connecticut’s last vestiges were expurgated in 1816; Massachusetts clung to voluntary tithe collection until 1833. The trend to religious freedom has never been backtracked on.
  2. Calls to honor Christianity were turned away through the 19th century. The call to stop mail movement on the sabbath, for example, resulted in hearings in Congress in 1827. In a famous Senate report, the Senate noted that such a movement would honor religion, illegally. Sunday mail movement continued. (Post offices were open on Sundays until well into the 20th century, when some offices started to close simply because there was not enough business to warrant being open.)
  3. The movement to add a “Christian Amendment” or “Jesus Amendment” to the Constitution was constantly rebuffed, from its inception in 1790 through its dissolution after 1945. The closest the group ever came to action was during the Civil War, when with the aid of two Supreme Court justices, the pro-Jesus Amendment forces got the government to put “In God we trust” on the penny. Lincoln met with this group in March 1865, and refused to give them any help.
  4. The often-miscited Church of the Holy Trinity vs. U.S. (143 U.S. 457 (1892)) was a case about immigrant labor, not religion. The obiter dicta of that case which claims the U.S. “is a Christian nation” speaks in a de facto sense, not de jure. Justice David Brewer, who wrote the majority opinion, denied any legal standing for Christianity in his later lectures at Yale. Perhaps more to the point, when a church argued in 1895 that it was illegal to site a house of prostitution next door to a church because the U.S. was a Christian nation, Justice Brewer also wrote the opinion that allowed the odd zoning to proceed (l’Hote vs. New Orleans (177 U.S. 587 ( 1895)).

McCain would do well to spend a little time steeping in this history. It tells a lot about what Americans want, and about how America works.

And, as if on cue, we get this month the publication of a new book by Garry Wills discussing this false idea exactly. Wills has written about the topic before. As America’s leading classicist scholar, Wills’ opinion is worth listening to. In Head and Heart: American Christianities, Wills takes on the notion that America is in any way a Christian nation, and dismisses it, with lots of good stories.

McCain should pay careful attention because this issue shows how America lives up to its ideals and fulfills the promise of America. The reality is that the founders envisioned a nation with much higher moral concepts than most religions endorsed at the time. They thought it abominable that anyone would be jailed for mere thoughts, as occurred in England and the Americas at the time. They ended such jailings.

The founders worked to provide a system where the government had no dog in any religious fight, in order to prevent executions and prosecutions for religious matters. They regarded public policy as something that could be determined by reason rather than revelation from a pulpit. And the fruits of that notion are easily demonstrable:

  • Laws against child abuse, long thought to be a Biblical right, if not imperative
  • Laws against animal abuse
  • Laws against food contamination
  • Laws regulating purity and efficacy in pharmaceuticals
  • Laws regulating hours of work, for women and children especially
  • Public health laws in many varieties

Christians often endorse these policies once they become popular, or when they become law. Would it be possible to continually increase our actual, practicing morality, in such areas, if we were to officially defer to a faith?

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48 Responses to Christian nation trap ensnares John McCain

  1. smokin'lad says:

    And know-nothings, too

    Like

  2. smokin'lad says:

    Uhm meant to say, “Conquest BY certain chosen peoples” – referring to the Jews and Acheans, respectively.
    I hate grammatical errors, don’t you?

    Like

  3. smokin'lad says:

    Mechmorph obviously doesn’t read that much about other religious institutions, though seems quite versed in certain aspects of his own – solely those that support the current beliefs held by it, of course. There are numerous contradictions in the Bible and in Christian dogma, and these can be used to either support or condemn some of the most barbaric qualities that we as humans are capable of – and no wonder really, as the roots of Judeo-Christian belief can be found in ancient tribalism. In a sense, the Iliad and the Bible are comparable in many ways – both are replete with violent imagery, and glorify the conquest of certain chosen peoples. There are so many contradictory messages in the Bible that it can be interpreted almost any way that a person desires… there is nothing in it that will direct a person to be good or bad; the same can be said of most religions. Read the Qur’an – there’s a lot in there about treating others well, giving alms to the poor, treating women fairly (at least in contrast to how they were treated pre-Mohammed).
    As for his silly assertion that Buddhism is a nasty religion that doesn’t support human liberty or value human life – I think most people who even know a little about it would scoff at this blatant show of ignorance. It makes me sigh to have no-nothings posting their comments on public forums, just so all the world can snigger at them and post rebutting comments regarding their foolishness.
    Please do a bit of research before making vast (and unfounded) generalizations about things you imagine yourself to be an authority on. For the love of god… it’s an embarrassment to me as a human, and a waste of your precious human intellect

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  4. bernard says:

    Matt…. Amen…. Though, at times, the arguments were moving out of focus, many folks have left very level-headed and fair arguments for their ideas. Your conclusion puts everything into perspective.

    Certainly….. happy to have found this forum….learned a lot today.

    Cheers and God Bless.

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  5. Matt says:

    I am a Christian, but their is a significant amount of evidence that supports both sides. This debate is becoming worthless because both sides are ranting about how right they are and how stupid the opposition is, Come on, the goal is to find the truth here, not be the smartest and coolest kid on the blog. So, in an effort to channel the debate back into a more factual and reasonable debate I list some of the facts that I think are most important.

    The phrase “endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights” suggests a very theistic stance. (Not necesarily christian however)

    Jefferson and Franklin were NOT christians, along with many other founding fathers. Washington claimed to be a christian but his theology is sketchy at best.

    American society was predominantly Christian at the time and many of the leaders of the revolution used christian religion as the basis for action against england the dignity and rights of every human.

    Most of the people who founded the United States immigrated because they wanted to escape religious persecution, or were dececendents of people who did.

    The United states was undeniably founded to allow any and all religions to be practiced freely and to flourish or fall as they may.

    There are dumb Christians and Dumb atheists who both come up with dumb justifications for their oppinions. Christians, atheists, jews, etc. came down on both sides of the establishment debate, the slavery debate, the indian debate, etc. and have found stupid reasons to justify they all. Atheism, christianity or anyother belief system is not to be thrown out simply because it has been used to justify something stupid.

    Antheism has a hard time claiming the ideas of inalienable rights when it is based on evolution which is basically the principle of developement because the strong win out over the weak. Which seems to justify tyranny and genocide if you can get away with it.

    Whether america used to be a christian nation or not, it certainly is not one now, even though it is full of Christians just like it always has been.

    John McCain is an American who has the right to his own belief and should not be criticised for having them, we should want politicians would be more clear about their beliefs so that we can make the right choice when we vote. That is how democracy dies, when people don’t realize who they are electing.

    So, I hope that this debate can steer clear of name calling and ranting buffoonery and instead treat every idea as a plausible one until proven wrong.

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  6. Skeptical says:

    Personally I think he just said that without thinking about it. He seems pretty desperate for the religious conservative vote despite being rather secularist (“agents of intolerance” remark was made back when he didn’t have to factor in voters)

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  7. jack green says:

    Is This Guy KIDDING?!?

    Africans don’t run around with no clothes waiting to be saved by Europeans.
    The statement that they are is uneducated, racist or both.

    Africans had CITIES and towns and villages and libraries and farming in areas where they were taken as slaves. AFRICANS WERE NOT NOMADIC in these areas. They were farmers and ranchers. They invented the cultivation of many crops including Millet and Sorghum. Even the remotest areas like Timbuktu were cities with people and libraries and buildings. Timbuktu is still after thousands of years an important religious training center in Islam for thousands of years. Do you think it wasn’t in 1800 if it was the case in 900 AD?

    Africans weren’t jumping for joy to be liberated by Africans. Just like Christians weren’t jumping for joy to be invaded by the arabs in the middle ages (although in many cases they did jump for joy when freed from the yoke of persecution from state religion, such as in Bosnia)

    Many slaves were literate when captured such as Omar Ibn Said a well known african slave. How is it poissible to be a literate book writing culture and also be “naked and primitive and nomadic”
    here is the link:http://gess.wordpress.com/2006/08/10/representing-the-west-in-the-arabic-language-the-slave-narrative-of-omar-ibn-said/

    He was not naked in a jungle he was a literate and educated person.

    the truth is many african societies were more socially advanced than the europeans. The europeans were not able to conquer africa until the invention of firearms. before that the africans were indeed indistinguishable from the europeans.

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  8. mpb says:

    Magus I don’t think you are applying your logic equally between Caesar and Darwin.

    Don’t teach religion in science classes. Don’t teach science in religion classes.

    Evolution doesn’t have all answers, only those related to changes (over time) in gene frequencies (in populations).

    Science by definition moves beyond hypotheses which are disproven. Any belief in a god or gods is faith, not a hypothesis, so how possibly could faith be scientifically tested?

    Like

  9. magus71 says:

    mpb said: “Thank you. Therefore, as you say give unto science what is evolution and unto God what is religion and no ID in science classes.”

    You’re quite welcome for the quote from Jesus, but your statement at once implies that there is a God, but that he could not have made this universe.

    The church/state separation anecdote goes too far in this way: What if we knew, beyond all doubt, or at least as much as a human mind can know anything, that there is a God, or Supreme Being who created all that is. Would we still speak of separating the discussion of this Being from our schools? No. It is only because our Christian founders admitted that when, throughout history, Christianity has been institutionalized and became monolithic, it did some bad things. It morphed into something other than what it was intended to be, which is what always happens when one human institution gains a monopoly in any endeavor. And, I think, this is what is happening with science. It’s a monopoly on knowledge. It’s High Priests, such as Richard Dawkins, are granted the power to dispense knowledge and to destroy it. I support, always, his right and every one’s to discuss the problems and deficiencies of certain ideas, but I do have a problem with passing laws which make it illegal to teach any theory which is at odds with Darwinism; that is Dystopianism.

    Disallowing other theories besides Evolution, is bad for science. To think that Darwinism, even in its modern form, holds all the answers in regards to our existence is naivete’ in its extreme. We can speak of the times when religion held back science, but we can also speak of, and probably much more voluminously, the times when science has been wrong with only itself to blame.

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  10. Ed Darrell says:

    Magus71 said:

    Jesus didn’t say submit to slaves, Paul did. Are you sure you’re reading the Bible?

    You’re right. Non-Fruedian slip.

    Of course, there is this in Leviticus 25.44 et seq., which suggests Paul was relying on older scripture:

    44 And as for your male and female slaves whom you may have—from the nations that are around you, from them you may buy male and female slaves. 45 Moreover you may buy the children of the strangers who dwell among you, and their families who are with you, which they beget in your land; and they shall become your property. 46 And you may take them as an inheritance for your children after you, to inherit them as a possession; they shall be your permanent slaves.

    Magus71:

    The Bible doesn’t and can’t give us the answers to every problem of human existance, it can though, give us scaffolding on which to build conclusions. The Sermon on the Mount would give a clear indication as to Jesus’ thoughts on slavery, I think.

    You and I think so, now — but that is not what many Christians thought through most of the past two millennia. Anything we see against slavery in the NT is something that is not explicit. Slave holders found justification for keeping slaves in those scriptures, and it has only been in the past two years that Southern Baptists renounced those readings.

    But, it must also be said that the New Testament deals primarily with things of a spiritual nature, not the temporal. “Give unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, and unto God, what is God’s.” and “Fear not men who can kill your body, but God who can kill your body and cast your soul into Hell.”

    Ouch. Hell.

    Read Voltaire’s conclusions on Africans.

    Got a pointer to what he said? Voltaire was opposed to slavery, but as part of his atheism, not a part of Christianity.

    Locke was a devout Christian who came to the same conclusions that I do: Slavery is bad.

    Locke was regarded as apostate by many, at a minimum. I don’t think it’s fair to call him devout, since he seems not to have held to trinitarian views, for example.

    Locke wrote the charters for the Carolinas. The charters guaranteed religious freedom, but did not ban slavery. I’m not sure what conclusions we can draw there.

    The Old Testament doesn’t condemn slavery as an institution 1) It doesn’t have to; it lets the readers feel how ugly it was 2) It’s narrator is silent as to the ethics of anything. The readers themsleves must decide from what happened and God’s and the prophet’s reaction to the events, as to whether the events are good or bad.

    See the verse from Leviticus 25 above. I don’t think that’s a condemnation in any respect. It looks like a free pass to be a slaveholder, to me, especially since it discusses who may be bought and sold.

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  11. mpb says:

    But, it must also be said that the New Testament deals primarily with things of a spiritual nature, not the temporal. “Give unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, and unto God, what is God’s.”

    Thank you. Therefore, as you say, give unto science what is evolution and unto God what is religion and no ID in science classes.

    Like

  12. magus71 says:

    Read Voltair’s conclusions on Africans.

    Locke was a devout Christian who came to the same conclusions that I do: Slavery is bad.

    The Old Testament doesn’t condemn slavery as an institution 1) It doesn’t have to; it lets the readers feel how ugly it was 2) It’s narrator is silent as to the ethics of anything. The readers themsleves must decide from what happened and God’s and the prophet’s reaction to the events, as to whether the events are good or bad.

    Like

  13. magus71 says:

    Jesus didn’t say submit to slaves, Paul did. Are you sure you’re reading the Bible?

    The Bible doesn’t and can’t give us the answers to every problem of human existance, it can though, give us scaffolding on which to build conclusions. The Sermon on the Mount would give a clear indication as to Jesus’ thoughts on slavery, I think.

    But, it must also be said that the New Testament deals primarily with things of a spiritual nature, not the temporal. “Give unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, and unto God, what is God’s.” and “Fear not men who can kill your body, but God who can kill your body and cast your soul into Hell.”

    Ouch. Hell.

    Like

  14. Ed Darrell says:

    Is the Bible against slavery? Where is there such a statement? Oh, yes, the slavery the Israelites were held in, in Egypt and Babylon, was terrible. Unjust? Not according to the prophets. Were Israelites banned from taking slaves? No. What was Jesus’s advice to slaves? Submit to masters.

    Once the ideas started spreading that there is an inherent right to freedom from slavery, ideas that were spread by people like Rousseau, Locke and Paine, contrary to church teachings, some Christians quickly converted. But what you will not find prior to 1776 is preachers arguing that slavery is either banned by the Bible, nor that it was an unsavory institution, according to scripture. Not even George Fox made that argument in his successful effort to get Quakers to abandon slavery in America, prior to 1776.

    Yes, the Israelites suffered in slavery, as all slaves do. No, the Bible didn’t condemn slavery as an institution.

    Were there Christian nations prior to the U.S. founding? Of course. Think of the Holy Roman Empire, think of the divine right rulers of the European nations. Several nations in Europe today still have established churches (and empty pews, a natural outgrowth of established religion, but religionists don’t like to look at real life consequences).

    The Founders did not ignore the Bible’s teachings against slavery. There are none to ignore, none that can be said to be pointed directly at slavery. As Magus71 well knows, the north/south splits in U.S. sects after the American Revolution generally came over the issue of slavery, with Southern Baptists claiming the Bible endorsed slavery, American Baptists siding with abolition (but not on the grounds of scripture, as I recall).

    I think its unfair to accuse the founders of thinking Africans as subhuman. Some did, but consciousness on the issue was rising. Washington confronted his own racism during the war, and concluded slavery an institution to be abolished — though he freed his slaves only upon his death; no other founder did that. Jefferson understood that his holding slaves was hypocritical, and I think this was a major cause of his lifelong bouts with depression. However, economically he could barely afford to keep his household going, and so he did not free his slaves even in his will. Adams and Franklin did not hold slaves, but recognized the economic straits into which abolition would put their southern brethren. Slavery was tolerated as a price to pay to make the nation and keep the union.

    The only contradiction the founders had was over slavery and their own rising morality. That morality was not based on scripture, however, but instead based on their understanding of natural law, which is law not revealed from the pulpit.

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  15. magus71 says:

    If the United States, in its foundation, is not a Christian nation, has there ever been such a thing?

    Ed’s duel assertions that the Bible doesn’t speak out against slavery, and that our nation was not founded based on Christian ethics, contradict one another. Actually, it would be more poignant if he stated that the Bible were against slavery, but that the Founding Fathers ignored this. I think this is the case. The Founding Fathers circumvented their own beliefs of human equality by willfully believing that the Africans were not human, but sub-human.

    Shadow, spare us your pseudo-Christian soliloquy on homosexuality. Self-righteousness in acceptance is still self-righteousness.

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  16. magus71 says:

    Ed Darrell,

    I know you’ve read Exodus, but lest we confuse the readers here by omission, and let them actually believe what you said about the Bible’s silence on the harshness of slavery, here’s a cut from the trusty King James:

    “And the Egyptians made the children of Israel to serve with rigour: And they made their lives bitter with hard bondage, in mortar, and in brick, and in all manner of service in the field: all their service, wherein they made them serve, was with rigour.”

    and…”And it came to pass in those days, when Moses was grown, that he went out unto his brethren, and looked on their burdens: and he spied an Egyptian smiting an Hebrew, on eof his brethren. And he looked this way and that way, and when he saw that there was no man, he slew the Egyptian, and hid him in the sand.”

    ~EXODUS, Chapters 1 and 2~

    Apparently, Moses wasn’t too fond of slavery.

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  17. Patrick Walsh says:

    Great stuff. Lots of laughs.
    Love the bit quoting the court case OK ing the Brothel beside the Church.
    Just made sense at the time. And still does.
    As for the rest, Just Cool It…

    Like

  18. A Shadow says:

    Guy, I agree with Ed; You have a very odd definition of the word ‘proof’. While some examples you give by means of scripture can be interpreted as supporting your arguments, very few of them, if any, are based on pure fact. After claiming you’ve done little study of Africa, did your studies include where the first contact with Africans was made? Or are you just assuming that it wasn’t in a civilized area because you ‘know’ that you’re right?

    I believe that some people hid behind christianity. Southern slaveholders, soldiers of the Crusades, burners of witches. Where does it stop being a few bad people though? Does it never stop because christianity is perfect? And also, you say that bad people hide behind christianity, but after saying not all christians who do bad things should dishonor the religion you continue to take credit for anything good you can derive from anyone who shared even similar morals with christians. The founding fathers may well have had much in common with those morals, but that doesn’t neccessarily attribute the founding of our country to christianity or insinuate that we are a christian nation.

    I’m a christian myself, but I still don’t believe that the United States is a ‘Christian Nation’ That’s the beautiful thing about the country if you ask me. We don’t deny those different from us from remaining among us. The are muslims, Jews, homosexuals, etc. all living among us and they’re welcome here, or at least are legally allowed here even if some of our residents aren’t happy about it, and they’re slowly gaining complete equality. By the way, Christians are the largest group against homosexuality. Many other christians I know personally are appalled by the thought of homosexuality. My friends who happen to be Atheists (I must admit this number is limited to about seven) however, have no issue at all with homosexuality. For the record, I have nothing against these people. I don’t quite understand why they choose as they do, but that’s okay. I doubt they dislike me for my choices either. We each hold our own views and accept the other’s.

    I like to think of it as the Golden Rule, the ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you’. That those who have lived well will be rewarded, and those that have not, will not find themselves in as happy a circumstance. Don’t take this as me crediting anything to the founding fathers though. Look at Wikipedia for starters. This concept comes from more than simply christianity.

    And by the way, while you do give a verse or two, you give no definitive proof that can be further looked into. Ed does, and he gives a lot of it. If you would be so kind, please make your next post more factual. Even where Ed doesn’t give links, the information is easily found through a few quick searches. It would help you much more should you do the same rather than constantly assaulting one of your fellow debaters. Even if Ed is reciprocating your accusations and insults, you’re the one being the most aggressive about it. In a debate of any form, strong emotional backlash makes you look bad, and consequently, wrong. So you may consider taking a moment to calm down and think everything through before you make your next post, be it on this topic or another.

    Thank you,

    A Shadow

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  19. Eric says:

    Eric

    As a result, TrackBack spam filters similar to those implemented against comment spam now exist in many weblog publishing systems.

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  20. Ed,

    Thanks for taking the time to write this post. It has been very enlightening, once again.

    Comments like those that “guy” makes me wonder if there is much hope left. Forum after forum after forum I see nothing but people like him posting absolutely mindless tripe.

    It really worries me.

    Anyway, carry on.

    Like

  21. Ed Darrell says:

    You’ve got a really bizarre and parochial definition of “proof” and “proven,” Guy.

    Like

  22. Guy says:

    Believe what you want I have supported my claims with historical evidence you on the other hand have yet to provide a single piece of evidence supporting your ridiculous opinions. I think that before you go telling me to hit a few history books you should try doing that yourself as your the only one here who has failed to provide historical evidence to back your argument.

    1. Again you misunderstand the underlying ideas of the term equality of all souls. Very well it appears I have to actually spell it out for you. Do try and pay attention this time. Equality of all “souls” applies to to people to as people are “souls”. Understand? However knowing your personality that probably wasn’t clear enough for you. So i’ll give a biblical example to support my claims. In the bible when an angry mob is throwing stones at Marry Magdelen for being a sinner Jesus steps in and says let he among you who is without sin cast the first stone. Another example is Jesus having dinner with the tax collector. Jewish tax collectors collected the taxes for the Romans. The jews thus hated tax collectors calling them both sinners and traitors. For Jesus to dine in the house of one would have caused great distress among the jews. The Bible teaches not just a message of equality it teaches us a message of compassion. Jesus taught to be kind and compassionate towards others and to pity not hate those who despise and wish to destroy you Jesus taught that we should love all people reguardless of skin, sex, health, or status.

    2. Again ignorance is the answer here I’ll admit that you are correct in saying that some slave masters may have argued 8th commandment rights for slavery. However the ones ho made such claims did so for profit not religion. Blame Not God For The Sins That Are Mans that is a personal quote that I use in this situaton. Yes some christian slavers were evil and did hide behind christianity. However can christianity truly be blamed for the greed of man? Can it be called evil for what its followers claimed to do in its name? Can God be blamed for slavery because one of his laws was twisted and distorted by a slaver whos only true interest was profit and not justice.?

    4. Did I ever claim that Africa did not have elaborate societies? You seem to be having an extremely hard time hearing me on this particular point. I have had to redeal with this in nearly everyone of your posts. I never said there were not advanced civilizations in Africa. I said that it was not until much much later in history that they came into contact with these civilizations. Try to remember this time. As for finding the causes and cure for malaria I have never heard of this. Perhaps you would like to post some evidence to support this claim? I have never thoroughly studied they African cultures so i’ve never heard of anything like this happening. And as for the European raiders again its possible but i’ve never studied the region so I wouldn’t know. I do know that the conquistadores destroyed thousands of years worth of I believe it was the Mayans texts so its possible that someone did the same with African texts.

    5. Again the Africans that the Europeans initially came into contact with were nomadic primitives. And my statement didn’t entirely apply to poverty (although to the Europeans the Africans would appear primitive as they wore no clothing) but the living conditions of Africa itself are so unhospitable that it would be only natural of the Europeans to assume that the Africans might be happier with clothes, food, and board all for a little labor. Again this is not how I would view the situation but its probably how alot of Europeans viewed it.

    6. How hard you try. First off you still need to hit those books yourself buddy!!! As you have yet to prove a single damn thing. Again you make the assumption that the Europeans knew about these big African civilizations, they did not and thats why the Europeans tought they were helping cause they only saw the people who were still living in the stone age.

    7.Yes innocent children do read this blog. So don’t load their brains up with a bunch of bull shit baseless facts. Im the only one between the two of us who has managed to backup his claims with historical fact the only thing you have managed to prove is what a hippocrite and ignorant fool you are.

    I have proven your arrguments wrong, baseless, and repetitive of already disproven information. Im getting kind of sick of having to tear your arguments apart. You can post all you want but at this point unless you back up your claim with evidence its just a load of crap. This will be my last post on this blog unless you say something in your come back so stupid that it demands an answer. Other than that enjoy your pathetic attempts at winning this argument.

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  23. Ed Darrell says:

    Equality of souls is not equality of people. We’re talking about political ideals, where all men are equal before the law. That is not a concept the Christian churches in Europe defended prior to 1776 — and indeed, not much, even after 1776. No major political philosopher ever based a call for equal rights before the law on the Bible. In every advance of egalitarianism, the Christian churches stood in opposition at first, if not forever. This is simple history; you can look it up.

    The Eighth Commandment, against stealing, was what the slaveholders relied on to justify their resistance to any law that freed slaves. They argued that the Bible said it was unholy for a government to free slaves without compensation, as the Emancipation Proclamation did, and as the earlier, English abolition of slavery did. Particularly galling to southern slaveholders and many of their southern brethren, was the idea that freedom for slaves stole from them the ability to make a living, since growing cotton and tobacco was so incredibly labor intensive. I think any fair reading of the various moves against slavery after 1300 will demonstrate that Christians favored slavery most of the time. After the reformation and enlightenment, and after secular arguments against slavery got great traction, some sects came out against slavery. They were rarely in the vanguard, and never in the majority.

    If some slavemasters claimed they were doing slaves a favor, they were deluding themselves. Africans had elaborate societies and elaborate civilizations — the high civilization in Ghana, for example, had figured out the causes of malaria and acted to virtually eliminate the disease prior to 1600; Ghana had an elaborate library which was destroyed by European raiders.

    It was also the case that most slaves were captured and sold into slavery by other Africans of different tribes and “races.” It was never the case that Europeans found Africans living in squalor.

    Instead of acting as if you are certified to teach history, why not hit a few history books and see what really happened. Yes, it’s true the Israelites were taken into bondage in Babylon — some of them. That was my point, but I guess it was too subtle. Your claim that European slavers thought they were doing a service to the Africans they enslaved and sold is as ludicrous as a claim that the Babylonians thought they were doing a favor to the Israelites, lifting them out of squalor and all.

    If you find getting edified a waste of time, too bad. Innocent children read this blog, and I can’t let such amazing canards of history go unchallenged.

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  24. Guy says:

    These are not all the verse’s of the Bible that say what I said they said. There are alot more but I don’t have all day to search through this thing and then post on the internet:

    A Bible Verse That Support Equality:
    Matthew 20: 1-16 Jesus uses this verse to describe that all souls recieve equality regaurdless of status in Gods eyes.

    A Bible Verse That Is Against Slavery (or at least cruel treatment of slaves)
    Eigth Commandment: “thou shall not take from another man what belongs to him” self explanatory

    At what point did I claim the Bible urges political freedom? I made no such statement that I can remember.

    My claims on Europe and Africa are personal opinions based on knowledge gained from my studies of the European culture.I admit that I don’t know exactly what the Europeans was thinking and it is a fact Europeans entered slave trade for profit. However it is also a fact that many slave masters, if not all of them, thought they were doing the Africans a favor. You seem ignorant of the fact that those “thriving civilizations” you talk about were never actually seen by the Europeans. We know today that those civilizations existed but the Europeans back then thought that all Africans were nomadic primitives.

    So instead acting like your so superior to everyone why don’t you try to get your history facts straight. Oh and just for the record the Israelites WERE took into captivity by the Babylonians it is a historical fact. Again try getting facts straight before wasting my time.

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  25. Ed Darrell says:

    I’m simply asking for some documentation for very bizarre claims.

    What verse in the Bible claims souls are equal? Where is slavery ever denigrated in the Bible? Where is political freedom urged? You claim it’s there, contrary to most understandings of scripture. It’d make a good Sunday school lesson. Where can I find those verses? If Exodus is opposed to slavery, how do we square Jesus’ urging slaves to be submissive to their masters?

    Your claims about Europeans and Africa are wholly fiction so far as I can tell. Europeans entered the slave trade for profit solely. The claim that they thought they were helping Africans, who had thriving civilizations, would be funny were it not so tragic. I suppose next you’ll claim the Babylonians took the Israelites into captivity.

    You’re right: You have no idea what the Europeans were really thinking. You’ll have to get caught up on what really happened before you start worrying about that.

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  26. Guy says:

    ED Darrell are you intentionally being dense? Equality in all souls applies to both this world and the next. The bible urges people to follow a life in which everyone helps each other and lives a life based on morality rather than animal instinct. Furthermore if your going to dismiss my opinions atleast leave an actual reason instead of just saying “pure phooey”. Regaurdless of your personal views the Africans that the Europeans saw were primitive and lived in a totally unhealthy environment. Now granted the Europeans of the time were pretty unhiegenic themselves but atleast the area in which they lived was hospitable. Africa has horrible living conditions. In the north you have blistering desert and in the south there is humid disease ridden jungles. So unhygenic living conditions is a yes. As for proof of the primitive living conditions. It doesn’t take a genious to know that the Africans (atleast in the parts of Africa the Europeans saw) were primitive. They mostly lived in nomadic tribes as hunter-gatherers and even more proof they ran around naked. However Im not ignorant of the reason for their nakedness. Its clear that in this environment its far too hot for fur clothing. But even so would not shoes make better for running? Now then my opinions were assumptions that I based on the information I have from that time period of course I have no idea what the Europeans were really thinking I merely stated what was most likely. I will gladly admit that I have studied little of Africa however I have extensively researched the Europeans. And my statements were based on that knowledge of European culture. As for the bible condemning slavery try the entire section of Exodus the whole thing about slaves freeing themselves from their oppressive masters.

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  27. Ed Darrell says:

    Christians believe in the equality of all souls? Not on Earth, no. In any case, got a scripture that suggests “all men are created equal,” or “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion,” or “We the People . . . do ordain and establish this Constitution?”

    The Bible doesn’t exactly endorse slavery, but neither does it have much bad to say about it. NT advises slaves to remain in bondage and be faithful to their masters. I’d love to see a citation where the Bible condemns slavery, too.

    Europeans didn’t find Africans living in “primitive and unhygienic” conditions. That’s pure hooey.

    Have you ever studied world history? Were you joking about “getting your facts straight next time?”

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  28. Guy says:

    Your argument is flawed on numerous levels. First off the US constitution embraces various christian ideas such as the belief in the equality of all souls reguardless of sex, race, or social status. In fact I can think of only one other religion besides christinity that believes in the equality of all souls (that being buddhism). The second thing I feel I need to make clear is the issue of slavery, which was brought up by some of the commenters. Christian scripture, despite what many of you seem to believe, does not advocate slavery. As I stated before Christian scripture dictates the belief in the equality of all souls which clearly contradicts the ideas of slavery. So why then you may ask did Christian Europeans enslave Africans? There are two answers to this question. The first answer is proffit. When Europeans went over to America they brought with them foriegn diseases which killed off indian slaves. This being the case they required labor that would be immune to European diseases hence the use of African labor. The second answer is ignorance. While some Europeans used slaves for proffit others employed African slave labor out of a desire to be good Christians. Now this is not to say that they were doing the right thing merely to say that they thought the were helping “thy neighbor”. When Europeans came to Africa and saw the primitive and unhygenic living conditions of the Africans they undoubtedly felt a need to “liberate” them and what better way to do that then by bringing them all over to Europe and giving them free housing, free food, and free clothing. In the end while slavery is a horrible thing the Christianity niether created nor advocated maybe certain corrupt members of the church before the counter reformation advocated slavery but bottom line bible says slavery = bad. So why dont you people try getting your facts straight next time before wating my time with this.

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  29. famous french women

    ) , 10% identified as being from other religions or being without opinion, 4% identified as Muslim, 3% identified as Protestant, 1%

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  30. L A Roth says:

    For those who want religion in our government:
    Post the 10 Commandments in the rooms of your own home first.
    Put a manger scene in your own front yard first
    Put your money into an account that says “In God We Trust” instead of FDIC insured.
    I agree Jesus promoted human rights, but too many Christians fail to actually read what Jesus said. Following Jesus is not about christian idols and dogma.

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  31. Ed Darrell says:

    No, the first English settlement was Jamestown, and they were looking for fortune. Plymouth was settled by the London Company, and while a significant portion of the group were religious separatists, the vast majority (75 of 102 on the Mayflower) were fortune seekers, not religious refugees. That split in philosophy required the creation of the Mayflower Compact, in fact — the first case of government by consent of the governed in the New World — not government by God. Nothing in the religion of the refugees really squares with the government created by the Constitution, so far as I can tell.

    Yes, there are Christian roots. And Jewish roots, and Deist roots, and according to Adams and Jefferson, atheist, Moslem, Native American, Hindu and a plethora of other faith roots.

    A secular government that secures our religious freedom — that’s not something we get with a Christian nation. Those of us who love religious freedom prefer to keep it.

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  32. YouAreReallyDumb says:

    Wow. Thanks for the totally incomplete history lesson.

    How about the fact that the philosophies on which America is founded, as articulated in our Constitution fall right exactly at the nexus of the Whig school of thought (Montesquieu, Locke, etc.) and the Puritan school of thought, and yep, those Puritans were in fact Christian. The very first settlements here were the Separatists seeking freedom from religious persecution due to their Separation from the doctrines of the Anglican church. The very structure of America echoes that for which the Separatists were persecuted. In the Anglican church, clergy were appointed from above. The Separatists turned that system upside down by mandating that clergy be selected by the congregation. Also, albeit a response to Communism, the notion of one nation “under God” means that it is one nation under God, and not a king, and that is the only power over the power of the people.
    So basically, America has undeniably CHRISTIAN roots. And the ideas on which the nation is founded are very CHRISTIAN. That doesn’t mean that everyone has to be Christian, but it is a Christian nation, as McCain said, in the broadest sense.

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  33. Ediacaran says:

    mechmorph: “Without Christianity, there would be no United States of America. To deny that distorts history.”

    Do you mean that the colonists would not have revolted against the Christian Nation of Mother England otherwise? Having had their fill of the co-mingling of church and state, and an established religion, the Founders sought to avoid those same mistakes here.

    But another Christian Nation, France, should probably get more credit than Christianity. If not for France’s support, there likely would be no United States. It’s interesting that our initial ambassadors to France were not Christians, but Deists: Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson.

    Recognize that part of our strength comes from the U.S. being a Secular Nation. Ideally, we all have a place at the table, we all have a voice: “E Pluribus Unum”. Those who would make the U.S. a Christian Nation by political fiat or historical revisionism betray our Constitution.

    McCain isn’t the only one:
    http://rawstory.com/news/2007/Huckabee_Amend_Constitution_to_meet_Gods_0115.html

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  34. Ed Darrell says:

    A bit of irony.

    The road to totalitarianism is traveled one step at a time. I don’t usually quote Star Wars, but there was one line in Revenge of the Sith that rang true to our current politics: “That’s how democracy dies — with thunderous applause.” Are you clapping?

    The folks at Coral Ridge sure applauded D. James Kennedy when he proposed theocracy. Who’s that guy in San Antonio? He gets huge applause.

    Totalitarianism is what we’re trying to prevent, and that’s why we stand against those who would impose a “Christian nation” on others.

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  35. Ediacaran says:

    As for the aforementioned 1797 Treaty with Tripoli:

    “Article 11. As the government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion,–as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion or tranquility of Musselmen,–and as the said States never have entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mehomitan nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries”

    http://www.sunnetworks.net/~ggarman/tripoli.html

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  36. Ediacaran says:

    Okay, you may have to include “Jupiter” along with “Minerva” and “Thomas Jefferson”, since you may get links regarding a slave named Minerva. Here’s the excerpt I had in mind in my prior post:

    “The truth is that the greatest enemies to the doctrines of Jesus are those calling themselves the expositors of them, who have perverted them for the structure of a system of fancy absolutely incomprehensible, and without any foundation in his genuine words. And the day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus, by the supreme being as his father in the womb of a virgin will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerva in the brain of Jupiter. But we may hope that the dawn of reason and freedom of thought in these United States will do away with all this artificial scaffolding, and restore to us the primitive and genuine doctrines of this the most venerated reformer of human errors.” — Jefferson to John Adams, April 11, 1823

    http://www.stephenjaygould.org/ctrl/jefferson_adams.html

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  37. Ediacaran says:

    mechmorph writes: “The Apostle Paul said “In you there is no more male nor female, Jew nor Greek, for you are all one in Christ.” Sounds pretty darn equal.”

    So gay marriage is okay by Christian standards, mechmorph? Or are some “more equal” than others in your scheme? The christian bible condones slavery, and does not condemn it, and all those protestant churches in the U.S. with “Southern” in their name are a vestige of the time when Christians defended the practice of slavery by citing bible verses and going to war over the issue.

    Thomas Jefferson was not a Christian (in the normal parlance – that is, he did not attribute godhood or divinity to Jesus), although he found value in Jesus’ teachings (without the miracles that Jefferson felt were myths tacked on by followers), just as he found value in the teachings of Socrates. Jefferson’s beliefs were pretty unorthodox by most standards. He believed in a god that he believed was a material being, not “spirit”. He made his own version of the bible in which he basically removed claims of supernatural miracles. His writings are available online, and his extensive correspondence with John and Abigail Adams in his later years are a good source of information about his personal religious views. Google on Minerva and Thomas Jefferson to find the quote regarding his dismissal of the claims of divine birth of Jesus.

    Don’t forget to read about the Treaty with Tripoli early in U.S. history explicitly declaring that the U.S. was not a Christian Nation. If you can’t find the material, let me know and I’ll track down the links.

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  38. Ed Darrell says:

    The U.S. has a Christian heritage, sure — and a Moslem heritage, a Jewish heritage, an atheist heritage, a pagan heritage, an atheist heritage, a French heritage, a Spanish heritage, an English heritage, a Chinese heritage, and so on.

    The denial of the totality of our heritage is what bugs me most about Xian Nationalism. Christianity was powerfully on the side of the slavers, too, with Christians arguing that Africans were not humans as described in Genesis 1 or 2. That’s rather the view of the “Christian” Supreme Court that issued the Dred Scot decision that said slaves weren’t citizens under the Constitution. So, if slaves are not human, not citizens, what’s the harm of slavery? went the reasoning.

    Slavery is part of our heritage. And so is genocide against native Americans. That genocide also was justified on the basis that the Indians were “heathens” (though in fact many were Christian).

    The concepts that distinguish the U.S. Constitution have little firm basis in Christianity, but strong basis in free thinking ideas that Christians condemned. I don’t think we should distort history to make Christianity look better than it should, or to credit Christianity for the ideas of freedom that Christians condemned as “atheist” and unholy when they were proposed.

    Part of my point that keeps getting missed is that Christianity’s later endorsement of human rights does not mean Christianity originally supported those rights. It’s good that Christians came around. Let’s not overstate the case.

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  39. mechmorph says:

    The Apostle Paul said “In you there is no more male nor female, Jew nor Greek, for you are all one in Christ.” Sounds pretty darn equal.

    Slavery goes to the heart of the human rights issue. The New Testament counsels those Christians who are slaves (a fact of the ancient world) to be content and make peace with their life and serve their masters well. That would just be common sense, since a slave who fled could be severely punished, even killed, by the authorities. There is a passage in Timothy that people have misinterpreted for their own purposes as endorsing slavery, but understood honestly and in context it doesn’t:

    “All who are under the yoke of slavery should consider their masters worthy of full respect, so that God’s name and our teaching may not be slandered. Those who have believing masters are not to show less respect for them because they are brothers. Instead, they are to serve them even better, because those who benefit from their service are believers, and dear to them. These are the things you are to teach and urge on them.”

    There are similar passages in Colossians and Ephesians. Note it is addressed to those who are already under the yoke of slavery, as probably many new Christians were in the first and second centuries. (And Christianity was probably the first religion historically to reach out to slaves, who were otherwise expected to take their master’s religion.) Nowhere does the New Testament endorse becoming a slave owner (a change from the Old Testament). From the outset, the Bible exhibits a latent conflict with the institution of slavery. While there are Old Testament passages that endorse owning slaves, a significant portion of the Bible celebrates the escape from slavery (You may recall the Exodus, Passover, etc.). This conflict became far more pronounced in the New Testament.

    Galatians: “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”

    1 Corinthians: “Were you a slave when you were called? Don’t let it trouble you—although if you can gain your freedom, do so. For he who was a slave when he was called by the Lord is the Lord’s freedman; similarly, he who was a free man when he was called is Christ’s slave. You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of men.”

    1 Corinthians: “For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.”

    Galatians: “This matter arose because some false brothers had infiltrated our ranks to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus and to make us slaves.”

    Galatians: “So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir.”

    For those Christians who already owned slaves, the New Testament is clear that slaves are to be treated equitably: “And masters, treat your slaves in the same way. Do not threaten them, since you know that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no favoritism with him.”

    Slavery has been a fact of human existence since the dawn of history, in every country. The Old Testament reflects this fact, but also reflects the beginning of the concept of human rights. The New Testament develops those ideas but still exists in a world where slavery is an everyday occurrence, so it takes a practical approach. Since New Testament times, Christians (yes, Christians) developed those ideas about freedom and human dignity, and began putting them into practice as Christianity spread and continued to grow morally. The result is that it is in Christian-dominated lands that the practice of slavery was first legally eliminated. It still exists in many non-Christian countries, especially Muslim ones, today.

    (By the way, the African slaves, Muslim or otherwise, were already being sold in established slave markets long before any Yankee traders arrived in the region.)

    Many of the Founding Fathers owned slaves, but many of them were also deeply conflicted about it. (Thomas Jefferson being a great example.) They were conflicted precisely because of those Christian thoughts rattling around in their heads, not because of atheism or deism. The concepts of individual freedom, equality and human rights are very much Christian. Since Christianity is essentially Jewish in origin, the roots of those concepts are found prominently in the Jewish Scriptures (Remember “God made Man in His own image”? Hello!). You won’t find much to support human rights in the Koran, Buddhism, Hinduism or any other religion.

    The Founders of this country relied on Christian concepts to shape it and Christian people to maintain it. Without Christianity, there would be no United States of America. To deny that distorts history.

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  40. David Parker says:

    Well done, Ed. Thanks for taking time to do this.

    Like

  41. Gavin Craig says:

    Thanks for the post. I get really irritated when someone claims this is a Christian nation. Since it is demonstrably untrue – why does it keep coming up. If we had been founded as a Christian nation, it is doubtful we would have survived as a nation this long.

    McCain should know better, but he doesn’t want to offend the right wing Christian support he might have. If a politician can’t be honest – he or she should not be running for office. I am also not surprised by the apparent lack of historical knowledge shown by the people running for president. I am convinced that one of the reasons we are in the difficulty in Iraq, is the failure of our leaders (i.e. Bush) to understand the history of the area.

    If people want to understand where many of the founders went to church – they should study or visit a Unitarian church.

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  42. bernarda says:

    The following links have probably been consulted by many before, but a reminder isn’t bad for some and they may be news for others.

    “Is America a Christian Nation?”

    http://ffrf.org/nontracts/xian.php

    “Our founding fathers were not Christian”

    http://freethought.mbdojo.com/foundingfathers.html

    There are other links at the sites.

    Besides the presidents and others mentioned there, there are other non-believers like Monroe and Grant and probably others.

    Like

  43. darvish says:

    It is also worth noting as an aside, that 40% of the slaves brought to the Americas were Muslims from West Africa. Thanks for a great post :)

    Like

  44. Ed Darrell says:

    Where is equality before the law a Christian concept? Human rights — like the slavery that Christian scripture rather endorses? Or the human rights by which Christians in the U.S. argued that slavery was a just institution?

    Many of these concepts that Christians now endorse were the products of enlightenment reasoning, and were opposed by the church and by Christians on “Biblical grounds.”

    That was one of my points.

    Certainly there is a heritage of Christian ideas in our history. But similarly, there is a heritage of Islamic ideas, and Jewish ideas, and Chinese ideas, and Roman, and Greek. More specifically, founders like Jefferson and Madison specifically scoured history to find better ways of governing, and to find mistakes to avoid.

    I am unaware of Christian expression being oppressed in the U.S., except by other Christians. If you have an example, I’d like to see it.

    Thunderous applause? You mean, like when D. James Kennedy urges a “return to Christian ideas” and a return to theocratic government?

    The picture of diversity of religious expression is much larger than you let on.

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  45. mechmorph says:

    You make a specious argument. You confuse the concept of a “Christian nation” with the establishment of a theocracy, which is what many of the Founding Fathers had escaped in Europe. The concepts of equality before the law, human rights, the dignity of man and freedom of belief ARE Christian concepts. You won’t find them in countries dominated by Islam, Buddhism or Atheism. The rationalism of the Founders was, itself, born of Christian thinking, as was the scientific method, by the way. I do agree with you that the state should stay out of endorsing religion. However, that’s all too often exactly what’s happening today. The First Amendment was supposed to allow people to display their religion in public without fear of government repercussions. Instead, courts have twisted the idea into a hammer to increasingly oppress religious, usually Christian, expression. In so doing, they are “establishing” a state religion — atheism. The road to totalitarianism is traveled one step at a time. I don’t usually quote Star Wars, but there was one line in Revenge of the Sith that rang true to our current politics: “That’s how democracy dies — with thunderous applause.” Are you clapping?

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