Seeking Advice from Fellow Atheists & Activists

I have been an atheist activist for twenty-three years. Wow… has it really been that long? Whew!

I started my activism in the twelfth grade in high school in 1989 attempting to start an atheist club in Moreno Valley, CA. My attempt failed and I did not know about any groups or resources to go to for help. After I joined the Navy I continued activism: going after evening prayers over the 1MC (ship’s PA system), stopping the Chaplain from presiding over my reenlistment and award ceremonies, making sure non-Christians religious sailors were taken care of by the ship’s Chaplain (you know, actually doing his damn job), etc.

When I got out of the Navy I started a local group (Mobile Area Freethought Association) and the Freethinkers Letter-Writing Cooperative (FLWC), Alabama Citizens for Education in Science (ACES), wrote for the Secular South E-Zine and coordinated the first atheist protest in the state of Alabama (against Judge Roy Moore). I would later go on to form the North Alabama Freethought Association and help form thirteen other groups across the Southeast and start The Critical Eye Podcast with my friend and fellow comedian Tom Hand.

In 2000, I found American Atheists. Holy national support, Batman! I became the Alabama State Director and then the National Affiliate Director and then the Communications Director and finally the Director of Outreach. During that time I was a staff writer for American Atheist Magazine and ran the NoGodBlog for a while as well. I ran their Facebook page and Twitter account and YouTube account, etc. I was named Atheist of the Year twice and received the Meritorious Service Award for my activism while working for American Atheists. I have greatly enjoyed my time with American Atheists and being a part of the advance forces in the trenches in the battle for our Constitutional rights and the Separation of Church and State.

I got to be part of the movement as it grew exponentially and started its peak in 2007 and continues to peak. I got to experience the amazing feeling of knowing that the groundwork we and those before us lay down was now finally being used to push the movement forward and that things were on the upswing and we were beginning to finally take some ground in that same battle. To be a part of the movement as we struggle to find space on the calendar for events that do not coincide with other events being held nationally (what a beautiful problem to have!)

But lately I have lost that feeling. I have found myself dreading each day on Facebook, the blogs, etc. Each day having to defend myself and American Atheists not against the hordes of Christians: but against our fellow atheists. Our fellow atheists who find a single word, or the font used on a billboard, or the color of a web page, or a single sentence in a two-thousand word essay worth creating an eruption of vitriol against fellow atheists on blogs and in comments.

I found myself dreading having to deal with the nit-picking of appearances on a news channel from atheists who had never been in front of a camera, criticism of a billboard from atheists who had never erected a billboard and were basically demanding that we put an entire thesis on a billboard, thus eradicating the entire point of a billboard. I dreaded dealing with atheists who reveled in taking on their fellow atheists instead of our common enemy: theists and theocrats. I dreaded the emails, the comments, and the constant in-fighting that is holding our movement back.

I would give an hour-long speech and the audience would agree with 99% of what I said, but because I said one word or one sentence that someone disagreed with, the blogosphere would erupt in idiotic drama. Over what? Where was the eruption of support for the 99% of what we agreed upon? I take exception to things people say on a daily basis, but I don’t make an issue of it. I can think of dozens of my fellow activists who have said stuff that drives me bonkers, but I’m willing to bet that my Facebook friends couldn’t name two or three of them. Why? Because I don’t talk about it or make an issue of it because while they say something that drives me bonkers, we agree on enough that it’s a non-issue to me.

No matter the trivial stuff we disagree on, there are always at a minimum three core things we all agree on: separation of church and state, civil rights for non-theists, and true freedom of religion (meaning freedom from religion as well).

Ultimately I became an asshole and just lashed out at my fellow atheists who engaged in that type of behavior. I realized that a few months ago that I no longer could rationally discuss these issues with those detractors because all I wanted to do was smash their smug fuc… (deep breath.) I realized that I had lost my patience. I had more patience with theists at this point than I did with my fellow atheists who felt the need to attack and belittle everything that was being said or done in such a pedantic and nit-picky fashion that it was almost laughable. Throw into that mix my fellow atheists who are not skeptics and believe all sorts of hokey nonsense, and it was a matter of time before I imploded.

The tone debate is a complete waste of time. Every methodology and approach is needed for the movement to reach every possible demographic. The anti-firebrands are failing to recognize the history of the success and necessity of firebrands in every past movement before us: gay rights, civil rights, women’s suffrage, abolition, etc. Stop beating each other up and arguing over method. What really matters is our destination. We’re all on the same highway; we’re just driving different cars, so why are we trying to drive each other off the damn road? Everyone should keep doing the method of activism that they are good at: firebrand, accommodation (I know, you hate that word), anti-theists, militant atheists (yeah, I hate that one, too), etc. All of you play a key role in the forward ability of this movement. How many blog entries are actually activism related versus blog entries attacking fellow atheists over pedantics, semantics, and tactics?

I have no more patience for it. I have become what I detest the most because now I find myself attacking my fellow atheists. It repulses me that I have become this.

I am seriously considering resigning from everything that I do and leaving the movement. No more blogging, no more Facebook, no more videos, no more writing, no more activism, no more conventions, and no more working for American Atheists. I talked to David Silverman (President of American Atheists) today (11/26) about this (we’ve had talks in the past about this) and told him he would have my final answer by Friday (11/30). David told me that I was getting sucked into the things that I hated instead of staying involved in the things I loved. Fair and valid point: but how does one stay above the fray when everything we do causes the fray to come to us?

And so now I’m reaching out to my Facebook friends, fellow bloggers, fellow podcasters, fellow video bloggers, and fellow activists for advice. What would you have me do?

What Is Wrong With Prayer In Public Schools?

Absolutely nothing is wrong with prayer in school. There is something ethically wrong with disruptive prayer in the classroom. There is something constitutionally wrong with school-endorsed (mandated) prayer.

We are fortunate to live in a country that gives us freedom of religion (or lack thereof). If you want to pray to your god while you are at school then you have that right. Where the problems start is with the appropriateness of disruptive prayer in the classroom and when the words “mandatory”, “facilitated” or “endorsed” rear their ugly heads.

One also needs to know the difference between the classroom and the school. No brick wall prevents religious beliefs from entering public school grounds. There is a wall, called the Separation of Church and State, that prevents a particular religion’s proponents from endorsing their religion and promulgating their beliefs in public schools where students hold different religious beliefs and non-beliefs.

There is nothing wrong with a student praying silently during class as long as that prayer does not interrupt the classroom environment. The prayer should also not affect the student’s ability to perform in class. Children have every right to pray while they are at school. While it is certainly not against the law for a student to pray in the classroom, it is more appropriate for students to pray during non-class times like lunch, break, recess, and after school.

Better to die on your feet than live on your knees!

Group prayer (student-led and initiated) is fine as long as it does not interfere with other students. Forming religious clubs for after-hours activities is fine as long as all groups have the same opportunities and the school shows no bias toward or against any particular group.

As long as students pray appropriately with respect to others then there is absolutely no problem with it being done at school.

Appropriateness also goes into what is acceptable in public, as well. The children of a Voodoo Witch Doctor know that spilling the blood of a chicken during their prayer is not appropriate in public – much less public schools. Speaking in tongues or praying aloud is not appropriate in public – especially in the classroom environment. The Wiccan knows that getting naked to perform a ritual dance is not appropriate in public – especially in front of children at a school.

Then there is the issue of mandated prayer. Mandated prayer is a clear violation of the establishment clause of the First Amendment. Who is pushing the agenda of prayer in the classroom? The Religious Right and Christian Fundamentalists are the biggest proponents. When is the last time you heard a Wiccan, Buddhist or Jew demand prayer in public school?

Have Fundamentalists really thought this issue through? What will happen when they mandate prayer in public school classrooms? Do they realize that they will open Pandora’s Box?

Because of our freedom of religion, the government cannot pass any law or legislation that endorses any particular religion. Mandated prayer in public school classrooms is against the law.

Will Christians allow Satanists to pray in public schools? Will Christians allow the Wiccan to offer prayers and chants before a high school football game? Based on the information available from the mandated prayer proponents, the freedom of religion for non-Christians does not count. What they want is a Theocracy run by Christianity. They do not want the Muslim and Hindu children to pray in school. They want them to pray to the Christian god.

Do you think they would be as enthusiastic about forced school prayers if their child’s teacher was a Muslim or the principal of the school was Hindu? Have they thought about what sect of Christianity will lead the prayer? Pentecostal? Mormon? Baptist? Catholic? Adventist? Jehovah’s Witness? Methodist? Will the Baptist allow a Catholic to lead their child in prayer?

We have FREEDOM OF RELIGION here in the United States. That means you can believe whatever you want as long as you do not push it on others and it harms no one else (you can’t say that rape or murder is a part of your religion). If you bring mandated prayer into the public school classroom and 85% of the class is Christian, how do you think the Muslim, Hindu, Jew, Wiccan, and atheist children will feel? Kids already deal with enough peer pressure from drugs, alcohol, sex and cigarettes; why give them something else to worry about?

For the Christians; remember what Jesus said, (Matthew 6:5-8):

MATTHEW 6:5-8: 5 And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, they have their reward. 6 But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly. 7 But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. 8 Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him.

Are atheists offended by school prayer?

When a student prays in private then there is no reason for an atheist to be offended. Even if a student prays aloud, there is really no need for an atheist to be offended. An atheist might look at it as ‘silly’ or ‘a waste of time’, but they certainly should not be offended.

Innocent or an outward sign of proselytizing and public display of religon violating Jesus’ command in Matthew 6:5-6?

If the prayers are school sanctioned or faculty led, then atheists should be greatly offended. Not just atheists should be offended at facilitated, mandated, or forced prayer in public schools – everyone should. If the prayer is based on Christianity, then what about the Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist, Unitarian, Pagan, and atheist students? If Catholics lead the prayers then how will the Baptist and Mormon students feel?

In addition to being offensive and anti-pluralistic, it is against the law. The Constitution of the United States prohibits the government from endorsing a particular religion. If the schools offer a prayer then they have to offer a prayer for EVERY religion. This means we would have to sit through a prayer from a Christian (every sect), Muslim, Buddhist, Wiccan, Voodoo Witch Doctor, atheist, Pagan, Jew, Satanist, and every other religion you can think of. That is not very practical. The best approach for schools to take is a secular approach – let the students worry about their own religious and none-religious beliefs.

Students can pray all they want, regardless of their religious affiliation or lack thereof. The school staff and the school in general cannot lead in prayer or endorse a particular religious belief, dogma, or ritual.

The establishment clause (separation of church and state) is there to protect everyone, including the religious majority. The Christian student is free to be a Christian because the government and schools are not endorsing and promoting Islam. The Muslim student is free to be a Muslim because the government and schools are not endorsing and promoting Christianity. The atheist student should not feel offended or pressured because the schools and government are not endorsing and promoting any religion. Well, at least they are not supposed to be.

Pray all you want – it does not offend us. Be polite and do not interrupt the classroom environment (pray quietly) and be ethical and do not rub people’s noses in your beliefs (over the PA system at football games). Just remember what Jesus said (re-read Matthew above) about public prayer and we should not have any problems.

Fighting Alabama’s Ten Commandments Legislation

There is no doubt that Alabama’s Legislative body has violated Amendment 1 of the Constitution of the United States. We can sue the state of Alabama and force this issue all the way through the Alabama Supreme Court and to the US Supreme Court where Alabama would lose just like every other state has lost in the past.

There is no doubt that Alabama’s Legislative body has violated Amendment 1 of the Constitution of the United States. We can sue the state of Alabama and force this issue all the way through the Alabama Supreme Court and to the US Supreme Court where Alabama would lose just like every other state has lost in the past.

  1. Kentucky, 1980: US Supreme Court rules that there is no secular purpose for posting the Ten Commandments in Stone v. Graham.
  2. Georgia, 1993: 11th US Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that a Ten Commandments display in a courthouse violated the Separation of Church and State in Harvey v. Cobb County.
  3. South Carolina, 1999: Judge Markley ruled that the display of the Ten Commandments in the Charleston City Council’s chambers violated the Separation of Church and State.
  4. Kentucky, 2000: Federal Judge Coffman ordered Kentucky’s state officials to remove displays that included the Ten Commandments from public schools and government buildings, stating that the plaques denoted an endorsement of a religion by the government.
  5. Indiana, 2000: The US 7th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled to remove a Ten Commandments monument because it violated the Establishment Clause.

The only downside I see with such litigation is that the state uses the taxpayer’s money to defend the very law that violates the freedoms of those same taxpayers. I am giving money to Alabama so they can defend themselves against me.

Which Decalogue shall we post? Protestant? Catholic? And what about the other version from the Bible?

The US Supreme Court has already set a precedent for the posting of Ten Commandments in government buildings; including public schools. Taking the issue to the US Supreme Court would more than likely result in the court stating that Alabama should reference prior decisions regarding this very issue. That would put the ball back into the Alabama Supreme Court; and we all know where the 10-1 GOP majority Alabama Supreme Court stands on this issue (especially now that Ten Commandments Boy himself is on the court).

Another problem I see with taking the case to the US Supreme Court is the issue of enforcement. If Alabama chooses to ignore the ruling of the US Supreme Court (as other states have done in the past) what will the federal government do about it? Will President Bush send in the National Guard to take over Alabama because the Governor refuses to comply with a US Supreme Court decision? Will Attorney General Ashcroft have the Governor of Alabama arrested and replaced with a governor that will obey the US Supreme Court?

Kentucky is currently ignoring a US Supreme Court decision regarding its use of the Ten Commandments. What has the federal government done to enforce the law in Kentucky? Absolutely nothing. Has the governor of Kentucky been arrested? Nope. Just a few weeks ago, the Ten Commandments proponents made an appearance on television begging Kentucky residents to donate more money so they can continue to fight to keep the Ten Commandments posted. Once again, the federal government has done absolutely nothing to enforce the law.

Of course, this has not always been the case. The federal government sent US Marshals and the National Guard to Mississippi to ensure that black students could enroll in college. Angry citizens shot several US Marshals and injured many more by throwing objects. The Governor of Mississippi at the time threatened to use the State Police against the US Marshals. Ultimately, however, he only prevented them from protecting the US Marshals. It is important to note that despite the injuries to US Marshals and the gunfire they were receiving, they never shot back at the crowd and maintained their line with only the use of tear gas.

President Kennedy pleaded with the governor of Mississippi on many occasions and tried to come to a peaceful agreement. Kennedy played every hand he had available until the governor forced Kennedy to use the National Guard. The citizens of Mississippi tore down highway signs and street signs causing a significant delay in the arrival of the National Guard and causing them to get lost a few times. The National Guard finally arrived on scene as the US Marshals were running out of options and tear gas.

So what happened to the governor of Mississippi? Did they arrest or impeach the governor? Did they remove him from office for violating federal desegregation laws, obstructing justice, and threatening federal police officers? Nope. Nothing was done because the governor finally succumbed but used Kennedy and the US Marshals as scapegoats when he addressed the citizens of Mississippi.

If we look at history, there is no precedent of removing a governor from office because a state refused to follow an opinion by the US Supreme Court. Opponents make out the US Supreme Court as the “bad guy,” using misinformation, propaganda, and mass hysteria to their advantage. One need only look at the recent decision regarding the Santa Fe football prayer to see how that strategy works.

I am not saying that we shouldn’t sue Alabama to get the Ten Commandments legislation repealed. What I am saying is that a victory in the US Supreme Court may only be symbolic.

So what do we do?

The best way to get the attention necessary is to take a three-pronged approach. Perhaps a Devil’s pitchfork would be a more appropriate visualization.

Prong One

The first prong is to take the battle to the US Supreme Court, via the Alabama Supreme Court, based on the violation of the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States (Establishment Clause). A major organization such as the ACLU, Americans United, American Atheists, or People for the American Way, would have to handle this type of litigation. I am sure all three of those groups are watching Alabama very closely right now.

Of course, the group that does file suit against the state will need a volunteer to put their name on the suit. Is anyone ready to make history and be part of “your name v. State of Alabama?” Any takers?

As mentioned above, Prong One will mean that our tax dollars will defend the state’s position. While I hate to think Alabama will use my money to fight for the Ten Commandments, I have to remind myself it was my tax dollars that paid for the legislation, pays for the legislator’s salaries, and will pay for the design of the plaques, and the labor of the men and women that will install the plaques.

Either way, we pay for it.

If you do not want to volunteer your name, there is still a way you can help with Prong One.

Donate money to the ACLU and Americans United and specifically state that you want the money to go to fighting the Ten Commandments in Alabama. Often these groups will solicit funds for specific purposes, so if you are a member of any of those groups do not be surprised if you get a request for funds.

Also, do not forget to write a letter of opposition to you representatives in the state house and senate.

Prong Two

Prong Two and Prong Three go after the Alabama Constitution, but from different angles.

The Alabama Constitution of 1901 (the last of six revisions), Article 1, Section 3, Religious Freedom, states,

That no religion shall be established by law; that no preference shall be given by law to any religious sect, society, denomination, or mode of worship; that no one shall be compelled by law to attend any place of worship; nor to pay any tithes, taxes, or other rate for building or repairing any place of worship, or for maintaining any minister or ministry; that no religious test shall be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under this state; and that the civil rights, privileges, and capacities of any citizen shall not be in any manner affected by his religious principles.

Posting the Ten Commandments in any government building, including public schools, clearly violates the Alabama Constitution. Posting the Ten Commandments gives preference, by law, to a religious sect (depending on what version of the Ten Commandments they choose), a religious society (Christianity or Judaism), depending on the version they choose, it gives preference to a denomination, and it also gives preference to a mode of worship (Thou shall have no other gods before me).

Larger constitutional organizations can file a lawsuit on a state level. A lawyer working pro bono can file a suit, as well. In each case, volunteers need to attach their name to the lawsuit.

The best part about this approach is that the lawsuits do not have to go exclusively after the Alabama House or Senate. We can sue any form of government that adopts the legislation and places the Ten Commandments illegally.

This multi-lawsuit approach may actually be the best approach, anyway. Overwhelming the state, counties, and school boards with litigation over the Ten Commandments will tap resources quickly. Many school boards, counties, cities, and townships will remove the plaques at the threat of a lawsuit in order to avoid litigation costs.

History shows that in most violations of the Separation of Church and State that we only need a notification of possible litigation for compliance by the facility with state and federal law. When the threat does not work, then litigation must go forward.

Here is where you can help. If your child’s school has posted the Ten Commandments, then let someone know. If your local school board is forcing the Ten Commandments on all the schools in its jurisdiction, then let someone know. If you local government is posting the Ten Commandments, then let someone know. If you are willing to add your name to the lawsuit, then make sure you take the appropriate action.

A major lawsuit going after the state and many smaller lawsuits going after counties, cities, and school boards will overwhelm the state’s finances and legal resources.

Prong Three

Prong Three is based on the Alabama Constitution just as Prong Two was. The difference between Prong Two and Three is approach and tactics.

Instead of suing the state for posting the Ten Commandments, sue the state for only posting the Ten Commandments. As stated above in the Alabama Constitution, legislators cannot pass laws that give preference to a religious sect, society, denomination, or means of worship. By posting the Ten Commandments, they have given such a preference.

Roy Moore’s Holy Tonnage in the Alabama Supreme Court

Now all we have to do is ask them to post every other religion and non-religion’s code of ethics, creeds, or other behavioral-type criterion. We sue the state for not going far enough, for not posting the ethical codes of all religions. Article 1, Section 3 of the Alabama Constitution is clear, you cannot make a law that creates a preference for one, but you can create a law that allows equality for all.

Who gets involved will depend on the version of the Ten Commandments that they choose. If Alabama chooses the Protestant version, then the Catholics and Jews should demand that their versions get equal time and treatment under the Alabama Constitution.

Non-Christians around Alabama should request equal time and treatment just like the Ten Commandments for their version of ethics. The Humanist Manifesto is a great place to start for atheists and humanists. Buddhists should demand the posting of the Noble Eightfold Path and the Five Wonderful Precepts.

The state should post the Nine Beliefs of Hinduism and the Five Pillars of Islam. Of course we can’t forget about the Nine Principles of Anuvrat, the Five Vratas (vows) of Jainas, or the Bahya Tapa and Abhyantara Tapa, which are internal and external austerities, respectively.

Of course, how can we forget the Five Points of Wiccan Belief with its wonderfully great Law of Return and the Ethic of Constant Improvement? Of course, I am sure Alabama’s legislators will be thrilled when they receive a request to post the Nine Satanic Statements and the Eleven Satanic Rules of the Earth alongside the Ten Commandments.

Are you willing to submit your code of ethics for posting in Alabama alongside the Ten Commandments, making the new law constitutional by giving no preference to a single religion?

What Else Can We Do?

Help bring this issue to the citizens of Alabama. Let them know that Christianity is not the only religion in this state or country. Let them know about the different versions of the Ten Commandments. Write letters to your local newspapers and to your state representatives; including your congressional representative and senator. Write your local government officials when they start to consider adopting the new legislation. Let your children’s school know that you will not tolerate the posting the Ten Commandments.

Get involved with local and national groups that strive to maintain the Separation of Church and State. Donate money to organizations that are involved in the fight (that is a tax write-off, by the way).

Watch for peaceful protests, show up, and give your support. Volunteer your time to make buttons, signs, or other materials for protests.

Contribute no more than what you are capable. Do not go bankrupt trying to help and do not ruin your marriage or forget about your kids. Help according to your skills and your talents. The most important thing to do is help, no matter what level of help you can or cannot provide.

Under God?

The fact that the Pledge of Allegiance contains the words “under God” makes it unconstitutional and a blatant disregard of non-Christian Americans.

It is a common misconception that the Pledge of Allegiance is the same today as originally written. Let us clear up that misconception right now. The Pledge of Allegiance as originally written goes like this:

ORIGINAL PLEDGE: “I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

This was as it appeared in a Boston based magazine called “The Youth’s Companion” back in 1892. The words were for students to repeat on Columbus Day. The magazine’s circulation manager, Francis Bellamy, wrote it. Columbus Day fell on October 12, 1892 and children recited the Pledge of Allegiance – beginning the tradition of reciting the Pledge of Allegiance at the beginning of each school day.

When do we pledge to uphold the Constitution?

A National Flag Conference in Washington, DC on June 14, 1923, modified the Pledge of Allegiance. The NFC replaced “my flag” with “the flag of the United States of America.”

In 1942, Congress officially recognized the Pledge of Allegiance.

In 1943, the Supreme Court ruled that schools could not force schoolchildren to recite the Pledge of Allegiance.

In June of 1954, President Dwight Eisenhower added the words “under God” to the Pledge of Allegiance. President Eisenhower said,

EISENHOWER MODIFICATION: “In this way we are reaffirming the transcendence of religious faith in America’s heritage and future; in this way we shall constantly strengthen those spiritual weapons which forever will be our country’s most powerful resource in peace and war.”

President Eisenhower made the change after the Knights of Columbus (self-proclaimed “Strong Right Arm of the Church”) campaigned for the change (during the era of McCarthyism and the “Red Scare”). Bellamy’s granddaughter said that Bellamy would have resented the second change because it went against his original intent for the Pledge of Allegiance.

Bellamy was the circulation manager for the magazine because he walked away from his church as a Baptist minister the year before. Reverend Bellamy left the church in 1891 because of public views about his socialist sermons and because he felt that the church was bigoted and racist. After he retired to Florida, Bellamy discussed what he was thinking when he wrote the Pledge of Allegiance. He said,

BELLAMY: “It began as an intensive communing with salient points of our national history, from the Declaration of Independence onwards; with the makings of the Constitution… with the meaning of the Civil War; with the aspiration of the people… The true reason for allegiance to the Flag is the ‘republic for which it stands.’ …And what does that vast thing, the Republic mean? It is the concise political word for the Nation – the One Nation, which the Civil War was fought to prove. To make that One Nation idea clear, we must specify that it is indivisible, as Webster and Lincoln used to repeat in their great speeches. And its future? Just here arose the temptation of the historic slogan of the French Revolution which meant so much to Jefferson and his friends, ‘Liberty, equality, fraternity.’ No, that would be too fanciful, too many thousands of years off in realization. But we as a nation do stand square on the doctrine of liberty and justice for all…”

The addition of “under God” is a clear violation of the Separation of Church and State. Eisenhower and the Congress changed the law when a small group of Strong Arm Catholics made a stink when everyone was afraid of those “godless Communists”. The Supreme Court has already ruled that schools could not force schoolchildren to say the Pledge of Allegiance, and yet schools continue to defy that decision. Schools have suspended students for refusing to say the Pledge – even though the Supreme Court said they do not have to say it.

The addition of “under God” is a clear violation of the Separation of Church and State. Eisenhower and the Congress changed the law when a small group of Strong Arm Catholics made a stink when everyone was afraid of those “godless Communists”. The Supreme Court has already ruled that schools could not force schoolchildren to say the Pledge of Allegiance, and yet schools continue to defy that decision. Schools have suspended students for refusing to say the Pledge – even though the Supreme Court said they do not have to say it.

The immediate claims on the airwaves were simple arguments and pleading to the emotionalism of Americans. Only those that supported the court’s decision actually had any facts or law to back up their view. The religionists only had emotional pleas and babbling nonsense, such as claims that “under God” was a generic statement and did not support a particular religion. The historical ignorance of the phrase became obvious in letters and on the airwaves. It was not until after a few weeks that the majority of Christians at least acknowledged that the insertion of the phrase in 1954.

Even the judge that ruled against the phrase, a Republican, stated in his opinion that he disagreed with it and felt it should be there, but he had no choice but to follow the law. None of the opponents of the decisions ever mentioned that. Of course, none of the proponents of the decision seemed to mention it, either. It seemed that both sides were missing the key points. Even the media swayed away from the decision and started pinging on the personal life of Mike Newdow, the plaintiff in the case.

I pledge allegiance, to the Constitution, and the rights for which it demands!

If, as the opponents said, the phrase “under God” was generic, then why is it that the decision only upset Christians? Sure, there were the Jews in Congress that were upset, but that was a political ploy – not reality. Sen. Joseph Lieberman, an Orthodox Jew, was a good example of this political hypocrisy. He put his personal beliefs aside in order to gain political favor with his Christian voters. Too bad.

Is the phrase “under God” generic or does it promote a specific religion? If you consider the source of the phrase and the historical origins thereof, it is clear that it promotes not only a specific religion, but also the specific sect of Catholicism. It was a Catholic strong-arm group, the Knights of Columbus, who persuaded and pushed for the addition of the phrase during the height of the scare of those “Godless Communists”.

If the phrase is generic then it should fit every religion, as the Christians would have you believe. So let us take a closer look at the way different religions spell the name of their god(s) and write it.

“G-d” is the way that god is written out in Judaism. It is blasphemous to spell out the name of god, so they insert a hyphen. We can eliminate Judaism as the endorsed or sponsored religion because the phrase is not “under G-d”.

Islam uses the phrase “The Father” (Allah). We can eliminate Islam as the endorsed or sponsored religion because the phrase is not “under The Father” or “under Allah”.

Deism believes in an impersonal god spelled with a lowercase “g”. We can eliminate deism and related religions as the endorsed or sponsored religion because the phrase is not “under god.”

Paganism, Shamanism, Wicca, or similar religions use “goddess” or the proper names of individual goddesses. Earth-based religions would not call “Mother Earth” such a sexist term as “God”. We can eliminate Paganism and related religions as the endorsed or sponsored religion because the phrase is not “under Goddess” or “atop Mother Earth.”

Hinduism talks about the “gods” or uses the specific and proper name of the incarnation of Vishnu, depending on what sect you are referring. We can eliminate Hinduism as the endorsed or sponsored religion because the phrase is not “under gods.”

What does that leave? What religion spells god with a capital G? Christianity is the religion that spells their concept of god with a capital G. Christians are the only ones up in arms over the decision. A Christian sect strong-armed the government to make the change. The Christian mindset of fear of godlessness is what setup the environment that brought on the change. These things combined clearly show that the phrase “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance is a direct endorsement and promotion of Christianity by the government of the United States. It is therefore an unconstitutional phrase and the phrase needs removing.

There are many Christians that say by removing “under God” from the Pledge that the government is endorsing “the religion of atheism.” To endorse their concept of what religious atheism is (the disbelief in God), we would not remove the phrase but change it to “under no God”. The removal of the phrase does not endorse any religion or non-religion. It makes no statement either pro or con of any god or goddess concept. The Pledge, without that phrase, remains neutral to all religions.

I am often surprised that Christians endorse the Pledge of Allegiance in the first place. After all, pledge to an icon (the flag) is in violation of their Ten Commandments. Should they not be pledging to their god? Of course, that goes for any religionist – not just Christians.

Freedom of religion founded this country, and as we have already learned, religion does not mean god. Buddhism is a religion without a god and others as well. To pledge to this country by way of its flag with a law written to endorse a single religion (which it does by capitalizing the word god) is a clear violation of the Separation of Church and State.

Of course the issue of forcing patriotism through rote Pledges is another topic altogether…

Is America a Christian Nation?

It is a common misconception that Christians founded America to have a Christian Nation. While Christianity is certainly the majority religion in the United States today that does not make it a Christian Nation – it just makes it a nation with many Christians. If the majority of Americans are overweight, are we going to start calling ourselves an Obese Nation?

We are not a democracy where the majority rules. We are a Republic with democratic underlings. What this means is that the majority can only rule if its rule does not step on or infringe upon the rights of the minority – that is the checks and balances system that the Constitution puts in place.

A Christian Nation would not be a Democratic Republic; it would be a Theocracy. Iran, Iraq, and Afghanistan are theocracies. Is that what we want in this country? A theocracy tells us what we can eat, wear, drink, do, etc. The Taliban ran the perfect theocratic state – enforcing their extremist views of religion on the rest of the Afghanistan society. Do you think the Fundamentalists, if allowed to form a theocratic United States would not do the same thing?

This county has Freedom of Religion. That means that each of us can practice whatever religion we want to. We can believe in any gods we want to. We can worship any idols we want to.

What the Christian Agenda forgets is that the freedoms outlined in the COTUS (Constitution of the United States) are personal freedoms. We, as individuals, have personal freedoms. However, when we unite in groups, turn our personal freedoms into group freedoms, and violate the personal freedoms of others, then a line is crossed. As soon as personal freedoms are violated by self-imposed group freedoms, then a fight is about to happen.

Imagine how peaceful the world would be if everyone kept his or her personal freedoms personal. When religion violates the personal freedoms of others, then a fight will ensue, and there is only one party to blame.

I often hear Christians say that the foundation of the United States was upon Christianity and therefore should be a Christian nation. We have already talked briefly about a theocracy, but let us put some more thought into it.

Christianity has over 3,500 sects; which one will lead America? Which Christian beliefs will govern America? Will it be the Baptists, Mormons, Lutherans, Protestants, Pentecostals, Adventists, Charismatic, Methodists, or Jehovah’s Witnesses that take the reigns?

Will Christians allow their Christian Nation based on the beliefs of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Southern Baptists, or the Catholics?

Imagine that the Catholics are in charge of the theocracy and law requires confessions. You have to confess or you go to jail or suffer flogging. It is the law that you must have a statue of the Virgin Mary in your house and place of employment (or on the dash of your car). It is the law that you say the Hail Mary twenty times at eight in the morning and before you go to bed. Cameras and listening devices make sure you follow religious laws. The hymn Onward Christian Soldiers takes on an entirely new meaning, does it not?

If the Southern Baptists get a hold of the nation and run a theocracy we would see the decline of equality for women, increased persecution of non-Christians and homosexuals and a ban on anything they deem as “against the family” (such as Harry Potter, Disney, and ‘marital aids’ for example).

Did the Founding Fathers found America on Christian beliefs?

First, we have to figure out what we mean when we say Founding Fathers. Most of us think of all the revolutionary fathers that helped forge this nation through rebellion against the crown.

What I have found in debating many Christians is that they only mean the 55 delegates that signed the Declaration of Independence. When it comes to those 55 delegates; they are right – the majority of them were Christian. Although with today’s Fundamentalists, they would not have considered these men to be “True Christians.”

The problem with identifying the Founding Fathers is that many different churches baptized them as children and they attended different churches growing up. When some of them left the church, the church still maintained them as members (as most churches still do to this day). Therefore, when we research the records of churches, we find the names of our Founding Fathers blazed upon their membership rosters.

Many of the Founding Fathers went to church every Sunday; after all, it was the thing to do. Going to church does not make one a Christian.

Many of the Founding Fathers were Deists that were coming into the Enlightenment Age, where reason and science where beginning to take hold. Naturalism was huge and many of the Founding Fathers considered themselves Naturalists. This is apparent in their diaries and letters to friends.

In the end, however, it does not matter one iota what faith or non-faith our Founding Fathers had. It would not matter if the Founding Fathers were Fundamentalist Christians, atheists, Mormons, Muslims, Buddhists, or Zoroastrians for that matter.

It does not matter because they wrote a Constitution that is 100% secular. The only two references to religion in the Constitution are exclusionary (keeping religion out). Nowhere in the Constitution is any reference to Christianity – no Jesus, no Bible, no Yahweh, no Virgin May, no Trinity, no Armageddon, no Holy Ghost, no Satan or anything else – it is a secular document for a secular nation.

The first exclusion sets up the foundation for the separation of church and state – providing that the state shall not establish a religion.

The second exclusion prevents religious discrimination when it comes to public office – by preventing any religious tests for office. The swearing in to public office on the Bible is a violation of the Constitution by this exclusionary part of the Constitution. By making public office holders swear on the Bible, they violate the religious test clause.

History plays a major role here and many people are often confused about the history of the United States.

The Pilgrims and Puritans fled England to escape religious persecution from the Church of England. They were escaping a theocracy so they could practice whatever religion they wanted. They were escaping from the very thing that Fundamentalist Christians today are seeking. After they got here, they established their own theocracy, ruled with an iron fist, and prevented no deviation. We all know about the Salem witch trials – a direct result of a theocratic mindset in the colonies.

When the Founding Fathers wrote the Constitution, they knew their history and the history of the Church of England. They knew that a state mandated religion was dangerous and persecution occurred because of it. Even if every Founding Father had been a devout Christian, it would have absolutely no bearing whatsoever on the fact that the Constitution of the United States prevents the government from endorsing or mandating any particular religious belief. They wrote the Constitution that way because of the history of theocracies.

As the Treaty of Tripoli of 1797 state, carried unanimously by the Senate:

TREATY OF TRIPOLI: “As the government of the United States 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 [Muslims] … it is declared … that no pretext arising from religious opinion shall ever product an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries… The United States is not a Christian nation any more than it is a Jewish or a Mohammedan nation.”

Even Jesus figured it out in Matthew 22:21:

MATTHEW 22:21: “Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s.”

What do some of the Founding Fathers have to say about the separation of church and state? What are their thoughts about whether this country is a Christian Nation?

John Adams: second President of the United States.

John Adams wrote in his book A Defense of the Constitutions of Government of the United States of America, 1788:

ADAMS: “The United States of America have exhibited, perhaps, the first example of governments erected on the simple principles of nature…. [In] the formation of the American governments … it will never be pretended that any persons employed in that service had interviews with the gods, or were in any degree under the influence of heaven… These governments were contrived merely by the use of reason and the senses.”

John Adams wrote in a letter to Thomas Jefferson:

ADAMS: “I almost shudder at the thought of alluding to the most fatal example of the abuses of grief which the history of mankind has preserved — the Cross. Consider what calamities that engine of grief has produced!”

Ethan Allen wrote in his book Reason the Only Oracle of Man, 1784:

ALLEN: “I have generally been denominated a Deist, the reality of which I never disputed, being conscious I am no Christian, except mere infant baptism makes me one; and as to being a Deist, I know not strictly speaking, whether I am one or not.”

Benjamin Franklin wrote in An Essay on Toleration:

FRANKLIN: “If we look back into history for the character of the present sects in Christianity, we shall find few that have not in their turns been persecutors, and complainers of persecution. The primitive Christians thought persecution extremely wrong in the pagans, but practiced it on one another. The first Protestants of the Church of England blamed persecution in the Roman Church, but practiced it upon the Puritans. These found it wrong in the bishops, but fell into the same practice themselves both here and in New England.”

Andrew Jackson said in 1832, while making a statement about refusing to proclaim a national day of fasting and prayer:

JACKSON: “I could not do otherwise without transcending the limits prescribed by the Constitution for the President and without feeling that I might in some degree disturb the security which religion nowadays enjoys in this country in its complete separation from the political concerns of the General Government.”

Thomas Jefferson wrote in a letter to Jeremiah Moor in 1800:

JEFFERSON: “The clergy, by getting themselves established by law and engrafted into the machine of government, have been a very formidable engine against the civil and religious rights of man.”

Thomas Jefferson from Jefferson’s Works, Vol. IV:

JEFFERSON: “The hocus-pocus fantasy of a God, like another Cerberus, with one body and three heads, had its birth and growth in the blood of thousands and thousands of martyrs.”

James Madison wrote in a letter objecting to the use of government land for churches in 1803:

MADISON: “The purpose of separation of church and state is to keep forever from these shores the ceaseless strife that has soaked the soil of Europe in blood for centuries.”

James Madison addressed the Virginia General Assembly in 1785 from his writing A Memorial and Remonstrance against Religious Assessments:

MADISON: “During almost fifteen centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial. What have been its fruits? More or less in all places, pride and indolence in the Clergy, ignorance and servility in the laity, in both, superstition, bigotry and persecution. Enquire of the Teachers of Christianity for the ages in which it appeared in its greatest luster; those of every sect, point to the ages prior to its incorporation with civil policy.”

Thomas Paine: one of the Founding Fathers of the United States.

Thomas Paine wrote in his book The Rights of Man in 1791:

PAINE: “Persecution is not an original feature in any religion; but it is always the strongly marked feature of all religions established by law. Take away the law-establishment, and every religion re-assumes its original benignity.”

Thomas Paine wrote in his book The Age of Reason:

PAINE: “All national institutions of churches, whether Jewish, Christian or Turkish, appear to me no other than human inventions, set up to terrify and enslave mankind, and monopolize power and profit.”

George Washington wrote in a letter to the United Baptist Chamber of Virginia in May 1789:

WASHINGTON: “If I could conceive that the general government might ever be so administered as to render the liberty of conscience insecure, I beg you will be persuaded, that no one would be more zealous than myself to establish effectual barriers against the horrors of spiritual tyranny, and every species of religious persecution.”

Benjamin Franklin wrote in his biography:

FRANKLIN: “As to Jesus of Nazareth, my Opinion of whom you particularly desire, I think the System of Morals and his Religion…has received various corrupting Changes, and I have, with most of the present dissenters in England, some doubts as to his Divinity; tho’ it is a question I do not dogmatize upon, having never studied it, and think it needless to busy myself with it now, when I expect soon an opportunity of knowing the Truth with less trouble.”

Thomas Jefferson wrote in a letter to William Short:

JEFFERSON: “I have examined all the known superstitions of the world, and I do not find in our particular superstition of Christianity one redeeming feature. They are all alike; founded on fables and mythology. Millions of innocent men, women and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined, and imprisoned. What has been the effect of this coercion? To make one half the world fools and the other half hypocrites; to support roguery and error all over the earth.”

Of course, we can throw quotes back and forth all day and get nowhere. The point is that all of the Founding Fathers, save a few, saw the separation of church and state as vital to the survival of the new country. They realized that this nation had to be a nation of religious freedom – not of a single religion.

Until a Christian can show any reference to the Christian doctrine, dogma, or theology in the Constitution, which is the law of this land, then the argument that America is a Christian Nation has no merit whatsoever.