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As a middle-aged, white, professional male, I never really considered the prospect of defining myself as a member of a minority. However, I’m reminded almost daily that I belong to a somewhat rarified group of Americans who don’t pay homage to a deity. The most recent jab came in the form of columnist Chuck Souder (“The Founders’ Declaration of ‘In-Dependence,’” June), where he misquotes Sam Adams and advocates that “our Constitution was made only for a religious and moral people. It is wholly inadequate for the government of any other.”
The assertion that the United States of America was established exclusively for religious people is patently absurd. Regrettably, religious enthusiasts regularly cherry pick and twist quotes out of context in a continuous effort to hijack the Constitution and claim it as their own. Since Christianity currently enjoys a majority status in this country, the trend is to claim that this country was founded by Christians, for Christians, and that Christians exemplify moral behavior because they believe in the one true God. Let’s explore those claims.
I maintain that the U.S. Constitution is a secular document that contains no mention of “God” or “Christianity” and in no way establishes this country as a religious nation, much less a Christian nation. Instead, the Constitution establishes a nation free from religious tyranny, and the First Amendment clarifies and reinforces the separation of church and state. The claim that our Constitution somehow elevates Christians above all others is arrogant, ignorant, and just plain wrong.
The Declaration of Independence, while making reference to “Nature’s God,” “Creator,” and “Divine Providence,” does not endorse Christianity either. The author of the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson, was a Deist who was ardently opposed to orthodox Christianity. For all we know, the inclusion of these generic terms in the Declaration of Independence could have been nothing more than political concessions, or even tongue-in-cheek references to Zeus, Odin or Apollo. We can’t know for sure. The only thing we know for sure is that no specific endorsement is made regarding Yahweh, Jesus, Christianity or any of the thousands of other unsubstantiated Gods or religions followed throughout antiquity.
As an aside, the phrase “under God” was inserted into our Pledge of Allegiance in 1954, and the term “In God We Trust” wasn’t added to our currency until 1955. These are all recent man-made injections into our government, which, frankly, represent potentially dangerous, oppressive and discriminatory trends.
Regarding the repeated assertion that Christians are the pinnacle of compassion and morality, I suggest that we put this claim to the test by taking an objective look at a few of Christianity’s best role models, including Moses, Abraham, Yahweh, and, yes, even Jesus. According to the ‘inerrant’ word of the Bible, every one of these individuals or entities has either engaged in or plans to engage in acts so heinous and deplorable that no one in their right mind would hold them up as role models.
Moses: In Exodus 32:15-28, Moses comes down from Mount Sinai with the first version of the Ten Commandments. He saw the people worshipping a golden calf, threw a temper tantrum, smashed the tablets on the ground, and then ordered his people to slaughter thousands of their neighbors. I would hardly call this behavior admirable, noble, or moral.
Abraham: In Genesis 22:5 and 22:8, Abraham hears the voice of God commanding him to murder his only son and make of him a burnt offering. Without batting an eye and with no questions asked, Abraham basically responds, “OK.” The Bible then goes on to claim that just as this pious, God-fearing man’s knife-laden hand was on the downswing to murder his only child, God sent an angel to intervene.
I’m always astonished to hear believers point to this so-called “test of faith” and praise Abraham for his unshakeable belief. God also somehow manages to elicit adoration for being so wonderful and intervening in a murder that he demanded in the first place! Personally, I think this series of events represents a sick, twisted, cruel, sadistic act of barbarism on the part of both Abraham and God. I’m more inclined to agree with Sean Penn’s comment in his book God No, where he states, “If you hear God’s voice in your head telling you to murder your child, wouldn’t the correct answer be, “No?”
Yahweh: By all objective and documented accounts, the God of Israel is a racist, sexist, homophobic, genocidal, oppressive, slavery-condoning, sadistic bigot. (Don’t get mad at me – read your Bible. It’s in there). Estimates of the number of people killed by this “loving and merciful” God range from 2.8 million (based on specific, quantified references in the Bible), to as high as 34 million (which includes estimates for non-quantified events, such as the Great Flood). Sadly, the number is always at risk of increasing, since Deuteronomy 13:7-12 and 17:2-5 give very clear and explicit instructions to gather up non-believers such as myself, and stone them to death.
I’m actually somewhat relieved that most Christians haven’t read their Bibles and only dabble in the convenient aspects of their religion. As much as I despise the Westboro Baptist Church for its members’ actions at veterans’ funerals, I give them credit for at least exercising the courage of their convictions. They don’t water down the word of God or try to diminish the cruelty of his message for political correctness. They proudly exclaim the bigotry and hatred of God’s message exactly as it is written in the Bible. It’s fun watching other Christian groups try to distance themselves from this “radical, fundamentalist” group when the sad truth is that Westboro Baptist members are simply abiding by the uglier parts of the Bible that most Christians choose to rationalize away as no longer being applicable.
Jesus: Finally, what about Jesus? Didn’t he instruct people to turn the other cheek? Didn’t he overturn Old Testament law and establish a kinder, gentler religion? Of course he did. Just keep reading the New Testament and conveniently ignoring the Old Testament long enough, and eventually you’ll find enough contradictory verses to convince yourself that Jesus completely overturned all the barbarism mandated by God in the Old Testament.
Every Christian is familiar with the Sermon on the Mount, because that represents the Jesus they want to believe in. However, all other aspects of Jesus’ sermons, actions and personality, along with the first 39 books of the Bible, are handily ignored.
The sad truth is that the Bible contains so many contradictions that it can easily be twisted into saying just about anything someone wants to believe. Jesus is especially guilty of sending inconsistent messages. Even a cursory reading of the New Testament will leave the serious Bible student reeling with mixed messages.
In one book, Jesus advocates turning the other cheek. In another book, he condemns all non-believers to suffer an eternity in the “lake of fire”, and promises to personally lead an army to eradicate all those who don’t believe in him. In one book, Jesus claims to be here for all mankind. In another book, he claims to be here only for the house of Israel. In one book, he claims to bring peace. In another book, he claims that he did not come to bring peace to the Earth, but a sword.
Even adhering to something as fundamental as the Commandment to Honor thy Mother and Father is beyond this man’s reach. Throughout the gospels of John and Luke, Jesus repeatedly speaks callously and impersonally to his mother. In those same gospels, he insists that his disciples must hate their parents and turn against them.
Granted, Jesus was arguably less offensive than Yahweh by orders of magnitude. However, in Matthew 5:18, Jesus states, “For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and Earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law ‘til all is fulfilled.” Matthew 5:19 continues by stating that. “Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven.”
I’m not sure what part of that sounds like permission to ignore the Old Testament. To me, those passages lend prudence to the idea that the Bible is not merely a gathering of suggestions from which to pick and choose. Jesus gives clear and explicit orders to follow Old Testament law; period.
The 66 books contained in the Bible (Old and New Testaments) were canonized in their entirety as the complete word of God. The preface doesn’t suggest that you’re free to disregard any of God’s commandments; regardless of how appalling or untenable they appear thousands of years later to a technologically advanced and civil society.
Throughout the ages, the Bible has been used to justify discrimination, murder, oppression, genocide, racism, segregation and endless persecution. This is only made possible because of the truly horrific messages and mandates it contains. In fact, if we held ourselves to the same “high moral standards” of the Bible, there’s no question we would still be practicing slavery in this country today.
And, yet, somehow Christians profess that anyone who doesn’t follow their faith cannot be moral. This double standard is easily remedied if people would simply take off their blinders and read their Bibles for what it actually says.
Unlike most Christians, I’ve actually read the Bible. I’ve read it cover to cover, multiple times; warts and all; and I find the message to be nothing short of appalling. It scares me to see the nation embracing such a barbaric religion with blind faith and unwavering obedience. It scares me even more to see the relentless efforts to saturate our government with these horrific ideals.
Granted, I may only be one small voice in a minority. However, I’ll continue standing up for our Constitution and working diligently to maintain the separation of church and state as our Founding Fathers intended.
Rich Lane lives in Shelbyville.