The title of this post is in reference to an article I came across several months ago: “Atheists Claim ‘Religion Is Unpatriotic’”. When I read the headline, my first reaction was, “Are they serious?” If we’re talking about America, then I think the sentiment is, well, questionable, to say the least.
It seems that, for the past couple of years, the American Atheists organization has been sponsoring an event on July 4th, where they hire pilots (in as many states as they can get interest and permission) to fly large banners which say “God-LESS America” or “Atheism is Patriotic” over major cities. They also hold a contest for the best pictures of said banners, the top winner being put on the cover of American Atheist Magazine.
My initial thoughts to the atheists’ claim were…
- As opposed to theism? Or, also?
- If you mean “patriotic” as in merely a love for, and loyalty to, our nation, then I don’t see how it matters if one is theist or atheist.
- If you mean “patriotic” as not only the above, but also holding to the same founding principles and reasoning as the Founding Fathers, as evident in the Declaration of Independence and Constitution, then I think this claim is reeeaallllyy off the mark!
I can’t think of any Founding Fathers or other major players in America’s early days that were atheist. (Though, I may be forgetting one or two, I suppose.) Most of them, if not orthodox Christian, at least held to some form of theism or deism. Like most of their successors, they sought the guidance of the God of the Bible (i.e., “Nature’s God”). They recognized the value of Judeo-Christian principles, of the grounding and stabilizing force of “religion” — by which they usually meant of the “Christian” variety — and biblical morals for a people and their government. These are what formed the basis of thought for our founding documents & laws. Don’t believe me? If the wording of those documents isn’t enough, maybe you’ll believe John Adams?:
“The general principles on which the fathers achieved independence, were the only principles in which that beautiful assembly of young men could unite, and these principles only could be intended by them in their address, or by me in my answer. And what were these general principles? I answer, the general principles of Christianity.”
“Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”
How about Gouverneur Morris?:
“[F]or avoiding the extremes of despotism or anarchy… the only ground of hope must be on the morals of the people. I believe that religion is the only solid base of morals and that morals are the only possible support of free governments. [T]herefore education should teach the precepts of religion and the duties of man towards God.”
Or, maybe Noah Webster?:
“[T]he Christian religion, in its purity, is the basis, or rather the source of all genuine freedom in government…. and I am persuaded that no civil government of a republican form can exist and be durable in which the principles of that religion have not a controlling influence.”
“The moral principles and precepts contained in the scriptures ought to form the basis of all our civil constitutions and laws…. All the miseries and evils which men suffer from vice, crime, ambition, injustice, oppression, slavery, and war, proceed from their despising or neglecting the precepts contained in the Bible.”
Why does American Atheists promote these banner-flying events? They give several reasons…
For one, they say it’s a way of speaking out against theocracy. I have been a conservative Christian for all of my adult life and never once have I or, as far as I know, any Christians I associated with or listened to ever advocated for an actual theocracy in America or anywhere else. Sure, many of us believe that there will be a 1000-year period after Christ returns which He initiates and during which He will reign over the Earth. But, we don’t want or believe that any other sort of theocracy, with fallible humans in charge, is a good idea. Personally, I think such claims/worries of theocracies by the AA and others constitutes a bunch of irresponsible fear-mongering and uninformed hand-wringing.
Another reason they do this seems to be in response to feelings of alienation from accusations by religious folk that they, atheists in America, are “un-American, anti-American, or un-patriotic”. Yes, I have seen this myself, and in some cases it is unfair. Theists can be just as guilty as non-theists of presuming the thoughts & attitudes of others and of making reactionary, unkind comments. But, in many other cases, I think it’s valid. For example,…
- When atheists try to bully Christians or anyone else into shutting up about their religious convictions and/or staying out of the public square if they insist on letting those convictions inform their thinking on policy & law, that is going against our founding principles. That is un-patriotic and un-American.
- When atheists abuse the Jeffersonian idea of “separation of church & state”, misread the 1st Amendment’s Establishment Clause, and ignore the Free Exercise Clause, that is going against our founding principles. That is un-patriotic and un-American.
- When atheists constantly file (and threaten to file) lawsuits, demanding that crosses, 10 Commandments statues, Christmas creches, and other items with religious connotations be removed from public lands, court houses, etc., because they are “offended” or they claim it somehow violates church/state separation, that is going against our founding principles. That is un-patriotic and un-American.
- When atheists try to rewrite American history, erasing evidences of our nation’s religious heritage by not only removing the abovementioned items but also scrubbing everything from educational materials to state laws clean of the “taint” of religiosity (unless of course it paints religion in a bad light), that is going against our founding principles. That is un-patriotic and un-American.
- When atheists relentlessly attempt to forbid prayer and Bible studies in public schools and any other government-owned (or leased?) buildings, that is going against our founding principles. That is un-patriotic and un-American.
- When atheists censor Christians and ban Christian clubs & organizations at high schools and on college campuses because they are exclusive and/or simply “religious”, that is going against our founding principles. That is un-patriotic and un-American.
These are all attempts at unwarranted censorship, fraud, and denial of rights to religious — usually Christian — citizens. From what I’ve read, our Founding Fathers wouldn’t have had any part of it. On the contrary, they would have railed and fought against it!
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t begrudge American Atheists, Inc., their right to fly these banners and say whatever they want — as long as it isn’t libelous or slanderous, of course. This obviously falls under the right of free speech as recognized in the 1st Amendment. And, I have no doubt that many atheists love this country, too. But, I find it ironic — ludicrous, really — that a bunch of present-day atheists should tell us, even by implication, that they know better than our Founding Fathers what values best reflect American patriotism. (And they accuse us of wishful thinking….)