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This past week, conservatives found yet another reason to condemn President Barack Obama as "un-American." The Muslim Kenyan Socialist showed his true colors, they said, by omitting the words "under God" from a video reading of the Gettysburg Address.

Of course, the line of attack is silly. President Obama was reading from an original draft of the speech penned by Lincoln himself. Of the five existing contemporary written versions of the speech, three contain the phrase "under God." All three of those drafts were prepared after Nov. 19, 1863, the day Lincoln delivered the speech.

Newspaper transcriptions of the day - which, because of the vaguries of telegraph service, often varied in wording - do all seem to agree that Lincoln added the words "under God," extemporaneously it seems, when he gave the speech, which is why the phrase appears in subsequent drafts, but not in copies written beforehand.

Should Ken Burns, who prepared the video, have considered the possibility of controversy when he selected that particular passage to feature President Obama, given the skepticism on the far right of the president's religious beliefs? Perhaps. Then again, it's my opinion that Barack Obama could conclude every sentence of every speech with a reference to the Christian God, and it still wouldn't satisfy the religious right. Their motivation is less about religion than it is about portraying President Obama as "the other," and therefore hostile to the nation he leads.

But the controversy did get me thinking - what, exactly, is God's relationship to the United States, and our relationship to God? I knew in rough form how the church-state relationship has evolved in this country, but I didn't know some of the details. And I'm fascinated by what I've learned. I'll share my newfound (and prior) knowledge below the sacred symbol of the Orange Sect of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

One thing I knew about the founding fathers is that many of them were deists, but I confess I had only a vague notion of what that meant. I've since learned that deism grew out of The Age of Enlightenment, and that it's adherents, while they accepted the existence of a deity, were highly skeptical of organized religion, miracles and the notion that a god intervened directly in the lives of individuals.

The deist philosophy permeates both The Declaration of Indepence (in its brief references to God) and the Constitution (in its lack of same).

Consider the Declaration (emphasis added):

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness...

It's hard to imagine a modern-day evangelical Christian putting "the Laws of Nature" ahead of God, or, for that matter, referring to God as "Nature's God." And in the second paragraph, the authors of the Declaration abandoned references to God altogether, preferring instead to speak of a "Creator." Those phrases are directly out of the deist playbook.

The Constitution, meanwhile, purposefully omits any mention of God whatsoever. Organized religion, however, is mentioned - prominently - in the Bill of Rights ... at the very top of the Bill of Rights, in fact. We all know the words:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof ...
It's no accident that the so-called "Establishment Clause" tops the list. Ironically, it was the concerns of Protestants, primarily Baptists, which led to its inclusion. Throughout the Colonial Period, the Church of England was the official church of Virginia, and members of other religions, especially Jews and Protestants, were frequently the targets of religious persecution.

To address the concerns of members of those religious groups, Thomas Jefferson - a member of the Virginia General Assembly - introduced the Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom, which would dis-establish the Church of England, in the assembly in 1779. It was finally passed in 1786, with help from James Madison. To further quell the concerns of members of minority religions - and to gain their support over anti-federalists competing with them for seats at the ratifying convention - Madison and fellow federalist James Gordon, Jr. promised to propose language prohibiting the establishment of an official federal religion as an amendment to the Constitution. And so the Establishment Clause came to pass.

Modern-day Fundamentalist Christian revisionists like David Barton now argue that the Establishment Clause was not intended to separate religion and government completely. To back up their claim, they point out that the phrase "separation of church and state" does not appear in the Constitution, and wasn't mentioned until a Supreme Court ruling in 1878 (some argue it didn't appear until rulings in the late 20th Century).

That's not true. The phrase was first coined by Thomas Jefferson in his letter to the Danbury (Conneciticut) Baptist association on Jan. 1, 1802 (emphasis added):

"Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legislative powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should 'make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,' thus building a wall of separation between church and State."
Madison also used the phrase on at least one occasion. It seems clear from their own writings what the framers of the First Amendment intended in regards to the entanglement of religion and politics.

The only other mention of organized religion in the Constitution comes in Article VI, paragraph 3, and further amplifies where the founders stood on the subject (emphasis added):

The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.
The United States' official position as a secular nation was further affirmed by another founding father, John Adams, during his presidency. Privateers in the service of the Barbary nations - Algiers, Morocco, Tripoli and Tunis - were taking American ships in the Meditteranean and holding their crews for ransom or selling them into slavery. At one point, it was feared (wrongly) that Benjamin Franklin had been captured by the Barbary pirates.

The fledgling United States didn't have a strong enough navy to project sufficient power into the Med to stop the privateers, so the federal government negotiated treaties with each of the four nations, promising annual payments in exchange for safe passage for American ships. Article 11 of the treaty with the Pasha of Tripoli contained these words:

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 Mussulmen [Muslims] — and as the said States never entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mahometan [Mohammedan] 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.
The Treaty of Tripoli was unanimously ratified by the Senate on June 7, 1797, and signed by Adams.

By the early 1800s, deism was beginning to fade. The next appearance of God in our national life came during the War of 1812, when an attorney and amateur poet named Francis Scott Key witnessed the bombardment of Fort McHenry. He was inspired to put pen to paper and write a poem, the first stanza of which is well-known by anyone who has ever attended a sporting event, or watched one on TV:

O! say can you see by the dawn’s early light
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming?
Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight,
O’er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming?
And the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.
O! say does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?
Those words were, of course, later put to music and adopted as our national anthem. But the poem actually went on for three more stanzas, the last of which reads:
O! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved home and the war’s desolation!
Blest with victory and peace, may the heav’n rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation.
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: 'In God is our trust.'
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!
Wow - who took God out of the national anthem? Oh, wait ...

Key not withstanding, it would be 50 years before a modified version of the phrase "In God is our trust" came to the fore in our national life. The United States Congress, eager to imply that God was on the side of the Union in the American Civil War, mandated in 1864 that some United States coins include the phrase "In God We Trust." But the appearance of the motto on our coinage was not uniform or continuous, and came and went on various coins throughout the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

In 1907, another pious Congress was pushing to add the phrase to the $20 coin. President Theodore Roosevelt (a Republican and Dutch Reformed Christian who sometimes attended church with his wife, an Episcopalian) vehemently opposed the move:

“My own feeling in the matter is due to my very firm conviction that to put such a motto on coins, or to use it in any kindred manner, not only does no good but does positive harm, and is in effect irreverence, which comes dangerously close to sacrilege…”
It was not until 1938 that "In God We Trust" began appearing on all U.S. coins.

As for that other famous expression of American religiosity, "One nation, under God," not only was it never stated as a founding principle, it hardly made an appearance at all until the mid 20th Century. In my admittedly limited research, I've found no mention of such a phrase before the turn of the last century, other than Lincoln's extemporaneous and gratuitous inclusion of it in the Gettysburg Address.

It certainly wasn't in the original Pledge of Allegiance, penned in 1892 by socialist (ah, the irony) minister Francis Bellamy. His version read, simply:

"I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the republic for which it stands, one nation indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."
Revisions in 1923 (adding "to" before "the republic"), 1923 (changing "my Flag" to "the Flag of the United States") and 1924 (adding "of America" to "the Flag of the United States") still failed to make any room for God, and somehow the republic survived.

In fact, it wasn't until the 1950s that God achieved His current level of entrenchment in our national life. The Cold War was in full swing, and many attacked the Soviet Union not for being a totalitarian state, but for its institutionalized atheism. This was the era of "Godless Commies," and American politicians were eager to show their piety to differentiate themselves from their Soviet counterparts.

It was during this period that God was enshrined on our currency and in the pledge. The Knights of Columbus, a Catholic fraternal organization, had added "one nation, under God" to the pledge on their own, and instigated a grassroots effort to make the change official. Congress obliged in 1954. Then in 1956, Congress found another way to insinuate religion into our lives by dumping the nation's unofficial motto - E pluribus unum, or "Out of Many, One" - making "In God We Trust" our official motto, and mandating that the new phrase be placed on all U.S. currency (1957 marked the first time the phrase began appearing on our paper money for the first time).

So there you have it. Our nation is 237 years old, but only for the last 60 of those years has God been officially enshrined in our national life. And to avoid conflict with the Establishment Clause, our nation's god is of necessity a pretty weak and generic one.

In fact, those Christians who continue to offer up having "one nation, under God" in our pledge and "In God We Trust" on our currency as proof that we are a "Christian nation" don't have a leg to stand on. In a 2004 Pledge of Allegiance case, Elk Grove Unified School District vs. Newdow, a majority on the Supreme Court ruled that the inclusion of "one nation, under God" was permissible under the Establishment Clause because it has become an act of "ceremonial deism." Writing her own opinion but concurring with the majority, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor wrote:

"Whatever the sectarian ends its authors may have had in mind, our continued repetition of the reference to 'one Nation under God' in an exclusively patriotic context has shaped the cultural significance of that phrase to conform to that context. Any religious freight the words may have been meant to carry originally has long since been lost."
And that about wraps it up for God - or at least for the fundamentalist Christian version of Him.

UPDATE: Corrected "James Barton" to "David Barton" - thanks Fishtroller01!

Originally posted to ObamOcala on Wed Nov 20, 2013 at 06:04 AM PST.

Also republished by Community Spotlight, Street Prophets , History for Kossacks, and Progressive Atheists.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (149+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Horace Boothroyd III, Fishtroller01, Shawn Russell, Mxwll, lawboy, Steven D, Theodore J Pickle, dannyboy1, quarkstomper, Wee Mama, Gooserock, BPARTR, quill, commonmass, Mayfly, Glacial Erratic, ebirch1, BeadLady, Darwinian Detrius, Jackson L Haveck, cweb7, wader, mayim, coconutjones, MadGeorgiaDem, walkshills, Front Toward Enemy, Matt Z, Kristina40, RhodeIslandAspie, midnight lurker, foolrex, Rogneid, Wendy Slammo, offgrid, Batya the Toon, LynChi, undercovercalico, radarlady, NanaoKnows, Bridge Master, DRo, LoneStarMike, appledown, tampaedski, sfbob, GreenPA, zootwoman, sow hat, SanFernandoValleyMom, ScienceMom, ontheleftcoast, Ducktape, wintergreen8694, bsmechanic, Brown Thrasher, Catte Nappe, marykk, thomask, pvasileff, oortdust, blue aardvark, Evoculture, knutsondc, MistaBling, TRPChicago, tharu1, slowbutsure, jo fish, SteelerGrrl, Santa Susanna Kid, Chirons apprentice, dansk47, smokeymonkey, MKinTN, TheDuckManCometh, leeleedee, SeattleTammy, pat of butter in a sea of grits, jfromga, Dave in Northridge, YellerDog, prettygirlxoxoxo, la motocycliste, scott5js, Chaddiwicker, prfb, libera nos, pierre9045, sostos, artmartin, AdamR510, Crashing Vor, Dolphin99, Kalex, enhydra lutris, JosephK74, mindara, Loudoun County Dem, anodnhajo, kenwards, Hammerhand, sceptical observer, blueoasis, jakedog42, Leftcandid, Eyesbright, third Party please, dandy lion, millwood, myrmecia gulosa, veinbulge2000, tofumagoo, MNGrandma, Cassandra Waites, here4tehbeer, ArthurPoet, begone, Late Again, P Carey, Robynhood too, StrayCat, lurkyloo, TracieLynn, rubyr, caul, Loraxe, Senor Unoball, Miniaussiefan, raincrow, equern, humanmancalvin, tgypsy, Aaa T Tudeattack, SSGCedar, mercedeslackey, notrouble, BYw, Sailorben, InTheory, nzanne, SherrieLudwig, Teenygozer, RiveroftheWest, dragonwerx, Pixie5, touch128, lisapaloma, splashy

    I vote we run Rick Scott out of Florida on a high-speed rail.

    by ObamOcala on Wed Nov 20, 2013 at 06:04:45 AM PST

  •  Nice Diary (31+ / 0-)

    Complete with good sources. Thanks for writing.

    I was in an online debate with a fundamentalist hard right Catholic and this came up. They asserted that our nation was founded on "Judea-Christian" values. I think it interesting that it was phrased this way, as it leave a lot of room for interpretation as to what that actually means.

    This mentality is losing ground slowly but surely and I look forward to a time, hopefully in my lifetime, when reason is more valued than "religious virtue" by the majority of Americans from all walks of life, as our founding fathers really did intend.

    "Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful." Edward Gibbon

    by Mxwll on Wed Nov 20, 2013 at 06:37:23 AM PST

    •  One favorite American documents dates from 1824 (12+ / 0-)

      and is an epitaph written for his own monument by Ezekiel Polk, grandfather of President James K. I've always taken it to mean that there were freethinkers out there from early on in our national history. They just get zero press.

      Here lies the dust of old E.P.
         One instance of mortality;
         Pennsylvania born, Car'lina bred,
         In Tennessee died on his bed
         His youthful days he spent in pleasure,
         His latter days in gath'ring treasure;
         From superstition liv'd quite free
         And practiced strict morality.
         To holy cheats was never willing
         To give one solitary shilling,
         He can foresee, and in foreseeing
         He equals most of men in being
         That church and state will join their pow'r
         And mis'ry on this country show'r.
         And Methodists with their camp bawling,
         Will be the cause of this down falling.
            An era not destined to see,
         It waits for poor posterity
         First fruits and tithes are odious things
         And so are Bishops, Priests and Kings
      •  Not so much that they get zero press... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        It's just that their comments on the subject are ignored in the interests of political correctness.  One of my all time favorites...

        "The Christian priesthood, finding the doctrines of Christ levelled to every understanding and too plain to need explanation, saw, in the mysticisms of Plato, materials with which they might build up an artificial system which might, from its indistinctness, admit everlasting controversy, give employment for their order, and introduce it to profit, power, and pre-eminence. The doctrines which flowed from the lips of Jesus himself are within the comprehension of a child; but thousands of volumes have not yet explained the Platonisms engrafted on them: and for this obvious reason that nonsense can never be explained."

        - Thomas Jefferson -

        The man had a way with words!  Did you know that he even rewrote the New Testament?

    •  Thanks. I needed that! (0+ / 0-)

      GOP Wars against: Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Immigrants, Mexicans, Blacks, Gays, Women, Unions, Workers, Unemployed, Voters, Elderly, Kids, Poor, Sick, Disabled, Dying, Lovers, Kindness, Rationalism, Science, Sanity, Reality.

      by SGWM on Wed Nov 20, 2013 at 11:29:39 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Too many Americans are Puritans these days. (4+ / 0-)

      Old Testament Hebrews believed in providing for both their organized religion and the poor.  Primitive Christians from Jesus 3 1/2 year ministry to about 400 AD when the Emperor Constantine decided he wanted a new national religion, made an honest effort to relieve poverty.  Emperor Constantine decided about 400 AD that he wanted a new state religion to rally his empire around and demanded that primitive Christianity and Mithra-ism the two leading religions of that time and place merge with each other to form the Roman Catholic Church.  The United States today has the highest Gini index, thus the greatest split between wealth for the few and poverty for the masses, of any nation ever.

      •  Actually, the Puritans (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        SherrieLudwig, RiveroftheWest

        despite their uptight personal and sexual mores, were very strong on economic justice. Merchants could be arrested in Colonial Puritan New England for overcharging and bankers for charging too much interest.

        "I was not born for myself alone, but for my neighbor as well as myself."--Richard Overton, leader of the Levellers, a17th C. movement for democracy and equality during the English Civil War. for healthcare coverage in Kentucky

        by SouthernLeveller on Thu Nov 21, 2013 at 06:03:56 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  The Puritan mindset is indeed waxing, (0+ / 0-)

        lapses in grammar or spelling, sins. Disagreement about sexual matters, guns, animals or climate are far more likely to lead to shouting than discourse. People by and large do the best they can, religious or not. Godless people can also be puritan, failure to cite sources, approximations and shaky speculation, heresy.

        “The basic tool for the manipulation of reality is the manipulation of words. If you can control the meaning of words, you can control the people who must use them.” ― Philip K. Dick

        by Wood Gas on Thu Nov 21, 2013 at 06:19:02 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  Boy, That Sure is A LOT of Words... (0+ / 0-)

      but I thought Obama was smarter than that. If Ken Burns asked me to read a copy without 'God' in it...I think I would notice. I mean Sheesh! Why give the rwnjs any more ammo?

  •  Cold War Politics (22+ / 0-)

    Both the "under God," portion of the Pledge of Allegiance and the official motto the the US i.e., "In God We Trust" were crafted by the Eisenhower administration to contrast the US from its "Godless" communist rivals.

    It seems that the US wanted to show the world that it's version of secularism was radically different from the Communist interpretation of secularism. The USSR for instance wanted to eliminate religion as a whole and replace it with "universal atheism."

    The Founders repeatedly stated both explicitly and implicitly that the US is not a Christian Nation. For instance, see the Treaty of Tripoli.

    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 Mussulmen [Muslims],—and as the said States never entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mahometan [Mohammedan] 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.
    •  In the phrase "Godless Communism" the first word i (8+ / 0-)

      In both the 1919 Red Scare and the Post World War II McCarthyite anticommunist hysteria, the instigators of the panic knew enough to know that "communism" or as many of them said it with a drawl, "commonism" was unfamiliar to their target demographics, and once they learned what it was, the attitude was less one of fear than "tell me more," as in principle ideas of limiting privileges of the upper classes and raising up the poor have broad appeal.  The fact Marx, Lenin, Trotsky, Mao, Stalin, etc. were publicly open atheists, though - that provided an opening, just like the 1800 election where Jefferson defeated Adams when Federalist apparatchiks spred the rumor that the deist Jefferson would seize their Bibles so old New England Federalist ladies hid theirs in haystacks and such.  I recall an anticommunist comic book of the 1950s a 4th grade classmate had which emphasized the officially atheist nature of Soviet communism (National Lampoon did a wonderful satire of it in the 1970s).  The fear of official atheism, "had legs" as they say in the entertainment business.  "Under God" was added to the Pledge of allegience in 1954 at the urging of the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic adult male fraternal organization which just like the American Legion and the veterans of Foreign Wars, routinely adopts certain right-wing positions while being officially nonpartisan.

      The modern conservative is engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness. -- John Kenneth Galbraith

      by Kangaroo on Wed Nov 20, 2013 at 09:45:46 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  So, we replaced (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      SherrieLudwig, RiveroftheWest

      E pluribus unum with In God we Trust and panem et circenses.

      Now, the GOP wants to take the bread away too.

  •  I've had people tell me (33+ / 0-)

    that "One Nation, Under God" is in the Constitution.  Invariably they are Republicans.

    "If you tell the truth, you'll eventually be found out." Mark Twain

    by Steven D on Wed Nov 20, 2013 at 06:39:42 AM PST

  •  Good Summary.... (11+ / 0-)

    Yet the first principle of this country is that it is a democracy, which means that the values of the voters, now almost universal suffrage, defines our national values.  I won't look it up but take my word for it, last year at the national prayer breakfast Obama is quoted as saying that "we are united" yes, those were his words, in reverence for our savior......

    Romney was more extreme, as he gave a speech that I diared on here about the "Under God" of the pledge is his personal commitment and "we shall never take God out of our nation.  To be an elected politician is to pander to the values of those who elect to office.  

    To get a deeper understanding of the reality of this country's relationship with God, I will givethe link to the aural argument recently in the case Town of Greece v. Galloway.  

    This enlightening dialog among the justices is pretty much the actual law of the land on this issue.  And for prayer in legislatures, they say laughingly, "the sensitivities of atheists are not protected."

    •  Great statement (7+ / 0-)
      To be an elected politician is to pander to the values of those who elect to office.
      Especially when those "values" are based on religious clap trap.  Having been in a fundamental christian cult for 15 years in the past - being mind bent is a scary thing and we are seeing it personified lately.  
    •  We are a republic. (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      MpeachW, Eyesbright, koseighty
      Yet the first principle of this country is that it is a democracy,
      •  Minority rights (0+ / 0-)

        The first principle of this nation is that it protects the rights of minorities.  Let other nations bow to the rule of the howling mob, but may the United States of American never be so ruled!

        Warren/Grayson 2016! Yes We Can!

        by BenFranklin99 on Sat Nov 23, 2013 at 12:41:47 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  I've long said and meant (0+ / 0-)

      I really don't give a damn who or what you do or don't worship.
      I do care if you try to force your beliefs upon me.

      That said, I do have delightful conversations when the Jehovah Witlesses come to the door.
      I'll correct the occasional biblical error, explain that one line does not the chapter or intent make.
      I'll give new views to some verses.
      I'm pretty sure they lost membership because of that, as elders started coming with their usual groups. But, only to my door.
      But then, my light reading over the years has been the bible, Qur'an and I'll eventually get around to the book of Mormon and a few other texts.
      But, there is no power in this entire universe that can make me read Hubbard.

      -I have the gravest of problems believing that any Creator so wonderfully wise and competent enough to create an operational universe is so utterly inept as to have to micromanage the affairs of a sub-species of Chimpanzee on a tenth rate planet, orbiting a third rate star, much of the way out of a spiral arm of a middling galaxy in an entire, vast universe!

  •   fun fact besides Muslim nation was the first (18+ / 0-)

    nation to recognize the US as an independent nation:
    Tom Paine and others of his generation flirted with Theophilanthropy, which was an attempt by various Enlightenment thinkers to bridge a growing gap between science and religion at the time.  Wonder what today's Fundamentalism would make of Theophilanthropy? (hint: David Barton completely misunderstands the whole concept, evidently having no experience with Robespierre or Rousseau.)

  •  Nice summary. (21+ / 0-)

    "Any religious freight the words may have been meant to carry originally has long since been lost."

    If you trace the concept of separation of religion and government back even further, you'll see that it was Roger Williams, founder of Providence RI who discussed repeatedly that any mixing of government with religion would not only corrupt government, but religion as well. Sandra Day O'Connor's statement above realizes William's worst fears about the "garden of faith" being watered down by making it a part of the civil realm.

    In fact, the whole of all religion in this country has been co-opted by government to the point that most churches would fail without being propped up by over 200 tax exemption laws in their favor.  

    Religionists may think that they have won the fight against whatever evils they imagine would exist if not for throwing god's name (or Jesus's) into every government venue they can, but they have done just the opposite... they've set up their faith for corruption. Even Scalia has declared that the symbol of the cross is just a generic grave marker (of course he didn't realize in his convoluted legal brilliance that he dissed the sacred symbol of his own faith).

    And may I say that this is not just a problem of the fundamentalists. Liberal/moderate Christians are also guilty of being on the government dole and doing little to assist people like Mike Newdow in his very correct lawsuits against the insertion of god in the pledge and on money.   I always get a kick out of seeing the sacred name of "God" on metal license plates above vehicle tailpipes.  What better way to honor your deity!

    PS- It's David Barton, not James.

    •  I once heard a preacher from Germany (4+ / 0-)

      tell an audience that we don't know how lucky we are to have separation of church and state, that the entanglement prevalent in Germany led to the sorts of people who would normally be city aldermen instead becoming Bishops as a route to political influence.

      And then watering down the Gospel to the point of unrecognizable tepidity because you don't want to offend anyone - rich or poor or whatever.

      I'm on a mission! Testing the new site rules.

      by blue aardvark on Wed Nov 20, 2013 at 10:57:17 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  The Lutheran Church in East Germany played (4+ / 0-)

        a HUGE part in bringing down Communism. They were also highly "infiltrated".

        I worked under a German pastor in the US for five years. He was all for disestablishment. "When I was a pastor in Germany, my congregation was small, and in the US, it's big." That is a direct result of disestablishment, and he made a good argument for it. In fact, as an Anglican, I can tell you that more Episcopalians/Anglicans attend church regularly in the US than they do in ENGLAND.

        Giving people freedom, and not levying official Church "taxes", actually leads to more participation, not less. On the other hand, it gives people the freedom to choose.

        Disestablishmentism gave us both freedom, and, an increased participation, historically. For better or for worse.

        •  The whole Doctrine of Original Sin kicks in (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          commonmass, Cassandra Waites

          Which you would think Christian clergymen would be familiar with.

          Tell someone there's a rule that they can't do X, and must do Y; and they will instinctively want to do X, and not do Y. That is, rule-breaking is an important part of being human. It's recognized as part of human nature in my error prevention training; the tendency to say "That's a stupid rule" and do something different just to be defiant.

          I think that Original Sin is the only religious principle which can be proven scientifically. ;-p

          I'm on a mission! Testing the new site rules.

          by blue aardvark on Wed Nov 20, 2013 at 11:15:13 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  Divisiveness (48+ / 0-)

    I'm going to be pedanticly nit-picky here; but then that's what I do.

    As you observed, the original phrase in the pledge read:  "One Nation, Indivisible"  That's a single thought:  we are one indivisible nation.  By inserting the words "Under God" into that phrase, it becomes three thoughts:  we are one nation, we are under God, and oh yeah we're indivisible too whatever that means.

    So in effect, the "Under God" addition has managed to divide the Indivisible.

    Read my webcomic, "Hannibal Tesla Adventure Magazine" at

    by quarkstomper on Wed Nov 20, 2013 at 06:57:31 AM PST

  •  Actually (22+ / 0-)

    Baptist Roger Williams, founder of Rhode Island, first used the "wall of separation" phrase in 1644 when he accused his Puritan adversaries of "opening a gap in the hedge or wall between the garden of the church and the wilderness of the state."  Jefferson may have been alluding to this in his letter to the Baptists of Danbury,  CT nearly a century later.

    Today, many Baptists, especially in the South, are theocrats, but this wasn't true for most of our 400 year history. We began as champions of religious liberty and church/state separation and we supported Deists like Jefferson because they weren't going to persecute us, but those favoring state religions (Presbyterians, Episcopalians,  Congregationalists, etc.) would.

    "I was not born for myself alone, but for my neighbor as well as myself."--Richard Overton, leader of the Levellers, a17th C. movement for democracy and equality during the English Civil War. for healthcare coverage in Kentucky

    by SouthernLeveller on Wed Nov 20, 2013 at 07:15:31 AM PST

    •  SouthernLeveller, true-there was a joke-3 Baptists (7+ / 0-)

      in town means at least two Baptist churches.  Each Southern Baptist church was entirely independent.  Now most are under the thumb of their own Vatican, located in Texas.

      The right of the women of this State to be secure in their persons against unreasonable searches shall not be violated by the State legislature.

      by Mayfly on Wed Nov 20, 2013 at 08:19:35 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  I married a Southern Baptist in 1979 (6+ / 0-)

      We got married in an SBC church and were active in it for a couple of years.  This was in South Texas, where Southern Baptists and Roman Catholics are the two dominant sects and the competetion is often uneasy.  Believe it or not, until a few years after that - Jerry Falwell's "Moral Majority" was started in 1977 - Southern Baptists strongly favored separation of church and state.  For a long time the city government in San Antonio and local business boosters had urged the federal government to make the other four historic missions of San Antonio - that is, besides the Alamo, which is controlled the Daughters of the republic of Texas - a national park.  National politicians from Texas - President Lyndon Johnson, senators Ralph Yarborough, Lloyd Bentsen, and John Tower, Congressmen Henry B. Gonzalez and Jake Pickle, Mayors of San Antonio, etc. had long touted the idea.  But it was opposed by the Southern Baptists for one specific reason:  each of those four historic misssions - Concepcion, San Juan Capistrano (not the famous one in Southern California with the swallows, another one), San Jose, and Espada - are active Catholic parishes.  None are huge and most mass-goers there are tourists.  My best friend and I once went to midnight mariachi mass at Conception on Christmas morning with two Hispanic drag queens, all of us hungover.  But I remember that opposition to the establishment of the National Park being discussed in the Baptist Association out of principled opposition - essentially the Catholic parishes obtained free government maintainence of the buildings.  The Baptists eventually lost that fight, but did a 180 and now support official recongnition of Christianity in other ways.  

      The modern conservative is engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness. -- John Kenneth Galbraith

      by Kangaroo on Wed Nov 20, 2013 at 10:08:23 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  That was probably different (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        commonmass, irishwitch, StrayCat

        Their objection probably was not the government support for a religion, it was against government support for that particular religion. Of course, they couldn't come right out and say that, so had to put up a facade that wasn't blatantly anti-Catholic.

        “Texas is a so-called red state, but you’ve got 10 million Democrats here in Texas. And …, there are a whole lot of people here in Texas who need us, and who need us to fight for them.” President Obama

        by Catte Nappe on Wed Nov 20, 2013 at 10:43:30 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Agreed (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          commonmass, Catte Nappe


          The modern conservative is engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness. -- John Kenneth Galbraith

          by Kangaroo on Wed Nov 20, 2013 at 10:46:26 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  Not true. (0+ / 0-)

          Until the fundamentalist takeover, Baptists objected to the establishment of ANY religion, including their own.

          "I was not born for myself alone, but for my neighbor as well as myself."--Richard Overton, leader of the Levellers, a17th C. movement for democracy and equality during the English Civil War. for healthcare coverage in Kentucky

          by SouthernLeveller on Wed Nov 20, 2013 at 03:44:26 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  You are correct, until the takeover... (0+ / 0-)

            And conservatives took the SBC over in '79.

            “Texas is a so-called red state, but you’ve got 10 million Democrats here in Texas. And …, there are a whole lot of people here in Texas who need us, and who need us to fight for them.” President Obama

            by Catte Nappe on Wed Nov 20, 2013 at 05:38:34 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  The takeover struggle (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Catte Nappe

              began in '79, but it wasn't complete until 1992. I was in the middle of that (on the losing side), so I know nearly every sordid detail.

              "I was not born for myself alone, but for my neighbor as well as myself."--Richard Overton, leader of the Levellers, a17th C. movement for democracy and equality during the English Civil War. for healthcare coverage in Kentucky

              by SouthernLeveller on Wed Nov 20, 2013 at 06:39:07 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

  •  Jefferson on the Purely Secular Foundation of (15+ / 0-)

    our system.

    He wrote in 1814 to Thomas Cooper that ours is founded not on the Bible but on the English Common Law.

    For we know that the common law is that system of law which was introduced by the Saxons on their settlement in England, and altered from time to time by proper legislative authority from that time to the date of Magna Charta, which terminates the period of the common law, or lex non scripta, and commences that of the statute law, or Lex Scripta. This settlement took place about the middle of the fifth century. But Christianity was not introduced till the seventh century; the conversion of the first christian king of the Heptarchy having taken place about the year 598, and that of the last about 686. Here, then, was a space of two hundred years, during which the common law was in existence, and Christianity no part of it.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Wed Nov 20, 2013 at 07:19:40 AM PST

    •  Small point, but we in America imported much ... (3+ / 0-)

      ... of the English common law, almost all of which post-dates the Magna Carta, and we follow its remnants today where it has not been supplanted by legislative acts such as statutes, ordinances and administrative regulations.

      "Common law" actually means judge-made law, the principles that arise from cases decided over time.

      2014 IS COMING. Build up the Senate. Win back the House : 17 seats. Plus!

      by TRPChicago on Wed Nov 20, 2013 at 11:24:06 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  You're all going to hell! (8+ / 0-)


    "If you pour some music on whatever's wrong, it'll sure help out." Levon Helm

    by BOHICA on Wed Nov 20, 2013 at 07:22:48 AM PST

  •  Actually, (7+ / 0-)

    the Constitution does make a single, if oblique, reference to God, in the Preamble:

    "To secure the blessings of liberty..."

    Mighty thin gruel for any dominionist argument about the nature of our country, though.

    "Much of movement conservatism is a con and the base is the marks." -- Chris Hayes

    by raptavio on Wed Nov 20, 2013 at 07:58:55 AM PST

  •  Starts with Pilgrims, then John Winthrop, (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    commonmass, ObamOcala, blue aardvark

    the Great Migration, theocracy, Roger Williams, the first awakening before the revolution, the second before the civil war, the third the progressive era. Goes back to the roundheads in the old country. Not that it's a good thing, Columbus wasn't a good thing. Just existential, otherwise settlers would have been going to pow wows more and converted to sweat lodge culture, like Thoreau. The Puritan educated middle class made the North different from the South or Jamaica, and very different from the French Northwest. On the national level, reform has often been a religious demand, the churches versus slavery, alcoholism, patriarchy, segregation, Fordism, poverty, Vietnam war, much of this when women didn't have the vote but had churches. Check out Charles Sumner's "The True Grandeur of Nations" for the traditional law of war as a litigation submitted to Providence, the understanding among Christian nations that had outlawed municipal wars, and installed local courts but not international courts. Lincoln's Gettysburg address was a religious blessing, abolition was a religious movement now the reason for the war, the fate of the union something that was in the hands of Providence, the union a city on the hill. But also, liberally, human rights were to be defended as announced by a contrarian Southern deist in the Declaration of Independence. Lincoln's unique midwestern stamp of universality.

  •  This is a very nice summary. (18+ / 0-)

    I, personally, am a staunch defender of the separation of church and state. Especially in this day and age where America is so religiously (and atheistically) diverse. Now, "God" can mean all sorts of things, but the way it's used by politicians mostly refers to some sort of Christian God. That's unacceptable in modern American public life, IMO.

    While some of our founders were Anglicans or Congregationalists or Quakers or a few other things, many of the most influential were, in fact, Deists and most of the most influential were something else: Freemasons.

    As a Freemason myself, I can tell you that the influence on the proto-documents of our country is indeed very great. While Masonry is not a religion, it is an ethical system. There is more evidence to support that America is a "Masonic Nation" than the assertion that it is a Christian one as far as the influence on our founding documents and the speeches and letters of our Founders.

    •  Well Done (7+ / 0-)

      I appreciate your comment that "God" can mean all
      sorts of things.

      A substantial portion of the population seems possessed
      of the ability to avoid that Idea their entire lives.

      The point you made regarding the founders is well supported
      by physical evidence and historical fact.

      Revisionist history is a cheap intellectual fraud and those
      that engage in it deserve to be exposed for what they
      really are.

      On Giving Advice: Smart People Don't Need It and Stupid People Don't Listen

      by Brian76239 on Wed Nov 20, 2013 at 09:10:40 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Brother, we need to start a Daily Kos Masonic Cauc (3+ / 0-)

      I was just going to say - Masonry, like my other great institutional love, the United Methodist Church - is a product and a producer of The Enlightenment.

      Today, we're considered a little bit out of step and anachronistic, what with our history of segregation and exclusion of women, but the Religious Right hates us all the same.  Gary North, who is pretty much the scribe of Christofascism in modern America, even claims the U.S. Constitution is an affront to God because it was written by Masons.  No doubt the U.S. House of Represntatives who seized a mic after the vote to continue the government and end the shutdown, was quoting North when she went on her rant.  

      Scratch a right-winger who's not a Mason and you'll usually find he's an antimason as well.  I often wonder if anyone ever confronted the late Jesse Helms about his being both a Mason and a right-winger.  Of course, we have plenty of right-wingers in our midst as well:  one Brother in our Lodge who died recently was offended that the masonic scholar Chris Hodapp who wrote "Freemasonry for Dummies" said a Muslim can be obligated on the Koran, just as members of other sects can be on their Holy Books.  Our Brother believed since he bought the meme "islam is not a religion of peace" that an obligation of a Muslim would not be valid because to him a true Muslim would be required to violate his obligation.  He was informed a neighboring Lodge had done exactly that (the Brother who is Muslim was in this case an Air Force Sergeant I believe) aand upon hearing that he said, "Well, I'm going to call the Grandmaster about that!" and he did.  I suppose the Grandmaster set him straight - he pretty much stopped coming to Lodge about then over another conflict anyhow.  

      The modern conservative is engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness. -- John Kenneth Galbraith

      by Kangaroo on Wed Nov 20, 2013 at 10:30:20 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  You know as well as I that one may receive his (0+ / 0-)

        Obligation on any Holy Book he chooses. That is total BS, and I'm sure that was a totally out of line opinion. One must only be a Deist--that is, believe in God--and be of good character, etc, etc.

        That brings me to "good character". Draw your own conclusion, Brother.

        I have thought long and hard about some kind of group on Daily Kos for Masons, and one brother Kossack warned me off it: it would require a great deal of discipline and is easy to get into things in a comment thread we shouldn't be getting into. Which is why I haven't done it.

        What I have been thinking of instead, however, is a Daily Kos based group perhaps to provide relief across Grand Lodge lines. But I'm still thinking.

        •  Agreed (3+ / 0-)

          I think your ideas as stated there are right, but it's great to know we're here.  

          I think the Craft is growing in relevance as it's seen how the Religious Right hates us.  I was pleased to see the Underground Comic artist and former "Gnosis" editor Kim Deitch is now a PM in California.  Michael Richards of "Seinfield," also initially, but not so much after his public meltdown.  But he is still our Brother and we love him as such;  as you know we all commit good and evil in this life.  

          I'm always pointing to the lifelong friendship of former Senators Bob Dole and George McGovern, both Masons (and both Methodists), despite some firing volleys at each other over the 1972 campaign and the Watergate scandal.  Dole was the keynote speaker at the Memorial service for McGovern at his alma mater Dakota Weslayan University.  The two had a brief reunion at the funeral for former First Lady Pat Nixon, too.  Somebody asked McGovern why he came, given President Nixon's dirty tricks against him.   "Life's too short for that," he said.  We need more of that instead of the screaming hate that passes for political disagreement these days.  

          The modern conservative is engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness. -- John Kenneth Galbraith

          by Kangaroo on Wed Nov 20, 2013 at 11:47:23 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  My Lodge is growing, and I notice because (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            I'm an officer and very involved. Maine, by the way, where I live, has the largest number of Masons per capita of any State in the US. And we only have 1.5 million people here.

            The Craft is alive and well here. As for me, I'm a fifth generation Mason. My father raised me, as his father did for him, and etc. The first of that five generations--he was raised in England.

          •  The Clintons and the Doles (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            used to attend the same church in Washington, D.C.  Although Bill is Baptist, Hillary and Chelsea and Methodist and so are the Doles. They all attended Foundry UMC, a famous (and rather liberal) congregation, whose pastor (at the time), Phil Wogaman, was a well-known theologian and loved this visual demonstration that the Kingdom of God transcends political divisions.  But the Religious Right wouldn't let it be. After a write up in the press, they forced the Doles to find another church or lose the GOP nomination for president. The sad thing is that the Doles' ambitions trumped their faith--they should have told the Religious Right fools to go jump in a lake.

            In a sense Obama also allowed others to dictate his church. He never should have.

            "I was not born for myself alone, but for my neighbor as well as myself."--Richard Overton, leader of the Levellers, a17th C. movement for democracy and equality during the English Civil War. for healthcare coverage in Kentucky

            by SouthernLeveller on Wed Nov 20, 2013 at 03:57:40 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

  •  well-researched history lesson (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    commonmass, blue aardvark

    Very interesting stuff, thanks for writing that.

    "Glenn Beck ends up looking like a fat, stupid child. His face should be wearing a chef's hat on the side of a box of eclairs. " - Doug Stanhope

    by Front Toward Enemy on Wed Nov 20, 2013 at 09:04:12 AM PST

  •  Was our President supposed to tell Ken Burns how (5+ / 0-)

    to make a documentary?

    Just another underemployed IT professional computer geek.

    by RhodeIslandAspie on Wed Nov 20, 2013 at 09:10:09 AM PST

  •  hotlisted is still a fuzzy concept for me (3+ / 0-)

    but I have hot listed your diary. It's one of only a handful. Thank you.

  •  Trace the persecution further back (5+ / 0-)

    Remember that in 1620-1640 Charles I's policies sought out to unify the Church of England and press out dissenters, which included not only the Puritans but a number of other religious minority groups including Quakers. These groups migrated into the the relatively tolerant Netherlands and other parts of the world, but obviously the American Colonies are best known for their reception of large groups of Puritans.

    The point being that the Founding Fathers would have been well aware of their own history. Massachusetts Bay Colony was one of the great colonies, a founding success story that birthed Rhode Island and Connecticut, one out of religious division and the other out of business interest. The danger in a government ordering religion is that it can quickly tell you which religion to follow or what you can't follow at all. This was a ridiculous notion to member groups of minorities in America as stated in the article, but obviously a concern with any man who knew a basic history of the colonies over the last century. It was one of the great reasons for population influxes into the U.S.

    by DAISHI on Wed Nov 20, 2013 at 09:31:05 AM PST

  •  The wall of seperation just might have started (4+ / 0-)

    with the founder of Rhode Island, Roger Williams. Although he never uttered the phrase, separation of church and state were the most important organizing principal of his colony.

    And he was Baptist. What has happened to the Baptists over the years?

    Just another underemployed IT professional computer geek.

    by RhodeIslandAspie on Wed Nov 20, 2013 at 09:32:14 AM PST

  •  In the Federalist Papers (5+ / 0-)

    I don't remember which one specifically, but I do remember a long piece about how the blending of state and religion was a multi-century disaster in Europe, and that the Founders were intent to not mix the two in the Constitution and the founding of the United States.

    It was one of the early ones, maybe Federalist #4 or #5?

    "If you lose your sense of humor, it's just not funny anymore" Wavy Gravy

    by offgrid on Wed Nov 20, 2013 at 09:45:48 AM PST

  •  The founding fathers belonged to the Enlightenment (4+ / 0-)

    and while there were Enlightenment era atheists (e.g. David Hume and Denis Diderot) it took some heavy philosophical lifting to be an atheist before Darwin. Deism was a philosophy which denied God any role in politics or economics -- e.g. the Deist Creator did not set Kings on a high plane of existence than other "men" (as they would have said), but merely built and wound the Newtonian Clock of matter.

    That allowed Deists to skip arguments about "where did it all come from" that were addressed to the atheists, and get right down to what they really cared about most, which were the Rights of Man.

    After Darwin, an Abrahamic-style creator god has been less and less necessary to understand "where it all came from" and today is not necessary at all. The only paths left to religion are either to deny science and become anti-intellectual -- which is the path they have chosen -- or to give up on the Abrahamic creator divinity and allow the numinous to reside in nature (which fundies would see as diabolical "paganism").

    •  False Dilemma Fallacy. (0+ / 0-)

      by DAISHI on Wed Nov 20, 2013 at 10:21:47 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  No, it's a real dilemma (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        commonmass, JosephK74

        but it won't be visible to those religionists who choose to ignore the implications of science. That can include scientists who compartmentalize science and religion into different parts of their lives and choose not to question too deeply in religious areas.

        •  Sigh. Darwinism is not an origin story (2+ / 0-)

          The inconvenient but humerous truth is that theists and atheists continue in perfect stalemate: a universe created out of nothing by an inconceivable event impenetrable to our minds and methodologies. Science works for the space-time component of the post-Bang universe, not at all for the subjective component of our life experience.

          Fight them to the end, until the children of the poor eat better than the dogs of the rich.

          by raincrow on Thu Nov 21, 2013 at 02:23:58 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  Darwin might have been an atheist, (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      blue aardvark, atana

      but he was also an Anglican Priest. Not that the two are mutually exclusive, and I say that as an Anglican. ;)

      •  He didn't show much interest in being a doctor (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        like his father, so sending him off to Cambridge to study divinity was a way to give him a meal ticket. But what he loved was natural history.

      •  Not quite (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        atana, Hiranyagarbha, raincrow

        The young Darwin had an interest in becoming an Anglican priest, but he didn't finish seminary. Instead, he pursued his scientific studies and made his famous global voyage on The Beagle which led to his development of the theory of biological evolution via natural selection. (The later discovery of genetics led to the Neo-Darwininian synthesis which is so basic today.) But Darwin didn't lose his faith over this. In fact, when Harvard biologist Asa Hutchinson wrote him and told Darwin that Hutchinson's own faith was strengthened by Darwin's discoveries, Darwin was pleased.

        It was his daughter's early death and his inability to handle the classic "problem of evil," (e.g., why do bad things happen to good people) that led to Darwin's becoming an atheist.

        Many, many, many persons of faith fully accept the Neo-Darwinian theory of evolution. I, myself, never met someone who rejected evolution and took Genesis 1-2 literally until I went to college. I thought they were pulling my leg. The fundamentalist "creationism" view (which atheists believe falsely that all Christians hold) was completely unknown to me until c. 1981. I still have trouble believing it's not some giant piece of satire--and I live in a state (KY) with a "Creation Museum." Utterly embarrassing.

        "I was not born for myself alone, but for my neighbor as well as myself."--Richard Overton, leader of the Levellers, a17th C. movement for democracy and equality during the English Civil War. for healthcare coverage in Kentucky

        by SouthernLeveller on Wed Nov 20, 2013 at 04:09:01 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  I live in CA, and we have a Creation Museum too! (0+ / 0-)

          Of course it's in San Diego, which is where Romney now lives (with his famous car elevator).

          The fundamentalists believe in Biblical Literalism. By Darwin's time, there were already scholars working over the New Testament, trying to reconstruct how the text had been produced, and it was understood that a non-supernatural historical process involving humans had produced the NT we have today. By the early 20th century, the decipherment of Babylonian texts had the same effect on the OT -- which turned out to have sources in pre-Judaic religions.

          Fundamentalism formed in opposition to this growing body of biblical scholarship -- the "Higher Criticism" -- because it was effectively deconstructing Christianity into something that had appeared in a mundane, messy, conflict-ridden historical way.

          •  Right. (0+ / 0-)

            Historical-critical methods of interpretation began in Europe in the 1820s. They made their way to the UK by the 1850s, but never really caught on in the U.S. until after the Civil War.

            In the states, the first "crisis of biblical authority," was neither historical  criticism nor biological evolution. The first biblical authority crisis here was the argument over slavery:  The pro-slavery side seemed to have  the Bible on their side. Abolitionists had to appeal to the Exodus and the "greater spirit of the overall message," but the pro-slavery folk had lots of specific texts on their side.

            That's why, when historical criticism DID spread to these shores, it was accepted first among those church groups which had already been involved in the movement to abolish slavery and were then engaged in women's suffrage, peace, ending child labor, and other social reform movements.

            "I was not born for myself alone, but for my neighbor as well as myself."--Richard Overton, leader of the Levellers, a17th C. movement for democracy and equality during the English Civil War. for healthcare coverage in Kentucky

            by SouthernLeveller on Wed Nov 20, 2013 at 06:47:16 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

  •  ...their Creator... (3+ / 0-)

    I've always felt it to be significant that the founders did not say that {we} are endowed by THE Creator, they stated endowed by THEIR Creator.

    Isn't this additional evidence that the founders purposefully were not taking a stand on God?  That they were leaving it to the individual citizens?

    It has always seemed to me that this language choice is important.

  •  With God on our side (3+ / 0-)

    None are so hopelessly enslaved, as those who falsely believe they are free. The truth has been kept from the depth of their minds by masters who rule them with lies. -Johann von Goethe

    by gjohnsit on Wed Nov 20, 2013 at 10:03:37 AM PST

  •  Your diary omits a key FF who was a minister. (5+ / 0-)
    One thing I knew about the founding fathers is that many of them were deists,
     While religious conservatives conveniently leave out discussion of the deists, too many here on DK post diaries on this subject conveniently omitting discussion of the theist FFs, including the only active minister to sign the DOI, Rev. John Witherspoon.  No evaluation of how or why the FFs came to the conclusion of establishing separation of C&S can be complete without that background.  Otherwise you're cherry picking the facts as much as the Christianists.
      Witherspoon was one of Madison's principal mentors when Madison was a student of Witherspoon (at what is now called Princeton U.)  Being a Scottish Prebyterian minister, Witherspoon had been subjected to religious persecution in his native England.    
      Although he emphasized a "need" (in his view) for a God based religion in the citizenry, he knew all too well the dangers of government intervention in one's choice of religion.

    My Karma just ran over your Dogma

    by FoundingFatherDAR on Wed Nov 20, 2013 at 10:36:58 AM PST

    •  As I admitted in the diary ... (0+ / 0-)

      ... I did light research, and didn't come across Witherspoon. So the omission was unintentional. This is a topic I fully intend to keep digging into. I'm really tired of fundies spouting off about this being a "Christian nation." It's not. On purpose.

      I vote we run Rick Scott out of Florida on a high-speed rail.

      by ObamOcala on Wed Nov 20, 2013 at 11:33:33 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  You're leaving (2+ / 0-)

      out key information here as well.  Witherspoon was subjected to religious persecution by other CHRISTIANS in England.  Apologists always omit this crucial fact, giving the false and dishonest impression that Christians that came here were fleeing godless secularists.  No, these were results of internecine warfare.

      •  Rly???? Don't know what schools you (0+ / 0-)

        went to, but in the SoCal and NoVa public schools I attended we were taught that the Crown, in essense the Church of England, was the oppressor. We couldn't have given you a definition of "secularism" when I was in grade school even as we received a 100% prayer-free education.

        Fight them to the end, until the children of the poor eat better than the dogs of the rich.

        by raincrow on Thu Nov 21, 2013 at 02:03:56 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  I'd suggest that the use of 'Providence'... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    blue aardvark, commonmass, in and of itself, an indicator of a generic theism.  After all, the definition of the word is "divine guidance or care," and it isn't restricted to the Judeo-Christian God.

    The word "parent" is supposed to be a VERB, people...

    by wesmorgan1 on Wed Nov 20, 2013 at 10:43:15 AM PST

  •  A couple of interesting additions (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    commonmass, SouthernLeveller

    Connecticut was the last state to abandon a taxpayer supported church, in 1819 IIRC.

    Religious communities where entire towns were owned and operated by a church and its membership continued for many years, the Shakers and the Amana Colonies being two of the more prominent examples. Someone might argue that Colorado City, Arizona, remains one such, being almost entirely inhabited by the members of the FLDS church.

    I'm on a mission! Testing the new site rules.

    by blue aardvark on Wed Nov 20, 2013 at 10:52:16 AM PST

  •  I can't tell you how unbelievably sick I am (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    commonmass, prfb, Cassandra Waites

    of talk of god and religion and religion-based "morality" in the public arena. Do I try to impose my views and beliefs on sports or art or gardening on unrelated public policy? No, because I believe that religion is literally as relevant.

    Meaning, irrelevant.

    Religion is a private matter. Period. End of discussion. Talk to the hand.

    "Reagan's dead, and he was a lousy president" -- Keith Olbermann 4/22/09

    by kovie on Wed Nov 20, 2013 at 10:55:26 AM PST

  •  "God in America" PBS Documentary (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    commonmass, SouthernLeveller

    Was a fascinating look at the history of religion in America.

    •  It was pretty good. (0+ / 0-)

      "I was not born for myself alone, but for my neighbor as well as myself."--Richard Overton, leader of the Levellers, a17th C. movement for democracy and equality during the English Civil War. for healthcare coverage in Kentucky

      by SouthernLeveller on Wed Nov 20, 2013 at 04:10:52 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  A shorter version of the history of god in (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    the US would be that god doesn't exist and therefore she was never here.  Of course, that doesn't make for as good of a diary as yours.

    We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them. Albert Einstein

    by theotherside on Wed Nov 20, 2013 at 11:34:51 AM PST

  •  And yesterday's election ... (0+ / 0-)

    in Albuquerque showed that abortion is not murder in the bluer parts of this country. Not even in the larger cities in Texas.
    And liberals do not worship the same god as right-wingers do.
    One nation under the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

    Censorship is rogue government.

    by scott5js on Wed Nov 20, 2013 at 12:56:33 PM PST

  •  God is an undocumented alien with no (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    intention of assimilating whatsoever. Out with him, I say!

    That, in its essence, is fascism--ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power. -- Franklin D. Roosevelt --

    by enhydra lutris on Wed Nov 20, 2013 at 01:17:33 PM PST

  •  Oath vs. Affirmation (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    In Article VI, paragraph 3, of the Constitution it specifically gives the choice of an oath or affirmation.  These are legal terms: an oath is a statement backed by a higher power, and an affirmation is a statement based on one's own integrity.  I was once sworn in at a courtroom hearing.  When the clerk asked "Do you swear that the testimony you are about to give is the truth, so help you god?", I responded "I affirm my testimony will be the truth."  It was accepted.

    •  Herbert Hoover (0+ / 0-)

      who was a faithful  Quaker affirmed the oath of office because Quakers aren't allowed to swear oaths. (This didn't seem to bother our other Quaker president, Nixon. Of course, Nixon was also a warmonger and Quakers are pacifists, so it remains a mystery as to why he wasn't removed from his Meeting.)

      "I was not born for myself alone, but for my neighbor as well as myself."--Richard Overton, leader of the Levellers, a17th C. movement for democracy and equality during the English Civil War. for healthcare coverage in Kentucky

      by SouthernLeveller on Wed Nov 20, 2013 at 04:14:57 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Hear hear! /eom (0+ / 0-)

    * Move Sooner ~ Not Faster *

    by ArthurPoet on Wed Nov 20, 2013 at 11:43:32 PM PST

  •  Fantastic thread (0+ / 0-)

    Very informative diary and discussion. DKos at its best. Thank you everyone.

  •  religion (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    raincrow, SouthernLeveller

    As this article shows , though America's founders respected our Creator ; they learnedly distrusted religious leaders and wisely established no state religion or religious test to hold political office ( Article VI of the Constitution ) and the ( 1st Amendment )  Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof ; wisely prevented the state from any religious involvement what so ever and left religious belief and choice thereof completely and only up to each individual . These common sense words of divine wisdom regarding religious freedom given by our Creator to our forefathers and written as law into America's Constitution is the best law making mankind has ever done or ever can do .  

  •  Top marks for your diary! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    This is a nation for people of all kinds IMNSHO, and separation of church and state works to the advantage of us all.

    Fight them to the end, until the children of the poor eat better than the dogs of the rich.

    by raincrow on Thu Nov 21, 2013 at 01:39:52 PM PST

  •  In God We Trust (0+ / 0-)

    It seems fitting that the phrase "In God We Trust," should appear on our currency.  As propounded by much of the political class with its reliance on PACs, Super Pacs etc. money is the god in which they trust.

  •  The addition of "under God" was unconstitutional. (0+ / 0-)

    Yet these so called, "constitutional Repugs," think those words belong in our Pledge of Allegiance. Is there no hypocrisy that doesn't exist with them?

    If you like bicycles, check out the newest and coolest products at my site, "" You can also find my products at e-Bay under the name, "Ziggyboy." See all the products on my "See seller's other items" link.

    by JohnnieZ on Thu Nov 21, 2013 at 02:24:07 PM PST

  •  establishment clause (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    The need for the establishment clause started way before the Revolutionary War. Many of the early settlers were escaping Christian vs. Christian wars and persecution in Europe. The boundaries of some of those colonies (e.g. Rhode Island and Pennsylvania) were determined by land grants to different religious sects either to defuse sectarian violence or for other compensation. The founders, intent on forming a united country, made it clear they wanted no particular sect to be favored or disfavored in the new country.

  •  Ye will say that I am no Christian (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Thomas Jefferson had much to say on the subject of religion and the free practice thereof, and none of it tracks with the idea of a "Christian nation".  A few of my favorite quotes of his on the topic were:

    “Christianity neither is, nor ever was a part of the common law”.
     Letter to Dr. Thomas Cooper, February 10, 1814 (a sentiment later repeated almost verbatim by Jefferson's  rival and friend John Adams)
    “Question with boldness even the existence of a god; because if there be one he must approve of the homage of reason more than that of blindfolded fear”.
    Letter to Peter Carr, August 10, 1787
    “Man once surrendering his reason, has no remaining guard against absurdities the most monstrous, and like a ship without rudder, is the sport of every wind.”
     Letter to James Smith, 1822 (technically not on the subject of religion, but it's not hard to extrapolate the context).

    Recommended reading (and my source for these gems):
    "Under Attack By The Religious Right: Our Establishment Clause"
    "A Christian Nation?"

    I'll believe corporations are people when one comes home from Afghanistan in a body bag.

    by mojo11 on Thu Nov 21, 2013 at 05:42:46 PM PST

  •  Very Good Work (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I've been citing bits and pieces of the points presented in this post for years - including the information about Bellamy (don't forget the "Bellamy Salute").  It's nice to see them so nicely summed up in one place.

    I have, myself, written several times on the origin of the First Amendment, not in the spirit of religious harmony, but out of mistrust and outright hatred between the various sects - they'd rather consider the possibility that a Jew or a Mahometan be allowed to hold public office rather than let the Anglican or Catholic denomination become the recipient of official state approval.  Steven Waldman wrote an entire book on that very subject, titled Founding Faith : Providence, Politics, and the Birth of Religious Freedom in America.  

    It should be noted, however, that what we call the First Amendment was not originally at the top of the list; it was third*.  The Bill of Rights, as originally drafted, had twelve articles: the first concerned congressional apportionment has never been ratified† and is still, strictly speaking, pending; the second concerned congressional pay raises, and was finally ratified in 1992‡ as the Twenty-Seventh Amendment.

    *Which means that Second Amendment fanatics are also in error when they point to its position as a measure of its importance.

    †For which we can be grateful, since according to its provisions, the present day House of Representatives would have over 6,000 members.

    ‡Which is one of the reasons that proposed amendments now customarily include an expiration time of seven years if not ratified.

  •  God and Country & Origional Intent (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    THERE are so many who sadly believe that by declaring we are a Christian nation, founded on Christian principles, makes it so. We could be a Christian nation if the Christian community, the largest community of faith in the U.S., actually practiced what they preach. That would mean putting into practice the teachings of Jesus Christ all the time. Being human, and believing in a loving, forgiving God who knows that, the vast majority of Christians in America try to do that every day, and being human, fall short of that goal. God's grace allows us to start fresh the next day, and we again try our best. But Christianity in America is not helped by those who feel it is OK to manipulate history, to lie, to deceive, and to misinform in the name of Christianity. The God Christians believe in doesn't want or need that kind of "help". The people who use these tactics to prove their claims that we are a Christian nation are no different than the Islamic fundamentalist who declare Saudi Arabia and Iran Muslim nations or the Orthodox Jews who declare Israel a Jewish (religious) nation. All are guilty of perverting the true teachings of their faiths. Thankfully our Founding Fathers, knowing first hand the hypocrisy of government established religion, prohibited it in our Constitution. That is something all Americans can thank their individual God or gods, or the memory of the Founding Fathers, for. And it is something we must all be committed to defend. There is a lot more about Christianity and religion and the Founding Fathers at The Great Debate of Our Season & ORIGINAL INTENT, GOD AND COUNTRY from MOTHER JONES DEZ2005 updated 21APR12
    From Daily Kos....

  •  The problem with religion is that there is so much (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    money in it.  It attracts con artists.

    Are we the only nation that does not tax religious institutions?  I know it all started when a small, beloved church in one of the original colonies could not pay its land taxes so it was excused so that it could continue its good works for the local townspeople, but how did that blow out of control to the point where nothing any of these religionists do is taxed?

    I always thought that at the very least, businesses owned by a church or religious order should pay their fair share of taxes.  Why should a brassiere-and-girdle factory owned by a church have an unfair no-tax advantage over a brassiere-and-girdle factory owned by a mom-and-pop outfit? (Televangelist Rex Humbard!)

  •  The Reactionary Effect of Faith on Politics (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Although it is impossible to distinguish between genuine and faked piety, it is quite likely that most earthlings believe in God or gods, the afterlife, and miracles.While many people understand their faith in personal terms, and hence tend to be relatively moderate and pragmatic, another large group understand their faith in political terms,and most of those consider the coercion of some traditional way of life, or the outlawing of purely supernatural sins, to be their religious duty. As an ultra-orthodox Jewish atheist, I think that ignoring the powerful reactionary influence of faith on politics is a mistake. I believe that progressive people ought  to forcefully repudiate the notions that dying untimely because of non-affordable healthcare, or gun violence, inability to retire, homelessness, hunger, air and water pollution, and so on, are in accordance to divine will.


  •  byObamOcala (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Very well put into words. It needs to go into every big news paper in the world.

  •  Hitchiker's! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Always love to see someone reference Douglas Adams!

    •  Here is a Douglas Adams quotation I (0+ / 0-)

      particularly liked (isn't really related to this diary):

      We don't have to save the world. The world is big enough to look after itself. What we have to be concerned about is whether or not the world we live in will be capable of sustaining us in it.
      From wikiquote.)
      Welcome from the DK Partners & Mentors Team. If you have any questions about how to participate here, you can learn more at the Knowledge Base or from the New Diarists Resources Diaries. Diaries labeled "Open Thread" are also great places to ask. We look forward to your contributions.

      "The opposite of war isn't peace, it's CREATION." _ Jonathan Larson, RENT -9.62, -9.13

      by BeninSC on Sat Nov 23, 2013 at 06:09:15 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  The Swiss have Obamacare (0+ / 0-)

    The Swiss version of Obamacare gives them one of the best healthcare systems in the world.  


    The people control it through voter initiatives and referendums, not the politicians and the insurance companies.


    Republicans, especially the Tea Party conservatives, think they have a monopoly on Christianity, just as they do with patriotism. Democrats are a passel of godless anti-American socialists. The irony here is that it's the progressives who are strong on social issues, following Christ's admonition that we must look after and care for those less fortunate than ourselves. The pious Republicans are hypocrites, wanting to toss every single entitlement program under the bus. Sure, God helps those who help themselves, and all that rot, but it's pretty difficult to buck up and pull yourself up by your bootstraps when the game is rigged 100% against you. I ask the Tea Party Republicans, "What would Jesus do?"

    Conservatives will use any and all methods at their disposal to spread their conspiracy theories about President Obama's being "The Other" or some type of nefarious Manchurian Candidate. Let's face it, folks. The poor guy could fart rainbows and shit enough golden eggs to pay off the national debt, and the Republicans would STILL find some way to criticize him. I for one am sick to death of hearing the conservatives pander to their low-information voters and fat cat buddies.

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