I came across this editorial this morning. The author argues against the idea of the U.S. as a distinctly Christian nation, a notion which I believe both history and good theology bears out.
Yet, the author claims he does not wish to be “tolerated,” but to be freed of religion in public life altogether. He wants religion relegated always and only to the private sphere. He writes:
I don’t want to live in any version of a “Christian nation.” I want to live in the United States, in which religious ideas are a private matter, in which my government plays no role in my spiritual life, and denominational beliefs play no role in government. The 18th-century founders were not able to fully divorce their politics from religion, but they went further than anyone else had gone before. In many ways, such as race, their vision was clouded by traditional prejudices. Since then we have created a more perfect union, although not yet perfect. Perfection will be closer when whites no longer insist on retaining the privileges they have built up over centuries of supremacy, and when Christians stop saying that they specially represent America.
What I don’t think the author entirely realizes—and which I think most people in our society fail to—is that it is impossible to have a religion-less society. All human action—every single act of conscious will—is based upon a religious assumption of some sort.
Denominational beliefs DO play a role in government, because people are not capable of dividing themselves from themselves. Since I have a wife and kids, I am probably going to be less inclined to make it to “last call” at my local pub tonight than if I were single. In the same way, if I believe in God my perspective on justice, and the way I go about seeking it, will be different than if I don’t. If I believe there is Someone who will hold me accountable for my actions one Day, I may look at my decisions with an added sense of weight and purpose, just like my wife and kids keep me from staying out till all hours of the night. Knowing that my actions have significance outside of this moment—or this year, generation, century, country or even this planet—influences me to my very core.
Too many “religion-less” people fail to recognize this fundamental fact of human existence in their religious neighbors—or in themselves. Still, you would think this author would have some understanding of it. At least religious folk claim to have God on their side when they seek to impose “perfection” on society at large. This guy has nothing more than an inflated ego and a couple hundred years of perspective on Thomas Jefferson. I’ll take the attempts at “perfection” of people who know they’re biased over a cluelessly “objective” secularist any day of the week… and twice on Sunday.