This topic of the United States as a “Christian Nation” is abused so often by the religious right that it’s gotten beyond tedious, but Sarah Palin managed to stir it up again with her ignorant ramblings at the Women of Joy conference in Louisville, Kentucky.
According to an ABC News story, Palin thinks it’s “mind boggling” to suggest that the United States is not a Christian nation.
From the article:
“God truly has shed his grace on thee — on this country,” Palin told the Women of Joy conference. “He’s blessed us, and we better not blow it.”
“And then, hearing any leader declare that America isn’t a Christian nation and poking an ally like Israel in the eye, it’s mind-boggling to see some of our nation’s actions recently, but politics truly is a topic for another day.”
“Lest anyone try to convince you that God should be separated from the state, our founding fathers, they were believers,” said Palin. “And George Washington, he saw faith in God as basic to life.”
Needless to say, her comments ruffled a few feathers and sparked a lot of commentary… mostly because she’s factually incorrect on multiple points, something that isn’t surprising based on her track record.
First, Obama didn’t say we are not a Christian nation, as is often mis-quoted. What he said was…
Whatever we once were, we are no longer a Christian nation â€“ at least, not just. We are also a Jewish nation, a Muslim nation, a Buddhist nation, and a Hindu nation, and a nation of nonbelievers.
Note the prepared remarks stated “we are no longer just a Christian nation” but he stumbled over it a bit during his speech. The key word, which tends to be omitted by the religious right when going off on a rant about how persecuted they are, is “just.” Factually speaking, we are not just a nation of Christians. There are many other religions practiced in our country and, as Obama stated, people who practice no religion (even if they’re not explicitly atheists).
So if the definition of “Christian Nation” is a nation populated by those of the Christian faith, then yes, we are a Christian nation. However, that same definition means that we are a Jewish nation… a Buddhist nation… a Hindu nation… a Scientologist nation… an Islamic nation… a Wiccan nation… and the list could go on and on and on.
However, I doubt the religious right goes with that definition. Their definition is probably more likely that we are a nation founded and based on Judeo-Christian principles, blessed and ordained by the Judeo-Christian god, and protected by Divine Providence. Of course, that’s nonsense and has no factual basis whatsoever.
Those who promote the idea that we’re a Christian nation frequently note the reference to “Nature’s God” and “their Creator” in the Declaration of Independence as bits of evidence in their favor. They also harp on the religious beliefs of our founding fathers. It’s true that many of the founding fathers were religious men. That argument is largely irrelevant, but if taken seriously, gives them no real support. Not all the founding fathers were religious men. Some had no affiliation and some were deists. Thomas Jefferson, the primary author of the Declaration of Independence was a deist… so presumably, when he refers to “Nature’s God” or “their Creator,” he is referring to a god who created the universe and then walked away, never to be heard from again. He certainly was not referring to the Christian notion of a God who listens to and answers prayers or is otherwise involved in the daily workings of the world.
That aside, the Declaration of Independence is not a governing document. The Constitution is our governing document… and the only mention of anything godly in our Constitution is “In the Year of our Lord” when referring to the date… hardly an indication of Christian divine providence. There is nothing… nothing… in the Constitution that mentions God, Jesus, or anything else in the Christian faith. It is a decidedly secular document, regardless of the personal beliefs of the founding fathers.
Actually, the fact that many of the founders were religious men, yet chose to omit any kind of religious references in the Constitution, is a huge indication that they specifically did not want the country to be a “Christian nation.” So quoting a founder’s view on religious faith is mostly irrelevant because the document is what governs our country… not the personal views of select founders.
It’s disingenuous for Palin (and the religious right) to claim that this is a nation based on the Christian faith… disingenuous and dishonest. Based on the actual facts, it’s blatantly untrue. There isn’t really a valid debate to be had.
The religious right, however, is a group that considers faith without evidence to be a virtue, so I’m sure the issue, much to the dismay of those who know better, will continue to come up.
No doubt Sarah Palin will make sure of that.