A Christian Nation, Says Local Bigot

I was reading a (very) local paper and I saw an article written by Pastor Vernon C. Lyons, a Baptist minister.

Lyons is a guy who opposed the building of a mosque in our community because he felt it would bring in the terrorists.

He tried to come off as sane, but it didn’t work:

“Muslim terrorists kill people. Moderate Muslims do not kill people. Moderate Muslims supply the cash to the militant Muslims,” Lyons said.

No. No they don’t.

His church is normally a polling place during elections, but after his comments (in late 2004), the county said no to the church being a place voters went to on election day. People were too uncomfortable going there.

“It led to enough fear and intimidation on the part of some voters, we felt it was smarter not to get in the middle of it and move it,” said Cook Co. Clerk David Orr

Lyons made this hilariously ironic statement afterwards:

“If the county clerk chooses to accommodate the bias or intolerance of some voter, that certainly is his prerogative, we have no quarrel with that.”

Anyway, he wrote this piece for the community paper:

Lyons

He deserves a well-written smackdown.

I’ll do my best.

In the meantime, any suggestions as to what I need to include in a rebuttal piece would be helpful.


[tags]atheist, atheism, Vernon Lyons, Ashburn Baptist Church, Muslim, Islam, David Orr[/tags]

  • http://emergingpensees.blogspot.com/ Mike C

    “Muslim terrorists kill people. Moderate Muslims do not kill people. Moderate Muslims supply the cash to the militant Muslims,” Lyons said.

    Sounds like something Sam Harris might say…

  • http://friendlyatheist.com FriendlyAtheist
    “Muslim terrorists kill people. Moderate Muslims do not kill people. Moderate Muslims supply the cash to the militant Muslims,” Lyons said.

    Sounds like something Sam Harris might say…

    He wouldn’t say that at all.

    Harris believes the beliefs of moderates allow the extremists to exist (in any religion), but Lyons’ quotation implies there is a direct connection and that the moderates actually support the extremists.

  • Karen

    He makes a big deal about federal offices being closed on Sundays (“the Lord’s day”) but mail was delivered on Sundays through the mid-1800s. Not sure if other government offices were always closed on Sundays or not.

    Susan Jacoby’s, “Freethinkers,” which I’m sure you’ve read, makes the point that mainstream churches and pastors in the northern states waged a huge crusade to stop mail delivery on Sundays prior to the Civil War because they felt that any governmental work on that day was sacreligious.

    Meanwhile, they virtually ignored the issue of slavery because they didn’t want to offend their denominational members in the South and they did a great disservice to the working poor who were dependent on getting their paychecks through the mail and eventually had to wait another day when the government caved to religious pressure and abolished Sunday delivery.

    Just a small point you might reference in your response.

  • Maria

    “Muslim terrorists kill people. Moderate Muslims do not kill people. Moderate Muslims supply the cash to the militant Muslims,” Lyons said.

    No. No they don’t.

    That is true. And it’s also true of religious moderates in other religions too, not supporting their extremists doing terrorist acts and bad things.

  • http://synapostasy.blogspot.com Aaron

    Oy. Well, this recent post from Americans United might be a good reference for some tidbits (scroll down to the claim/response section).

  • Don M

    First off, the guy looks like he is a lot of fun a parties. Jeez … could he get any geekier?

    “for real Christianity is not propogated by force but by persuasion, and those who follow it do so by choice”

    Except for the dirty little fact that Christianity was spread via crusades and other hideous means. Heck, it didn’t even gain a foothold until it was established as the official religion in Rome under emperor Constantine. “Forced” is the ONLY reason the religion spread as much as it did and is what it is today. Otherwise it would have been just another cult, right up there with the gnostics and such.

    Benjamin Franklin saying that “God governs in the affairs of men” doesn’t necessarily mean that he agreed that Jesus was born of a virgin or that the earth was created in six literal days or that sex is dirty (we definitely know that about Benjamin Franklin!). He just said that God play some part in the affairs of men.

  • http://anonymousatheist.blogspot.com/ The Anonymous Atheist

    You could start by pointing out that three of the most prominent of the founding fathers aren’t really Christian.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Jefferson
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Benjamin_Franklin#Virtue.2C_religion_and_personal_beliefs
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Adams

  • Mriana

    Yes, the man does deserve a smack down. I liked how you phrased that Hemant. :lol: Unfortunately, I have no idea what to say by way of a rebuttle. :( I don’t know enough about Islam to refute what he said. I know enough to refute those who say “Islam is the one true religion”, but nothing more, which in reality is nothing.

  • Maria

    Benjamin Franklin saying that “God governs in the affairs of men” doesn’t necessarily mean that he agreed that Jesus was born of a virgin or that the earth was created in six literal days or that sex is dirty (we definitely know that about Benjamin Franklin!). He just said that God play some part in the affairs of men.

    That’s right, he was a deist, not a theist!

  • Solomon

    It’s probably worth pointing out that freedom of religion actually does exist in “Jewish Israel,” and that there are quite a few religions out there much more accepting of the beliefs of others than Christianity. Judaism, for example, actively makes it difficult to convert in. And, I can’t say that I’ve ever heard of Buddhist holy wars against non-believers.

  • http://little-endian.blogspot.com Alan Lund

    The quote that ends the article is a bit of a quote mine. The two halves, separated by ellipses, were apparently not close together in the original document, and the interpretation of the quote being adopted by the author (and others) was explicitly disavowed by the author of the opinion, Justice David Brewer.

    See the last section of this post by Austin Cline and more details from Susan Batte.

  • http://mojoey.blogspot.com Mojoey

    I would go after his definition of a Christian,

    A person is a Christian only when he definitely and personally receives the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior

    and then contrast it with the well documented theism of our founding fathers.

    and smack him hard.

  • http://off-the-map.org/atheist/ Siamang

    Her writes:

    This is a Christian nation in the sense that the Bible holds a unique place in its founding and in its history.

    Yeah, and slavery also holds a unique place in this nation’s founding and history.

    Just because our founding fathers did something or thought something doesn’t mean we should do or think the same.

  • Mriana

    The Bible had nothing to do with finding this country. There is nothing in the Constitution or it’s admendments that has to do with the Bible. Most of the founding fathers were deists and not Christians. The word God is not even mentioned in the Constitution or it’s amendments either. This country was founded on Secular principles and NOT Christian ideology.

  • Geoff

    A lot of good points have been brought up, like comparing his own definition of Christianity to the beliefs of the founders he quotes, but another, rather important figure has been overlooked. Remember “My country is the world, and my religion is to do good”? –Thomas Paine, arguably the man who sparked the Revolution, and an avowed atheist.

    Also, in response to his quotation of the Supreme Court decision, it would be wise to use the obvious response, the Treaty of Tripoli (article XI ?) which, though not included in the draft sent to Tripoli, was passed by Congress.

    Of course you’ll also want to point out that religious freedom is available, at least to some degree, in all of the countries he names, including Saudi Arabia (though it is illegal to try to convert someone to a religion other than Islam). Furthermore, the largely secular, almost atheistic, countries of Sweden, France, Germany (and practically all of the rest of the developed world) have complete religious freedom despite not being based on Christianity.

  • http://little-endian.blogspot.com Alan Lund

    After further investigation, it appears that the first half of the quote from the 1892 Supreme Court case was fabricated by David Barton, at least according to Richard Russell at positiveatheism.org.

  • monkeymind

    real Christianity is not propogated by force but by persuasion

    This is a good argument for strong wall of separation between church and state, isn’t it? Because state power is based on force.

    I think you might do well to quote Greg Boyd, an evangelical minister who wrote “Myth of a Christian Nation”:

    “America wasn’t founded as a theocracy,” he said. “America was founded by people trying to escape theocracies. Never in history have we had a Christian theocracy where it wasn’t bloody and barbaric. That’s why our Constitution wisely put in a separation of church and state.

    and

    Mr. Boyd responded: “I don’t think there’s a particular angle we have on society that others lack. All good, decent people want good and order and justice. Just don’t slap the label ‘Christian’ on it.”

    The above quotes are from this article.

  • http://aboutkitty.blogspot.com/ Cat’s Staff

    This sort of stuff increases every year around the Forth of July, trying to take advantage of the patriotic mood. I just heard D. James Kennedy sermonizing about how this is a Christian Nation using most of those same points. I don’t know that a single newspaper would have enough column inches to refute all the garbage in that little article adequately enough…people will believe things the way they want to, and the Christian history revisionists are taking advantage of that.

  • Maria

    This sort of stuff increases every year around the Forth of July, trying to take advantage of the patriotic mood. I just heard D. James Kennedy sermonizing about how this is a Christian Nation using most of those same points. I don’t know that a single newspaper would have enough column inches to refute all the garbage in that little article adequately enough…people will believe things the way they want to, and the Christian history revisionists are taking advantage of that.

    Yeah I noticed that. it’s annoying. I want to celebrate my country, not religion. this nation was founded by mostly deists! (sorry, I’m a deist, so I tend to get worked up over that)

  • Eudokia

    That’s right, he was a deist, not a theist!

    Maria being a deist means he was not an atheist either. Diests believe in a God.

    The Bible had nothing to do with finding this country. There is nothing in the Constitution or it’s admendments that has to do with the Bible. Most of the founding fathers were deists and not Christians. The word God is not even mentioned in the Constitution or it’s amendments either. This country was founded on Secular principles and NOT Christian ideology.

    The people who first came to this country were fleeing religious persecution. The vast majority of the founders were Christian. Matter of fact about 97% of the country was Christian with a small margin of Jews and possible other religions. The constitution would not have ratified if there had not been a bill of rights based on the premise that God gives you those rights not the government. For an in-depth view of what the founders thought about God and government, I suggest you read the Declaration of Independence.

    God bless!

  • Mriana

    I have read the Declaration of Independence. It mentions God only because it was believed if you were going to declare war it is best to have God on your side. HOWEVER the Constitution has NO god of any kind in it. It only mentions religion in the First Amendment, but there is NO god in it anywhere AND it has NOTHING to do with the 10 Commandments. The First Amendment does NOT command us to go to church and worship nor does it tell us what god it the right and only god.

    Read the Constitution!

  • http://aboutkitty.blogspot.com/ Cat’s Staff

    Many of the ‘top’ tier of founding fathers were deists….but some of them and many of the others were Christian. I think it says more that they were Christian, but yet there is no explicitly Christian references in the Constitution, and the only references to religion are the ‘no religious test clause’, and the first amendment. If you believe that 100% of the founding fathers were not Christians, the fact that the Constitutions only excludes government endorsement/establishment of religion wouldn’t be a big deal. But, many of them were Christian and there is no reference to God…that says a lot. Considering that the only other governments the founding fathers knew much about were countries that had official state religions and references to God in government, it says much more that they didn’t establish the Church of America, and write references to Jesus in the Constitution, or any other founding document.

  • http://off-the-map.org/atheist/ Siamang

    Eudokia wrote:

    The people who first came to this country were fleeing religious persecution.

    If you don’t count the Native Americans, that is, who suffered religious persecution under the hands of Christian dominionists, of course.

    And if you don’t count the slaves brought from Africa and other places, of course.

    And if you don’t count the profiteers making their money on sugar, rum and tobacco and the blood of slaves…. good Christians every one, no doubt, no doubt.

    The vast majority of the founders were Christian.

    If by “founders” you mean wealthy white male landowners and slaveowners, then yes!

    The constitution would not have ratified if there had not been a bill of rights based on the premise that God gives you those rights not the government.

    Have you READ the Constitution and the Bill of Rights? Because I have. I’ve read the original in Washington DC.

    You’ve got it exactly backward. The Constitution and the Bill of Rights don’t say that God gives us rights. It says that GOVERNMENT’S power and authority comes from the consent of the governed.

    Read it.

    The Declaration of Independence is not a legal document of the United States of America. It was not written or ratified by the United States Government, as there was no such thing and wouldn’t be any such thing until the Constitution was ratified. It’s a document of the Second Continental Congress, a deliberative body made up of representatives from various colonies that ceased to exist in 1781 when the Articles of Confederation were ratified.

  • http://off-the-map.org/atheist/ Siamang

    Eudokia,

    Your reaction, if it’s typical, will be to abandon this thread. I’d like you to do otherwise. I’d invite you to stay here and converse with us. Share with us something about yourself.

    It would be very easy to look at the responses to your post, dismiss us as angry closed-minded atheists, and never come back. Please don’t, friend.

    Instead, I’d like you to continue a dialogue. You said that the Constitution and the Bill of Rights is based on those rights being God-given. Can you read the Constitution and tell me how many times the word “God” or “creator” appear?

    When you find out, can you post the answer here?

    And can you use that opportunity to do some soul-searching and wonder if coming here, to an atheist website, to spout how we’re all wrong, is really helpful. Wouldn’t it be better to start a conversation? To take part in a dialogue?

    I’d like to get you to consider things that you perhaps haven’t considered before. One thing is that the Constitution doesn’t say what you think it says, or what you’ve been told it says by your religious leaders.

    Unlike them, I won’t tell you what it says. I’ll tell you to read it yourself and tell me what it says.

    Let’s start this dialogue, friend. Whattaya say?

  • Mriana

    The Declaration of Independence speaks of “Natural Law”. This is NOT the same as “God’s Law”. http://www.answers.com/topic/natural-law?cat=biz-fin

    The Declaration: http://www.ushistory.org/declaration/document/index.htm

    It also speaks of Nature’s God. This is not the same as “Christian Law”. It would help if people did some research. http://history.hanover.edu/hhr/hhr93_1.html It is the God of deism, not the Christian Law.

  • jedipunk

    I am excited to read the rebuttal. Do include something on the history of christmas in the united states or even a brief account of how christmas was established..

  • Mriana

    Christmas was originally a Pagan holiday: http://www.history.com/minisites/christmas That is just for starters, but I too would just love to see a rebutle.

  • Maria

    Maria being a deist means he was not an atheist either. Diests believe in a God.

    But NOT the Christian God! Sorry, this just drives me nuts. I never said they were atheists, and neither did anyone on here. All they said was that they were NOT Christians (well, most of them) and did not intend for Christianity or any kind of theism to be the dominant religion. I’m well aware of what Deists believe, being one myself, thank you very much.

  • Maria

    Many of the ‘top’ tier of founding fathers were deists….but some of them and many of the others were Christian. I think it says more that they were Christian, but yet there is no explicitly Christian references in the Constitution, and the only references to religion are the ‘no religious test clause’, and the first amendment. If you believe that 100% of the founding fathers were not Christians, the fact that the Constitutions only excludes government endorsement/establishment of religion wouldn’t be a big deal. But, many of them were Christian and there is no reference to God…that says a lot. Considering that the only other governments the founding fathers knew much about were countries that had official state religions and references to God in government, it says much more that they didn’t establish the Church of America, and write references to Jesus in the Constitution, or any other founding document.

    That is an interesting point. Some were indeed Christians, but secular Christians. I certainly have no problem with that, and I commend them all for seeing that secularism is the best way. Them wanting to be tolerant and allow everyone oa voice seems to me to be what true christianity should be about anyway. It’s sad that so many forget that.

  • Eudokia

    I have read the Declaration of Independence. It mentions God only because it was believed if you were going to declare war it is best to have God on your side. HOWEVER the Constitution has NO god of any kind in it. It only mentions religion in the First Amendment, but there is NO god in it anywhere AND it has NOTHING to do with the 10 Commandments.

    The point is not whether the constitution mentions God specifically. The constitution is just one document that can be used as a source. It is not much of an argument to assert that we are historically a secular nation because God is not mentioned in the constitution or Benjamin Franklin was a deist or even the ten commandments aren’t included: after all the Declaration of Independence is not silent on the matter. The point is whether religion was valued and seen by the founders as, (the Christian religion that is), playing a prominent and important role in the newly formed government and for the future of the Republic. First look at the type of government the constitution outlines and the responsibilities of each branch of government. The founders didn’t form a monarchy or create a communist type of government or even a theocracy, instead the founders established and gave back to the people, a government where the people would govern themselves. Christianity was recognized by the founders as indispensable for a Republican type government. Success of our nation was and is largely dependant on the morality of the people. Religion, Christian religion, was very important to the founders. Because the religious freedoms of the people are mentioned by the founders in the very first amendment rather than say the10th, so it must of had a tremendously high priorty.

    The First Amendment does NOT command us to go to church and worship nor does it tell us what god it the right and only god.

    And aren’t you glad? The amendment actually commands and restricts the government not the people. It is congress which…“shall make no law…”

    Read the Constitution!

    I wish more Senators and Representatives would read it.

    John Adams was a Christian and so was his wife Abigail.

  • Eudokia

    You’ve got it exactly backward. The Constitution and the Bill of Rights don’t say that God gives us rights. It says that GOVERNMENT’S power and authority comes from the consent of the governed.

    Actually it states both. The Declaration of Independence states that we are “…all created equal and we are endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights…” It goes on and states that among these rights, (which the Creator gave) are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness… But you already knew this.

  • Miko

    It goes on and states that among these rights, (which the Creator gave) are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness…

    Ah, but this is just a bad plagiarism of John Locke’s identification of life, liberty, and property as our rights, and he saw them as social constructs and explicitly pointed out that they did not arise through divine revelation. So the DoI stole the conclusion but mangled the logic that led up to it.

    In any case, these rights don’t come from any god(s), so the number of legal documents that claim otherwise is moot. Truth isn’t decided by a vote.

  • Eudokia

    Siamang,

    The reason why I am on this blog is that I was at a book store and came across a copy of ‘I sold my soul on ebay.’ At first I was going to buy the book because the author seemed to want to promote good relations with Christians. I wanted to see if this was possible. I ended up not buying the book but I took note of the name of the author because I found out he had a blog. I didn’t know the name of the blog. So I did a search by using his name and found the Friendly Atheist and the rest as they say is history. I read Mriana’s post and decided to answer this person. It was the deist part of Mriana’s comments that I found I couldn’t resist responding to.

    As far as starting a dialog. This is what I thought I was doing.

  • Steelman

    Eudokia said: “The Declaration of Independence states that we are “…all created equal and we are endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights…” It goes on and states that among these rights, (which the Creator gave) are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness…”

    Yes, the founders expressed their feelings that “all men are created equal.” Of course that didn’t include black men from Africa, and certainly not women of any color, just white men be they commoners or kings. Their point was that men should decide who governs them, and in what way, and that royalty should not rule them through a claim to divine right.

    As a modern inheritor of the founders’ dream of creating a free society, I can appreciate and uphold their idea of democratic rule (even if I don’t hold to their various religious convictions), while completely opposing their Orwellian ideas of some people being “more equal than others.” The part about “unalienable rights” is great, applying them only to white males is something we now reject.

    On the one hand, it feels wonderfully patriotic to be part of the legacy of this experiment in building a truly free society. We want to uphold the principals on which it was founded. On the other hand, we can’t live in the stagnant past. So, U.S. citizens discuss and interpret, and occasionally modify, our founding document, the U.S. Constitution. We keep the conversation of liberty alive.

    Unfortunately, people also discuss and interpret, and then occasionally modify (in their minds and in print) the character of our founders, as if this diverse group was of a single mind about all matters. Some groups and individuals have a tendency to remake these historical figures in their own image in order to stay true to the notion of original intentions, and to claim them as their own (and nobody else’s!).

    The U.S. was founded by Christians, deists, freethinkers, progressives, conservatives, slave owners, and bigots. We have to accept who they were, warts and all, and that they governed a relatively mono-cultured agrarian society which no longer exists. What they intended for society in their time is an important part of our history, what they might have intended for ours is largely irrelevant; they don’t live in our world, and couldn’t have anticipated its complexities. That’s why they allowed for the U.S. Constitution to be interpreted by the judiciary and amended by the legislature. It’s our intentions that matter now; we can’t look to a bunch of dead guys to be responsible for our morals or our future.

  • Darryl

    Steelman has it exactly right IMO.
    I think it is valuable for us to keep one eye on the founders, since there is an anchor there that, quite possibly, we will always need; but, we have to keep the other trained on the present and anticipate the future as best we can. There are perspectives in the documents the founders gave us that we no longer hold as a nation–we have advanced. Isn’t that what we should have expected? Surely our founders expected this, and, as Steelman pointed out, they made provision for it in our Constitution. Is there any jurist in our country worthy of the title that does not interpret “men” to represent “people” in the famous assertion “. . . all men are created equal, and endowed . . . ?” So-called ‘strict constructionists’ are a fiction; one that comforts them in a modern world, but a fiction nonetheless. If you believe in natural rights, or God-given rights, I can see where you might want to hold on to certain bits of the language of our founding documents and try to turn it to your favor, but you have no right to speak for me or anyone else of different opinion. So long as government derives its legitimacy from the consent of the governed, what counts are the views of all Americans, not just the theistic ones.

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  • Eudokia

    Yes, the founders expressed their feelings that “all men are created equal.” Of course that didn’t include black men from Africa

    Believe it or not, many of the founders, at the time of the writing of the Constitution, were against slavery. There’s a little known detail that secular historians fail to mention, Thomas Jefferson actually wanted to end slavery. Maybe the fact that he had a black mistress played a deciding role in his convictions or maybe he actually believed that ‘…all men are created equal…’ since he did pen the phrase. There is a possibility that both were influencing factors. Long before this country was a nation, plantation owners were using slaves as laborers. I have to admit this issue confounds me. Indians enslaved other Indians. They killed other Indians and took their lands. Why aren’t people shocked and outraged about it? Is it because the aggressor and the aggressee are both Indians? Slavery still exists today in many countries. Do you hear anyone focusing intently on the problem? I didn’t think so. So why does America get single out? I actually know the answer to this question.

    and certainly not women of any color, just white men be they commoners or kings.

    As far as women’s rights and suffrage, are concerned, in the past there have been many societies where women were unfairly treated solely because of their gender. In Biblical times, a woman in Jewish society was not allowed to testify in court on the basis that she was a woman, and still today, in the middle east, women experience an extreme form of inequality. I think American women are very fortunate because unlike allot of the women of the middle east, the founders put in writing a recourse. All I can say is thank goodness women had the US constitution to rely on. Without it where would they have been? Probably wearing a buhrka. And if the founders had not included the very 1st amendment, there may not have been a 21st amendment.

  • Steelman

    Eudokia said: “Believe it or not, many of the founders, at the time of the writing of the Constitution, were against slavery. There’s a little known detail that secular historians fail to mention, Thomas Jefferson actually wanted to end slavery.”

    Yes, the founders represented a whole range of convictions about the issues of society. I agree that people tend to emphasize the parts for the historical record, positive or negative, that best suits the point they’re trying to make. I’m in favor of airing all the laundry, dirty or otherwise. Speaking of Jefferson and emphasis, I don’t think he’s much of a favorite among conservative Christians; his New Testament only Jefferson Bible redacted the miracles, including the resurrection, basically denying the divinity of Jesus while emphasizing his moral teachings.

    Eudokia said: “Indians enslaved other Indians. They killed other Indians and took their lands. Why aren’t people shocked and outraged about it? Is it because the aggressor and the aggressee are both Indians?”

    Unless you’re talking about Mesoamerican empires, this sort of thing happened on a much smaller scale between tribes, with technologically matched combatants, rather than the near genocide committed by Europeans. Of course, pathogens brought from Europe, such as small pox, also helped decimate the native populations. Part of the modern outrage with the white’s oppression and destruction of native Americans has to do with the hypocrisy involved (the same as in the treatment of black Africans): A group that proclaims all men are created equal, then oppresses certain groups of men because they are judged to be inferior by that same group, seems just a bit hypocritical.

    Eudokia said: “As far as women’s rights and suffrage, are concerned, in the past there have been many societies where women were unfairly treated solely because of their gender.”

    Probably most any society that didn’t worship a goddess as their main deity. :)

    Eudokia said: “I think American women are very fortunate because unlike allot of the women of the middle east, the founders put in writing a recourse. All I can say is thank goodness women had the US constitution to rely on. Without it where would they have been?”

    The same place they were during the 133 years they were waiting around for the 19th amendment to finally pass, and give them the vote? ;)

  • Steelman

    Ugh..I closed one tag then left another open. The last paragraph above is my response to Eudokia.

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