I wrote a couple days ago about an article I read in a local paper. It was by a Baptist minister and it proclaimed that we live in a Christian nation. I used the comments that readers left and crafted a draft rebuttal piece.
If you have any suggestions as to how to make it better, please leave a comment. If I made any mistakes, let me know. Your help is appreciated!
I’d like to send it in Monday night or Tuesday morning, for what it’s worth.
Rev, Vernon C. Lyons is blissfully unaware of our nation’s history when he says we live in a Christian nation.
His definition of a Christian is someone who “definitely and personally receives the Lord Jesus Christ as our savior.” Yet, that very definition would not apply to the examples he provides. Founding Fathers Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and John Adams were all Deists. They believed in a God who created the world, but certainly not in the divinity of Christ or in a God who answers your prayers. Lyons writes that our country was “not founded by Hindus, Buddhists, Jews, Muslims, or Atheists.” But unlike what Lyons would like to have you believe, it was not founded by a group of Christians, either. Not by his definition.
Certainly some of the Founding Fathers were Christian. Still, many original documents –including our own Constitution – were purposely written without references to God and Christianity. That’s a striking omission if our country was, indeed, founded as a Christian nation. To go one step further, the 1797 Treaty of Tripoli (Adams was president at the time) said “…the Government of the United States is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion…” It was passed unanimously by the Senate.
Lyons also wrote that non-Christians do not have fewer rights than Christians. That’s untrue. In fact several state constitutions still contain archaic provisions that atheists cannot run for public office. Thanks in large part to pastors who spread dishonest remarks about non-religious people, there is also unwritten discrimination in the country in the sense that most people would not even vote for an otherwise qualified candidate if the person was an atheist.
Also, look at the following statement: “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.” In fact, it’s the exact opposite. The Constitution explicit says the government’s power comes, not from God, but from the governed. Lyons may want to read that document sometime instead of the Christian Revisionist version of it.
As for comments that our country must be Christian due to the fact that federal offices have Sundays off, we celebrate Christmas, and we swear oaths on the Bible, Lyons is mistaking true religion for what is actually mere tradition.
Reverend Lyons ends his piece by citing a Supreme Court ruling (Church of the Holy Trinity v. United States) that supposedly said we live in a Christian nation. He does not tell you that this ruling had absolutely nothing to do with our nation’s history (rather, it dealt with the issue of whether or not church employees were manual laborers). He also does not tell you that Justice David Brewer (who wrote that opinion) disavowed the very interpretation of his writing that Rev. Lyons is using.
The excerpt Lyons provides does not imply that our nation is Christian. Instead, it merely states that most of the population is Christian, a proposition that was (and still is) undoubtedly true. Furthermore, the excerpt was not a part of the formal ruling, and thus, was not a precedent for the future.
Let’s say for a moment, though, that Lyons is correct.
He stated that “the Bible holds a unique place in [our nation’s] founding and in its history.”
Well, so does slavery.
Even if it has a role in our history, that doesn’t make it right. We can change, and in many cases, we must change. If we ever were a “Christian nation” (an incorrect statement in the first place), we no longer are. And we are better off as a result.
Lyons is the same man who declared a few years ago: “Muslim terrorists kill people. Moderate Muslims do not kill people. Moderate Muslims supply the cash to the militant Muslims.”
I wonder if the people in his congregation ever call him out on his mistakes. Does it take an atheist to point out his errors or does the title Reverend imply that he is incapable or making a mistake?
There were many commenters on my website, www.friendlyatheist.com, both religious and non-religious, who offered up the information I’ve presented. We’re all tired of people like Lyons revising history to sound more favorable toward his personal beliefs.
An apology is in order.