A few weeks ago, I noted my frustration with a local reverend who wrote an error-laden article about how our country is a “Christian nation.”
I asked for your help in writing a rebuttal and this was the draft I came up with thanks to your input.
It was finally published as a letter-to-the-editor in today’s paper.
Here’s what it said:
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. In fact, his definition would also rule out the Anglicans and Roman Catholics who founded our country.
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.
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.
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 it’s okay to make bigoted, ignorant statements (in the name of religion of course)?
At least one Christian agrees with me: Pastor Gregory Boyd is the author of The Myth of a Christian Nation and stresses that our country is not and never has been a “Christian nation.”
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.
The Reverend owes patriotic Americans an apology.
Thanks for your help, everyone.
[tags]atheist, atheism, Christian nation, Vernon Lyons, pastor, Jesus, Christ, Founding Fathers, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Deist, Hindu, Buddhist, Jew, Muslim, Anglican, Roman Catholic, Treaty of Tripoli, Christmas, Church of the Holy Trinity v. United States, David Brewer, Gregory Boyd, The Myth of a Christian Nation[/tags]