Will McAvoy on the Myth of a Christian Nation

I stopped watching The Newsroom about halfway into the season… so I missed this gem on how we’re not a “Christian nation”:

Will McAvoy: During Tea Party rallys and in campaign speeches, we’ve been told that America was founded as a Christian nation and if the founding fathers were here today, they’d tell us so. Here’s John Adams in the Treaty of Tripoli: “As the government of the United States is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion.” And here’s Thomas Jefferson: “… that our civil rights have no dependence on our religious opinions.” And here’s the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.”

What’s more frightening than the perversion of our great history is that sensible, smart, strong Republicans, the very men and women who should be standing up to radical fundamentalism, are so frightened of losing primary battles to religious zealots that they’ve thrown in the towel on sanity. So we get this:

[Video of John McCain: Yes, that the Constitution established the United States as a Christian nation.]

It’s ironic because the biggest enemy of the phony Republican isn’t Nancy Pelosi or Harry Reid or Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama. It’s this man. [Image of Jesus Christ]. He said ‘Heal the sick. Feed the hungry. Care for the weakest among us. And always pray in private.’

(Thanks to Todd for the link!)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • Luke Allport-Cohoon

    man you shouldn’t have stopped!  I don’t always agree with the politics but it’s always entertaining.

  • Collin

    I much preferred this clip about RINOs: 

  • Carrie

    The show flagged a bit a few episodes in but got immensely better by the last three episodes, you might want to give it another shot.

  • Science Bulldog

    Sums it up quite nicely.

  • Brian

    Really, the Treaty of Tripoli thing is understated. John Adams didn’t WRITE it, he SIGNED it as President. It was written by, and approved UNANIMOUSLY by, Congress.

  • http://www.facebook.com/AnonymousBoy Larry Meredith

    been watching every episode but it’s pretty strange. They always have a special inside source for every big news story, and all the comedy is predictable generic sitcom style. It makes it difficult to take the more serious subject matter seriously.

  • Donalbain

    Rage time!
    I hate The Newsroom with the intensity of a thousand suns. It is preachy in the manner of some of the more earnest moments of the West Wing, but without any of the lightness of touch that made that show so much fun. The interpersonal relationships are about as subtly written as a Jack Chick tract. In the West Wing, what became the central romantic relationship, that of Josh and Donna was allowed to develop over the years, but in the Newsroom we are shouted at repeatedly that person X should be with person Y.
    Its also a horribly sexist show, where none of the women are in any way capable adult human beings and are always having to be rescued by the men.
    And it is so far up it’s own arse, that somehow it is starting to come back up out of its mouth. Seriously? The one reason that America has gone to shit is because of the lack of newsmen reading from an autocue at set times of day? At least in the West Wing, the characters had real, important jobs that would actually affect the world.

  • helenmarplehorvat
  • Stan

    Sure, THE NEWSROOM is polemical and wears its (read: Aaron Sorkin’s) politics on its sleeve, but it’s also wonderfully entertaining.  Also, where else in mainstream broadcast entertainment would anyone even dare to make the comments quoted above?

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/5AU7DJ4GGBKTNOMWD3HBZVBGZ4 Randall

    The Treaty of Tripoli is dead, the other party no longer exists.

    Fuck the Treaty of Tripoli; it was entered into under duress, and John Adams did not speak for All Americans.

  • MG

    Unfortunately, the “phony Republicans” run the Republican Party – and most of the conservative media seems to go along with this.  You can say that these Republicans are No True Conservatives, but it is what the party has overwhelmingly become.

  • Guest

    Once the argument begins about whether or not we are a Christian or a secular nation, I know it’s time to go watch TV.  It’s like saying, “Of course the Founder defined themselves by the same terms and divisions that we hip, sophisticated post-moderns do…and they’d be on my side!”   Naturally they had no intention of setting up a ‘Christian’ nation.  Every time I hear someone use that phrase it makes me want to scream.  

    But no less frustrating are those who attempt to redefine their age by our modern terms and understandings of secularism or a secular nation as currently defined.  Fact is, if any of the Founders were brought up to today’s debate, they would scratch their heads and say, “Huh?”  For they were products of their time, not ours.   

    Hence Adams, who made the oft quoted statement above, also made sure everyone understood that our Constitution was made for a moral *and religious* people.  Hence Deist Franklin calling for a day of prayer, while lifting references straight out of the Christian Bible.  Like it or not, the people living in the late 1700s didn’t define their divisions as we do today.  Once we begin- one way or another- to argue as if they did, then the discussion is over and we’ve more or less demonstrated that we either have no grasp of the history, or we just don’t care. 

  • TheBlackCat

    1.  It was passed unanimously by the senate.  If they don’t speak for the Americans of the time then who does?

    2. The part about Christianity was not passed under duress, it didn’t even appear in the version signed by the barbary states

    3. It was published throughout the country in newspapers.  There is no record of anyone disagreeing with the passage.

    4. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that treaties are signed with people, not with countries, so as long there are still people living there the parts of the treaty that are still relevant (such as the passage in question) are still in effect.

  • Verimius

    Whatever may have been the personal beliefs of the Founders, they were gentlemen of the Enlightenment.

    The United States was founded on Enlightenment values, chief amongst which is the use of reason to understand the world around us and the human condition.

  • RobMcCune

     The treaty is not the only reason The United States has a secular government.

  • Craig Brunetti

    I believe they are real conservatives. They are conserving their idea that the United States equals Christianity.

    Now, of course they’re wrong, but, that’s not the point. They believe something, so they fight to maintain that something, even if the truth behind it is vapor.

  • Coyotenose

     And IIRC, it was published in all major newspapers, and elicited not a lick of complaint from the citizenry.

  • http://www.facebook.com/abb3w Arthur Byrne

     Technically, only the Senate; and several members were absent for that vote.

    Contrariwise, a few of those Senators present and voting had also been delegates to the Constitutional Convention.

  • http://www.youtube.com/user/GodVlogger GodVlogger (on YouTube)

     Yes, and the Treaty of Tripoli was printed in the major newspapers of the day, and not a single editorial or letter to the editor voiced any offense at being explicitly told that this is NOT a christian nation.

    But nowadays the modern christian right wants to warp history and pretend that everyone back in those days actually believed our nation was the exact opposite of what was explicitly indicated by the President, the congress (unanimously), and the press.