A Different Argument for a Christian America

One thing that frustrates me about the argument that America is a Christian nation is how badly the argument gets made. You could actually make a much better case than people like David Barton, Glenn Beck and the rest actually make.

You could start out by looking at the demographics and point out that American’s were overwhelmingly Protestant Christian. Granted, most of these were not church-goers, but they still considered themselves Protestants.

You could look at the State constitutions. Half of the states had established churches, and most of the states had some provision to limit the rights of non-Christians and Catholics. Perhaps that’s part of the problem; the reality doesn’t fit the “Judeo-Christian tradition” understanding that became popular in the 20th century.

You could look at the court cases, such as the blasphemy trials in New York, which made explicit that Christianity was the law of the land. But there again, blasphemy trials are not what we want to remember about our founding.

Instead, Christian Nation types spend most of their time quoting from our small pantheon of Founding Fathers. Barton wastes a great deal of time on Thomas Jefferson, the “Virginia Voltaire,” someone who was regarded as an infidel by large numbers of Americans. Barton tries to rehabilitate Jefferson’s Christian image, but Jefferson was in France when the Constitution was being drafted, making his faith a side issue.

My guess is that Barton and the rest are still stuck in America’s civic cult, AKA American exceptionalism. Since the founding, there has been the idea that God has a special plan for America, we are the New Jerusalem, the “City on a Hill,” and so on.

This is a top-down affair, with God or God’s providence moving history forward and setting leaders in place who guide the people to the promised land. It’s not a bottom-up piecemeal process, with a largely Protestant population voting in mostly Christian representatives who put in place loosely Christian constitutions in some – but not all – of the states.

The reality is just too untidy for Divine providence to be at work. The Christian nation crowd needs heroic Christian figures to inspire the masses like the Patriarchs of old. Instead they get squabbling old men who were theologically unreliable. They want a good story with nice clean lines and an unarguable moral ending. Instead they get the mess that we call reality.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    Barton’s latest and strangest: abortion is outlawed by the seventh amendment

    • http://www.virtue-quest.com/ Robert King

      I suppose, if he considers abortion to be a state-run “execution”, then it might make some sense.

      However, the simple matter is that abortion either is (as pro-life advocates claim) murder, because it is the deliberate taking of a human life; or it is (as pro-choice advocates claim) a medical procedure on the mother, because the zygote->embryo->fetus is considered a part of the woman’s body.

      The debate, it seems to me, hangs entirely on this question: whether the zygote->embryo->fetus is a human being. If so, the conclusion of “murder” follows logically, and one could argue that the laws permitting abortion are illegal. If not, if it is simply a part of the woman’s body, then there is no way to construe it as murder and the regulation of abortion is a matter that should be left more to doctors than to politicians.

      • http://themikewrites.blogspot.com JohnMWhite

        The conclusion that abortion is murder does not follow automatically from the premise that a zygote, embryo or foetus is a human being. There are many circumstances where killing a human being is not murder, and some where it is not even illegal. Abortion could still be argued as medically necessary or a method of self-defence. Even if we somehow get over the philosophical chasm that is the argument of whether or not a zygote is a human being, we still have to answer to whether or not it is worth wrecking the lives of feeling, thinking women to preserve a cluster of cells that are philosophically considered human beings but until quite late in gestation have no way to think or feel or experience.

      • Elemenope

        Nah, it still doesn’t make sense. The seventh amendment guarantees a jury trial in civil cases. I can’t figure out how that could possibly figure into an abortion discussion.

    • drax

      Doesn’t the Declaration of Independence specifically mention being born with rights? It doesn’t say conceived or created or instilled. It specifically says BORN.

      • Theory_of_I

        Excellent point!

        • drax

          It appears that I screwed that up. Here’s the text of the part I was thinking of.

          “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

          It is created, not born. Now I’ll have to rethink my whole worldview!

          • Norm

            Darn good point,now when was it exactly that we were first created ??? And all those older zygote>embryo>fetus>baby>child>teen>adults said in one loud voice

            • drax

              I was mostly kidding about rethinking my worldview. I only meant that the language is more vague than I thought.

              I do find it interesting that Christians get themselves all worked up over abortion when the bible doesn’t mention it, except for the intstructions on how to get one if your wife has become pregnant by another man.

            • UrsaMinor

              You know, Norm, you’ve had lots of opportunities to present evidence or make an argument that supports your assertion, and not once – not once!- have you offered anything remotely resembling either one.

              Repeating an assertion over and over does not make it true. Put up or shut up. Start at the beginning and tell us why you think a fertilized ovum is morally equivalent to an adult human being, and why it should be accorded all the rights and privileges thereof.

            • Norm

              >Ursaminor,Why is a fertilized ovum equal to an adult human being?Why isnt a baby,a child,a teenager or an elderly person equal to an adult human being,and why should they not be accorded all rights and privileges ???Or should they??? What is so absolute about being an adult???We can earn money,have power and influence,yes that must be it.Oh unless of course you just clean public toilets,what a waste of oxygen you are,as Kodie inferred,or a poor African,or worse still,apoor African woman or a handicapped person.Are they morally equivalent to you and me,should they have the same rights,they clearly arnt worth as much as us proportianally wealthy westerners.How do you value people Ursa??? what makes you feel your worth anything to society???My grandaughter was born last week,why is she of more value now than a week,or month ,or nine months earlier??? shes exactly the same person.She doesnt look the same as she did 6 months ago and she wont look the same in another 6 months.She will do nothing to benefit society for what,20 years, maybe never if she has a handicap. So how do you value people an at what point can we rid the world of usless old people who clearly no longer meet your criteria to be “worthy”. Answer these questions,put up or shut up yourself.

            • UrsaMinor

              I knew you wouldn’t answer the question, but thanks for playing. :)

            • Kodie

              Norm, please don’t attach my name to what you think I “inferred”, and learn the difference between ‘infer’ and ‘imply’. These are not simple errors that we should just overlook, but make it really difficult and futile to have any communication with you. You’re dumb as a stump.

              People who clean toilets are not a waste of oxygen, where did you even get such a stupid idea that that’s what I meant? See what I mean? If this is how you absorb information that you read and try to rearrange it in your own mind to regurgitate, you have proven you’re not up for this. You have exposed your ignorance, your stupidity, all your limitations on this subject and probably many others. It is no wonder that you believe in invisible fairy tales, because you’re not sharp enough to sort things out.

            • UrsaMinor

              But OK, I’ve got a few minutes, so let’s dissect this little diatribe of yours, Norm.

              Why isnt a baby,a child,a teenager or an elderly person equal to an adult human being,and why should they not be accorded all rights and privileges ???Or should they??? What is so absolute about being an adult???

              What does this have to do with my original question? I’ve never said anywhere that babies, children, teenagers and the elderly are not morally equivalent to adults in their prime, or that there is anything “absolute” about being an adult. You’re pretending that I have categorized these sorts of people as morally different so that you can express righteous indignation at the thought and deflect the attention away from the original question. I never meant to exclude all other categories of human being. I can rephrase it more inclusively if you like:

              Tell us why you think a fertilized ovum is morally equivalent to a baby, a child, a teenager, an adult human being, an elderly person, a handicapped or a poor black African woman, and why it should be accorded all the rights and privileges thereof.

              Coming up next: Norm attempts to deflect the question yet again instead of answering it. Rather than being straightforward and engaging honestly, he will accuse me of not answering his questions raising separate issues or attacking points that I never made. And he will continue to hang on to my original “adult human being” phrasing like a pit bull and attack it as having some dark, sinister significance about my moral stance, rather than admitting that it was simply an economical phrasing for the question- all despite the fact that I have just clarified myself above.

            • Norm

              As i thought,you really are just plain thick or more likely just a keyboard warrior,even if you did actually asked a question,which you didnt,no answer would have been suitable other than your own narrow minded opinion.Oh i am looking forward to something worthwhile coming from you other than sarcasm and cynicism,but i wont hold my breath

            • UrsaMinor

              Look, Norm, you can take the honest approach and engage in a real discussion, or you can just keep dodging.

              What is the moral equivalency between a fertilized ovum and you?

            • Norm

              What i have noticed as a common trait if you like amongst some atheists is they lose their faith as a teenager and thats where their reasoning stops as well,Kodie is a good example.My guess is about 15,quite sharp sometimes,growing up but still a child.Ursa not so,but can only can reason on this issue in a very limited way.Your both no doubt much more academically minded than i am,am i threatened? hardly.My own father in law is a professor [demography]with the UN,is agnostic Jew and a total dick,so i am quite familiar with the shallow superior interlect thing going on here.Oh Ursa,because the blatantly obvious being missed seems to be a common trait with him i will spell out the answer to your deep question,there is no difference between a fertilized ovum>fetus>child or adult in value.The only difference is time.

            • Custador

              Obvious troll is obvious, tbh.

            • UrsaMinor

              Oh Ursa,because the blatantly obvious being missed seems to be a common trait with him i will spell out the answer to your deep question,there is no difference between a fertilized ovum>fetus>child or adult in value.The only difference is time.

              Alright, that’s a step forward. You haven’t answered the question “What is the moral equivalency?” , but you have made a positive statement that you believe there is a moral equivalency: “A fertilized ovum is equivalent to an adult in moral value. ”

              Now, you don’t explicitly state this, and I’m giving you the chance to correct me here if I’m wrong, but you only assign such moral value to fertilized human ova, correct? E.g., you do not believe that fertilized cow or sea urchin ova have the same moral value as a fertilized human ovum? And furthermore, you do not believe that adult cows and sea urchins are morally equivalent to adult human beings? I want to hear you position on these points before we proceed.

              And for the record, I myself do not believe that sea urchins and cows, at any stage of development, are morally equivalent to humans.

            • Norm

              Ok,seeing as your tone seems genuine i will take the time. Although to me it seemed obvious that the moral equivalentcy is the only thing we are talking about.All people are morally equal,end of story.Now if you were to bring in the social,financial,sexual,racial,idealogical, educational ect aspects of an individuals value,a cow might very well be the better choice. Ethnic cleansing, abortion,slavery,euthanasia ect are good examples of what is the logical conclusion when all people are not valued as individuals,irrespective of their stage or position in life.

            • UrsaMinor

              I’m sorry, Norm, but you didn’t actually state in your last post whether or not you consider animals and people to be morally equivalent. I suspect that you don’t, but I don’t want to assume anything.

            • Norm

              Animals deserve respect,but no

            • UrsaMinor

              Agreed. There are moral standards of acceptable treatment even for an animal. It’s okay to kill and eat a cow if you slaughter it quickly and humanely, but you can’t take a hammer to it and slowly pound it to bits the way you can do with a rock. Rocks are not moral agents and are incapable of suffering, and so they can be treated with impunity. Cows are not moral agents either, but they are capable of suffering, so it is immoral to cause unnecessary suffering to them. Cows deserve some moral consideration because of their capacity to suffer, but not the same degree of moral consideration that a human does. Cows may be slaughtered humanely to serve human needs, but humans cannot. Rocks may be treated any way you like.

              Do you agree or disagree with this?

            • Norm

              Agreed

            • UrsaMinor

              So we do agree on the basics of moral classification. It is not black-and-white. There are at least three degrees of it, and moral considerations are different for humans, nonhuman animals, and inanimate objects.

              The difference in the way that you can treat a human and an animal therefore relies on some property that humans have, but animals lack. Humans and animals share a capacity for suffering, so the capacity for suffering is not the property in question.

              I suggest that the property that separates humans from nonhuman animals is moral agency- the capacity to understand the moral implications of one’s actions and the actions of others. Without this capacity to understand, a being cannot rightly held accountable for its actions. Although its actions may help or harm others, it is in fact incapable of an intentional act of good or evil, because it lacks the capacity to understand good or evil. Rocks, obviously, lack the capacity to understand anything, and cannot be moral agents. Cows have the capacity to understand some things, but not matters of morality, and so cannot be moral agents. If a human intentionally kills another human, that is an evil act. If a cow kills a human, that is unfortunate and regrettable, but it is not an act of evil on the part of the cow. Furthermore, if a human intentionally kills a cow humanely, that is not an evil act because the cow is not a moral agent and has not been caused to suffer unnecessarily. If a human intentionally kills a cow slowly and painfully, that is an evil act because unnecessary suffering has been inflicted on a being with the capacity to suffer.

              So what I’m getting at here is that there are, at a minimum, two components to what we might call (for lack of a better term) the “Scale of Moral Value”- moral agency, and the capacity to suffer. We know that cows possess one, humans possess both, and rocks possess neither. We know of no class of being which possesses moral agency, but not the capacity to suffer, so I’ll note that theoretical possibility and leave that combination aside as irrelevant to the present discussion.

              Moral agency is what separates humans from animals and inanimate objects and puts humans at the top of the Scale of Moral Value.

              Do you agree or disagree with this?

            • Norm

              >Ursa,what you say is true unless your a Hindu,what we disagree on as i see it is that you don’t consider someone to be considered to be a human being until they reach a certain stage of development.To me it is irreverent how developed someone is to make them viable or of value, this was my point ealier,black people used to be considered as less than human which is obviously ridiculous,and its the same with a fetus today,it can not be anything else but totally human. By the way,it takes a bit of effort to get to this place on this site,if your on facebook and its easier for you,you can look me up under Norm Donnan and send a message if you like.Im in Australia and i assume your in America so there is a 15hour time delay,up to you.

            • Sunny Day

              Figured he’d dodge the question and chant human, human, human as if its some kind of magic spell that gets him out of reasoning through anything.

            • Kodie

              So the truth depends on what you believe. A cow is sacred to a hindu, but if you’re not a hindu, it’s ok to eat beef.

            • UrsaMinor

              Ah, you understand that fertilized ova fail both tests; they are neither moral agents nor capable of suffering because they have no nervous systems with which to think or feel. You are therefore arguing that there is a third factor in the equation, that moral agency and the capacity to suffer are not the only things that determine the moral worth of a being. You are arguing that the missing third factor that must be considered is species identity, and that an entity has the highest moral worth regardless of the other two factors so long as its species identity is human.

              Human species identity devolves to the possession of a set of human chromosomes. It can’t be anything else, because the only thing that a freshly fertilized ovum has in common with you or me that marks us all as human is that we all possess DNA coding the instructions on how to build a complete human being. The fertilized ovum has only one copy, but that is enough to qualify it for full moral consideration.

              Do you agree that possession of at least one complete set of human chromosomes is what it takes to define a fertilized ovum as human, and therefore of the highest moral worth from the moment of conception?

              ( BTW, if you’re having trouble getting to this thread, you can always bookmark it. But I’m ready to abandon this unnavigable rat’s nest of old comments myself. Give the word and I will start a thread on the UF forums, which are easier to navigate and are more appropriate for a discussion of this depth. I can post a summary of the discussion to date and we can continue over there if you’d like).

            • Norm

              >Ursa chromosomes might give you a scientific definition of what makes one creature different from another and there may be a third factor or a hundred factors,but the bottom line is,[and i consciously dont mention a spirit and soul] is this creation will never be anything other than a person.Yes you can abort them before they develop to whatever you think is past disposable for a multitude of good reasons, but no matter the name given at any stage of development ,in a few weeks they will be something else but never less than a individual person.Im happy to continue our conversation in an easier forum if you think its worthwhile or we can disagree or agree on some issue in the near future i would summise.Either way i appreciate the time youve taken .

            • UrsaMinor

              I have started a topic on the forums called “Personhood, Morality and Abortion” to continue this discussion. I won’t be coming back to this thread again, so please go to the forum for any future comments if you want me to see them.

              http://www.patheos.com/forums/unreasonablefaith/topic.php?id=3693

            • UrsaMinor

              D’oh! Make that “Personhood, Moral Worth and Abortion”. Or just click the link.

          • Kodie

            We hold these truths to be self-evident that it goes without saying, black people don’t count. All men are created by two people fucking, but he’s not a man until he earns his own keep. Women don’t count and are transferred from their father’s home as soon as they are marriageable and then work for their keep in another man’s home.

            • Norm

              WTF,Kodie you tell me im “thick as a stump”,ha reading this waffel i feel quite un threatened by your amazing intellect.

            • Kodie

              Being you’re too stupid to recognize obvious satire is why I think you’re dumb as a stump.

            • UrsaMinor

              I think he’s just combative, and too insecure to actually defend his position. Latching on to every perceived insult and worrying that to death is a standard way of avoiding discussing the real issue, which is and always has been what the moral status of a fertilized ovum is.

            • Kodie

              All indications point to “too stupid to know how stupid he sounds”. Common strategies of typical Christians doesn’t even seem to matter here, he just sounds like he learned everything he knows about arguing by the age of 10 and closed the book. The metaphorical book.

            • Sunny Day

              Dunning Kruger and projection of Daddy Issues.

  • Kodie

    Doesn’t matter.

  • Kodie

    Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness… not so much. Is renting out your life to scrub toilets, happiness or liberty?

    • Norm

      Im glad when i use public toilets that someone cleans them,i feel much happier and more at liberty than if they are dirty.Ive cleaned plenty of toilets at times in my life which i did to earn money,not to find happiness

      • Brian P.

        Thank you.

      • http://blog.luigiscorner.com/ Azel

        Couldn’t you use the forum for your random non-sequiturs ?

        • http://blog.luigiscorner.com/ Azel

          Err…that was adressed to Norm (specifically regarding this comment but the forum’s software decided to screw with the threading I guess…

          • Kodie

            Think he was responding to my comment.

            • Kodie

              Yeah, threading got messed up like the old days.

    • Lorele

      That’s not renting out your life. That is taking a crap job for crap pay to survive in a capitalist world. We all do what we have to do to survive, even if it means scrubbing toilets.

      • Kodie

        I don’t consider it surviving to work and sleep and work and sleep. I don’t consider that a long-term solution of being alive when you never get to be alive; to stay alive just to be staying alive and never actually get to be alive is not life. I do not have a good enough reason to look forward to it. “Later”? Like heaven, later doesn’t exist. The work itself is essential to have done and someone has to do it. The world would notice if nobody cleaned any of the toilets but they take for granted they will be cleaned by someone else, at the expense of life. Of waking up for the day to make money to eat so you can be not dead the next day when it’s time to clean the toilets again, but it can’t go on forever. Then someone else will clean the toilets. What is life? Just waking up? Trading your time to eat so you can keep trading your time to continue eating? When do you get to be alive in that transaction?

  • Rich Wilson

    I saw a recent Baron interview defending his “Jefferson Lies” book, and it struck me. He’s doing the same thing YECs do. He’s starting with a premise: Jefferson is all good (which means Christian, didn’t have a baby with Henning, etc) and looking for facts to make the case. Just as a YEC starts with the ‘truth’ of the bible, and then attempts to make the evidence fit that ‘truth’.

    The evidence leads where it may (Jefferson wasn’t perfect, the earth is > 10K years old) just isn’t the way they operate.

    • Norm

      Well hello Rich, we often crossed paths at friendly atheist until i was blocked for some reason.First time ive seen a reply from you here.I always thought your reasoning and manner was very good.I hope you and your family are all well.


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