I just came across this article: “Christianity under attack: US must do more to promote religious freedom.” It was written by Arizona Senator John McCain and Tony Perkins (president of the Family Research Council) and published/promoted by (surprise!) FoxNews.com.
As I was reading along, I got to thinking about the core meaning of “religious freedom” and turned to Google to do a little research. One of the things I found interesting was that many websites used the terminology “freedom of religion” rather than religious freedom. I wondered … is there a difference? I tend to think there is. To the point that many believe “religious freedom” actually means “Christian Religious Freedom.”
Then I came across this article: “American’s True History of Religious Tolerance: The idea that the United States has always been a bastion of religious freedom is reassuring — and utterly at odds with the historical record.” Although it was written in 2010, the information is timeless … and should be read and re-read by those who believe their “religious freedom” is being attacked.
I particularly resonated with this from the article:
Madison wanted Jefferson’s view to become the law of the land when he went to the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in 1787. And as framed in Philadelphia that year, the U.S. Constitution clearly stated in Article VI that federal elective and appointed officials “shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution, but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.”
This passage—along with the facts that the Constitution does not mention God or a deity (except for a pro forma “year of our Lord” date) and that its very first amendment forbids Congress from making laws that would infringe of the free exercise of religion—attests to the founders’ resolve that America be a secular republic. (emphasis mine)
In another part of the article, it quotes George Washington:
In closing, he [George Washington] wrote specifically to the Jews a phrase that applies to Muslims as well: “May the children of the Stock of Abraham, who dwell in this land, continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other inhabitants, while every one shall sit in safety under his own vine and figtree, and there shall be none to make him afraid.”
There are a couple of things that came to my mind as I read these two sections. If no religious test shall be required, why the continued outcry from certain segments of the political society related to Obama’s Muslim background? Based on this section of the Constitution, it would seem a Muslim, a Hindu, a Taoist, etc. could hold “any Office or public Trust under the United States.” Or am I missing something?
I also wondered where the good will that Washington put forth is today? From everything I’ve seen and read, anyone outside of the Christian faith is suspect and more often than not is treated with disrespect and contempt.
Another portion that stood out to me:
Late in his life, James Madison wrote a letter summarizing his views: “And I have no doubt that every new example, will succeed, as every past one has done, in shewing that religion & Govt. will both exist in greater purity, the less they are mixed together.” (emphasis mine)
Can I hear an “Amen!”?
Tidbits from the article:
With politicians, social leaders and even some clergy invoking a book they seem to have never read and whose phrases they don’t understand, America is being besieged by Biblical illiteracy.
No television preacher has ever read the Bible. Neither has any evangelical politician. Neither has the pope. Neither have I. And neither have you. At best, we’ve all read a bad translation—a translation of translations of translations of hand-copied copies of copies of copies of copies, and on and on, hundreds of times.
… religious convictions determined translation choices.
… with a little translational trickery, a fundamental tenet of Christianity—that Jesus is God—was reinforced in the Bible, even in places where it directly contradicts the rest of the verse.
So where does the clear declaration of God and Jesus as part of a triumvirate appear in the Greek manuscripts? Nowhere.
Constantine was a brutal sociopath who murdered his eldest son, decapitated his brother-in-law and killed his wife by boiling her alive, and that was after he proclaimed that he had converted from worshipping the sun god to being a Christian. Yet he also changed the course of Christian history, ultimately influencing which books made it into the New Testament.
And while the Bible mentioned nothing about the day of Jesus’s birth, the birth of the sun god was celebrated on December 25 in Rome; Christian historians of the 12th century wrote that it was the pagan holiday that led to the designation of that date for Christmas.
The declaration in 1 Timothy … Those who “practice homosexuality” will not inherit the Kingdom of God. But the translation there is odd, in part because the word homosexual didn’t even exist until more than 1,800 years after when 1 Timothy was supposed to have been written.
… there is one verse in Romans about homosexuality…and there are eight verses condemning those who criticize the government. In other words, all fundamentalist Christians who decry Obama have sinned as much as they believe gay people have.
…the history, complexities and actual words of the Bible can’t be ignored just to line it up with what people want to believe, based simply on what friends and family and ministers tell them.
I could go on … but I won’t. 😉 … except to agree with the author: “The Bible is a very human book. It was written, assembled, copied and translated by people.”
Let me know what you think. (Somehow I think I already know, but would be interested in your comments.)
After reading a post on Out From Under the Umbrella about how believers and non-believers sometimes react to those who disagree with them, it got me to thinking.
During the course of my de-conversion, I remember having very negative feelings towards those who were still bound to Christianity. Whenever believers tried to “convince” me I was on the wrong pathway, I felt anger … indignation … frustration. I wanted to tell them how blind they were. How indoctrinated. How easily swayed by rhetoric and tradition.
Instead, I would say nothing. Oh sure, on occasion I might mumble something like “I think you’re wrong,” but mostly I remained silent. I knew from years of having “been there, done that” that nothing I could or would say would change their thinking. Besides, by nature I’m not confrontational, so silence (and a smile) was my “weapon of choice.”
As I’ve looked back, I think this was the primary motivation behind writing my book. Communicating my thoughts and feelings through the written word has always been easier for me than one-on-one conversation. Through my book, I was allowed to share what I had learned about the Christian faith (which was at odds with what I had been taught) without direct confrontation.
Interestingly, since the book has been published, I’ve noticed my feelings towards those who still “believe” have softened. I’m now able to earnestly say … “If it works for you, that’s well and good. Each person has to follow what feels right for them.” This is not to say that when the opportunity presents itself (in person or on the internet), I won’t share what I have learned through my research. But I no longer feel disdain for those who are still trapped by doctrine and tradition. It is now more a feeling of sympathy, but also understanding in that for most, this is all they know.
Of course, down deep inside, there is always the hope they will read my book and learn the “facts” behind many of the things they are taught in church and Sunday School.