Monthly Archives: July 2012

Is America a Christian Nation?

One of the more common arguments I’ve been hearing lately from the Christians is that “America is a Christian Nation.”

There are three typical arguments made by theists, in an effort to prove their assertion.  But before I get to that, I have two initial issues.

First, what point are you trying to prove?  Even if I conceded that your statement is true (which I’m not), what is your point?  How does this advance the Christian cause, and what bearing does it have on the ultimate question – whether a god even exists?  It’s just a feel good statement for Christians, but it holds no value, and presents no truth to the important questions.

Second, in order to properly address the question, you have to define what “Christian Nation” means.  If you define it as “a nation whose predominant religion is Christianity,” then yes, I would agree.  But again, what is the point?  Citing a statistical majority means nothing, aside from you having more people in your corner than me.  But that still has no bearing on the truth, and is an ad populum argument at best.  But for the sake of argument, I am going to define “Christian Nation” as “a nation in which Christianity is the ‘official’ religion.”

The first typical argument made by Christians is to quote the Declaration of Independence (DoI).

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

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…

There it is, it says “God” and “Creator.”  Done deal, right?

No, not even close.

Problem One: You’re choosing the wrong document.  The DoI is not the authoritative document that sets forth the guidelines for the laws and rights of Americans.  That would be the U.S. Constitution.  When the Supreme Court rules on the legality of a law, it never references the DoI in making its rulings.  And if you read the Constitution, it becomes quite clear that adopting Christianity, or any religion in general, is never mentioned.  Actually, there is evidence to the contrary.  Article VI states the following:

The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, 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.

Furthermore, the First Amendment to the Constitution, establishes the separation of church and state.  It reads:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

This is the part where Christians exclaim that the phrase “separation of church and state isn’t in the Bill of Rights.”  That is true, but entirely missing the point.  The establishment clause is the separation of church and state.  Don’t take it so literally.  That’s like saying there’s no such thing as “Ohio State,” because the official name of the college is “The Ohio State University.”  Don’t be so literal and trivial.

Problem Two:  The statement “Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God” appear to be a neutral statement, in that it proclaims both a naturalistic view and a godly view.  Later, the DoI mentions a “Creator,” which is not defined, and thus should not assumed to be a god.  Furthermore, there is absolutely no mention of whose god the DoI is referring to.  Is God the Christian God, Yahweh, Allah, Zeus, a deistic god, or some other god?  It doesn’t say.  Therefore, you should not assume a Christian God.  The best argument a theist could make (ignoring Problem One above, which makes any argument here moot), is that the DoI was referring to a deist god.

The second typical argument made by theists is to state that the founding fathers were Christian.

My initial, and simplest response to this is, “so what?”  What do the personal beliefs of individuals have anything to do with the official religion of any nation?  Does George Washington’s personal religion automatically become the national religion, because he was the first President?  Does Thomas Jefferson’s count, since he draft the DoI?  If the beliefs of the founding fathers establishes the de facto national religion, then does the United States also have a national race (white) and gender (male), since these founders where white males?  There is no nexus here.

My second response to this claim is that all of the founding fathers were not Christians.  Many were deists.  I could quote a litany of historical quotes, but I’ll quote just a few.

What has been Christianity’s fruits? Superstition, Bigotry and Persecution.

-James Madison

“The way to see by faith is to shut the eye of reason. Lighthouses are more helpful than churches.”

-Benjamin Franklin

“Whenever we read the obscene stories, the voluptuous debaucheries, the cruel and torturous executions, the unrelenting vindictiveness with which more than half the Bible is filled, it would be more consistent that we called it the word of a demon than the word of God. It is a history of wickedness that has served to corrupt and brutalize mankind.”

-Thomas Paine

The third and final typical argument used by Christians to promote America as a “Christian Nation” is to suggest that America was founded on Christian principles.

Much like the second argument above, even if it was founded on Christian principles (which I am not conceding), what exactly does that prove?  But most importantly, what are “Christian principles?”  Are we talking about the Ten Commandments?  Are we talking about other parts of the Bible?  And if so, which parts?  Are those principles unique to or founded by Christianity.  And what is the nexus between these principles and the founding of America?

It certainly seems clear to me that this nation was founded on secular principles, despite the religious convictions of some of the founders of this nation.  The most important legal document in this country, the one from which we derive this rights of our citizens, the form of our government, and establish the American way, is the U.S. Constitution and its amendments, which is a purely secular document.

You may also want to reference the Treaty of Tripoli, which states the following:

Art. 11. As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquility, of Mussulmen; and, as the said States never entered into any war, or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties, that no pretext arising from religious opinions, shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.

The treaty was passed unanimously in the U.S Senate in 1797.  Game.  Set.  Match.

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Quoting the Bible and Presuppositional Arguments

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

-John 3:16

I love it when people quote the Bible.  I really do.  I see it all the time – blogs, message boards YouTube, football games.  People state it so matter-of-factly, as if it was factually true and irrefutable.  John 3:16 says it, so it must be true.  Do Christians understand that this is a presuppositional argument?  Do they even know what this is?

In a nutshell, a presuppositional argument is this: One makes a claim/statement with an unstated premise, which has not yet been proven true.  In other words, an assumption is being made – one that is not universally understood to be true.

In stating the John 3:16 verse above, the presupposition is that the Bible is correct.  This is not proven on any level.  Not only is there no scientific evidence that the Bible (1) is historically accurate, (2) agrees with modern scientific knowledge, or (3) proves that any God exists, let alone the Christian one, assuming that it is true would be an insult to every other religion on Earth, because if the Bible is true, all others must be false.  Somehow, I suspect the Muslims, Jews, Sikhs, Hindus, and Scientologists would take offense to this.  However, each of their claims to the truth is as valid as the Bible: NONE.

The fact is that ANY argument made by a Christian, or any theist in general to prove the validity of their texts, or the existence of their god, requires presuppositions.  At this point, I would expect a theist to claim that an atheist argument against the existence of a god (or disbelief based on a lack of evidence) is presuppositional as well.  And my response to that would be…you’re absolutely right!

Absolutely every godly debate requires assumptions.  The proper questions should be: “Are my assumptions valid and reasonable?”  That’s where the debate begins.  Most theist arguments require some sort of logical fallacy, such as begging the question (the conclusion is inherently part of the premise), special pleading (granting yourself an exemption to a rule without justifying the exemption), straw man (misrepresenting your opponent’s argument), or argument from ignorance/”God of the Gaps” (assuming that an unknown must be God), in their assumptions.  But mostly, theists must, in an attempt to prove the existence of God, already assume God exists.  Atheists make no such assumption.

However, atheists do presuppose certain things – reasonable things.  For example, atheists assume that evidence is required to substantiate a claim.  Atheists generally believe that the scientific method is the best way to find truth.  If a theist can prove that 2,000-year-old texts are a better pathway to truth than physical evidence, testing, and peer review,  then let’s talk.  Otherwise, I think it’s a pretty safe bet that an atheist’s assumptions are more valid than  theists.

Another issue relating to the “Read the Bible – It’s True” argument is the question of whether a book alone can be sufficient evidence to conclude that is something true.  My response to that would be “absolutely not, in any case.”  No book is evidence of anything but the existence of a book.  The Bible does not make Christianity true, just as the Qur’an does not for Islam, and The Origin of Species by Charles Darwin does not for Evolution.  Whether a book is true is dependent upon whether the underlying facts support the claims made in the book.  For the Bible, there is no evidence that the Bible is true.  There are no historical accounts outside the Bible,and no archaeological, geological, or  cosmological evidence supporting many of the claims of the Bible.  On the other hand, Darwin’s book is supported by plenty of observable evidence, and the evidence has been mounting for well over a century.

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Evolution and the False Dichotomy

One of my favorite theist arguments is an attempt to discredit evolution (or even science, as a whole) to prove the existence of God.  This is one of the most commonly used, and also most uninformed arguments theists make.  The argument goes something like this –

“I can disprove evolution because of (insert pseudo-scientific or uninformed argument X), therefore, God exists.”

Of course, there is a host of problems with this argument.  First, there is no substantial evidence to disprove evolution.  It is a scientific fact, and provides the best explanation for the (for a lack of a better term) evolution, of species through natural selection, mutation, speciation, etc.  Oftentimes, theists will cherry pick  an animal whose characteristics seem out-of-place with its surroundings.  Another example is the “complexity of the eye” argument, also known as irreducible complexity.  Neither of these, or any other arguments work, period.

Second, evolution and creationism are a false dichotomy.  A false dichotomy is a type of fallacy in which the arguer suggests that there are only two options to explain something, when other options actually exist.  Theists assume that, if evolution is disproved, that God must be the answer to the question – an argument from ignorance.  They assume.  In reality, if evolution was disproved, there is a multitude of possibilities.  Hell, it could be aliens.  That is no more outlandish (or unjustified) than an ethereal ghost flying around watching everyone, deciding the fate of world on a whim.  By assuming God, the only thing a theist has proven is that he/she has a lack of imagination.

Third, and most important in my opinion, is proof positive that the theist making this argument does not even understand evolution, which in no way attempts to explain the origins of the universe or the beginnings of life on Earth.  The only thing evolution explains is how living things change across successive generations, in an attempt to adapt and survive.  In other words, evolution does not explain how life began, nor does it try to.  There are other concepts addressing the beginnings of life on Earth, such as abiogenesis.  Therefore, creation and evolution are not diametric opposites, and could, in theory, coexist.  That’s where theists invented intelligent design.  But that is for another day… 🙂

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Why Do Atheists Care About Atheism?

I was reading the comments on a Matt Dillahunty YouTube video, looking for a good atheist argument to make, when I came across what I thought was a pretty valid question – Why do atheists even care?

In other words, if atheism is a lack of belief, why be so adamant about it?  Why put up billboards, engage in discussion, and be so outspoken about it?  What difference does it make?

Well, to me, the answer is simple; it’s important.  Even though the cause of atheism is based upon a lack of belief, there are things that atheists generally believe, and things against which it should stand out.  For example, atheism, in my opinion, promotes –

  • Free thought,
  • Rationalism,
  • Science,
  • Truth,
  • Humility about the universe and its beginnings, and
  • (most importantly)Progress.

These are things that Christianity (and most religions, in general), fight to oppress, whether they know it or not.  When a Christian’s life is built around dogma, indoctrination, and outdated and unreliable texts, progress is not possible.  How dare people think for themselves, or engage in rational thought, science, and truth, which may contradict the Bible, right?  Hell, if it wasn’t for free thought, rationalism, science, and the search for truth, what would the apologists do for a living?

A second reason why atheism is so important, is that the other side is putting up a good fight.  In America, religious leaders, PACs, and lobbyists are putting up millions of dollars to control social issues, such as abortion, birth control, and gay marriage.  The Christian right is also trying to muddy the waters of the separation of church and state.  So to say that Christians, and other faiths, just sit in their churches on Sundays and pray to their invisible Gods, without any external consequences, is absurd.  They are putting up a good fight, and it’s time we did the same, for the sake of truth, rationality, equality, and progress.

 

 

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Cain’s Wife?

After a two-day power outage thanks to a wicked rainstorm, I am finally able to resume my blogging.

I’ve been re-reading the Bible. Although I am generally aware of the atrocities and inconsistencies of the Bible, the truth is that I haven’t read it in quite some time, so I wanted to see firsthand the lunacy of it all.

So I’m reading through Genesis – God creates Adam and Eve, they have two kids (Cain and Abel), Cain kills Abel, and goes on his merry way.  Then, out of nowhere, Cain magically has a wife!  of course, I’m confused, because at this point in Genesis, there are only three people on Earth – Adam, Eve, and Cain.  So where did this wife come from?

I Googled the question, and picked a sight with a pro-creation name just to see what the explanation was.  The website is copyrighted, so below is the link.  I won’t post the entire blog.

http://www.creationdefense.org/04.htm

The author then tries to explain this hole in Genesis, by basically saying that Cain married his sister, niece, or grandniece  (which is mentioned LATER in Genesis, like, “Oh, by the way, there are some other kids we forgot to mention before.”).  Then the writer attempts to proactively explain away all of the following problems, such as the morality of marrying your own sister (it wasn’t outlawed until later in the Bible), or the fact that having kids with a close relative causes birth defects (God created Adam and Eve as perfect, and thus genetic mutations were not possible yet).

Then, and I quote…

Knowing this, we have great proof for creation.

Whoa, slow down there, captain.  First, your apologetic rationale for all of the flaws explaining where this wife came from are suspect at best, and not supported by the Bible or science.  But more importantly, all of those problems aside, how does ANY of this provide proof for creation?  What the author has essentially done is identify and attempt to explain away ONE problem with the Bible, and all of a sudden God created man?  Can you count how many logical fallacies the author used?  You can’t soundly get from point A to point B by making a pit stop in circular-reasoning Bible-land.  Non sequitur Facepalm.

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