A "christian Nation"
Autor: Greek • November 13, 2011 • Essay • 1,565 Words (7 Pages) • 984 Views
Although the United States established itself as a secular government, debate over the existence of a Christian heritage prevails, raising questions pertaining to the First Amendment's limitations on government and impact on private citizens in regards to religion, the significance of governments resting upon opinion, and the constructiveness of religion for politics and social life. Escaping the tyranny of a Monarchy with few freedoms, The United States seminally established itself as a strictly secular government, creating a cogent distinction between the government of the United States of America and that of the dominion from which our forefathers seceded. They wanted to ensure that no religion could make the claim of being the official, national religion, such as England had (3)
In the context of the United States Constitution, secular, according to the Oxford American Dictionary, means "not concerned with religion nor religious belief," "not bound by religious rule," and "concerned with the affairs of the world; not spiritual or sacred." Secularism was one of the main deliberations for the creation of the government of the United States. With this in mind, one comes to wonder how it is that so many people are able to propose that it was intended to be a "Christian Nation."
If one were to read the Constitution from the perspective of a Christian, he or she would find reason to believe it was written with the intent to create a "Christian Nation." If read through the eyes of a non-believer, these reasons to believe so would likely be indistinguishable. In most cases, when people search intently for things that are abstract, the mind tends to find ways to satisfy the desire. In writing the constitution, a consensus upon its content had to be reached by expressing and exchanging opinions, which can explain why there are religious overtones. The best evidence arguing against this claim exists not in what is written in the Constitution, but what is left out. For example, nowhere does the Constitution say: "The United States is a Christian Nation." The words Jesus Christ, Christianity, Bible, Divine, and God are not included in the Constitution. Other evidence against this claim exists in Article 6, section 3, which states that "no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States (3)." This statement in the original Constitution suggests that the United States was not intended to be a Christian nation because it prevents oppression and persecution of those who are not Christian, allowing people of all religions to run for office.
If the Constitution and Bill of Rights establish a "separation between church and state," then the First Amendment limits the right of the government to implicate religion into politics. In class, we talked about how while the first amendment provides free religious expression, the separation between church and state restricts government from engaging in religious expression. This would include a restriction from providing funding for religious buildings. The First Amendment also directly prohibits the making of any law respecting an establishment of national religion. It also prohibits government aid to any religion, even on a non-preferential basis. For private citizens, the First Amendment to the Constitution protects the right of the individual to choose to worship, or not, as he or she sees fit, and also protects the freedom of speech, which allows every individual the freedom of religious expression (2).
Madison wrote in Federalist Papers number forty-nine: "If it be true that all governments rest on opinion, it is no less true that the strength of opinion in each individual, and its practical influence on his conduct, depend much on the number which he supposes to have entertained the same opinion (5)." In saying this, Madison is pointing out the significant influence of the milieu created by having a large number of followers will have on an individual's behavior. In class discussion, we talked about how expressing and exchanging opinions makes it possible to reach an agreement, but it does not always lead to a full agreement, which is a precarious occurrence. Compromises have to be made in order to reach a reasonable consensus.
This idea is significant for Americans who voice religious truths during political discussions who are able to voice their opinions with such confidence that they consider them to be truths. This is due to the comfort that is found in knowing that a large group exists that follows the same beliefs. In view of the fact that so many other people hold the same viewpoint, they are able to express their beliefs without