Chapter 21



Religion in America


"Everyday people are straying from the church and going back to God." - Lenny Bruce

      American has a long history as a religious country. The Declaration of Independence speaks of "nature's God" and of rights endowed by our “creator”. The President and most office holders take their oath on a bible. There are morning prayers in both the Senate and the House. All branches of the military have chaplains and there are churches on most military bases. Our money has printed on it “In God we trust”.

      Yet of late, much of America seems to have rejected religion. There are movements, successful movements, to remove religion from schools. Many reject the Boy Scouts as an organization that embraces religion. The end of the Boy Scout oath is “brave, clean and reverent.”

      The most famous statement used by those who want to rid America of religion is taken from a letter written by Thomas Jefferson. In the letter he said “we have built a wall separating church and state.” Thus, from that letter, the expression “separation of church and state” derives. It should be noted that this was a private letter written by Thomas Jefferson to a group of religious people and this phrase appears in no official government documents. It was Jefferson who recognized "natures' God" and a "creator" in the Declaration of independence.

      What the Founding Fathers intended was that there was to be no official government religion and that people were free to practice any religion they wished or to practice no religion at all if that was their wish. These people were Liberals in the traditional sense and not in the modern day sense. They believed in freedom. (Curiously, today’s Liberals believe in big government which of necessity, limits personal freedom given all the laws, rules and regulations that must be adhered to.)

      Yet with no official state religion, the vast majority of people believed that there was a God who could be worshipped in any way that free people wanted to worship.

      Today a few atheists, about 2% to 5% of the population, using the activist judges in the leftist dominated courts, to try to stamp out religion all together. This is being done in government related organizations like schools and other public, albeit government, sponsored functions.

      A federal judge recently ruled that the national day of prayer was unconstitutional.

      They readily admit that we are free to practice religion in private in the way that the early Christians had to do in secret before the Roman Empire converted to Christianity.

      Even retail merchandisers recently issued orders to their employees not to say “Merry Christmas” but merely “Happy Holidays” to their customers. This shows that they thought that there are many people who spend money that support the anti-God movement in today’s America. But they were wrong. Under public outrage they rescinded that policy.

      A lot of this is due to religious people themselves. We have witnessed sex scandals in the Catholic Church. Before that there was Tammy Baker and her husband and the scandals that they were involved in by spending their church's money on luxuries. Several radio ministers were involved in sex scandals. All of this has made certain religious people look like hypocrites. Add to this that religion calls for restraint and moral behavior. Everything that we might call fun today is often forbidden by religion. I am referring to free sex (promiscuity), pornography, mind altering, or mood altering, drugs and sexy dress to name a few. Since religion rejects these things, many people reject religion. It is all about fun these days after all. After all, it’s a party living in America.

      The Founding Fathers understood that the people would always get what they wanted. What was hard to predict was that what people would be made to want by TV commercials and a culture gone mad and protected by the 1st amendment. These things appealed to prurient interests. (def - arousing or appealing to unusual or unwholesome sexual desires) This is what Abraham Lincoln would have called the darker angels of our nature. But we live in a capitalist economy and these things sell. Indeed, they create jobs.

      So religion is on decline as the good times go on. This, despite the fact that churches do many good things. They care for the homeless, they support groups like the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, and they provide recreational services for the elderly and provide food for the hungry.

      The nice thing about God is that he is there for you if you want him. But many people do not want him. People do turn to God when they are suffering. For example, people with a serious illness often turn to God. Often their illness comes from not holding to the tenets of religion in the first place. For example, alcoholics, heroin addicts, most AIDS victims have brought on these illnesses themselves by abusing their bodies. Now they expect the God, who they have ignored all their lives, to step in and heal them with a miracle. Miracles happen often enough to make this seem feasible.

      The dimension of religion in a culture adds long standing truths to people’s thinking. If there were nothing but the Golden Rule and the Ten Commandments to follow people’s lives would be improved. One could even forget the teachings of Jesus, Buddha and Mohammed and just follow the Golden Rule. Is it asking too much that you treat people in the way that you would like to be treated? Well apparently so.

      Most religious teachings are common sense and easily supported by logic. But churches often go beyond this common sense. Many people think that religions want control over them. Many resent this.

     So what would cause a turnaround in religious decline? The good news is that this is possible. The bad news is that suffering causes this change. As people suffer they turn to God for relief. As long as this suffering can be held off, the turn to God does not take place. America’s leadership realizes this .They also realize the suffering by the voters will put them out of office. Curiously what is good for religious growth is bad for political stability. There is, thus, a real separation of church and state. What we need is a sudden great disaster but things happen slowly and people get used to the change.

      But there may be hope. I was teaching an 11th grade class one day. They were studying knights and the Middle Ages. They were each to make a shield containing things they believed in. Something like a family crest or coat of arms. That day they were to present their shields to the class. One by one they went to the front of the room to explain their shields. “I have a book here because I like to read.” “I have a tree here because I like nature and the woods.” To my surprise several said “I have a cross here because I believe in God.” This began to happen so often that I asked a student if the teacher had told them to address this. The student said that no, the teacher did not mention it. So I ask her why so many kids have a cross on their shield and say that they believe in God. She said “Because they believe in God.” Duh was implied. Remember these were 11th graders. A warm feeling came over me.

      So apparently this is something that kids talk about even if or perhaps especially since it is banned from schools.

      So religion is not dead, it has simply been removed from public places like schools. People can still worship if they want but religion is under attack. There are major battles left to fight by the Left in this regard. Here are a few:






      This was actually tried in the liberal 9th circuit court of appeals. They ruled that children could not say the pledge because it says "under God". They agued that this was a fairly recent addition. I remember being in grade school when one day the teacher told us that we were going to start saying the pledge in a new way. This would have been around 1953. This ruling was overturned on appeal in the midst of much public outrage.

     None of these things subsidize any particular religion rather religion in general. But the anti-religious movement is more an anti-God movement since it’s the atheists that are behind it. The force to eliminate religion from public places is not anti-Catholic, or anti-Christian, or anti-Jewish or anti-Muslim but it’s anti-God.

      The idea of God goes back a long way in human history. People have always had Gods. Even those primitive tribes often discovered in remote jungles are found to have a God. This is because there are some things that are simply not understandable through science and can only be attributed to God. It makes sense but makes God not understandable either. What is God? Nobody knows. People debate the issue but do not resolve it. Whatever it is, it is the cause of things that we don’t understand. As we understand these things, that aspect of God goes away. For example, we no longer have a rain God because we know what causes rain.

     We in the world now only have one God who has many aspects rather than many Gods who specialize. There was once a God of Love. Love is still something that we don’t understand but the God of Love went away and the God, a super God, is responsible for love. Some say God is Love.

     Science cannot explain where the universe came from. For religious people the answer is simple – God created it. Though we know where babies come from, to many people God has given us a baby.

      The chief problem with God is explaining all the terrible things that happen. Why would God let hurricanes kill people, including innocent little children? It is explained that God works in mysterious ways, his wonders to perform. It is assumed that we are not meant to understand this process. Only God knows. We, on the other hand, must have faith. That’s our job.

      So we are faced with a totally not understandable God who is responsible for many things, good and bad, and this idea of God goes back to the beginning of mankind. Could the approximately nine billion people who have ever lived have been wrong? One thing that we can say about God is that he is not going away.

      There are currently efforts to put religion back into schools as Philosophy. Here we would tell the students that many people think that there is a God. Then we discuss the history of God, like the Greek and Roman Gods. Then we discuss prophets, people who claimed to have spoken to God. Moses, Jesus and Mohammed are examples. Then we discuss the differences in the various religions and the varying beliefs. Then we discuss the great philosophers and what they though about this. This approach does not endorse a particular religion nor does it endorse religion in general. It would be a combination philosophy and history course. But it would introduce kids to religion then we tell the students that you can take it or leave it. It would be an elective course so that the children of atheists would not even have to take the course.

      This is a common sense solution but offered at a time where there is little common sense. Recall that I stated earlier that there are people who do not want to see a given problem go away since they derive their income dealing with the problem. This may happen here as those who are interested in removing God from society are not interested in a compromise that makes the problem go away. Perhaps there is profit in Atheism. Perhaps Atheism creates jobs.

      The question is how can such a small amount of people, the atheists, have enough power to tell the vast majority of people how to worship? Admitted atheists are about 2% to 5% of the population. Well the pendulum is swinging back from the liberalism of the 60’s to conservatism. Right now it is passing through the center. This means that America is split about 50/50 or more like 51/49. Elections are very close as the 2000 Florida presidential election proved. At 51/49 this means that 2% of the voters can swing the election either way. Thus no one running for office can afford to alienate even 2% of the population.

      Thus the atheists, like gays have power beyond their numbers. And they are using their power, buttressed by the courts and their activist judges, to remove God from the public space. Notice that this is more than anti-religious. The issue of nativity scenes on city hall could have been resolved by allowing all religious groups to display their artifacts. Make it a universal celebration of religion. But that would have still been God in the public space.

      The increasing in diversity in our society plays its role here too. The recent immigrants come from places like the Middle East and Asia whose religions are vastly different from ours. Should Muslim school children be allowed to pray 4 times a day while in school?