The Founding Fathers were geniuses.
They knew enough to put religion into the Constitution at the very beginning of this republic and told the government to keep its hands off. They were absolutely prophetic; it’s as if they knew the current version of the Republican Party would come along and try to force everyone into accepting a certain version of “god” in the public square, so they banned the practice outright.
You do realize Republicans aren’t really religious, right? I mean, they invoke God every chance they get and pretend to piety, but it’s just a device they use to assert their view and attempt to shut down the opposition. We all know, when someone brings up God in an argument, you can’t counter them, because they’re entitled to their beliefs. You’ve heard that argument; you heard it when the state of Oregon shut down the bigoted owners of a bakery for refusing to bake a cake for a gay couple who were holding a commitment ceremony. I still hear plaintive cries from “Christians,” claiming that the bakery’s owners’ rights were violated in the process. You know, because it’s a common “religious practice” to discriminate against gay people in your public business. Isn’t it?
The separation of church and state are embedded in the Constitution, which is our founding document, but we seem to have largely forgotten about it in recent years. Our money is emblazoned with “In God We Trust” and Republicans added “under God” to our Pledge of Allegiance, neither of which should ever have been allowed to happen, but those are relics of the Cold War, in which we were trying to make sure the atheistic Soviet Union knew that we had “god” on our side, goddammit, as we were gonna win.
While many Americans have been propagandized into believing that the separation of church and state is some sort of quaint myth, propagated by “liberals” to “demonize” Christians, but it’s not. The Founding Fathers made it crystal clear how they felt about church-state separation. If you wonder what the Founders thought about the separation of church and state, all you have to do is look it up:
“Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God, that he owes account to none other for is faith or his worship, that the legislative powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should “make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” thus building a wall of separation between Church and State. Adhering to this expression of the supreme will of the nation in behalf of the rights of conscience, I shall see with sincere satisfaction the progress of those sentiments which tend to restore to man all his natural rights, convinced he has no natural right in opposition to his social duties.” — Thomas Jefferson, Letter to the Danbury Baptists
“Congress should not establish a religion and enforce the legal observation of it by law, nor compel men to worship God in any manner contrary to their conscience, or that one sect might obtain a pre-eminence, or two combined together, and establish a religion to which they would compel others to conform” — James Madison, Annals of Congress, 1789
“The civil Government, though bereft of everything like an associated hierarchy, possesses the requisite stability, and performs its functions with complete success, whilst the number, the industry, and the morality of the priesthood, and the devotion of the people, have been manifestly increased by the total separation of the church from the State.” — James Madison, 1819
“I am persuaded, you will permit me to observe that the path of true piety is so plain as to require but little political direction. To this consideration we ought to ascribe the absence of any regulation, respecting religion, from the Magna-Charta [Constitution] of our country” — George Washington, 1789
“The appropriation of funds of the United States for the use and support of religious societies, [is] contrary to the article of the Constitution which declares that ‘Congress shall make no law respecting a religious establishment'” — James Madison, while vetoing a “faith-based” support bill in 1811
“The United States of America have exhibited, perhaps, the first example of governments erected on the simple principles of nature; and if men are now sufficiently enlightened to disabuse themselves of artifice, imposture, hypocrisy, and superstition, they will consider this event as an era in their history. Although the detail of the formation of the American governments is at present little known or regarded either in Europe or in America, it may hereafter become an object of curiosity. It will never be pretended that any persons employed in that service had interviews with the gods, or were in any degree under the influence of Heaven, more than those at work upon ships or houses, or laboring in
merchandise or agriculture; it will forever be acknowledged that these governments were contrived merely by the use of reason and the senses….” — John Adams, 1787
“As to religion, I hold it to be the indispensable duty of government to protect all conscientious protesters thereof, and I know of no other business government has to do therewith.” — Thomas Paine, The Rights of Man
I could go on and on. The Founders of this country were adamant about keeping religion the hell out of government, because there is no way to mix the two and see to it that both survive. It’s simply not possible. Hell; have you ever seen two Catholics argue about birth control, or who was the better Pope? Everyone’s religion is very personal and very individual, and it should stay that way. Although many religions claim there is one God, the fact of the matter is, there are many versions of “God” out there. For example, the Republican version of God is a narcissistic asshole who apparently loves to torture people who don’t do his bidding, at the same time he tells you how much he loves them and wants them to be right beside him in Heaven, apparently kicking hippies and the homeless, taking food out of the mouths of poor people and denying the sick access to doctors.
Sorry if I don’t want that version of “god” anywhere near government. Of course, I also don’t want the one who is kind and thoughtful and who apparently instructed us to take care of everyone and turn the other cheek when someone wrongs you, because there are some times when you really do have to kick some ass to defend yourself.
Put simply, keep your god where he/she/it belongs, in your heart or your home or wherever, and keep our government secular. It’s really important, because we all know that not everyone who uses religion does so for good. Even if you believe in the notion of the Bible being perfect and the “inerring word of God” (a phrase someone actually used with me just yesterday, which made me chuckle), there are admonitions in there explaining why church and state should remain separate. It’s not just Jesus reminding his followers to “render unto (the government) what is (the government’s), and render unto God what is God’s.” (Matthew 22:21) There are other admonitions in there:
“Beware of false prophets,who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorns, or figs from thistles? So, every sound tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears evil fruit. A sound tree cannot bear evil fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will know them by their fruits. Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father Who is in heaven. On that day many will say to Me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your Name, and cast out demons in Your Name, and do many mighty works in Your Name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you evildoers.'” (Matthew 7:15-23)
“For false Christs and false prophets will arise and show great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect.” (Matthew 24:24)
It almost sounds as if Jesus has met the modern-day Republican Party. We’re human, and it’s really difficult at times to know who’s a false prophet and who might be a real one. Not only that, but since religion is highly personal, everyone’s conception of “prophet” will be different. Therefore, it would seem that heeding the Founders’ advice and keeping religion out of the public square altogether is just as wise today as it was when they thought of it and memorialized it in the Constitution.
The beauty of separating church and state is that a person’s religious beliefs don’t matter; they can stay personal, and they can not infect the public sphere. The only thing that matters is what they’ll do as public servants, and how well they will do what the country needs. Our government is secular for a reason; it protects both church and state to have them both separate.
If you wouldn’t appreciate the government coming to your church and telling your pastor how you should worship, then you can understand why the rest of us find it offensive when a group of people tries to impose their personal religious beliefs on the rest of us.
Keep it to yourself; it’s safer that way.