Contrary to what you learned at college, America from its inception has been a religious country, and was designed to be one.
As the greatest foreign observer of America, the Frenchman Alexis de Tocqueville, noted in his "Democracy in America," "Not until I went into the churches of America and heard her pulpits flame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her genius and power." Or, as the great British historian Paul Johnson has just written: "In [George] Washington's eyes, at least, America was in no sense a secular state," and "the American Revolution was in essence the political and military expression of a religious movement."
In fact, the Founders regarded America as a Second Israel, in Abraham Lincoln's words, the "Almost Chosen" People. This self-identification was so deep that Thomas Jefferson, today often described as not even a Christian, wanted the seal of the United States to depict the Jews leaving Egypt at the splitting of the sea. Just as the Jews left Egypt, Americans left Europe.
There has been a concerted, and successful, attempt over the last generations to depict America as always having been a secular country and many of its Founders as deists, a term misleadingly defined as irreligious people who believed in an impersonal god.
It is also argued that the values that animated the founding of America were the values of the secular Enlightenment, not those of the Bible -- even for most of the Founders who were religious Christians.
This new version of American history reminds me of the old Soviet dissident joke: "In the Soviet Union, the future is known; it's the past that is always changing."
Once almost universally acknowledged to be founded by religious men whose values were grounded in the Jewish and Christian Scriptures, the average college graduate is now ignorant of the religious bases of this society, and certain that it was founded to be, and has always been, a secular society that happens to have many individual Christians living in it.
That explains the attempts by activists to erase whatever public vestiges of religiosity remain -- any cross on a county or city seal, the replacement of "Merry Christmas" with "Happy Holidays," the Supreme Court's rulings against school prayer even of the most non-denominational type, etc.
Dennis Prager is a SRN radio show host, contributing columnist for Townhall.com and author of his newest book, “The Ten Commandments: Still the Best Moral Code.”
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