The University of Miami has now announced a chair for the study of atheism. In another recent story, an atheist group is suing a sheriff because of his pro-God statements on his Facebook page (Constitution.com, 5/19/16). No one can deny the rise of the shrill atheistic voices of our time.
But dare I say that the idea of state-sanctioned and in some cases state-mandated atheism is absolutely out of step with the traditions of America. Here are 10 reasons why:
1) At the time of our founding, 99.8% of the population was professing Christians. Ben Franklin, himself a bit of a skeptic, said in 1794, when writing about America, “Atheism is unknown there, infidelity rare and secret; so that persons may live to a great age in that country without having their piety shocked by meeting with either an atheist or an infidel.”
2) The Founding Fathers (not just the settlers, like the Pilgrims---whom even the ACLU will admit were Christians) hired chaplains to say prayers---virtually always in the name of Jesus---for the military and the legislature. The tradition of prayers at the opening of the legislature goes back even to 1619 when the Jamestown colony had the first congress of any kind in America.
3) The symbol of America’s founding is the Liberty Bell. And as everyone should know, it has a Bible verse on it---“Proclaim liberty throughout the land and to all the inhabitants thereof” (Leviticus 25:10).
4) The foundational education of the founders was Christian---even those who later may have lost their faith or some aspects of it. As Dr. Donald S. Lutz, author of The Origins of American Constitutionalism, once told me that they all knew the Bible “down to their fingertips.” To those who are biblically literate, you can easily see the influence.
5) In addition to #4, all the colleges in North America were thoroughly Christian. Those who attended Harvard, for example, learned at an institution with the motto (in Latin) “Truth for Christ and His Church.” Only centuries later, did the Harvard trustees sever truth from Christ and His church. Madison learned his wise politics from the then-thoroughly Presbyterian College of New Jersey. We know it today as Princeton.
6) Since 1956, our national motto continues to be “In God We Trust.” But sometimes you wouldn’t know that. It was suggested by Francis Scott Key, who wrote our National Anthem. The first verse, beginning with “Oh say, can you see…” is well-known. But note what he says in the 4th verse, which I what I wish we would sing more often:
Blest with vict’ry and peace, may the Heavn’n-rescued land
Praise the Pow’r that hath made and preserved us a nation!
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto, “In God is our trust!”
7) Every state constitution mentioned God. Most of them still do. For example, here is the opening to the constitution for my home state: “We, the People of the State of Illinois---grateful to Almighty God for the civil, political and religious liberty which He has permitted us to enjoy and seeking His blessing upon our endeavors…”
8) Since the days of Abraham Lincoln, drawing on the tradition of the Pilgrims, we have an annual holiday based on the concept of giving thanks to God. Washington was the first president to declare a day of Thanksgiving, on the suggestion of Congress--- the same Congress that wrote the First Amendment----the words of which are sometimes twisted today to mean state-sanctioned atheism. Washington said in that October 3, 1789 proclamation, “…it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will…”
9) God is mentioned in stone all over our nation’s capital. For instance, there are three Bible verses in his Second Inaugural Address chiseled at the Lincoln Memorial. If the atheists continue their jihad against God, would we have to sandblast the name of God off the monuments?
10) The single biggest reason that state-sanctioned atheism is out of keeping with our American tradition comes from our national birth certificate. The Declaration of Independence says that our rights come from the Creator. Therefore, they are not up for grabs. In contrast, what the state gives, the state can remove.
Why are we getting to the place in society, where those who hold biblical views are marked out to be fired or discriminated against, if those views leak out in the public square? What is happening today is literally an exaltation of atheism over belief.
In America atheists are free to share their unbelief. Great. I just wish they would extend that freedom to the very traditions that extended that freedom to them in the first place---the Judeo-Christian heritage.