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Austin Cline

Non-Christians: If You Don't Like Christian America, Get Out!

By March 25, 2009

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How many Christians believe that they "own" America by virtue of their religion — that America is necessarily "Christian" in some fundamental way, such that non-Christians are at best just guests who should accommodate themselves to Christians' way of doing things or get out? I can't say just how common this viewpoint is, but hints of it come out far too often for my tastes. Only sometimes is it expressed very explicitly, perhaps because only a few who hold this belief fail to recognize just how offensive it is.

A. Altmyer writes in a letter to the editor of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

We are a country that is founded on Judeo-Christian beliefs and values. The majority of Americans are still Christian and have spoken on their desire to have marriage remain a union between one man and one woman. Is this not government by and for the people?

Quite a large number of Christians like to proclaim that America was somehow "founded" on their "Judeo-Christian" beliefs, values, principles, or something similar. The assertion is repeated often here in comments on this site and whenever I ask the Christian commenting to explain where exactly these "Christian" beliefs or values are expressed anywhere in the Constitution — the founding document of American law and government — I am inevitably greeted with silence.

Maybe they never intended to return and engage in anything like a serious conversation, but I have to wonder how many read my question and don't respond because they are simply unable to do so yet don't want to admit it. The fact is, there is nothing in the Constitution embodying or instituting anything especially Christian. America's law and government are as much "Christian" as they are "white" or "Protestant," but when that uncomfortable truth is pointed out, many Christians would prefer to turn away and go on about their theocratic propaganda as if nothing had happened.

Somewhere along the way in our country we have come to believe that we have to change all of our laws and social institutions every time a small group of people wants it that way. Where will we draw the line?

First blacks wanted to be free from slavery and we didn't draw the line then, so they later had the gall to demand equal treatment under the law. It wasn't enough for them to not be owned by white people, but they wanted to be able to sit next to white people in public, and even work the same jobs making the same money as white people. The nerve! We should have stuck more closely to God's separation of the races, right?

Women were eventually allowed to vote and we didn't draw the line then, so they later also demanded equal treatment under the law. It wasn't enough for them to be allowed to leave the kitchen to vote, they wanted to be able to leave the kitchen permanently and pursue careers as equals alongside men. What gall! We should have stuck to God's established order in which women submit to men's leadership, right?

Now gays want to be treated as full political and social equals, too! Well, I guess it's time for Christians to finally "draw the line," right?

The sanctity of marriage is one of the most important of those values that must be upheld. It has well been known since the dawn of man that family is a cornerstone of society. This is even reflected in the natural order of nature, where we also have the family as a cornerstone of the animal kingdom. This seems to be an inevitable truth to me.

Marriage is the union of one man and one woman. Let others who are seeking to do things a different way than has always been since the beginning of time create their own society and social institutions to suit their lifestyle. Our society and our country are fine the way they have always been, and the foundations of such should remain unchanged.

So, A. Altmyer doesn't like changing the definition of marriage? Let’s look at just a few of the most significant changes in marriage in the West over just the past centuries:

  • Legalization of divorce
  • Criminalization of marital rape (and recognition that the concept even exists)
  • Legalization of contraception
  • Legalization of interracial marriage
  • Recognition of women’s right to own property in a marriage
  • Elimination of dowries
  • Elimination of parents’ right to choose or reject their children’s mates
  • Elimination of childhood marriages and betrothals
  • Elimination of polygamy
  • Existence of large numbers of unmarried people
  • Women not taking the last names of their husbands
  • Changing emphasis from money and property to love and personal fulfillment

Why was it acceptable in the past to make so many reforms in the nature of marriage that ultimately benefitted heterosexuals and women, but not acceptable now to make one reform that benefits gays? Is there any reason to think that all of these other reforms were somehow more “minor” or “superficial” than legalizing gay marriage? No — making women equal in marriage rather than property, eliminating polygamy, and allowing people to marry for love are all at least as significant as allowing gay couples to marry, especially since gay marriage is not unheard-of in human history.

Clearly, marriage today is not the same as it at "the beginning of time" or "the dawn of man." Clearly, marriage has changed significantly in ways that A. Altmyer doesn't mind, which means that there is something in particular about this change that Altmyer and other Christians oppose. How can we not conclude that making one change that would benefit one group, while accepting all the other changes, is a sign and specific and deliberate bigotry against that group?

In this case, it isn't just "bigotry" by faith-based bigotry because the only arguments that Altmyer and like-minded Christians can offer are religious in nature. What this means is that these Christians don't just want to structure society in bigoted ways, but they want this injustice to be based on their religion as well. Then again, is there any form of theocracy that isn't the institutionalization of injustice?

Comments
March 25, 2009 at 4:01 pm
(1) Jared McFarland says:

I laugh at the statement “It has well been known since the dawn of man that family is a cornerstone of society. This is even reflected in the natural order of nature, where we also have the family as a cornerstone of the animal kingdom.”

First, the number of species that mate for life is far smaller than the number of species that change mates on a year by year basis.

Second, a quick Google’ing of “Homosexuality in Nature” provides lists of over 400 species in nature that exhibit homosexual tendencies. Any owner of two male dogs will quickly recognize it.

If we’re gonna base our ideas of relationship on nature, we’ll have some tough times ahead. Female mantis’ kill males after intercourse. Male mosquitoes are known to hunt and eat females. Male lions impregnate multiple females, and female dogs are inseminated by multiple males every year.

It’s simply another attempt by organized religion to control the masses, based on weak arguments and false logic.

March 27, 2009 at 8:23 pm
(2) John Hanks says:

All of the Christians in America are bogus. Guess I’m safe.

March 29, 2009 at 10:16 am
(3) God Isn't says:

Austin wrote: “…whenever I ask the Christian commenting to explain where exactly these ‘Christian’ beliefs or values are expressed anywhere in the Constitution — the founding document of American law and government — I am inevitably greeted with silence.”

It would help if posters had the option to be notified by e-mail when a comment is added. I’ve been hoping this feature would be added for quite some time.

By the way, I’m not suggesting that you’d get an answer to that particular question, in any event. People who make such assertions obviously have never read the U.S. Constitution.

May 26, 2009 at 1:26 pm
(4) Richard says:

Most of the founding fathers had a Christian heritage and identified themselves as Christian. Even so the writers of the Constitution, having memories of religious persecution in Europe, worked ardently to remove any specific religious reference into the constitution and tried to build, as Jefferson wrote, a separation of church and state, into their work. Some of the writers, Franklin and Jefferson most prominently, were strongly resistant of the Christianity of their day. Jefferson even wrote his own version of the bible, (the Jefferson Bible is available online from Beacon Press) and Franklin admitted being an agnostic or atheist in several speeches.

So the founding fathers were not all Christian, though their heritage undoubtedly was. They intentionally rejected putting Christian partisanship into our early documents and conscientiously avoided a theocracy in order to preserve religious freedom from control by any particular religion, Christian or otherwise. Religious freedom includes freedom from as well as freedom of religion.

May 30, 2009 at 8:13 pm
(5) The Swarm says:

***Dancing the happy dance*** Thank you for your article :)
We are gifted with the most amazing government system in the world. What happened to the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness? The current Christian Fanatics seem to exhibit the very ideals that our founding fathers so fervently worked to abolish.
It amazes me how treating others as you wish to be treated is constantly forgotten by a lot of people who claim to be christian. Do they even follow examples set for them by Christ? Do they even have the willpower to stand against the corruption of their own religious leaders? It saddens me to know that when there are so many kinds of people with different strengths and needs; this group continues to deny those of us who are, gay, of different or no faith, with different abilities or disabilities, etc.,the right to be who we are. Last time I read about Christ he didn’t say that we should beat our partners,abuse children in his name, deny respect to other cultures, gang up on the weak, deny help to the sick and the poor or tell people that if God favored them they wouldn’t be poor,disabled,or have any problems in their lives at all. It, to me, is sin that these people continue to block people from jobs,homes,having the same marital rights, insurance and help because we do not let them ‘save’ us.
It takes a great amount of patience on my part to not spit in the faces of those who dare tell me that my diseases, will be instantly cured, if only I stopped taking my medication and ‘believed’.

~Inner Peace Through Entomology.

May 6, 2012 at 10:38 pm
(6) robert says:

we seem to be a self centered society what is right and what is wrong when did we stop practicing princepals before personalitys? as long as it is not illegal or”harm” anyone else it is ok if marriage is for love, then guess what….i love my dog!!!!! there seems to be no morals left , its all about me

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