You will notice that the right and occasionally the left, will assert that in order to be a true American, one has to be religious (especially Christian). You will read about it in op-eds in Newspapers and hear it on television news shows. It stems from the strong belief that the United States of America was founded on Judeo-Christian values. They bring up the founding fathers, and state that they are the ones that created this Judeo-Christian country. What some might not notice at first glance is that the founding fathers of the United States were deists. There are differences between deists and theists. The majority of Christians are theists, meaning that they believe in the existence of one God who controls events and affairs in the universe. Deists are those who believe that there is a supreme being who created the universe, but does not control any aspect of it after its creation. Some of the founding fathers criticized theistic religions. Thomas Jefferson was the one who said that “Christianity neither is, nor ever was, a part of the common law.” Jefferson was even the one who coined the phrase “separation of church and state.” Many religious Americans will bring up a sentence from the Declaration of Independence, attempting to prove their belief in a Judeo-Christian America (and I think it’s one of the most significant sentences created by mankind):
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness…
It is the creator part that gets many religious Americans believing that in order to be American you have to be religious. In this circumstance, “creator” is a blank space for whatever it is you believe gave you these unalienable rights. Christians believe it is God. Muslims believe it is Allah. Jews believe it is Yahweh. Hindus believe it is Krishna. Everyone has their own definition of a creator. For the non-religious people, “creator” could be evolution or just humanity itself.
The reason why I felt a need to write such a post was because of an op-ed that Speaker Paul Ryan wrote on Fox News. The op-ed was entitled Prayer Should Always Come First. I have no problem with people praying, that is not what irked me while reading this. It was a sentence when Mr. Ryan stated that “all Americans believe this.” Not all Americans believe in prayer. Not all Americans are religious. By stating such as thing is discriminatory toward non-religious Americans (and in this instance not all Americans are Christian either). I strongly believe that the United States was founded on the belief of diversity and freedom of religion (as well as freedom from religion). We’re a country of a diverse group of people with many different languages and belief systems. That is why the First Amendment of the Constitution states:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibit the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
For politicians to state that the United States is a Judeo-Christian nation is favoring an establishment of religion. It’s not a law, but in spoken word they are favoring the establishment of Christianity. That is why many non-religious and secular (atheists, agnostics, humanists) people speak out against such rhetoric.