Article I of the Constitution of the United States says: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting 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.
There are many people in this country, particularly among evangelists, who want to read this to mean that this country was founded by christians, and therefore it does not refer to them. But this is not true, at all. Many of the Founding Fathers were not christians – they were Deists, now called Unitarians, who believed in God, but not in the Divinity of Jesus. This is difficult for evangelicals to understand because they believe that Jesus and God are one and the same. These are the people who could not accept a God without a face, so in the 4th century (325 AD), the Church, which until reformation was the Catholic Church, and the only church recognized by Europeans, decided to put together a unified religion, and called it after a popular cult known as christians. Since christ simply means anointed, and was not a made-up “last name” for a very popular preacher and prophet of 300 years before, this was the name this cult chose to call themselves. When some members of this Catholic Church chose to leave the stringent teaching of this establishment, and several different men built different religious sects, with names like Baptist, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Methodist, Episcopalian, and even, under Henry VIII of England, Church of England (which is very similar to the Episcopalian). The Church of Christ, which I was raised in, also was established, though many of those members choose to believe that they are the only true church, and arose directly from those early christian sects. I daresay there are many other sects which believe this of their own choice of religions.
When asked, James Madison wrote: The purpose of separation of church and state is to keep forever from these shores the ceaseless strife that has soaked the soil of Europe with blood for centuries.
Today, this not-so-united states has religious and spiritual views of many kinds, most of them peacefully living side-by-side with every other view, whether it be Jewish, pagan, Muslim, Sikh, Sufi, Buddhist, Zen, Shinto, Mormon, Shamanism, Native American, or any other I have missed. The only people who cannot seem to live peacefully with these various beliefs are the evangelical and/or fundamentalist christians. It is a very sad thing to me to see the angst and anger being put forward by these people in the name of Jesus, a man who was an extraordinary man, with wise preachings and prophecies, and stories of miracles, but just a man. This man Jesus would not have harmed anyone, and loved all creatures of this earth, and probably not of this earth.
The worst of these christians seem to think they have the right to foist their beliefs on everyone, yet their religious beliefs first rose from the Celtic pagans of early England and Germany, and they use many of the visions associated with those folks. I myself am a Celtic, Pythagorean, Gnostic Pagan – which means I believe in the ancient spiritualities of Nature, I am tolerant, and I am eager to learn everything I can. I could, perhaps, be called a Deist except for one thing: I am a polytheist. That does not mean I don’t believe in the overall, most mighty God/dess, who has the most power. But I also believe in lesser gods and goddesses who represent the sea, trees, arts and crafts, other things. Even the christian bible says gods roamed the earth in the ancient days (Genesis 3 or 4).
But cults can arise from anything, and as long as they are benevolent – not meant to force anyone to their beliefs, not committing mass suicide over what they think might be the end of times, or who are paranoid, but organizations who worship a one true God/dess, and treat their fellow human beings, animals, and nature itself with love and respect. These are not the folks who get angry with anyone for not believing what they do. There is room for all spiritualities.
As for that, there is room for atheism as well. I don’t understand atheism myself, but it is not my right to condemn anyone for it. I figure most atheists come to some understanding of an almighty God/dess in time. As it has been said: there are no atheists in foxholes.
Molly Ivins, among others, have written newspaper columns about the fight over whether creches can be put into government buildings, and whether forcible prayer to a christian god should be put into public schools. I don’t believe any religion, no matter what it is, should be displayed in any government building, federal, state, county, city, including public schools. These things belong in the establishments (read buildings) put up by these different organizations, or on personal property. I don’t care if you put a creche on your front lawn. It does not offend me, but neither is it important to me. Besides, how many of you even know that many non-religious representatives of christmas come from the pagans – the yule log is Celtic and Norse pagan; the christmas tree is from pagan Germany, christmas carols which do not speak of the “holy birth” come from ancient spiritualities from all over the world.
I think if this country is ever to be really UNITED, people need to come together in peace and understand that not all morals taught by any religious group is the key to everyone else’s understanding. I especially don’t think any person has the right to speak for God, or the Goddess, themselves, and telling your children they are going to hell if they don’t walk the line is damaging to your child’s psyche. You may not like that, but as a one-time child who was told that constantly by my Church of Christ parents, and other adults, it can really mess up a mind. It took me years, and nightmares to live through, and much study to learn that this is not something I believed, nor any else’s decision to make FOR ME. What happens to me eventually is between my God/dess and I, and no-one else has any business putting themselves in my way.
I believe there is a verse in one of Paul’s letters that states “those who turn anyone away from Jesus by their teachings will be found as faulted as the person who turns away” – of course, that is a christian teaching, but since fundamentalist/evangelical christians are the terrorists in this case, perhaps it is something they themselves should think about.
I’m not sitting in judgment on you, but if you believe this, then S/someone is sitting in judgment on you.
Keep church and state, all government, separate. That is what the Founding Fathers intended.
Carol Stepp, Austin, TX