Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Would You Vote For An Atheist?

There are groups of Americans who have a genuine fear. Their fear is that the "right wing" of the Republican party, namely Evangelical Christians, are in danger of "taking over." When you visit their websites and read their blogs, they seem to have one major argument for their brand of separation of church and state. They are fond of calling our chief document the Godless Constitution. Are they right? Their argument seems solid and factual; one needs only to read the U.S. Constitution and look for the word "God" to find that His name is not mentioned. Arthur Schlesinger Jr, gives a clear summation in a 2004 article for Los Angeles times. He states, "The founding fathers did not mention God in the Constitution, and the faithful often regarded our early presidents as insufficiently pious."
At the same time, there are great efforts being made to reconstruct the character of the founding generation. This historical strip-mining began in the late 19th century in the academic circles, and in the 20th century it became the parlor game of film makers. Most often the founding generation is held to a modern perspective with little or no consideration of the times in which they lived. Bold declarations are made about what the writers of the Constitution believed, as if the modern historians could mystically look beyond the vast amount of their personal writings and look straight into their secular souls.
In fact, the U.S. Constitution does not mention God. It neither mentions the sun, but it was written in the light of that vast shining orb. The founding generation assumed that certain things were in their own words "self-evident." They believed that anyone with common sense could see the sunshine and know that there is a God.
The early state constitutions of Texas, Massachusetts, Maryland, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Tennessee all had some kind of religious test for potential government officials. One even required an expressed belief in the Trinity before one could serve in an elected office. There were doubtless political motivations behind some of these requirements. There was also a firm belief that if a person denied certain "self-evident" truths, they were not likely to be trusted as leaders. I am not arguing that these specific examples should have stood when the VI Amendment erased religious tests in the U.S. Constitution, but it is important not to erase the entire sunshine of the founding generation's awe, reverence and dependance upon almighty providence, yes, God.
The Secular Coalition for America is overjoyed to have found one single U.S. Congressman from a liberal district near San Francisco named Rep. Pete Stark (D-CA) who is a professing atheist. They are celebrating his courage for coming out of the secular closet. A strange celebration? He is the only one out of all 534 of his colleagues who was willing to identify himself as a member of the Universalist church. It does appear that the Secular Coalition for America is really stretching to get a win. They had to coax him out of the closet. It seems that for most Americans, what people believe generally is still an important issue. I, for one, do not want religious tests, but I promise you as one voting and active citizen, I look at what the candidates in my voting booth believe about the existence of the sun and the existence of God. I want to know if a candidate has common sense and if they know that one day they will stand before the Judgement Seat and give an account of their actions. Voters can un-elect a politician, but God... Well, He is another story.
Ed Litton