Huh... I’m surprised that no one has responded yet who actually does consider their country to be a Christian nation... at least outside of a cultural sense, which I’ll come to shortly. Still, that may yet change, so we’ll what happens.
First, regarding the question of the money and the Pledge of Allegiance in the United States, I can shed some light on this, although some people have already covered the basics. The phrase “In God We Trust” first appeared on coins in 1864, during the Civil War, ostensibly at the behest of churches to help encourage Union soldiers and civilians that they were fighting on the side of God. Of course, Abraham Lincoln noted that, during the Civil War, both the Union and the Confederacy were praying to the same god for victory and it was unlikely that a god, if one existed at all, was on either side. “In God We Trust” was not adopted as the national motto of the United States until 1956 and did not appear on paper money until 1957, all as part of the red scare and the McCarthy era, in which, rather than bothering to explain what the problems with communism actually are in order to generate a good understanding of why people ought to be against it, godlessness became associated with it, which is still a problem today in some cases. Atheists are still to this day told by some Christians in America that they need to go and live in Russia (or China, if they’re aware of the fact that Russia is no longer communist), and I occasionally get accused of being a “socialist”, though what I find more offensive, really, is the lack of understanding of both atheism and socialism that such people routinely demonstrate.
The words “under God” were added to the Pledge of Allegiance after the words “one nation” in 1954. Originally, it read:
”I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
The pledge was changed three times when it was adopted by the United States government, but the words “under God” were only added in 1954, for the same reasons as the motto “In God We Trust” being mandated by the government a couple years later. It’s kind of ironic that such divisive language should be added to the pledge right before the word “indivisible”. Interestingly, this pledge was first written in 1892 by Francis Bellamy, who was Baptist minister, and yet he made no attempt to insert religious language into a national pledge. Perhaps he was a minister who understood that the United States was a nation with many different beliefs and he actually respected the idea of separation of church and state.
Anyways, the cultural argument that Dabniks has raised is an interesting one and I’ve heard it elsewhere, even non-religious people. For instance, my own father has asserted on occasion that one need not be a Christian to live a perfectly Christian life. I find such statements quite annoying, personally, since it’s only the result of Christianity managing to get itself associated with general goodness that people think this way, and it could not be further from the truth; a cursory examination of the Bible is enough to demonstrate that most people do not get their morals from scripture and it would takes some fantastic mental gymnastics to derive anything that we today would consider to be truly “good” from the Bible (other than, of course, things that are very obvious, and often far too simplistically described in the Bible). Of course, most Christians (like most people) are good people, but that’s because they tend to follow their own moral compass rather than blindly following the dictates of bronze age mythology; the Bible condones slavery and commands death for homosexuals and non-believers, but very few Christians in western society—even fundamentalists—actually believe in doing this. Some do, but most don’t.
Something else is at work in our culture, which is why I think it’s unfair and overly simplistic to describe western society as a “Christian culture”. Of course Christianity has played a historical role in western society and it absolutely has influenced our culture, but so too has pagan mythology and customs, and our ethics, our politics, and the principles we live by could not be further removed from the Christian faith. Democracy is nowhere to be found in the Bible, nor is freedom of speech, freedom of conscience, or freedom of religion. These principles, which I would personally think of as the foundations of modern western society, can be traced back as far as ancient Greece, a pre-Christian pagan culture, and the Enlightenment, when people first began to question the established doctrines of religion and tradition. Western society has been influenced by and does include Christianity (as it also includes Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Scientology, Jedi, Pastafarians, and all kind of other world religions, in addition to non-believers), but Christianity is by no means the bedrock upon which it is built; it is a contributor, perhaps, but not the architect.
Anyways, just a note about the winter solstice, since it was brought up. I celebrate Christmas and, frankly, I resent it when Christians tell me that I’m wrong to do so; what business is it of theirs what I choose to celebrate? I have no obligation to explain myself to them. Moreover, Christmas, like every Christian holiday, was commandeered from the pagans by the Roman Catholic Church as it spread the faith across Europe. The winter solstice is a “natural holiday” (i.e. based on natural events) that was celebrated across the northern hemisphere by many cultures under many different names. So, yes, it was the Scandinavian Yule Tide, as well as the Roman winter solstice, and many other similar celebrations, all marking the shortest day of the year and the “rebirth” of the sun (i.e. longer days signalling the coming spring). Many religions have involved died-and-risen saviour gods who were either born or reborn at the winter solstice, and these include Mithra from the Roman Mithraic Mysteries and Horus from ancient Egyptian mythology, so it’s not surprising that the early Roman church decided to make the winter solstice the time at which their died-and-risen saviour god was born too, even though most scholars agree that, if there even was a Jesus, he was born in the spring. But I digress, Christmas has been celebrated far longer than there has been a Christ to name it after and most people in western society don’t celebrate it today either out of religious reverence or even in acknowledgement of the solstice; if anything, it’s become a capitalist holiday.
Anyways, some interesting replies, everyone. But I’m still hoping for a Christian who sincerely believes that they live in a Christian nation to join the discussion and tell us what’s so important to them about having their nation recognised as such.
Edited by Eon, 28 September 2011 - 03:05 PM.