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posted on 29 March 2017

God and America (Version 3)

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God is big in America. Not only has God been bigger here than anywhere else throughout the developed world (e.g. West Europe), 'the divine' also feels especially big every four years when there is a Presidential election, although the overall trend of "faith in God" has been down over the past two decades (Religion - Gallup).

Why is God so big in America? It's a complex question requiring a long answer ...

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1. How big is God in America?

God is so big in America that

  1. No one has yet been able to become an American President without claiming to be a Christian first (e.g. Barack Obama and Donald Trump).
  2. Dr. Ben Carson, during his 2016 Presidential campaign, failed to correctly answer the simple question of The Bible vs. the Constitution.

2. How did "the God" come to America?

There were many Gods in the Americas before Christopher Columbus "discovered" the "new" world in 1492. Thereafter, the Spanish exported Christianity, mostly Catholics, to the Americas.

About four hundred years ago, the following two major groups migrated to America from England:

  1. Jamestown Settlement: It was established by people who were sent to America by the King of England, with a contract. Their loyalty was to the King, the head of the Church of England, and hence were mostly Anglicans.
  2. Pilgrims: Escaping from England to seek religious freedom in America, they were mostly Protestants.

In summary, it was chiefly the Spanish, as well as the two groups from England, that brought Christianity and their God to America.

3. America is exceptional

Can any country be more exceptional than America, which was founded with neither a king nor a pope?

After America declared independence from England in 1776, our Founding Fathers instituted, among many things (America: What Did Our Founding Fathers Do, Actually?), at least two great policies, specifically with regard to religion:

  1. Religious freedom: They chose not to have a national religion, unlike England which had, and still has, one (i.e. Christianity). Additionally, they introduced First Amendment to the United States Constitution, which guarantees religious freedom.
  2. Separation of church and state.

For more, read: Church vs. State.

4. Why is God so big in America?

God is big in America for many reasons, of which six are listed below:

  1. It's America.
  2. It's cultural.
  3. It's economic.
  4. It's religious.
  5. It's political.
  6. It's America, again.

Let me elaborate on each ...

4.1 It's America

Two facts from history (Church vs. State):

  1. There are two major ways to get people organized: by country or by religion.
  2. The relationship between church and state is almost a zero-sum game: a stronger church means a weaker state, and vice versa.

As a "free" country, America is, by definition, weak in governing. Therefore, it is, by definition, strong in religion.

4.2 It's cultural

Many people migrated to America to seek religious freedom (and found it here). This is one key reason there are so many small (and independent) churches in America, representing various branches of Christianity, in stark contrast with the "fancy" churches, representing the largest, and highly authoritative, branch of Christianity: Catholics.

Very importantly, a small and independent church for a local community is perfectly in line with a core American value: freedom! Specifically, it means freedom to worship and freedom to study and interpret the Bible, thus having "a personal relationship with God", without submitting to any authority, let alone all the way up to the Vatican like the Catholics do.

Many Americans are raised as church-goers by their parents and continue the tradition throughout their lives. It's a great place for community gathering, which has been especially important for rural America. For those folks, church-going is perhaps more cultural than religious per se.

4.3 It's economic

After WWII, America became a de facto Utopian society (Utopia: An Eighth Similarity between Communism and Democracy), with a huge middle class. Many chose to enrich their lives by all means, such as becoming regular church-goers, often with their wallets open.

As America's economy started losing its prominence after the turn of the 21st century, many people have become economically vulnerable, turning to church for support.

In short, church in America thrives in both good and bad times.

4.4 It's religious

Because religion is about survival, influence, and power, many Protestant branches of Christianity have ended up with their own hierarchies, with bigger and fancier church buildings over time, in competition with the Catholics. The photo below shows one example: a large evangelical gathering in America.

4.5 It's political

Throughout American history, Christianity has been used in, and for, politics. Two examples:

  1. Both slave owners and abolitionists used not only the same Bible, but also the same verses in the Bible, to justify or denounce slavery.
  2. Martin Luther King Jr, an icon in the Civil Rights movement, was a Baptist minister and leading activist. He effectively used his religious position for the good cause.

4.6 It's America, again

Most Americans have lost confidence in our government, resorting to the other pillar of support (i.e. religion), instead.

Below are three pieces of hard evidence, in terms of the approval rating, that Americans have lost confidence in our government, all its three branches:

  1. President Obama: a little bit above 50%, after spending most of his presidency below 50% (United States presidential approval rating).
  2. Supreme Court: 44% (Why is the Supreme Court so unpopular?)!
  3. Congress: 11% (Poll Congress approval-rating drops to 11 percent)!

The election of Donald Trump to the American Presidency is a convincing example: Americans are so disgusted with the existing political establishment that they are willing to try something, anything, different, even with a very flawed person like Donald Trump.

Is Donald Trump a God? No! But many Americans treat him like one!

5. America: a country of contradictions

Like all other countries, America is full of contradictions. Three big examples:

  1. The Bible vs. the Constitution.
  2. The Bible vs. the Quran.
  3. Public references to God in America.

Let me elaborate on each.

5.1 The Bible vs. the Constitution

Over a public matter, when in conflict, an American must always choose the Constitution over the Bible!

This is actually a litmus test for U.S. citizenship. Here is an excerpt from Wikipedia - Oath of Allegiance (United States):

I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law; and that I take this obligation freely without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God.[2]

End of discussion? Yes, but what about the word "God" at the end of the Oath? It was inserted in the 1950s, most likely in the name of fighting against "Godless communism".

For more, watch the short video below.

5.2 The Bible vs. the Quran

The image below is worth 1,000 words.

For me, all public officials should be sworn in over the U.S. Constitution, instead of any religious holy book!

5.3 Public references to God in America

There are many public references to God in America, from the one Dollar bill (shown below) to many examples listed in this article: God in Our Nation's Capital.

My interpretation of the use of "God" refers to a general God, not that of a particular religion, including atheists who believe in no God.

On the other hand, if all the public references to God refer to a particular God of a particular religion (e.g. Christianity), they are anachronisms, perhaps acceptable at a particular time, but not so today, just like slavery and "We the People" in the Constitution. Specifically,

  1. Slavery: America, at its birth, tolerated it, despite all the wisdom and good intentions of our Founding Fathers. It took the Civil War to finally seriously address the issue, ultimately costing the lives of more than 620,000 American soldiers!
  2. "We the People": This phrase, as in the Constitution, refers to a few rich white men only, as women and minorities had no voting rights (or being elected to office) for a long time. It took several Constitutional Amendments to rectify that "mistake"!

6. Discussion

Throughout human history, most countries have been in a constant power struggle between two authorities: king (or queen) vs. religion. Religious power tends to get stronger with a weak king, while a strong king often diminishes religious power.

The power struggle remains little changed after a monarchy is replaced by a republic: It just becomes a republic government vs. religion.

America has proven to be no exception in this regard.

Now, let's discuss four critical issues:

  1. Origins of Christianity.
  2. Atheism.
  3. Is religion the only source of the moral code?
  4. What is the best way to treat religions?

Let me elaborate on each.

6.1 Origin of Christianity

Two informative readings:

  1. Did the Romans Create both Christianity and Islam?
  2. The True Authorship of the New Testament. Below is an excerpt.

Professor Bruno Bauer, in his work of 1877 "Christ and the Caesars", stated that he had concluded that the Romans had authored the New Testament and that Flavius Josephus was the inventor of Jesus.

With the Internet, the research on this subject should advance more dramatically.

6.2 Atheism

Theoretically, atheism means no belief in God (or belief in no God). In practice, however, atheism may have become a religion itself: the religion of attempting to eliminate all [other] religions.

In America, for example, Christianity is a part of the culture, deeply rooted. Can you eliminate a culture without eliminating all the people who are part of it? The same can be said about Islam, worldwide.

Worse yet, because all religions cannot be eliminated at the same time, the best anyone can do is to try to eliminate them one by one, resulting in numerous religious wars! For example, in America today, many atheists have contributed to Islamophobia. For more, read: America: Stop Islam Bashing!

6.3 Is religion the only source of the moral code?

No! One prominent example: China. China has never had a major [organized] religion throughout its history! Yet, China has proven to be one of the greatest countries in human history (The Greatest Countries in Human History). Two facts:

  1. China has the longest continuous civilization in human history.
  2. Great civilizations come and go, with one exception: China - come, go, and come again.

6.4 What is the best way to treat religions?

Separation of church and state!

7. Closing

God has his place in America, but not in our government!

Now, please sit back and enjoy the short video below.

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