Give any religion half a chance, and it will institute its beliefs as law upon the populace in a heartbeat, as it is the nature of religion when coupled with the power of government to inevitably slide down the proverbial slippery slope into dogmatic tyranny over the people. It’s the fundamental reason America has written into the very First Amendment to the Constitution, the separation of church and state as a crucial tenet of freedom. It states,
“Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”
and Article VI of the Constitution states,
“no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.”
The following are quotes from many of our founding fathers and venerable thinkers who cherish the independent workings of government and religion, not to interfere with each other, holding the freedom of the individual in highest honor.
I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibit the free exercise thereof, thus building a wall of separation between church and state.
In every country and in every age, the priest has been hostile to liberty. He is always in alliance with the despot, abetting his abuses in return for protection to his own.
History, I believe, furnishes no example of a priest-ridden people maintaining a free civil government. This marks the lowest grade of ignorance of which their civil as well as religious leaders will always avail themselves for their own purposes.
Because religious belief, or non-belief, is such an important part of every person’s life, freedom of religion affects every individual. State churches that use government power to support themselves and force their views on persons of other faiths undermine all our civil rights. Moreover, state support of the church tends to make the clergy unresponsive to the people and leads to corruption within religion. Erecting a “wall of separation between church and state.” therefore, is absolutely essential in a free society.
Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, then that of blindfolded fear.
We have abundant reason to rejoice that in this Land of truth and reason has triumphed over the power of bigotry and superstition…In this enlightened Age and in this Land of equal liberty it is our boast, that a man’s religious tenets will not forfeit the protection of the Laws, nor deprive him of the right of attaining and holding the highest Offices that are known in the United States.
If I could conceive that the general government might ever be so administered as to render the liberty of conscience insecure, I beg you will be persuaded, that no one be more zealous than myself to establish effectual barriers against the horrors of spiritual tyranny, and every species of religious persecution.
Some very worthy persons, who have not had great advantages for information, have objected against that clause in the constitution which provides, that no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States. They have been afraid that this clause is unfavorable to religion. But my countrymen, the sole purpose and effect of it is to exclude persecution, and to secure to you the important right and religious liberty. We are almost the only people in the world, who have a full enjoyment of this important right of human nature.
WWWIn our country every man has a right to worship God in that way which is most agreeable to his conscience. If he be a good and peaceable person he is liable to no penalties or incapacities on account of his religious sentiments; or in other words, he is not subject to persecution. But in other parts of the world, it has been, and still is, far different. Systems of religious error have been adopted, in times of ignorance. It has been the interest of tyrannical kings, popes, and prelates, to maintain these errors. When the clouds of ignorance began to vanish, and the people grew more enlightened, there was no other way to keep them in error, but to prohibit their altering their religious opinions by severe persecution laws. In this way persecution became general throughout Europe.
The Government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion.
And I have no doubt that every new example will succeed, as every past one has done, in shewing that religion and government will both exist in greater purity, the less they are mixed together.
The civil government functions with complete success by the total separation of the church and the state.
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 in blood for centuries.
When a religion is good, I conceive it will support itself, and when it does not support itself, and God does not take care to support it so that its professors are obligated to call for help of the civil power, it’s a sign, I apprehend, of its being a bad one.
Persecution is not an original feature in any religion; but it is always the strongly marked feature of all religions established by law. Take away the law-establishment, and every religion re-assumes its original benignity.
One good school master is of more use than a hundred priests.
Almost any sect, cult, or religion will legislate its creed into law if it acquires the political power to do so.
How dismal it is to see present day Americans yearning for the very orthodoxy that their country was founded to escape.
They knew that to put God in the constitution was to put man out. They knew that the recognition of a deity would be seized upon by fanatics and zealots as a perfect pretext for destroying the liberty of thought. They knew the terrible history of the church too well to place in her keeping or in the keeping of her God the rights of man. They intended that all should have the right to worship or not worship that our laws should make of distinction on account of creed. They intended to found and frame a government for man and for man alone. They wished to preserve the individuality of all to prevent the few from governing the many from persecution and destroying the few.
Those who would renegotiate the boundaries between church and state must therefore answer a difficult question: Why would we trade a system that has served us so well for one that that has served others so poorly.
The divorce between church and state ought to be absolute. It ought to be so absolute that no church property anywhere, in any state or in the nation, should be exempt from equal taxation; for if you exempt the property of any church organization, to that extent you impose a tax upon the whole community.
When a government puts it imprimatur on a particular religion it conveys a message of exclusion to all those who do not adhere to the favored beliefs. A government cannot be premised on the belief that all person are created equal when it asserts that God prefers some.
We have seen a resurgence recently of attempts by many Congressmen to insert more religion into politics and law, to run our country from the perspective of religious belief rather than reason and sense. They are supported by citizens who fervently and erroneously believe that our nation was founded on religion. Despite the sacred words of our Constitution, the caveats of these great individuals, and the fact that we live in the 21st century, the people of America would never support a candidate for president who is a non-religious secular person no matter what his or her credentials.
WWWThese eloquent words from our founding fathers and impassioned patriots remind us that on this Independence Day, this insidious and pervasive danger exists still.
© Joe Arrigo