September 2007


To Love and Cherish

Doing Apologetics

Christianity: The Basics

What is Wrong with Social Justice

Christianity and Secularism

Evidence for the Bible

A Review of Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion Part VI

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Sept 14, 2007, Wausau, Wi  Last time in my review of Richard Dawkins’, “The God Delusion” I showed the superficiality of Dawkins’ view of God.   From there, Dawkins begins a discussion of the Founding Father, trying to claim that, “contrary to [The American right’s’] view, the fact that the United States was not founded as a Christian nation was early stated in the terms of the Treaty of Tripoli, drafted in 1796 under George Washington and signed by John Adams in 1797.” (pg 40)

Once again, the simplicity of Dawkins’ approach leads him into error.  United States is not a Christian nation in the sense that government has established Christianity as the official religion of the United States; which is basically what the Treaty of Tripoli says for it clearly refers to “The Government of the United States.”

The problem for Dawkins’ is that there is a difference between the government and the nation as a whole. A country is more than just its government.  This is true of all nations, and is particularly true of the United States where even within the government there is a difference between the federal and the states.  Nothing shows this clearer than at the very time Dawkins claims that the Treaty of Tripoli showed that the United States was not a Christian nation, many of the states still had established religions, all of which were Christian.

Dawkins goes on to claim that, “the genie of religious fanaticism is rampant in present-day America, and the founding fathers would have been horrified…  the founders most certainly were secularists who believe in keeping religion out of politics, and that is enough to place them firmly on the side of those who object, for example, to ostentatious displays in the Ten Commandments in government-owned public places.” (pg 41-2)

Dawkins’ view is common among secularists, but it conflicts with the actual history.  In fact, as I detail in my book, Christianity and Secularism, the phase  “Separation of Church and State” which is the defining phrase for secularists is not only absent from the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, it did not even enter into Constitutional law until 1947, when it was inserted by the Supreme Court.

While secularist do mention it very often, the very first clause of the First Amendment reads “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion” Perhaps the only thing that secularist mention even less, would be the second clause, “or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” The founding father thought that religion was important enough to make this the very first part of the First Amendment.

Dawkins’ view is even further called into question by the fact that Congress, the day after approving the First Amendment passed a resolution calling for a national day of prayer and thanksgiving.  If the founding fathers were so intent on getting religion out of politics as Dawkins’ claims, how could the very same people who approved the First Amendment the very next day pass such a resolution?  The simple fact is that if Dawkins’ view of their goals were correct, they couldn’t have.

Rather than being horrified by rampant religious fanaticism as Dawkins’ claims, the British historian Paul Johnson has a much more actuate view when he pointed out that the current dominance of secularism “would have astonished and angered the founding father.” (see Christianity and Secularism, pg 19)

 While it is true the founding fathers did not want an established religion, it was because they saw religion as extremely important, so important that it needed to be the very first thing protected in the Bill of Rights. 

The founding fathers believed in checks and balances.  The reason they saw religion as so important, is that it was the one thing strong enough to check the growth of government.  They did not fear religion, what they feared was that one group would gain power and use its position to dominate and suppress opposing points of view. In short, that a single view of religion would become a tool of government and used to suppress differing religious views.

The founding fathers’ view of religion dominated until the middle part of the 20th century.  By then secularism’s distain for religion had grown to the point that religion came to be seen, not as something so important it needed to be protected from government, but something so dangerous that government  it need to be protected from it.

Thus, starting with the 1947 Everson v. Board of Education ruling, the Supreme Court has effectively rewritten the constitution, allowing the court to reshape American society.  What we have now is what the founding fathers’ feared most, that one religious view, in this case secularism, has gained power and has used that power to reinterpret the First Amendment, and is using the new interpretation to dominate and suppress all competing religious views.

Thus in the name of freedom, prayer in public schools was prohibited. In the name of freedom, Bible reading in public schools was prohibited.  In the name of freedom, prayer at graduations was prohibited, even if voluntary and done by students.   In the name of freedom, the Ten Commandments were banned from public schools.  In the name of freedom, Christians are routinely told that their values and beliefs are illegitimate in the political process because they are “religious.”  Thus on many issues such as abortion or definition of marriage or family, secularists say you are free to have whatever views you want, just as long as you keep them to yourselves, as only their views can be represented and promoted by government.  That is hardly view of freedom and democracy the founding fathers wanted.

This is Elgin Hushbeck, asking you to Consider Christianity: a Faith Based on Fact.  

2 Responses to “A Review of Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion Part VI”

  1. stuart easton Says:

    Pot. Kettle. Black.

    This was an interesting article until the last couple of paragraphs. You seem to be trying to say that secularisism is a religion and that it’s taken over. You go on to say that it’s now exerting political influence at the expense of others.

    Yet it is the religious right, conservative Christians, who are fighting the hardest in Congress and in the Senate, against abortion, gay rights and more. As I said, “Pot. Kettle. Black”.

    I suspect you would not like it if Sharia Law was imposed in the USA. Stop trying to impose your Ten Commandments on the rest of us. By all means, live your own life by them, but don’t force your views on me, and don’t say I’m forcing secularism on you. Nobody says don’t live by the Big Ten. No law that I’m aware of (though I’m no expert) forces you to break the Big Ten.

    So stop the hypocracy. Lose the moral indignation. Take up the challenge; the balance of proof is that there is no God. Don’t get lost in hyperbole (as Dawkins does in most of his books). Then it will be an interesting and worthy debate.

  2. Elgin Hushbeck Says:

    Mr Easton,
    Perhaps, but I have always found the secularists complain that it is the “religious right” that doing the politicizing to be a little strange. Consider the following analogy. In a mythical society, you have a norm that has existed for generations. Then you have a group, the changers, pushing for change and getting the courts to impost that change. Then there is a second group, the resisters, trying to stop that change. Which group is guilty of politicizing the issue?
    In this analogy, the changers are clearly the secularist and the resisters would be what you label the religious right. So how is it that those who want keep the status quo are the ones politicizing these things? To use your example, was abortion a major divisive issue in the 1950?
    As to my political views, I would suggest you check our my most recent book Preserving Democracy. In that, I talk in detail about the religious heritage of this country and how it is being undermined by secularism. See particularly chapter 4 on the Rule of Law, and chapter 9 on the loss of American Values.
    As for taking up the challenge, While not a directly on the existence of God, I do address that issue in Christianity and Secularism. To complain that I am only responding to Dawkins in a review of Dawkins books is a little out of place.