Some of the religious in this country claim that we are a “Christian Nation” and should be declared to be so. To support their claim they argue that we were born as a Christian Nation. Were we “born” as a Christian nation? Just what do they mean, though? I have some further thoughts on this interesting claim.
It is undeniable that many of the colonies that became the United States declared themselves to be Christian states as did many of the cities residing in those states. Just what did this look like, though? Some of these states had laws requiring attendance at worship services, for example. Apostates were not allowed to hold public office. Many had laws making “blasphemy” punishable. Some had religious toleration laws, though, but they didn’t extend to Catholics or Jews. Being a dissenter was punishable in some states (if you weren’t burned alive in your church before the law got onto you). Some colonies and even some of the Constitutionally-created states collected “tithes” for distribution to the state religion. (Why “pass the plate” when you can use governmental confiscatory power?) All of these were eventually dispensed with for some reason or other.
The fly in the ointment and the eventual undoing of this sort of religious support was the problem of denominations. If the United States was to become a single political entity, which of the various denominations would become the “state sponsored religion?” Was it to be the Unitarians, or the Congregationalists, Quakers, Anglicans, Lutherans, or…. What about the Jews and Catholics?
If you were to take this practice into our modern era, what would it look like? Democratically, we could solve the problem of choosing which denomination of Christianity to support by choosing them all. Each would receive part of the government tithe according to the relative numbers of members of each of those sects. The first problem would be determining those numbers. We have an authorized process, the Census, that occurs every ten years to make such counts, but by what criteria? Do we allow people to self select? Then do we list the tens of thousands of Christian sects to choose from or do we narrow those choices? Do we let the religious groups themselves determine their own numbers of believers? That would probably end up with totals exceeding the entire population of the country by a large margin as Christians are well-known to be cheaters. (Hey, that is not an opinion, just a fact. Otherwise how can you have 98.2% of all Catholic women volunteering that they have used the artificial birth control methods banned by their church? How can you explain the overwhelming numbers of Christians in our prisons? I could go on; don’t make me.) I don’t think that would work as a way to determine each denomination’s share of the loot. I won’t even address how the various sects would want their denomination’s share to be distributed as that would be even more confounding.
The next problem would come when evangelicals find out that part of their tithes is going to Catholics. Catholics constitute the largest share of the membership in Christian churches, so they would get the largest share of the tithe. Mormons also claim to be Christians, so evangelicals would be supporting Mormons.
The history that shows that religions get fat and lazy and more autocratic when living off the government teat is another problem in that a religion that does not support the current government when receiving government funds will soon find their authority being nibbled away by offended bureaucrats and party loyalists. Anti-establishment religions would soon change their tune or fade away.
Now, what share of this government tithe should atheists and non-believers get? A great many Christian apologists claim that atheism is a religion, so…. And, of course, Jews, Muslims, Jains, Hindus, etc. are not Christians, so they would be frozen out (presumably along with the Atheists). And since this would not be “taxation without representation” as they have had representatives, just Christian representatives, they would have no gripe there or will there be a call for representatives by religion? And one might want to be a bit more respectful of American citizens who are not Christians. Do we really want to be undermining their loyalty to the USA?
Maybe we should limit the tithe to just the Christian citizens. But then you would see a mass exodus from Christian churches by people wanting to avoid the tithe. Ouch, that would hurt.
Hey, you religious, do you really want a Christian Nation?
Now about the changes we would need to make to our laws. What penalty should there be for taking the Lord’s name in vain? What exactly does that mean, anyway? If you pray for divine intervention and nothing happens, isn’t that prayer in vain? Should that be punished? I am getting confused here.