The origin of “Atheist” is from the Greek word Atheos. It was a derogatory term used against those who did not believe in god(s). Atheists were often disliked because they did not follow along with the majority, who had a belief in a higher power. While people left England/Europe to escape religious persecution and to avoid state sponsored religion, they brought their own brand of religious persecution to America.
While some of our founding fathers had deep religious convictions, they did not want the new Government to get involved in the matters of religion and deferred those decisions to the states. States had blasphemy laws, some states had laws that only certain sects of the Christian religion could hold public office (ie, Only Protestants could be elected) and what makes matters worse is that some of these laws are still on the books! (Though not enforced).
The debate, “Is America a Christian Nation?” is usually made of dozens of hand picked quotes that the founding fathers made, sometimes out of context and sometimes the founder made both pro and con statements about religion or a higher power. Thomas Jefferson is an interesting case and worthy of investigating in this matter. A Quote from a letter from Thomas Jefferson to his Nephew Peter Carr “Fix reason firmly in her seat, and call to her tribunal every fact, every opinion. Question with boldness even the existence of a god;” (Can someone say Blasphemy?) (more on Jefferson later)—-There is no doubt in my mind that the majority of people in the United States are Christian or as someone attempted to argue as proof was a quote: “The Mass of Organic Utterances”…which only means the majority of people are saying it, it must be true! I could see one arguing that some states could make the claim that their state is (was) a “Protestant” state but the same cannot be said about the Federal Government who made it clear “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion”. By making a declaration, they would be making a statement of an established religion.
Jefferson’s “University of Virginia” was set to be the first secular college. It would be the first, or one of the first colleges that would not have a seminary on it’s grounds. Jefferson’s vision was not totally realized as over the years, religion would find it’s way into the college. I don’t want to stretch this too much because I want to keep the readers attention but if you want me to write more about Jefferson, make a comment 🙂
Why is this a debate anyway? Isn’t America the land of opportunity? Isn’t America a place of Freedom of Conscious? Worship as we choose? The problem is… Acceptance. Some cannot accept that all across the United States, across the world, people are different! We have a problem when people don’t think like us. Opening myself up to learning all aspects of theism and other worldviews has enriched me as a human being. When will you open yourself up?