Monday, October 1, 2007

American secularism stripped ?

I always suspected that when heave came to shove, Americans would go searching for their Christian roots and give secularism the go-by. The heave and shove seems to have come from the growing influence of Islam and other religions in the country, and yes, perhaps the audacity of a person with a Muslim name to aim for the country’s Presidency.

Truly, the US had an Indian priest, Rajan Zed, read a prayer to the Senate, to protests from some Christians in the galleries Yet the Hindu prayer in the Senate boiled down to more of good form rather than real secularism.

Else what is one to make of US Presidential candidate and Senator John McCain telling beliefnet in an interview that, “I think the number one issue people should make [in the] selection of the President of the United States is, 'Will this person carry on in the Judeo Christian principled tradition that has made this nation the greatest experiment in the history of mankind?'”

It is easy to dismiss McCain as a rare bigot. I am however worried he is one of many Americans who hold this view. His mistake was he shot himself on the foot by being frank.

McCain may in fact be reflecting the view of a large number of Americans who believe that the US constitution and political tradition is based on Christianity and Christian values. No place here for jihad, I guess, but certainly place I guess for strong Christian traditions like the Crusades and the Inquisition. You know what, it are these double standards, and arrogance about Christian tradition that riles other religious communities !

Sixty-five percent of Americans believe that the nation's founders intended the U.S. to be a Christian nation, and 55 percent believe that the Constitution establishes a Christian nation, according to the “State of the First Amendment 2007” national survey released Sept. 11 by the First Amendment Center, a nonprofit organization focused on education and information about First Amendment issues in the US.

Rick Green of WallBuilders, an advocacy group that believes the US was built on Christian principles, told USA Today that the poll doesn't mean a majority favors a "theocracy" but that the Constitution reflects Christian values, including religious freedom. "I would call it a Christian document, just like the Declaration of Independence," he told USA Today.

One redeeming result of the survey was that the right to practice one’s own religion was deemed “essential” or “important” by nearly all Americans (97%). This figure speaks for American tolerance, but not for real secularism, I think. What the people surveyed, and McCain seem to be saying is “this is a Christian country, but of course we are tolerant of other faiths”.

It is not dissimilar from the UK, where the country claims to be secular, but the monarch takes the oath to protect the Anglican faith. Of course the UK too tolerates other religions within its constitution, inspired as it is by Anglican principles.

As non-Christian religions with their cultural baggage threaten the American’s Christian way, not only by violence but in most cases by peaceful co-existence and assimilation, the country’s secular foundations may be giving way. From secularists, Americans may be moving to tolerance. Bigotry, albeit subtle, may not be far way.

Related Articles:

When atheists and secularists want to play God
Ram Setu: the importance of religious symbols

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