Friday, October 03, 2003

Quit your preachin': Since when did God become offensive? People have criticized signs that say "God Bless America" because they mention the Big Guy. A city attorney in Nevada ordered that the word "God" be removed from signs posted at City Hall that said "God Bless America". They actually used scissors to cut out the word. The mayor got upset by this and bought new signs to replace the ones that were defaced.

I understand that we have to protect our freedom of and from religion in this country. The First Amendment clearly creates a separation of church and state as it forbids government from establishing an official religion and from prohibiting Americans from exercising their beliefs. This doctrine was created soon after the United States won its independence from the British Empire, which had established the Anglican Church as England's official brand of Christianity.

But by banning any and all references to God, this country is forcing atheism on everybody, which is just as wrong.

The term "God Bless" is benign. Even the most ardent atheist will say "God bless you" when somebody sneezes. At most, "God Bless" supports monotheism. While atheism and polytheism should be Constitutionally protected as well, a sign saying "God Bless America" is not an establishment of a religion.

Talking about God in phrases like "God bless" is as religious as discussing Mother Nature (in fact, some say the term "Mother Nature" has pagan roots). Government routinely makes references to the Almighty, such as the legal term "acts of God" to mean natural disasters.

People worry about a slippery slope by letting the word "God" appear on posters. Some government actions, such as covertly planting a 5,000-pound display of the 10 Commandments in a public setting at an Alabama courthouse, clearly violate the separation of church and state. The 10 Commandments are a specific reference to the Jewish Torah and the Christian Old Testament. But a line can easily be drawn between references to specific religions and innocuous mentions of a Supreme Being.

The same can be said about government supporting faith-based services. Religious universities, such as the Baptist Baylor U., already receive federal funding. If the federal government funds religious institutions to the exclusion of all others, then that's unconstitutional because it's a government sponsorship of religion through monetary support. But if numerous institutions -- such as charities -- are providing services, and some of them happen to be religious, then government shouldn't discriminate against some services simply because they may be affiliated with a religion. Christian, Jewish, Islamic, and secular services should have equal access to government money.

A religion purports fact based on faith. Christians say Jesus died on a cross for our sins then rose from the dead. Atheists say there is no God and that the universe was created through chance cosmic acts. Both of these assertions are worldviews that cannot be proven or disproven. Therefore, atheism is as much of a religion as Christianity. If you forbid any mention of God, then you're essentially establishing atheism as the official religion of the United States. And that's unconstitutional.

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