So I open my digital copy of the Cleveland Plain Dealer the other day (3 July, 2019), and after passing the first couple pages, what do I get confronted with on Page A5 but the following:

The text that followed was pretty predictable: quotes from founding fathers, congressmen (no congresswomen, I noted!), Supreme Court justices and some other points on the curve, insisting that the United States was and is a Christian Nation. And who should be the source of all this religious breast-beating but our buddies at Hobby Lobby. I have to admit, I couldn’t resist, and not too long after, the following rebuttal went to the editorial desk of the Plain Dealer:

As an atheist, I found the Hobby Lobby ad on page A5 of the 3 July 2019 edition of the Plain Dealer interesting for at least one major reason. The ad cites multiple opinions of well-known founding fathers (Jefferson, Adams, and Franklin, who spoke AGAINST the Bible at least as often as they did for it), along with other notable persons whose opinions follow that general trend. The notable absence in the piece was any citation of the Constitution, two portions in particular:

  • Article VI, paragraph 3: “… but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.”
  • Amendment 1: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”

In addition, there is the matter of the Treaty of Tripoli, which states in Article 11:

“As the government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion …”

These are not opinions or points of view; these are codified laws which are an integral part of the foundation of this country, a country designed NOT to favor one religion over another so that all religious people, as well as those of us with no such belief, could know that our government was compelled by its foundational document to act in an even-handed fashion with ALL its citizens, regardless of belief or lack thereof. I see that as being enormously important for everyone, whether you are Christian, Jew, Muslim, Mormon, Hinduist, Buddhist, agnostic, atheist, or something else.

If we want our Constitution to “secure the blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our posterity,” we need to acknowledge the secular nature of our government and more: the rights of those who may believe differently from us, with the understanding that no one has the right to coerce another to their belief, without that other’s consent. Or, in other words, “There is no such thing as freedom of choice unless there is freedom to refuse.” -- David Hume

It probably wants some editing, and whether or not the PD will publish it is a question mark as a result, but at least I got that off my chest. I also spread the word among my friends at the Cleveland Freethinkers. Among them there is one Rafiq Mahmood, who apparently has a way with Adobe Photoshop. The following was his response:

One picture may be worth a thousand words, but one well-chosen picture and a handful of equally carefully chosen words may do even better!

Hope you had a Happy Fourth, everyone.

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Comment by Loren Miller on July 23, 2019 at 6:06pm

"Who is going to storm heaven?!?" Sorry, but I'll be busy that day! [grin!]

Comment by Michael Penn on July 23, 2019 at 5:52pm

I found it strange that one religious reply to your letter stated that heaven had walls and a gate and St. Peter stood at the gate. The writer, an obvious Trumper, decided that maybe you would not get in. Keep in mind the Buybull did not say this and people have said it for many years now. It comes from one scripture where Jesus said he would give the keys of the kingdom to Peter. The only description of heaven as a place did say it it had walls and a gate. I'm still wondering if believers are being kept in or kept out. Who is going to storm heaven?

Comment by Joan Denoo on July 23, 2019 at 12:45pm

Loren, Your composition, powerful, accurate historically and politically, sensible, intelligent, wise, and wonderfully written stirs my blood. 

I thank you for making corrections when I make errors. My ardent search for original source citations gains by your feedback and I appreciate your willingness to keep me accurate. 

Comment by Loren Miller on July 23, 2019 at 11:12am

Well, son of a gun!  Turns out that, while my LttE didn't get published in the paper version of the Plain Dealer, it DID get published ONLINE ... and here it is.  A few comments, plus and minus, which is to be expected, and I threw my own $0.02 in (two weeks late!), but the real stunner was the letter that came in the mail today.  It included a personal letter to me, telling the story of how the writer came to god and so on and so forth, plus a couple handouts, both of which were about as convincing as the average Chick tract is (not very).

My rebuttal to that person, as included in the above mentioned $0.02 was as follows:

And finally, to the person who sent the note through the mail to me: you are a coward. No return address, no mechanism for any exchange of ideas, zilch. Your god and your bible are about as convincing to me as L. Ron Hubbard's Dianetics, which is to say, not at all. I am an atheist because there has yet to be any kind of hard demonstration of ANY god, including the Abrahamic one. If there were any serious proof of a deity's existence, it would have shown up long before now ... and thinking about that:

"If you have the truth, you can demonstrate it. Talking doesn't prove it, SHOW people."
-- Robert A. Heinlein
Comment by Grinning Cat on July 8, 2019 at 3:28am

Loren, I'll admit that reading "one gigantic, jingoistic orgasm, aimed right at [Trump]" gave me a rather silly and not at all safe-for-work mental image!

And bravo to Mr. Mahmood for his visual response!

(AN member Ruth actually got me started with Photoshop, including some techniques for removing unwanted items in a picture. There's a healing tool that does a good job at removing small, isolated blemishes. In this case the original text is indeed a (big) blemish!)

Comment by Loren Miller on July 6, 2019 at 8:32pm

Michael, I didn't bother watching Trump's little soiree in DC because I already knew what it would be: one gigantic, jingoistic orgasm, aimed right at him.

As for the whole "One Nation Under [fill in the blank], there are times when I wonder whether he has a hold of the Religious Reich or whether they have him ... and I can't help but think it's NOT the former.

Comment by Michael Penn on July 6, 2019 at 1:18pm

I will take one union under the Constitution any day. That tells it like it is and many of us are confused these days.

Trump has a big DC rally for July 4th that is nothing more that military might set into an attempt at Patriotism and directed towards his 2020 campaign. This should attract the religious and the misinformed and Trump runs next year under "Keep America Great Again." 

Meanwhile, a relative of mine was so impressed he wanted to forward a military meme in Facebook so the military would have a great 4th of July. Yes, I'm sure they love "bombs bursting in air."  Maybe they love all this hoopla about as much as Jesus loves crosses.

Comment by Loren Miller on July 6, 2019 at 7:00am

Actually, Joan, I think your "Founding Fathers made clear" quote is not from the Treaty of Tripoli itself, but Franklin T. Lambert's The Founding Fathers and the Place of Religion in America. That said, it's an important statement regarding the intent of the founders, as much so as Thomas Jefferson's letter to the Danbury Baptist.

Comment by Joan Denoo on July 5, 2019 at 11:56pm

I agree with all that you state and find no better way to state them. Hume's quote perfectly gives my position, "“There is no such thing as freedom of choice unless there is freedom to refuse.”

The photo by Rafiq Mahmood with "One Nation Under the Constitution" gives the correct ideas I hold dear. As a child, I sat transformed by the ideas my uncle Superior Court Judge John Denoo shared as we sat around the dinner table. He spoke of our being a nation of laws that applied to all, and each person had a vote in selecing our leaders.

He quoted Presidents and treaties:

"...I beg you be persuaded that no one would be more zealous than myself to establish effectual barriers against the horrors of spiritual tyranny, and every species of religious persecution."
~ George Washington, to United Baptists Churches of Virginia, May, 1789 from The Washington papers, edited by Saul Padover.

"the Founding Fathers made clear that their primary concern was religious freedom, not the advancement of a state religion, Individuals, not the government, would define religious faith and practice in the United States. Thus the Founders ensured that in no official sense would America be a Christian Republic."

~ The Treaty of Tripoli, November 4, 1796.

"Millions of innocent men, women and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined and imprisoned; yet we have not advanced one inch towards uniformity."

-Thomas Jefferson, Notes on Virginia, 1782.

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