Jesus Trumps the Constitution?
A friend of Benita, my Jewish wife, is forever trying to convert her to Christianity. It's bad manners but, if she's trying to save Benita from the horrors of hell it's hard to hold it against her. In the same way, if you believe in the divinity of Jesus or Mohammed, why should you accept the secular framework of society? We recognize that many Islamic countries have laws based on their religion, and don't notice that the US is getting more like this. The Christian true believers among us, whose numbers are mysteriously growing, may wish they lived in a Christian country, but we made the agreement over two centuries ago that our government would tolerate all religions and favor none. This should include tolerating atheism and polytheism, but even the acceptance of non-Christian monotheistic religions in the US is grudging.
     I detect a normative hierarchy: first, there's one's own sect of Christianity, then Christianity as a whole, then the more accepted monotheistic religions such as Judaism and Islam, then polytheistic ones like Buddhism and Hinduism. Agnostics and atheists are beyond the pale, politically. Not one member of Contress stood up for us when the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the words "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance violate our constitutional rights. "In God We Trust" on the currency is another example. I don't think it occurs to most Americans that these phrases could be objectionable to anyone not on the lunatic fringe. A recent poll showed that atheism would disqualify a candidate for public office, in the minds of the great majority of our fellow citizens. It makes me want to move to an atheist-friendly country such as France or China.

Copyright © 2001-2005 by Dean Wallraff. All rights reserved.