Daily there are news reports of atheists offended by prayers at graduations and football games; offended by a Cross or Star of David; offended by Christmas carols or patriotic hymns; offended by Christmas trees and menorahs; offended by the Ten Commandments or “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance; offended a teacher might hint there may be a Creator; offended a soldier said “God bless you” at a funeral; offended the Boy Scout Oath says “Do my duty to God and my country”; or offended by a cross on a Veterans Memorial.
Whereas basic Christian teaching is to forgive when offended, these atheists, when offended, protest, intimidate, threaten and sue to have their will enforced as law.
But exactly how many atheists are in America, anyway?
USA Today published Feb. 25, 2008, the results of the U.S. Religious Landscape Survey, conducted by The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life.
This survey “of the people” reported that 80.2 percent of Americans hold Judeo-Christian beliefs (51.3 percent Evangelical/Mainline Protestant Christian; 23.9 percent Catholic; 1.6 percent Orthodox & other Christian; 1.7 percent Mormon; and 1.7 percent Jewish.)
Those not reporting or who said nothing in particular represented 12.9 percent, while 1.2 percent were Unitarian-Universalist-Spiritual-New Age-Native; 0.7 percent Buddhist; 0.6 percent Muslim; 0.4 percent Hindu; 0.3 percent Other World Religions, 2.4 percent agnostic … and only 1.6 percent atheist.
Imagine that – only 1.6 percent atheists, yet their beliefs are becoming the law of the land.
A minority forcing its will on the majority – isn’t this the classic definition of tyranny?
Americans may as well be back in colonial times when the king of England used government to enforce his minority views.
The Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776, stated:
The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. … A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.
In accepting the Democrat Party’s re-nomination for president, June 27, 1936, Franklin D. Roosevelt stated:
In 1776, we sought freedom from the tyranny of a political autocracy – from the 18th century royalists who held special privileges from the crown. It was to perpetuate their privilege that they governed without the consent of the governed; that they denied the right of free assembly and free speech; that they restricted the worship of God.
Roosevelt explained America’s founders fought the Revolution so “the people” could be their own rulers.
Abraham Lincoln agreed in his Gettysburg Address, Nov. 19, 1863:
That this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom – and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
Alexander Hamilton said in New York’s ratification debates, June 21, 1788:
The will of the people makes the essential principle of the government.
Thomas Jefferson wrote in 1816:
Try … every provision of our Constitution, and see if it hangs directly on the will of the people. (A.E. Bergh, Writings, 15:32)
James Madison wrote in Philadelphia, Jan. 31, 1792:
The past frequency of wars [is traced] to a will in the government independent of the will of the people.
But is the will of the people still reflected in government?
Are the people still their own rulers?
Lincoln warned in his First Inaugural Address, 1861:
The candid citizen must confess that if the policy of the government upon vital questions affecting the whole people is to be irrevocably fixed by decisions of the Supreme Court, the instant they are made … the people will have ceased to be their own rulers.
In order to see if the government reflects the beliefs of the people, one must find out what the people believe.
Similar to the Pew Survey noted above, the CIA.gov website’s World Factbook (2007) reported that 80.2 percent of the U.S. population holds Judeo-Christian beliefs.
The American Religious Identification Survey (2001), conducted by The Graduate Center of the City University of New York, reported that 77.8 percent of the U.S. population holds Judeo-Christian beliefs (52 percent Protestant, 24.5 percent Catholic, 1.3 percent Jewish).
The rest of the population was 0.5 percent Muslim; 0.5 percent Buddhist; 0.5 percent Agnostic; 0.4 percent Hindu; 0.3 percent Unitarian-Universalist; 0.1 percent Wiccan-Pagan-Druid; 13.2 percent Secular; 6.3 percent Spiritualist-Native American-Baha’i-New Age-Scientology-Humanist-Deist-Taoist-Eckankar … and only 0.4 percent atheist.
According to these surveys, between 77.8 percent to 80.2 percent of the current U.S. population holds Judeo-Christian beliefs, and only 0.4 percent to 1.6 percent of Americans hold atheistic beliefs.
A Harris Poll (2003) reported 90 percent of Americans believe in God; a Newsweek poll (2007) reported 91 percent of Americans believe in God; and a Fox News poll (2004) reported 92 percent of Americans believe in God.
If the will of majority of “the people” is not reflected in the laws, then the country is no longer “democratic,” but has devolved into a tyranny, where a minority forces its will upon the majority.
Could it be that the current debate over religion in America is not between the “religious right” and the “liberal left,” but rather it is a debate between the will of the majority and the will of, as George Washington warned in his Farewell Address, “an artful and enterprising minority”?
Could it be that the struggle is between a constitutional republic with representatives elected “by the people” and the despotism of, as Lincoln put it, “an eminent tribunal”?
Could it be that the battle is actually between American democracy and tyranny?
In his classic wisdom, President Ronald Reagan stated:
Sometimes I can’t help but feel the First Amendment is being turned on its head. … The First Amendment of the Constitution was not written to protect the people from religion; that Amendment was written to protect religion from government tyranny (1984 radio address).
To those who cite the First Amendment as reason for excluding God … may I just say: The First Amendment of the Constitution was not written to protect the people of this country from religious values; it was written to protect religious values from government tyranny (March 15, 1982, to Alabama State Legislature).
Founding Fathers … enshrined the principle of freedom of religion in the First Amendment. … The purpose of that Amendment was to protect religion from the interference of government and to guarantee, in its own words, “the free exercise of religion.” (1982 radio address)
The Constitution was never meant to prevent people from praying; its declared purpose was to protect their freedom to pray (1982 radio address).
Well-meaning Americans in the name of freedom have taken freedom away. For the sake of religious tolerance, they’ve forbidden religious practice (May 6, 1982, National Day of Prayer, White House).
The frustrating thing is that those who are attacking religion claim they are doing it in the name of tolerance and freedom and open-mindedness. Question: Isn’t the real truth that they are intolerant of religion? (Aug. 23, 1984, Ecumenical Prayer Breakfast).
In the last two decades we’ve experienced an onslaught of such twisted logic that if Alice were visiting America, she might think she’d never left Wonderland. We’re told that it somehow violates the rights of others to permit students in school who desire to pray to do so. Clearly, this infringes on the freedom of those who choose to pray. … To prevent those who believe in God from expressing their faith is an outrage (Sept. 25, 1982, Ceremony for Prayer in Schools).
Refusal to permit [religious exercises] is seen not as the realization of state neutrality, but rather as the establishment of a religion of secularism (1984 radio address).
After reviewing America’s poll numbers and Reagan’s responses in today’s climate of ACLU lawsuits, hate-crime legislation, secular revisionism and activist judges trumping the will of the people – one wonders about the future of Lincoln’s hope:
That government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
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William J. Federer is author of “Backfired: A Nation Born for Religious Tolerance no Longer Tolerates Religion.”