Christianity made it past Easter and all over the world 2 billion plus people who claim it as their religious affiliation celebrated one of the holiest moments of their faith. Here in America, where Christians are by far the bulk of our population, tens of millions observed Ash Wednesday, Palm Sunday, Good Friday, Easter Sunday and are headed towards marking the ascension of their Savior into Heaven. There have been no mentions in any of the news media, mainstream, lamestream, or otherstream, of attempts to stop them from doing so. No government in America, local, state, or national, has passed any laws restricting or limiting the time-honored traditions, rites, rituals, or practices of any Christian denomination. Yet, there is a strong feeling among many Christians that their faith is under assault and they are losing out to a raging hoard of atheist, agnostics, and non-Christians.
Before going further get a firm grasp on these realities:
- 60-75% of Americans associate themselves with a Christian sect and Christians make up 33% of the world’s population.
- God is officially recognized by the US Government on our money, in our Pledge, in our Anthem, in our judicial oaths, in the prayers that open our legislative sessions, our courts, etc.
- The president of the United States recognizes the God of Christianity every time he and his family lights the White House Christmas Tree.
- US. taxpayers pay a substantial amount of money to provide clerics and religious services for members of the armed forces as well as other institutions such as prisons.
- Religions in America enjoy a degree of privacy and tax exemption not enjoyed by other institutions or the general public.
- Public properties such as schools are available for use by religious groups for meetings, instruction, and services.
- Personal private prayer and the teaching of religion as a general subject are permitted in public schools.
- The estimated numbers of atheist and agnostics in America represent only about 2% of the population.
- Of the 535 members of the United States Congress only one is an admitted atheist.
- We have never had a president who did not profess a belief in Christianity.
All this and more doesn’t lead me to believe religion, and especially Christianity, is in danger of disappearing from today’s America. To me it seems that religion may be more in favor today than any other time in my memory. However different today’s Republican presidential candidates may differ, one thing they share in common is certainly their oft cited adherence to fundamental evangelical Christian beliefs. Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, Rick Perry, and Michelle Bachmann, haven’t seemed able to make a public speech without somehow professing their undying faith in Jesus. Mitt Romney would like to as well but is fearful of reminding the GOP core that his Mormonism is officially suspect in conservative Christian circles.
I began this piece after having witnessed a long and often irrational thread on a social media site. One participant attributed his recovery from cancer to medical knowledge, medical technology, science, the quality of his physicians, his own will to do what was required of him, and the support of his wife and family. Others insisted it was because of God’s intervention and offered to pray for him and to bless him. From there it turned into a sort of running rant among those who took offense that their faith in prayer, etc. had been rejected and/or challenged. Lengthy diatribes about no longer being permitted to say Merry Christmas, Christians no longer having rights, Christians having become the silenced majority, people no longer being allowed to say God bless you, and on and on.
American has always been a religiously diverse nation and while the majority has always been Christian the Founding Fathers attempted to protect the rights of all views, including the view most abhorred by the majority. That’s why freedom from and freedom to clauses exist in the First Amendment of the Constitution. Americans themselves have not always given due attention of the rights of those who dare live outside the accepted norms. Even within the Christian community there has historically existed much disagreement and outward hostility.
If anything religious freedom today is even more protected than ever. People whose views are outside the accepted norm are free to speak and not fear nearly as much the taboos and stigmas of the past. Recent Supreme Court cases have strengthened the freedom and position of religions in America. Employers can no longer make religion a part of employment qualifications, the Westboro Baptist Church won a provocative but important freedom of religious speech decision, and in the Hosanna case religious schools won increased freedoms in employment procedures. The ACLU, seldom seen as a friend of conservatives, has maintained a very active role in protecting religious freedoms, not just for Christians, but for all religions in America. One may be surprised by visiting their website and viewing the list of cases they have actively pursued in defending religious freedom.
Attempting to take an objective look at the status of religion, especially Christianity, in America today it becomes obvious that many Christians believe themselves and their faith under attack. But, objectively looking for the evidence to support these feelings just doesn’t produce much of substance. My conclusion is simple. Since atheist and non-Christians are no longer required to remain quiet or closeted many in the long-established Christian community simply don’t know how to react when encountering people who are increasingly willing to challenge their beliefs and their blessings, thus, they feel under attack. I’d suggest they consider some of the realities I’ve mentioned here, take two aspirin, and sleep in a few hours tomorrow.