Politics Wednesday – No Religious Test

The right wing nut jobs always fall back on the Constitution to bolster their specious arguments. Some, in fact, consider it handed down from God, though the word “god” appears nowhere in it. You’d think God would have cleared up any future debate about the alleged sanctity of the Constitution by dropping his name a time or two.

Unless you’re a constitutional lawyer (like President Obama) or a nerdy political scientist (like Rachel Maddow), you’ve probably never delved past the Constitution’s Preamble (“We the People…”) or the Bill of Rights. There is an obscure clause–obscure only the the RWNJ’s chose to ignore it–about something called “a religious test.” The Founding Fathers, believe it or not, were fed up with Anglicans’ having a chokehold on political jobs. Anglicanism was the State religion of England, after all. Virginia’s statute on religious freedom, written by Founding Father Thomas Jefferson, was to support Baptist congregations the state’s Anglican-laden government had thrown into jail for not being Anglican.

The Founders embraced that Jeffersonian principle of freedom of religion in the First Amendment, but they also wanted to make certain that no single religion would dominate the government they were creating. Tucked away in Article VI, paragraph 3, is this gem:

“The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious test shall ever be required [emphasis added] as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.”

I’ve blogged about this before, when a poll showed one in five Republicans believed President Obama was a Muslim. Somehow, in their minds, that deemed him ineligible to be President because he wasn’t Christian. Certain evangelicals make the same argument today about Willard Romney’s Mormonism, but Article VI applies in his case as well. We had the argument fifty years ago when John F. Kennedy, a Catholic, ran for President. The argument then was his top allegiance was to the Pope, not to the Constitution.

The fact that the Founders put the religious test prohibition in the main body of the Constitution testifies to the importance in which they held. They truly envisioned an egalitarian society (for landed, white men, of course; unfortunately, they were men of their time) and wanted to make certain there was no Anglican takeover of the newly minted U.S. Government.

Because the economy is clawing its way from the abyss the Republicans put it in, and on President Obama’s watch, the RWNJ’s have to disinter the rotting corpse of The Question of the President’s Religion. Franklin Graham, an apple that fell miles from the tree, did a rant this week about being born Muslim. If your father is Muslim (the President’s father was), when you’re born, you’re a Muslim. Franklin, who, as a missionary evangelical, preaches the only way you can be saved is by converting to Christianity, apparently feels that’s not the case when the son of a Muslim accepts Christ as his personal savior, gets married in a Christian ceremony, and talks about his Christian faith far more often than I like. Franklin must think “Muslim blood” is really powerful, if his God’s omnipotence can’t overcome it.

And I say, if that’s true, if a parent’s religion makes you that religion at birth, so what? Much like Romney’s Mormonism, a person’s religion–or lack thereof–cannot disqualify them from office.

Oh my Holy Lord, you say, that means a Devil Worshiper could become President!

Technically, yes, but Devil Worshipers don’t have much interest in politics, I would think. Selling their souls and pleasing their Dark Lord are probably more important to them.

Oh my Holy Lord, you again say, that means a, gasp, atheist could become President!

Indeed. You’ve already had a couple of those. They’re called Deists, the “religion” of many of the Founding Fathers, several of whom became President. Trust me, if you’d called Jefferson a Christian, he would have brought out his copy of “Jefferson’s Bible” and showed you where he’d removed all reference to myth. It was a very slim volume.

We have to stop judging people by their religion or their lack of religion. I’ve known some theists who were the vilest human beings you’d ever not want to meet, and I’ve known atheists who were the kindest, most “christian” people I’ve ever known. And vice versa, of course. We need to assess our Presidents and Presidential candidates on their merits, their position on issues, and not how or whom they worship.

Franklin Graham needs to come to grips with the fact he’ll never be his father, who is a humble and forgiving man who acknowledged the times he was wrong, like about segregation. Re-bury that question of the President’s religion and focus on jobs, the economy, the environment, equal rights–you know, things “We the People” are concerned about.


For a good understanding of just what four, key Founding Fathers believed or didn’t, read Founding Faith: How Our Founding Fathers Forged a Radical New Approach to Religious Liberty by Steven Waldman. It will change your mind, if it’s open, about several Founders and clear the RWNJ mythology away from history.


Did you think I was going to be writing about the event that’s supposed to occur May 21, 2011, at 6 p.m. local time? No, I’m going to write about the 1981 song, “Rapture,” by Blondie. This song was one of the earliest number one hits to feature rap–and with a white chick doing the rapping. “Rapture” was a mix of rap, jazz, pop, and several other genres and is probably Blondie’s best known hit.


Of course, I’m going to write about the event predicted by self-styled preacher, Harold Camping, of Family Radio. The first point I’m going to make is that he always makes a big pitch for money, and his net worth is now estimated to be close to $80 million. I’m sure since he’s predicted he’ll be in heaven come one nanosecond after 6 p.m. tomorrow, that he’s distributed those millions to organizations that will be tending to all the victims of the end times to come. What? He hasn’t? Oh.

I’m an atheist. I was one in my heart for a long time but acquiesced to societal pressure and declared I was really an agnostic, i.e., that there was probably a god, but I hadn’t yet been convinced. Regardless of how I “came out” as an atheist, The Rapture is something I scoff at. I’ve heard about it since my grandmother pulled me into revival tents when I was a child. Truthfully, I found the whole concept of The Rapture terrifying on a couple of levels. First, the thought of being “snatched up” or disappearing is totally freaky to a child, and I didn’t really want to leave my dog behind. Being the inquisitive little snot that I was, I asked if my dog, Missy, could get Raptured with me and was told that dogs don’t have souls. Yeah, right, but that’s a topic for a different post.

My second, and probably most significant, fear about The Rapture was not being good enough to be Raptured. And that’s one of my problems with religion–that a seven or eight year old child would be terrified that she wasn’t good enough to be taken to heaven in The Rapture. When I finally figured out there was no god, that fear evaporated, and I slept much better at night. Still do.

I try to be reasonable about other people’s beliefs. Most of my Christian friends and I have come to a place of mutual respect–you don’t try to convert me, and I won’t try to convert you; we can have civilized debates, but we respect each other’s beliefs, or lack thereof in my case. It is difficult for me, however, to find that respect for people who blindly follow charlatans like Camping, who are clearly only in this for the money. (By the way, he predicted in the 1990’s that The Rapture was coming and had only a lame excuse of poor biblical scholarship as his reason why it didn’t. But send more money so he can do a better job of studying the Bible.)

I can’t respect parents who quit their jobs, stop paying their bills, and spend all their assets before May 21, so they won’t leave any worldly things behind. I especially can’t respect the mother in that family, who has a small child and another on the way, who is putting her belief in superstition above the care of her family.

I can’t respect another set of parents, these of three teenagers, who have also put their faith before their children. This mother told her 16-year old daughter, who disagreed with her mother’s contention about the impending Rapture, that she won’t be in heaven. The mother went on to say, essentially, “My children will be left behind, but, oh well, that’s god’s will.” If I were in child protective services in that state, I’d be on their doorstep come Monday. And Monday will come.

I can only disrespect a mother of two who was so certain she’d be Raptured but was sure her two young daughters wouldn’t be. In her “motherly” concern, however, she decided even though they’d be left behind, she didn’t want them to suffer, so she cut their throats. (Abraham and Isaac, much.) Thankfully, someone found them before they bled out and got them to hospital. And I guess the mother, and I use the term loosely, decided she didn’t want to wait for May 21; she cut her throat, too. In her mug shot, you can see a two-inch cut that appeared not to need stitches.

There are countless other examples, but, frankly, it’s just too depressing to recount just how ignorant modern-day humans can be. I could understand Homo Habilis believing in The Rapture, but not people with evolved forebrains. Then again, Homo Habilis’ brain couldn’t conceive the concept of religion, so who’s to say which of us is evolved?

The other, disturbing thing about believing you’re one of god’s chosen is the arrogance. You, as a person, have decided you’ve been so good, so perfect–even though the son of the god you believe in admittedly wasn’t–you’re going to heaven, and you don’t give one whit about those of us you’ve decided aren’t. If you were truly Christians, you’d understand that The Rapture is not mentioned in the Bible, Jesus didn’t talk about it, and he’ll be really pissed when he sees how you’ve treated the rest of us.

If a single person commits suicide before this event to hasten the trip to heaven or in the aftermath because it didn’t happen, I lay the blame at the doorstep of Harold Camping. In some way, I wish I believed in a Judgement Day, because I’d like to be a fly on a cloud when he stands before St. Peter. (It’s a metaphor, people.)

See you next week. I promise.