The Great Courses

Atheists Can't Be Real Americans

Jun 19, 2013 at 11:59 AM
5 years ago

It wasn't long ago that San Antonio Pastor John Hagee articulated what many religious Americans believe:

"This nation was not built for atheists or by atheists.  It was built by Christian people who believed in the Word of God.  To the atheists watching this telecast, if our belief in God offends you, move.  There are planes leaving every hour on the hour, going every place on planet earth.  Get on one.  We don't want you, and we won't miss you.  I promise you.


Hagee is the influential head of a 20,000-member megachurch, and his comments were amplified by Joseph Farah in a 6/11/12 WorldNetDaily article, called "Why Atheists Can't Be Real Americans."

According to Farah, atheists represent the "un-American way."

The stigma runs deep.  In fact, atheists are
barred in seven U.S. states from even holding public office. Why?  Because we aren't true Americans.



The religious charge that atheists should embrace One Nation Under God or get out.  They laud our founding fathers as universally religious (aka: Christian).  They point to the God displayed on our currency and invoked in our Pledge of Allegiance.  They wail about killjoy atheists who seek to make illegal all prayers in the vicitinity of public schools and government buildings.  And they lament the moral and societal decay that has undoubtedly blossomed as the result of godlessness.

Let's explore these assertions against the facts.

  • The United States was actually founded by people seeking escape from religious oppression.  Many of our founding fathers were non-believers or, at the very least, did not hold to the Abrahamic god (Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, James Madison, etc). 

  • The United States protects the freedom of religion, but its government is not based on religion, and it declares this in the First Amendment of its Constitution:  "Congress shall make NO law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof..."

  • The United States was most definitely not founded on the protestant faith.  In 1796, this was clearly stated in The Treaty of Tripoli, a documented submitted to the senate by John Adams, ratified by the U.S. senate and declared the law of the land shortly thereafter.

  • To be a citizen of the United States, no one "must believe" in a deity.  I refer you again to points #1, #2 and #3.

  • "In God We Trust" wasn't added to the money by our founders, but much later - on coins shortly after the Civil War, and on paper currency in 1956.

  • "Under God" wasn't in the original Pledge of Allegiance, but was added in 1954 during a time of religious fervor and amid the desire to distinguish the USA from the "godless," communist Soviet Union.  In other words, it was added by politicians proclaiming moral superiority against an enemy nation.

  • Nobody seeks to take the freedom to pray away from students.  In this country, students (and teachers) can personally pray without persecution or fear.  What they CAN'T do is instigate or promote school-endorsed prayer or use taxpayer-funded institutions of education to promote their own personal religious agenda.  (And it is a personal agenda.  Ask a Christian teacher at a Texas public school how he/she feels about the freedom to have Muslim prayers in the classroom, and you'll see how narrow the "Keep Prayer In Schools" argument truly is.)

  • Atheism isn't ruining this great nation.  Or any nation.  In fact, according to the recent Global Peace Index (which attempts to measure national health based on factors like internal wars, external wars, criminal activity, political instability, human rights issues, terrorist actions, prison population and more), the three most peaceful nations on the planet are largely non-religious:  New Zealand, Iceland and Japan, respectively.  The highly-religious United States ranks at a dismal #88.


Finally, these religious people aren't being oppressed.  They're not being persecuted.  Their rights aren't being stripped away.  They're simply (and finally) being informed that their protests are based on false history, bigotry and a poor understanding of the law.

I would encourage them to brush up on this information, because the American Religious Identification Survey (ARIS) reveals that "non-religion" is the fastest growing "religion" demographic in the United States today.  This nation (and this planet) belongs to these non-religious citizens as much as it does to John Hagee and his ilk, and as so many of these secular individuals are committed to goodness, hard work, peace, love, joy and making a better world, Hagee & Company might consider taking a moment to learn from their example.

 -Seth Andrews

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