I find that atheists are prone to any number of astounding contradictions in their thinking. They manage to hold most of these logical inconsistencies with great stubbornness. The ones that still give me great amusement however, are the folks like those at the Freedom From Religion Foundation. Their motto, “Protecting the constitutional principle of the separation of state and church” is the first sign of a lack understanding. There is no constitutional principle of separation of church and state. Go ahead and look for it. Do a word search on the Constitution and the word separation never appears. How then is it held as a constitutional principle you might ask? Good question indeed and I will enlighten you where the phrase gets its origin.
The idea of this as a constitutional principle comes from a letter that Jefferson wrote to the Danbury baptists in response to their concerns. In part, they were chiefly concerned with keeping the government out of the church’s affairs:
Our sentiments are uniformly on the side of religious liberty–that religion is at all times and places a matter between God and individuals–that no man ought to suffer in name, person, or effects on account of his religious opinions–that the legitimate power of civil government extends no further than to punish the man who works ill to his neighbors; But, sir, our constitution of government is not specific. Our ancient charter together with the law made coincident therewith, were adopted as the basis of our government, at the time of our revolution; and such had been our laws and usages, and such still are; that religion is considered as the first object of legislation; and therefore what religious privileges we enjoy (as a minor part of the state) we enjoy as favors granted, and not as inalienable rights; and these favors we receive at the expense of such degrading acknowledgements as are inconsistent with the rights of freemen. It is not to be wondered at therefore; if those who seek after power and gain under the pretense of government and religion should reproach their fellow men–should reproach their order magistrate, as a enemy of religion, law, and good order, because he will not, dare not, assume the prerogatives of Jehovah and make laws to govern the kingdom of Christ.
Notice their concern here is that a future leader will arise and restrict religion, law and good order. The baptists in America had actually promoted the idea of religious liberty under the assumption that people should be free to be wrong if they disagreed with them (this sounds arrogant to be sure, but is perfectly consistent with their theology). In fact the term, a wall of separation of church and state was an idea from the mind of Roger Williams who envisioned it as a means to protect the church from the government. It is in this spirit that Jefferson wrote his letter and proclaimed:
Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man & his god, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, thus building a wall of separation between church and state. Adhering to this expression of the supreme will of the nation in behalf of the rights of conscience, I shall see with sincere satisfaction the progress of those sentiments which tend to restore to man all his natural rights, convinced he has no natural right in opposition to his social duties.
I reciprocate your kind prayers for the protection and blessing of the common Father and creator of man, and tender you for yourselves and your religious association, assurances of my high respect & esteem. (emphasis mine)
Jefferson’s letter has been misused and now is a slogan for a group who wishes to use the force of government to silence the church in essence. Which runs me back around to my original point regarding the Freedom From Religion Foundation and people of like mind and the logical inconsistency of their thoughts and actions. Where is it that they think our rights as citizens come from precisely? According to Jefferson (he of the wall of separation letter), the rights we have come from our Creator:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. (emphasis mine)
So let’s say that you don’t believe there is a Creator; where do your rights come from? How can you be offended at the loss of your “rights” when they are derived from nowhere? Any indignation at the loss of “rights” by this group and others is a farce to logic and a joke against rationality. Let me restate this in plain English and feel free to offer your feedback out there.
If you don’t believe there is a God,
you have no foundation for any
rights whatsoever according to the
Constitution of the United States so
If you don’t believe me, take Thomas Jefferson’s word for it,
“God who gave us life gave us liberty. Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are the gift of God?”