Sunday, July 6, 2008

A Nontheistic Perspective on Independence Day

I happened to watch the coverage of the July 4 celebrations in the U.S. on CNN. For the first time in the almost-3 years that I've been residing in the Philippines, I found myself a bit nostalgic for these festivities. I guess that it's because I recently happened to read the full American Declaration of Independence and grasped what a truly magnificent document it is both in style and substance, and why it's worth celebrating .

As a reflection of the Enlightenment spirit of the day, in the matter of invoking a supreme being the Declaration of Independence cites the "Laws of Nature" first before including "Nature's God" in order to justify self-government and the dissolution of the Colonies' bond with England. Further on, while the Declaration refers rights of man as originating from a Creator, and uses such phrases as "Divine Providence", in no instance does this work reference Christianity in any way, shape, or form.

This is also true of the U.S. Constitution, which not only omits any mention of that religion, it does not allude to a supreme being, period, even in the Preamble. Not to mention, the first amendment itself of course provides for the separation of church and state. This is why it is patently ridiculous for anyone to call America a "Christian nation". (Attention, fundies: This means you!) America belongs to all of its citizens, regardless of our religious beliefs or non-belief.
Even the American pledge of allegiance which was written in 1892 originally did not reference a supreme being. The phrase "under God" was added in 1954 by Congress at the behest of Presidient Eisenhower, who was persuaded to so by Christian religious interests (see "Pledge of Allegiance").

One can only hope that the outcome of the presidential election will reverse the theocratic direction that the U.S. has taken. However, even if Obama wins, given his position on government aid to faith-based charities (see Obama Speech: "We Can Expand Faith-Based Charities And Separate Church From State") , which although not as aggressive as that of Bush in that Obama with his version of this program claims separation of church and state will be maintained, we may be lucky if we can just slow down the trend.