Monday, April 09, 2007

Get your theocracy off my democracy: America is not a Christian nation

After reading more articles spawned by the Blog Against Theocracy campaign, I was musing ("musing" is such an overused word on blogs these days) thinking about the Radical Right's continued dead-horse beating of their mantra "America is a Christian nation."

A few miscellaneous and random points to ponder:
  • George Washington wrote into the Treaty of Tripoli, later signed into law by John Adams, the phrase "...the government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion." [A comment on a forum about this article says this is "a myth being spread across the Internet." And this website, which posts the text of the entire treaty, indicates that Joel Barlow, not Washington, wrote the Treaty.]

  • Thomas Jefferson wrote in "Notes on the State of Virgina, "It does me no injury for my neighbors to say there are twenty gods or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg."

  • The days of the week are named after gods or goddesses or things-in-the-sky that were once considered gods. Sunday and Monday are named in honor of the Sun and Moon; Tuesday is named after the Nordic god Tyr, who was the equivalent of the Roman war god Mars. Wednesday is named for the Germanic god Woden (Wodan), who was a god of the Anglo-Saxons, equivalent to the Norse Odin and akin to the Roman Mercury. Thursday is named after the Germanic Thunor, or Norse Thor, akin to the Roman Jupiter. Friday takes its name from Frigg or Freyja, the Germanic goddess of beauty, roughly equivalent to the Roman Venus and Greek Aphrodite. Saturday, of course, is named in honor of the Roman god of agriculture and time, Saturn.

  • The planets in our solar system are all named for Roman Gods: Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Neptune, Uranus, Pluto, Charon, and Eris. Earth's other name, Gaia, was a Greek goddess.

  • Many of the months are named for non-Christian gods: January is named for Janus, the Roman two-headed or two-faced god of the doorway. One face looked back to the past, the other to the future, just as we still do in the month of January. February was named after the Latin term februum, which means purification, via the purification ritual Februa held on February 15 in the old Roman calendar. That ritual probably was related to February 14 as well; the "love" rituals we go through every Valentine's Day are hardly a Christian thing. Even if St. Valentine did begin it (he didn't), he would hardly be considered a Christian by today's standards. March was called Martius in ancient Rome, and was dedicated to Mars, the god of war. It has been suggested that the name April (Latin aprilis) comes either from the Latin word aperire, "to open," referring to the new growth in springtime, or, more likely, from aphrilis, which referred to the Greek equivalent of Venus, Aphrodite. The month of May may have been named for the Greek goddess Maia, who was identified with the Roman goddess of fertility, Bona Dea, whose festival was held in May. June is named after the Roman goddess Juno, wife of Jupiter and equivalent to the Greek goddess Hera, Zeus's wife. July and August were named for the Roman emperors who were proclaimed a god and son of a god. In 42 BC, Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus was formally deified as Divus Iulius ("the Divine Julius"), and Caesar Augustus henceforth became Divi filius ("Son of a god").

  • Early American space missions were named for gods: Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo; it was even mirrored in the fictional Lost in Space television program with the spacecraft Jupiter II.

  • American (and foreign) automobile brands and models have been named after gods: Mercury, Roman messenger of the gods; Saturn, the Roman god of agriculture and of time, equivalent to Cronus in the pre-Greek pantheon; Taurus, associated with the Greek myth of Zeus taking the form of a bull to seduce Europa; Mazda (full name Ahura Mazda), the Zoroastrian god of light; Thunderbird, a mythical creature common to Native American religion; the Dodge Odyssey reminds us of Odysseus, released by the goddess Athena only to have his raft destroyed by Poseidon. Dodge also had a car called the Aries, which was a mythological ram which carried Athamas's son Phrixus and daughter Helle to Colchis to escape their stepmother Ino. Dodge also had a car called the Phoenix, named for the mythological bird associated with Egypt's sun gods, as far back as the 1950s.

  • Our favorite sinking ships are named for non-Christian gods: Poseidon, named for the Roman god of the sea, and the Titanic, named for the Titans (Gaea, Uranus, Cronus, Rhea, Oceanus, Tethys, Hyperion, Mnemosyne, Themis, Iapetus, Coeus, Crius, Phoebe, Thea, Prometheus, Epimetheus, Atlas, Metis, and Dione), who ruled before they were overthrown by the later Greek pantheon we're more familiar with (Zeus, Ares, Aphrodite, et al). The NFC football team from Tennessee is named for these gods, too.

  • American culture and products are rife with pagan god names: Canon cameras are named after the Japanese name of the Buddhist bodhisattva of mercy. Trident chewing gum is named for the pitchfork-like staff carried by the gods of the sea, Neptune and Poseidon. There are Venus razors and a Venus Bridal brand of bridal accessories. There are condoms named for Ramses II, a pharaoh-god of Egypt. The popular Disney characters Snow White and Cinderella, taken from folklore, are veiled archetypes of European goddesses, and Pocahantas, though she was a real woman, is also a goddess archetype of Native American religion. The Allman Brothers originally recorded for Capricorn Records. Sirius Radio is named for hunter Orion's canine companion. And don't forget Mickey Mouse's dopey dog Pluto. Even our weapons of war are made by a company named after mythology: Raytheon, maker of missiles such as Patriot, Maverick, Sidewinder and Tomahawk, means "light of the gods."

  • America even has her own goddess, Columbia, who graces the top of the Capitol, New York Harbor, the old Liberty Head dimes, and the start of every movie by Columbia Pictures. She is based on earlier goddesses Venus, Aphrodite, Ishtar and Isis.

  • And that overused word, "musings," comes from the Muses, fifty goddesses, water nymphs, or spiritual guides who embody the arts and inspire the creation process with their graces through remembered and improvised song and stage, writing, traditional music and dance.

  • Christian holidays like Christmas and Easter, and even our favorite anti-Christian holiday (since the Christians abandoned All Hallow's Day), Halloween, are pagan in origin. The word Easter derives from the name of the Germanic Goddess of the Dawn, or spring, the dawn of the year. She was called Ēaster, Ēastre, and Ēostre, in various dialects of Old English, and may go back as far as the similar-sounding middle eastern Astarte and Ishtar. Easter eggs and bunnies represent new life at springtime. Many Christmas traditions have their origins in the deep past, long before Zero A.D.

  • The American Superman saga is a loose re-telling of the Jesus story. But then, the Jesus story — a virgin birth, ascensions, miracles — is a re-telling of savior myths that predate Christ by hundreds and in some cases thousands of years. Learn more about Tammuz, Bacchus, Osiris and Isis. And those stories, just like the legends told in Masonic lodges, ultimately lead you back to man's fascination with what happens in the sky.
Yes, America is anything but a Christian nation. Our culture is steeped in polytheistic paganism. Even if we're not always consciously aware of it, these archetypes live in our subconscious, reminding us that, as they say in the movie Magnolia, "we may be through with the past, but the past ain't through with us."

Christianity is only 2,000 years old; it's simply today's most popular Western religion. The modern American version of fundamentalist Christianity is even younger, and in many ways would be unrecognizable to Christians of the past, and totally baffling to the billions of people who lived in pre-Christian times.

Spirituality and religious belief in things greater than and beyond ourselves is timeless.

Neither Christianity nor America is ultimately cosmic, or universal, or changeless. Like everything that has come before, both will change, adapt, mutate, and eventually fade away. Or perhaps become the brand name of a toothpaste or an automobile.

We're all only here for a short while, and while we're here, we've got to co-exist — all of us — Christian, Jew, Muslim and pagan. Christianity and other religions and spiritual practices and beliefs have their place in people's lives... even in mine. The one you follow, if any, is a matter of one's consciousness and conscience. One size doesn't fit all, and no one religion is the "only one," no matter what your Bible or other Volumes of Sacred Law say.

Let me take this down to a common denominator we all understand — bumper stickers: "Get your theocracy off my democracy."

Or simpler still: "My karma ran over your dogma."

I say no to theocracy in America, and yes to religious tolerance.
Sources: Wikipedia, Wilson's Almanac, and my mind

Image: Sunrise, taken by the crew of Apollo 12 on their return trip from the Moon.

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  1. It's amazing to know that not even a fraction of Christians are aware of this history. Speaking of history, most aren't even aware of the history of their own faith. If you ask them to tell you about the Council of Nicea... they tend to look at you as though you've just asked them a catechism. Great post Brother, this indeed is a very good post.

  2. America is not a nation, is a continent. The nation that you are writing about is called United States of America. Many other coutries exist in America, like Canada, Mexico, Brasil, etc.

  3. Excellent post! The Treaty of Tripoli with which you lead off is available here and not only does it specifically state that the USA is not a Christian nation, it specifically harbors no ill will to those of the muslim faith and preaches religious tolerance. The entirety of Article 11:

    As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquillity, of Mussulmen; and, as the said States never entered into any war, or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties, that no pretext arising from religious opinions, shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.

  4. A·mer·i·ca (ə-měr'ĭ-kə)

    1. The United States.
    2. also the A·mer·i·cas (-kəz) The landmasses and islands of North America, Central America, and South America.

    — American Heritage Dictionary

    * * *

    A·mer·i·ca /əˈmɛrɪkə/ Pronunciation[uh-mer-i-kuh]
    1. United States.
    2. North America.
    3. South America.
    4. Also called the Americas. North and South America, considered together.

    — Unabridged

  5. Great post! If only the evangelical pseudo-Masons would bother to read it.

    Fraternally yours,
    The Libertarian

  6. Thank you. As a non-Christian in a dominant Christian Lodge, I have had the experience of being referred to as a devil worshipper by a fellow Mason. The Inquisition is alive and well inside US Masonic Lodges. What a shame.



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