To An Unknown God

In the book of Acts, chapter 17, we read that the Apostle Paul found an altar marked “TO AN UNKNOWN GOD,” and decided it would be a handy device to use as a platform for preaching Christianity. According to the California Catholic Daily, Christians today would like to repeat Paul’s approach, even if they have to manufacture the pretext themselves.

Earlier this week, the Sonora city council unanimously voted to make their city the 26th in the nation to make a public display of the motto, “In God We Trust.”A campaign to promote the slogan, initiated by Bakersfield councilwoman Jacquie Sullivan in 2002, has had some success in California…

Sullivan pointed out at an August 10 press conference that the displays reflect the importance of faith in U.S. history, but do not violate the Constitution’s ban on the “establishment” or government endorsement of a specific religion…

“Patriotism is love of God and love of country,” Sullivan, explained to a Modesto Bee reporter. “I feel this is one of the most important things going on in our country now. It’s important to retain our national identity.” 

Says a lot, doesn’t it? More, even, than Sullivan intended.

Let’s review, for a moment, what the First Amendment actually says:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Notice how Sullivan has slightly “tweaked” the text? It does not say “Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of a specific religion.” It says that Congress (and via the Fourteenth Amendment, states as well) must not make any law respecting the establishment of religion or preventing free exercise thereof. In other words, the Constitution flatly prohibits what Sullivan explicitly states is her goal: to make religion (“love of God”) into a patriotic duty.

What’s even more muddled about Sullivan’s thinking is that she seems to imply that it’s ok for the government to adopt the official position that one god is as good as any other. Jehovah, Loki, Cthulu, the Flying Spaghetti monster–they’re all equally valid deities as far as the government is concerned. It contradicts the notion that Jesus is the only way to heaven, but hey, that’s the price you pay in order to get a pseudo-constitutional endorsement of religion.

Ironically, as we’ll see in tomorrow’s XFiles Friday installment,  Geisler and Turek make a big deal out of the claim that skeptics and liberals have reduced truth to the idea that all propositions are equally valid. As Sullivan and other Christian supremacists are only too happy to demonstrate, if there is a trend towards making all gods officially equal, Christians have only each other to blame.

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