Many readers of this paper write in to express their disgust with secularism and calling for a return to the “Christian values” upon which our country was founded. They often use the famous “this country is going down the drain” case that older folks have been making since the dawn of time.
These people have a selective memory.
First, many of our Founding Fathers were deists – about as secular a form of Christianity as could be found at the time – who believed in the moral teachings, not the divinity, of Jesus Christ. Thomas Jefferson and John Adams are examples. Rather than base the U.S. Constitution on “biblical” principles, they did precisely the opposite by forming a government that wasn’t dedicated to any religion.
Second, many would blame secularism for the faults in our country today. But hasn’t religion been the basis for unspeakable amounts of violence and ignorance in history? Religion was used to justify slavery and the subordination of women. Christians argued that inequality was fair because God made people unequal and therefore not deserving of the same rights. People use religion to justify discrimination against homosexuals today. We might even still be living under a monarchy if the Founders gave credence to the “divine right of kings.”
Speaking of gay rights, some justify their homophobia by claiming that being gay is a choice, and our communities shouldn’t validate this “perversion.” This argument is absurd. Homosexuals don’t choose to be gay any more than heterosexuals choose to be straight. Why would a child want to be gay when he or she faces so much rejection and condemnation for doing so? Gay-rights advocates are to be admired for standing up to this bigotry.
Religion frequently makes people’s rights contingent on how they are born and what they believe. Secularists know that everyone deserves dignity and respect without exception, simply by virtue of being human. This is the core of secular morality and our greatest hope for the future.