America: Deus Vult? Samuel N. Milodragovich

“I submitted myself to His will and dedicated myself to discovering His truth and carrying out His works.” — presidential candidate Barack Obama

“But I think the number-one issue people should make [in the] selection of the president of the United States is, ‘Will this person carry on in the Judeo-Christian principled tradition that has made this nation the greatest experiment in the history of mankind?’ ”

— presidential candidate John McCain

The politics of theocracy are alive and well in the 21st century. The symbiotic relationship between the American political establishment and the Christian majority, while hardly new, was brought into sharp focus during the 2008 presidential campaign. Two diametrically opposed political machines found common ground in one belief: America spilled not from the veins of patriots and the pens of visionaries, but from the doors of her Christian churches.

The pandering by both major parties to the lowest common denominator vividly demonstrates that without Christian America in tow, the way to the highest office in the land is barred. The Piper of Galilee always demands his due. This phenomenon is repeated like a fractal down through elections for other national, state and local offices. It’s a rat’s nest of marionette wires connecting churches to public officials.

As a minority, nonreligious Americans are locked out of the policy-making process, chained in the cellar of irrelevancy as second-class citizens. Without access to a political system hijacked by Christians, we watched as the leadership of “our” nation established the Office of Faith-Based Initiatives (its very name excluding us) and girded itself for a new global Crusade under the banner of the cross. In this new Dark Age, logic and reason are deprived of a seat at the table, shoved aside and shouted down by the religious masses.

“The cause we serve is right, because it is the cause of all mankind. The momentum of freedom in our world is unmistakable, and it is not carried forward by our power alone. We can trust in that greater power who guides the unfolding of the years. And in all that is to come, we can know that His purposes are just and true.” — President George W. Bush, 2004 State of the Union

The import and gravity of sending troops to war are subverted when a president believes not only that his god desires war, but that those who perish in its execution earn eternity in paradise. Of all policy decisions, this most extreme and irrevocable should take into consideration only facts and verifiable information. The bungled wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, conceived in zealotry and ignorance, must be reexamined by a new breed of leaders untainted by the blinding and numbing influence of Christian ideology. Deus Vult (God wills it) can no longer stand as foreign policy.

The same rot eats at the root of domestic policy in America. The (now renamed) Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships is a cynical violation of the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause. Objectors to this illegal office are categorized as radicals bent on removing Christianity from its rightful role as the fourth branch of American government. These federally funded programs garner headlines, increase membership and spur donations by the faithful. Thus, the taxpayer funds a de facto ad campaign for religion, a boon on top of the tax-exempt status churches already have.

America’s so-called religious tolerance has always excluded non-Christians, atheists and agnostics. The Gallup Center for Muslim Studies recently asked Americans about their prejudices against a variety of faith communities. About 43% of respondents expressed some degree of prejudice against Muslims. The only group held in lower esteem than Muslims was the nonreligious. What chance do atheists and agnostics really have for an equal voice in public matters and freedom of conscience as promised by the Constitution?

Atheists are faced with discrimination and disenfranchisement on a scale not seen since the struggle for civil rights in the 1960s. Little has changed for us since the era of Joe McCarthy. We have no political champion to protect us from the the Christian dogma that passes for national policy. Our greatest strength is our respect for reason and rationality, but this strength becomes an Achilles heel in the face of zealots mobilized by the dogma spewed at top volume by pundits and politicians from both sides of the political divide.

We too must find our passion, and unite against those who would remake America as “one nation under God.” We must seek out and support those candidates who are truly willing to leave their faith in church — where faith belongs — when they go to work for the American people. Where no such candidate exists, we must thrust one forward from within our ranks.

Make no mistake — the America promised to and created for peoples of all faiths and of no faith is under attack from within. Soon there will be a place only for the Christian, for God wills it.

“I am a 29-year-old junior pursuing bachelor’s degrees in political science and Central and Southwest Asian studies at the University of Montana. My hometown is Butte, Mont., and my interests include current events, Central Asia, the Middle East, Libertarianism, reading, writing, the outdoors and military history.”

This is an excerpt from his honorable mention essay. He received a $250 scholarship from FFRF.

Freedom From Religion Foundation