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The First Amendment, “Ceremonial Deism” and Patriotism

The longer we live, the more we realize that America is on the slippery slope to becoming a Christian theocracy. What proof do we have? Lots. The term “ceremonial deism” is defined by David Niose (author of Our Humanity , Naturally) in his article “The Dangerous Fallacy of Ceremonial Deism” published May 24, 2012Ceremonial Deism refers to several expressions used frequently in government-related speech. For example, the added wording in the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag (under God) and “In God We Trust” as seen on our currency. Defenders of these additions claim they do not violate the Establishment Clause in the First Amendment.  However, in 1984 Justice William Brennan was the first  high court justice to refer to ceremonial deism in a written opinion, explaining that the term covers religious references that ‘have lost through rote repetition any significant religious content.’  Brennan suggested that because we recite it automatically, it has no religious meaning, and therefore is “harmless”.  Niose warns us that “governmental religious expressions are not harmless.”  

Niose continues: “The idea of an umbrella term for harmless governmental religious references might have some appeal, but use of the term ‘ceremonial deism’ for that purpose is grossly inaccurate and even dangerous.  In the real world, genuinely discriminatory governmental actions often escape scrutiny, partly because they are shielded by the euphemism of ‘ceremonial deism.'”

Niose cites this documented example: “…a Cranston, Rhode Island high school student named Jessica Ahlquist became a target of threats and bullying when she objected to a prayer banner in her high school last year.  Even though her objections had nothing to do with the Pledge of Allegiance, students soon used the ‘under God’ wording of the Pledge as a weapon against her.”  During the recitation of the Pledge they shouted those two words very loudly at her!  They had connected “under God” with patriotism.  By deduction–if you do not say those words you are unpatriotic.  In the public discussions over the banner, the adults ALSO emphasized those two words.  As Niose commented, “Harmless ceremonial deism, indeed.”

It is an easy connection to make–this slide to theocracy.  Patriotism, nationalism, and belief in a God can neatly and subtly tie up a government and spit it out as a theocracy.  Before we know it we are all marching to the same steps.  Sound familiar?  Yes.  It is the religious dogma coupled with the strong arm of the law that keeps folks in lock-step.

Niose reminds us of Deism in American history:  “A theological belief system that was popular in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, especially among intellectuals, was a radical departure from the revelation-based Christianity that had dominated Europe up to that time.  In its day, long before Darwin’s discoveries and other advances of modern science, deism was as close to atheism and agnosticism as respectable citizens could safely get.”

Generally, deism held that a ‘watchmaker God’ created the universe but did not continue to intervene in worldly affairs.  That God set the world in motion and let it run on its own.  This was the age of Enlightenment–the Age of Reason.  Thomas Jefferson was the most outspoken of the Deists in early America. Read the Declaration of Independence–“Nature’s God” Jefferson wrote.  Read the U.S. Constitutionno mention of God or any deity.  The United States of America has a secular government.  All the trappings of ceremonial deism have been added by those who would not let go of their religious beliefs and have forced them upon the nation as a whole.  This is a very dangerous habit.

If this nation is to survive as a democratic republic as set by the Founders, American voters MUST not let the Religious Right gain secular power–both Houses of the Congress and the Executive Branch–the Presidency.  The threat to our nation is obvious already: the U.S. Supreme Court has bent so far right in its rulings.  The decision in Citizens United v. FEC in 2010 opened the election process to billions of money from super-pacs.  Some of these pacs have funded the Religious Right to continue its activity in every state: trying to undermine the secular legislatures in case after case of women’s rights and the various civil rights for all people.

We challenge you, the voter, to get registered if you are not, pick a candidate who believes in maintaining our secular government, and support that candidate!  As I say in my book’s title:  IT is YOUR FUTURE.



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Democracy vs. Theocracy

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