America is not a Christian nation

Posted on 18 avril 2009


April 14, 2009

Is America a Christian nation, as many conservatives claim it is ? One American doesn’t think so. In his press conference on April 6 in Turkey, President Obama explained: « One of the great strengths of the United States is … we have a very large Christian population — we do not consider ourselves a Christian nation or a Jewish nation or a Muslim nation. We consider ourselves a nation of citizens who are bound by ideals and a set of values. » (…)

The idea that religion is important because it educates democratic citizens in morality is actually quite demeaning to religion. It imposes a political test on religion, as it were — religions are not true or false, but merely useful or dangerous, when it comes to encouraging the civic virtues that are desirable in citizens of a constitutional, democratic republic. Washington’s instrumental view of religion as a kind of prop was agreeable to another two-term American president more than a century and a half later. « [O]ur form of government has no sense unless it is founded on a deeply felt religious faith, » said Dwight Eisenhower, « and I don’t care what it is. » And it’s indistinguishable from Edward Gibbon’s description of Roman religion in his famous multi-volume « Decline and Fall »: « The various modes of worship, which prevailed in the Roman world, were all considered by the people, as equally true; by the philosopher, as equally false; and by the magistrate, as equally useful. And thus toleration produced not only mutual indulgence, but even religious concord. » President Obama, then, is right. The American republic, as distinct from the American population, is not post-Christian because it was never Christian. In the president’s words: « We consider ourselves a nation of citizens who are bound by ideals and a set of values. » And for that we should thank the gods. All 20 of them.

Michael Lind is the Whitehead Senior Fellow at the New America Foundation. Texte trouvé sur le site :