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Athena Salman, atheist legislator, on secular values and godless invocations

Athena Salman speaks at a Secular Coalition for America meeting in Washington on June 14, 2017. Photo courtesy of Brian Engler

WASHINGTON (RNS) As member of the Arizona House of Representatives, Athena Salman took her turn recently and offered an invocation before the start of the day’s business.

But the first-term Democrat from Tempe, is an atheist and her invocation did not reference a higher power.

“Take a moment to look around you at the people gathered here today,” Salman’s invocation began. “We come from a variety of backgrounds and interests, but the passion that ignites us; the fire that burns within us; is similar. We all seek to form ‘a more perfect union,’ creating change from an abiding passion to improve the lives of the humans of this city. There is wonder in that. More importantly, though, there is unity.”

That unity was shattered immediately after the invocation when Rep. Mark Finchem, a Republican, objected to the Arizona House leadership because the invocation did not appeal to a higher power. In February, Republicans added a rule that required opening invocations to do so.

Arizona State Rep. Athena Salman. Photo courtesy of Morgan Glassco

The Republican speaker of the House, J.D. Mesnard, ruled Salman’s prayer violated the House rules. Finchem was permitted to give a second invocation, one that referenced Jesus.

This is not the first time the Arizona House had a dust-up over a godless invocation. In 2016, then-representative Juan Mendez — an atheist and Salman’s partner  — upset his Republican colleagues when he, too, failed to mention a higher power. Mendez is now a state senator, and when he repeated his invocation this year no one complained publicly.

Last week, Salman, 28, was in the nation’s capital to receive an award from the Secular Coalition for America, an umbrella organization of 18 atheist, humanist and freethought groups, which saluted her for standing up for “secular values,” including the separation for church and state. She sat down with RNS to discuss the reaction to her invocation and what it is like to be the only openly atheist member of the Arizona House. This interview has been edited for space and clarity.

How did you decide what to say in your invocation?

As an atheist, I don’t believe in a higher power in the way other people do. So in the invocation, which was written by James Fuchs, a member of the Humanist Society of Greater Phoenix, the idea was a belief in the goodness of humanity and how people can come together and do good. In my opinion, it was very focused on that. I thought the whole thing was very fitting and very powerful and a good way to orient one’s mindset and start the day’s business.

After your invocation, you held a press conference in a nearby park. What happened there?

The press conference was beautiful. The whole Arizona Democratic House Caucus, which I love for its diversity in religion, gender, ethnicity and race, stood by my side. There were also people from different faith backgrounds who spoke in support of me. That was very powerful — that religious people chose to stand with an atheist. On social media I have only had positive feedback. No one told me they didn’t agree with my invocation. People from other districts, other states and other religions sent me emails saying thank you for doing this. There were people who said “I am a Christian, but separation of church and state is important to me and you are standing up for that.” I think I struck a nerve that expanded across faith backgrounds. People want religion to stay out of government and they want the government to make decisions based on secularism, not religion.

How has this changed your idea of what you need to do going forward?

I believe in the work of intersectionality, and part of that is respecting and defending people’s right to choose or not choose religion. Given the polarized state of the federal government, we need that respect more than ever. I also felt empowered to be myself and share my own personal spiritual beliefs and provide a platform for the humanists who live in Phoenix, to share how they orient themselves to tackle the challenges of the day. Even though some members of the House did not agree with my invocation, I feel strengthened and supported by the public response. Atheists, humanists and other secularists are not going away. You cannot silence us. As a state representative, not only am I beholden to the Arizona state constitution, I am beholden to the U.S. Constitution and that is about upholding the values of a secular government. Both constitutions are on our side.

You mentioned how much the support of religious people has meant to you through all this. Do you think there can be more alliances between religious and nonreligious people?

Absolutely. Coalitions are stronger and elected officials respond to them. It also humanizes people when you see what you have in common. I have come to realize that even though I am an atheist and because I am half-Arab, programs that target Muslims still have an impact on my life. Prejudice and hate lump everyone together. Under this administration, we truly are all under threat and the way you can stand strong in the face of great adversity is to be unified. The way to do that is to start thinking of the world through our shared human experiences.

In accepting your Visibility Award, you said you think you are the only openly atheist woman legislator at the state level. What do you hope to achieve by being open about your lack of faith?

I hope by saying I am openly atheist others will say, “I am too.” Being open begins to push back on the stereotypes people have about atheists — or any minority religion. By owning it and standing for values that are universal to humanity, people can make that connection and see that we are fighting for the values they believe in too. Ultimately in politics we are fighting over values and the biggest of these is equality. That is powerful and that is what people need to see.

About the author

Kimberly Winston

Kimberly Winston is a freelance religion reporter based in the San Francisco Bay Area.

70 Comments

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  • Invocations in such a setting are really nothing more than political cotton candy anyway. For those in the assembly who object to the member’s failure to cite a higher source, there’s nothing to prevent you from offering a invocation of your own to God, carrying it daily in your heart on behalf of the body in which you serve.

  • It’s the confluence of her Arab ancestry, atheist philosophy, and Greek praenomen that makes this fascinating.

  • THE POWER OF MANY IS A HIGHER POWER THAN THE POWER OF ONE
    I would disagree that the member failed to cite a higher source of power. If one individual person has the power to get things accomplished, then an assembly of people getting things accomplished should be considered a higher source of power to get more accomplished. If they can ‘link arms’ under a government by the people, for the people with all the noble fundamental principles the United States of America was founded upon, then that is a higher power still.

  • Like Ten Commandments monuments on public property, invocations by and large are exercises in dominance, of no religious signifigance, but designed to show atheists and the like they are second class citizens. It is an expression of the shrillness which occurs when a dominant group finds their dominance waning. One hears the same thing daily in the U.S., as forces of dominance meet resistance. It is also heard in country music where one can listen to a modern country pop station for an hour and not fail to hear some whining about how things aren’t the way they used to be, even though they were never as the songwriters imagine. In the 1980s, a Hank Williams Jr. lyric included “..we say grace, we say ‘Ma’am,’ if you ain’t into that we don’t give a damn…” But they do give a damn, otherwise this sort of foolishness which does not in any form honor Christ, would not be happening over and over and over.

  • No, Kangaroo. It ain’t dominance. It ain’t shrillness. It ain’t even politics.

    If an invocation is done correctly, (by a real man or woman of God who still believes the Bible, still believes in the astonishing power of prayer, and really cares about the grind that the elected officials go through), it can generate an effective, right-now spiritual boost to an entire group of weary and confused politicians.

    See the example (below). If you ever give a legislative invocation, Kangaroo52, THIS is how you do it. I fully support Athena Salman’s right to give a decrepit, godless, atheistic, pep-talk full of Oatmeal, instead of a godly prayer full of Power. But if you want to offer politicians something that will bake their cake, then do it like this:

    http://www.kslegislature.org/li_2012/b2011_12/chamber/documents/daily_journal_senate_20110331095753.pdf

  • Amen. In my college years I used to boo after the invocations, especially at our football games. I resented having to be subjected to that nonsense, especially at a state-supported secular institution.

  • A secular speaker rebuked for not invoking a higher power. Religious invocations are now driven by angst and resentment…What previously was taken for granted is now a forced ritual, to demonstrate a symbolic power, which was real only in an age gone by.

    Those who demand everyone else take part in their parochial prayers or require pledges of allegiance to their flags are acting out of fear, not reverence or respect.

  • There have also been instances of inappropriate proselytizing by coaches. One fellow who was terminated for this and went on to make a living as a right-wing columnist is Weird Nut Daily’s “Coach” Dave Daubemire, who writes like he has the head injuries common in his avocation.

  • I thought the link was going to be the one filled with religious reich rhetoric from a few years ago but was pleasantly surprised. I have no problem with invocations except members of all faiths and non-theists should be permitted to give them.

    We had a problem in one of my former Democratic clubs when my friend who has since left this mortal coil, a 96-year-old retired elementary school principal who like me was a United Methodist lay servant concluded his invocation at the meetings with “in the name of Our Lord Jesus Christ, Amen,” and some of the seculars didn’t like it. The club President talked to him and he said, “that’s just the way I pray.” He did it a few more times before his health declined further and he could no longer come to the meetings. The President just told them to honor an elder and shut up and they did. After my friend no longer came, the President called on me to do it and I tried to be ecumenical but not always. The difference, of course, is our parties are private organizations but governmental bodies are public.

  • She’s obviously a Renaissance woman and even married to an Hispanic. What I wonder is if she can flip tortillas on the grill with her bare fingertips like mi abuelas do.

  • I understand your sentiments but I favor continuing both. It’s interesting both her and her husband are legislators in Arizona where Congresswoman Kyrsten Sinema is from, and Sinema is sometimes cited as the only nontheist in Congress, though she has protested that designation saying she’s “spiritual but not religious” or somesuch. Sinema was raised Mormon – as a child, her family was homeless for a while and lived in an abandoned gas station – but seems to have left the LDS by attrition. She’s also the only open bisexual in Congress, a protege of former Governor and HHS Secretary Janet Napolitano, and a possible Senate candidate in the future who describes herself as a “Prada Socialist.”

  • Matthew 6:5-6:15: And when you pray, be not like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door, and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, because your Father know what you need before you ask him. This, then, is how you should pray: Our Father, who art in Heaven….”

  • [citation needed]

    Is there evidence for your claim that convocations give “an effective, right-now spiritual boost to an entire group of weary and confused politicians”? Because I’ve certainly never seen such a boost, ever, not even when I was actually Christian myself and believed that supernatural claptrap.

    Funny, I think that Christian convocations sound like decrepit, godless, atheistic, pep-talks full of Oatmeal–lacking any kind of power at all, much less whatever you’re invoking with your unnecessary capitalizations (a sure sign that someone’s talking nonsense with no evidence). They’re literally just for show: to virtue-signal to the other Christians that they are all part of the correct tribe; to slam a fist in the head of non-Christians to remind them that they are not.

    Maybe that’s why Jesus literally told you lot not to do stuff like that. But who cares what Jesus said? Not Christians!

  • It’ll be great to see what Christians do when they really start losing dominance and other religions get to behave the same way they did when they were in power–and when Nones finally find their voice. I can’t wait. The screeching, crying, and bellowing from churches will be epic to behold. And what’s better is that their reaction is 100% going to help fuel their continued losses.

  • This should be invoked as often as possible to obnoxious displays of Christian religiosity.

  • Only a religious person could be as mean spirited as you are demonstrating. Christopher Hitchens was right when he said that religion poisons everything

  • “. . . the astonishing power of prayer . . .”

    The only “astonishing power off prayer” is that it helps convince gullible people that they are talking to someone/something that actually exists.

  • I wish one of the politicians there that actually care about freedom of speech and religion would have the guts to reference, oh, Huitzilopochtli, the Aztec god of war, or Baba Yaga, a witch from Russian folklore, just to mock these snowflakes. May Huitzilopochtli look down upon our fair state like he once did, Tenochitlan. Protect our corn crops, oh, mighty Huitzilopochtli!

  • The same people who stomped on her invocation most likely voted for the current, female genital grabbing POTUS. They are ‘values voters’ of course who have, by their vote for Donald Trump, shown themselves to be the hypocrites of the highest order.

  • People that are well educated and understand the way the world works will never choose religion. Any talk or appeals of or to gods or “higher powers” is nonsense and a waste of time and energy.
    Government is about people, not gods.

  • Bang on, Edward.

    There’s likewise nothing stopping students from praying in school as often as they wish,

  • Well said brother. You must have hit a nerve as the naysayers came out in force with their own brand of vitriol.

  • Why? You put yourself on the same level of the Repub. who objected to Salman’s nonprayer. In this case he looked silly.
    If you don’t like prayer in public events don’t pray or just don’t go.

  • Atheists can be mean spirited too. Take for eg. Pol Pot. Or Josef Stalin. Or Mao Zedong. (sp?)

  • He was rebuking them for their motives for praying in public. And the pharisees liked to pray in public loudly so others would think highly of them. So the question is: why exactly DO legislators want to pray before they begin to legislate? Is it a genuine heartfelt desire to ask God for help? (that is the only kind of prayer God respects) Or is it a public show? In my opinion if they want to pray for God’s assistance they can carve out some time before they meet to pray in a conference room before doing the public’s business. I wonder how many would show up.

  • To all my fellow believers who might be dismayed by the previous post I made, which has elicited a more favorable response than I usually get from those on the Left side of the ledger; I have not retreated in any way from my firm conviction that the exclusive claims of Christ are proper and worthy, nor do I deny the efficacy of earnest prayer to Him and in His Name. But I am mindful of His admonition that we not be like the Pharisees’ who made an open show of their piety in public, for which cause Jesus instructed us to go into our inner closet to pray. I do not condemn those who pray in a legislative or public setting, I will not condemn those disinclined to do the same, I stand for freedom of conscience for all. At the same time it is my prayer that those of us who are committed partisans of Christ would recognize and practice our own responsibility to pray for each other, those who are skeptical, and on behalf of this very troubled nation.

  • I agree with much of this but it still makes a religion out of a philosophy, Atheism. Same claim of its “non-promoting of relgious values” under the guise of “atheism” as non-religious. Also her statement “to push back on the stereotypes people have on atheism – or any minority religion” is a politically relgoious statement. Maybe she and others have a sterotypical” idea or opinion about what “majority religions” think.

  • Bad dudes, all, but did they perform their mean spirited acts in the name of “Nobody’s There”?

  • I agree with your first sentence. I’m just a “Despicable Christian Me” kind of guy.

    In fact, I’ll even show you my selfie photograph, just to prove it:

    https://www.dealerknows.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/SnidelyWhiplash.png

    So you’re right. Just a nasty slime-brain theological villain, that’s me!!

    But now here’s a question for you. Forget about me; what (sincerely) do you think about the chaplain’s brief prayer in the above link? In your opinion, did it sound respectful and real? Did it sound like the chaplain knew about all the grind the representatives have to deal with? Or did it sound like Hitchens’ term “poison”?

  • Yes they did. Nobody was there so there’s no moral accountability to a just God. If there is no God all things are permissible if you are bigger and badder than everyone else. In a godless world might makes right.

  • So how do you excuse the likes of Hitler, Robert Mugabe, Jimmy Savile and, including, just about every King, Queen & Pope/religious leader throughout European history who not only believed in God, but also committed/ordered terrible acts and atrocities in his name?

  • I can’t help it if certain kinds of Christians are compulsively rude to other faiths.

    There are zero problems with Christian invocations PROVIDED there is fair opportunity given to all other faiths which request to do such things. Without some ecumenical behavior, it becomes discriminatory tramp stamping of government meetings.

  • Who’s excusing them? I just said atheists can be mean spirited too. Mean spirited people – religious or atheist – will always find a justification for their evil.

  • No. You claimed non-believers, ones who committed terrible acts, did so because they didn’t believe in god. So, how do you account for the countless believers who, often for religious reasons, have and continue to commit terrible acts.

    Now, of coarse atheists can be mean spirited. But so can theists. And your claim is an example of that.

  • The Church of Satan does it regularly. I hope you are not proposing human sacrifices of your enemies as part of the invocation. That would get really messy.

  • Why does it have to be labeled ‘decrepit” and “full of oatmeal”? See, you are part of the problem with your very language.

  • I use the word “ideology”. Perhaps she should have, too. It’s generic enough to keep people guessing if I’m talking about their religious views or something else.

  • Now just a minute there, Athena Salman and Kimberly Winston. I’m one of those “people” who, with you, do “want religion to stay out of government”, but that doesn’t make me “want the government to make decisions based on secularism” either! Nor go around “upholding the values of a secular government.” You know why? I don’t want to end up foolish like you, parading “your lack of faith” and taking such pride that one day this government is going to be (in)famous for the same “lack of faith”! Oh, wait, it already is! See what I mean by foolish?

  • Not a cop out. I was quite clear. Either ask for a specific clarification or move on.

  • I firmly believe in the seperation of Chirch and state. I was raised Mormon after being adopted but at age 18 I escaped(Ok , so i was formally excommunicated ) and I have been an atheist since i learned to read. Something my parents and their religion failed to change. Ive always held on to the idea that freedom of religion also neant freedom from religion. forgive me but I can’t help but to give you rousing Hallelujah and AMEN for your comments.

  • I give out honest assessments, Boo-Hoo, and I do sometimes stick some BBQ sauce on them, to help you remember the taste. But I do so with respect, and always paying attention to posts like yours.

    Meanwhile, I fully support Salman’s rights just like you, but she gave a dry-bones DIY ethical stump-speech, not an invocation.
    So Salman trafficked in OATMEAL, the kind with the long-gone expiration date.

    Her colleagues wanted more than a standard lecture on DIY humanistic ethics. They collectively needed a genuine reaching-out-to-a-higher-power spiritual boost, because of the heavy pressures and scrutiny upon them.

    But that’s the problem, ain’t it? When you’re an atheist, you can only invoke human strength and smarts — nothing more. Even when life situations NEED something more. That’s why Salman’s atheism killed her “invocation.”

  • Your “BBQ sauce” tastes like garbage, as does the aftertaste of your apparent dominionism. Her colleagues are nothing but bullies without enough character to find strength from within. How sad and pathetic. How odd that they feel they have to invoke some mythical being in order to do the basic duties for which they were elected. Such are the trials and tribulations of being an atheist, though: always being treated like crap by people who don’t have the mental stamina to match you, who subsist only through numbers.

  • Stop playing games. The question was clear, and you are dodging it. You said, ” Nobody was there so there’s no moral accountability to a just God. If there is no God all things are permissible if you are bigger and badder than everyone else. ” So, you were asked what explains the Christians who have done the same, and you dodged the question by saying basically that bad people exist in all belief systems, which is correct, but you dodged the part about WHY you’re giving the Christians a pass for it, while you’re condemning the atheists and blaming it on their lack of belief in a deity, and therefore their supposed lack of moral compass.

    I really shouldn’t have needed to type all that out when you could have scrolled up and re-read your own inconsistent statement.

    So, Christians can murder anyone, and they’re just being bad people ( ie: not “good Christians”), but if an atheist does it, it’s because of a lack of God and a lack of a moral compass? Is that your position? Because that’s how it’s coming across, and you can rest assured that that opinion is complete and utter garbage.

  • Are you certain the people you listed are Christians? I wasn’t aware they were or claimed to be. Jesus and the Apostles said you can KNOW who is and who isn’t a Christian. Read the epistle I John. But you have have to read the bible to KNOW how to tell the difference. Compare their lives to the teaching of the Savior. I think you’ll decide those listed are not Christians. They may say they are a Christian but saying you are a Christian because you go to a church is like saying you’re a car because you go into a garage.

    (You don’t know how to use the copy/paste function on your computer?)

    But clearly, not all atheists do evil because they believe there is no God. But evil atheists do know they are not morally accountable to a god – so they think. So what then stops them from making up their own rules?
    But now that you mentioned it, so-called Christians who do evil perhaps ARE in a worse state: they knowingly are in disobedience to God. Some even died for their sin (Annaias and Sapphira sp? for example).

    And I wasn’t playing a game Boo Hoo. I did not see that I had not answered your question. Sorry.

    And so how does an atheist know what is good and bad, right or wrong? Society? Our society is based upon the Judeo-Christian ethic. So you learn it from ….

  • …my own internal knowledge (taught from my mother, and my schoolteachers) of right and wrong, my intelligence, and my own feelings of compassion that come from within me, not your book or your deity, or your vision of what Judeo-Christian society has provided. I’m a decent person in spite of your god or society. Anyone can just read the story of Noah’s Ark to know that Yahweh was a petty, jealous, genocidal tyrant. And that’s just one example. There are hundreds, if not thousands. And this is the god your Jesus fables are founded on. Oh, spare me the next diatribe about how Jesus made it all better. I’ve heard it all before. I don’t buy it, and I never will.

    Do I personally know that ALL those people are Christian? No. But, again, that dodges the question, and throws the “No True Scotsman” fallacy into my face as an answer. It’s not an answer. What they “felt” in their “hearts” could only be known by them, and they’re long dead, and are therefore naturally silent on the subject. I can only go by their words and their deeds, and that’s all you really need. Did Hitler (a Catholic) have meetings with the Pope? Yes, he did. Did Hitler’s party use the saying “Gott Mit Uns” , German for “God is with us” on their uniforms? Yes, they did. Did Hitler (a Catholic) convince a bunch of disenfranchised Lutherans (the German people) to kill a bunch of innocent Jews? Yes, he did, and they did. Do I know if he said his Hail Marys? No, I don’t. Why would I? And why would you expect me or anyone to? Do I know for a fact Isabella of Spain said her Hail Marys? No, I don’t. But I’m pretty sure she used her position as Queen of Spain and her religious fervor to make the Spanish Inquisition happen.

    And yes, I can use copy and paste, which I did, for your quote. My complaint involves having to explain something when you could have just answered the question posted, as I originally asked. Instead, here we are, several paragraphs later, and all I’ve got to work with is a “No True Scotsman” fallacy.

    Sigh.

    There are bad people in every demographic. I think you hinted at that at some point. There are bad Christians, regardless of what’s in their hearts, how often they pray, or anything else. There are bad atheists, no matter their deeds, or what they believe or don’t believe. These are the facts, and I only deal in facts. Humanity has it within themselves (naturally) to be decent or bad. It’s a decision. What you theists call “free will”. And attributing anyone’s bad behavior to their atheism is ludicrous, insulting, and frankly…straight-up wrong. If you can’t accept that, historically speaking, there are multiple instances of Christian people who used their power position to inflict bad deeds on humanity, but CAN accept that an atheist did the same because they are “godless”, then all I can assume is that you’re some kind of hypocrite. Or you walk around with Christian rose-colored glasses. Or something else entirely that only you know…

  • Sorry, great amount of your sense of right and wrong comes from the culture – which if you grew up in the USA is Judeo Christian.

    re: Hitler as a Christian:
    Adolph Hitler’s family was Catholic, but all available sources indicate that Hitler was uninterested in Catholicism as a child. Once away from his mother’s care, Hitler never again participated in the rites of the Catholic Church. As an adult, Hitler frequently derided religion and those who practiced it. Christianity in particular, with its emphasis on love and peace, was something Hitler despised. In fact, Hitler was more attracted to Islam’s militant expansionism than to the “weakness” of Christianity. Albert Speer, Hitler’s Minister of Armaments and War Production, wrote that Hitler told him, “The Mohammedan religion . . . would have been much more compatible to us [Germans] than Christianity. Why did it have to be Christianity with its meekness and flabbiness?” (Speer, Albert. Inside the Third Reich (New York: Avon, 1971, p. 734).

    Hitler was strongly influenced by the anti-Christian philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. This influence shows in Hitler’s private remarks on religion, as related by surviving associates. Hitler described Christianity as an “absurdity,” “an invention of sick brains,” and so forth. It’s interesting to note that Hitler spoke of religion using many of the same terms as modern-day misotheists ; yet some of these modern voices attempt to peg Hitler as a Christian.
    (Hmmm…I’ve read some similar comments about Christianity on this site.)

    No True Scotsman fallacy: all you’ve demonstrated is that you don’t know what the fallacy really is. Here’s a good explanation as it relates to your comment about Hitler and the others:
    So when one says that Adolf Hitler is no true Christian, one is not committing the NTS fallacy. “Christian” is a label referring to religious and philosophical beliefs being held by the believer. Since Hitler’s actions, words, and expressed philosophies and professed beliefs are outside of, and in many cases contrary to, the belief set of Christianity, it is (barring a deathbed conversion for which there is no evidence whatsoever) valid to say that Hitler was not a Christian. Set X (Christianity) does NOT intersect set Y (Hitler’s beliefs [Nazism]), and thus object Y (Adolf Hitler) is not an object X (Christian).

  • Well, those are your opinions, based off of your readings. I believe differently, and have read differently. And you’ve back-ended your way around the No True Scotsman fallacy by saying he wasn’t one (a christian) so therefore I don’t understand the fallacy correctly. I understand it fine; you’re just manipulating facts and disregarding what you choose not to believe, and then claiming a ‘victory’. You would have made a good lawyer…assuming you aren’t one.

    I addressed the Judeo-Christian commentary already. I’m not sure why you felt the need to bring it up again. I’m intelligent and have compassion, which are both MINE and have nothing to do with your culture, your deity, or your book. So, please stop claiming a cultural victory over something that is mine. It’s ridiculous.

    So, I guess if I’m to extrapolate from your rantings that all people who do bad things are godless, even when they self-identify as Christian and/or use Christian culture to obtain their end goals (Gott Mit Uns, after all – you didn’t address that – you conveniently skipped right over it like it never happened. It did.) That’s such a convenient explanation for someone who wants to treat others outside their preferred group like garbage. It’s also blatantly false. But, I can see that you’re determined to believe it and explain your way around it. I can’t help at giggle at how much time you spent on that Hitler research. I’m sure you were furiously digging through every pro-Christian, right wing website you could find. LOL. And, you know, they ALWAYS tell the truth, right? Because they’re Christians. I’m sorry…I mean True Christians (trademark pending).

    Anyway, we’re getting nowhere. This has been a fascinating conversation, but I’m moving on. Take care.

  • “You would have made a good lawyer.” Thanks…I think. No I’m not a lawyer. And I think you’re probably a decent person.

    And did you read my comment above: “But now that you mentioned it, so-called Christians who do evil perhaps ARE in a worse state: they knowingly are in disobedience to God. Some even died for their sin (Annaias and Sapphira sp? for example).” I conceded your point. I use the qualifier “so-called” because Christianity is not just a just a set of intellectual beliefs – it is a relationship with God. Who can know for certain that someone else is a Christian except by looking at that person’s life. Only God knows the heart of a person, but He said you shall know them by their fruits.

    re: No True Scotsman Fallacy. I still think you’re wrong and I think I demonstrated that through my “furious digging through every pro-Christian, right wing website…”

  • Once again, a secularist/atheist RNS writer and a secularist/atheist representative in Arizona talk about “separation of church and state” and fail to offer any documentation for their misrepresentation, because history contradicts their myth. Therefore, what does Jefferson’s “separation of church and state” mean?

    Dr. James Hutson, a former professor of history at Yale, is the head of the manuscript division at the Library of Congress. Dr. Hutson discusses what Thomas Jefferson’s phrase, “separation of church and state” clearly meant in its historical context. Jefferson’s actions, which reveal his meaning, directly contradicts the modern, left-wing secularist myth about this phrase.

    “The State Becomes the Church: Jefferson and Madison

    It is no exaggeration to say that on Sundays in Washington during the administrations of Thomas Jefferson (1801-1809) and of James Madison (1809-1817) THE STATE BECAME THE CHURCH. Within a year of his inauguration, Jefferson began attending church services in the House of Representatives. Madison followed Jefferson’s example, although unlike Jefferson, who rode on horseback to church in the Capitol, Madison came in a coach and four. Worship services in the House–a practice that continued until after the Civil War–were acceptable to Jefferson because they were nondiscriminatory and voluntary. Preachers of every Protestant denomination appeared. (Catholic priests began officiating in 1826.) As early as January 1806 a female evangelist, Dorothy Ripley, delivered a camp meeting-style exhortation in the House to Jefferson, Vice President Aaron Burr, and a “crowded audience.” Throughout his administration Jefferson permitted church services in executive branch buildings. The Gospel was also preached in the Supreme Court chambers.

    Jefferson’s actions may seem surprising because his attitude toward the relation between religion and government is usually thought to have been embodied in his recommendation that there exist “a wall of separation between church and state.” In that statement, Jefferson was apparently DECLARING HIS OPPOSITION, as Madison had done in introducing the Bill of Rights, TO A ‘NATIONAL’ RELIGION. In attending church services on public property, Jefferson and Madison consciously and deliberately were offering symbolic support to religion as a prop for republican government.”

    Below this text, Hutson provides a wealth of documentary evidence for his analysis. Manasseh Cutler, a member of Congress, wrote a letter telling how Jefferson “and his family have constantly attended public worship in the Hall”. The first preacher was the famous Baptist, John Leland, an opponent of “establishment”. Margaret Bayard Smith, of the “National Intelligencer” newspaper, noted “Jefferson during his whole administration was a most regular attendant. The seat he chose the first day sabbath, and the adjoining one, which his private secretary occupied, were ever afterwards by the courtesy of the congregation, left for him”. A variety of preachers spoke, including a Catholic priest. Even two women, Harriet Livermore and Dorothy Ripley preached in this congressional “church”. Services with “several denominations” were also held in the Treasury Building and the Supreme Court Chamber.

    http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/religion/rel06-2.html

  • The founding fathers at least cared about other people and not just their religious beliefs. They were willing to put their personal beliefs aside in favor of a systematic triple branch system which had nothing to do with religion, as opposed to a ‘holy monarchy’, and established freedom of and from religion in this country.

  • Lets take the next step and stop describing ourselves as people who” lack faith.”

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