Were the founders of the American republic religious people? Probably, but whatever the answer they had enough humility and foresight to realize that religion, especially the great monotheistic traditions, was a dangerous foundation upon which to build a new nation. Additionally, they seem to have understood that a government wrapped in theology would be a poor defender of the rights and freedoms they wished to instill in the Constitution. There are plenty of examples, both private meditations and public remarks, composed by the founders that invoke the Christian deity and exhort the virtues of the Christian faith, but they also seem to have had the good sense to protect religious practice from overzealous governments while also ensuring faith did become a tool of oppression, its tenets enforced by the state and enshrined in law. It appears that the founders envisioned a nation defined by civilian law and not by ecclesiastic decree.
These indications, however, have also ushered in the age of the modern “culture wars”, the ongoing argument in this country over whether the country should be governed by secular law or ruled by ecclesiastic decree. Now, perhaps more than ever in living memory, there is a rising threat of de-secularization casting its shadow over the United States and transforming the country into a Christian theocracy, an Evangelical caliphate. We see this trend in many places. Under the guise of public health states as diverse as Texas and Ohio have passed dangerously restrictive abortion regulations creating an environment where abortions are nearly impossible to obtain. The anti-abortion agenda is, of course, a perennial favorite of the religious right and their representatives in state assemblies across the country have found a variety of ways to push the envelope to within a hair’s width of Roe vs. Wade and then bide their time until a reactionary Supreme Court is installed and prepared to obliterate women’s reproductive rights once and for all.
This is the direction our government, if not the electorate, seems to be pushing America as conservative zealots consolidate power by eroding the voting power of potential opposition forces. We are in a precarious place as a nation, a crossroad where we can either continue to evolve and perfect the secular values of justice, compassion, social welfare and environmental awareness or follow false prophets like Franklin Graham and Ted Cruz towards a future of forced conversion, faith-based segregation and total war against women and LGBT+ Americans. We all must appreciate that this nation was founded by people who, however religious they might have been in their personal lives, understood that living under the threat of religious law was no way to live in the real world.