Unfortunately there is a popular belief in the Western World that we are at war with a religious ideology. But before we discuss the issue of the evil perpetrated by multiple terrorist factions around the world, we must address our own Constitution and the intent of our founding fathers.
The primary reason the United States of America exists today is based on religious freedom. The British Empire decreed that all citizens must be members of the Anglican Church. The rebellion against that decision resulted in large numbers of wealthy aristocrats seceding from the United Kingdom. The Pilgrims had established residence in a new country. Englishmen who refused to surrender to the British Commonwealth recognized this as an opportunity for religious and economic freedom.
Contrary to modern tales of fantasy, many of our founding fathers were not devout Christians; some totally rejected the religion. George Washington refused to participate in religious affiliation as an adult. John Adams denied the doctrine of Orthodox Christianity. Thomas Jefferson was labeled a heretic, infidel, and an atheist by Christian hierarchy. James Madison fought the ideals of a theocracy and struggled for an individual’s right to practice religious freedom. Benjamin Franklin commended the teachings of Jesus Christ, but denied that he was a member of the divinity. Thomas Paine rejected Orthodox Christianity and proclimed: “My own mind is my own church.”
In my experience, those who profess their faith and religious belief as the ‘only true religion,’ and suggest that those who believe in alternate institutions of faith-based organizations are un-American are more dangerous than any outside enemy of the United States. Equally dangerous are those whose intent is to control men, women, and children in the name of religion.
Wars and insurrections in the name of religion have been the most numerous cause of military conflict in world history. Discrimination has many forms, and the lack of acceptance of individual choice of how people worship their God is the most unforgivable.
The United States of America has regressed. The ideals upon which our nation was founded have been pushed aside to accommodate the beliefs of the few.
The consistent conclusion of our founding fathers was that we would never have a national religion. Religious freedom was paramount for the creation of the new nation.
Our nation rightfully condemns Al Qaeda, ISIS, and Boko Haram. These groups of terrorists have no connection to religious values and beliefs. To associate them with the religion of Islam is ignorant. They do not in any manner represent the most numerous religion in the world. The mirror the ambitions of Adolph Hitler whose only goal was domination.
The world is at war, and it is not the result or intention of religious congregations. If you are a true believer in Jesus Christ, Muhammad, Buddha, the Torah, or Zeus, not one of these deities believed that the murder of innocents justified their teachings.
The 43rd President of the United States declared a war on terrorism. Not a single American disagreed with his decree. The cowardly attacks of 9/11 deserved a universal outcry by the American people and prompted most to seek revenge. Unfortunately the outcome of this ‘war’ became a battle of religions. When our President made statements that ‘they are not like us,’ or ‘they hate us for our freedom,’ an accusation that an entire religious community is at fault for the horrendous attacks only succeeded in the loss of international support. His failure to recognize the fact that the vast majority of the world’s population is peaceful and is aligned with the same values as the citizens of our nation resulted in a division of ideologies in our country and around the world.
I grew up with an admonition by my grandfather that the discussion of politics or religion would only result in anger and the division of family and friends. I didn’t understand what he meant at the time; I accepted the fact that he was our family’s patriarch and therefore a wise man. Today I understand.
He believed that religion was a personal choice, and to deny that choice was un-American. He also knew that politics was a dishonorable profession, and to discuss it was futile and demeaning for honorable men.
Editorial by James Turnage