The link below points to an article in POLITICO which mentions a polling result indicating 40% of Americans are unfavorably disposed toward atheists which make up about 2% of the population. This despite the fact that our American society has become increasingly secular, church attendance has been declining for decades, and Christianity in particular is not tolerated in many quarters of the secular culture. 40% may be surprising, but it’s likely because that 2% can often be so obnoxious. America is a country founded by religious extremists, and religion remains in the American genes.
I do disagree and take issue with one statement on the second page, though:
“This did not, of course, prevent individual states from legislating about religion and many retained established churches well into the 19th century, but it did mean that there could be no formal national endorsement of Christianity.”
The second statement above is disinformation and revisionism. It is true that several U.S. states had established churches which were eventually disestablished in the 19th century, but there is nothing in the U.S. Constitution which prohibits a public “endorsement” of religion, Christian or otherwise. Nor is the First Amendment the reason why the those state churches were disestablished. The religion clause in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was added to prevent the U.S. Federal government from establishing a state church like the Church of England in Great Britain or the Reformed Church in Holland, or even the Orthodox Church in the Russian Empire which could lead to the suppression of other faiths. That is all.
With respect to religion, the First Amendment reads: Congress shall make no law… “respecting an establishment of religion, or the free exercise thereof”. People, particularly atheists, often forget about that “free exercise” part.
Since America was a refuge and at times a dumping ground for religious minorities inside and outside the British Empire, it was and continues to be wildly diverse in denominations and faiths, mostly of the Christian variety. Many of the delegates to the Constitutional Convention were suspicious of federal power and insisted that a Bill of Rights be included to limit federal power and guarantee all preexisting rights. It must also be remembered that the Bill of Rights to the U.S. Constitution was added as a compromise by state delegates to place limits on federal power, not state power. The Constitution was created to bind the states in a more perfect union with a federal government delegated a few specific and enumerated powers. It was only after the U.S. Civil War, in the period of Reconstruction, and with the adoption of the 14th Amendment and the several other “War Amendments,” that the Bill of Rights was “interpreted” to limit state powers. This was an important change in relationship between the US and the states which subordinated the states to federal power and opened the door to judicial activism and legislation coming from the bench. This is basically where the “endorsement” prohibition came from, following onto changes in the constitution made after the Civil War with the Southern states being forced to ratify the new amendments at the point of a gun.
But I digress…
It’s a nice two page article which you may read for yourself here: