Come to us, you non-believers

From the Washington’s Voz newspaper.

Ok, now we are in good shape! The President of the United States has given his blessing to those unbelievers who, regardless of that major shortcoming on their humanity, could still be considered good enough, and even as patriotic as those who worship.

Last week, in a press conference that in fact was trying to deal with a very different kind of unbeliever, those who don’t believe in his Social Security plans, Mr. Bush found time to anoint atheists with this patronizing statement: “If you choose not to worship, you’re equally as patriotic as somebody who does worship.”

Salve, Mark Twain!

I have several issues with patriotism, especially when it becomes a way to divide instead of a way to unite. We Hispanics have a long history of that, don’t we? But at any rate, where does the idea that patriotism is defined by worshiping come from?

That statement is just like this one: “Black people are as good as white people.” And it means: Whiteness defines Goodness, but Blacks are also accepted.

Where have we come to, that the President needs to “defend” non-worshipers and reassure them of their own patriotic fiber. In fact, we have lately seen our fair share of devoted worshipers -or so they call themselves- who have given more than one sign of very unpatriotic behavior, let alone very inhuman behavior.

By the way, the fact that non-believers may be in the minority does not mean they are three crazy people on the corner of some liberal woods. There are some 30 million Americans who declare having no religion, and they are, to use the presidential style, as protected by the Constitution as those who profess religious affiliation.

In fact, although it is getting tougher for the non-religious to get elected to office in the US, the Constitution expressly states that “No religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust.” Worth remembering.

In the culture war we are immersed in now, since it looks like the real war in Iraq is not enough, the Right insists in appropriating religion.

It seems like the rest of us were just sheep without a pastor, needing some manipulative right-winger to try to push down our throats that States’ rights are good when they don’t interfere with the rights of the Right; that Terri Schiavo should have lived longer than those who can not afford to pay for feeding tubes in Texas; that being a good Christian is equal to being a good citizen, but that Tom De Lay, Enron folks and other Republican donors are exonerated due to matters of National interest.

But, if the Founding Fathers had wanted a Christian country, they would have made sure they expressed that as clearly as many other things in the Constitution. I can hear the clamor: yes, but they were Christians. Oh, yes, they were! It seems they also read that part of the Bible that says: do unto others….

They didn’t create a Christian country, not because they thought Christianity was so obvious that it needed no specific mention, but because they remembered that it was not much fun when religious views were persecuted and their parents had to get to America to maintain their freedom of religion.

And, I’m sorry, but it’s not just a matter of prepositions: freedom of religion does mean freedom from religion, in the public sphere, at least. Otherwise, it would mean one has to have some religion… and even the President gives those unbelievers his blessing to continue to be.

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