Yes, this is going to be the start of me looking at some of the claims some Christians make - about evolution, for instance, or the US being a "christian nation." It's amazing how some people just don't seem willing to rethink things that are shown to contradict what they say - even when that contradiction is blatant.
Then again, that's kind of the point of "faith," isn't it. "Just believe," faith tells you. "God has a reason!" OK, fine, but when it seems your god is flat out lying to you? "Oh, he put fossils in the ground to test us!" is always a fun one, though not an argument I've heard much lately (heard it more growing up.)
Since this is post number one on this, let's start with a list. The big list - the ten commandments.
First, there are a few sets of "ten commandments." Not to mention differences due to translation. I'm going to ignore the "ritual ten" you'll hear brought up - things like prohibitions about boiling baby goats in their mothers' milk and the like - because for the argument, they're nonsensical. What I'll be doing is looking at these, then (since I'll be tackling both the arguments they're a basis for morality as well as a basis for the country's founding and laws, with forays into deity-inspiration,) looking at the Constitution and Bill of Rights - two documents I don't think many people would argue against considering the actual foundational documents of the country.
I know some people might think, "Why are Atheists so hung up on this?" Simple, really. It's an argument thrown at us so often it's just flat out expected. So the atheist should know their material - and remember, it's been shown on numerous occasions that Atheists know their dominant religious document (in my case the bible) better than many believers. For some, it's part of what turned us Atheist in the first place!
So let's grab the TC. This is the King James Version:
And God spake all these words, saying,
I am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.
1.Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
2.Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.
3.Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.
4.Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.
5.Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.
6.Thou shalt not kill.
7.Thou shalt not commit adultery.
8.Thou shalt not steal.
9.Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.
10.Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour's.
Now, a few things to consider before we even get started.
First, many people - and certainly every block of these anyone tries to put up in a courthouse - tends to just cover the first sentence, or even just part of it. ("You shall have no other gods before me" for instance, for the first, as opposed to the whole thing - and the whole thing makes it even more problematic for being a foundational document of the US!) We will be considering them in whole.
Second, you must remember these WERE NOT NUMBERED. In fact, these aren't referred to in the bible as the Ten Commandments. The later ritual ones are... but again, those aren't the ones most people refer to, so we'll be looking at these.
The third point refers to the second. There's a fairly solid argument that, as these were initially written in hebrew, there's no punctuation and commandments 6, 7, 8 and 9 there (kill, adultery, steal, false witness) are meant to be one commandment. It actually removes some of the contradiction in the bible (no killing/stealing/etc - now go steal the land of those people and kill them all.) If you look at it as "You will not murder, commit adultery, steal or bear false witness against your neighbor (meaning other Israelites,)" it makes more sense in the greater overall context.
Now, the Constitution is fairly long - certainly longer than the ten commandments. I'll give a link to it here. You'll probably notice a fairly solid lack of any real correlation between the two - and that's only sensible. A constitution is there to define a country's government and organize it internally.
I will point out one thing, done now out of habit, but which is not in the constitution. The Presidential oath of office often ends with something along the lines of "so help me God." This, I'm sure, reaffirms to some the "christian nation" - unless they look at the text in the Constitution. (Article 2, end of section 1.) The oath of office?
Before he enter on the Execution of his Office, he shall take the following Oath or Affirmation:--"I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."
No mention of or appeals to any deity.
There's also something that rather makes it difficult to claim any religious grounding for office holders: Article VI, section 3:
The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.
Wouldn't a religiously founded nation have some sort of means of ensuring those meant to lead the nation agreed with said religion?
In fact, the only positive mention of deity at all is purely one of form, "In the year of our Lord one thousand seventeen hundred and eighty seven" at the end. And that is not an appeal to or endorsement of it - it's basically saying 1787 AD.
So I'd call it safe to say the Constitution is fairly useless as any evidence for the founding of the nation on Christian principles. We can then move on to the Bill of Rights:
I'll put a link to Wikipedia here, as it goes into more discussion on each.
- Congress of the United States begun and held at the City of New-York, on Wednesday the fourth of March, one thousand seven hundred and eighty nine
- THE Conventions of a number of the States, having at the time of their adopting the Constitution, expressed a desire, in order to prevent misconstruction or abuse of its powers, that further declaratory and restrictive clauses should be added: And as extending the ground of public confidence in the Government, will best ensure the beneficent ends of its institution.
- RESOLVED by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America, in Congress assembled, two thirds of both Houses concurring, that the following Articles be proposed to the Legislatures of the several States, as amendments to the Constitution of the United States, all, or any of which Articles, when ratified by three fourths of the said Legislatures, to be valid to all intents and purposes, as part of the said Constitution; viz.
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
And so we have our basis for government and the foundation of the nation... with no appeal to or reference to Christianity. These, folks, are secular documents.