The Right Opinion

Leaving Out God

By Ken Blackwell · Sep. 22, 2010

It was certainly reassuring to see the president and first lady coming out of St. John’s Episcopal Church last Sunday. With all the confusion about the president’s religion, we can be sure that the very liberal historic parish will provide a warm welcome to the first family. And they’re unlikely to hear anything as unsettling as “God d____ America” coming from St. John’s elegantly carved pulpit.

Folk wisdom tells us there are no atheists in foxholes. President Obama has surely been feeling like a combat soldier in recent weeks. With all the heavy criticisms raining down on him like incoming mortar shells, and with his own team members seeming to run away from him on the political battlefield, the president needs all the prayers he can get. Cynics might say that this is another battlefield conversion, that Obama never felt the need for such fellowship when he was above 70 percent approval in the polls. In those halcyon days, Newsweek editor Evan Thomas was hailing Obama as “a sort of God.” No more.

But just when you thought it was safe for the president to slip back into the pew, he started a whole new round of speculation about what he really believes. While addressing the Congressional Hispanic Caucus last week, Obama began to recite key passages of the Declaration of Independence and slipped up. Or did he?

He enumerated the “certain inalienable rights” part beautifully. He even listed the right to life. (Hmmm. How does that comport with an Obamacare law that if unrepealed would subsidize abortion and thus deny the right to life to millions yet unborn? Well, Barack Obama is hardly the only liberal who manages to declare such pesky questions “above my pay grade.”) The trouble came when Obama omitted who endowed the people with these inalienable rights, “their Creator.”

The White House is trying to tamp down any controversy: The president was merely paraphrasing. “Don’t try to read anything into this” is the administration line.

But it does matter. The Weekly Standard’s Jeffrey Anderson certainly thinks so:

“Only two plausible explanations spring to mind. One is that President Obama isn’t very familiar with the most famous passage in the document that founded this nation; that even when plainly reading from a teleprompter, he wasn’t able to quote it correctly. The other is that President Obama doesn’t subscribe to the Declaration’s rather central claim that our rights come from our ‘Creator’ (also referred to in the Declaration as ‘Nature’s God’ and ‘the Supreme Judge of the World’).

"Only the president likely knows for certain which of these two explanations is true, or whether perhaps there is another. His nearly 4-second pause before he omits reference to our Creator, however, is peculiar. He stares at the teleprompter, purses his lips, blinks several times — as if confused, disturbed, and/or in the process of making a decision — and then proceeds to use his alternate wording [see the clip here starting at the 22:30 mark].”

Anderson had earlier reported on the present administration’s apparent discomfort with the Declaration of Independence. In its groveling and apologetic report to the UN Human Rights Council—a body graced by such respecters of the rights of humans as China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Cuba—the Obama administration managed to omit any reference to the world’s greatest document on human rights: our own Declaration.

President Obama is not the only liberal to have such problems acknowledging the Creator. Take for example a nice new publication from the American Constitution Society for Law and Policy (ACS)—a Federalist Society for liberals that might be viewed as an incubator for the Obama Justice Department or even for Obama nominees to the federal courts.

Princeton Professor Robby George noted in First Things that he recently picked up a handy little pamphlet published by ACS with the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and—most welcome—Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. But when he carefully scanned Lincoln’s immortal words as delivered on that hallowed ground, Professor George noted they had left out two: “under God.”

How bold! Surely the liberals at ACS know that Lincoln’s words are carved into stone at the memorial that bears his name. Surely some of them have been to the National Cemetery at Gettysburg and seen the speech text, also engraved in stone.

We are left to conclude that for the liberal left, our rights do not come from God. They come, instead, from government pronouncements, from UN documents, or from the courts. This is a most disturbing conclusion. And it goes to the heart of who we are as a people.

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54 Comments

mrkim said:

What a curious concept that we must have God involved for our country to survive.To many folks like myself as soon as theism becomes colluded with politics it all gets incredibly divisive.The problem becomes that once religion enters the picture the most natural question is, which God and whose concept of religion is to be perceived as being in alignment with a particular political policy? Secondly, once a particular faith embraces a political ideology, what other religious groups will then choose to disagree with the other faction on the grounds of faith based differences?This then serves to alienate and divide people of like political mindsets as many folks will then draw lines between "their" faith and other faiths.As a conservative atheist I cannot agree with the concept that our rights come from or have any basis in belief in a God, any God, by any name.Nor do I feel our rights come from government pronouncements or UN documents or policies, nor even the courts.What does seem reasonable is that our rights as Americans emanate from The Bill of Rights and our Constitution. The courts only function in regard to the above is in the non-partisan interpretation of these documents intent.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010 at 10:05 AM

Bruce R Pierce said:

You seem to miss the point of the article. This Nation was founded on the principles that there is God given rights that can not be taken away. If a Persons inalienable rights are from Government Documents then the Government can take them away. Alexander Hamilton could not have phrased it better when he said "The fundamental source of all your errors, sophisms and false reasonings [sic] is a total ignorance of the natural rights of mankind. Were you once to become acquainted with these, you could never entertain a thought, that all men are not, by nature, entitled to a parity of privileges. You would be convinced, that natural liberty is a gift of the beneficent Creator to the whole human race, and that civil liberty is founded in that; and cannot be wrested from any people, without the most manifest violation of justice."Reference: Selected Writings and Speeches of Alexander Hamilton, Frisch (21)He also referenced a “people of one religion” in the Federalist Papers.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010 at 10:29 AM

nthomas said:

The occasional mention of God in these articles at the Patriot Post sure cause some stinging amongst the athiests. Dear mrkim seems like a good soul, anyway. However, I'd like to add my two cents.The Bill of Rights and our Constitution are based on the firm belief that human beings deserve dignity and respect and have inherent worth because of an objective and unchanging source of truth and justice. This source has always been called God or the Creator in the culture of America. We believe that laws should be based on the perfect and unchanging source of justice, rather than the ever-changing trends of human notions throughout the generations. Our culture is Christian, and it is Christianity itself that taught the world to see that the individual has worth, should be allowed to freely strive for happiness, and that all people should be treated equally under the law. There is no caste system, no royal heritage, and no gods requiring homage in our system of government.We are not requiring you to be Christian or Jewish, but to recognize that this country is based on Judeo-Christian precepts, and that that is a good thing, and that those beliefs support atheist and believer alike. Respect America for what it is, just as you respect China's right to be China and India's right to be India.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010 at 10:38 AM

mrkim said:

nthomas, thanks for the mention :>)I wholeheartedly agree that the 2 main documents representing the backbone of our country are filled with claims of dignity and sanctity of the individual, as well they should be. I'll even take another step forward in saying that Judeo-Christian mores helped in no small part in shaping these documents. Then again, even an atheist like myself finds agreement with most of these principles, at least the ones that aren't based in religious acceptance or worship. What I will not put forth is an agreement to requiring faith in any divine entity to help save our nation.We are a nation of peoples of varied nationalities, colors and faiths. With individual religions such a decidedly hot-button issue in relation to other peoples faiths it would seem injection of any religious ideology into a political issue or debate has the potential to alienate like minded political folks much more than it would tend to unify them.For this reason alone it would seem best for all to attempt to separate their political ideologies from their religious ones when discussing politics in attempting to preserve a sense of overall political unity relevant to the issues unclouded by the varying theologies of the participants.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010 at 11:54 AM

Ruth Ann Wilson said:

"For this reason alone it would seem best for all to attempt to separate their political ideologies from their religious ones when discussing politics in attempting to preserve a sense of overall political unity relevant to the issues unclouded by the varying theologies of the participants." writes mrkim.That is what makes America, distinctly America, It is that we are a Christian Nation, Supreme Court decision, 1892. Trying to separate God from America has been the work of the devil since our Glorious inception, but God has marvelously Blessed US as we have sought His Divine Favor, so if we Declare The Almighty God, maker of Heaven and Earth, we shall continue to have Divine Providence as our shield, defender and protector and we like it that way. And because we are Americans, we declare this is God's Country and we'd better keep it that way. Atheism will not work in America. We can see what happened when the atheist O'Hare requested Prayer and Bible reading out of our Public Schools, it's been "down hill" in Public Schools since that dastardly day. This Supreme Court Decision needs to be REVERSED.For God & CountryThe American

Wednesday, September 22, 2010 at 12:32 PM

Army Officer said:

It's really a philosophical question, and we can apply the Law of the Excluded Middle: either our "inalienable rights" derive from God or they do not. If they do not (whether God exists is a separate question), then from whence do they derive?Since everything on Earth is mutable, including conceptions of right and wrong, there is simply no logically-unassailable basis for "inalienable rights" if they do not derive from a source outside ourselves. The largest group possible is the entire population on Earth. But if 95% of Earth's population decides to kill the other 5% and confiscate their stuff, I hope the relativists would at least recognize that as wrong. Yet what is the basis for saying that action is INHERENTLY wrong if the world itself decides by a super-majority to deny that 5% their lives and property? (Given our history as a species, that's not far-fetched.)I've asked that type of question to a lot of atheists - none has ever given me a logically-consistent answer.They usually come back with the non-sequitur that different people have different conceptions of God, which is true but irrelevant. First, failure to reach unanimity on what the standard is does not mean that there is no standard - if God created the standard then it exists whether people acknowledge it or not, since reality is not negated by human ignorance. Second, there is a lot more consensus about this than most of my opponents are willing to acknowledge. Laws against indiscriminate murder, rape, theft, etc, are nearly universal and all derive from religious constructs: there is no secular reason why we consider it morally WRONG (as opposed to merely counter-productive or not pragmatic) for the strong to dominate and oppress the weak. The last time I had this argument with people I assumed were not stupid, they eventually had to admit that their philosophy would not let them condemn the Holocaust when I forced them to take their arguments to their logical conclusions. They were unwilling to make an unqualified condemnation of the systematic murder of 11 million innocent people rather than give up their adherence to the idea that there are moral absolutes. Finding oneself defending the morality of Auschwitz should be a clue that one is on the wrong side of the debate.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010 at 1:29 PM

Army Officer said:

The sentence that reads:They were unwilling to make an unqualified condemnation of the systematic murder of 11 million innocent people rather than give up their adherence to the idea that there are moral absolutes.Should read:They were unwilling to make an unqualified condemnation of the systematic murder of 11 million innocent people rather than give up their adherence to the idea that there are NO moral absolutes.My apologies for the error.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010 at 1:36 PM

Clarence De Barrows said:

Too much high falutin rhetoric, mrkim. It is nowhere stated that you, or anyone else, must believe in any "religious ideology" to partake of the freedoms this system, crafted by Founders who believed in "their Creator", affords you and your belief system. You have but to sit back and enjoy living in a Country that became the envy of the world. An envy justly deserved and, I might hazard, certainly not because of any atheistic underpinnings.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010 at 1:47 PM

mrkim said:

Just a cuppla thoughts here folks, so bear with me.When discussing religion with ones like myself one might remember that since we do not believe in a God any and all mentions of Gods providence, divinity, power, love, etc. have no meaning to us and therefore no logical place in such discussions, at least not in attempting to sway our position. A good analogy might be attempting to extol the virtues of the Tooth Fairy to an adult. I've attempted to delineate the origin of morality and since I hold myself to be a very moral person I sure can't say it's roots are in religion.I can't mention the times in such discussions as this when I've been told by believers that as I am not one, I can not BE a moral person, which I find preposterous to say the least. From my perspective every human knows right from wrong, some just choose to do wrong in total disregard of that knowledge.Anyway, back to my real point which none of the above posts have touched on which is the divisiveness of political topics that occurs when religion is injected into it and how that divisiveness can only serve to dilute the support of an idea.If anyone would like to address that point instead of sidestepping it, that would be great.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010 at 2:26 PM

rippedchef in sc said:

Wow Army-didn't take too long to see more responses from you-ever think about running for office when your finished with the service??-

Wednesday, September 22, 2010 at 2:34 PM

Fredl said:

Those who claim that the U.S. does not have God (or equivalent) in our initial makeup are flat wrong, so why suffer the argument? Some may wish to develop a 'living Constitution,' but they may NOT alter the events leading up to it and inherent IN it. In fact, if they want to change the Constitution to 'make it more relevant,' the mechanism was built in by the writers: AMENDMENT. Go at it, I say, but don't allow God-denying people to lead the charge because, (and THIS IS IMPORTANT)—they are not qualified to do so because they don’t accept the initial premise. Only those who buy into the thoughts of our founders are qualified to interpret WHAT THEY MEANT. Maybe God is out of vogue at the present, but that does not alter history.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010 at 2:40 PM

J Henry Jr said:

For all intents and purposes I am an atheist. That said, I do not mind in the least that some of our founding principles are religious. I don't mind "in God We Trust," "One nation under God," "Endowed by our Creator" and it's just fine with me if public school children recite The Lord's Prayer daily. I respect the morals and principles taught by Christianity and believe that part of the degeneration of our society in the past 50 years is attributable to the suppression of Christianity by the secular progressives. I resent the attempts to erase religion from our history and our public consciousness. I always take time to speak with missionaries when they come to the door. I don't see anything wrong with offering the theory of intelligent design in schools despite my firm belief in evolution. I find religious history to be fascinating, even if I don't believe there is a "Creator." I have even done volunteer work for a local church because I believe they do good for the community. I consider myself to be a good and moral person and I believe that I did learn some of that from religious teachings and by the example set for me by religious persons. I think that's a good thing. You don't have to be religious to be a patriot or to be supportive of organized religion in today's society. While Obama may be "Christian," I don't believe it is because he believes in Jesus Christ and/or the bible, I think it is because he believes that it is sometimes politically expedient for him to appear to be a Christian. It appears to me from his own actions and inactions that he prefers Islam to Christianity, or at least respects Islam more than Christianity.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010 at 4:28 PM

Army Officer Too said:

I'm with army officer, being one and of the same mind set. I'm not as articulate, also I'm not a church goer. I believe that God or what ever you want to call it/him/her either exist in each of our hearts or souls in some degree or not. However, a general population belief in a Judeo-Christian God concept is far better for helping to insure the continued existence of our country as established than doing without. The 10 Commandments are a good guide to conduct your life in a civil society and if some want to contribute them to God in the Christian sense so be it. I have and will fight again to retain the concepts of the founders based around their definition of God and the "certain inalienable rights" granted, as there has been nothing better articulated in the history of man, and I sure the hell do not trust the government I served for so long, to keep the faith, so to speak. I will fight for your rights to believe what you want, just don't take that as a willingness to impose on me and mine what you believe, and that includes not believing in God.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010 at 4:36 PM

Army Officer said:

Mrkim,I respectfully disagree with your premise. And the gratuitous likening of God to the tooth fairy would be beneath an answer if so many people didn't accept it. You may choose to be an atheist, however, you may not simply dismiss evidence for God because you don't know it, or don't like it. Back to the Law of the Excluded Middle: either God exists or He does not. If the physical universe cannot have come into being and taken its present form by purely naturalistic means, then denying the existence of God is not like denying the existence of the tooth fairy - it's more like denying the existence of gravity. Some force or forces made the universe - if all known natural forces are known to be insufficient to the task, there must be either an undiscovered natural force or a force beyond nature. Since naturalism (which people usually - and incorrectly - equate with the word science) cannot explain the genesis of the universe or most of the complex structures in it by means of the four known natural forces, a flat denial of the supernatural (literally "above nature") takes more faith than I can muster. To claim that there is no God puts the burden of proof on the naturalist to demonstrate that the Universe is the product of natural forces, and not only that the universe COULD assemble itself from nothing, but that it DID. That is, to put it charitably, a daunting task that no naturalist can hope to do. By the way, I am not committing the logical fallacy known as "argumentum ad ignorantiam." I am simply applying Occam's Razor to the question where there are only two possibilities: "Either God created the Universe of He did not."But back to your point. One cannot simply talk about morality absent a source for that morality. So the atheist question, "Can't we discuss what SHOULD be without reference to God?" is, "No, any more than we can discuss the behavior of objects in free-fall absent reference to gravity." Things fall because gravity objectively exists, and if things are wrong, it can only be because they fail to mean an objective moral standard.You say you're a moral person, and I have no doubt you try to do right as you see it; as do we all, I would hope. You and I would probably agree on most issues of right and wrong. So far, so good. But I understand that all references to concepts of right and wrong MUST be in reference to an objective moral standard. You say you provide your own moral compass. Granted. But why should anyone accept YOUR views of right and wrong? Indeed, by what basis can you even posit, "From my perspective every human knows right from wrong, some just choose to do wrong in total disregard of that knowledge"? Whose right? Whose wrong? Where did this knowledge of right and wrong even come from? What measurable, physical laws govern it that you as an atheist feel bound by it? Unless you get to be God, by what right can you say ANY action by another person is actually, objectively wrong? Don't others have the same right to set their moral compasses for themselves? Didn't the Nazis and the Communists and the 9/11 terrorists have the same right to act on their moral compass as you? If what they did was wrong, on what basis was it wrong? By the way, I'm not suggesting you're not a moral person, only that an atheist has no rational reason for being one other than, perhaps, fear of deleterious consequences.Obviously those are rhetorical questions, but they go to the heart of your point, which is that we cannot have a meaningful discussion about morality without a shared understanding of the source of morality. Sure, we can agree that some things are good and bad, and as long as we're willing to never, ever, ask "Why" we won't have divisiveness. But when we're asked to defend our positions I can make the case for God's existence and point to objective morality and you can't point to anything outside yourself.So can we link arms against common political foes? Absolutely. Can we agree on why we hold that certain positions are right? Only superficially. I have no objection to moving forward with an atheist with a shared vision of what should be, but this discussion is about the deliberate exclusion of reference to God in public pronouncements.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010 at 4:59 PM

WTD in AZ said:

Very grateful for Ken Blackwell’s excellent commentary and the forum it provided for readers’ comments especially those of mrkim and Army Officer. Considering the usual foul mouthed, anti-religion comments erupting in the news from entertainment world types, it’s an informative pleasure to read such a reasoned and courteous discussion. As an avowed atheist, mrkim writes, “I wholeheartedly agree that the 2 main documents representing the backbone of our country are filled with claims of dignity and sanctity of the individual, as well they should be. I'll even take another step forward in saying that Judeo-Christian mores helped in no small part in shaping these documents.” That’s an appropriate reason for a Ten Commandments representation in a public place. Proper historical recognition. It does not convey a government attempt to coerce “faith in any divine entity” in violation of the First Amendment as illogically determined by the courts.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010 at 6:36 PM