American atheists flew a banner in New York that read 'atheism is patriotic' a few days ago. When I first saw the story, I thought very little of it. I thought that sure, atheists can be patriotic as can Christians, Muslims etc.
However, when asked about the banner, David Silverman, the President of American Atheists said this:
“In 2011, American Atheists attempted to fly a banner in all fifty states on July 4th, but ran into discrimination from companies that refused to fly the banner. This year we are concentrating on New York City where the most powerful symbol of American freedom resides: the Statue of Liberty.”
Mr. Silverman continued, “Religion is unpatriotic at its core, because it places its law above the law of the land. Indeed, religion abhors civil law, which is why we see attacks against science and privacy coming from our religious politicians. Religion asserts itself on the population at large by infiltrating the political system with true believers who will then use the political system to do the church's bidding.”
And a bit later in the same article:
Teresa MacBain, Public Relations Director of American Atheists and former pastor, stated, “As a pastor I often reminded my congregants that 'God's law was higher than man's law.’ What that really meant was that the people should take orders from the church, above our civil government. Atheism, being the absence of any religious beliefs, implies that human law alone is supreme over humanity. Here in America, the highest law is in Washington DC, not some fictional heaven. That's patriotic.”
Silverman concluded, "I ask all citizens to remember that the separation of church and state benefits everyone, except the preachers and the politicians in their pockets. Religious equality only comes from Government neutrality. Celebrate your Independence."
Do they have a point?
I think they do make a valid point but I don't think it applies to all Christians. I do think that when religious people put their religion before things like equal rights or when they try to put prayer into public schools, they're acting in an unpatriotic manner. When they try to circumvent the constitution and install a theocracy, I think they're acting in an unpatriotic manner. When they erect Ten Commandment monuments outside court houses...you guessed it; I would consider that unpatriotic because it tries to knowingly circumvent the founding documents and spirit of the constitution, including the separation of church and state.
I definitely do not think this applies to all Christians, many of which are able to separate their religion from the law. In my opinion though, there are quite a few who put their religion before their country. I'm sure there is probably a poll out there somewhere that asks whether a person's religion comes before their country, but I'm unable to find one.
Then there are Christians (and other religious groups) who seek to follow their religions tenants without trying to legislate their beliefs. These are the 'patriotic' Christians in my opinion - they have successfully found a way to separate their religious beliefs from their political views. Such a Christian may be anti-birth control in their daily lives, but realizes that their personal religious beliefs should not apply to everyone. That's just one example.
However, I find Silverman's statement a bit dangerous for the same reason I found Bush's statement that atheists were unpatriotic dangerous - it allows one segment of the population to effectively demonize another one and that's never a good thing. So for that reason, I would have to disagree with Silverman's statement and take things on a case-by-case basis. After all, freedom of religion is patriotic and a core element of America, so practicing that right can hardly be called unpatriotic in my opinion. I suppose it's all a matter of degrees and how people practice their religion and whether or not they want to force their beliefs on the rest of the populace.
So what do you think? Is religion unpatriotic?
If you're a Christian, does your religion come first or does your country?