Remember our roots, even the less pleasant ones

What I don’t accept is that this bastard union of Christianity and U.S. government is desirable.

Cotton Mather, Puritan theologian, described the massacre of a Pequot village with these words: “It was supposed that no less than 600 Pequot souls were brought down to hell that day.”

A letter from Brother Luis Brandon, a Catholic functionary in Europe, to a priest in the Americas reads: “We and the Fathers of Brazil buy these (African) slaves for our service without any scruple (moral objection).”

Those colonies before the Union were most certainly Christian colonies. Separatist Pilgrims settled Massachusetts. The Puritans of Virginia expelled religious dissidents such as Anne Hutchinson and Quakers, much like the Anglican leaders did some years later. Catholics settled Maryland, only to also become a persecuted minority to the Anglicans. Pennsylvania, founded by Quaker William Penn, accepted many other sects not allowed in other colonies, such as Mennonites and Dunkers.

It was not until the rise of Evangelism in the “Great Awakening” of the 18th century that the opposite philosophy, Deism, emerged. It was always a small minority, though it could claim Presidents Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, to be reasonably sure.

Although the U.S. Constitution makes no mention of Christianity, of any specific religion or of any god, columnist Bryan Freeman (“Remember our Christian roots,” Nov. 29) speaks of a “fundamental union between Christianity and the United States.”

I have come to grips with the fact that early U.S. settlers fled to the “New World” to escape religious persecution and formed Christian colonies where they persecuted those with other religious beliefs. I have come to grips with the fact that most if not all of the 55 signers of the Constitution were Christian. What I will not come to grips with is that this bastard union of Christianity and U.S. government is desirable.

The men convened in Philadelphia were at work to create a law that would ensure the protection of their (and by dubious extension, everyone’s) interests. Though the main players were enlightened men for the time, many peoples’ interests were not protected, especially if you were a slave, a woman, a person without property, black, an American Indian, an indentured servant or a debtor. We can not look to the past with rose-colored glasses and claim we’ve found a better time. Let the past leaders stay in the past.

Though our slave-owning, witch-burning, genocidal antecedents were mostly Christian, our Constitution says there may be no established religion. To those who wish to change this, I ask which of the over 4,000 existing religions should we establish?

When (and if) they give me an answer, it is not hard to see the agenda – theocratic rule by their religion, and theocracy has shown itself to be the source of much tyranny, be it in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Northern Ireland or Plymouth Colony.

History is a powerful tool. As a practical necessity, it is distorted, and those writing it control the distortion. It is the battleground for different ideologies in the war for more control. In usual fashion, the more powerful have more control.

Brutal, genocidal Christopher Columbus is painted as a hero, and the Arawak natives he eliminated are forgotten. In the interest of intellectual honesty, it is time that the anti-reason right come to grips with the facts that our Constitution is secular, our antecedents were not always the perfect role models, our country is better off secular and free, and all history is the product of historian selection. Evidence doesn’t speak on its own.

The Minnesota Daily, being the student newspaper, is our paper – the students. We need to ask ourselves if there really isn’t enough worth reading that the Daily hire columnists who write inane opinion pieces. Is the intent simply to provoke letters to the editor from readers who actually know history? If so, then Freeman has a secure job.

Mike Jones is the Publishing and Editing Committee manager for Campus Atheists and Secular Humanists. He welcomes comments at [email protected]