August 20, 2005

History Lessons the Christian Right Doesn't Want You to Know

Freethinkers: A history of American secularismIn this post, I will present 3 important examples of the impact of Christianity in the United States that the Christian right does not want us to remember. I have selected these examples out of many possible choices because they represent important chapters in American history in which secular Americans played a role and because they can easily be validated from newspaper articles, books, and sermons (yes, sermons) published at the time each event was happening. Thus, the revisionist history presented by the modern Christian right is simply ludicrous.

1. The majority of American Christians opposed the abolition of slavery and defended the institution of slavery as being the will of their god and justified by their bible. The more conservative they were in their religious beliefs, the stronger was their opposition to abolition.

2. The majority of American Christians opposed suffrage. Again, they used their bibles to argue that women should not have the right to vote. And again, the more conservative they were in their religious beliefs, the more vehement their opposition.

3. The majority of White American Christians opposed the civil rights movement. While some Catholics supported the goals of the movement, most fundamentalist Protestants did not. Many of the few White Christians who supported the movement were thrown out of their churches, demonized as atheists and/or communists, and deluged with hate mail from their Christian neighbors.

In each of these cases, we witnessed "culture wars" with secular freethinkers, repressed groups, and select liberal Protestants on one side and conservative Christians on the other. It helps put today's culture war in perspective, doesn't it? It also demonstrates a pattern of fundamentalists Christians being fundamentally wrong on important social issues.

For more information about the distinguished role of freethinkers, secular humanists, and atheists throughout American history, Susan Jacoby's Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism is a great read.