Forced respect isn’t respect at all. Forced respect leads to resentment.
Forced love isn’t love in the least. Forced love leads to a bitter loathing.
Forced allegiance is far from loyalty. Forced allegiance causes rebellion.
Forced religion is bad faith. Forced religion stifles honest faith.
When I refer to “forced” religion or faith, I’m not referring to religion or faith that is taught.
I can think of people who were made to attend church and say their prayers as children but then walked away from “the faith” as adults because they were made to do something that they were never taught to understand. Maybe they were even forced to behave in a “Christian” fashion, for the sake of fashion (in the southern U.S., particularly), but even to the parents who were forcing it, it was nothing more significant than the Polo horse on their shirt. This is a common form of forced religion. Again, “taught” religion is different, as it is one thing to make someone memorize and recite 2+2=4, but it is altogether different to have them lay out the apples or blocks or whatever and see them add up and thus actually comprehend it.
So forced religion can be found in many households and childhoods of many cultures, but what I’m more interested in addressing is the commonly attempted “forced religion” in the history and culture of the United States. Before I jump in, I must say I found it interesting after I wrote about the Selma Civil Rights march as well as the Voodoo Priestess, that more than one person told me how odd it seemed that a “conservative” or a Christian would take such an interest in the details of either subject. I’m really not sure how to address that other than to say I am indeed a Christian, but whether I’m a “conservative” or not is all about how you define the word. So let the reader decide, but don’t base the decision on my moniker “liberodave,” please, because that’s just me playing with the Latin for “freedom” + my motorcycle license tag + my name. It has nothing to do with being liberal or conservative. Whew! Glad I got that out of the way so we can push on. . . Call me what you will based on my viewpoints. I can’t say the labels affect any particular bit of reality.
I suppose it all started with the Puritans moving to the New World to escape religious persecution. The Puritans were British protestants who were urging fellow Anglicans to step away from vestiges of Roman Catholicism. Once they arrived and settled in New England they established rules intolerant of Quakers, Baptists, Catholics, Witches, etc. They punished all such heresy by execution, demonstrating not just forced religion but a step further – forcing a particular strain of religion. I wonder how many Puritans had an honest faith in God and how many said they believed for fear of what would happen if they didn’t. I wonder how many people moved away from New England to escape religious persecution in the name of Christ.
As non-puritans came to the new world, they moved in up and down the Eastern and Gulf Coast, bringing with them whatever beliefs or non-beliefs they had. It was against the background depicted above that our founding fathers – a mix of personalities, faiths, and secularists themselves, framed our Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. In doing so, they didn’t force it.
In fact, the only element of religion they invoked was “nature and nature’s god.” I’m not pointing this out because I’m not a Christian. I am a Christian. I’m not pointing this out because I’m a secularist. I’m not. I’m just saying “There it is.” The original writing. It didn’t refer to capital “G” God, or any God by name. It just invoked “nature’s god” enough to establish the idea that liberties come from something higher than man, and therefore no man can remove them from society as a whole.
So the Declaration claimed natural law as given by “nature’s god.” This doesn’t rise to the specificity of my beliefs, but I think that’s part of the point, as the framers were trying to avoid a nation like Anglican England or even Puritan New England.