s Atheist-Islamic America: Selling the Drug of Fear
Kenneth M. Montville
In a recent speech given to a congregation of Evangelical Christians in Texas, NewtGingrich explained that he has a fear of the coming America
a secular atheist country,potentially one dominated by radical Islamists.
But what does that even mean? This is aperfect example of the sort of nonsense put out by the far right. The former Speaker of theHouse most likely has no fear of this, holding a PhD means he probably understands howthat statement is an oxymoron. To put it plainly, an atheist state cannot be dominated bytheists. There is little doubt though that Newt chose these words very carefully, peddlingfear the way a drug dealer who doesn
t sample his own product would. He knows that theEvangelical Congregation will react well to such rhetoric.The words Secular and Islamic have become the new slogans for the right when theywant to incite panic. They are deployed in discussions only when one side wants to slanderthe position of the other. It come about because Secularism and Islam are presented as un-American, as if no real American could ever be a secularist or Muslim. This flies in the faceof many great Americans who were just that
secular or Muslim. The founding fathers,Jefferson, Paine, Franklin, Adams, and Washington were all secularists. Thomas Jefferson,on top of owning a copy of the Qur
an; promoting the separation of Church and State; andbeing a generally irreligious person, rewrote a version of the New Testament whicheliminated any and all supernatural events. Thomas Paine was a proponent of freethoughtand atheism writing works such as
The Age of Reason
as well as being a leading figure inboth the American and French Revolutions. Benjamin Franklin was an outspoken opponentto religious dogma once stating in a letter to George Whitefield,But I wish [Christianity] were more productive of good works, than I have generallyseen it; I mean real good works; works of kindness, charity, mercy, and public spirit;not holidaykeeping, sermon-reading or hearing; performing church ceremonies, ormaking long prayers, filled with flatteries and compliments, despised even by wisemen, and much less capable of pleasing the Deity.
John Adams expressed in a letter to Thomas Jefferson,
I almost shudder at the thought of alluding to the most fatal example of the abuses of grief which the history of mankind haspreserved
the Cross. Consider what calamities that engine of grief has produced!
Finally,George Washington was far from the bible thumping conservative Christian the religiousright portrays him as. Though he would infrequently attend mass with his wife he wouldalways leave before communion. When Rev. Dr. James Abercrombie, rector of St. Peter
sEpiscopal Church in Philadelphia, approached him on the matter Washington admittedthat it must be distracting, apologised and ceased attending at all.
, Vol. VII. Letter to George Whitefield. p. 75-6.
Adams, John and Howe, Randy.
The Quotable John Adams
. p. 190.
Sprague, Rev. William. B.
Annals of the American Pulpit
. Vol. V. p. 394.
Wilson, Rev. Bird.
A Memoir of the Life of the Right Reverend William White
. p. 196-7