Author Topic: What if the U.S. Constitution had mandated Christianity as the state religion?  (Read 973 times)

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Offline Schizoid

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No ifs, ands, or buts about it.  God, Jesus, and the Bible, along with scriptures were specifically mentioned.  What would the history of America have been like?  Would there have been no national civil war over states' rights and slavery, but wars between states over a specific flavor of Christianity?  What would the condition and plight of women have been both historically and today?

What would world history have been like?  Would the U.S. have used its might to impose its religious views on other nations?  Would there be Christian extremists and terrorists who would feel justified by their religion in using violence within disbelieving countries, assured that if they died they would be rewarded in heaven?

Just wondering.

Offline jaimehlers

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I think things would have happened much like they actually did.

Maybe you should write Harry Turtledove and ask him to write an alternate-history novel exploring this subject.

Offline Graybeard

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Everyone would be wandering around in long robes; camels would be the normal form of transport. Hospitals would be monasteries or nunneries and you’d get prayed for. The inventors of anything after 1602 would have all been burned at the stake. Slavery would be a thriving trade. There would have been genocide of every race south and north of the US and the death penalty for everything would be in force. In fact, it would not be so different from Afghanistan.

Oh, yes, and you'd be British.
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Offline Jag

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The tech revolution (Silicone Valley) would have happened elsewhere, and Americans would reject anything new that came from it.

And we would never have achieved world leader status.
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Offline shnozzola

Oh, yes, and you'd be British.

I'd love my accent.
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Offline Jag

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I have a serious weakness for the British accent...
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Offline jaimehlers

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One very real possibility is that there wouldn't be a United States.  There would have been a disunited set of individual countries which each had their own mandated state religion (and likely some that had no state religion).  Probably lots of little wars between them, since there would have been no overarching federal government to settle disputes.

Honestly, I think that's the most likely result of an attempt to mandate Christianity as the state religion in the Constitution.  There were lots of little Christian sects around, and none of them would have liked having a specific one set above them.  That would have made the Constitution a dead letter, and the Articles of Confederation wouldn't have cut it to hold the country together.

Offline Schizoid

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I had just been wondering after recent events and going back to 9/11 if but for a twist of fate, a change of history, if the United States could have been like the Islamic nations that so many here disparage and despise, lumping all Muslim believers as extremists and terrorists.  Would then other citizens of free thinking nations look upon the ChristianHadist United States as a religious backwater unwilling to allow its people to think and choose for themselves?

I do know this for certain, having come from a strict Pentecostal holiness denomination some 30 years ago, is that if they had the power to dictate how the U.S. were to be run it would make the Spanish Inquisition look like, well, a Sunday school picnic.  And they would perform their duties with the certainty that they were doing their god's will and that they were absolutely right.

Offline Quesi

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Which Christianity would they pick?

The witch burning puritans, or the Quakers and their passion for social justice?  Or something in between?

I would have been a really different place.  If the puritan values had won over, we would likely have become a theocracy like Saudi Arabia, full of rules and restrictions.  If the Quakers (who were quite influential in the era of independence) the industrial revolution would not have exploited labor in the way that it did, and the corporate reality that now governs this country would never have existed.  American Anglicans would have had to reinvent their whole religion after independence from England.

What other forms of Christianity were prominent in that era?  Each one would have offered a very different reality. 

Offline Jag

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I had just been wondering after recent events and going back to 9/11 if but for a twist of fate, a change of history, if the United States could have been like the Islamic nations that so many here disparage and despise, lumping all Muslim believers as extremists and terrorists.  Would then other citizens of free thinking nations look upon the ChristianHadist United States as a religious backwater unwilling to allow its people to think and choose for themselves?

I do know this for certain, having come from a strict Pentecostal holiness denomination some 30 years ago, is that if they had the power to dictate how the U.S. were to be run it would make the Spanish Inquisition look like, well, a Sunday school picnic.  And they would perform their duties with the certainty that they were doing their god's will and that they were absolutely right.

I can't speak for anyone else here, but that is exactly why I refuse to shut up about religion and the harm it does.
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Offline magicmiles

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Everyone would be wandering around in long robes; camels would be the normal form of transport. Hospitals would be monasteries or nunneries and you’d get prayed for. The inventors of anything after 1602 would have all been burned at the stake. Slavery would be a thriving trade. There would have been genocide of every race south and north of the US and the death penalty for everything would be in force. In fact, it would not be so different from Afghanistan.

Oh, yes, and you'd be British.

I like the way the horrors listed got progressively, shockingly worse.
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Offline Traveler

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...Would then other citizens of free thinking nations look upon the ChristianHadist United States as a religious backwater ...

Much of the world already looks at us this way.
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Offline Schizoid

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...Would then other citizens of free thinking nations look upon the ChristianHadist United States as a religious backwater ...

Much of the world already looks at us this way.

Ironic that we don't see ourselves that we at all.  But then so many Americans, most who would claim to be good Christians, have no problem with their country torturing people, executing people (only the very best countries do that you know), or having innocent civilians militarily murdered as collateral damage as long as the bad guys get it too.

When the American Empire collapses how much of the rest of the world will weep?

Offline Jag

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"Civil law and canon law are not identical, nor are they interchangeable. One can violate canon law without risking legal consequences, just as one can be a “bad” christian without breaking civil law. The imposition of church law over civil law cannot be legally supported without fracturing the Constitution beyond redemption." - me, in a poli-sci paper

jaimehlers, you make a very good point that it would bear no resemblance to today. Given how concerned the states were about the reach of Federal power, it would have provoked a huge backlash at the merest suggestion of a theocracy.

It couldn't work, based on the Preamble alone - the whole life liberty and the pursuit of happiness matter gets in the way pretty quickly.

It's a fun thought experiment though. I'd actually like my poi-sci instructor to do something like this as an assignment - what would have to be changed in the Constitution to accommodate a State religion? That would be a great way to demonstrate the importance of the separation of church and state.
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Offline Schizoid

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"Civil law and canon law are not identical, nor are they interchangeable. One can violate canon law without risking legal consequences, just as one can be a “bad” christian without breaking civil law. The imposition of church law over civil law cannot be legally supported without fracturing the Constitution beyond redemption." - me, in a poli-sci paper

jaimehlers, you make a very good point that it would bear no resemblance to today. Given how concerned the states were about the reach of Federal power, it would have provoked a huge backlash at the merest suggestion of a theocracy.

It couldn't work, based on the Preamble alone - the whole life liberty and the pursuit of happiness matter gets in the way pretty quickly.

It's a fun thought experiment though. I'd actually like my poi-sci instructor to do something like this as an assignment - what would have to be changed in the Constitution to accommodate a State religion? That would be a great way to demonstrate the importance of the separation of church and state.

In my proposed alternate future where Christianity is the state religion of the U.S. in all likelihood any Constitution written under that type of condition would likely not be much like the current U.S. Constitution.  I was just posing a broad "what if" and not going into all of the fine points.  Somebody with writing talent might be able to come up with an interesting novel about it though.

Offline Jag

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It would be way easier for me to imagine if I hadn't spent this semester studying the Constitution in relation to current events. It's really messing up my ability to have as much fun with this as I would if I wasn't so painfully aware of what the damn thing says.  :(

I'm currently taking a break from dissecting it to argue against restricting abortion. I just wrote a long paragraph on the Tea Party's influence, then edited it heavily, as the assignment is significant to my grade. I feel like I need a shower it was so unpleasant to write, while being a student and citing sources. Grrrr.

I think it would make a great story, and I wish I had the talent to write it. It's an intriguing idea to explore.

Edited to add: I should thank you for making the thread in the first place - it what gave me the idea I used to tie together the Tea Party, SofC&S and I pulled it together with the line I posted. So, thanks, you helped make my paper better!
« Last Edit: April 23, 2013, 01:19:45 AM by Jag »
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Offline Schizoid

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Edited to add: I should thank you for making the thread in the first place - it what gave me the idea I used to tie together the Tea Party, SofC&S and I pulled it together with the line I posted. So, thanks, you helped make my paper better!

You are most welcome.

Offline Hierophant

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Yea, I dunno if you know that, but we kinda laugh at Americans, even in our media. When I came to live here (due to circumstances), I kindof expected Americans to be a lot more backwards than they actually are. It was a nice surprise.

Offline Astreja

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If the U.S. had been established as a theocracy, it wouldn't have attracted so many talented people to work and study in "The Home of the Free."  It's entirely possible that most of America's contributions to world science, technology and culture simply wouldn't have happened at all.
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Offline Jag

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I gave my (practicing Catholic) poli-sci instructor a quick overview of the parameters we're talking about here, and asked him to think about what it would have meant. We talked about it after class, and his conclusion was that the US would have been much smaller, and certainly not a world power, mostly due to the limited resources that would have been available to a smaller community. His ended up with "there probably wouldn't even be a united States at all anymore. It almost certainly would have failed."

He also said that if he ever does an assignment on the SofC&S, this would be a great way to approach it. We may end up with a book out of this yet if the idea finds the right (or write, haha) set of ears.
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Offline Schizoid

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I gave my (practicing Catholic) poli-sci instructor a quick overview of the parameters we're talking about here, and asked him to think about what it would have meant. We talked about it after class, and his conclusion was that the US would have been much smaller, and certainly not a world power, mostly due to the limited resources that would have been available to a smaller community. His ended up with "there probably wouldn't even be a united States at all anymore. It almost certainly would have failed."

He also said that if he ever does an assignment on the SofC&S, this would be a great way to approach it. We may end up with a book out of this yet if the idea finds the right (or write, haha) set of ears.

Well certainly this nation would be nothing like it is now, but neither would the world.  There are people here now who would love to see the U.S. become a Christian theocracy complete with its own Christian Ayatollah to crack the religious whip.

Evidently the Founders of the U.S. were smart enough and knew enough of the world's history to understand what happens when religion grabs ultimate power and runs amuck.  Yes, nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition until they come knocking at your door.

I think intelligent people can understand, and even the religious if they are honest should be able to see and imagine what the United States would have become and be today if at its beginning Christianity had been made the state religion.  Things ultimately worked out so well that it could lead one to believe that there is a god.

Well, probably not.

No.  Definitely, no.

Offline Jag

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I always just point to the Middle East as a first-hand example of the problems societies have to face when religion and government overlap. Then I remind them of the Dugger (sp?) family and ask them if that's really how they want everyone to live. Then I generally walk away, because in my experience, people who need it pointed out are the ones least likely to get it anyway.

I'm going to hit this hard in my poli-sci debate tomorrow.
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Offline Schizoid

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I always just point to the Middle East as a first-hand example of the problems societies have to face when religion and government overlap. Then I remind them of the Dugger (sp?) family and ask them if that's really how they want everyone to live. Then I generally walk away, because in my experience, people who need it pointed out are the ones least likely to get it anyway.

I'm going to hit this hard in my poli-sci debate tomorrow.

Those fanatical believers, be they Muslim or Christian, who fervently yearn for a theocracy, doing their god's will and having heaven on earth, sooner or later get bit in the arse by the law of untended consequence when they end up with a religious tyrant.  The trouble is that so many of them will still continue to religiously obey their tyrant.

This country would be no different as a Christian theocracy as the Muslim ones that so many Christians purport to hate.

Offline EdgedInBlue

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We were taught in school that the pilgrims came to America in order to practice “religious freedom.” While that statement is more or less accurate, what they fail to mention is that the Puritans were 17th century England’s version of the Taliban. These religious zealots wanted to “purify” Christianity (hence “Puritans”) in much the same way that the Taliban wants to purify Islam.

Indeed, if we wished to be brutally honest, we could say that America was founded by a bunch of religious fanatics, and that it was the framers of the Constitution (educated products of the Enlightenment) who, bless their hearts, saved us from them.

How fanatical were they? Fanatical enough, in 1660, to execute the first female in the colonies. Her name was Mary Dyer. She, along with three male associates, were hanged by Massachusetts Bay Colony authorities for the crime of being Quakers. Dyer and the men had repeatedly ignored warnings not to set foot in Massachusetts, where Quakerism was outlawed, and when the warnings went unheeded, the Colony hanged them.  http://itsallaboutperception.com/was-america-founded-by-religious-fundamentalists-or-rather-people-escaping-religious-fanaticism/

Offline Schizoid

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We were taught in school that the pilgrims came to America in order to practice “religious freedom.” While that statement is more or less accurate, what they fail to mention is that the Puritans were 17th century England’s version of the Taliban. These religious zealots wanted to “purify” Christianity (hence “Puritans”) in much the same way that the Taliban wants to purify Islam.

My ancestors came to this country in 1628 from Dorset, England for religious freedom and to escape persecution.  Then, like good Christians with power, they began to impose their beliefs on others and to persecute those who didn't go along with them.

I have no doubt that if today Christians had power and control of the United States that they would be a Christian Taliban and rule the nation with an iron cross.

Offline rev45

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^They may want to choose a cross made of a different material as their god seems to be not so powerful against element 26.
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