Myth of the Christian Nation

One of the more enduring myths on the religious right is the notion that America is a “Christian” nation, or at the very least a nation founded on Judeo-Christian principles. Despite having no basis in fact or history this has become central to conservative mythology. One hears it from virtually every Republican politician, and it’s always accepted uncritically by conservative commentators and audiences.

Earlier this week, Republican candidate for president Ben Carson repeated this on Fox News, and he did it in typical nonchalant fashion, as though it were a truism. Near the end of a rambling interview about traditional marriage and religious liberty, Carson said: “This is a Judeo-Christian nation, in the sense that a lot of our values are based on a Judeo-Christian faith.”

This statement isn’t remotely true but it reflects a widespread ignorance about American history. America is currently populated by a majority of Christians, but this isn’t a Christian nation in any meaningful or legal sense. This inconvenient distinction is often lost on conservatives, and it’s why they’re under the impression that the government should respect their religious morality at the expense of all others (i.e., Kim Davis/Mike Huckabee).

There are two primary ways to argue that America is a Christian nation: One is to claim that our laws and Constitution are grounded in Christian values. The other is to say that the Founders of the country were Christians and that they conceived the government on the basis of those beliefs.

Both of these arguments are patently false.

First, the Constitution, which is sacrosanct in conservative circles (the parts they like anyway), makes no mention of Jesus, the Bible, Christianity or even God. In fact, when it does mention religion, it’s to prohibit the state from favoring one over another. When confronted with this fact, Christians eagerly point to the Declaration of Independence, particularly the part that reads “all men are created equal” and “endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights.”

But again, with no mention of the Bible, Jesus, etc. that statement in no way justifies the view that America is a specifically Christian nation. Nearly all religious traditions have a “Creator.” Plus, even a casual reading of the Bible reveals that “all men are created equal” and posses “inalienable rights” are not values that the writers and early (or even many current) practitioners held.

As for the Founders themselves, many of them were deists, not Christians and certainly not Christians in the sense that Mike Huckabee or Ted Cruz or Bobby Jindal are. John Adams, for instance, the principal author of the Massachusetts constitution and our second president, signed the Treaty of Tripoli, which stated that “The government of the United States is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion.” Thomas Jefferson, the main author of the Declaration of the Independence and our third president, wrote in the Virginia Statue for Religious Freedom (the precursor to the First Amendment) “That our civil rights have no dependence on our religious opinions any more than our opinions in physics or geometry.”

There is nothing unclear about the Founders’ intentions in other words. America’s political roots are decidedly secular, only fundamentalists are confused about this.

The irony of all this is that the Founders (most of them, at least) are precisely the kind of people modern conservatives openly hate. They were elitist European-style intellectuals who were inspired by the (for the time) progressive ideals of the Enlightenment. They looked to history and Western philosophy for guidance, not to the Bible. They wanted to create a government based on classical republican principles not divine-right monarchy, the preferred method of government found in the Bible. No objective or disinterested analysis of our founding documents suggests otherwise.

Conservatives can (and almost certainly will) ignore this, but that doesn’t change the fact that America is and was intended to be a secular republic, not a Christian theocracy. If the myth of America as a Christian nation endures among conservatives, it’s because people like Ben Carson repeat it endlessly without evidence and for political purposes.

Philae Back From the Dead

The comet lander Philae has awakened from a seven-month hibernation and managed to communicate with Earth for more than a minute, the European Space Agency (ESA) said Sunday.

The probe became the first spacecraft to land on a comet when it touched down on the icy surface of 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko last November. Shortly after its historic landing, Philae managed to conduct several experiments and send data to Earth for about 60 hours before its batteries depleted and it was forced into hibernation.

The German Aerospace Center, which operates Philae, said that the probe resumed communication at 10:28 p.m. (2028 GMT; 4:28 p.m. EDT) on Saturday, sending about 300 packages of data to Earth via its mother ship Rosetta, which is orbiting the comet.

Go Home Robot, You’re Drunk

The Terminator Apocalypse might be a little further off than originally feared.

Some people (me) dread the day that we see the robots take over, given the great improvements in robotics in recent years.

However a video (below) produced by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers’ Spectrum magazine and re-cut by RT, suggests that maybe we don’t have too much to fear yet.

The video shows the robots malfunctioning (hilariously) during a dress rehearsal last Thursday ahead of the The U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s Robotics Challenge which was held over the weekend.

DARPA launched the Robotics Challenge in 2012 following the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan. The aim was to spur the development of robots that can respond to natural and man-made disasters by entering areas that are too dangerous for humans.

I need your clothes, your boots, and your motorcycle. Also a functioning sense of balance:

Turns Out There’s Glass on Mars


An impact crater containing deposits of glass could hold clues for understanding life on Mars. Discovered by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, the glass is believed to be the byproduct of the intense heat generated by a violent impact.

Glass in and of itself isn’t necessarily indicative of life, however in 2014, researchers discovered evidence of organic plant life entombed in glass found in Argentina from millions of years ago. Researchers hope that the same could hold true for Mars: that glass deposits hold important biosignatures of ancient Martian life.

The researchers’ analysis suggests glass deposits are relatively common impact features on Mars. These areas could be targets for future exploration as our robotic scientific explorers pave the way on the journey to manned mission to Mars in the 2030s.

Conveniently, one of the glass-containing craters is located within close proximity to the Nili Fossae trough, which has already been identified as a possible landing site for NASA’s Mars 2020 rover mission. The mission aims to collect soil and rock samples that could potentially be returned to Earth and analyzed and hopefully not unleash a hellish space-plague.