The Raving Theist

Dedicated to Jesus Christ, Now and Forever

2008 December

A Few Thoughts and Explanations

December 31, 2008 | 216 Comments

I had planned to shutter this blog shortly after the end of this year. The day after the election, with so many of my friends depressed by the outcome, I announced that I would be publicly declaring my conversion to Christianity. Like me, many of them could barely drag themselves out of bed, read the newspaper or turn on the television. I hoped that it would cheer them to see The Raving Atheist go out on a faith-filled note, and encourage them to rise to the challenges posed by the incoming administration. I anticipating closing the blog with a few wrap-up posts, and then returning full-steam to the pro-life efforts that eventually brought me to this good place in my life.

The blog was essentially moribund due to an abandonment of fourteen months. I expected perhaps a dozen goodbye (or good riddance) comments on the conversion post. I did not bother to remove the Basic Assumptions or other trappings of godlessness because it seemed to me that would be like rearranging the furniture on the Titanic. The accompanying picture was selected by downloading the first suitably-sized result arising from a Google Image search for “Christ + Children.” I did not screen it for historical or political correctness because I assumed that the thought behind it would count enough for the handful of readers who would see it.

The deluge of comments and e-mails has persuaded me that some purpose might be served by an extended run of The Raving Theist. I have also been convinced, particularly by Jennifer of Conversion Diary, that sharing the story of my coming to faith might serve some beneficial purpose. It will be a maudlin, rickety, hole-filled, unconvincing narrative, in that respect not much different from the lives we lead in or out of the faith. For now, however, I will address (as time permits) some of the issues that have arisen more persistently in the comments, supplying additional observations where necessary.

(1) Yes, my conversion is real and sincere and heartfelt. It is not a mean atheist hoax or prank. At first I was offended that anyone could suspect me of such monstrous cruelty, but I realize that most people don’t know me well enough to understand how my character would so absolutely preclude such a charade. And having written my share of skeptical posts about the conversion of other atheists, I understand how impossible it would be for anyone who has perused my archives to conclude that I am anything more than fraud.

(2) Notably, there appears to be absolute certainty on both sides of hoax hypothesis. On the religious side the divide is not so significant: the believers who are convinced of my sincerity see my faith as a natural surrender to the truth, while those who think I am faking see it as consistent with the moral character or nastiness of many atheists, or at least those of my (former) ilk. Among the atheists, the divide is a little harder to explain. Those who believe it is a prank simply “know” that no one who has ever achieved their understanding of atheist concepts could ever possibly embrace the opposite conclusion. To them, the fakery is as obvious as that of a person who once believed that 1 + 1 = 2 suddenly renouncing that view in favor of the 1 + 1 = 3 conclusion. So one would think that every hardcore atheist would disbelieve my conversion. Nevertheless, two of the most militant internet atheists, PZ Myers of Pharyngula and Amanda Marcotte of Pandagon are fully convinced of my sincerity and predicted my conversion long ago. What the opposing atheists sides conclude as to each others’ sincerity regarding my sincerity I do not know.

(3) The atheists have justifiably pointed out that I have not supported my new thesis with anything more than a picture and an oath. As noted above, I will in time supply my reasons. I did not do so at first because the announcement was intended as consolation rather than argumentation. Furthermore, the calls for a full and immediate explanation of my beliefs and their justifications are unreasonable. I spent years on the exposition of my atheist views, and as I have noted, atheists disbelieve for a wide variety of reasons, and not all subscribe to the same rationales. I will pontificate at my leisure, in between silly headlines.

(4) Most of your demands for explanations are not so sincere, anyway. I will give you your fun nonetheless.

(5) Some of you are “sad” that I have abandoned my “principles.” What this means I am not sure. I know that when religious people tell you they are “sad,” you say that it is unreasonable to expect you to change yours beliefs to make them happy. So your atheist tears will not move me. Also, I do not know what principles you are referring to. If you are talking about my moral positions, you will have to be more specific about what I have abandoned.

(6) Various believers have expressed concern over the nastiness and obscenities directed at me. I don’t care. I did the same for years (albeit usually with a point somewhere) and am in no position to complain. And if I wanted to, I could out-nasty and out-swear any of them. I have lost my atheism, not my vocabulary. But I don’t want to. I do not even use the D-word anymore unless I am quoting somebody.

(7) I am not deleting the archives or atheist links. There is good mixed in with the bad, and lessons to be learned even from the bad. I will rearrange things so as to feature the links to religious blogs first. I have already added a bunch from those who commented and e-mailed me (click on “links” on the front page and scroll down to the bottom to “Theist Blogs”) If I have missed your blog please e-mail me (either or is fine).

(8) I believe in God, in the divinity of Jesus Christ our Savior, and that He was born and died for our sins so that we may have eternal life. God bless you all and Happy New Year!

Daily Headline

December 30, 2008 | 72 Comments


Quote of the Day

December 30, 2008 | 1 Comment

What a divine difference a (lost) A makes!
Ellyn vonHuben of Oblique House
Former (and first) Saint of the Week

Daily Headline

December 29, 2008 | 203 Comments


Suffer the Little Children

December 24, 2008 | 49 Comments

Many of the children who will be gathering around Christmas trees tomorrow morning would not be here but for the kindness of my dear friend Ashli Foshee McCall. During my blogging hiatus, Dawn Eden and I became involved in the promotion and distribution of her book Beyond Morning Sickness: Battling Hyperemesis Gravidarum, a comprehensive, 500-page medically-reviewed guide to treatment option for a debilitating pregnancy disease which effectively makes the mother allergic to the fetus. Apart from sending free copies of the book to approximately 1,000 Ob/Gyns and any woman who wrote to her, Ashli has worked with the suffering women, their families and their doctors over the phone, in e-mails and in person to ensure that the pregnancy is brought to term. The glowing reviews of her book at Amazon by HG sufferers are but a small testament to the selfless dedication of this devout Christian homeschooling mother.

Ashli’s heart-wrenching work is often made more difficult by the pressure exerted by insurance companies, medical care providers, family members and friends to abort. Also terrible is the ordeal experienced by the bedridden mothers who become unable to attend to the needs of their other children. But worst of all can be the suffering of those children themselves, who are often bewildered by the seeming abandonment and frightened by their mothers’ plight.

So it is with immense pride that I announce that early next year, Ashli will publish a children’s book for the youngest and often overlooked victims of HG. Mama Has Hyperemesis Gravidarum (But Only For a While) will be a professionally-illustrated, full-color work designed to help gently prepare children for some of the negative realities of living with a pregnant mom who is suffering from HG. They will be comforted and encouraged by the recurring message that HG will end, and warmly reminded of pregnancy’s sweet reward.

We would like to place this book in the hands of every family that could benefit from it. As you celebrate the birth of our Savior tomorrow, I hope you will consider helping others celebrate the birth and lives of the precious little children He asked us to suffer to come unto Him.
If you write to Ashli at, she will arrange, when the the books are available, to send a copy to one of the doctors on this list, or directly to the family of an HG sufferer. The total cost for this meaningful gift will be under $20, and one that will keep giving for many, many Christmases to come.

Christ is the Lord

December 22, 2008 | 563 Comments

Three years ago, I promoted and appeared in the atheist documentary “The God Who Wasn’t There,” dedicated to the proposition that Jesus never existed.



I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth

I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,

who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,

born of the Virgin Mary,

suffered under Pontius Pilate,

was crucified, died, and was buried

he descended to the dead.

On the third day he rose again

he ascended into heaven,

he is seated at the right hand of the Father,

and he will come to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit,

the holy Catholic Church,

the communion of saints,

the forgiveness of sins,

the resurrection of the body,

and the life everlasting.


Truth vs. Advertising

December 22, 2008 | 5 Comments

What was wrong with the Freedom from Religion Foundation’s holiday display attacking religious as myth and superstition? It wasn’t the truth of the matter, says Non-Theist, it was that it wasn’t compelling:

All ideas should be given an equal chance, and the most compelling will win out. Note I said most compelling, not most truthful . . .

A better question, in my opinion, is what are we doing to ensure our messages and ideas are just as compelling as the theist alternatives out there? As atheists, I believe we tend to fall back on the truth and facts as self-evident and expect our ideas to sell themselves. This belief is just as credulous as we view our theist brothers and sisters to be in their god worship.

The FFRF had every right to put a display up alongside the nativity scene in Washington. IMHO, they completely flubbed this opportunity by focusing on truth and facts instead of voicing a compelling message. If they had taken context into account, I believe they could have pointed out what’s wrong with displaying religious symbols with government support. They could have done it in such a way that believers and non-believers alike had a chance to see the REAL issue. They could have offered an alternative to the reasons people seek and hold to religion. Instead they attacked. They had every right and freedom to do so, I just feel it was bad for our cause.

Non-Theist proposes that the following placard would have been more compelling:

Happy Holidays!

Government-sponsored religious symbolism is likely unconstitutional, but while The People allow such displays may all views be given equal access.

-may believers and non-believers find common ground
-may violence and hatred perish from the earth
-may you be happy and flourish
-may truth prevail in the hearts of all men and women

Happy Holidays!

It seems to me if you’re trying to sell atheism, you have to sell atheism, not a potpourri of Constitutional, political and free speech messages. Because if your message is compelling, but you were selling something else, you’re not going to make anything on the atheism. Perhaps you’ll convince people that church/state separation is good, or that obeying the Constitution is good, or that Coke is better than Pepsi, but promoting those views don’t necessarily promote atheism. Plenty of religous people believe in church/state separation and Constitution-obeying, but that doesn’t make them any less believers. And plenty of atheistic arguments can be made against both of those principles. An atheist might will believe that a government run by devout, theocratic Christians would be better than one run by a certain types of militant atheists. Furthermore, both believers and atheists can identify parts of the Constitution they’d much rather see violated than obeyed.

The core difference between atheists and believers is a belief in God. An atheist who wants to sell non-belief must make compelling arguments why there is no God. If the arguments are true but not compelling, there is no way to make them otherwise, except by lying. And even if the arguments are compelling, a compelling argument must be made why people are better off believing them than believing in lies.

Moderation in All Things

December 19, 2008 | 1 Comment

Bill O’Reilly and Megyn Kelly debate whether Washington State Governor Chris Gregoire acted lawfully in closing the capitol building’s holiday display to further submissions after an atheist group’s “religion-is-myth” sign triggered offerings from a host of imitators, detractors and satirists. Proposed displays included messages from the Flying Spaghetti Monster lobby and the Santa-Will-Take-You-to Hell crowd. O’Reilly accuses the Governor of viewpoint discrimination, while Kelly accepts the official “space limitations” excuse. I haven’t researched the law, but I suspect it comes down to a question of intent.

The spectacle resembles a flamewar as much as anything else, so it might be helpful to analyze it in bloggy rather than legal terms. In this case, the capitol building was the blog. A few weeks earlier, the blog owner had invited its readers to submit seasonal pictures. Accordingly, the original assemblage of religious displays was the main post.

The atheist sign was a comment. There was some debate over whether its contributor should be considered a “troll.” However, because the message was sincerely meant and related directly to the topic evoked by the pictures, the blog owner let it stand. In fact, the owner posted an “update” as part of the main post quoting the comment.

The update provoked a flood of reader comments (equivalent to the capitol building visitors), plus comments from other blogs large and small (the media). A consensus developed that the Flying Spaghetti Monster was most certainly a troll, but people were divided over the Santa/Hell display, whose contributors seemed most sincere. Seasons greetings from car dealers were deleted as spam. After 500 or so comments, the blog owner concluded that the discussion was getting too nasty and that the contributors weren’t reading each others’ comments anyway. The comment section was thus closed, with dozens of messages caught in the approval queue. It’s now up to the mods (courts) to decide.

I realize that much of the analogy is flawed because blog owners are generally private individuals, whereas the Capitol rotunda is a public space. But whatever questions that distinction raises, it’s still up to the mods.

Anything Goes

December 18, 2008 | 7 Comments

It’s hard to catalogue all the ignorance, confusion and illogic in this op-ed by Jane Hunt about finding “common ground” on abortion. The author believes that the abortion debate was conclusively “settled” by Roe v Wade (how about Casey? Gonzales?), and that all presidents since 1973 have somehow ignored the issue and not one “has made a dent” in Roe (Scalia, Roberts, Alito?). She further contends that Obama has “honestly” stated his position on the issue by saying “he wants abortion to be ‘rare’.” Not surprisingly, Hunt’s “common ground” consists of “responsible stewardship of family, national and global resources” with no restrictions on abortion whatsoever. And why even try, she argues: “Laws don’t change behavior; laws against murder don’t prevent it; theft is commonplace despite laws against it.”

Mad About Madison

December 18, 2008 | 2 Comments

Responding to an atheist groups’ unsubstantiated suggestion that believers stole its holiday sign, the Chairman of the Springfield Nativity Scene Committee commits the sin he condemns:

I also take umbrage at the suggestion made by this atheist group that Christians in our group or individually had something to do with the stealing of the sign. It’s a slanderous comment and I believe an apology should be forthcoming. I also find it amazing that this group is now going to use words from Scripture to discourage further theft in the future. Where I come from it’s called hypocrisy, but they may call it something else in Madison, Wisconsin from where this group hails.

Wisconsin as a whole may be populated by poor, drunken badgers, but there’s no evidence that Madison in particular is afflicted with hypocrites.

It’s Just Not Nice

December 17, 2008 | 1 Comment

Ace of Spades explains what’s wrong with the Freedom from Religion’s “religion is a myth” holiday display, even from his agnostic/borderline atheist perspective.

Caution: Vulgar language.

Holier Than Thou

December 17, 2008 | 1 Comment

In response to the theft from a capitol rotunda holiday display of its sign declaring that “[r]eligion is but myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds,” an atheist group is posting a second sign quoting the Biblical injunction “Thou shalt not steal.”

Annie Laurie Gaylor of the Freedom From Religion Foundation explained why she believed the resort to scripture was necessary:

“Atheists never engage in vandalism. We don’t go around stealing the Baby Jesus. They don’t follow their own commandments.”

A religious group might well counter the new atheist sign with one reading “thou shalt not bear false witness.” The police “do not know who did it or what happened to it.” So Ms. Gaylor’s conclusion that “they” did it — i.e., Bible believers hypocritically disobeying “their own commandments” — fails to observe the standards of proof ordinarily embraced by the reality-based community.

Ms. Gaylor’s simultaneous exoneration of all atheist suspects similarly violates this evidentiary principle. To declare that “atheists never engage in vandalism” is as baseless as saying that “atheists never engage in adultery” (or in taking the Lord’s name in vain, for that matter). While the usual atheist tactic for removing a Baby Jesus is litigation rather than theft, a publicity motive cannot be discounted. Certainly, it was the primary motive in displaying the religion-as-myth sign in the first place.

Christopher, Our Savior

December 16, 2008 | 5 Comments

Atheist Christopher Hitchens has vowed “to write an anti-Christmas column that becomes fiercer every year.” He states his “core objection” as being “that for almost a whole month, the United States—a country constitutionally based on a separation between church and state—turns itself into the cultural and commercial equivalent of a one-party state.” Specifically, he complains:

As in such dismal banana republics, the dreary, sinister thing is that the official propaganda is inescapable. You go to a train station or an airport, and the image and the music of the Dear Leader are everywhere. You go to a more private place, such as a doctor’s office or a store or a restaurant, and the identical tinny, maddening, repetitive ululations are to be heard. So, unless you are fortunate, are the same cheap and mass-produced images and pictures, from snowmen to cribs to reindeer. It becomes more than usually odious to switch on the radio and the television, because certain officially determined “themes” have been programmed into the system. Most objectionable of all, the fanatics force your children to observe the Dear Leader’s birthday, and so (this being the especial hallmark of the totalitarian state) you cannot bar your own private door to the hectoring, incessant noise, but must have it literally brought home to you by your offspring. Time that is supposed to be devoted to education is devoted instead to the celebration of mythical events. Originally Christian, this devotional set-aside can now be joined by any other sectarian group with a plausible claim—Hanukkah or Kwanzaa—to a holy day that occurs near enough to the pagan winter solstice.

Notwithstanding his references to “official propaganda”, “officially determined themes,””Dear Leaders” and a “totalitarian state,” Hitchens has not identified any meaningful governmental role in the offending festivities. Indeed, his thesis collapses at the introduction. He concedes that the activities are “cultural and commercial.” The bracketing references to church/state separation and “a one-party state” are misleading non sequiturs. If anyone, Hitchens should criticize the television, radio and advertising executives who cater to what they perceive as the public’s taste, or the doctors, merchants and restaurateurs responsible for controlling the ambience on their premises. If he did, he would find he had much in common with a sizeable number of Christmas celebrants who decry the commercialization of the season and the disregard of Christmas’ “true meaning” in favor of a generic snowman-and-reindeer holiday.

Hitchens might also examine his own celebration of the alleged “separation” principle. His only rationale for worshipping it appears to be that it is “Constitutional,” e.g., written down on paper by some former Dear Leaders. And had he read it, he might be surprised to discover that it does not remotely support what he thinks it does. The Establishment Clause forbids only the federal government from establishing a religion; the states are free to create (and did for some time)state-sponsored churches. The Free Exercise clause then contradicts the Establishment Clause, to the extent that any governmental curtailment of a religious exercise could be viewed as the establishment of another. So it is as much a muddle as any of the alleged myths he rejects.

Hitchens would best abandon his project in favor of announcing his own true meaning. I imagine that a man of his stature would be involved in charitable endeavors of a magnitude that would shame most simple-minded banana republicans. So lead, Dear Christopher, and we shall follow.

A Laughing Matter?

December 15, 2008 | Comments Off

Abortion Blog quoted part of comedian George Carlin’s abortion comedy routine in defense of her pro-choice reasoning. A few years back The S.I.C.L.E. Cell did a twelve-part, line-by-line dissection of Carlin’s humor. I understand that the best way to ruin a joke is to analyze it, but some jokes deserve ruination.

Another way to ruin an abortion joke is simply to tell it. Greg Gutfled posted a Roe v Wade Joke page some time ago, with entries such as this:

Little Johnny goes up to his mother and says, “Is it true babies come from storks?” “Why yes,” says the mom. “Do storks ever have abortions?” he asks. The mother stops and laughs and then says, “Yes, but only the poor black ones.”

Why did the fetus cross the road?
Because they moved the dumpster.

I especially enjoyed one of the jokes involving Barbara Boxer. As I recall, however, at the time the post (or a version of it posted elsewhere) was swamped with comments from angry pro-choicers. Many of them objected to what they saw as Gutfeld’s implication that women didn’t take abortion seriously, a charge I don’t think I’ve seen leveled at Carlin.

Priceless (Updated)

December 12, 2008 | 42 Comments

UPDATE: Abortion Blog responds in the comments.

Abortion Blog is a new blog by a woman who got an abortion this week. The author describes herself in the blog’s subtitle as a “proud atheist.” In this post, she recounts her interaction with pro-life street counselors outside the clinic:

As I walked passed the last protester before going through the door, I stopped, turned to her, smiled and said one of the following irreverent snarky things:

1) “You are one of god’s little accidents.”

2) “And how many children have you adopted?”

3) “Too bad Mary didn’t abort Jesus.”

4) “Oh, come on lady! Like you don’t vaccuum out the ole’ sea monkey tank every now and then!”

5) “I hope it’s twins!”

6) Opened up my copy of The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins and read several poignant exerpts since clearly this was the time and place to debate religious views.

The clinic escort was overjoyed, and grinning from ear to ear. The protester was clearly deeply disturbed. It was priceless, and although it is possible the right wing now has me on their kidnap and murder list, I’m glad I said something. They were there to f**k with me, and I f**ked with them. Right backatchya b***h!

After the abortion, the blogger is “[s]orry [she] didn’t take a picture of my little thinga-mahoojit, it was sort of interesting” and wishes she could have “donated it to stem cell research or something.” In addition to her own repeated comparisons of the fetus to a sea monkey, she is amused by atheist comedian George Carlin’s crack about “[h]ow come when its us, its abortion, and when it’s a chicken . . . it’s an omelet? There is somewhat less levity and blasphemy, however, in her earlier explanation of her reasons for the abortion:

What makes this hard for me is that when I was younger I had hoped that by my mid/late 20’s I would be able to have children. I sometimes literally crave to be a parent, and I wish I were in a position financially, emotionally etc where I could just have the baby and be joyful about it. I think I would be a pretty good mom. And someday I probably will be.

And someday, perhaps, she will realize that those protesters outside the clinic were not there to kidnap and murder her, and that, for all she knew, there might have been a proud atheist like her among them. And she might realize that there are many women in exactly her situation who escape their grinning escorts and receive from the protestors the financial and emotional support they need to be joyous. And then, perhaps, she will realize what is truly priceless.

Put Away Falsehood

December 11, 2008 | Comments Off

Consistent with his deeply-held Christian faith, Barack Obama established the Matthew25 Network to promote a Gospel-based outreach to religious voters. Run by the former Director of Religious Outreach for the 2004 Kerry/Edwards campaign, the site sports a page called Put Away Falsehood to counter alleged misrepresentations regarding Obama and his political positions. The page name is taken from Ephesians 4:25, which states: “Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with your neighbor, for we are all of the same body.” The injunction is refreshing in its scope. Our obligation to tell the truth is not limited to statements made in court, but extends to all our dealings with our fellow human beings.

Some of Obama’s statements suggest that a more nuanced interpretation of the Ephesians command may be required. For example, among the list of alleged falsehoods on the Put Away Falsehoods page is that Obama supported gay marriage: the site states unambiguously that “Senator Obama has never supported gay marriage,” with the emphasis in the original. However, this appears to be contradicted by his publically stated position during his 1996 Illinois State Senate campaign.

More significantly, just two days ago Mr. Obama stated that he had had “no contact” with Illinois Governor Blagojevich’s regarding the replacement for his U.S. Senate seat. But Newsbusters has posted links to contemporaneous news accounts indicating that Obama met with Blagojevich to discuss that very subject on November 5th (see here and here). Additionally, on November 23rd Obama advisor David Axelrod stated on television that he “knew” that Obama had discussed his replacement with Blagojevich.

Because Mr. Obama is from that unique new breed of devout “change” politicians who reject falsehood, I am trying to determine what Biblical category best encompasses his statements. For example, Rene Magritte’s famous Ceci n’est pas une pipe (“this is not a pipe”) painting does not actually promote a lie, because either (1) it is merely a picture of a pipe, or (2) the statement is so obviously contradicted by the context in which it appears that no one could be deceived. Obama’s statements likely fall in the second category, as he knew very well that his assertions would appear on the internet merely a click away from prominent, conclusive refutations. Is there a scriptural passage which authorizes this particular form of truth-telling more clearly than Ephesians?

Consider also this: does this post “put away falsehood,” considering that it was written with the knowledge that the news organization which announced that Obama met with Blagojevich yesterday suddenly retracted that story? Does my belief that the retraction is unconvincing or false, or my posting of a link to the retraction, excuse any seeming falsehoods on my part?

The Godless Generation?

December 1, 2008 | 12 Comments

USA Today religion reporter Cathy Lynn Grossman blogs today on how America’s Greatest Generation didn’t pledge ‘under God’. Before reading her piece, keep in mind exactly what “religion reporter” means, particularly one who writes for a national newspaper: it means a religion-hating, left-wing atheist. In Ms. Grossman’s case, such leanings are apparent from the title of her blog, which is “Faith & Reason: A conversation about religion, spirituality and ethics.” In my experience, the juxtaposition of such words signifies that the author believes that “faith and religion” are the enemies of “reason and ethics,” and that a “conversation” is needed to convince the readers that some empty, relativistic “spirituality” is best.

Ms. Grossman’s analysis does not disappoint:

The Rev. George M. Docherty, whose sermons inspired the addition of the phrase “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance in 1954, died on Thanksgiving.

Coverage of his death — and Pearl Harbor Day coming up Dec. 7 — remind me that ‘under God’ didn’t enter the pledge until after World War II, after the oft-called Greatest Generation had proved its values.

These men and women who fought overseas and sacrificed on the home front all grew up with a passion for their country but none pledged to God every morning facing the flag when they were school children. It wasn’t essential to the formation of their character, evidently.

When I read about civic battles today to add the name of God or a Ten Commandments to every public event or venue, I wonder: What is the desired effect to adding — or blocking — this?

Do you have to say ‘God’ everywhere to know God? To develop good values?

Grossman’s implication that the Greatest Generation was a Godless Generation is unfounded, to put it mildly. There may have been atheists in foxholes, but they were hardly the majority. The absence of the word “God” from the pledge prior to 1954 doesn’t prove that religion was irrelevant to the formation of character before then. Families attended church regularly, and they “pledged to God” before breakfast, before lunch, before dinner, and before bedtime. As today, many children attended private religious schools or supplemented their public school education with religious training, and even those who attended public schools exclusively frequently found themselves indoctrinated upon walking through the door at home. The phrase “In God We Trust” had appeared on the currently since the 1860s, and even the public schools conducted Bible readings for nearly a decade after 1954. And in rallying the Greatest Generation to battle on December 8, 1941, President Roosevelt prayed that “we will gain the inevitable triumph — so help us God.”

So in many ways people did say ‘God’ everywhere, whether or not the word was yet present in the traditional ten-second schooltime recitation. One could argue that its later, uncontroversial inclusion in the pledge was an affirmation of the nation’s pre-existing religiosity, rather than an attempt to impose faith on the secular masses.

What is important to note is that Ms. Grossman is not simply advocating church/state separation, an issue on which even religious people are divided. Her essay does not seriously address that issue at all, notwithstanding her throwaway reference to “civic battles.” Her ultimate target, as demonstrated by her ultimate questions, is the connection between God and goodness, between a nation’s thorough immersion in religion and the direction of its moral compass.

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