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Separation of church and state

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The "separation of church and state" is the idea that the state, or government, is not aligned with any particular religious institution. The concept, which became prominent with the First amendment of the American constitution, is best understood in the context of the history that led to the American position.

Separation in American

America was founded in part by Christians who had fled Britain because that country endorsed the Church of England as the official state church, and suppressed the freedom of other Christians to worship in other ways. The intention was to have a government that did not endorse any particular Christian organisation. The intention was never to have a government that distanced itself from theistic religion absolutely, as many atheists and secularists contend. Indeed, the Declaration of Independence of the United States and its government have always endorsed Christian views, but not ones that are restricted to particular Christian denominations.

  • The Declaration of Independence makes the following references:[1]
    • "Nature's God"
    • "their [mankind's] Creator"
    • "appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world"
    • "a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence"
    • "our sacred Honor"
  • The Pledge of Allegiance refers to "one nation under God".[2]
  • Coins have "In God We Trust" on them.
  • The National Anthem includes the phrase "In God is our trust."[3]

Modern secular views

Atheists and secularists promote the idea that the separation of church and state means that the state must not endorse even the idea of God, let alone Christianity, let alone a particular Christian religious institution. In doing so, they are effectively arguing that governments should adopt a de-facto atheist position, which treats God as though He doesn't exist, even if not explicitly endorsing that view. This is based on their belief that atheistic religions do not count as religions, but are the default position.

This way of thinking implicitly if not explicitly denies that modern western civilisations and many of its laws are based on a Christian worldview. For example, laws against rape and murder are, ultimately, based on the view that we are made in the image of God, and have no authority to kill another person, except in limited circumstances such as properly-constituted systems of justice. By contrast, an atheistic view should allow for one person killing another, on the basis that our very existence is due to our ancestors—including ancestor species—out-competing others. The fact that most atheists do not endorse such indiscriminate "survival of the fittest" is due not to their atheistic beliefs, but to having been raised in societies with a Christian heritage and having been taught Christian values. Some atheists, however, are exceptions to that rule. Stalin, for instance, seemingly considered humans no more worthy of life than grass that was to be mowed, and slaughtered millions.[4]


  1. The thirteen united States of America, Declaration of Independence, Wed. 4th July, 1776Wed. July 4th, 1776.
  2. Francis Bellamy et. al., The Pledge of Allegiance.
  3. A Nation "Under God", Vine & Fig Tree.
  4. Russell Grigg, Stalin: from choir boy to communist butcher, Creation 31 (1):52–54, December 2008.
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