America’s True “Religion”

by | Oct 7, 2001

True or false: America is a deeply religious country that owes all its greatness to Christianity? The answer is: false. Fact is, America is not a religious country, not a Christian country, at all. Americans do not understand this–but the terrorists who struck us on September 11th did understand it. They attacked America because of […]

True or false: America is a deeply religious country that owes all its greatness to Christianity?

The answer is: false. Fact is, America is not a religious country, not a Christian country, at all. Americans do not understand this–but the terrorists who struck us on September 11th did understand it. They attacked America because of what we really do believe in: reason, [rights], and reality.

America has the most secular, rational culture in history. We are the most reality-oriented, fact-respecting people in the world. This is the source of all our achievements and greatness, not Christianity.

What about the obvious fact that most Americans say they believe in God? That many Americans attend church regularly and profess to be serious Christians?

The fact is, America has a contradictory culture, and Americans have contradictory characters and values. The reason for this is that religion–Christianity in particular–is not the only philosophical or intellectual influence in American life.

Look at the historical context. Christianity is a religion that came into existence roughly 2000 years ago in the Middle East.

America, as a country and a culture, came into existence about 1800 years later.

In the time between the birth of Christianity and the founding of America, Western civilization went through a series of tumultuous, history-altering events. The collapse of the great pagan civilizations in Greece and Rome–the Dark Ages–the Renaissance–the Reformation–the Enlightenment–the Industrial Revolution–the rise of the American business culture in the nineteenth century, and the explosion of science and technology that has transformed human life in the twentieth century.

America inherited the best ideas from all these periods, then used them to create some ideas of her own, such as individualism, individual rights, limited government, property rights, capitalism.

Here is a core belief of the real American religion: the idea that life on earth is good and should be cherished and enjoyed. The idea that an individual human life is sacred, irreplaceable, and that an individual life belongs solely to the person living it and that no one–no group, no government, no collective–not even God–owns that life or has any claim on any aspect of that life.

Americans do not realize what a distinctive culture they have, compared to the rest of the world. And Americans today who call themselves Christians may be sincere and truly believe that they believe in their religion–but the fact is, the religion they profess to believe is a very Americanized version of Christianity. The religion that Americans believe in and practice is an edited, abridged, watered-down version of what Christ created 2000 years ago in the Middle East.

Thus, American women might say they admire Mother Teresa–but they want to live like Martha Stewart.

American men might say they admire Jesus Christ–but they want to do business like Bill Gates.

Americans might say they have hopes for the afterlife–but they want to live–on earth, right now, for as long as they can, and as well as they can. They want big beautiful homes, gleaming SUV’s, healthy, happy children–and lot’s of money in the bank to spend on whatever makes them happy.

The terrorists who crashed airliners into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon did not want to live. They wanted to die. They wanted death because they believed in and practiced a primitive religion devoid of any other philosophical or intellectual influences save Islam. They came from a culture that [undiluted] by a Renaissance, an Enlightenment, an Industrial Revolution–or an American Revolution. All they had inside their heads was 100% pure, undiluted, un-watered-down religion. And that is a brain-corroding evil more destructive than any drug.

Think a pure Christianity would be any different from pure Islam? Look again at the history of the Crusades, a time when maniacal Christians went out to slaughter as much of the Islamic world as they could, with the attitude, “Kill them all, let God sort them out.” Now, Christianity (in the West, at least) has been tamed by [secular] reason. Islam has not.

If America is to win the war against terrorism, it’s going to have to wake up to its true nature and its true values. It is going to have to champion those values consciously, righteously, unapologetically. Those values are: reason, rights, and reality–and death to anyone who tries to take them from us.

We are going to have to decide if we are Christians–or Americans.

Because in reality, we can’t be both.

David Gulbraa is a writer in Orange, California. His latest book is the short story collection The Boy Who Got Hit By Cars.

The views expressed above represent those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the editors and publishers of Capitalism Magazine. Capitalism Magazine sometimes publishes articles we disagree with because we think the article provides information, or a contrasting point of view, that may be of value to our readers.

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