Is Godlessness America’s Problem?
A conservative commentator, Glenn Beck, blames America’s problems on the increase in non-religiosity, or “godlessness.” (I notice that some conservatives are embarrassed by him, but unfortunately he claims to be one of them.) At the start of one of his latest live-television emotional breakdowns, he points to the fact that the non-religious are the fastest-growing part of the American religious landscape. He imagines that people no longer trust in God, but rather in the government (specifically Barack Obama). This is derived from his belief that citizens have strayed from the phrase in the Declaration of Independence, which Beck quotes as saying, “endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable[sic] rights.” Glenn Beck thinks the “Creator” in that phrase is his god – presumably the god who cares about his crusade against Barack Obama’s “unlawful, godless, perverted, liberal agenda.”
In fact, some of the leaders of the Revolution, including Jefferson, Madison, and Adams, despised Christianity and its god. Jefferson, in his letters, said, “I do not find in orthodox Christianity one redeeming feature.” And, “History, I believe, furnishes no example of a priest-ridden people maintaining a free civil government. This marks the lowest grade of ignorance of which their civil as well as religious leaders will always avail themselves for their own purposes.” He thought that “Christianity is the most perverted system that ever shone on man.” The “Father of the Constitution,” Madison, stated that, “During almost fifteen centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial. What has been its fruits? More or less, in all places, pride and indolence in the clergy; ignorance and servility in the laity; in both, superstition, bigotry, and persecution.” And, “In no instance have . . . the churches been guardians of the liberties of the people.” Adams, in Article 11 of the Treaty of Tripoli, wrote, “The government of the United States is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion.” And, in a letter to his son he wrote, “Let the human mind loose. It must be loose. It will be loose. Superstition and dogmatism cannot confine it.”
Yet, it is precisely superstition and dogmatism that have confined the mind of Glenn Beck. He cannot even use political terms correctly. The term “liberal,” that Beck often uses to describe Barack Obama, is semantically indistinguishable from the term “illiberal.” He sees a vast un-American conspiracy everywhere. On not having the Ten Commandments on a courthouse, he says in a mocking voice, “Thou shall not kill – that’s too controversial!” (It is only unconstitutional.) He says students “can’t pray in school.” (Students can pray as much as they like.) He also makes the claim that people “can’t sing Christmas carols in this country because that is too offensive.” I do not know what part of the country he is talking about.
He assumes the non-religious are atheist although non-religious people may believe in God. This does not matter to him because he must argue that they “fill the void” with “stuff, things, power, careers, money, celebrities, politics, government.” It does not occur to him that some people do not need faith, much less feel a “void” in their lives in the same way that no adult feels a void about not believing in Santa Claus.
After lampooning non-religious people, Beck shows that they in fact do have a religion. He claims they put their “faith in government.” He says there is a Church of Barack Obama. His overwhelming evidence for this is a video of school children singing songs to Obama to the tune of “Jesus Loves Me” and “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.” Is it these young school children who are the infamous non-religious people who worship at the altar of Barack Hussein Obama. Is it them who Glenn Beck is ranting against for not putting their faith in God? Is it these school children who cause America’s decline by not being religious? In Glenn Beck’s mind, it seems, anything goes.
After showing video of these children, Beck asks, “Why do you think we’re as powerful as we are or have been? What did we do different[sic] than other countries? Are we just superior human beings?” His answer is that “we recognize God’s authority.” This is the point at which he mistakenly recognizes the Deistic (or non-Christian) god of the Founders as his Christian god. He goes on to say:
So many other countries get it completely wrong. They believe human rights are handed down by some government, some body, some official in the government. It’s all about them; not HIM! No government can fill the gaping hole inside of us if GOD is chased out! Maybe we need to stop looking for more social justice and start looking at ETERNAL justice!
It is with this argument that Beck unwittingly rejects the idea of the “consent of the governed”: the cornerstone of the Declaration of Independence and the Virgina Bill of Rights, and the political theory that lends both legitimacy and moral authority to our government for its exercise of state power. But who would expect Beck to know about such trivialities of his own beloved country?
In this way Beck lays down his argument that godlessness is the weakness of America. However, it is his own authoritarian conservative Christian impulse that endangers the freedom that he says people should value with their lives. It is the Church of Glenn Beck that is the problem, and he has millions of followers who tune in to his circus – I mean show. The god of Glenn Beck is totally at odds with the open, pluralistic society protected by such civil liberties and rights that form the foundation of this Republic.