Friday, March 30, 2007

Why We Are Not A "Christian" Nation

From Reinhold Neibur again.

The Declaration of Independence assures us that "the pursuit of happiness" is one of the "inalienable rights" of mankind. While the right to its pursuit is, of course, no guarantee of its attainment, yet the philosophy which informed the Declaration, was, on the whole, as hopeful that all men, at least all American men, could attain happiness as it was certain that they had the right to pursue it.

America has been, in fact, both in its own esteem and in the imagination of a considerable portion of Europe, a proof of the validity of this modern hope which reached its zenith in the Enlightenment. The hope was that the earth could be transformed from a place of misery to an abode of happiness and contentment. The philosophy which generated this hope was intent both upon eliminating the natural hazards to comfort, security and contentment; and upon reforming society so that the privileges of life would be shared equitably. The passion for justice, involved in this hope, was of a higher moral order than the ambition to overcome the natural hazards to man’s comfort and security. It is obviously more noble to be concerned with the pains and sorrows which arise from human cruelties and injustices than to seek after physical comfort for oneself.

Nevertheless it is one of the achievements of every civilization, and the particular achievement of modern technical civilization, that it limits the natural handicaps to human happiness progressively and gives human life as much comfort and security as is consistent with the fact that man must die in the end.

I would argue that the premise by which America was founded on was an idealistic notion that many of us on the left have long since discounted. But we cannot afford to throw in the towel and conform to this massive cynicism that has characterized our ideals. As Neibur points out, we cannot escape our own mortality just as we cannot escape our own failings.

But we cannot afford to sacrifice our own independence to those who would have us see things in black and white, petty, Old Testament terms. That flies contrary to to the very notion by which this country was founded, which was itself a LIBERAL notion.

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