There are plenty of ways to be religious. Only a few religious paths focus primarily on a monotheistic doctrine – the idea that belief in what some people call God should be the foundation of life. Some religions have belief in many gods rather than only one. Some religions focus on a female goddess rather than the male God. Some religions suggest that gods exist, but put those gods off to the side as a relatively minor factor in life. Some religions promote the idea of transcendence without divinity at all. Still other religions involve worship of a single god that is not referred to as “God”.
All of these religious identities are active in the United States. Then, of course, there are also tens of millions of Americans who choose to not be religious at all. There’s an astonishing, growing diversity in the United States when it comes to religion, and belief in God is just one of many choices. Yet, when the U.S. House of Representatives approved H. Con. Res. 13 this week, it ignored the diversity in order to promote the inaccurate idea that Americans have a single, united religious perspective: Belief in God.
Almost every member of the House, Democrat and Republican, voted for this legislation, despite the fact that it marginalizes large numbers of Americans in every congressional district in the nation, and despite the fact that it’s in plain violation of the first amendment to the Constitution. Only 9 U.S. Representatives had the courage to defend the Bill of Rights, and vote against H. Con. Res. 13.
Jerrold Nadler was one of them. Explaining his vote, Congressman Nadler reminded his colleagues that the United States of America is supposed to be a nation of religious liberty, not a nation where one religion is allowed to use the power of government to promote its ideology.
Nadler said, “This country is a country for all people – whether they are religious or not, whether they believe in God or not, whether they believe in one God or not. The First Amendment tells us we should make no law respecting establishment of religion nor prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” He called H. Con. Res. “”an exercise to tell people who may not believe in God, ‘You don’t really count; you’re not really Americans.'”
Atheists are Americans. Buddhists are Americans. Hindus are Americans. Humanists are Americans. Under H. Con. Res. 13, unfortunately, they are second class Americans.