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Ed Buckner's Address to the March

The following article is from the Secular Humanist Bulletin, Volume 18, Number 4.

I proudly represent the Council for Secular Humanism, one of the biggest and best organizations of Americans who worship no gods. Today we’d like to gratefully acknowledge the creative leadership of another fine organization, the one that called this march. Thank you, Ellen Johnson. And thank you, American Atheists.

The Council sponsors the Campus Freethought Alliance, the world’s leading organization for secular humanist high school and college students and faculty. CFA has over 120 groups on college campuses and nearly six thousand more “members at large.” I’m happy to see so many students here—you can visit www.campusfreethought.org to join for free.

Our message here today is simple: We are tired of the lies. We demand that there be “No more lies.”

We refuse to stand idly by any longer. To the preachers and political leaders and reporters and columnists, we say, Thou shalt not lie!

Thou Shalt Not Lie by saying “This is a Christian nation.” It isn’t. It never has been. It never should be. The god-free U.S. Constitution itself shows this plainly. A Treaty between Tripoli and the United States was signed in November 1796 (exactly 206 years ago, while George Washington was still president) and unanimously ratified by the Senate. That treaty said, “The Government of the United States is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion.” If you want democratic concepts about a republic, ideas about just laws being derived from the consent of the governed, you have to read American documents, like the Constitution. The Bible, like all other “holy” texts, says nothing about self-government. In fact, the Bible told good Christians to obey, not to rebel against King George III, because “There is no authority but by act of God, and the existing authorities are instituted by him” (Romans 13). This is a free country, not a Christian nation. America is a free country because it is a secular nation, and it has to stay secular if it is to stay great. No more lies! No more lies!

Thou Shalt Not Lie by saying “Being patriotic means being religious.” The two have nothing to do with each other. Love of a real country has no connection to worshipping undefinable, unpredictable, imaginary creatures. No more lies!

Thou Shalt Not Lie by saying “There are no atheists in foxholes.” Americans without religious beliefs have repeatedly demonstrated at least as much courage and integrity, at least as much honesty and steadfastness, as anyone else. And, on a more literal level, thousands of atheists have worn the uniform of this nation—many of my fellow veterans are, I know, here today.  And many atheists have died defending our freedom and this nation. No more lies!

Thou Shalt Not Lie by saying “It’s a miracle.” If those nine miners in Pennsylvania were saved by God, rather than by the hard, competent work of their rescuers, then we must also blame those same gods for the three thousand people who died on September 11. If some god, instead of the surgeons, nurses, and medical researchers who really made it possible, gets credit when a patient survives a tricky operation, then the same god must be blamed every time an innocent child dies of leukemia. No more lies!

Thou Shalt Not Lie by saying “Religious ideas and ‘sacred’ texts are above criticism.” Any idea, from any source, is worthless if it cannot withstand public scrutiny and debate. It is no more rude to question religious ideas than it is to question astrology or racist or sexist claims. The most destructive ideas in human history have hidden behind the skirts of priests. Religion must be questioned and criticized. Any book and any idea that has to hide behind blasphemy laws or even social conventions to be accepted should be rejected by everyone. No more lies!

Thou Shalt Not Lie by saying “Dissent is un-American.” There is in fact nothing more American than dissent. Questioning authority is our heritage. If it becomes unacceptable to say loudly or to write plainly that we disagree with the establishment, then everything worthwhile about the Constitution will be gone. It must not happen. No more lies!

Thou Shalt Not Lie by saying “To be irreligious is to be immoral.” This is the biggest lie of them all, the most often repeated lie, the most dangerous and outrageous lie. Nobel Prize-winning physicist Steven Weinberg said, “Religion is an insult to human dignity. With or without it you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion.” Men can easily find “holy” passages that encourage human slavery, keeping women firmly in their place, killing witches or homosexuals, and torturing nonbelievers. And none of that is mere abstract mythology, for men have done all those things, and more, in the name of “Almighty God,” in the name of a supposedly higher morality. The lie that religion is the only basis for morality, or even an adequate basis, has been used for centuries now. It has been used to whip up hatred for us, to justify violence against us, to deny us respect, and to keep us out of the mainstream. No more lies!

We are proud to be secular humanists for a secular America, to be godless Americans. We are proud to support this nation. And we will stand for the lies no longer. No more lies!  No more lies!  No more lies!

Ed Buckner is the Executive Director of the Council for Secular Humanism.

[*] Secular Humanism Online Library

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