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
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!
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