The Ribald Reign of King George the Second

A Nation of Disbelief:

Remarks on State-Funded Religious Initiatives at the National Press Club
in Washington, DC on July 10, 2001

We are a nation built on disbelief.

Think back to the first Americans: they maintained hundreds of disagreeing systems of belief. Only then came the Europeans. The first European settlers of the American continent came here to escape the persecution of governments that acted as if they had the right to impose religious belief on their subjects. In the 20th Century, the United States' tradition of positive skepticism established our nation as the undisputed world leader in science, medicine and technology.

The trend continues today, as the United States swells with immigrants representing every version of belief and disbelief that exists in the world today. They come here because the Constitution of the United States of America promises the right to disagree, the right to disbelieve. We celebrate this Constitutional right not just because it is enshrined in the Constitution, but because we agree it is just.

Every American, religious or not, is a disbeliever. We may hear wild claims about the existence of some Moral Majority, but the fact is that no single religious or moral agenda has anything close to majority support. When it comes to the important issues of religion and morality, every single American is in the minority, and that means that every single American disbelieves what most other Americans think about religion and morality. The right to disbelieve is just about the only thing that most Americans agree on.

You may not hear them say it, but our nation's politicians are strong in their disbelief. On issue after issue, representatives exercise prerogatives motivated by intense disbelief in the principles and contentions of others. Senator Jim Jeffords recently expressed his disbelief in strong terms when renouncing his membership in the Republican party. Trent Lott, Tom Daschle, John Ashcroft, Joseph Lieberman, and George W. Bush all are disbelievers. For each of them, success depends upon the ability to exercise principled skepticism.

This is not a bad thing. Indeed, the health of our democracy is based in the freedom to reject the ideas that others hold dear. How curious, then, that so many of these same politicians support efforts to take away this freedom from everyday citizens! The President and his allies have said publicly they'd like to give churches State license: State license to demand prayer for a publicly-funded meal, to require Hosannas for a taxpayer-provided bed, to exchange spiritual re-education sessions for publicly-funded medical treatment. The plan is to target the most desperate members of our society and give them a sermon they can't afford to refuse.

Don't let a conservative fundamentalist minority fool you: the separation of Church and State is not just about protecting the right of atheists to disbelieve. It's about protecting the right of all Americans to disbelieve whatever they want to disbelieve. It is not surprising that President Bush has failed to gain much support for his state-funded, church-based initiatives, since the American public has always opposed government efforts to mandate belief.

In the end, when it comes to freedom, it's all or nothing. We either all have the freedom to disbelieve, or none of us do. So, the next time you hear President Bush give one of his speeches calling for publicly-funded religious initiatives, just remember -- whether you're a born-again Christian or an atheist, a Catholic or a Buddhist, a Mormon or an Orthodox Jew, you're a disbeliever too. Never forget: the only thing keeping you free to hold on to your own breed of disbelief is the right of every other American to disbelieve you.

Aisles of idiocies straight from the brain of Dick "Dr. Evil" Cheney can be found at the official website of The Ribald Reign of King George the Second.

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