Dear 100 Hour Board,
I get annoyed whenever people say that America is founded based on Judaeo-christian values. Many founding fathers were deists, or Christian deists at best. They were wealthy and educated men of the Age of Enlightenment and deism was a popular philosophy or belief system among the upper class intellectuals at that time. Thomas Jefferson could be classified as a Unitarian Universalist who accepted many Christ's moral teaching, but he disliked the supernatural parts, so he created the Jefferson Bible by cutting out anything religious. Thomas Paine and Ethan Allen were open critics of Christianity and organized religions. The god and creator that was mentioned in the Declaration of Independence was a deistic god. E pluribus unum was the original motto of the U.S, nor In God We Trust. I'm an active and temple recommend holding Latter-day saints who love the church, but I don't like it when people use religion and misconception about history to push their political agendas. How can I educate people on this matter? Do you think it's a futile endeavor that would just anger people?
Just because it's a futile endeavor doesn't mean it's not worth doing.
You're totally right that the founding fathers were mostly deists. While they did grow up in a culture that was predominantly Protestant Christian, they were careful to leave mentions of particular religions out of the Constitution. Personally, I think that's because they were trying to walk the walk when it comes to freedom of religion. You can't really argue for a Christian view of God and morals in the Constitution and then in the Bill of Rights say that people can believe and practice what they want. That would be a definite bias toward Christianity. So they gave it all a vagueness that sometimes people exploit to advance their own agendas, which kinda sucks.
However, I have found that a lot of people who are prone to argue that the U.S. is a Christian nation are also the type of people that don't always like to hear other people's opinions. Keep that in mind if you're looking to preserve relationships.
Please try to educate people on this! Unfortunately Quixotic Kid's observation is very true, and you may get into more arguments than you wanted. Usually these arguments get started because of cognitive dissonance. Basically, it's really hard to hold two conflicting ideas at the same time. This cognitive dissonance can lead to people feeling discomfort, like they're personally being attacked, or like they're wrong (which every person's brain is trying desperately to avoid). For instance, have you ever read something contradictory about your political or religious beliefs and instantly felt uncomfortable or uneasy? That's cognitive dissonance. (Side note to everyone: please research cognitive dissonance and learn how you experience it. That way when you're arguing with your friend or researching online and feel that discomfort, you'll know it's cognitive dissonance and be able to deal with it better than assuming your friend is attacking you as a person or the information you're reading is just wrong.)
So how do we get people to avoid cognitive dissonance? First, give them an out. Instead of approaching a topic like, "I can't believe you're such an idiot for believing this," say "A lot of people, myself included, used to think this. It was pretty shocking to read more about it and realize I was wrong." Separate the person from their beliefs and empathize with them. Then hit them with some of the facts - you can decide which ones are most convincing. Try to gauge their reaction from this. If they're willing to talk more, share even more facts with them! If they're looking uncomfortable or straight out arguing, maybe focus on resolving that cognitive dissonance before sharing anything else. Finally, if they are full on arguing, just don't worry about them. Nothing you say is going to impact them and might make them more certain of their beliefs.
-guppy of doom