It is often purported that America was not founded on “religion” and that there is a “separation of church and state.” Thus, any discussion about God in public schools (for example) will swiftly be dealt with by the ACLU. But, since the ACLU stands for the *American* civil liberties union, it is pertinent to consider the specific beliefs in which America was founded.
The exact words of “separation of church and state” are not found in any of America’s founding documents. The phrase is found in a letter to the Danbury Baptists written by Thomas Jefferson — who was not even at the Constitutional Convention (he was in France at the time) — so it has no power at all. Jefferson was addressing the Baptist’s concerns regarding “the infringement of the newly formed federal government upon the consciences of American citizens.” Lest anyone assume that the “secular government” Jefferson had in mind demands no theological talk, Jefferson himself wrote the Declaration, which has four different references to God.
With history in mind, however, this “separation of church and state” phrase is often used to sum up the 1st Amendment. Likely, the best thing to do is not “sum up” the First Amendment, but rather, consider the source:
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”
If one were to “summarize” this, a better summary would be the following:
Do not force one to worship, do not stop one from worshiping.
I digress and reiterate: The phrase “Separation of Church and State” is not to be found anywhere in America’s founding documents. With that said, however, here is what we do find in the Declaration of Independence:
“We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights…”
Notice the “Creator” with a capital “C.” This is where objective, unalienable, and equal human rights come from – not from a government comprised of humans! This is why we ought to treat everyone with respect — and why it is objectively wrong, even for a government comprised of humans, to violate a fellow human’s objective and “unalienable” rights!
The question is raised: How exactly does a “Creator” of humanity logically ground objective rights of all humanity? The answer is found in the fact that God exists and created mankind on purpose and for a specific purpose (not to mention created us in His image). If God created humanity on purpose and for a specific purpose, then there are some things objectively true about humanity irrespective of the subjective opinions from humanity.
That last sentence is vital to comprehend so it will be repeated:
If God created humanity on purpose and for a specific purpose, then there are some things objectively true about humanity irrespective of the subjective opinions from humanity. (See Does an Objective Moral Compass Point to God?)
How Would We Know?
More questions, however, are raised: How can we know the objective purpose of humanity? How can we know these objective and unalienable human rights?
Well, it seems we would need to have some kind of divine revelation of this sort of thing. I suppose this could occur in several ways. For example, God could “write the law on our hearts” (Romans 2:15; Hebrews 10:16) or He could enter into the universe to reveal exactly why He created the universe and all the people within (John 18:37)! Perhaps God would do both!
In fact, if Christianity is true — and we have many reasons to believe it is true — Jesus made the objective purpose of humanity clear. Jesus went out of his way to teach all people to love all people! In fact, Jesus made it clear that if one does not understand anything else about the Law of God — make sure you get this one part right and everything else will fall into place. One thing we must get right is that life is all about LOVE. Jesus summarized the entire purpose of human existence in two simple and easy to remember commands in Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39:
1- Love God first!
2- Everybody love everybody (from your neighbors to your enemies)!
Jesus even hammered his second command home by offering the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) as an example of how humans ought to make sure an individual of a different “people group” thrives and flourishes (even though these different people groups were previously hostile to each other).
The salient point is this: If Jesus was right, then humans have rights! Humans should always be treated with LOVE.
If atheism is true, however, then humans do not really have any objective or unalienable rights and the government can do whatever it wants — even if Hitler happens to be calling the shots! If atheism is true, then humanity is just accidental — we would NOT have been created on purpose or for a purpose! Life would be objectively meaningless and purposeless — no more significant than “dust in the wind.” Thus, if all human life is no more significant than blowing dust, then it is not really wrong if one wants to commit atrocities against his fellow man.
Contrary to the opinions of the ACLU, we should teach these simple truths in the public schools. I am not suggesting that we should force students — or anyone else — to attend church, to pray, or to practice any specific religion. I do think we should teach truth and logic and allow people to make FREE choices after being exposed to truth and logic. Just start with the Declaration of Independence and discuss how objective human rights are logically grounded in our Creator.
America was founded on the idea that humans really possess objective and unalienable rights and that these rights are grounded in the fact that we are created by our Creator. If God does not exist then the Declaration of Independence is false and no one really possesses any objective and “certain unalienable rights” that ought to be protected! If atheism is true, the “unalienable rights” the Declaration of Independence speaks of are no more real than a child’s imaginary friend. However, if human rights are objective — and not made up “imaginary friends” — then God exists!
Bottom line: Atheism is un-American!
Stay reasonable (Isaiah 1:18),
 For more regarding what America’s Founding Fathers had in mind, consider five articles written by Steve Williams:
Part I: Washington
Part II: Jefferson
Part III: Franklin
Part IV: Madison
Part V: Adams