“Neither Pagan nor Mahamedan nor Jew ought to be excluded from the civil rights of the Commonwealth because of his religion.” – Thomas Jefferson, quoting John Locke
“…the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion…” – Article 11, Treaty of Tripoli, 1796. (signed by John Adams)
In 2010, Jason Pitzl wrote:
Hail to the pen and muse of Thomas Jefferson, who wrote the Declaration of Independence! Hail to those who’ve honored the true spirit of our founding documents, who defended us with arms, who challenged us with nonviolence, and reminded us of our true nature through art and rebellion.
The United States of America that we know today was built and shaped by an incredible diversity of lives, experiences, religions and cultures; every person that has walked on its soil and stood beneath its skies. Over this past year, we as a nation have faced difficult challenges, witnessed profound changes, and looked into the face of unthinkable violence. We are not a country of perfect. But we continue to try, to rebel, to speak out, and to evolve. As said by Frederick Douglas in his 1857 speech, “If there is no struggle, there is no progress.”
Today, we are also reminded of the pre-Christian “pagan” roots of our republic.
Every president, every politician, who takes the oath to uphold our Constitution, are taking an oath that the founders knew would allow for men and women of every faith (or even no faith) to someday take their place among our leadership.They are taking an oath on a document crafted by men who are products of the Enlightenment, whose thinkers looked to ancient pagan thinkers, politicians, and philosophers for wisdom and guidance, unencumbered by the filter of the Christian church.The religious pluralism of the United States of America is a pluralism that had its first breaths in ancient Greece, and later ancient Rome, where a variety of gods, goddesses, cults, sects, and traditions had to live together in a civil society.To return to Professor Majid’s essay, “one can’t imagine the American Republic without the Founding Fathers’ knowledge of Greece and Rome.”Democracy, republicanism, are core pagan inventions, and no matter how Christian the hand who steers the ship of State, those ideals remain lest our institutions crumble.”
As Pagans, Heathens and Polytheists, we can use this day to be thankful that the American founders understood completely that religious freedom meant all religions or none. As said by James Iredell, one of our first Supreme Court Justices:
But it is objected that the people of America may, perhaps, choose representatives who have no religion at all, and that pagans and Mahometans may be admitted into offices. But how is it possible to exclude any set of men, without taking away that principle of religious freedom which we ourselves so warmly contend for? This is the foundation on which persecution has been raised in every part of the world. The people in power were always right, and every body else wrong. If you admit the least difference, the door to persecution is opened.
Happy Independence Day! And, for our friends to the north, Happy Canada Day!