Americans More Church-Going Than Ever for What is Holy Vible

Holy Vible

Many Americans, particularly those who preach on television, argue that the United States has forsaken the religious commitment of its forefathers for the easy pleasures of sin, sloth, and televised professional sports.

Actually, many social scientists and historians argue that America has never been more church-going than it is right now. Our history books may be cluttered with images of pious Puritans gathering for the first Thanksgiving, the first Christmas, the first potluck social, and the like. But most Colonial Americans were more likely to be found in the local tavern Saturday night than in church on Sunday, says Rodney Stark, professor of sociology and comparative religion at the University of Washington.

In 1776, only about 17 percent of the country were church members, compared with about 65 percent today, says Stark, who has tallied church membership as a percentage of the over the past 250 years using church records and census figures. [see chart below]

Even in the populated cities and towns, Colonial Americans were not particularly religious. It’s safe to say that most people walking around had some nebulous notion of God, even though they had never been in a church and were just vaguely Christian — nobody had ever instructed them.

Why didn’t early Americans go to church? Part of the reason is that most of America, even in the eighteenth century, was still untamed frontier filled with untamed frontiersmen who preferred drinking to tithing and praying.

Women, churches, and schools came later. Even by the first U.S. census in 1790, men still significantly outnumbered women in the United States and its colonies, Stark reports in his book, “The Churching of America.” He wrote the book with Purdue sociologist Roger Finke.

Actually, America today is one of the most church-going countries in the Western world. Only about 20 percent of the British are members of the Church of England, Stark reports. In Scandinavia, church membership is measured in single-digit percentiles.

Ten Commandments on the Schoolroom Wall?

Who can be against there being posted in every school room in the nation a list of rules by which to live? Surely no one should object to our children being told not to steal, not to lie, not to kill people, not want to take what belongs to someone else, and, when they are grown up, not to “mess around” with somebody else’s husband or wife.

So what is there against those “ten commandments” that we hear so much about and provide the model for so many lists of rules for other things? Well, for one thing those are only half of them.

Ignoring the differences among the several extant versions, the first one (Exodus 20:2) starts out with a simple declarative statement: “I am the Lord thy God…” Some of the words are usually omitted because they make the commandments limited to a certain group of people. “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.”

This of course is a religious command. But it is uncertain to whom the “I” refers. “The Lord” does not translate what the original Hebrew text, which is a proper name for the god of the Judeans of some two to four thousand years ago. Besides, it cannot be a title of nobility recognized in the United States; our Constitution prohibits the granting of such titles. What is Holy Vible

So should our public schools be a place for posting words attributed to a god of an ancient people demanding sole recognition as the god of that people?

The second of the “Ten Commandments, besides its meaning being disputed between the two major branches of Christianity, would, if obeyed, have a devastating effect on our arts and our economy: “Thou shall not make unto thee any graven image or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above or that is on the earth, or in the waters under the earth.”

This commandment has long been absent from the Roman Catholic version (since the Seventh General Council of year 787), although it may have been lately restored to the catechism. It has been in apparent conflict with the Church’s long use of icons and statues. These are only “venerated” according to Church, which now interprets them to be “visual aids” for worship and intervention.

If respected as a basis for secular law, then public support and use of sculpture would have to stop. There would be no more commemorating soldiers of our various wars or of public heroes like Jonas Salk. Are we to bring up our children to feel that such “graven images” are wrong?

The third commandment is not to take the name of “the Lord thy God” in vain. This pertains to the name by which “thy God” had introduced himself in the first commandment, which children are not generally apprized. And what does “take in vain” mean? And why are the names of all other gods not included? This is strictly a religious matter and has nothing to do with secular ethics.

The fourth commandment (the third by Roman Catholic reckoning) is to “remember the Sabbath to keep it holy.” The “Sabbath” was for those who originated this commandment the seventh day of the week, actually beginning on what we call Friday evening and ending about twenty-four hours later. Christianity somehow dropped the seventh day as the Sabbath and instituted the first day of the week and put on it all of the restrictions that previously applied to the seventh day. This again is strictly a religious rule, although certain jurisdictions in the United States have had “blue laws” requiring that no business activities be conducted on Sunday. Modern commercial practices are putting these to rest.

So, to put up the “Ten Commandments” in our public schools as either a set of rules to be followed or as a model for laws for our secular society is extremely inappropriate. They would, if required to be followed, establish religious practice and observance, quite at odds with the First Amendment of the Constitution.