I lost a longtime and close personal friend to COVID-19 earlier this week and it brought home how misinformation and political posturing has led to the continued spread and growth of the virus.
It also made me more sensitive to those who play political games with this vile killer that has infected our county, the Old Dominion, our nation and the world.
Sensitivity to that issue came to a head with some on Facebook Wednesday when I got into a heated debate with over the virus and what I felt was overt partisanship.
As happens too often in debates on one issue, someone bought up n unrelated issue of abortion in discussion on if the Coronavirus was a political issue to defeat the current president. Another talked about a tax cut that existed long before the virus hit our shores.
One called Democrats guilty of “murdering unborn children” because, he claimed, they all support abortion.
I know Republicans who are pro-choice and Democrats who support pro-life. Independents claim allegiance to both sides of the issue. Is a person a “murderer” because he or she supports a federal law that allows abortion? Not in the eyes of the U.S. Supreme Court. Some religions feel “life” begins at conception. Others do not. The Supreme Court has not ruled on that issue but, in Roe v. Wade, ruled abortion is legal in certain situations.
Conservatives expected Roe vs. Wade to be either emasculated or reversed after appointment of two conservatives to the high court but decisions in recent weeks has struck down an attempt to place more restrictions on abortion, expanded benefits to gays, lesbians and trans-genders and shown the court to be guided more by law than political leanings.
The Supreme Court has also ruled that same-sex marriage is legal, which angers religious fundamentalists and evangelicals, who claim “God’s law” should supersede the Constitution and the laws that elected officials and law enforcement officers swear an oath to uphold.
Yet the United States Constitution does not mention any god directly and the First Amendment’s right to free speech gives Americans the right to accept, or not accept, a religion.
Some state constitutions have tried to force a “belief in God” as a requirement to hold public office but every one has been overruled by the U.S. Constitution. State constitutions mention God — in one form or another — at least once.
Writes Alexandra Sandstrom of Pew Research:
The U.S. Constitution never explicitly mentions God or the divine, but the same cannot be said of the nation’s state constitutions. In fact, God or the divine is mentioned at least once in each of the 50 state constitutions and nearly 200 times overall, according to a Pew Research Center analysis.
All but four state constitutions – those in Colorado, Iowa, Hawaii and Washington – use the word “God” at least once. The constitutions in Colorado, Iowa and Washington refer to a “Supreme Being” or “Supreme Ruler of the Universe,” while Hawaii’s constitution makes reference to the divine only in its preamble, which states that the people of Hawaii are “grateful for Divine Guidance.”–Pew Research
No state Constitution, however, can overrule the U.S. one. Those who tried failed in rulings by the Supreme Court.
Another Pew survey in 2019 found that basic knowledge of religions scored higher among atheists and agnostics than most others who claimed to belong to a religious denomination or believe in a supreme being.
The only group that outperforms atheists and agnostics on the survey’s questions about world religions other than Christianity is Jews, who correctly answer an average of 7.7 of the survey’s 13 questions on these topics.
Three presidents in America’s history did not take their oaths of office with their hands on a Bible. Theodore Roosevelt did not use any book when taking the oath in 1901. John Quincy Adams and Franklin Pierce swore their oaths on books of law, saying they were swearing their oaths to the Constitution and not any books attributed to a supreme being.
Religions and beliefs, legal scholars argue, are faiths, not laws. Faith, they add, is based on personal beliefs and cannot be applied universally.
“Congress shall make no law establishing articles of faith, or a mode of worship, or prohibiting the free exercise of religion,” says the U.S. Constitution. The First Amendment also gives those who choose to not accept any religion the right to do so.
Those who feel religious belief should be a mandate and not a right disagree but the faith they might embrace may not be Christianity that much longer.
Writes Michael Lipka and Conrad Hackett of Pew Research Center:
In the next half century or so, Christianity’s long reign as the world’s largest religion may come to an end, according to a just-released report that builds on Pew Research Center’s original population growth projections for religious groups. Indeed, Muslims will grow more than twice as fast as the overall world population between 2015 and 2060 and, in the second half of this century, as the world’s largest religious group.
The growth of the Muslim population also is helped by the fact that Muslims have the youngest median age (24 in 2015) of all major religious groups, more than seven years younger than the median age of non-Muslims (32).–Pew Research
In America, that same age group currently claims no allegiance to any religious faith but an increasing number turn to Islam. A good friend says he feels the Muslim religion offers him more than Christianity. If Pew’s projections are correct, he is not alone.
Among those who have converted to Islam, a majority come from a Christian background. In fact, about half of all converts to Islam (53%) identified as Protestant before converting; another 20% were Catholic.–Pew Research
However, Pew’s surveys also show more and more Americans, especially the younger ones, no longer embrace any religious denomination.
They might be agnostic, or atheist, or simply believe in God but not in organized religion. If the choice is Muslim, they should kneel here in Virginia and pray towards the North-Northeast.