“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;” – The U.S. Bill of Rights, 1st Amendment
Freedom of religion is one of the most taken for granted American qualities. We keep our government secular which counterintuitively protects all the thousands of religions, beliefs, and lifestyles we choose. But compared to many other nations and most of history, this is not the standard model.
Americans take many things for granted. We love to complain about almost anything, from healthcare, justice, mega capitalists, media, and just about any public service you can name.
Despite our nosy complaints, we Americans have it pretty good. Nothing that is real is perfect. We have high quality healthcare that is becoming more accessible. The justice system is extensive and protective of individual rights. Our capitalist economy does exactly what it is supposed to: generate wealth and keep growing. We have the privilege to complain about freely created media. Our public servants do care and government corruption is not as rampant as it could be. Washington and “defense” and “security” forces are shady, but I’ve never known a regular government worker who didn’t take public service seriously.
In theocracies like Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Europe a few centuries ago, state sponsored religion always causes issues. Religion is invariably used by rulers to control and manipulate the masses. Non believers or believers in minority faiths are marginalized and often suffer violence. Politics poisons religion, and religion poisons politics. When faith is politicized, the point of it is lost and we get rulers with self declared “divine mandates” justify anything they do. Religious policy replaces pragmatic policy. Religious freedom prevents the perversion of faith in America.
In nontheist states where no religion is permitted at all, the exact same scenarios play out. Instead of minority faiths being persecuted, all faiths are. Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union, and modern North Korea are extreme examples of aggressively nontheist states. In those places, the belief in the state becomes the only acceptable faith. Believe in Aryan, Russian, or Korean superiority is as much a religion as anything else, and serves ruling forces very well.
Many people say the United States is a christian nation, and always has been. That’s not true at all. Christianity has always been the dominant force in American society, but the United States is not a christian country. People only swear on the bible instead of the constitution because George Washington started the tradition. Ever since the Cold War our money assumes everyone holding it believes in a god (and to highlight that money and religion were things the Soviets didn’t have).
But this is still a far cry from banning and persecuting religions the way many nations do today.Countless religious groups came here to escape state religions, deciding that everyone was free to do whatever they pleased without infringing on others.
Despite some religious encroachment on the government, religious freedom is one of the most positive ideals that America has to offer. Freedom of, or from, religion is the one of the core principles which the colonies were founded upon. If we didn’t have this protected right, maybe I wouldn’t be able to have my Quaker beliefs? Maybe my neighbors wouldn’t be allowed to pray and practice their beliefs?
Thanks for reading! I want to know what you think about religious freedom’s role in American society!
As always on America the Amazing, I try to bring light to the best, worst, and most interesting parts of my beloved homeland, and figure out what it means to be a True American.
“Information, ideas, or rumors deliberately spread widely to help or harm a person, group, movement, institution, etc.” -Dictionary.com
“The voice of the people expresses the mind of the people, and that mind is made up for it by the group leaders in whom it believes and by those persons who understand the manipulation of public opinion.” -Edward Bernays, Author of Crystallizing Public Opinion, 1923 and Propaganda, 1928
PROPAGANDA IS ESSENTIAL TO AMERICAN DEMOCRACY, BOTH GOOD and BAD. We need to be conscious of the dangers and benefits of a nation that fosters the protected use of propaganda. Propaganda’s role in our democracy is integral and affects you life and opinions.
“It is one of the manifestations of democracy that any one may try to convince others and to assume leadership on behalf of his own thesis.” -Edward Bernays, Author of Crystallizing Public Opinion, 1923 and Propaganda, 1928
THE UNITED STATES WAS BORN BY PROPAGANDA. Colonial Americans protested British rule and defended their view to express their propaganda which offended the Crown. Since then, propaganda has sustained the Union and continues to guide the course of American politics today. The term ‘propaganda’ is a neutral term, though it has unfortunately become a dirty word.
Used by abusive corporations, then wartime governments, then authoritarian governments and extremist movements, propaganda has become notorious for deceiving the public and influencing public affairs. Many Americans think propaganda is some new force invading the culture, but really it’s been here the whole time and we need to understand that.
Ever since the Federalist Papers (which convinced the 13 colonies to unite against the British), Americans have shaped public opinion by putting forth their held beliefs and trying to convince others to either agree or at least understand them. Democracy cannot function without compromise (which sadly has also become a dirty word). Compromise requires a basic understanding of what everyone wants so that common ground can be found.
The 1st Amendment protects every person’s right to express their beliefs and points of view, especially if it is unpopular. Most rights become null when it unjustly infringes on others, such as advocating violence, slander, libel, or any other reasonable limit that society approves. Without the ability to safely express minority opinions, the majority has the potential to oppress every other member of society. The American majority has the mandate to rule, not to oppress indefinitely.
PROPAGANDA EMPOWERS ANY INDIVIDUAL OR GROUP TO HAVE A VOICE. Whether it is criticizing an allegedly corrupt government official, arguing that women are being denied the right to vote, or that you think Kanye West is an asshole, voicing one’s opinion without fear of state censure is important. You can make jokes about the president and the powers that be. You can criticize or support things like laws, tax policies, and government programs. You can advocate for civil rights and the politically marginalized. Propaganda allows all topics to be discussed and all opinions a voice.
PROPAGANDA HAS A DARK SIDE. Blind faith in authority is dangerous, you must always question and evaluate what you are being told.
“Only through the wise use of propaganda will our government, considered as the continuous administrative organ of the people, be able to maintain that intimate relationship with the public which is necessary in a democracy.” -Edward Bernays
The master of spin had it correct. Bernays toppled Guatemala’s government-a democratically elected government- for American capitalist interests. His irresponsible use of propaganda certainly created an “intimate relationship” with the public. Nazi propaganda is infamous for facilitating the creation of Hitler’s extreme nationalist government, he even created the world’s first ministry of propaganda. American and Soviet propaganda brainwashed their citizens into thinking the other nation was comprised of murderous non humans, allowing both governments to lock down control over a fearful public. Today, North Korean propaganda is oppressing millions of people under a brutal authoritarian monarchy.
Propaganda can create fascist states and it can also create democratic states. The difference is that one group creates the propaganda, or a free marketplace of ideas creates it. You choose.
Propaganda is part of democracy. Neither inherently good or bad, communication and compromise between 314 million Americans would be impossible without the ability to broadcast our beliefs. You have been submersed in American Propaganda your whole life, whether it’s conservative Fox News and Drudge Report, or the NBC network and Huffington Post. It’s all All-American propaganda.
As always on America the Amazing, I try to bring light to the best, worst, and most interesting parts of my beloved home, and figure out what it means to be a True American. Thanks for reading! Tell me what you think about propaganda’s relationship with democracy!
“A ruler with total power over a country, typically one who has obtained power by force.” -Oxford Dictionary
“If this were a dictatorship, it’d be a heck of a lot easier…just as long as I’m the dictator.” -Former President George W. Bush
President Obama’s critics have accused him of many crimes. The number and scope of these accusations is too long to list, but they can all be summarized by the root statement that “Obama is a Dictator.” That’s right, America is a dictatorship now, and our dictator is socialist muslim Martian.
It may sound a little ridiculous at first. After all, didn’t he win two democratic elections by wide margins? Don’t we have a military for invading other countries, not suppressing us at home? Doesn’t Obama have meaningful opposition keeping his power in check?
WRONG! He’s a dictator. This article explains why we live in a police state where all the guns have been taken away, religion is illegal, Obama rules unopposed through executive orders, and he has turned America into a socialist, muslim, atheist paradise built for illegal aliens such as Mexicans and Martians.
Prominent writers and political thinkers Orson Scott Card, Richard Cordray, and a growing number of brave souls have explained exactly how Obama has become an unchecked dictator. House Rep. Randy Weber even tweeted during the 2014 State of the Union address that Obama is a “socialist dictator.” At least someone in congress has the balls to speak up, even if he doesn’t have any hard evidence. But we don’t need evidence to prove what we already know is true. Here’s why Obama is a dictator.
Obama Rules Without Congress
Many brave members of congress unilaterally oppose anything King Hussein Obama does, but it isn’t enough anymore. Last January, Obama declared he was going to use his power to issue executive orders to act where congress disapproves. He is starting the transformation from the president with the lowest use of executive order power since 1885 to the new Stalin. He’s pushing his 33.5 average orders a year up towards Reagan’s 47.6, past Kennedy’s 75.4, all the way up to Franklin Roosevelt’s 290.7. Remember that massively unpopular communist president that was “elected” 4 times? That’s Obama’s goal. Thankfully, the GOP is now considering suing him for ordering too much.
We Live In A Big Brother Police State
By expanding the NSA mass surveillance program authorized by George W. Bush, Obama has cemented domestic spying on U.S citizens by our own government, step 1 in making a Big Brother regime a reality. When you can track all dissenters, you can then remove all the opposition. Obama banned torture (because he loves terrorists and hates U.S. interrogators) to look better and less dictator-y. Wake up people! It’s a distraction! Who needs that when you can simply track and disappear enemies?
There Is No Opposition To Obama Left Alive
Obama found all those dissenters and silenced them Putin style. That’s why all those those Republican senators, House Reps, and conservative pundits have been mysteriously disappearing recently- or openly assassinated. Sure, the liberal media hasn’t told you about it, and you probably haven’t heard about it from any conservative source either. Still, it’s probably started.
Obama Didn’t Take Away All The Guns…Or Did He?
No, he didn’t. He didn’t even try. But still, you know he wants to. The increased funding for school safety, more police officers in high gun violence areas, gun violence prosecution, mental health awareness, and illegal gun trafficking crackdowns are a ploy. He wants our guns, the next step in making us helpless against Big Brother.. In 2008 he even said economic issues made Pennsylvanians “get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy toward people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.” As a Pennsylvanian, I’m feeling pretty bitter right now. What’s wrong with hating new immigrants? Why are guns and religion now illegal?
Religion Is Now Illegal
Well, it isn’t…yet. It’s actually stronger now, but in all the wrong ways. Obama’s increased support for government cooperation with religion is a travesty. Religion should be the government (Christianity, not all the fake ones), and the atheist separation of church and state is evil, and unconstitutional. If Islamic law overruling American law is constitutional, it’s obvious Obama’s muslim agenda has supplanted real America.
America Is Islamic And Socialist
You don’t believe me? There’s a muslim community center 2 blocks from the World Trade Center Memorial, meant to foster “understanding and peace” with America. No True American is fooled by this oppressive takeover. Also, remember when Obama bailed out the largest and most powerful capitalistic institutions in America? Only a socialist government prop up corrupt and failing businesses.
Obama Is A Martian
He’s not even American! The CIA denies it, so you know it has to be true! No wonder he’s so bent on immigration “reform.”
As always on America the Amazing, I try to bring light to the best, worst, and most interesting parts of my beloved home, and figure out what it means to be a True American. Also, Orson Scott Card really is a fantastic writer and you should check him out. Image credit goes to Jason Heuser.
Thanks for reading, please share and comment!
Telling Lies to children
For 6 years, I worked at a summer camp called Camp Onas (Which I highly recommend sending your children to). As anyone who has a child, works with children, mentors children, or speaks with children, knows a few sacred laws that guide your interactions with them.
- Kids constantly ask questions.
- Some questions you cannot answer fully or honestly.
- Kids have bullshit detectors.
- Kids are also people.
- People can be deceived.
As a camp counselor that was in charge of keeping my boys happy and healthy while also fulfilling my professional duties, I found it impossible to always take the time to explain ‘what’s and ‘why’s in comprehensible terms for young minds. On choice occasions I, like any adult in charge of children, lied.
Call them White Lies, call them Simplified Truths, or whatever other name you can find. Lying is a valuable skill that everybody does everyday, even you. The vast majority of these are harmless.
How are you! I’m fine.
Have any change? Sorry, no.
How do I look? Great!
Will you call me? Absolutely babe!
Do you want to take the trash out? Yeah, sure…
If everyone was completely honest all the time we would probably tear each other to pieces. You’re actually having a bad day, but that person can’t help, so why burden them with the awkwardness? You do have change, you just don’t want to give it to him. Your friend isn’t going to look good no matter what they wear, so you give an ego boost instead of telling them that. Telling somebody you won’t call is an level of awkward you want to avoid. Does anybody truly want to take the trash out? Really?
I found working with children as an excellent and safe opportunity to practice responsible lying without risking real consequences. Some of my lies didn’t work and kids saw through them. Others worked spectacularly, and I learned where to draw lines. Here are some links to my favorite lies.
Telling Lies to Children: The Animal Testing Facility
People will believe any lie that claims the U.S. government is behind it.
“Ok Kids, you know how the other half of camp is all woods, the Upper Fields, and that you can’t go past the top of the ridge? You do? Good!
But do you know why you can’t go there? Well part of it is private property, but most of it is land that camp actually owns.
You see, before camp was here the government had an animal testing facility deep in the woods. They did all kinds of strange and secret things, everything from testing chemicals and radiation, creating hybrid animals, and even making entirely new animals. Only believable because of our opaque government.
Eventually, the military moved it’s secret and unethical operations to more secure areas like area 51 and Antarctica, so the importance of the facility faded. People in the surrounding countryside had grown frightened of the strange creature that prowled the woods near the facility and rumors and stories began to spread. Ignore that there are zero reports of this.
The government decided to sell the land, but no one wanted it even as they dropped the price to almost nothing. Eventually, camp Onas agreed to buy all the land around the facility for dirt cheap, on the one condition that it also had to buy the facility. Camp did, and has let it fall to ruins and overgrow. Seems plausible, right?
However, strange creatures still do roam these woods in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, and strange things still happen. If you pay attention you might see something strange and unnatural… and it might see you. Yeah, let’s see you leave counselor supervision now!
So kids, that’s why you should not go into the woods without an adult present. Now stop asking questions and stay out of the damn woods.” Seriously, stop going into the woods alone.
America the Amazing: Doublethink Patriotism
“Doublethink means the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them.” -George Orwell
July 4th fever may have passed, but the fire of mindless patriotism burns in my heart every day of the year. There’s something so special about the American concept of patriotism. Surveys, and every European I’ve met, describe how Americans are incredibly upbeat and optimistic about our nation, while we simultaneously decry every flaw and evil in the country. It’s always been a theme of our short history.
This may sound critical of the U.S., but rest assured that I really do love our culture. This isn’t satire or an attack on the America, but rather thoughts and researched facts.
See, the United States doesn’t really have a history, not like established cultures like China, India, the patchwork of European states and various regions in the Middle East. America has very little common history and culture, so we’ve found a few pieces of common ground to stand on.
We can all celebrate the ‘melting pot’ culture of America and diversity of heritages.
We can all celebrate our democratic and federal structure.
We all laud how people are politically equal.
We can all celebrate our favorite national pastime and heritage: War.
Americans love fighting, and the ones who don’t love even love fighting the ones who do. After all, our governmental system of checks and balances is expressly designed to keep people fighting and ensure absolute power will never be too concentrated. However, true to American doublethink, we also know a few other things.
America is diverse, but is bad at mixing and melting together (the unending need for civil rights movements, expansions and actual enabling of voting processes).
We know that our democratic government is actually an oligarchy (a governing system where a few powerful interests make all real decisions).
People are not even close to being politically or economically equal, and the legal system discriminates, as it is easily circumvented by power (1%, incarceration vs rehabilitation, weed dealers go to jail and white collar crime gets fines).
America is the bully in the international playground (our military is ridiculously powerful).
Americans love wars of all kinds. We have official wars and little conflicts we feel are too small to count. America does it big. America’s been in around 68 armed conflicts so far in the short history of our nation. Beyond that, we’ve funded and supplied countless terrorist groups, freedom fighters, oil coups, toppled and replaced authoritarian governments, and much, much more. We rebelled from the British Empire so we could start our own. Haters gonna hate, but Americans practice de facto Imperialism correctly.
America loves social wars too. The various social movements to expand voting rights, the abolitionist movement, alcohol prohibition, the progressive era, the ideological efforts to destroy communism, war on polio, the war on drugs, the current war on privacy, and even more! America is, in many ways, a nation of Jihad. You are with us or you aren’t, which means you need some democracy brought to you.
(Caution to other nations: side effects of not being with us include, but are not limited to: Trade sanctions, the evidence of WMDs hidden somewhere unfindable, carpet bombing, and erections longer than 4 hours).
But all (bad) humor aside, America does have a crusading spirit and it isn’t inherently bad. Most of the time it is great, what we call the American spirit! That go-getter attitude to succeed, to do great things good or bad, but great nonetheless. I really do love America and the ideals and history we’ve created for ourselves. Our culture of blind, hopelessly optimistic patriotism is incredible. If someone starts chanting ‘U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A!’ and you automatically and unconsciously join in, you know you’ve caught eagle fever.
In the end, our capacity for doublethink might be the reason we keep changing our society through constant self criticism leading to redemption. Doublethink makes America great.
I’ll end this first blog by thanking you for reading, and to know that this post will continue into America the Amazing series. I also want to share my version of the pledge allegiance, and probably the more correct version we should all adopt.
“I pledge allegiance to the People of the United States of America, our Constitution, and The Republic for which it stands; One nation, Indivisible, with Liberty, Opportunity, and Justice for all.”