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Religious misconceptions abound in America

Let me come right out and say, I'm atheist! But I'm not here to impose my moral beliefs on you. I'm here to clarify a few minor details about our American lives. For too long now, I've seen a one-sided debate on the role of religion in building our country. People like me are mocked for our interpretation of the events. But our nation's history is not up for interpretation -- what occurred could not be more clear.

America is not a religious nation. America is a nation with some religious people in it. Big difference! Our founding fathers meant it to be that way. Just read the 1796 Treaty of Tripoli, which clearly states that, "America is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion."

The Pledge of Allegiance, originally written in 1892 by Rev. Francis Bellamy, never included the phrase "under God." Congress changed the words in 1954 to include "under God" due to harsh attitudes toward Communism.

It is my firm belief that if Bruce Springsteen's "Born In The USA" was changed to "Born In God's USA," he would be plenty upset. For people to say that pulling the phrase back out would be ruining tradition would be incorrect. The traditional pledge had no mention of God, and should have stayed that way.

According to American history, "In God We Trust" didn't appear on American coins until 1908 and on paper bills until 1957. Forty-eight years is not tradition by any means. I always get the suggestion that if I don't like the currency with God on it, then I should just not use it. What an impossible endeavor. I don't have to go to church, but I do have to carry the words "In God We Trust" around with me everywhere I go.

Article I of our beloved Bill of Rights states, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion." What could be more clear an example than Congress implanting the word God onto our currency? E pluribus unum does the trick for me. United we stand is a good choice, too.

On a more personal note, I believe public schools are called public schools for a reason. If you want to teach your children about intelligent design or the Ten Commandments, enroll them in a religious or private school. If you need the public schools to teach your children about your religion, maybe you're not doing the best job teaching them yourself. Public schools need to be free from religious influences if we are to become a diverse, intelligent society.

Lastly, I believe that religion is extremely intriguing, though not for me. Many people take comfort in the stability it provides them, which is great for communities and the people who live in them.

Even though I am atheist, I believe the world needs religion. Religion provides passion and indifference, love and hatred, friends and enemies. But it does not provide freedom. Our nation has thrived on the principles of freedom too long for them to be squandered by those who seek to impose their views on all people.

Derek Bigelow lives in Williamsville.

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