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Religious references abound in America

I would like to challenge some of the assertions put forth by Derek Bigelow in his Another Voice on Dec. 10. I quote Bigelow: "America is not a religious nation," and "Our founding fathers meant it to be that way."

Our founding fathers also wrote the Declaration of Independence. The introduction states in part, "Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them" and "that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights. . . "

The 1796 Treaty of Tripoli was written by American diplomat Joel Barlow and contains 12 articles. The article that Bigelow alludes to is Article 11, which he wrongly quotes. Article 11 actually states: "As the government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion . . . " -- the key word being government.

Bigelow writes in part, "Article I of our beloved Bill of Rights states . . . " He confuses the articles of the Constitution with the amendments. Article I deals with the Congress and its powers and limitations. Amendment I says, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof . . . "

These important distinctions aside, in his second misstatement, Bigelow omits the phrase "or prohibiting the free exercise thereof."

The Cambridge Dictionary defines the following:

Atheist -- someone who believes that God or gods do not exist.

Agnostic -- someone who does not know, or believes that it is impossible to know, whether a god exists.

From their letters, diaries and documents, we know that many if not most of the founding fathers were Christians. A few were agnostics. In reading the Declaration of Independence, it appears none was offended by the religious references.

Bigelow writes, "According to American history, 'In God We Trust' didn't appear on American coins until 1908."

According to the U.S. Department of the Treasury, the motto first appeared on the 1864 two-cent coin. After 1865 it appeared on the double-eagle coin, gold eagle coin, gold half-eagle coin, silver dollar coin, half-dollar coin, quarter-dollar coin and on the nickel three-cent coin beginning in 1866.

Bigelow writes, "Public schools need to be free from religious influences if we are to become a diverse, intelligent society." Exclusion and diversity are diametric.

I find it ironic that Bigelow is intrigued by religion yet finds the words "In God We Trust" so offensive that he wants them struck from our currency. He is entitled to his opinions. We can agree to disagree.

Merry Christmas and God bless you, Bigelow. If you are offended by my blessing and good wishes, you may even be thinking, "Go to hell." If those are your feelings, perhaps you are not an atheist after all.

Richard R. Richmond II lives in Batavia.

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