Atheists are not citizens shock

It’s interesting to see the Washington Post columnist Sally Quinn unabashedly announcing that theism is part of citizenship in the US.

This is a religious country. Part of claiming your citizenship is claiming a belief in God, even if you are not Christian. We’ve got the Creator in our Declaration of Independence. We’ve got “In God We Trust” on our coins. We’ve got “one nation under God” in our Pledge of Allegiance. And we say prayers in the Senate and the House of Representatives to God.

Excuse me. I am a citizen. I don’t have to claim anything (and neither does any other citizen), and I certainly don’t have to claim a belief in god. Nobody has to. Nor does anyone have to claim a disbelief in god.

Up until now, the idea of being American and believing in God were synonymous.

No, they were not.

It’s slightly shocking to see a political columnist betray such ignorance of political basics. A majority opinion is not at all the same thing as being any particular nationality. The claim is both absurd and bossy.

Fortunately there are many comments pointing out how wrong that column is, along with some predictable sexist dreck.



  1. Rodney Nelson says

    While citizenship is not an office, Article VI, Section 2 gives the proper spirit of the relationship between the country and religion:

    …no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.

  2. says

    But also, the 14th amendment stipulates that born in the USA=citizenship. It’s that simple, on purpose. It replaced the previous arrangement by which certain people born in the USA were not citizens, and had “no rights which the white man was bound to respect.” [Dred Scott v Sandford]

  3. Martha says

    Outrageous that a major newspaper would run a hateful editorial like that. Just outrageous.

    A young relative once told me that I couldn’t be in his family if I didn’t believe in God. I told him in no uncertain terms that this is not how we behave in a family. We can disagree about important matters and still love each other. I think he heard me, so it pains me to see adults behave just as childishly about their fellow citizens. Have so many in our country forgotten what citizenship means?

  4. luka says

    “Up until now, the idea of being American and believing in God were synonymous.”

    Is she saying that anyone who believes in God is an American? Because if so, I might conveniently solve some of my Visa problems by rejoining the Catholics.

  5. magistramarla says

    The lines of separation of church and state are really being challenged lately. I’m outraged at the group of preachers who are challenging the rule that they are not to use the pulpit for political purposes. I’m hoping that the IRS comes down hard on them, but I know that this is what they are hoping for.
    I think that they are hoping to force the SCOTUS to have to make a ruling on the separation of church and state.
    It makes it even more important to re-elect President Obama. I would hate to see such a case go to a SCOTUS with Romney appointees.

  6. Beatrice says

    Up until now, the idea of being American and believing in God were synonymous.

    Oh bugger, I really should have traveled to US while I still had citizenship. Unfortunately, I lost it some ten years ago.

  7. Mal Adapted says

    It’s clear-eyed political analysis, not what Quinn herself believes. She saying that Romney’s blatant pandering to theistic prejudices gives him an advantage over Obama. See her previous column, Playing the religion card:

    Morally, however, it [the decision to put the word “God” back into the Democratic platform after taking it out] was more ambiguous. Obama never misses an opportunity, when he talks about religion, to mention those of all faiths and no faith.

    When you add “God” to the Democratic platform you are essentially ignoring the fact that some 15 percent of Americans are either atheists, agnostics, secular humanists or simply say they don’t believe.

    That doesn’t make them less good than those who believe. Osama Bin Laden, for instance, believed in God. What it does make them is disenfranchised. It says, this is a party and a country that doesn’t include you. They may not believe that their potential is God-given. Those who do must know that it goes without saying. So why does it have to be shoved down the throat of the nonbelievers?

    To me, that’s one of the best reasons to vote for Obama, but it won’t necessarily help him win.

  8. Nomen Nescio says

    actually, the oath of citizenship i had to take as part of my naturalization process DID have some goddy language in it.

    i considered that part to be wholly ceremonial and proceeded to blatantly ignore it, of course. after all, the very same oath also had language in it about “enemies foreign and domestic”, and you didn’t see me climbing any book depository stairs along any of then-president Bush’s parade routes carrying any rifles, now did you? yeah, ignored that bit too by the same logic.

  9. says

    Hm. All I see is swelp me god – which is goddy language to be sure, but also formulaic, as you say.

    I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state or sovereignty, of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the armed forces of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law; and that I take this obligation freely without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God.

  10. Ian MacDougall says

    If I wanted to apply and qualify for US citizenship, which god from my polytheist collection would I have to present to them as proof of suitability?

    (Some people collect stamps. I collect gods.)

    I am also a supporter of the late Bishop Arius, though unfortunately his side lost in the famous controversy of 325-381 AD. While being a polytheist, I remain staunchly antitrinitarian. This three-in-one business has never sat well with me. All my gods have to be separate entities.

    Hope that would still be OK.

  11. Mal Adapted says


    Mal, if that’s what she’s doing, she did a very bad job of it. It’s not at all clear that it’s just a cynical instruction to pander.

    I have no reason to defend her, and I agree her intent wasn’t, erm, elegantly stated. AFAICT though, she’s saying that Romney can afford to diss non-believers, but that Obama needs to pander to theistic voters while not appearing to disenfranchise the rest of us. I’m afraid she may be right, so I suppose I’m a cynic too. I’m going to vote for Obama regardless.

  12. ianmacdougall says

    Marcmielce @ #16:

    Precisely. I will have nothing but multiple unitarian gods and goddesses.

  13. says

    I think Liz @7 was responding to David @5, not to #6 or to the OP.

    But we can’t tell, which is why comments like that are rather useless.
    It would be very simple to include a word or two to indicate what you’re disagreeing with, you might even say a bit about why, and it would vastly increase the value of the comment.

    We can all go off half-cocked sometimes, but we should also recognize it when we do and try to limit how often it happens.

  14. duck1887 says

    Lyke, she didn’t go off half-cocked; she forgot to refresh. Or that’s how I read it anyway. In any case, yes, more care is required …

  15. h. hanson says

    I had the same take as Mal in the ninth comment. Of course I doubted my own interpretation at first as I have never read Ms. Quinn before and I’m feeling a bit foggy and slow and I always assume I am the wrong one. But on re-reading twice I still had the same Take as Mal. Cynicism.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *