Can a nation survive when its founding principle is disconnected from God? It’s a question I’ve been pondering lately with each new poll suggesting America is moving away from its Judeo-Christian roots.
Though it will offend modern sensibilities in our multi-cultural age, I believe the answer is no.
America has been free and tolerant specifically because the founders built the country on a profoundly moral idea, which is captured in the second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
I’ll be clear about this: The creator the founders were referencing is the God of the Torah and New Testament.
What separates the United States from other countries is that it was founded on an idea — that our rights are given to us not by the state or by man but by God. This idea has elevated our discourse and been the common thread of social change, from the anti-slavery and civil rights movements to the cause of women’s suffrage and efforts to end abortion. All these movements were rooted in the idea of respecting people’s worth as endowed by God.
But that notion is also unique to the Judeo-Christian worldview. Muslims, Buddhists, Atheists don’t believe this. One cannot adhere strictly to Islamic law and also uphold the Constitution. Sharia law rejects the freedoms – of conscience, speech, religion, etc. – that flow from this founding principle.
Unlike other faiths, Islam, as it is practiced throughout much of the world, is totalitarian in nature: It is not only a religion but a framework designed to apply to all areas of society — including government, the law and even the military.
I’m raising all of this because cultural observers, demographers and others have established that America is experiencing a falling away of Judeo-Christian beliefs even as we bring in more people who were never part of this tradition.
A new Pew Research Center report finds that in the next 25 years Islam will overtake Judaism to become America’s second leading religion. According to Pew, immigration accounts for roughly half the Muslim population growth, while the other half is due to natural growth from higher birth rates.
A 2013 Pew Research Center report found that while most immigrants are Christian, a “rising share” adhere to other faiths, most prominently Islam.
The report notes that the “geographic origins [of immigrants] gradually have been shifting” from Europe and the Americas to Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle-East-North-Africa regions, places where Christianity and Judaism are less common. In fact, according to U.S. government data, a majority (53 percent) of new permanent residents now come from Asia, the Middle East or Africa. That’s up from 41 percent in 1992.
The U.S. grants permanent residency to about one-million immigrants, including 260,000 non- Christians and 140,000 religiously unaffiliated. Pew estimates that between 1992 and 2012, the U.S. admitted 2.8 million religiously unaffiliated immigrants, 1.7 million Muslim immigrants and half a million Hindus. Meanwhile, says Pew, the number of legal Christian immigrants admitted per year has decreased since 2006.
Many immigrants come to America precisely because they are attracted to aspects of the nation that spring from Judeo Christian culture. But it is difficult to see that the nation can survive when those who believe in its founding idea — that our liberty comes from God — are no longer a majority of the population
America is exceptional in many ways and for many reasons. But what makes it truly unique is the recognition that absent a belief in God, our liberty may soon fade away.
Former presidential candidate Gary Bauer is president of American Values and chairman of the Campaign for Working Families. Follow him @GaryLBauer