The day we stop pretending

As we near this annual day of thanks, I would like to take the unusual step of offering gratitude in the name of others. So on behalf of the American Atheists, the Atheist Alliance and the Ayn Rand Institute, I would like to extend a hearty “thank you” to President Bush, his administration and the vast majority of Congress for working so very hard to once and for all extinguish any notion that we are a Christian nation.

Not that I think our populace is suddenly devoid of (a) actual, practicing Christians, (b) the modern-day Pharisees exemplified by Jerry Falwell and his ilk or (c) the vast swaths of vaguely Protestant finger-crossers in between – it’s just that with re-election behind them and apparently uninterested in the 2006 congressional elections, Bush & Co. have, in poker terms, gone “all in” and clearly feel that the time has passed for the need to keep a straight face. If the first thing the president does upon his return to the United States is visit a church, don’t be surprised to see him wearing a T-shirt that reads, “So long, suckers, and thanks for all the votes.”

Frankly, I couldn’t be happier. It’s not that I’m anti-Christian, it’s just that I’m anti-fabrication; it’s not a problem with piety, it’s with the pious pretense. And although I am not a member of any of the aforementioned atheist organizations or necessarily a subscriber to their understanding of the universe, I can’t imagine the mood among such an analytic people, known for their reason and rejection of the supernatural, being anything less than giddy, as well.

What I’m saying is, the jig is up – so let’s drop the act. Once you realize you’ve been swindled, the con goes from being simply deceiving to downright insulting. In the past few years, the decisions of our government have not only radically changed our image abroad, but also altered our de facto reality.

Whatever Jesus we had, we lost him.

We are now the country that looks for loopholes in the Geneva Convention. If we don’t outright torture people as a rule, then we certainly flirt with the notion. When there is a fog of uncertainty between war and diplomacy, we will choose war every time.

Those Americans paying for our engagements in Iraq and Afghanistan with their own blood and those reaping the long-term financial benefits are two entirely different groups of people. In fact, it bears mentioning here that those who led us into this war have direct ties to the corporations now making hundreds of millions of dollars in government contracts. Are we really going to keep pretending that any of this passes the “What Would Jesus Do” test?

Domestically, we are no less confused. With more than two million inmates, the U.S. prison population exceeds both China’s and Russia’s. We’re one of the very few industrialized nations with a death penalty. Thanks to new bankruptcy legislation, should you fall behind on your debt, the credit agencies will pretty much own you forever. While one of the richest countries in the world (with a per capita GDP of $40,100), more than 38 million of our fellow citizens are in a “food insufficient” situation. And so on.

Of course, the crème de la crème of this great unraveling has taken place quite recently. In the wee hours on Friday, the U.S. House of Representatives begged, borrowed and arm-barred their way, by means of a 217-215 majority, into voting for $50 billion worth of spending cuts in social programs, including $700 million from the food stamp programs, which mainly assists working families that have children.

Additionally, Medicaid recipients are looking at new cuts to their program, and some $14 billion is proposed to be cut from student aid. On the bright side, it’s looking like those tax cuts for the richest 1 percent are going to make it through intact after all. So, to some of you, happy Thanksgiving.

In the interminable debate as to whether America was founded as a “Christian nation,” let’s ask ourselves: If so, then to what ends? Not in the metaphysical terms of an imagined afterlife, but in the live-or-die, consequence-oriented mechanics of this world. Is the whole point of a Christian life simply to not have abortions, to not be gay, to support tax cuts and that’s it?

Can our linguistic knowledge be so limited that people simply don’t understand that the “—ian” suffix implies a likeness or an attempt to emulate? A Christian, then, is not someone who simply takes the oath, pays the dues and shows up to all the meetings – that’s what we’ve got the Rotary Club for – but rather an individual who tries to emulate the Christ figure. Did Bush not get the memo on this? Did any of us?

Ryan McGeeney is a senior majoring in political science.

Memorandum on the Geneva Conventions Tossing Aside the Geneva Conventions, Bush Decisions Place U.S. Troops in Greater Danger:

No change in U.S. torture policy:

Bush cabinet corporate ties:

Bankruptcy legislation:

$50 billion budget cuts:

$700 mil cut from food stamps/ hungry families:

cuts to student aid:


prison population:


gay marriage ban: