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“Thou shalt have no other god before me.”  (Exodus 20:3 KJV)

First Public Atheist Monument

June 29, 2013

Atheists set to unveil first public monument at Florida courthouse

The basic argument: If the Ten Commandments can be displayed on public properties, then so can atheist messages, the group said. The group won the right to put its monument at the Bradford County Courthouse in Starke, Fla., in March.

This is the headline and a paragraph from the Washington Times - dated June 28th - yesterday - the day before the unveiling.


The argument -
like it or not -
actually makes sense.

That is, of course -
if the assumptions are true.

There’s another paragraph in the Times article -

American Atheists is based in New Jersey and touts a membership of 4,000, RNS reported. It’s battled for years for the right to display its monument on public properties, calling it a constitutional right and claiming that deniers are guilty of First Amendment discrimination.

The question here is whether it really is a constitutional right based on the first amendment.

This quote would tend to show that -
no matter whether the premise is actually true or not -
it has been de facto treated as true -
since it’s the same argument that Christians have used for years.

This is the first sign of danger for those expecting the government to “save” them -
expecting the government to essentially protect, promote and defend their religion.
That belief is fine -
as long as the religion under question is the one the person belongs to.
The problem is -
this is a free society (supposedly) -
and other people can and do believe in other religions.

Don’t like that thought?
Well - it’s the same one God has.
He gives us the right to follow Him - or not.
He doesn’t force us to believe a certain way.
The government shouldn’t either.
God can and will punish those who go against Him - in the end.
The government however - should not.

Look at the Jews and the early Christians.
They were under Roman rule.
The Roman government certainly wasn’t protecting, promoting or defending either religion.
No - they protected, promoted and defending emperor worship.
Not to say it was a good thing -
just to point out that the early Christians didn’t have or expect government support.
In fact - they had the opposite.


Going to the atheists.org web site, we see this in an article titled Press Release: Atheists to Unveil Florida Courthouse Monument

The monument features an excerpt from the Treaty of Tripoli, signed by President John Adams, which declares “The United States is in no sense founded on the Christian religion”; and excerpts from the Bible, quoting the biblical punishments for breaking each of the Ten Commandments–many command death.


I point this out to show the history of where this thought process comes from.  The Treaty of Tripoli was also know as the Treaty of Peace and Friendship between the United States of America and the Bey and Subjects of Tripoli of Barbary.  It was signed November 4, 1796.

Sounds pretty boring -
and it was a long time ago -
so why is it significant.

Well -
here’s a little history of the Barbary Pirates, from Wikipedia -

For three centuries up to the time of the Treaty, the Mediterranean Sea lanes had been preyed on by the North African Muslim states of the Barbary Coast (Tripoli, Algiers, Morocco and Tunis) through privateering (government-sanctioned piracy). Hostages captured by the Barbary pirates were either ransomed or forced into slavery, contributing to the greater Ottoman slave trade (of which the Barbary states were a segment). Life for the captives often was harsh, especially for Christian captives, and many died from their treatment. Some captives "went Turk", that is, converted to Islam, a choice that made life in captivity easier for them.

Before the American Revolution, the British colonies in North America were protected from the Barbary pirates by British warships and treaties. During the Revolution, the Kingdom of France formed an alliance with the colonies and assumed the responsibility of providing protection of U.S. ships against the Barbary pirates. After the U.S. won its independence with the signing of the Treaty of Paris (1783), it had to face the threat of the Barbary pirates on its own. Two American ships were captured by Algerian pirates in July 1785 and the survivors forced into slavery, their ransom set at $60,000. A rumor that Benjamin Franklin, who was en route from France to Philadelphia about that time, had been captured by Barbary pirates, caused considerable upset in the U.S.  Without a standing navy, much less a navy capable of projecting force across an ocean, the U.S. was forced to pay tribute monies and goods to the Barbary nations for the security of its ships and the freedom of its captured citizens. As General William Eaton informed newly appointed Secretary of State John Marshall in 1800, "It is a maxim of the Barbary States, that 'The Christians who would be on good terms with them must fight well or pay well.'"

Now it’s getting interesting.
Muslims versus Christians.
The more things change - the more they stay the same.
Or is it -
If we don’t learn from history, we are doomed to repeat it.


To make things even more interesting -
there’s Article 11 of this treaty.
It seems that Article 11 was in the English version -
but not in the Arabic version.
There are all sorts of debates about why this happened -
but nothing appears to be definitive -
so the debate rages on.

In any case -
the quote above that is on this atheist status -
that’s from Article 11.

In the interest of complete disclosure and knowledge of what’s really going on -
the entire treaty (English version) is available at the Yale Law School Avalon Project.
Here’s Article 11 -

Art. 11. As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion,—as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquility, of Mussulmen [Muslims],—and as the said States never entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mahometan [Muslim] nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.

Again - there are varying views as to what this really means.

Some believe it means exactly what it says - that the U. S. in no way had its basis in Christianity.

Others says it’s a poor translation of the original Arabic treaty.

Others say it was an attempt to show that the young country was going to interact with other countries according to its laws - not its religion -

According to Frank Lambert, Professor of History at Purdue University, the assurances in Article 11 were "intended to allay the fears of the Muslim state by insisting that religion would not govern how the treaty was interpreted and enforced. John Adams and the Senate made clear that the pact was between two sovereign states, not between two religious powers." Lambert writes,

"By their actions, the Founding Fathers made clear that their primary concern was religious freedom, not the advancement of a state religion. Individuals, not the government, would define religious faith and practice in the United States. Thus the Founders ensured that in no official sense would America be a Christian Republic. Ten years after the Constitutional Convention ended its work, the country assured the world that the United States was a secular state, and that its negotiations would adhere to the rule of law, not the dictates of the Christian faith. The assurances were contained in the Treaty of Tripoli of 1797 and were intended to allay the fears of the Muslim state by insisting that religion would not govern how the treaty was interpreted and enforced. John Adams and the Senate made clear that the pact was between two sovereign states, not between two religious powers.


This quote from Lambert claims that our dealings with others will be based on the rule of law - that we would not be a Christian Republic.  It says nothing about how that rule of law was developed.  Our rule of law could very well have been based on Christianity.

But that begs the question - why was the statement As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion, in the document?  It must have meant something!


Or did it?

A second Treaty of Tripoli signed on July 4, 1805 superseded the 1796 treaty. The 1805 treaty did not contain the phrase "not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion."


In the second treaty -
called the Treaty of Peace and Amity -
also available from the Avalon Project at Yale Law School
the issue of “religion” is now addressed in Article 14 -

Article 14th  As the Government of the United States of America, has in itself no character of enmity against the Laws, Religion or Tranquility of Musselmen, and as the said States never have entered into any voluntary war or act of hostility against any Mahometan Nation, except in the defence of their just rights to freely navigate the High Seas: It is declared by the contracting parties that no pretext arising from Religious Opinions, shall ever produce an interruption of the Harmony existing between the two Nations; And the Consuls and Agents of both Nations respectively, shall have liberty to exercise his Religion in his own house; all slaves of the same Religion shall not be Impeded in going to said Consuls house at hours of Prayer. The Consuls shall have liberty and personal security given them to travel within the Territories of each other, both by land and sea, and shall not be prevented from going on board any Vessel that they may think proper to visit; they shall have likewise the liberty to appoint their own Drogoman and Brokers.


Very interesting.

Let’s go back to the three assumptions about what the statement As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion, in the original treaty could have meant.

  1. Some believe it means exactly what it says - that the U. S. in no way had its basis in Christianity.
  2. Others says it’s a poor translation of the original Arabic treaty.
  3. Others say it was an attempt to show that the young country was going to interact with other countries according to its laws - not its religion.

The likelihood of #1 being the case is greatly diminished by the total lack of this “non-Christian” nation line of thought in the second treaty.  In fact - it points to the desire to have both parties being able to exercise their respective religion(s).  If the U. S. was in fact founded as an atheist country - one would expect the treaty to say both sides (or just the Americans?) had the right to practice no religion!  But it doesn’t say that.  It specifies the right to exercise their religion - which would tend to assume there is one.

The likelihood of #2, on the other hand, is greatly increased.  The modifications made to the original Article 11 that transformed into the new Article 14 may very well have been made to clean up the translation.  It’s very possible that it represents the original intention of the writers and those who approved it.

The likelihood of #3 is probably unchanged.  With respect to religion versus the rule of law - there’s really no difference.  It still says America will interact and deal with Tripoli according to our laws - not our religion.  Again though - it says nothing explicit about the basis for our laws.  If anything - the removal of the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion tends to lend credence to the possibility that our rule of law was, in fact, based on the Christian religion.


One final note -
in case it got lost -


A second Treaty of Tripoli signed on July 4, 1805 superseded the 1796 treaty. The 1805 treaty did not contain the phrase "not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion."


The quote on the atheist statue -
the one they chose to emphasize even before the statue was unveiled -
is based on wording from a treaty that is no longer in effect.

In fact -
that treaty was only effective for 9 years.
then it was replaced with a treaty that contained no part of the quote they are using.


Could it be that options #2 and / or #3 above are in fact true -
that this quote
the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion was intentionally removed?

If so -
was it intentionally removed because it did not represent the view of the people at that time -
was it intentionally removed because it was never true -
was it intentionally removed because the country was founded on Christian principles?


If all of that is true -
and the evidence - I believe - points to that -
what conclusions can be drawn?

Conclusions about whether or not the government can save us -
whether the government can - or should - protect, promote and defend our religion.



For one -
maybe it’s a 200 year old problem that we still have today -
the desire not to offend another religion -
that religion being - then as it is now - Muslims -
we are willing to disavow our own religion.


And another -
while we - as individual Christians -
may or may not hold fast to our beliefs in the face of challenges -
it is pretty obvious from history that the government will not.
All sorts of compromises are made -
lies are told -
in the interest of “the greater good” - whatever that means.


And the final one -
that the government should not be in the business of protecting, promoting and defending our religion.

By definition - and from history -
we know the government will change over time.
We also know from history that the “religion” of the government changes over time.
What’s fashionable - or dictated -
changes from one country to another -
changes from one year to another -
in other words is unpredictable.


No -
it’s up to us -
our faith in God -
and His promise to never leave us that we should and must rely on to
protect, promote and defend our Christian religion.



The Great Commission

Mt 28:16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go.  17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted.  18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,  20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”


Who is protect, promoting and defending your religion?


Who is saving you?