The Christian Illusion
Many Republicans today are completely blindsided by the growing secularism in America. They don’t know from where it came, but they continue to believe it is completely contrary to the intentions of the founding fathers. “America was built as a Christian nation!” they’ll say, because they may read a couple of instances where some of the founding fathers reference God a few times. However, even if one were to grant the argument that all the founding fathers were Christians, one still could not make the claim that American politics were founded on Christianity. There is a reason why secular ideology continues to grow. It isn’t because people are rebelling against the so-called “Christian” paradigm of the founding, but rather they are the natural result of the original framework.
America was never a “Christian nation,” as many like to say. America was founded as a Post-Enlightenment Protestant-Deist nation. When it comes to the origin of American politics, many Republicans seem to perceive an indirect connection to Christianity as a direct intention to create a country for Christians. This just isn’t true. America was only (indirectly) founded on “Christian values” insofar as those values were held by the founders, not because the founders (intentionally) wanted a country with “Christian values.” This is an important distinction to make, because there is a difference between founding a country on Christianity, and founding a country on the ideals of individuals who happen to agree with portions of Christianity. This must be understood, because the truth is America was never directly founded on Christianity. It was founded on individualism.
Individualism is absolutely the most important concept to understand when it comes to this subject, because individualism is at the very heart of Protestantism. Individualism is what caused the Protestant Reformation. Individualism is what caused the American Revolution. Individualism is the only thing that truly united the founding fathers, not Christianity.
Secular by Design
Herein lies the problem: when one builds a country on individualism, one can’t expect it to be obedient to the status quo, regardless of what that status quo might be. One can’t expect individualism (which is inherently progressive in nature, because it is based upon the “self”) to suddenly start respecting conservatism. During the Protestant Reformation, the Reformers were the progressives, putting the self above the church. During the American Revolution, the Revolutionaries were the progressives, putting the self above monarchy. If this is the reality, how can we be surprised when contemporary progressivism decides that Christianity is no longer relevant to American culture? They are certainly not acting contrary to their “American nature,” because America was never conservative. Progressives become conservative when they get into power and become the majority. However, this is like rolling a snowball down a mountain and then trying to stop it once it gets to the preferred size. American conservatism is designed to get flattened by the people, because we are perpetually a country of progressive revolutionaries who refuse to obey authority.
Protestants may have been the majority population in the past, which caused a “Christian nation” illusion. For example, the Industrial Revolution was sparked by the “Protestant work ethic,” which is seen as “Christian” simply because it was true of the Protestant population. Yet, the Industrial Revolution treated human beings like rusty machines, and it made rich Protestants (like John D. Rockefeller) desire more and more wealth. Greedy capitalism and the Protestant work ethic truly has nothing to do with Christianity, but this is how American culture began to unconsciously mix “Christianity” with “The American Dream” to such an extent that it became difficult to distinguish the two. “Big business” essentially became the Protestant Church of America.
Fast forward a century: welcome to the modern Republican Party and trickle-down economics.
However, now the Protestant population is decreasing every year. The culture is shifting, because for the growing majority of the population, secular individualism is more attractive (and less hypocritical) than religious individualism. I often hear people lament, “Where has the culture gone?” Or Donald Trump’s popular (Reagan rip-off), “Make America Great Again!” However, American culture was, and is, always moving toward different manifestations of individualism, just like Protestantism itself (with more and more denominations based upon individualistic interpretations of the bible). The only people who say those things are the ones who try in vain to stop the snowball. If the blame goes to anyone, blame the founding fathers for rolling it down the mountain.