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Here in a nutshell is America’s regression from Thomas Jefferson to Donald Trump. Thomas Jefferson (Notes on the State of Virginia, 1782): “It does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.” Donald Trump (Bangor, Maine Rally, October 15, 2016): “Imagine what our country could accomplish if we started working together as one people, under one God, saluting one American flag.” Jefferson envisioned religious liberty for an inclusive America. Our founders wanted no part of the religious intolerance and bloodshed they had seen in Europe, so they wisely established the first government in history to separate religion and government. They understood the devastating nature of holy wars and formed a secular nation with no deity mentioned in its Constitution. Trump’s vision excludes all who don’t believe we are a nation under one God (presumably the Christian one), and he has never specified what “again” means in his slogan, “Make America great again.” Perhaps “again” means when the seventeenth century Pilgrims and Puritans arrived in the colonies. They were religious dissenters from Europe who sought freedom of worship for their own versions of Christianity, but not religious freedom for others. I prefer our eighteenth century founders, who wanted our new country to stay out of the religion business. I dislike hearing politicians end speeches with “God bless America,” but at least this cliché doesn’t tell all Americans to unite under the one God. Our secular government’s role is not to tell us we are one nation under God any more than it is to tell us we are one nation under no gods (my view). Imagine a Commander-in-Chief who also wants to be a Converter-in-Chief. We are legally one nation under the Constitution and geographically one nation under Canada, but we are not theologically one nation under God. I can’t blame only Donald Trump for equating “one God” with American patriotism. In 1954, during the shameful McCarthy era, President Eisenhower signed into law the addition of “under God” to the Pledge of Allegiance. He preached, “From this day forward, the millions of our schoolchildren will daily proclaim in every city and town, every village and rural schoolhouse, the dedication of our nation and our people to the Almighty.” This melding of God and country turned a secular, inclusive pledge into a divisive, religious one. Eisenhower made no mention of the Constitution, perhaps because that document prohibits religious tests for public office. Donald Trump takes pride in being politically incorrect in order to justify his bigotry, offensive comments, and scientific ignorance. When did rejecting the overwhelming scientific consensus about evolution and climate change become a proud politically incorrect position? Unfortunately, Trump’s statements about religion and other American freedoms show him also to be proud of his constitutionally incorrect positions. Thomas Jefferson, a great intellect and product of the Enlightenment, read the Bible thoroughly and thoughtfully. Then, using a razor, he cut out the supernatural and other passages he deemed ridiculous, and called the remainder “diamonds in a dunghill.” (In 2013, the American Humanist Association distributed copies of the “Jefferson Bible” to President Obama and all incoming members of Congress.) Donald Trump not only trumpets his Christianity, but also speculated, “Maybe I get audited so much because I’m a strong Christian.” He says the Bible is his favorite book, along with his ghost written The Art of the Deal. I doubt that Trump has read much of the Bible, other than passages handed to him for speeches. He couldn’t name his favorite verse, or which testament he prefers. His funniest flub occurred at Liberty University where he referred to Second Corinthians as “Two Corinthians.” So Donald Trump is also “biblically incorrect.” After November 8, expected presidential loser Donald Trump should have plenty of spare time to read his favorite book. This atheist, who still finds some wisdom in the Bible, suggests that Trump start with Luke 14:11: “He who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” Or perhaps Proverbs 12:15: “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice.”

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1 Douglas Boin = "The historian Kevin Kruse has a great book about how God gradually grew to be more and more of a presence in 20th century American culture; his thesis is really provocative and nuanced, too. In Kruse's analysis, it was a reaction to the faith-driven programs at home--particularly of the New Deal--that inspired the "God backlash" from political and religious opponents. It's a terrific read and a thought-provoking challenge to the commonly-accepted idea that "under God" was added solely because of a fear of what was happening on the international stage. "
2 Shawn Bose = ""The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth, created by Thomas Jefferson in 1820, is an 84-page assemblage of passages from the first four books of the New Testament. It was the work of Jefferson's own hands and a product of his extraordinary mind. It was a personal exercise in understanding Jesus's moral teachings. The resulting work represented a meeting of Enlightenment thought and Christian tradition as imagined by one of the great thinkers of the Revolutionary Era." Read more about The Jefferson Bible on The Smithsonian web site"
3 Sarah Mangum = "http://talkingpointsmemo.com/livewire/trump-audited-strong-christian"
4 Sarah Mangum = "http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2016/07/25/donald-trumps-ghostwriter-tells-all"