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4 Ways Christianity Sneaks Into Our Secular Government -- And Why it Matters

What often gets called "ceremonial deism" is all over our government.

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Are these the most pressing problems facing the nation? No. Of course not. They're not even the most pressing problems facing the atheist movement.

But that doesn't make them trivial.

Symbolic issues can have a significant impact. Employers requiring women to wear makeup wasn't the most pressing problems facing the women's movement... but most people understand why it was a fight worth fighting. Segregated drinking fountains and lunch counters weren't the most pressing problems facing the civil rights movement... but most people understand why they were deeply troubling and needed to end. President Obama saying same-sex marriage should be legal had zero effect on same-sex couples' legal rights... but most people understand why the President's statement mattered, and mattered enormously.

When you are told every day of your life that you are less than human, by your community and indeed by your government, it takes a toll. And when people who already think you're less than human get a thumbs-up on that attitude from the government that supposedly represents all of you, it reinforces those terrible attitudes, and makes people feel safer acting them out.

"Ceremonial deism" is neither. It is not "deism," a vague belief in a nebulous and ineffective god: it is the specific advocacy by the government of very specific religious views. And it is far more than just "ceremonial." It has real-world effects. It hurts people. It sticks a giant target on the backs of atheists, and others with non-mainstream religious beliefs... a target that tells the world, "Kick me. The government says it's okay."

It has to stop.

Greta Christina is the author of "Coming Out Atheist: How to Do It, How to Help Each Other, and Why," available in ebook, print, and audiobook. She blogs at Greta Christina's Blog. Follow her on Twitter: @GretaChristina

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