It’s Called Philosophy

This was an open letter to a local talk show that was being guest hosted by a local state representative (whose opinions I generally agree with, but not that day) a state representative who kept wondering, on air, how anyone could get by without religion to shape their moral fibre, and what a shame it was that the importance of religion in American society was failing, since we are a christian nation after all. You can have three guesses as to what set me off in the first place and I’ll bet you don’t need two of them.

The word you are struggling to find is philosophy. Philosophy, even amongst the religious, is where morals come from. I say this as an Objectivist, Americans ignore the importance of establishing and maintaining a personal philosophy at their own peril. It is the short-cutters, the people who turn to religion and superstition to answer their metaphysical questions, those people are to blame for the degradation of the morals in our society, not a lack of faith or prayer in schools or whatever imagined slight the christian right (Christianists. -ed.) wants to whine about today.

We have not moved away from christianity in the United States. Contrary to popular opinion, the founders where not christians, they were Deists:

The Founding Fathers, also, rarely practiced Christian orthodoxy. Although they supported the free exercise of any religion, they understood the dangers of religion. Most of them believed in deism and attended Freemasonry lodges. According to John J. Robinson, “Freemasonry had been a powerful force for religious freedom.” Freemasons took seriously the principle that men should worship according to their own conscious. Masonry welcomed anyone from any religion or non-religion, as long as they believed in a Supreme Being. Washington, Franklin, Hancock, Hamilton, Lafayette, and many others accepted Freemasonry.

One of the most religious men in the continental congress was John Adams, and he was a Unitarian.

This is my answer to the question you posed why has America given up on the christian faith? I only wish I could have called in to set you right in your confusion. Religion is a curse that will betray America to ruin, and it will do that very soon now that conservatives have embraced evangelicalism. Philosophy needs to be taught to children as a part of their school curriculum, it is every bit as important as reading, writing and arithmetic. Economics also needs to be taught, but that isn’t what this letter is about. Only with the mental tools for judging and abiding by morals of their own creation will our children be able to stop the moral decline that this country is in if it is in moral decline at all.

Like many other complainants that aired their grievances after the show today, I had to turn off the program before it was over. One more holier than thou phone caller trying to tell me how I needed to go to church would have sent me over the edge and I don’t need the extra stress in my life.

These days I just point to the study published in the Journal of Religion and Society titled Cross-National Correlations of Quantifiable Societal Health with Popular Religiosity and Secularism in the Prosperous Democracies, that shows the impact of fervent religious belief on society as a whole is negative. I don’t know what else needs to be said on the subject of how we can get by without religion other that to observe that we might well be better off without it at all.


I wish the founders had all been deists as I erroneously claim above. We’d be better off now if they had been. The blight of Christainist dogma would not have been inculcated into our social psyche if three quarters of the founders hadn’t been adherents to various flavors of christianity that have since evolved into evangelicalism and the Prosperity Gospel.

My error doesn’t mean that the US is a christian nation. The point that debunks this claim isn’t the faith of the founders (an erroneous argument that I simply repeated at the time) but rather that there is no thing called christian that all christians can agree on and want enforced as the religion that everyone should follow. You can thank the protestants for that social benefit. If they hadn’t broke from the mother church we would probably still all be Catholics and subject to papal dictates.

This was the first of a repetition of encounters with average people who seemed baffled by the fact that other people do just fine without church or religion to guide them. It’s almost as if they’ve never done any moral thinking for themselves. Perhaps they should give it a try. They might discover that their religion didn’t invent the concept of morality. I humbly suggest that the interested reader look into creating a human-centric philosophy and morality as opposed to continuing to believe in a god-centered one:

Humanism is a philosophical stance that emphasizes the individual and social potential and agency of human beings. It considers human beings as the starting point for serious moral and philosophical inquiry.


The show that I was being so coy about naming was the Jeff Ward Show and the guest host was representative Suzanna Hupp. I carried a lot of water for her over the years thinking that she had an inside road towards a deeper understanding of loss. This show was the first speedbump on the road that lead to my distancing myself from her.

This article as it appeared on Blogspot in 2006 when I wrote it. Featured image: The Death of Socrates.

Author: RAnthony

I'm a freethinking, unapologetic liberal. I'm a former CAD guru with an architectural fetish. I'm a happily married father. I'm also a disabled Meniere's sufferer.

8 thoughts on “It’s Called Philosophy”

  1. Interestingly said. It’s a shame that you did not get through to the show to set them straight.

    You are very accurate in what you said about the American forfathers. Somehow the conservative right has hijacked our perception of right and wrong and forced the point. That is not the answer to our moral decline.

  2. I think you’re mostly right about our forefathers. I’ve seen evidence for both sides of the argument, it comes down to what one accepts as evidence.

    The line between Religion and Faith has become blurred of late, where one’s criticisms about religion become criticisms of believers in God, and that is dangerous. Our nation was founded by those seeking religious freedom. This is by no means a blank check for political powers to impose one religion or another. However this points to the fact that our national identity is founded in faith in “a” God (whoever you choose that to be). If you throw that out, you betray our foundation.

    It’s okay to speak out against those rabid religious fanatics, but, to be sure, rabidity begets rabidity–you become that which you despise.

  3. Logan Gratehouse said…
    However this points to the fact that our national identity is founded in faith in “a” God. If you throw that out, you betray our foundation.

    In it’s most basic sense freedom of religion also means freedom from religion. Which is why it all comes back to philosophy; that being the name of the ‘science’ that man applies to interpret the world around him, and what it means.

    One man’s “god” is another man’s “natural law” and yet another’s “Nirvana“.

    I would say that, rather than being founded on a faith in god, the American colonies were founded on a faith in the individual. It was, after all, individuals who rejected the conformist societies of Europe (for whatever reason) that made up the bulk of immigrants. And it has been individuals who are willing to strike out on their own that have made a mark in history.

  4. The Princeton dictionary defines Philosophy as 1)Doctrine; 2)The rational investigation of questions about existence and knowledge and ethics; 3) any personal belief about how to live or how to deal with a situation.

    R. Anthony Steele said…
    Americans ignore the importance of establishing and maintaining a personal philosophy at their own peril.

    I would say most Americans believe their religion is their philosophy. While I too hate religion due to a belief that it divides rather than unites, I believe by faith in the Judeao-Christian God–not because I follow blindly, but because my “rational investigation” led me to this place.

    I agree that there are the short-cutters you speak of, but they are in every society. There are those who turn to religion after much thoughtful consideration (CS Lewis is a great example). People turn to religion (or philosophy) as a means of governing their own morality. There must be an external governor of morality because man will always make the wrong decision when given the choice.

    I understand the statement that we are a “Christian nation”–it may not have started that way, but 78% of our nation currently claims to be Christian, so that makes us a Christian nation.

    There are many things that could be claimed to be the moral decline of our nation–I believe it is folly to say that religion is that; a divider, yes, but not the catalyst of moral decline.

    The Christian Objectivist

  5. Reknowned professor of mythology Joseph Campbell said it best: “Religion is a defense against religious experience.”

    In other words, people accept and adopt a ready-made religion already pre-digested, with all the Big Questions already answered for them, so that they do not have to personally experience a Threshold Event — a Gnosis — for themselves.

    For more off-the-wall Hermetic / Gnostic / Masonic thinking, read the Burning Taper blog at

  6. One more comment and I’ll leave this alone:

    The site you offer as evidence says:

    There is evidence that within the U.S. strong disparities in religious belief versus acceptance of evolution are correlated with similarly varying rates of societal dysfunction, the strongly theistic, anti-evolution south and mid-west having markedly worse homicide, mortality, STD, youth pregnancy, marital and related problems than the northeast where societal conditions, secularization, and acceptance of evolution approach European norms.

    Chicago, New York, and DC took the top spots for homicide last year per CNN. Teenage pregnancy was highest in California. Divorce rates in the New England and Northeast states were about equal to those of the south. The facts I’m quoting were found very quickly on Google.

    It sounds like the person(s) who conducted this study had a bit of an agenda. Everyone does, of course, but like I said in my first comment, arguments can be made for both sides–it comes down to what evidence you choose to accept.

  7. Campbell was quoting Jung.

    the widow’s son said…
    people accept and adopt a ready-made religion

    I believe these are the short-cutters Anthony is speaking of. I would amend your statement by saying that some people accept ready-made religion. You must be careful not to discount spiritual experiences of even those who were raised in a religion and had it handed to them–they can be genuine to that person despite what you believe about spiritual experience.

    I also think there is something to be said about accepting the scholarship that has gone before. Wisdom works this way. Science does as well (much of the time). Naturally, people accept the religious scholarship that has gone before.

    The car I drive has wheels I didn’t have to invent.

  8. I would say that, contrary to your assertions, people should naturally reject the superstitions of yesterday; which is what religion (and most ‘popular’ spirituality) amounts too. OTOH, I don’t discount all spirituality and religion as nonsense (as Rand and most Atheists do) some things simply can’t be explained with current technology and science. That doesn’t mean that they will never be explained, though.

Attacks on arguments offered are appreciated and awaited. Attacks on the author will be deleted.

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