A few months ago, I wrote a rave review of one of my now-favorite books, Andrew Seidel’s The Founding Myth: Why Christian Nationalism is Un-American. Being such a fan of the book, and being in agreement with so many of Seidel’s ideas, you can imagine how excited I was last October when I learned that I could meet him on his book tour in April!
Of course, his lecture with the Pittsburgh Freethought Community has been not canceled but sadly postponed for obvious reasons. As the PFC’s marketing chair, I had excitedly but prematurely drafted an advertisement for Seidel’s visit. For now, though, I will stash away my excitement for the day when Seidel finally makes it to Pittsburgh and instead share with you 36 of my personal favorite quotes from his brilliant book.
(Update 12/23/2021: The event was turned into a virtual one but it seems that the in-person lecture is actually canceled. Then I quit the PFC anyway. What wasn’t canceled was the November 2021 FFRF Convention that Seidel spoke and signed books at, and I was registered to go! Then I got sick and missed it! It seems the Universe really does not want me to meet him, but it is making me even more determined.)
1. “A widely believed historical lie can have as much impact as a historical truth.” p. 15
2. “Americans should celebrate this ‘great American principle of eternal separation.’ It’s ours. It’s an American original. We ought to be proud of that contribution to the world, not bury it under myths.” p. 34
3. “If Jefferson and the other revolutionaries had been devout Christians, they never would have rebelled, the Declaration could never have been written, and America’s political relationship to the United Kingdom today would resemble Canada’s.” p. 59
4. “God-given rights are not sacred, self-evident, or inherent: they are fragile, exclusive, and used to favor the chosen few. That was not the intent or legacy of the Declaration.” p. 87
5. “The presidential oath remains godless, though modern political piety and a disrespect for the Constitution has marred it.” p. 89
6. “Christian nationalism operates like a ratchet or a noose; once the separation of state and church is violated, it tightens its hold and the violation becomes nearly incurable.” p. 98
7. “True religious freedom comes only when state and church are completely separate, when the government has no power over the human mind at all, neither to prohibit nor to allow thought.” p. 104
8. “If most Americans are religious, they are free to be only because there is no government-endorsed religion that devours religious freedom.” p. 124
9. “If Christianity is about anything, it is about obedience to god. That’s why the original sin is not genocide, murder, or rape, but eating a piece of fruit after being told not to.” p. 125
10. “Even being jailed with a five-pack-a-day smoker is cruel and unusual. One would think that if being locked up with a smoker is cruel, the ‘everlasting sulfur’ in hell is too.” p. 135-136
11. “Faith enough to fill a mountain would not move a mustard seed.” p. 146
12. “Faith did not have a seat at the birth of our Constitution. Reason reigned.” p. 151
13. “There is no whiff of representative government in the bible.” p. 155
14. “A republic—res publica—is literally ‘a public thing,’ a thing of the people. Not something divine, not something handed down from on high, and not something that could be maintained without effort—but a thing ‘of the people, by the people, for the people,’ as Lincoln so beautifully phrased it.” p. 156
15. “Certainty without reason breeds absurdity.” p. 167
16. “Every one of the [Ten Commandments] would be considered unconstitutional in our system.” p. 170
17. “That’s monotheism in a nutshell: the world is terrible and full of evil and perversion because people are worshiping idols and/or the wrong god.” p. 182
18. “Punishing the innocent is not a Ten Commandments quirk; it’s a biblical constant.” p. 183
19. “Punishing crimes against the regime more harshly than crimes against other people is typical in totalitarian systems.” p. 187
20. “But criticism of religion is the true beginning of freedom. Criticizing the system that claims to punish you for your thoughts is the first step against totalitarianism.” p. 190
21. “The religious mind is primed to accept lies. Presented with an extraordinary claim, it does not demand extraordinary evidence, but instead engages faith to overcome skepticism. . . . So the biblical fetish for totalitarians may have helped America elect its first.” p. 207
22. “It is monstrously arrogant to claim that a universal human principle belongs to one religion, especially a relatively young religion.” p. 210
23. “The basis of Judeo-Christian morality and ethics is the clan. The tribe is more important than morality; people who are different are lesser. Those who exercise their freedom of religion to worship differently will be treated as nonhumans. Does that sound like an American principle?” p. 215
24. “Religious dogma cannot withstand the facts, scrutiny, or doubt that come with exploration, discovery, and expanded horizons.” p. 236
25. “America has abandoned or is still trying to escape the parts of the Ten Commandments that can rightly be said to have influenced it: legalized slavery, codified sexism and suppression of the sexual impulse, and inequality among races and religions under the law.” p. 241
26. “What would you do if your child discussed her lack of religion with you, attempting to convince you she was right? . . . Probably not kill them. If you have any moral sense, you would not even consider murdering that family member, child, or friend. The mere hint that you might kill a friend or family member for exploring other beliefs ought to be viscerally repugnant. Yet the bible commands you to kill anyone who would ‘entice’ you to worship any god other than the Judeo-Christian god—especially your family members.” p. 244 (citing Deuteronomy 13:6-11)
27. “There was no perfect god writing down laws with moral deficits so obvious that today’s second-graders could improve them.” p. 245
28. “The Constitution protects us by limiting power and defining our rights. God’s commandments limit our rights and impose power on us.” p. 249
29. “Fear is a friend to those who would violate inalienable rights, including the right to a secular government.” p. 272
30. “. . . More than sixty years later, ‘One nation, indivisible’ became ‘One nation, under God, indivisible.’ This change places religion, history’s most belligerent, contentious force, smack in the middle of the unifying sentiment. It literally divides the indivisible with religion.” p. 282
31. “Trump’s possessive religion seemed to appear alongside his political ambitions. . . . Trump was simply exploiting religion, casting it about like a net to snare voters.” p. 291-292
32. “Typically, the majority religion is content to let itself be corrupted by politics, so long as it is in the majority. But as soon as it becomes a minority, it seeks to buttress the wall of separation. Christianity is declining in this country, so it will be interesting to see whether American Christians come to realize the value of state-church separation as they lose their majority.” p. 292
33. “Trump and his Christian nationalist brethren want a return to a Christian nation; they want to ‘make America great again.’ But religion did not make the United States, let alone make it great. ‘We the People’ make America exceptional.” p. 295
34. “‘It is error alone which needs the support of government. Truth can stand by itself.’ Christian nationalism, by its very existence, admits the weakness of Christianity’s truth claims, the frailty of a morality based on supernatural authority, and the shortcomings of an antiquated book.” p. 296 (beginning quote from Thomas Jefferson)
35. “Don’t steal, kill, or lie; treat others as you’d like to be treated; help those who can’t help themselves. But these are not religious principles. These are universal human principles, and we must jettison the religious from the humane.” p. 297
36. “As the myths debunked in this book are professed with more desperation, we must be prepared to refute them factually and vocally. . . . We must raise hell when the wall of separation between state and church is breached.” p. 297
When I first made this list, it included nearly seventy quotes! Andrew Seidel is such a great writer that it was hard to choose the best parts of his debut book. Which quote was your favorite?
Seidel, A. L. (2019). The Founding Myth: Why Christian Nationalism is Un-American. New York, New York: Sterling Publishing Co.
0 thoughts on “36 Best Founding Myth Quotes”
Like you, I loved this book, especially the tone, the robust defense of the American Experiment.
This is an excellent book and every American should read it! Not only does it blow away the ridiculous nonsense perpetrated by the religious right, but it clarifies all the reasons why we’ll never tolerate a theocracy. Great book, great write-up, Rebekah!
I think we (in the USA) live under a theocracy every time a Republican is elected President, and probably whenever the SCOTUS or Congress has Republicans as the majority party. We tolerate it now.
We also tolerate nepotism, criminal activity, treason, and a totalitarian government. Those of not tolerating it are denying it.
I agree with you in principle Bill since the religious right has a disproportionate amount of power and influence with a Repugnantcan in the White House than a Democrat. As far as the court goes, this SCOTUS is not populated with Judges, it’s full of political operatives. Remember John Roberts (with Ted Cruz) was in Florida counting the votes (or, rather, tossing them into the Biscayne Bay) in the 2000 election. Brett Cavanaugh is of the very same ilk, they’re not interested in interpreting law, they’re implementing an ideology. Yes, when I Demo gets in we forget that we need to address and reinforce the separation issues with the church. That’s OUR fault, much like Obama deciding not to investigate the start of the Iraq war. Unfortunately the Dumo’s are all we have. That’s the sad part.
I purchased this book after your earlier review. And I continue to be impressed with it. Thanks again.
Since you asked, I had two favorites.
#1. “A widely believed historical lie can have as much impact as a historical truth.”
#15. “Certainty without reason breeds absurdity.”
I too got the book after you reviewed it.
I’m going to get this book.