So, the Tea and Republican parties are suddenly up in arms over the recently revealed Lincoln Letters that reveal that Abraham Lincoln was, indeed, an atheist. You know, The Smiling Atheist is just going to come right out and say it: No shit, Sherlock! Do you right-wing nutcases not have access to history books? Or do you merely not have the capabilities to read them? Darwin knows you read enough Ayn Rand. Another atheist, by the way, however, not one I’m thrilled to call one of my own.
The fact of the matter is that Lincoln was well known to have been an atheist. It was actually one of the biggest trump cards pulled out by his opponent during his campaign to become president. He was accused of being an atheist at just about every turn, and never actually denied it either. His responses were usually within the confines of quoting the No Religious Test Clause or the Separation Clause of the Constitution, or rambling on some speech about a person’s relationship with god being a personal matter, not for the public eye. If you’ll notice, actually, during the Civil War, the most often utilized justification for keeping slaves were the biblical verses Leviticus 25:44-46 and Exodus 21:2-6, both of which condone slavery, while it is not condemned anywhere in the Old or New Testaments. This argument, Lincoln completely ignored in leading his crusade to end slavery and to amass the constitutional power of the centralized federal government. Also, look closely at the presidential history and its religious affiliation section. Lincoln admittedly claims no religious affiliation.
I have to ask at this point, just what is the problem? Why do you suddenly look upon the man who essentially started the civil rights movement in a different light because he didn’t believe in the same invisible man in the sky that you seem to? How is he a different person? As a matter of fact, I would have thought modern day republicans to detest Lincoln in the first place. He started a war (something you would like) over civil liberties (something you clearly don’t like). He limited states’ rights to the articles and amendments within the federal Constitution. He drank and womanized. He wore a top-hat. He enjoyed the theater (possibly a downfall in the end, but I digress).
Is it because you don’t want to admit that a hero of American history could have been a godless heathen? You know, like Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, James Madison, Thomas Paine, and plenty other non-theistic individuals who paved the way for the country you’re now trying to destroy?
Let me run down a list of Lincoln’s quotes regarding organized religion:
“The Bible is not my book nor Christianity my profession.”
“The only person who is a worse liar than a faith healer is his patient.”
“If there is no military need for the building, leave it alone, neither putting anyone in or out of it, except on finding some one preaching or practicing treason, in which case lay hands on him, just as if he were doing the same thing in any other building.”
— Abraham Lincoln, order relating to a church in Memphis, Tennessee, issued on May 13, 1864, Nicolay and Hay, Works of Abraham Lincoln, chapter on “Lincoln and the Churches,” quoted from Franklin Steiner, The Religious Beliefs of Our Presidents, p. 143. In the same chapter Nicolay and Hay state that in order to prevent treasonable preaching, Secretary Stanton appointed Bishop Ames, of the Methodist Church, to be supervisor of all the Churches in a certain southern district. President Lincoln at once countermanded the order.
“It will not do to investigate the subject of religion too closely, as it is apt to lead to Infidelity.”
— Abraham Lincoln, Manford’s Magazine, quoted from Franklin Steiner, The Religious Beliefs of Our Presidents, p. 144
Whatever your justifications, to look upon another in a different light knowing suddenly that he lacked a belief that you personally, in your opinion, feel is important, is nothing more than bigotry. Do I, as a science nerd, look upon Sir Isaac Newton in a different light knowing he was also a theologian? Absolutely not. The man still invented calculus and discovered the principles of gravity (his original thesis was mostly right anyway, though he could hardly realize the gravity of what he had discovered – no pun intended). Abraham Lincoln accomplished within his short presidency, more positive influence and outcome than any president before or after him. He was a hero to whom millions of African Americans owe their freedom, and most likely plenty of peoples of other races and nationalities who entered this country after the time of the Civil War. His words were that of poetry, and those words inspired a majority of our country to realize its foundation and legacy as the world’s first great secular and free nation. A legacy that has since been tarnished, I might add, on both accounts.
In the end, yes, a godless heathen ended slavery in America. In fact, he did so much more. A bill President Lincoln signed into law chartered the first transcontinental railroad. He signed into law the Homestead Act and the National Banking Act. And before he was assassinated, he chartered and supported the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, which gave full freedom and liberties to African Americans previously shackled by the chains of slavery. Put that in your smoke and pipe it; na-na na-na boo-boo, stick your head in doo-doo. Smiling Atheist out, and don’t forget to follow and subscribe. And remember that Crusade: The Unchecked and Unbalanced Role of Faith in America by yours truly is available on Amazon.com for $19.99 and in eBook format for all nook applications, including the free ones such as nook for PC, on barnesandnoble.com for $5.99.