In A.D. 1961, the United States Supreme Court decided the case of Torcaso v Watkins. The case hinged on the right of a man who had otherwise qualified for the office of Notary Public in “Maryland” to assume that office without first confessing (as required by the Maryland Constitution) that he believed in God. The man was an atheist and refused to falsely confess that he believed in God when, in fact, he did not. More, he contended that the requirement for a confession of a belief in God was an unconstitutional “religious test”.
The Supreme Court ruled in favor of the atheist as struck down the requirement that public officers had to affirm their belief in God as a prerequisite for holding public office.
The Torcaso case is probably most famous for a footnote which declares,
“Among religions in this country which do not teach what would generally be considered a belief in the existence of God are Buddhism, Taoism, Ethical Culture, Secular Humanism and others.”
With that footnote, the Supreme Court elevated “Secular Humanism” and other atheistic philosophies to the status of “religions“.
The Torcaso case has had far-reaching implications. 52 years later, we can’t have a “creche” in public buildings around Christmas time to celebrate the birth of Christ and governments can say “Happy Holidays,” but not “Merry Christmas”.
I find it interesting that what may be the most important result of this case (that “secular humanism” be recognized as a religion) only appears as a footnote.
The Supreme Court’s’ footnote #11 applies to “religions in this country”. I wonder what “country” they’re referring to. Are they referring to the several “United States,” the singular “United States,” or “The United States of America”?
After all, our “Declaration of Independence” declares in its second and third sentences:
- “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” And,
- “That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men. . . . .”
Thus, the two fundamental principles of the Declaration are: 1) We each receive our most important rights from God; and 2) the primary duty of government is to “secure” those God-given, unalienable Rights to each of us.
I’ve argued for several years that it’s these God-given, unalienable Rights that elevate each of us to the status of an individual sovereign and reduce the government to the status of our public servant.
I’ve also argued that government doesn’t want to be our public servant and has therefore worked diligently to cause us to forget that this country started with the spiritual principle that each living man and woman is endowed by their Creator with “certain unalienable Rights”.
It’s clear from the “Declaration of Independence” that the nation named “The United States of America” (as per the Articles of Confederation in A.D. 1781) was built on the spiritual foundation laid by the “Declaration of Independence” of A.D. 1776.
Thus, it seems inexplicable and perhaps logically impossible that the nation called “The United States of America” could be deemed to have any “religions” that did not include a “god” in the sense of an individual “Creator”.
I.e., insofar as Buddhists, Taoists, Ethical Culturists, and Secular Humanists deny the existence of a god who acts as their Creator, the practitioners of those godless “religions” have no moral standing to claim the God-given, “unalienable Rights” on which “The United States of America” was founded.
If the members of those godless “religions” can’t claim “unalienable Rights,” then it follows that such atheists cannot be individual “sovereigns”. More, in relation to such atheists, the government may be absolved from its primary duty to “secure” any God-given, unalienable Rights.
That means that, in relation to members of any atheistic “religion,” the government need not be the “public servant” but can instead be the public’s “master”.
Insofar as government seeks to rule rather than serve, government must separate us from the idea that we are each endowed with certain unalienable Rights by our “Creator”. Thus, every atheistic “religion” (such as Buddhism, Taoism, Ethical Culturalism, and Secular Humanism) empowers government to rule and even oppress the people.
All of which brings me back to the Supreme Court’s reference to “in this country”.
Insofar as the nation named “The United States of America” is built on the premise that we’re each endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable Rights, and insofar as that “Creator” must be “God,” then I don’t believe that the governments of “The United States of America” can recognize any philosophy that doesn’t include “God” as a “religion“. The idea of an “atheistic religion” seems to be a contradiction in terms. That idea is certainly contrary to the spiritual principles on which this nation was built. I.e., given that “The United States of America” was based on spiritual principles that depend on the existence of a “Creator,” it seems virtually impossible that that nation could ever recognize an atheistic philosophy as a “religion”.
Yes, Buddhism, Taoism, Ethical Culturalism, and Secular Humanism may be godless philosophies, but within the nation named “The United States of America,” they can’t be “religions”. To claim that we can have “religions” that deny the existence of God is like claiming with have have mathematicians who deny the existence of numbers.
So, when the Supreme Court declares that, “Among religions in this country which do not teach what would generally be considered a belief in the existence of God are Buddhism, Taoism, Ethical Culture, Secular Humanism and others,” I’m left to wonder to which “country” does the Supreme Court refer?
Over the years, I’ve seen evidence to support the hypothesis that, at the “State” level, the terms “The State” and “this state” may signal whether we’re dealing with a State of the Union or a Territory. (See, The State vs this state.) Is it possible that at the federal level, the term “this country” is also code to signal some atheistic country other than the nation named “The United States of America”?
If you go back to the beginning of the Torcaso case, you’ll see that it hinges on both the 1st Amendment (freedom of religion) and the 14th. I have absolutely no doubt that the 1st Amendment is intended to protect the States of the Union styled “The United States of America”. I have no doubt that “The United States of America” is built on spiritual principles that include recognition of the existence of God. I conclude that “The United States of America” can’t be an atheist “country” and I presume that “The United States of America” can’t enact laws that recognize atheistic philosophies as “religions”.
But is it possible that the 14th Amendment created a singular “United States” that is an atheist “country”?
Did the 14th Amendment lay the foundation for a new “country” other than “The United States of America”?
I’ve attached my study notes on the Torcaso v Watkins case as a PDF file. These notes filled with highlights that make sense to me but may be distracting, confusing and even annoying to others. If you’d like a pristine copy of the case, go here. If you’d like to download my copy of the case with my notes, highlights, etc., try 130602 1961 Torcaso v Watkins SECULAR HUMANISM.