In Evicting God from the Public Square Ken Connor writes against atheist Michael Newdow's lawsuit to get the phrase of "so help me God" removed from the upcoming presidential inauguration. The details of the matter aside, Connor concludes his column:
Newdow and company believe that man is the measure, that man is the center of the universe, and that the rights we enjoy come from government, not from God. They are certainly entitled to their own opinions, but, to paraphrase Daniel Patrick Moynihan, they are not entitled to their own facts. The fact is that American political history is inextricably bound up with religious tradition. All the denials in the world won't negate that fact.
The religionists' disparaging of atheists as arrogant for holding "man as the measure of all things" has been made irrelevant by Ayn Rand:
...Protagoras’ old dictum may be given a new meaning, the opposite of the one he intended: “Man is the measure of all things.” Man is the measure, epistemologically—not metaphysically. In regard to human knowledge, man has to be the measure, since he has to bring all things into the realm of the humanly knowable.
Attacking mens' arrogance, be it real or imagined, in that saying misses the point about the human mind's relationship to reality, a real relationship that prevents the mind from forming the mythical ideas of religion.
If anything, Ken Connor, like any religionist believing in the primacy of consciousness over reality, is trying to have his own facts.
Firstly, as for facts, God is definitely no fact; God and the supernatural are not within the realm of the humanly knowable.
Secondly, rights come from neither government nor God - rights are in human nature, and that is a fact. How is this assertion, that man's rights emanate from a supernatural cosmic consciousness, a "fact"?
Thirdly, that tradition, as conservatives believe, must be obeyed forever certainly is no fact; obedience to tradition is only second-handedness to ancestors and inherited, imaginary beliefs. Or, put another way, we can rephrase one of Connor's sentences and turn it against his position: "all the tradition in the world does not make it right." It is time to abandon these backwards religious beliefs in our politics, traditional or not. Ironically, for conservatives like Connor, religious tradition is the center of the universe and measure of all things, which, not so incidentally, reduces to: man as the center of the universe.
Connor's argument is intellectually empty, as can be demonstrated by a hypothetical counter-claim: what if there was no religious tradition in American political history, and a Christian sues so that the words, "so help me God," are included in the oath of office? Would conservative Christian Connor appeal to the sacred, infallible, authority of tradition then? How important would the facts of political tradition not being bound to religion be to him in that case?
Our Founding Fathers built a political system based on human nature and experience, in other words, based on observable, knowable, reality. Political science was a new field of study then - and that is what it was, a science. Rand may have restated Protagoras' old dictum, but the idea of her restatement - of bringing all things into the realm of the humanly knowable - was what characterized that period. The Founders (and other intellectuals of that era) studied the types of governments and laws Western man has lived under since antiquity and from that knowledge they established a government best suited to man's nature as a free and rational being. I am inclined to think this is ultimately why they established a government separate from religion: the "truth" of religious beliefs are not demonstrable nor provable when law and government are scientifically studied for their proper application in the real world (other than learning how the experience of theocracy, the divine right of kings and such are dangerous to liberty) so they are left out of the political realm. I do not know if our Founders explicitly viewed religion and government in that way, but it is certainly consistent with the intellectual atmosphere of their age and which they were products of.