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Religion-free Zone?

Oklahoma is the seventh-most religious state in the union, according to the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. Sixty-nine percent of Oklahomans in a recent poll said that religion is very important in their lives, Pew reported.

Six Southern states outranked the Sooner State, led by Mississippi, with 82 percent saying religion is very important in their lives. Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Tennessee and South Carolina also ranked higher than Oklahoma.

The New England states and Alaska were among the least religious states, with New Hampshire and Vermont at 36 percent.

Oklahomans also ranked seventh in worship attendance, with 50 percent saying they attend religious services at least once a week, and 12th in frequency of prayer, with 66 percent saying they pray at least once a day.

Asked if they believe in God with absolute certainty, 80 percent of Oklahomans said yes, ranking them 12th among the states. Mississippi was first in all four categories.

Nationwide, nine in 10 Americans say they believe in God or a universal spirit, and 71 percent say they are "absolutely certain" about it. In several of the New England states, fewer that 60 percent say they are absolutely certain God exists.

The Pew Forum released the rankings recently from data gathered in its 2007 U.S. Religious Landscape Survey. The Forum is a nonpartisan organization seeking to promote a deeper understanding of issues at the intersection of religion and public affairs.

Spokesmen for Oklahoma's two largest denominations, Southern Baptists and United Methodists, said they were not surprised by the state's rankings.

The Rev. Bob Green, pastor of Arrow Heights Baptist Church in Broken Arrow and former president of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma, said polling data he has seen in recent years supports the state's position. "I think the key for us is, do people have a personal relationship with Christ that affects their daily life, how they live in the world?" he said.

Bishop Bob Hayes, leader of Oklahoma's 600-plus Methodist churches, said Oklahoma has some of the largest United Methodist churches in the nation. He said the Oklahoma Conference of the United Methodist Church is the seventh-largest Methodist conference in the nation. Methodism is strongest in the southeast U.S. he said. "Our state was faith-based when it was formed," Hayes said.

Beginning with Methodist missionaries who established Riley's Chapel in 1844 in Tahlequah, he said, Methodists have brought not only religion, but schools, hospitals and other institutions to the state. "Oklahomans represent a kind of can-do pioneering spirit with its genesis in faith," he said.

You know the concrete steps to avoid ceding your power to people and organizations determined to impose their worldview on you and yours. Securing our borders, strengthening our families, and rebuilding our school curricula are all going to require a sustained commitment of time and effort. But there may be moments when you may ask, why bother? What is the point of all of this? Power to what end?

Unlike the Far Left radicals who never really meant it when they said "Power to the People," the power is not power over others-it's the power to live our lives and raise our families in the manner we believe is best. It really boils down to liberty. After life, it is our primary American right, a right that so many brave Americans died defending. The Founding Fathers didn't dream up the idea of liberty, they merely reaffirmed it as a natural right given to all men by God. But with this awesome right, this awesome power, comes responsibility-a word we hear little of today.

Lord Acton wrote that liberty is not "the power to do what we like, but the right of being able to do what we ought."' This is a critical point. Our Framers understood that liberty must be directed, restrained, and given a noble purpose to last. The guardsman of liberty was always morality, informed by religious practice. Yes, I said religious practice.

In the late eighteenth century, no serious person was debating whether faith and virtue were instrumental to the future of the Republic. As Samuel Adams, one of the signers of our Declaration of Independence wrote: A general dissolution of Principles and Manners will more surely overthrow the Liberties of America than the whole Force of the common enemy. While the people are virtuous they cannot be subdued; but once they lose their virtue they will be ready to surrender their liberties to the first external or internal invader.... If virtue and knowledge are diffused among the people, they will never be enslaved. This will be their great security.

Adams's point is that liberty depends on virtue, and virtue in turn depends on religious practice. The practice of religion is not some curiosity that should be relegated to the ghettos of the culture, but a primary activity that needs to be championed. Good citizenship requires a commitment to virtue and morality-and with apologies to the spirituality-by-any-means crowd-I don't know another way to acquire them than by religious means. The father of our country reminded us of this in his farewell address way back in 1796: Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, Religion and morality are indispensable supports.... And let us with caution indulge the supposition, that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of particular structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that National morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.

Washington could not have been clearer-religious practice that encourages moral behavior is a prerequisite for the survival of our political system. Let's get real. God created us, and we are expected to act in ways that are pleasing to Him. Only by preserving our religious values will we be able to make the right choices, and take full advantage of freedom's promise. My friend Ina likes to say, "Laura, God has given us rules for a reason-and we'd all be a lot happier if we tried a little harder to follow them." Ina is a smart woman.

Many of the problems in our society today-our cultural breakdown, vulnerability to terror, family dissolution, declining schools-were not created overnight, nor will they be resolved overnight. During our day-to-day battles there will be inevitable setbacks and disappointments. I have to admit, there are moments when I wonder whether some of these causes are lost forever. Yet speaking as someone who has had her share of challenges over the last few years, I know we must do everything we can to replace doubt and cynicism with faith. We must have confidence that whatever the outcome in any of our own personal, political, or cultural struggles, our loving God is still there waiting for us to "come home." We run the race, hope to win, but are comforted to know that as long as we return to God's will, we cannot lose.

Aside from Peeps and dyed eggs there is a perennial tradition that you can be assured will resurrect itself each Easter. No, it is not Peter Rabbit or the White House Easter Egg Roll. It's the media elites' religious target practice, timed each year to coincide with the Christian and Jewish high holy days.

Whether trumpeting the innocence of Christ's betrayer in The Gospel of Judas or displaying filthy depictions of the Savior in art galleries (remember "Piss Christ"?), liberals tell us they are just being open-minded, and exercising their First Amendment rights. What they are really being is purposely destructive, both to the faith of millions, and to the republic itself. With each sacrilegious sideswipe, they spit on the core faith of believers all over America. Their goal is to erode the foundations of religious belief. This is by design. If they can rattle our belief in the existence or claims of Christ, and undermine the veracity of the entire Judeo-Christian canon, they can stifle the values that spring from them, and lead us further down the path of cultural confusion, darkness, and despair.

The pop assault on religious values has intensified in recent years. A string of atheistic bestsellers from Sam Harris's The End of Faith, to Richard Dawkins's The God Delusion have crept into the American consciousness and ironically found their way beneath many a Christmas tree.

For all the liberal cries for tolerance, where are the voices demanding tolerance from Dawkins? His hatred for religion is deep-seated and vicious. Even Publisher's Weekly said in its review of The God Delusion: "For a scientist who criticizes religion for its intolerance, Dawkins has written a surprisingly intolerant book, full of scorn for religion and those who believe." Professor Dawkins strains to drive a wedge between science and faith, but more often collapses into ad hominem attacks. So God in the Old Testament is "psychotic" and "an evil monster," St. Thomas Aquinas's proofs of God's existence are "fatuous," and Mother Teresa is "sanctimoniously hypocritical." (Why does every atheist feel obliged to beat up on Mother Teresa? I mean I could understand Torquemada or Ted Haggard, but Mother Teresa ?!)

Naturally, the dinosaur media has lauded Dawkins, who confirms their belief that there is no Being more supreme than the New York Times Editorial Board. Christopher Hitchens's God Is Not Great hit number one on the New York Times bestseller list in June 2007. The popularity of such atheistic tomes demonstrates that some people will go to any length to find justifications for their non-belief so they can go on to live reckless lives free of the "shackles of religion." As G. K. Chesterton once said: "Atheism is the most daring of all dogmas, for it is the assertion of a universal negative." Nothing "fatuous," "psychotic," or "sanctimoniously hypocritical" in that reasoning now, is there?

Revealing his true agenda, Sam Harris predicted, "At some point there is going to be enough pressure that it is just going to be too embarrassing to believe in God." Nice try, Sam. But what we are really embarrassed about is you. Though these atheists have little to support their dogmatic non-belief, they are convinced that by keeping the pagan "pressure" on, you will either be shamed into joining their ranks or will at least hide your faith. But before you throw God out with the test tube, you should look closely at their claims and realize that though we cannot prove the existence of God, nor can they prove His non-existence. And don't forget, there are many reasonable arguments that vouch in God's favor. As Dr. Francis Collins, the renowned scientist, director of the Human Genome project, and a Christian, has written: [R]eason alone cannot prove the existence of God. Faith is reason plus revelation, and the revelation part requires one to think with the spirit as well as with the mind. You have to hear the music, not just read the notes on the page.... I have found there is a wonderful harmony in the complementary truths of science and faith. The God of the Bible is also the God of the genome. God can be found in the cathedral or in the laboratory.

The members of Team Atheist continue to load the cannons. The recently released book The Jesus Dynasty, by James Tabor advances the charming idea that Jesus was neither the Son of God nor the son of Joseph, but was the offspring of a Roman soldier named Pantera.' At least he's original.

These shameless atheistic attacks, and the routine mockery of religion, are done to further marginalize faithful voices from the public square. The hope of the crusading atheists is to make religious people and their ideas appear goofy, out of touch, freakish, and unreasonable. Suddenly, morality and virtue, the very things the founders built into the American experiment, is considered mawkish and elbowed aside. John Adams understood that "our constitution is made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other."' Considering the hostility to religion and morality in today's America, we'd better convene a new constitutional congress.

There is a spiritual yearning in the human heart. It is a part of our basic wiring. All of us want to be connected to God and to the supernatural world that we believe is out there. Traditional religions make demands upon us and insist that there are requirements to being a child of God; mainly, living as He would have us live. For many people today, these requirements are a bridge too far. They want the experience of faith, but are unwilling to pay the admission price. So they try to satisfy their supernatural appetite void with spiritual junk food. These faith substitutes can take a variety of forms and have become an American cottage industry.

Some place rocks on their chakras, strike a few yoga positions, and try to channel the dead to feel spiritual. Others consult their horoscopes, in hopes that the stars will show them the way. There are runes, tarot cards, palm readers, and all manner of New Age quick fixes to get your faux spiritual groove on. Whatever the new trend-Buddhist chanting while barbecuing, yoga with your dog, etc.-it'll find a platform on Good Morning America, Oprah, or Ellen.

The elites have opened up another offensive against religion. They are trying to sue God right out of the public square. Faith is fine-just keep it to yourself, please. The anti-religion elites do this, of course, in the name of the defending the Constitution. In 2004 the American Civil Liberties Union threatened to sue Los Angeles County if it refused to remove a cross from the county seal, arguing the symbol was a government endorsement of Christianity. The cross had been part of the seal since 1957, and supporters of the cross claimed the suit amounted to religious censorship. Three years later, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the case. Ironically, the new seal features a mission, but one without a cross.

An 1802 letter from Thomas Jefferson to the Danbury Baptists in which he refers to the "wall of separation of church and state" is the only Holy Scripture for groups such as the ACLU, People for the American Way, and Americans United for the Separation of Church and State. Contrary to what these groups argue, Jefferson was not suggesting that the government quarantine religious practice so as not to infect a broader population. Jefferson was underscoring the religious liberty of the American people-the liberty to practice their religion free of government coercion and interference. But the letter has been totally misused and misinterpreted, and in the process so has the establishment clause of the Constitution.

If the Anti-God Mob were honest with us and themselves, they would admit that they're most comfortable operating in a religion-free zone. How else to explain the fact that each Christmas our court dockets sparkle and shine with cases challenging the constitutionality of publicly displayed Christmas trees, Nativity scenes, and Menorahs. Christmas carols, mentions of Santa, and (God forbid) the term "Merry Christmas" are now on the judicial endangered species list. The hilarious Jackie Mason and Raoul Felder, Jewish guys writing in a Catholic periodical, said of this madness: "It is significant that the ACLU's position is that pornography is protected under the Constitution, while the Christmas tree is not. So, if this bunch were successful, the only way you could see a Christmas tree is if you visit a porn shop that had one.... The point is, of course, if Christmas is abolished from public display, can the fate of Chanukah and the myriad of other Jewish holidays be far behind?"

Not content to secularize religious holidays, the Pagan jihad also includes fatwas against America's religious heritage. Now nothing is sacred, not even memorials to our dead veterans. A federal lawsuit was filed to remove a cross planted in honor of World War I veterans at Sunrise Rock in the Mojave Desert. Who could be offended by such a thing in the middle of the Mojave Desert? The atheist scorpions?

This is certainly not the last stand of the godless gaggle, and we should vigilantly oppose them whenever and wherever they attempt to dismantle the religious and cultural heritage of America. Things aren't any easier for God at our nation's universities either. How is an environment hospitable only to atheists, agnostics, and hemp-wearing pantheists welcoming to the over-whelming majority of Americans? I would not feel welcome in a chapel that has to hide its Christian identity because of political correctness. What about my feelings?

Enough is enough. We must stand firm and not let this expunging of our religious heritage continue. The human heart cries out for visual images of goodness, tangible reinforcement of what we believe and why. Our Constitution protects our right to display these images wherever we like, including public spaces. Symbols of faith are part of our American experience and important reminders of our higher calling. Without them how can we credibly pass on to our children a sense of morality, and an appreciation of our Judeo-Christian heritage? But maybe that's the point. The elites on the far left don't really want us to pass our values on to our children or to anyone else for that matter.

These external symbols of our belief are not irrelevant because they contribute to the wider culture. These outward expressions affect the internal ones-and lead directly to our greatest power as a people. As citizens, our most important acts are intimately linked to the moral decisions we make in our daily lives, and the example we set for others. Our personal example and the practice of faith is contagious and will profoundly shape the future - a future that begins in the heart and soul of each of us.

Bill Sherman. How religious are we? Tulsa World. January 18, 2010.
Laura Ingraham. Power to the People . Regnery Publishing. 2007.

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