I periodically see arguments on Facebook about the United States being a Christian (religion) nation, or about it not being one. The posters seem furious, mostly the ones claiming that the US is indeed a specific religion.
I try to stay out of these online flame wars, since they never change minds and often degenerate into simple name calling. But the claim needs to be examined with light instead of heat.
It is true that the majority of Americans claim to be Christian (70%), ranging from 25% Evangelical Protestant to <1% Jehovah’s Witness. Only 6% claim to be other mainstream religions (Jewish,. Muslim, Buddhist, etc). People with no religion make up 23%. So numerically, Christians do indeed outnumber all other religions in the United States, with ‘none’ being the second largest.
But that raw number doesn’t translate to the United States being a Christian Nation, any more than the fact that 90% of the people are right-handed makes it a right-handed nation.
The reason is clear: the majority doesn’t rule in a Constitutional Republic. Our Constitution specifically protects the rights of all minorities. The Founders knew and wanted to avoid the tyranny of the majority. That’s why they made it so difficult to get laws passed, and only in a few cases allow a simple majority to vote something in or out.
All you have to do to see the flaw in the ‘We are a Christian Nation’ argument is to reverse it and say Islam was the dominant religion. You don’t want Sharia law. And the 30% of the population that are not Christian do not want Christian law.
So you can say that there are more Christians than any other religion in the US. But you cannot extend that to say that the nation is Christian. Don’t forget that elephant in the room, the near one-quarter that doesn’t have any religion, second only to Evangelicals in number. That number is growing.