(Salon) – One of the more enduring tropes on the religious right is this notion that America is a Christian nation, or at the very least a nation founded on Judeo-Christian principles. This has become central to conservative mythology in this country. Despite having no basis in fact or history, this trope simply won’t die. One hears it from virtually every Republican politician, and it’s always accepted uncritically by conservative commentators and audiences.
This week, Republican candidate for president Ben Carson repeated this lie on Fox News, and he did it in typical nonchalant fashion, as though it were a truism. Near the end of a rambling interview about traditional marriage and religious liberty, Carson said: “This is a Judeo-Christian nation, in the sense that a lot of our values are based on a Judeo-Christian faith.”
This statement isn’t even remotely true, but it reflects a widespread ignorance about American history. America is populated overwhelmingly by Christians, but this isn’t a Christian nation in any meaningful sense – and it never was. This inconvenient distinction is often lost on conservatives, and it’s why they’re under the impression that the government ought to respect their religious morality over and above all others (i.e., Kim Davis).