Religion and Legend
1. A set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, especially when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs.
In this article, I intend to explore the legends underlying the American religion. By American religion, I mean to suggest the belief by a large segment of the population in the structures and institutions of government, and the belief that these structures and institutions are used for purposes beneficial to the people. In other words, the religion is belief in the benevolence of the state and the goodness of the political leaders.
1. A non-historical or unverifiable story handed down by tradition from earlier times and popularly accepted as historical.
2. The body of stories of this kind, especially as they relate to a particular people, group, or clan….
There are several American legends that either support this religious belief directly, or otherwise contribute to the deification of the state and those who act through it. Such legends, taught in the public schools and perpetuated through various mainstream media outlets – movies, books, and magazines, as well as mainstream web-sites – create a common foundation as the basis for the desired religious belief: belief in the state.
Legends are material to be moulded, and not facts to be recorded.
Many have done valuable to work toward the shattering of one or more of the key legends, thereby contributing to the loss of faith in the religion. These efforts can only be beneficial to freedom. The work of shattering these legends is the work of revisionist historians, although not all revisionists support the idea of shattering the religion of state. Such historians have toiled tirelessly from the inception of each legend, yet many worked in relative obscurity. Certainly the internet has made their work easily available to any who care to look.
Legends die hard. They survive as truth rarely does.
There are many such legends in American history. I will explore three of these, and suggest that these three may be the most foundational due to the magnitude of awareness in and acceptance by the population at large – most importantly, due to the importance of these legends to the foundation of the American religion. Proximity in time, I suggest, is not the key criteria – one event occurred 150 years ago, while the most recent is only ten years old. But what these three cases hold in common is the level to which the legends have been internalized by large portions of the population.
Sometimes legends make reality, and become more useful than the facts.
A major impediment to shattering the legends is that such action runs full-force into a brick wall of “we the people.” Too many accept the idea that “they” are the government; that the people are in charge; that the government and the country are the same; that I vote, so I have control. As opposed to control through dictators and kings (where the self-interest of the rulers at the expense of the people was never in question), representative democracy has done a wonderful job of convincing the people that they are the rulers, choosing politicians to work on their behalf for their good.
Because they have been taught to believe that they and the government are one-and-the-same, they cannot accept that the legends are not only false but shed light on the murderous actions of government. They cannot damn themselves. Additionally, they cannot accept that the legends are false, because to do so will suggest that they have been dupes.
When the legends die, the dreams end; there is no more greatness.
I do not intend to refute each legend in detail in this post – I am not qualified to do so, even if I chose to. My purpose is to suggest the three that I view as the more important legends to burst, specifically because they are so deeply ingrained and hold significant sway as basis for the religion.