So here's a little thought experiment inspired by the holiday season and yet another woefully lost War on Christmas: What if America really was founded as a "Christian nation" as some righties wrongly insist? What if the Constitution did proclaim Christianity as the official state religion, and what if it did permit religious tests as a qualification for holding office?
Most other nations at the time of the founding had official state religions, as did some of the 13 colonies. So it wouldn't have been surprising had the US proclaimed one too.
But if it had, would it make a difference? Just because we constitutionally could require prayer in public schools, would we today? Would we force non-Christian children to endure public religious education (or the scorn of their peers for opting out) simply because the Constitution didn't prohibit it? Would we force politicians and judges and civil servants to swear their belief in Christ as a qualification for holding public office?
Or, had Article VI, Paragraph 3 and the First Amendment failed to include these crucial clauses guaranteeing religious freedom, wouldn't we have eventually added these protections by amendment anyway, in the same way that we gradually expanded the franchise, eliminated slavery, and extended equal protection under the law to all our citizens? That's what other Christian nations did over the past couple hundred years. Wouldn't we have done the same too?
The ahistorical notion that the US was founded as a Christian nation is so obviously false, it's not even worth debating. But it's also moot. The religious sensibilities of 18th century America are no more relevant today than those of 17th century Massachusetts, where the Puritans actually outlawed Christmas as a pagan celebration with no basis in scripture.
But this is not the America of 1689 or 1789 or even 1889. Had the founders not embedded religious freedom within the Constitution, the long arc of American history suggests that these freedoms would have found their way in there eventually, consistent with the increasingly pluralistic nation that we are forever becoming.
So if there is a "War on Christmas," it is a war of attrition. And that is a war that history suggests Christmas can never win.