It is a common misconception that Christians founded America to have a Christian Nation. While Christianity is certainly the majority religion in the United States today that does not make it a Christian Nation – it just makes it a nation with many Christians. If the majority of Americans are overweight, are we going to start calling ourselves an Obese Nation?
We are not a democracy where the majority rules. We are a Republic with democratic underlings. What this means is that the majority can only rule if its rule does not step on or infringe upon the rights of the minority – that is the checks and balances system that the Constitution puts in place.
A Christian Nation would not be a Democratic Republic; it would be a Theocracy. Iran, Iraq, and Afghanistan are theocracies. Is that what we want in this country? A theocracy tells us what we can eat, wear, drink, do, etc. The Taliban ran the perfect theocratic state – enforcing their extremist views of religion on the rest of the Afghanistan society. Do you think the Fundamentalists, if allowed to form a theocratic United States would not do the same thing?
This county has Freedom of Religion. That means that each of us can practice whatever religion we want to. We can believe in any gods we want to. We can worship any idols we want to.
What the Christian Agenda forgets is that the freedoms outlined in the COTUS (Constitution of the United States) are personal freedoms. We, as individuals, have personal freedoms. However, when we unite in groups, turn our personal freedoms into group freedoms, and violate the personal freedoms of others, then a line is crossed. As soon as personal freedoms are violated by self-imposed group freedoms, then a fight is about to happen.
Imagine how peaceful the world would be if everyone kept his or her personal freedoms personal. When religion violates the personal freedoms of others, then a fight will ensue, and there is only one party to blame.
I often hear Christians say that the foundation of the United States was upon Christianity and therefore should be a Christian nation. We have already talked briefly about a theocracy, but let us put some more thought into it.
Christianity has over 3,500 sects; which one will lead America? Which Christian beliefs will govern America? Will it be the Baptists, Mormons, Lutherans, Protestants, Pentecostals, Adventists, Charismatic, Methodists, or Jehovah’s Witnesses that take the reigns?
Will Christians allow their Christian Nation based on the beliefs of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Southern Baptists, or the Catholics?
Imagine that the Catholics are in charge of the theocracy and law requires confessions. You have to confess or you go to jail or suffer flogging. It is the law that you must have a statue of the Virgin Mary in your house and place of employment (or on the dash of your car). It is the law that you say the Hail Mary twenty times at eight in the morning and before you go to bed. Cameras and listening devices make sure you follow religious laws. The hymn Onward Christian Soldiers takes on an entirely new meaning, does it not?
If the Southern Baptists get a hold of the nation and run a theocracy we would see the decline of equality for women, increased persecution of non-Christians and homosexuals and a ban on anything they deem as “against the family” (such as Harry Potter, Disney, and ‘marital aids’ for example).
Did the Founding Fathers found America on Christian beliefs?
First, we have to figure out what we mean when we say Founding Fathers. Most of us think of all the revolutionary fathers that helped forge this nation through rebellion against the crown.
What I have found in debating many Christians is that they only mean the 55 delegates that signed the Declaration of Independence. When it comes to those 55 delegates; they are right – the majority of them were Christian. Although with today’s Fundamentalists, they would not have considered these men to be “True Christians.”
The problem with identifying the Founding Fathers is that many different churches baptized them as children and they attended different churches growing up. When some of them left the church, the church still maintained them as members (as most churches still do to this day). Therefore, when we research the records of churches, we find the names of our Founding Fathers blazed upon their membership rosters.
Many of the Founding Fathers went to church every Sunday; after all, it was the thing to do. Going to church does not make one a Christian.
Many of the Founding Fathers were Deists that were coming into the Enlightenment Age, where reason and science where beginning to take hold. Naturalism was huge and many of the Founding Fathers considered themselves Naturalists. This is apparent in their diaries and letters to friends.
In the end, however, it does not matter one iota what faith or non-faith our Founding Fathers had. It would not matter if the Founding Fathers were Fundamentalist Christians, atheists, Mormons, Muslims, Buddhists, or Zoroastrians for that matter.
It does not matter because they wrote a Constitution that is 100% secular. The only two references to religion in the Constitution are exclusionary (keeping religion out). Nowhere in the Constitution is any reference to Christianity – no Jesus, no Bible, no Yahweh, no Virgin May, no Trinity, no Armageddon, no Holy Ghost, no Satan or anything else – it is a secular document for a secular nation.
The first exclusion sets up the foundation for the separation of church and state – providing that the state shall not establish a religion.
The second exclusion prevents religious discrimination when it comes to public office – by preventing any religious tests for office. The swearing in to public office on the Bible is a violation of the Constitution by this exclusionary part of the Constitution. By making public office holders swear on the Bible, they violate the religious test clause.
History plays a major role here and many people are often confused about the history of the United States.
The Pilgrims and Puritans fled England to escape religious persecution from the Church of England. They were escaping a theocracy so they could practice whatever religion they wanted. They were escaping from the very thing that Fundamentalist Christians today are seeking. After they got here, they established their own theocracy, ruled with an iron fist, and prevented no deviation. We all know about the Salem witch trials – a direct result of a theocratic mindset in the colonies.
When the Founding Fathers wrote the Constitution, they knew their history and the history of the Church of England. They knew that a state mandated religion was dangerous and persecution occurred because of it. Even if every Founding Father had been a devout Christian, it would have absolutely no bearing whatsoever on the fact that the Constitution of the United States prevents the government from endorsing or mandating any particular religious belief. They wrote the Constitution that way because of the history of theocracies.
As the Treaty of Tripoli of 1797 state, carried unanimously by the Senate:
TREATY OF TRIPOLI: “As the government of the United States is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion or tranquility of Musselmen [Muslims] … it is declared … that no pretext arising from religious opinion shall ever product an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries… The United States is not a Christian nation any more than it is a Jewish or a Mohammedan nation.”
Even Jesus figured it out in Matthew 22:21:
MATTHEW 22:21: “Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s.”
What do some of the Founding Fathers have to say about the separation of church and state? What are their thoughts about whether this country is a Christian Nation?
John Adams wrote in his book A Defense of the Constitutions of Government of the United States of America, 1788:
ADAMS: “The United States of America have exhibited, perhaps, the first example of governments erected on the simple principles of nature…. [In] the formation of the American governments … it will never be pretended that any persons employed in that service had interviews with the gods, or were in any degree under the influence of heaven… These governments were contrived merely by the use of reason and the senses.”
John Adams wrote in a letter to Thomas Jefferson:
ADAMS: “I almost shudder at the thought of alluding to the most fatal example of the abuses of grief which the history of mankind has preserved — the Cross. Consider what calamities that engine of grief has produced!”
Ethan Allen wrote in his book Reason the Only Oracle of Man, 1784:
ALLEN: “I have generally been denominated a Deist, the reality of which I never disputed, being conscious I am no Christian, except mere infant baptism makes me one; and as to being a Deist, I know not strictly speaking, whether I am one or not.”
Benjamin Franklin wrote in An Essay on Toleration:
FRANKLIN: “If we look back into history for the character of the present sects in Christianity, we shall find few that have not in their turns been persecutors, and complainers of persecution. The primitive Christians thought persecution extremely wrong in the pagans, but practiced it on one another. The first Protestants of the Church of England blamed persecution in the Roman Church, but practiced it upon the Puritans. These found it wrong in the bishops, but fell into the same practice themselves both here and in New England.”
Andrew Jackson said in 1832, while making a statement about refusing to proclaim a national day of fasting and prayer:
JACKSON: “I could not do otherwise without transcending the limits prescribed by the Constitution for the President and without feeling that I might in some degree disturb the security which religion nowadays enjoys in this country in its complete separation from the political concerns of the General Government.”
Thomas Jefferson wrote in a letter to Jeremiah Moor in 1800:
JEFFERSON: “The clergy, by getting themselves established by law and engrafted into the machine of government, have been a very formidable engine against the civil and religious rights of man.”
Thomas Jefferson from Jefferson’s Works, Vol. IV:
JEFFERSON: “The hocus-pocus fantasy of a God, like another Cerberus, with one body and three heads, had its birth and growth in the blood of thousands and thousands of martyrs.”
James Madison wrote in a letter objecting to the use of government land for churches in 1803:
MADISON: “The purpose of separation of church and state is to keep forever from these shores the ceaseless strife that has soaked the soil of Europe in blood for centuries.”
James Madison addressed the Virginia General Assembly in 1785 from his writing A Memorial and Remonstrance against Religious Assessments:
MADISON: “During almost fifteen centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial. What have been its fruits? More or less in all places, pride and indolence in the Clergy, ignorance and servility in the laity, in both, superstition, bigotry and persecution. Enquire of the Teachers of Christianity for the ages in which it appeared in its greatest luster; those of every sect, point to the ages prior to its incorporation with civil policy.”
Thomas Paine wrote in his book The Rights of Man in 1791:
PAINE: “Persecution is not an original feature in any religion; but it is always the strongly marked feature of all religions established by law. Take away the law-establishment, and every religion re-assumes its original benignity.”
Thomas Paine wrote in his book The Age of Reason:
PAINE: “All national institutions of churches, whether Jewish, Christian or Turkish, appear to me no other than human inventions, set up to terrify and enslave mankind, and monopolize power and profit.”
George Washington wrote in a letter to the United Baptist Chamber of Virginia in May 1789:
WASHINGTON: “If I could conceive that the general government might ever be so administered as to render the liberty of conscience insecure, I beg you will be persuaded, that no one would be more zealous than myself to establish effectual barriers against the horrors of spiritual tyranny, and every species of religious persecution.”
Benjamin Franklin wrote in his biography:
FRANKLIN: “As to Jesus of Nazareth, my Opinion of whom you particularly desire, I think the System of Morals and his Religion…has received various corrupting Changes, and I have, with most of the present dissenters in England, some doubts as to his Divinity; tho’ it is a question I do not dogmatize upon, having never studied it, and think it needless to busy myself with it now, when I expect soon an opportunity of knowing the Truth with less trouble.”
Thomas Jefferson wrote in a letter to William Short:
JEFFERSON: “I have examined all the known superstitions of the world, and I do not find in our particular superstition of Christianity one redeeming feature. They are all alike; founded on fables and mythology. Millions of innocent men, women and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined, and imprisoned. What has been the effect of this coercion? To make one half the world fools and the other half hypocrites; to support roguery and error all over the earth.”
Of course, we can throw quotes back and forth all day and get nowhere. The point is that all of the Founding Fathers, save a few, saw the separation of church and state as vital to the survival of the new country. They realized that this nation had to be a nation of religious freedom – not of a single religion.
Until a Christian can show any reference to the Christian doctrine, dogma, or theology in the Constitution, which is the law of this land, then the argument that America is a Christian Nation has no merit whatsoever.