Friday, September 24, 2010

America - Founded As A Christian Nation?

"The government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion ..."
--from the Treaty of Tripoli, signed by John Adams, June 10, 1797

This is particularly of interest because it was drafted while George Washington was president. It was ratified while John Adams was president and it was signed into law with a unanimous vote. Let me reiterate that...a unanimous vote.
Not one single legislator said "nay". We need not point out that the founders were still active in government at this time, Washington and Adams both presided over the development of this treaty, that if they had any notions of this country being founded as a "Christian Nation" I think they would have objected to at least the language of this treaty. So America is not a Christian nation and that is historical fact. It became a point of law in 1797. End of story.
Read the treaty here.

In this cartoon in the Political Register, September, 1769, an indignant New England mob pushes a bishop's boat back towards England, frightening the prelate into praying, "Lord, now lettest thou thy Servant depart in Peace." The mob flings a volume of Calvin's Works at the bishop, while brandishing copies of John Locke and Algernon Sydney on government. The crowd shouts slogans: "Liberty & Freedom of Conscience"; "No Lords Spiritual or Temporal in New England"
Ah, the age of reason! Sure there were the Puritans and that ilk too but don't imagine for a moment that they were a majority. Escape from tyranical religions in their home countries was a popular reason to throw caution to the wind and venture to the new unknown wild frontier outpost.

Glancing at some websites that claim the U.S. WAS founded as a Christian nation, I came across these arguments and I'd like to address them:

Emblazoned over the Speaker of the House in the US Capitol are the words "In God
We Trust."

Well, yes but it was stuck there in 1962, pretty safe to assume the founders had nothing to do with that... and the concept of god is not unique to Christianity now is it? This was the cold war era, the anti communist hysteria was in full bloom and one of the slogans of the time in propaganda dispersion was "God is on the side of capitalists" this is the same reason it appeared on currency. Again no founding fathers were involved having long been dead.

The Supreme Court building built in the 1930's has carvings of
Moses and the Ten Commandments.

Um, how many framers of the constitution were involved in the 1930s? None. Many of these buildings were raised in Washington as part of FDR's New Deal to get people back to work, artists and indeed musicians were employed by this forward thinking program...I wonder if any musicians played Via Con Dios or some other tune that referenced a deity? I wonder if this doesn't indicate we are founded as a Jewish nation since it's Moses in the statue? Maybe it means Sandra Day O'Conner has a burning bush? Or is it likely the story of the 10 commandments is a mythology that relates to "laws" which is the primary concern of the SCOTUS?

You never know.

God is mentioned in stone all over
Washington D.C., on its monuments and buildings.

(See Above.)

The word GOD is not limited to Christianity, Deists believed in a god of nature, but dismissed all supernatural concepts of god. God is a very general term, Jupiter is a is is the very popular entity Mammon. Phsicists regularly refer metaphorically to God. Yet largely this is not the Hairy Thunderer...perhaps the Cosmic Muffin?

As a nation, we have
celebrated Christmas to commemorate the Savior's birth for centuries.

Really? Did you know From 1659 to 1681, the celebration of Christmas was actually outlawed in Boston. Anyone exhibiting the Christmas spirit was fined five shillings. By contrast, in the Jamestown settlement, Captain John Smith reported that Christmas was enjoyed by all and passed without incident. So back around the time of the founding of the nation Christmas wasn't really celebrated by the entire nation. After the American Revolution, English customs fell out of favor, including Christmas. In fact, Congress was in session on December 25, 1789, the first Christmas under America’s new constitution. Christmas wasn’t declared a federal holiday until June 26, 1870. Christmas was a rather "adult" holiday in the old world with much drinking and revelry...the Puritan elements didn't celebrate it at all.

Oaths in courtrooms have invoked God from the beginning.
Well no, not from the beginning.
Text of the Oaths of Office for Supreme Court Justices...

Justices of the Supreme Court of the United States are required to take two oaths before they may execute the duties of their appointed office.
The Constitutional Oath:
As noted below in Article VI, all federal officials must take an oath in support of the Constitution:
"The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States." The Constitution does not provide the wording for this oath, leaving that to the determination of Congress. From 1789 until 1861, this oath was, "I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support the Constitution of the United States." During the 1860s, this oath was altered several times before Congress settled on the text used today, which is set out at 5 U. S. C. § 3331. This oath is now taken by all federal employees, other than the President. State level oaths are a matter of states and not the nation.

The founding fathers often quoted the Bible in their writings.

Well, yes but not as an authoritative religious book, often they were questioning passages. Of the most active and well known "founders" most were subscribers to of the age of reason philosophies and did not embrace superstitions or the supernatural at all. I am speaking of the principal architects of the constitution which includes Jefferson, Madison, Washington, Franklin, Adams, Hamilton, and Hancock. Even Hamilton, who was known to bitterly disagree with Jefferson on some matters was influenced by John Locke, an enlightenment author.
The bible as literature is one thing. As literally true unquestionable doctrine it is something else. I often quote the bible yet don't believe it is supernatural or literally true in any sense. Most of the well known Founders were Deists, which is to say they thought the universe had a creator, but that he does not concern himself with the daily lives of humans, and does not directly communicate with humans, either by revelation or by sacred books. They spoke often of God, (Nature's God or the God of Nature), but this was not the God of the bible. They did not deny that there was a person called Jesus, and praised him for his benevolent teachings, but they flatly denied his divinity. Now if we are speaking of the 250 men who were involved in the government in some way through the first couple presidencies we might be able to say generally they were Christians, but it's a guess as there simply not enough data on all of their beliefs...Madison, Jefferson, & Franklin wrote a great deal about their personal beliefs and their private thoughts are well documented. We must remember that yes many came to the remote colonies to escape religious persecution (From Christians incidentally) but many more came for the same reasons people go to any look for a better life, or in the case of the merchants; to seek fortune, or to escape something . There were an equal number of merchants on the Mayflower who could care less about Calvinism, Puritanism, or any other "isms: that you never hear anything about, but the Pilgrims could not finance the trip themselves, the merchants had the means.

The national anthem mentions God.

Was Francis Scott Key a founder? No. The Star Spangled Banner became the national anthem under the Herbert Hoover Administration...long after the founding fathers died. (And how many have ever heard that 4th stanza that mentions God? If we were trying to discover whether Key was a Theist this might be clue. But has nothing to do with the forging of the Constitution) This has no bearing whatsoever on whether the founders created the nation as a Christian nation.

The Declaration of Independence mentions God.

Yet Jefferson's words were originally "All men are created equal and independent. From that equal creation they derive rights inherent and inalienable." The words were changed in the final draft to appease some members of congress who probably were in fact theists. Again, God is not limited to the Christian idea of God. Oh and incidentally we are not governed by the Declaration of Independence-- it is a historical document, not a constitutional one. God is not mentioned in the Constitution, and Jesus appears nowhere in any official government historical documents.

The Bible was used as a textbook in the schools.
So was the "Grapes Of Wrath" and "Green Eggs and Ham".
Doesn't make it a true story. Or demonstrate any evidence that the founders sought a Christian nation.

The Founders were students of the European Enlightenment. Half a
century after the establishment of the United States, clergymen complained that
no president up to that date had been a Christian. In a sermon that was reported
in newspapers, Episcopal minister Bird Wilson of Albany, New York, protested in
October 1831: "Among all our presidents from Washington downward, not one was a professor of religion, at least not of more than
Unitarianism." The attitude of
the age was one of enlightened reason, tolerance, and free thought. The Founding
Fathers would turn in their graves if the Christian Extremists had their way
with this country.

Consider this: IF indeed the members of the First
Continental Congress were all bible-believing, "God-fearing" men, would there ever have been a revolution at all?

"For rebellion as is the sin of witchcraft." 1 Samuel, 15:23

Would they have initiated a rebellion if
indeed they thought it was equal to witchcraft (a crime punishable by death in Christian circles at that time)?
But that's only the tip of the iceberg.

The New Testament gives clear
instructions to Christians on how to behave when ruled under a monarchy, as were the Founders.

1 Peter 2:13: "For the Lord's sake accept the authority of
every human institution, whether of the emperor as supreme, or of governors, as sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to praise those who do right."

Paul wrote in Romans 13:1:

"Let every person be subject to the governing
authorities; for there is no authority except from God, and those authorities
that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resist authority
resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment."

The Founders clearly did not heed what was written in the bible. If they
were in fact "good" Christians, there would never have been an American
Revolution. Compare the above passages with the Declaration of Independence:

"...when a long train of abuses and usurpation... evinces a design to
reduce (the people) under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their
duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future

A thinking person can judge for themselves.

Was The U.S. founded as a Christian state?

You know the answer.

And it was written into law in 1797.

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