What is a founding statement
Last updated Fifth of July, 2011
One of the many attacks on our country from the Religious Right is the claim that our country is a Christian Nation. not just that the majority of people are Christians, but that the country itself was founded by Christians, for Christians. However, a little research into American history will show that this statement is a lie. Those people who spread this lie are known as Christian Revisionists. They are attempting to rewrite history, in much the same way as holocaust deniers are. The men responsible for building the foundation of the United States were men of The Enlightenment, not men of Christianity. They were Deists who did not believe the bible was true. They were Freethinkers who relied on their reason, not their faith.
If the U.S. was founded on the Christian religion, the Constitution would clearly say so--but it does not. Nowhere does the Constitution say: "The United States is a Christian Nation", or anything even close to that. In fact, the words "Jesus Christ, Christianity, Bible, Creator, Divine, and God" are never mentioned in the Constitution-- not even once. Nowhere in the Constitution is religion mentioned, except in exclusionary terms. When the Founders wrote the nation's Constitution, they specified that "no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States." (Article 6, section 3) This provision was radical in its day-- giving equal citizenship to believers and non-believers alike. They wanted to ensure that no religion could make the claim of being the official, national religion, such as England had.
The Declaration of Independence gives us important insight into the opinions of the Founding Fathers. Thomas Jefferson wrote that the power of the government is derived from the governed. Up until that time, it was claimed that kings ruled nations by the authority of God. The Declaration was a radical departure from the idea that the power to rule over other people comes from god. It was a letter from the Colonies to the English King, stating their intentions to seperate themselves. The Declaration is not a governing document. It mentions "Nature's God" and "Divine Providence"-- but as you will soon see, that's the language of Deism, not Christianity.
The 1796 Treaty with Tripoli states that the United States was "not in any sense founded on the Christian religion " (see the image on the right). This was not an idle statement meant to satisfy muslims-- they believed it and meant it. This treaty was written under the presidency of George Washington and signed under the presidency of John Adams.
None of the Founding Fathers were atheists. Most of the 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. Some people speculate that if Charles Darwin had lived a century earlier, the Founding Fathers would have had a basis for accepting naturalistic origins of life, and they would have been atheists. We'll never know; but by reading
their own writings, it's clear that most of them were opposed to the bible, and the teachings of Christianity in particular.
Yes, there were Christian men among the Founders. Just as Congress removed Thomas Jefferson's words that condemned the practice of slavery in the colonies, they also altered his wording regarding equal rights. His original wording is here in blue italics: "All men are created equal and independent. From that equal creation they derive rights inherent and inalienable ." Congress changed that phrase, increasing its religious overtones: "All men are created equal. They are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights ." But we are not governed by the Declaration of Independence-- it is a historical document, not a constitutional one.
If the Christian Right Extremists wish to return this country to its beginnings, so be it. because it was a climate of Freethought. 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 Christians, would there ever have been a revolution at all?
"For rebellion as is the sin of witchcraft." 1 Samuel, 15:23
This passage refers to humans rebelling against god, a statement that establishes the precedence of unconditional subservience which is further illustrated, very explicitly, by the following two passages:
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."
Would our Founding Fathers have initiated a rebellion if they thought it was a sin equal to witchcraft (a crime punishable by death )? The bible gives clear instructions to Christians on how to behave when ruled under a monarchy, as the Founders clearly were. The Founders obviously 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 what is written in the Declaration of Independence:
"When a long train of abuses and usurpations. 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 security. "
Who were the Founding Fathers? American historian Richard B. Morris, in his 1973 book Seven Who Shaped Our Destiny: The Founding Fathers as Revolutionaries, identified the following seven figures as the "key" Founding Fathers:
- John Adams
- Benjamin Franklin
- Alexander Hamilton