Is USA a 'Christian Nation'?

by Ravyn 7 Replies latest jw friends

  • Ravyn

    this bears repeating since it is now hidden in the thread where I first posted it.


    All Those Christian Presidents

    [Portions of this were originally published in the American Rationalist.]

    George Washington chopped down a cherry tree and would not tell a lie about it. Abraham Lincoln freed all the slaves. John Kennedy ushered into the White House all the glory of King Arthur's Camelot. And I know how to turn iron into gold.

    We so often believe what we want to believe, ignoring clear-cut evidence as we do so. This is especially true of our country's supposed Christian origins. You can find this topic almost daily in op-ed pages all across the country, as Christian fundamentalists strive mightily to turn America into the Christian nation they claim it once was. The rhetoric flows fast and thick, and after a while some of us begin to believe it. A lie told often enough.

    But we must look at our history objectively and resist the temptation to rewrite it to suit our opinions of what our heritage ought to have been. This admonition applies to freethinkers as well. If our nation indeed has Christian roots, then we'll just have to accept it and move on from there. So-does it?

    The obvious first step in seeking out our nation's origins is to read its founding documents. In doing so, one is struck immediately by the total absence of any mention of Jesus, Christ or Christianity. There is also no reference to any Christian church-Catholic, Baptist, Lutheran, Episcopal, Calvinist-nothing. Not a word, nor a hint. If our Founding Fathers had intended to make this a Christian nation, they could not have hidden that intention more completely, or done a worse job of it.

    The Declaration of Independence refers only to "Nature's God," "divine Providence" and a "Creator." All of these terms are so vague that they could be used comfortably by any faithful Muslim. Moreover, "Nature's God" was part of a passage that reads, ".the separate and equal Station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them." You'll notice "God" got second billing. And not only did the Founders feel that the word "God" required an adjective, but the modifier they chose, "Nature's," couldn't be further removed from Christianity, and is in fact a precise definition of the God of Deism. (Deism: The belief that an unknowable God created everything, and then just walked away from it all, leaving all things to work out their own destinies, from atoms to apples.)

    The U.S. Constitution, with its Bill of Rights, fares even worse in the Christian roots theory. No deity at all is mentioned, let alone a Christian one. The wildest, broadest interpretations imaginable cannot make the Constitution a Christian document. Its only mention of religion at all is where it forbids Congress from making any laws establishing or prohibiting it, and where it forbids religious tests for holding public office. So the Constitution's two brief mentions of religion strictly emphasize the need to keep it out of government.

    So, then, where did all this "Christian nation" stuff come from? Our Founders went out of their way, very wisely, to avoid religion altogether. When freethinkers point to this shrieking silence about religion, Christians often attack that point by calling it an "argument from silence," one of the weakest arguments available. Generally speaking, arguments from silence are weak. In this case, though, it is one of the strongest arguments available. Other than bluntly and specifically repudiating Christianity, which they were also wise enough to avoid, the Founders could not have made more plain their desire to separate their new government from religion. Their silence about Christianity chimes loudly and clearly. If they had wanted to mention it, they would have. But they did not.

    Deathbed and trauma-induced Christian conversions of historical figures are very popular grist for Christian mills. But are they true? The first Life of Washington, for example, from which we received the ridiculous cherry tree story, was written by Mason Weems, a Christian minister and therefore hardly an objective source. He presents Washington as a devout Christian. However, Washington's own diaries record that in 1769 he attended church only ten times, in 1770 nine times, in 1771 and 1772 six times, and in 1773 five times. Devout? Hardly. Such sporadic church attendance reflects, at best, a half-hearted attempt at conforming to social proprieties. It does not reflect a devout Christian.

    John Adams was a Unitarian and flatly denied the doctrine of eternal damnation-obviously not a Christian. John Quincy Adams was likewise a Unitarian. The brilliant Thomas Jefferson was an out and out freethinker, and even urged his nephew to "Question with boldness even the existence of a God." These are not the words of a Christian.

    James Madison early on studied to become a minister, but inexplicably did not. He expressed his indignation that people were being jailed in Virginia merely for criticizing the Episcopal Church, then the established Church of Virginia. The state laws of the time called for the death penalty for the following:

    • Speaking impiously of any articles of Christianity
    • Blaspheming God's name
    • Incorrigible cursing

    (Surely this is a lesson in why not to allow theocracies. But why is it, anyway, that as soon as religions get a foothold, they immediately begin to persecute other religions?! Is oppression a necessary component of religious belief? It certainly rears its ugly head often enough to make you think so.) Madison of course went on to become a fierce advocate of church/state separation, and as an adult he simply refused to discuss religion at all. This fact alone makes his Christianity highly unlikely, living as he did in a society that smiled favorably on it.

    Abraham Lincoln was a Deist in his youth, but was subsequently, and probably wisely, advised against advertising that fact if he wanted to succeed in politics. Legend has him converting to Christianity, though Lincoln himself never bothered to mention it to anyone. No one else mentioned it either until long after Lincoln's death. And no one agrees on where or when this supposed profound life-change took place. Depending on the source, it was either in Illinois or Washington, in 1848, 1858, 1862, or 1863. Such large discrepancies make "never" the most likely.

    Lincoln's closest friend and law partner for over twenty years, William H. Herndon, claimed that Old Abe had no religious beliefs at all. Lincoln's own silence on the subject makes his friend's observation seem probable.

    Benjamin Franklin, Ethan Allen and Thomas Paine were thoroughgoing freethinking Deists. Though not Presidents, they were strongly influential in forming our early republic. Thomas Paine was a champion of reason. Highly praised for The Rights of Man, he was equally vilified for his The Age of Reason. A glittering testimonial to freedom of thought, The Age of Reason excoriated Christianity. Paine bravely put pen to paper in a way that guaranteed censure in the year of 1795. He was praised for glorifying political freedom, but cursed for applauding religious freedom. It is to history's shame that this beacon of reason and rationality suffered so tragically at the end of his life. He was a man ahead of his times.

    What most of us fail to recognize in these discussions, however, is that it wouldn't matter if every single President since Washington had been a Bible-toting, evangelical Christian. They weren't, of course, but even if they had been, it still would not change the secular foundation of our republic. Christians like to quote various Presidents or Supreme Court Justices who (quite incorrectly) have referred to our "Christian nation." But what do those quotes prove? I could quote Richard Nixon, but would that prove that ours was intended to be a nation of crooks?

    Our Founders' clearly created a secular government that was carefully separated from religion. You can peer and probe and dissect to your heart's content, but you will never find Christ or Christianity referred to, even obliquely, in our admirable founding documents. It is because of those documents that Christians are free to worship as they please, a priceless freedom enjoyed in precious few countries throughout history. Christians should be grateful for that freedom and stop trying to force their beliefs, posthumously, on our Founders (and on the rest of us-today!). We the People are truly a diverse group, and this has always been one of our greatest strengths. We never were, were never intended to be, and hopefully never will be, a "Christian" nation.

    1997 Judith Hayes

  • unclebruce

    well now Rayvn,

    if the good ol' USA ain't a christian nation, how come you got George dublya Bush yapp'n on about GOD Almighty and call'n fer a crusade against the oily Persians eh!?

    uncle 'devils avocado' bruce

    ps: the only time an australian politician mentions GOD is when he stubs his toe (and then not in the most flattering terms

  • Satanus

    The founding fathers weren't christian. They went against the fanatical christian tide of the time, in 'new england'. If the fathers hadn't separated religion from govt, and framed laws to keep the central govt at bey, dark ages would be just around the corner, or already here.


  • unclebruce

    g'day SS,

    that's the thing that boggles our downunder brains .. has the American Government heard of the separation between church and state? As one Australian politician recently said to Church leaders "I won't come telling you how to run the church, you don't come telling me how to run the state"

    unclebruce (everytime George mentions GOD the U.S. loses support down here)

    Edited by - unclebruce on 12 February 2003 23:4:2

  • seedy3

    On this subject here is an interesting column written by Willam Edelen:


    by William Edelen
    February 24, 2002

    One of my favorite times of the year is the Presidents month of February. Why? Because it gives me an annual opportunity to make a dent in the historical and religious ignorance of the political and Christian knee jerk right wingers. They spend almost full time in perverting American history claiming that the bible and Christianity were at the foundation of this nation. What total hogwash. Once a year I get to bring a few undisputed facts to their attention.

    THE ENCYCLOPEDIA BRITANNICA, 1968, vol.2, p.420, quote:
    "One of the embarrassing problems for the nineteenth-century champions of the Christian faith was the fact that NOT ONE of the first six presidents of the United States was a Christian. They were Deists."

    In Deism there is no personal God, only an impersonal "force" or "energy" or "natures God" or "providence". In Deism, the bible is nothing but literature, and bad literature at that. Jefferson and Paine both called it "a dunghill" Others of our founders used the same language. In Deism, Jesus was nothing more than a nomadic teacher. I will now let these men speak for themselves:

    GEORGE WASHINGTON: "Being no bigot, I am disposed to humor Christian ministers and the church" Looking for servants, he said: "I will be happy to have atheists, Jews, Christians or Mohammedans." In 1831, Episcopalian minister Bird Wilson said in a sermon: "Washington is no more than a Unitarian, if anything." Washington refused to take communion, looking upon it as superstition. He refused to ever kneel in church according to his wife and minister, James Abercrombie. The Treaty of Tripoli, under Washington, Article 11 begins: "As the government of the United States is NOT IN ANY SENSE founded on the Christian religion." This Treaty was ratified by the senate in 1797under Adams, without a SINGLE OBJECTION..

    THOMAS JEFFERSON: Author of the Declaration of Independence. "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. And to support roguery and error all over the earth."

    JAMES MADISON: Author of our Constitution and Bill of Rights. "A just government instituted to perpetuate liberty, does not need the church or the clergy. During almost 15 centuries the legal establishment of Christianity has been on trial. What have been been its fruits? These are the fruits in all places: pride and indolence in the clergy...ignorance and servility in the laity...and in both clergy and laity superstition, bigotry and persecution." Madison passionately objected to state supported chaplains in Congress and the military, as well as the exemption of churches from taxation. And rightly so. They should be taxed.

    JOHN ADAMS: "The doctrine of the divinity of Jesus has made a convenient cover for absurdity" Adams signed the Treaty of Tripoli, which states that the United States is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion. Episcopalian minister Bird Wilson, in a sermon of October 1831, summed up the religion of our founding presidents in these words: "Among all of our Presidents, from Washington downward, not one was a professor of Christianity."

    ABRAHAM LINCOLN: Not a founding president but a giant who shared exactly the same religious views: quote: "Christianity is not my religion and the bible is not my book. I have never united myself in any church because I could never give assent to the long, complicated statements of Christian doctrine and dogma." Lincoln never joined any church and was never baptized, looking upon it as superstition. His wife said: "my husband is not a Christian, but is a spiritual man I think." The most magnificent Pulitzer-Prize biography of this giant is Carl Sandburg's "Abraham Lincoln." And as Sandburg put it: "His views were such as would place him entirely outside of Christianity."

    Thomas Jefferson put in one succinct sentence what they all believed. "The day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus, by a supreme being as his father in the womb of a virgin, will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerva in the brain of Jupiter." (letter to John Adams, April 11, 1823)

    Why are these facts of American history not being taught in our High Schools? What forces are at work in our society to keep historical truth from our young people? We get all hot and sweaty about censoring movies and television. A far, far more lethal virus that is at work is the censorship of the religious views of our first six presidents, our Founding Fathers. Why is this not being taught? Why is your minister not telling you about it, assuming he is historically literate?

    The genius Goethe said it best: "Nothing is more terrifying than...ignorance in action."

    I am sure to point these facts out to the FUNDIES when they claim that the US is a christian nation.


  • Satanus

    Hi Uncle old buddy

    Well, you guys are on the opposite end of this dirt ball. It's like the opposite pole, or something But looking at origins is always enlightening. Funny how natures of peoples stay more or less the same for hundreds or even thousands of yrs, even though their beliefs change.


    Edited by - saintsatan on 12 February 2003 23:12:55

  • seedy3

    LMAO....... hereis Willam Edelens latest article on the US being a "Christian" nation:

    William Edelen
    February 02, 2003

    February is known as "Presidents Month", due to birth dates. The right wing political and Christian psycho-ceramics (crack pots) will be babbling on about our "Christian" founding presidents. They will be putting out phony, fundamentalist, quotes that are laughable to any historically enlightened person with an I.Q. above 3.

    I am going to tell you a true story. Before you read it, you may want to get another cup of strong coffee or else take two aspirin. Several years ago I wrote a column , during this month, about the fact that George Washington was not even remotely a Christian, but was a Deist at best. I had the column loaded with solid documentation, foot notes, references, and even the Encyclopedia Britannica that could all be checked out. Washington looked upon Christianity as gross superstition. The secretary to the Principal of a Christian school here in Palm Springs called me on the phone and said they demanded that I write another column and apologize. She said they had "proof" that Washington was indeed a Christian. I said..."oh really...what proof?" She said: "our calendar". Staggered, I said "your calendar...WHAT calendar.?" With obvious joy she said "the calendar that Pat Robertson sends out to Christian says right here on his birthday that he was a born again Christian before he died". Almost speechless I said to her..."you do not believe the scholars who write the Encyclopedia Britannica...but you believe Pat Robertson's calendar?" Almost with anger, she yelled over the phone "of course, we believe Pat Robertson...instead of the Encyclopedia written by liberals."

    I give you my word before Wakan Tanka and the Tao that is a true story. The Christian psycho-ceramics are everywhere. Documented facts mean nothing to them.

    The "Philadelphia Gazette" on June 17,1797, printed the entire 12 articles of the Treaty of Tripoli with the notice that the Senate and President John Adams has approved the Treaty UNANIMOUSLY. Not even one dissenting vote. Article Eleven of that printed treaty begins with this statement: "THE GOVERNMENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA IS NOT, IN ANY SENSE, FOUNDED ON THE CHRISTIAN RELIGION."

    The treaty was written with full approval by President George Washington, in the time it took to reach the Senate, John Adams had become President and it met, as stated above, with his full approval.

    Another fact: American history scholars, writing for the "Encyclopedia Britannica" have stated that our first six presidents were Deists, and not in any sense, Christian.

    Quote: "One of the embarrassing problems for the nineteenth century champions of the Christian faith was the fact that not one of the first six presidents of the United States was a Christian. They were Deists." (Chicago: Encyclopedia Britannica, 1968) vol.2, p.420. Mortimer J. Adler, editor in chief, "The Annals of America: Great Issues in American Life: A Conspectus."

    In Deism there is no personal God, only an impersonal energy, force, providence, "natures" God. As for Jesus he had some good thoughts but was only a teacher, nothing more. As John Adams put it: "The doctrine of the divinity of Jesus has made a convenient cover for absurdity." Also in Deism the bible is nothing but literature and bad literature at that, filled with thousands of contradictions, superstitions and falsehoods. Jefferson called the bible a "dunghill". He threw out all of the Old Testament, all of Paul's writings calling them "rubbish", and with scissors cut out all mythology and folklore in the Gospels. He left only a few of the parables that had some significance, and called that his "bible". It is in the Smithsonian.

    If you can read the English language you can go to your public library and read the Jefferson-Adams letters and listen to all of the jokes they made about Jesus, the Trinity and Christian doctrine. But those living in the world of the psycho-ceramics will never take the time to do serious study with world class scholars on the subject matter.

    THOMAS JEFFERSON: Notes on Religion, passed in the Assembly of Virginia in the year 1786. quote: "Christian creeds and doctrines, the clergy's own fatal inventions, through all of the ages, has made of Christendom a slaughter house. What has been the effect of the coercion of Christianity? To make one half the world fools and the other half hypocrites. To support roguery and error all over the earth."

    JOHN ADAMS: Letter F, Van per Kemp...quote: "Christian fables, myths, legends and tales, blended with Jewish myths, have made them the most bloody religion that has ever existed, filled with sordid fraud and superstition."

    JAMES MADISON (father of the Constitution and Bill of Rights) in a speech to the General Assembly of Virginia, 1785...quote: "During 15 centuries, the legal establishment of Christianity has been on trial. What have been the fruits of that trial? Pride and Indolence in the clergy. Ignorance and servility in the laity; and in both clergy and laity, superstition, bigotry and persecution."

    Presidents month, a celebration of Deism. The next time you hear some psycho-ceramic perverting and prostituting the religious beliefs of our Founding Presidents, you might remember the perfect definition of evil..."militant ignorance." Or maybe that genius, Goethe, said it better: "Nothing is more terrifying than ...ignorance in action."

    Some of the same informaiton as the earlier one, but with a few newer snipits


  • unclebruce

    too right ss .. the more people breed the more they stay the same .. hey, if it works for you and don't hurt anyone, fair enough aussies have the oldest culture on earth ya know ... but we're now mixing it with all sorts of funny folk from kinky places like england and thailand and arabistan .. we even got computerized fridges and intelligent underwear and flash, air-conditioned, sterio enhanced luxury cars but that don't mean we're gonna start mentioning god in public (or even private :)

    cheers, unc

    (gee how come i can post more than 10x today? simone changed the thingies again?)

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