I was contacted recently by a My Case Against God reader named Stephanie. She had sent a copy of my post “Don’t Know Much About History” to a Christian with whom she frequently interacts. As expected, that Christian responded, strongly disagreeing with my post. This blog entry will respond to that response.
First off, let me quote some relevant passages from the Christian’s response, which was largely comprised of theistic quotes from historical figures. Since his response is a bit long, I’ll only include bits and pieces.
"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."
- Thomas Jefferson, Declaration of Independence
“Our laws and our institutions must necessarily be based upon and embody the teachings of the Redeemer of mankind. It is impossible that it should be otherwise; and in the sense and to this extent our civilization and our institutions are emphatically Christian.”
- George Washington, from his Farewell Address to the Nation
Church of the Holy Trinity v. United States, 1792
“The First Amendment has erected a wall of separation between church and state, but that wall is a one directional wall; it keeps the government from running the church, but it makes sure that Christian principles will always stay in government.”
- Thomas Jefferson, President of the United States, January 1, 1802, in an address to the Danbury Baptists
“Providence has given to our people the choice of their rulers and it is the duty as well as the privilege and interest, of a Christian nation to select and prefer Christians for their rulers.”
- John Jay, 1st Chief Justice of Supreme Court
“The highest glory of the American Revolution was this: that it connected, in one indissoluble bond, the principles of civil government with the principles of Christianity.”
- John Quincy Adams
"Can the liberties of a nation be sure when we remove their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are the gift of God?"
- Thomas Jefferson
OK. The response probably includes more than double that, but it’s a fair representation. Before actually presenting my own counterarguments, I’ll provide a few contrary quotes from historical figures.
"Question with boldness even the existence of God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason than that of blindfolded fear."
- 1787 letter to his nephew
"The day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus, by the 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
“I have recently been examining all the known superstitions of the world, and do not find in our particular superstition (Christianity) one redeeming feature. They are all alike, founded upon fables and mythologies.”
- Letter to Dr. Woods
"The way to see by faith is to shut the eye of reason."
- Poor Richard's Almanack, 1758
"He (the Rev. Mr. Whitefield) used, indeed, sometimes to pray for my conversion, but never had the satisfaction of believing that his prayers were heard."
- Franklin's Autobiography
"Religious bondage shackles and debilitates the mind and unfits it for every noble enterprise."
- April 1, 1774
"...the number, the industry, and the morality of the priesthood, and the devotion of the people, have been manifestly increased by the total separation of the church from the State"
- Letter to Robert Walsh, Mar. 2, 1819
“The study of theology, as it stands in Christian churches, is the study of nothing; it is founded on nothing; it rests on nothing; it proceeds by no authorities; it has no data; it can demonstrate nothing.”
- The Age of Reason (1794)
Of course, there are many more anti-Christian quotes to be found in the various words and writings of the Founding Fathers; but, I’ll include no more. Letters only mean so much; actions mean far more. That’s why, in my initial post, I immediately brought up the Treaty of Tripoli. Once again, this is what the Treaty of Tripoli explicitly states: “…the Government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion….” It was composed (by American diplomat Joel Barlow) under the presidency of George Washington. It was unanimously approved by the Senate, and signed by John Adams. If this truly were founded to be a Christian nation, that certainly wouldn’t have happened.
Additionally, if this truly were founded to be a Christian nation, it seems logical to expect there would be a greater number of explicit references to Christianity in our most important, enduring documents. Allow me to quote David Mills, writing in Atheist Universe:
“The two documents upon which our country was actually founded—i.e., the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States—contain not a single word about Christianity, Christian principles, the Bible, or Jesus Christ. Neither is there any mention at all of the Ten Commandments, Heaven, Hell, or being saved. Not a word! The phrase ‘they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights’ was a reference to the Deist Creator, rather than the God of Christianity.”
And moreover, if this country were founded to be a Christian nation, it seems that more of our laws would reflect it. Let’s take a look at The Ten Commandments for a moment.
1. Have no other gods. – No correlation to law.
2. Do not make idols. – No correlation to law.
3. Do not take the lord’s name in vain. – No correlation to law.
4. Keep the Sabbath day. – No correlation to law.
5. Honor your parents. – No correlation to law.
6. Do not kill. – Yes, we have a man on base!
7. Do not commit adultery. – No correlation to law.
8. Do not steal. – He’s made it to second!
9. Do not falsely accuse. – Only half-right. This applies when people are under oath.
10. Do not covet. – Our economy depends upon people being covetous.
So, the Ten Commandments are 25% applicable to our basic laws. Hardly impressive.
So, two points have been ably proven: The Founders were decidedly mixed on Christianity, and the United States was not founded upon the religion (nor do its documents or laws reflect Christian doctrine). But, in truth, this isn’t terribly important. I only raised the issue of the Founding Fathers because so many people have the misconception that the United States was founded to be Christian. As was mentioned in the comments to the original post, I have very, very little reverence for the founders of this country. I’m not hostile to Christianity because they were; it’s purely coincidental. In my view, the Founding Fathers were a pack of rather blatant hypocrites.
It takes a special kind of hypocrite to pontificate about “inalienable rights” and everybody being created equal while at the same time owning black people and treating women as subservient to men. At one time, Franklin owned slaves. Jefferson owned in excess of 650 slaves in his lifetime. Quoting from Wikipedia, here's the story on George Washington. "Although the nation was at peace in the late 1780s, Washington worried that his slaves were going to be set free. He therefore endorsed plans to create a new constitution to allow slavery in all of the states. His support guaranteed it would happen, and he presided over the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in 1787." Patrick Henry also owned black people.
Whether the Founding Fathers were Christian or not really is irrelevant in this day and age. I don’t take my marching orders from a bunch of white guys who preached about inherent rights yet who, at various times in their lives, owned slaves and endorsed the institution of slavery. I make posts on this subject only in the spirit of historical accuracy. This is not a Christian nation. It never was. I truly hope it never will be. For, a Christian theocracy promises just as many horrors as Islamic theocracies already present. It always amazes me when parasites like Falwell and Robertson defend Bush’s foreign policy on the grounds that it’s bringing freedom and democracy to countries currently under the thumb of extremist clerics. They, apparently, are blind to the fact that they themselves are cut from the same cloth as those they decry.