No. 3: (11/12/08): Was the US founded as a Christian Country?



I have been hearing constantly lately about the back and forth between the left and the right whether the United States of America, was or was not founded as a Christian nation.  I believe that much of the argument and where you come down on it is based on semantics and your understanding of the establishment clause in the context of the day. If you assume by Christian nation, you’re referring to modern day Evangelicalism, then no, it was absolutely not founded as a Christian nation. If you assume by “Christian nation” as the founders would have that it was founded upon the accepted doctrine of the Church of England and meant to be run as a theocracy then again no, it was not.

Many of the Founding Fathers were by no means “orthodox” Christians by the standards of the day, in fact many were openly Deists. But even the Deists among them recognized God as being the God of the Christian bible. I have not read any original material, correspondences etc. that denied their belief in God but rather sought to defend against state endorsed/mandated religion (directed towards the Church of England) warning of oppression at their hands when endorsed and supported by the state.

I part ways with the Evangelicals where they insist that the country was founded as an Evangelical Christian country. It clearly was not founded to be a theocratic country, but I don’t believe that it was purely secular either. If they truly did not believe in God, then there would be no reference to a Creator, nor would there be inalienable rights. Rights that are given to man by a “Creator” cannot be taken away from men; only rights given by men can be taken away or restricted by man or the state. Sessions of congress and the constitutional conventions were opened and closed with prayer, including on occasion by Franklin (one of the most ardent Deists) hardly an act that would have been practiced by Agnostics or Atheists.

The next question would then be what is the nature of the Creator that they reference?

It is clear that no specific name was given to the Creator (to their credit) i.e. Jehovah, Allah, Vishnu etc. Given though, that they were by a large majority if not all, Christians, Deists or Quakers, their consensus of understanding would have been that the Creator they refer to would have the nature of the “Christian” God.

I do however agree with the secularists that a very, very bright line must be drawn lest we allow Christianity to become the American Sharia.  Advocating that our government should be run as though the Bible was the source of our laws, morals and principles would be partially correct but only in respect to how the Bible has influenced western society.   

 The majority of Colonial law at the time was based on the Common Law of England which was clearly theocratic in its practice of the day. The Magna Carta had enormous impact on the English Bill of Rights, Mayflower Compact as well as the Articles of Confederation, and of course the Constitution and Declaration of Independence. Judeo-Christian beliefs and the natural law philosophies formed the cornerstone of the English monarchy and its law, and so by extension, the United States.

A common complaint in regards to religions is that  “you have no right to expect that I’m going to let my government operate as if it has chosen a religion and wants everyone else to do the same” or that based on the prohibition .

We are in a republic which means that to a certain extent as a minority must accept as both a practical reality and a Constitutional reality that some beliefs will be “thrown in your face”.

In my reading there is no Constitutional prohibition against one that “includes the right to not have it thrown in our faces everywhere we go by the government.” Government is the organizational expression of the people and as long as a sentiment or right is the will of the majority it must be expressed so long as it does not infringe on a minority’s right to change the will of the majority either through free press, free speech or petition. I must respectfully disagree with you that the government’s current expression of religion constitutes an establishment of an official religion the likes of the Church of England that can be used as a legal club against you by the government.

None of the Founding Fathers spoke out against religion as having a right to free speech or participating or influencing government or the electorate at large. What they all agreed on that could not happen is political rule from the pulpit. It was perfectly acceptable at the founding for churches to use speech and collective power to influence members who were then free to go and act accordingly in a political sense. What was not acceptable would be for church inspired speech to be deemed more weighty then that of a non-believer. Equally unacceptable would be for the government to create, fund and support a specific church (i.e. Church of England) to go forth and proselytize/demonize in the name of the State.

In terms of references to In God We Trust on money and God in the Pledge of Allegiance, these are actually neutral as is any Congressional or Presidential proclamations. Take for instance, Veteran’s Day. If you are a pacifist and do not condone the taking of arms or recognize the use of arms as moral under any circumstances, are your civil rights violated because Congress made it a federal holiday?

You are equally able to express your beliefs on this day as any other day of the year. You are not imprisoned, you are not taxed at a different rate, your votes do not only count as 3/4 of a vote, etc. The majority of Americans however feel it is appropriate to officially commemorate the service of Veteran’s to their country. If you are Atheist and do not believe that God should be officially recognized in any sense, are you prohibited from using minted currency or any of the above examples? If I despise my mother, are my rights violated because of a Congressional proclamation for Mother’s Day? The foundation of America as democratic form of a republic, was to ensure the will of the majority must be the primary outward expression of the government, and in its genius, the Declaration, Constitution and Bill of Rights, ensures and charges the government to just as vigorously defend the rights of the minority to freedom of opposition and conscious.

To those who advocate a complete seperation and removal of God or influence of religion from the public place, remember that the rule of unintended consequences.  Under a rule of absolutism it would mean that Evangelicals insisting that student led prayer or a moment of silence in school would be as verboten as Dr. Martin Luther King, using his pulpit and religious networks to preach civil rights not only as a matter of a political right but also a spiritual mandate of the Christian faith. I see no attempts by the ACLU to remove copies of “I Have a Dream” speech which makes numerous religious references from schools or Martin Luther King Day as a Federal holiday which honors not just a civil rights leader but a religious leader as well.


7 Responses to No. 3: (11/12/08): Was the US founded as a Christian Country?

  1. Bob Wiseman says:

    When I was a youngster in school we recited the pledge of allegiance without the words
    “Under God”. It wasn’t until perhaps Junior High that the words “Under God” were inserted into the pledge.

  2. Jason says:

    What really drives me insane is when people (wrongly) invoke the Establishment Clause during discussions relating to the Founders and the forming of this great nation. As any fan of our founding document realizes, the Establishment Clause is as follows “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion….” Non-religious folk tend take this to mean that Church and State are to be permanently separate and any semblance of relationship between the two, no matter how tenuous, is unconstitutional. Unfortunately, not many of them realize that nowhere in ANY founding document are the words “separation of church and state” found. That phrase came from a letter that Thomas Jefferson wrote to a Danbury Baptists Group in 1802. Moreover, many who breathlessly cite the Establishment Clause tend to not place as much emphasis on the clause following directly after that, the Free Exercise Clause, which says “…or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”. As we have discussed in the hallways at work, the Constitution guarantees freedom of religion, not freedom from the same. But, I’m just preaching to the choir.

  3. Ex-Hitler youth issues dire warning to America
    ‘Every day brings this nation closer to Nazi-style totalitarian abyss’

    Posted: November 13, 2008
    1:00 am Eastern

    WASHINGTON – Because it has abandoned moral absolutes and its historic Christian faith, the U.S. is moving closer to a Nazi-style totalitarianism, warns a former German member of the Hitler Youth in a new book.

    “Every day brings this nation closer to a Nazi-style totalitarian abyss,” writes Hilmar von Campe, now a U.S. citizen, and author of “Defeating the Totalitarian Lie: A Former Hitler Youth Warns America.”

    Von Campe has founded the national Institute for Truth and Freedom to fight for a return to constitutional government in the U.S. – a key, he believes, to keeping America free.

    “I lived the Nazi nightmare, and, as the old saying goes, ‘A man with an experience is never at the mercy of a man with an argument,'” writes von Campe. “Everything I write is based on my personal experience in Nazi Germany. There is nothing theoretical about my description of what happens when a nation throws God out of government and society, and Christians become religious bystanders. I don’t want to see a repetition. The role of God in human society is the decisive issue for this generation. My writing is part of my life of restitution for the crimes of a godless government, of the evil of which I was a part.”

    Von Campe grew up under the Nazis, served in the Hitler Youth and fought against the Red Army in the Yugoslavian theater as a tank gunner in the German army. He was captured at the end of the war and escaped five months later from a prisoner of war camp in Communist Yugoslavia.

    “It took me a long time to understand and define the nature of National Socialism,” says von Campe. “And, unfortunately, their philosophy continues to flourish under different labels remaining a menace to America and free human society.”

    He writes: “The most painful part of defining National Socialism was to recognize my own moral responsibility for the Nazi disaster and their crimes against humanity. It boiled down to accepting the truth that ‘as I am, so is my nation,’ and realizing that if every German was like me, it was no wonder that the nation became a cesspool of gangsters. This realization is as valid today for any person in any nation as it was then, and it is true for America and every American now.”

    Von Campe’s message is that political freedom and democratic rules alone are not sufficient to govern humanity justly.

    “Democratic procedures can be subverted and dishonest politicians are like sand in the gearbox, abundant, everywhere and destructive,” he writes. “What I see in America today is people painting their cabins while the ship goes down. Today in America we are witnessing a repeat performance of the tragedy of 1933 when an entire nation let itself be led like a lamb to the Socialist slaughterhouse. This time, the end of freedom is inevitable unless America rises to her mission and destiny.”

    Von Campe says he sees spiritual parallels among Americans and his childhood Germany.

    “The silence from our pulpits regarding the moral collapse of American society from within is not very different from the silence that echoed from the pulpits in Germany toward Nazi policies,” he explains. “Our family lived through the Nazi years in Germany, an experience typical of millions of Europeans regardless of what side they were on. We paid a high price for the moral perversions of a German government, which excluded God and His Commandments from their policies. America must not continue following the same path to destruction, but instead heed the lessons of history and the warning I am giving.”

    Specifically, von Campe warns Americans their political leaders are on the wrong footing, “denying our cultural and traditional roots based on our unique Constitution and Christian orientation as a nation. Christians don’t understand their mission.”

  4. sanityinjection says:

    I like to put it this way: The Constitution guarantees freedom *of* religion, not freedom *from* religion. The Founding Fathers were concerned with preventing the government from showing favoritism toward any particular religion or denomination *at the expense of the others*. They were not in the least bit concerned about atheists being offended by mere mentions of God and would have found the notion silly: if you don’t believe that there is a God, then you should no more be offended by mentions of Him than you would be of a unicorn or the Tooth Fairy.

  5. HD says:

    Would it not be an interesting exercise to re-create the constitution regularly? What would we put into it now?

  6. Where do we start? What about what do we keep out?

  7. kindlingman says:

    The simple answer to the question (Was the US founded as a Christian country?) is NO.
    Do we need to say more?
    What in the world is a Christian country anyway?

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