Founding Fathers Were Not Christians!

By Tinter

One of the most common statements from the “Religious Right” is that they want this country to “return to the Christian principles on which it was founded”.  However, a little research into American history will show that this statement is a lie. The men responsible for building the foundation of the United States had little use for Christianity, and many were strongly opposed to it. They were men of The Enlightenment, not men of Christianity. They were Deists who did not believe the bible was true.

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 single religion could make the claim of being the official, national religion, such as England had.  Nowhere in the Constitution does it mention religion, except in exclusionary terms.  The words “Jesus Christ, Christianity, Bible, and God” are never mentioned in the Constitution– not once.

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 of divine authority.

The 1796 treaty with Tripoli states that the United States was “in no sense founded on the Christian religion.” 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.

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3 Responses to Founding Fathers Were Not Christians!

  1. Wren says:

    I must respectfully disagree, Tinter, with your premise. While it’s true there were varying religious denominations among the founders, they were, as a whole, a people of great faith. They spoke often and eloquently about their reliance on God and their belief in Divine Providence. For instance:

    George Washington:

    Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of man and citizens. The mere politician, equally with the pious man, ought to respect and to cherish them. A volume could not trace all their connexions with private and public felicity. Let it simply be asked, Where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths, which are the instruments of investigation in Courts of Justice?

    And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle. It is substantially true, that virtue or morality is a necessary spring of popular government. The rule, indeed, extends with more or less force to every species of free government. Who, that is a sincere friend to it, can look with indifference upon attempts to shake the foundation of the fabric?

    (Source: George Washington, Address of George Washington, President of the United States . . . Preparatory to His Declination (Baltimore: George and Henry S. Keatinge), pp. 22-23. In his Farewell Address to the United States in 1796.)

    Thomas Jefferson:

    The doctrines of Jesus are simple, and tend all to the happiness of mankind.

    (Source: Thomas Jefferson, The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, Albert Bergh, editor (Washington, D. C.: Thomas Jefferson Memorial Assoc., 1904), Vol. XV, p. 383.)

    I concur with the author in considering the moral precepts of Jesus as more pure, correct, and sublime than those of ancient philosophers.

    (Source: Thomas Jefferson, The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, Albert Bergh, editor (Washington, D. C.: Thomas Jefferson Memorial Assoc., 1904), Vol. X, pp. 376-377. In a letter to Edward Dowse on April 19, 1803.)

    Benjamin Franklin:

    I have lived, Sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth, that God governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without His notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without his aid? We have been assured, Sir, in the Sacred Writings, that “except the Lord build the House, they labor in vain that build it.” I firmly believe this; and I also believe that without His concurring aid we shall succeed in this political building no better, than the Builders of Babel: We shall be divided by our partial local interests; our projects will be confounded, and we ourselves shall become a reproach and bye word down to future ages. And what is worse, mankind may hereafter from this unfortunate instance, despair of establishing governments by human wisdom and leave it to chance, war and conquest.

    I therefore beg leave to move that henceforth prayers imploring the assistance of Heaven, and its blessings on our deliberations be held in this Assembly every morning before we proceed to business, and that one or more of the clergy of this city be requested to officiate in that service.

    (Source: James Madison, The Records of the Federal Convention of 1787, Max Farrand, editor (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1911), Vol. I, pp. 450-452, June 28, 1787.)

    John Adams:

    [I]t is religion and morality alone which can establish the principles upon which freedom can securely stand. The only foundation of a free constitution is pure virtue.

    (Source: John Adams, The Works of John Adams, Second President of the United States, Charles Francis Adams, editor (Boston: Little, Brown, 1854), Vol. IX, p. 401, to Zabdiel Adams on June 21, 1776.)

    [W]e have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. . . . Our constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.

    (Source: John Adams, The Works of John Adams, Second President of the United States, Charles Francis Adams, editor (Boston: Little, Brown, and Co. 1854), Vol. IX, p. 229, October 11, 1798.)

    The moment the idea is admitted into society, that property is not as sacred as the laws of God, and that there is not a force of law and public justice to protect it, anarchy and tyranny commence. If “Thou shalt not covet,” and “Thou shalt not steal,” were not commandments of Heaven, they must be made inviolable precepts in every society, before it can be civilized or made free.

    (Source: John Adams, The Works of John Adams, Second President of the United States, Charles Francis Adams, editor (Boston: Charles C. Little and James Brown, 1851), Vol. VI, p. 9.)

    Fisher Ames (Framer of the First Amendment):

    Our liberty depends on our education, our laws, and habits . . . it is founded on morals and religion, whose authority reigns in the heart, and on the influence all these produce on public opinion before that opinion governs rulers.

    (Source: Fisher Ames, An Oration on the Sublime Virtues of General George Washington (Boston: Young & Minns, 1800), p. 23.)

    I could go on for volumes citing statements and actions by the numerous founders that demonstrate the deep convictions they held about religion. In fact, during the building of the nation’s capitol, church services were held in the Capitol building, the War Department and the Treasury. Jefferson praised the use of a courthouse as a place worshippers were welcome to meet. He also stated:

    “No nation has ever existed or been governed without religion. Nor can be. The Christian religion is the best religion that has been given to man and I, as Chief Magistrate of this nation, am bound to give it the sanction of my example.”

    The often-cited phrase, ‘separation of church and state’, appears nowhere in the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution. In fact, the Congressional Records from June 7 to September 25, 1789, where ninety founding fathers debated the First Amendment, not once was the term ‘separation of church and state’ ever mentioned. Jefferson, as well as the framers of the First Amendment, viewed this amendment as a restraint on the central government, not on the people or the states. This phrase comes from a letter written by Jefferson to the Danbury, Connecticut Baptist who wrote him with concerns the federal government would interfere in public expressions of faith. Jefferson, the first Anti-Federalist president, clearly advocated limits on the powers of a central government, but his belief in the First Amendment’s limitations on the federal government did not diminish his strong belief in religion and its expression. He replied to the Danbury Baptists regarding this issue:

    ‘Gentlemen, – The affectionate sentiments of esteem and approbation which you are so good as to express towards me on behalf of the Danbury Baptist Association give me the highest satisfaction. . . . Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God; that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship; that the legislative powers of government reach actions only and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should “make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” thus building a wall of separation between Church and State. Adhering to this expression of the supreme will of the nation in behalf of the rights of conscience, I shall see with sincere satisfaction the progress of those sentiments which tend to restore to man all his natural rights, convinced he has no natural right in opposition to his social duties. I reciprocate your kind prayers for the protection and blessing of the common Father and Creator of man, and tender you for yourselves and your religious association assurances of my high respect and esteem.’

    Later it became necessary for the court to rule on heinous practices in the name of religion, such as human sacrifice, rape, incest, bigamy, polygamy, etc. to state the central government did have the right to interfere in such horrible practices. However, the court went on to state this ruling should never be used to interfere with traditional practices as prescribed by the law and the Gospel, whether public prayer, recognition of God or the use of scripture.

    Years later, the court, for the only known time in American history, used a private letter to take a phrase out of context to promote it as the sole authority of national policy.

    For years, I believed just as you, Tinter, but when I decided to go to the horse’s mouth to determine what the founders really thought and said, I found the currently promoted version of the irreligiousness of the founders was wholly unfounded. This idea is most likely an outgrowth of Howard Zinn’s revisionist history and those of like mind. Zinn was a member of the Communist Party and clearly had an ulterior motive in scrambling the truth.

    The founders did not intent, nor did America ever have, the theocracy the left likes to accuse Christians of desiring. What the founders did expect was for people to be mature enough to respect the founding principles of this country and to be mature enough to realize that those principles did not infringe on anyone’s right to free expression, whether Christian, Jew, Hindu, atheist, etc. They never, in their wildest imaginings, mean for the central government to regulate traditional religions. They expected us to regulate ourselves.

  2. I will have to agree with the poster before me. Though the Founders never wore their religion on their sleeve, and though there are historical accounts of some of the Founders being non-practicing or even non-religious, to say that the Bible had no effect on them and that they hated it would be a gross misunderstanding. When I wrote my first book I took my almost 4 years of studying this topic into writing about this topic at length. There are many instances where those who say the “religious right” is only telling old tales about our Founders. I do not have to tell the tales, however. All I need to do is point out their true feelings which can be seen in almost every single document that talks about religion. In one or two documents, those who despise religion use those documents to try and prove the Founders were somehow haters of religion and wanted nothing to do with it.

    Evey thing in context!

    We were a nation first and foremost designed to make sure those who wanted to practice how they wanted to practice could do that. For over 200 years that worked out great for this nation until some nuts with bombs came in and said we could use your laws and your rights against you. Now we have a decision to make. Do we still afford those protections to EVERYONE like we were told we should do, or do we make exceptions because some people want to hurt others in this nation? I am a religious person, but it really gets me fired up when people only have labels to spread about another people and their beliefs. If I was not a person who actually cared a little bit, I would call everyone who disagrees with me on this subject Satan worshipers and bigots! But not, I still have to be called the “religious right” even though I took the time to write a book and explain this whole mess which can be read in about two days, even if your a slow reader.

    I do not get it!

  3. Good points, Conservative T and T.

    Perhaps, we don’t have to change how we afford religious protections. Maybe we should reclassify those who use religion as a veil for conquest. Violent, seditious political ideology that is inseparable from a religion is exactly that, not a religion.

    As noted above in the first comment, the court has upheld that we do have the right to interfere in horrible religious practices that are inconsistent with our culture and beliefs. Stoning and beheadings aside, sedition would surely be considered an inappropriate religious practice. It’s certainly not compatible with the Constitution.

    Worship as you please, but try to insinuate practices, religious or political, that are the antithesis of liberty and the foundation of this country and the protections of the 1st Amendment are forfeit.

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