Was America Founded as a Christian Nation?

I'm reading a book for my Religion in America class entitled Was America Founded as a Christian Nation? As I delve into this book, I'm curious to hear what other members of the Escapist community think. Was America founded as a Christian nation? Does it no doubt have a strong Christian heritage but its foundations rest upon secular, enlightenment thought? Is there actually no truth to the notion whatsoever? Is the argument that America was founded as a Christian nation the product of Conservative revisionism to promote their own political ideals? If there is any definitive answer to any of these questions, should it inform contemporary policy?

These are but a few of the questions I can think of, feel free to answer any of them and contribute your own questions. Also, bring any sources or findings you have on the subject. I think it's a very interesting question and provides plenty of interesting areas of debate.

I will propose my interpretation of the matter when I finish my book, either by posting my eventual paper, or summarizing my findings.

Please remember this is intended to be an academic discussion - no flaming or rudeness please!

Yes and no. It depends on what you mean there. Our government was intended to be secular, but the nation as a whole was founded upon many Christian ideals and was extremely affected by the religious movements of the time. The history of Christianity within America is essentially the same as the history of America, but the American government is in no way a "Christian" government.

I am a Christian and I would say that it is not. The Government itself was meant to be secular, that much is obvious. When you have things such as the No religious test clause and the 1st Amendment its pretty hard to make the argument that the founders wanted a Christian foundation for government. Now it gets a little more interesting if we look at the founding principles of the United States as they are Enlightenment Ideals which were influenced by Christianity as they did come from Christian Europe. However, as they were only influenced by Christianity I wouldn't call the principles exclusively Christian.

As far as many on the Religious Right wanting to make the claim that America's founders wanted a Christian nation; I find that based upon their want for religious values having a greater influence in government and society.

The Treaty of Tripoli makes this issue pretty cut-and-dried: the United States of America is not, nor was it founded as, a Christian nation. (I believe that the Constitution puts treaties above national law, so until it's unratified it's the law of the land.) It was founded by what we'd now call deists, and was intetionally designed to protect all religions. Sure, there were Christian influences, but there were also Irequois influences and no one calls us an Irequois nation. The government was specifically created to separate Church and State, thus preventing ANY theocracy, including a Christian one (unlike England, which at least was technically a theocracy).

When modern speakers say "The USA was founded as a Christian nation" they mean, almost without exception, theocracy. Note that you never hear Muslims, Jews, Hindus, or atheists saying it; it's only ever Evangelicals.

It is generally accepted that the US was not founded as a Christian nation. Many of the founding fathers were deists rather than full-on Christians, and I believe the Constitution has a clause specifically against the idea.

Realistically, however, the US is far more Christian than most of Europe. Your policies are founded much more in religious ideals and such than ours.

Depends on how you define the parameters of the question.

Where the majority of Americans Christians of one kind or another? Not all of them by choice, but yes

Where the principles that lead to its creation Christian in origin? Mostly no. The primary principles of the "age of enlightenment" originated in Islamic and ancient Grecian culture, not European. In point of fact, the Vatican actively suppressed many of those ideals for a large part of history.

Where the founding fathers Christian? Mixed. Quite a few were, but many, perhaps most, of them appear to have preferred deism. The details vary, but most deists hold to the idea that there was/is a monotheistic creator figure, but that it, for whatever reason, does not take part in the lives of mankind. This is in keeping with the fact that most of the founding fathers were Freemasons. There even appear to have been a few atheists/agnostics among that group (although none self identified as such), President Jefferson in particular. Perhaps most importantly, the predominant opinion among this group appears to be that orthodox Christianity was oppressive at best. I have strong reason to believe that they would strongly reject the idea of any group using religious principles to override the rights of others. Whether or not they could be persuaded to accept the secular reasoning for some of the debates where the "christian nation" excuse keeps popping up may be another question.

Heronblade:
Depends on how you define the parameters of the question.

Where the majority of Americans Christians of one kind or another? Not all of them by choice, but yes

Where the principles that lead to its creation Christian in origin? Mostly no. The primary principles of the "age of enlightenment" originated in Islamic and ancient Grecian culture, not European. In point of fact, the Vatican actively suppressed many of those ideals for a large part of history.

Where the founding fathers Christian? Mixed. Quite a few were, but many, perhaps most, of them appear to have preferred deism. The details vary, but most deists hold to the idea that there was/is a monotheistic creator figure, but that it, for whatever reason, does not take part in the lives of mankind. This is in keeping with the fact that most of the founding fathers were Freemasons. There even appear to have been a few atheists/agnostics among that group (although none self identified as such), President Jefferson in particular. Perhaps most importantly, the predominant opinion among this group appears to be that orthodox Christianity was oppressive at best. I have strong reason to believe that they would strongly reject the idea of any group using religious principles to override the rights of others. Whether or not they could be persuaded to accept the secular reasoning for some of the debates where the "christian nation" excuse keeps popping up may be another question.

Two things,

First off a significant majority of the founders were your run of the mill Christians. There were certainly quite a few deists and anti-clerical Christians in there but I think its a stretch to say that a majority was Deist or Atheist.

Secondly the roots of the Enlightenment as far as I could ascertain really cannot be traced back in any large part to the Middle East or the Greeks and Romans. Did they have some influence? Most certainly, but it was more influenced by the burgeoning of the Sciences in Europe which as you know did actually have some root in the Islamic and Classical world, but this didn't really impact the ideas themselves much. It was more of a time when it became more acceptable to challenge the norm, whether it was socially, artistically, politically, or religiously.

As for the Vatican opposition to many Enlightenment ideals that really does not matter all that much. The Enlightenment was a product of the 1600s, at this time to be Christian did not mean to be Catholic. It also stands to reason that the Vatican saw Enlightenment Ideas as another from of rebellion to their authority, much as it saw the Protestant Revolution(its more of a Revolution then a Reformation in my eyes).

Mimsofthedawg:
I'm reading a book for my Religion in America class entitled Was America Founded as a Christian Nation? As I delve into this book, I'm curious to hear what other members of the Escapist community think. Was America founded as a Christian nation? Does it no doubt have a strong Christian heritage but its foundations rest upon secular, enlightenment thought? Is there actually no truth to the notion whatsoever? Is the argument that America was founded as a Christian nation the product of Conservative revisionism to promote their own political ideals? If there is any definitive answer to any of these questions, should it inform contemporary policy?

These are but a few of the questions I can think of, feel free to answer any of them and contribute your own questions. Also, bring any sources or findings you have on the subject. I think it's a very interesting question and provides plenty of interesting areas of debate.

I will propose my interpretation of the matter when I finish my book, either by posting my eventual paper, or summarizing my findings.

Please remember this is intended to be an academic discussion - no flaming or rudeness please!

America's founding influenced Christianity, not the other way around.

The idea of being secular was a radical thought at the time, back when the church was still labeling people as heathens.

Christianity did not want you to "live and let live" or anything the American system allowed you to do. However, since America wasn't being invaded and destroyed and looked like it was here to stay, it forced Christianity to change and to be more open now.

Now people confuse the original enlightenment ideals for christian ideals, when Christianity was more close minded than modern Islam from the Middle East.

Unlike other countries, America was NOT founded by the farmer outside his house and what his religion was. It was formed by a small group of people who wanted a secular nation, based on ideals that Christianity didn't agree with until much later.

So no, its not christian unless you are talking about the dwindling christian population.

The Enlightenment certainly CAN be traced back to Greece and the Islamic world. The Islamic societies preserved ancient Greek writings (there were some serious disagreements about how to handle them in the Church). When they were brought to Europe (trade, Crusades, and other such activities) they started some pretty serious changes in European thought. You can see evidence of that in how monasteries talk about secular education, for example.

The thing is, that influence alone was insufficient. It was around for quite a while before the Enlightenment (or even the Renaissance, for that matter). Other social changes had to happen as well, including the Black Death.

I also disagree that Christianity was as closed-minded as some people would have us beleive. Catholicism and Christianity are neither one of them as monolithic as many presume (including those who should know better). Some sects embraced science and the rest, others didn't. And I can't think of a single nation founded by "the farmer outside his house and what his religion was". England was founded by a series of invasions, the nations of Europe were founded due to various factions fighting as the Roman Empire crumbled, African and many North and Central American nations were formed via various colonial activities by European powers, Asian nations have their own rich history, etc.

Technically speaking the entirety of English settled America was founded as an extension of the church of England and other protestant groups (with the notable exception Maryland), alongside more commercial and industrial things and the heavy influence of mercantile colonialism.

But spreading the christian religion WAS a major concern for Charles I, as well as Charles III, especially in lieu of the thirty year war that tore apart the European continent. The English colonies would be a protestant haven to balance out the catholic colonies in the Spanish Americas.

You also have to understand that Christianity then is far different then it is now as far as attitude and morality, both in the original colonial period and the establishment era.

None of the original signers of the declaration were to my knowledge atheist, nor were they all Christians in the purest sense, though many were essentially christian deist. However, they did represent large swathes of population that were almost exclusively (though NOT exclusively) christian; a mass rejection of the Christian values of the era would've been met with incredible resistance.

I think a large number of the American settlers were English Puritans, weren't they? Escaping persecution or something like that? I dunno, could be wrong, it's been years since I studied The Crucible in English Lit...

So yeah, if I remember right, settles by a lot of Christians, but founded as an independent nation by deists and secularists. Secularists who just so happened to grow a lot of hemp between them, and I'm sure not all of it for rope making, if you take my meaning...

j-e-f-f-e-r-s:
I think a large number of the American settlers were English Puritans, weren't they? Escaping persecution or something like that? I dunno, could be wrong, it's been years since I studied The Crucible in English Lit...

So yeah, if I remember right, settles by a lot of Christians, but founded as an independent nation by deists and secularists. Secularists who just so happened to grow a lot of hemp between them, and I'm sure not all of it for rope making, if you take my meaning...

Please stop perpetuating that particular myth. Hemp and Marijuana are indeed quite similar, but the former contains low quantities of THC, and relatively high quantities of CBD, which neutralizes the psychoactive effect. Smoking it will just give you tarred lungs, nothing more.

Shock and Awe:

Heronblade:
Depends on how you define the parameters of the question.

Where the majority of Americans Christians of one kind or another? Not all of them by choice, but yes

Where the principles that lead to its creation Christian in origin? Mostly no. The primary principles of the "age of enlightenment" originated in Islamic and ancient Grecian culture, not European. In point of fact, the Vatican actively suppressed many of those ideals for a large part of history.

Where the founding fathers Christian? Mixed. Quite a few were, but many, perhaps most, of them appear to have preferred deism. The details vary, but most deists hold to the idea that there was/is a monotheistic creator figure, but that it, for whatever reason, does not take part in the lives of mankind. This is in keeping with the fact that most of the founding fathers were Freemasons. There even appear to have been a few atheists/agnostics among that group (although none self identified as such), President Jefferson in particular. Perhaps most importantly, the predominant opinion among this group appears to be that orthodox Christianity was oppressive at best. I have strong reason to believe that they would strongly reject the idea of any group using religious principles to override the rights of others. Whether or not they could be persuaded to accept the secular reasoning for some of the debates where the "christian nation" excuse keeps popping up may be another question.

Two things,

First off a significant majority of the founders were your run of the mill Christians. There were certainly quite a few deists and anti-clerical Christians in there but I think its a stretch to say that a majority was Deist or Atheist.

Secondly the roots of the Enlightenment as far as I could ascertain really cannot be traced back in any large part to the Middle East or the Greeks and Romans. Did they have some influence? Most certainly, but it was more influenced by the burgeoning of the Sciences in Europe which as you know did actually have some root in the Islamic and Classical world, but this didn't really impact the ideas themselves much. It was more of a time when it became more acceptable to challenge the norm, whether it was socially, artistically, politically, or religiously.

As for the Vatican opposition to many Enlightenment ideals that really does not matter all that much. The Enlightenment was a product of the 1600s, at this time to be Christian did not mean to be Catholic. It also stands to reason that the Vatican saw Enlightenment Ideas as another from of rebellion to their authority, much as it saw the Protestant Revolution(its more of a Revolution then a Reformation in my eyes).

-It is a stretch yes, but less of one than most people suspect. The religious affiliation of most of these people is actually unknown. Nearly all of them expressed discontent with specific religious authorities, but that does not necessarily indicate a problem with the organization itself. In the interest of full disclosure however, I will state that I was mistaken about most of them being Freemasons, which had represented a good portion of my willingness to risk the aforementioned stretch.

-In terms of the AOE, the technological advances largely originated from information essentially stolen from the Saracens during the crusades, who until then had been in a strong position of becoming just as powerful as the Europeans did a few centuries later. But I was primarily speaking of ideals rather than tech. The basic concept of freedom of self was at the heart of this particular movement, and it was not at the time a new idea, but a very old one.

We weren't, and anyone who tells you otherwise is trying to force christian ideals. It's always "we should do x because that's the christian thing to do and the founding fathers were christian and this is a christian nation." Typically speaking: it's not, they weren't, and we aren't.

Another thing to remember is that the "founding fathers" were a product of the political environment of their time. They had seen in their generation and the generations directly preceding them, the effect of the religious wars in Europe. They were very careful to NOT make the new nation a "Christian" nation even though the majority of its voting citizens were Christian.

Simply put, having any official religion would immediately start tearing the nation apart since each colony/state had its own religious affiliation. Many southern states were Anglican, the Pennsylvanian Quakers, the New England Puritans (of no less than 3 main branches that hated each other), etc. Any claim to being a Christian nation was going to be immediately be followed by the demand to know "which one?" and it would not have been pretty.

Many of the leaders at that time were trying very hard to avoid the mistakes Europe had made and to avoid the perceived corruption that had seemingly seeped its way into their political processes. Of course, we ended up making our own host of mistakes, but that just goes to prove to me that the founding fathers were just as human as the rest of us.

j-e-f-f-e-r-s:
I think a large number of the American settlers were English Puritans, weren't they? Escaping persecution or something like that? I dunno, could be wrong, it's been years since I studied The Crucible in English Lit...

They Were actually seeking the freedom to practice their religion as they saw fit, namely, to persecute all those who didn't fall in line with Puritan teachings because there were laws against religious persecution in England even back then. It just sounds really shitty to acknowledge that fact, so people claim it was for religious freedom.

America as a country was founded by Christians and Deists, this much is true, but they were also in many cases the progressives of their time, considering they were at the forefront of the Enlightenment. These men didn't set out to create a nation that would dictate what god, if any, a man chose to pray to, this much is clear. Yes, they acknowledge a god/higher being in the "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness[1]", but to not acknowledge a creator would have been all but incomprehensible to most people at that time. In a time of instability, leaders will almost always go with the course of action that ensures that their people will follow them, and in a country full of people who have their roots in very conservative religious practices (it is important to note not all colonists at the time were descended from Puritans), in a time where religion was held as an essential part of every person's life, it would have been almost impossible to rally the colonies without acknowledging god. There is no evidence to suggest that any of the founding fathers wanted to have a nation based entierly on Christian teachings (that I know of, though I wouldn't be surprised if there were some).

[1] This was typed entirely from memory.

In the way that any country founded by a majority of people who are both A) Christian and B) Considering the timeframe, most likely to a certain extent willing to enforce their religion upon others. It can be considered being founded as a christian nation or rather a nation of christians.

The more pressing question is why it should matter? It excuses no abuses and justifies nothing. It is a moot point. My nation, as most other nations in Europe was "founded" as a dictatorship with a (by todays standards) pretty oppressive class system. Doesn't mean I have to give any thought to anyone that proposes introducing a similar system.

No.

Founding Fathers, not all of them were Christians.

Early founding documents, none (that I can recall) said that we were.

'In God We Trust', added long after the founding of the USA.

etc...etc...etc.

Interesting fact: many of our founding fathers were from several different denominations of Christianity that were opposed to one-another, as Christianity was not in any way the unified front that many people see it as today. None of these men wanted any of the others' opposing denomination to be dominant, so they set forth a plan with some non-religious thinkers to build a secular nation. Granted at the time the various denominations were the practitioners of the nation's most prominent religion, but it wasn't founded as a 'Christian' nation in any way. While the laws had christian influence, it was from the start a secular nation.

Ultratwinkie:

Mimsofthedawg:
I'm reading a book for my Religion in America class entitled Was America Founded as a Christian Nation? As I delve into this book, I'm curious to hear what other members of the Escapist community think. Was America founded as a Christian nation? Does it no doubt have a strong Christian heritage but its foundations rest upon secular, enlightenment thought? Is there actually no truth to the notion whatsoever? Is the argument that America was founded as a Christian nation the product of Conservative revisionism to promote their own political ideals? If there is any definitive answer to any of these questions, should it inform contemporary policy?

These are but a few of the questions I can think of, feel free to answer any of them and contribute your own questions. Also, bring any sources or findings you have on the subject. I think it's a very interesting question and provides plenty of interesting areas of debate.

I will propose my interpretation of the matter when I finish my book, either by posting my eventual paper, or summarizing my findings.

Please remember this is intended to be an academic discussion - no flaming or rudeness please!

America's founding influenced Christianity, not the other way around.

The idea of being secular was a radical thought at the time, back when the church was still labeling people as heathens.

Christianity did not want you to "live and let live" or anything the American system allowed you to do. However, since America wasn't being invaded and destroyed and looked like it was here to stay, it forced Christianity to change and to be more open now.

Now people confuse the original enlightenment ideals for christian ideals, when Christianity was more close minded than modern Islam from the Middle East.

Unlike other countries, America was NOT founded by the farmer outside his house and what his religion was. It was formed by a small group of people who wanted a secular nation, based on ideals that Christianity didn't agree with until much later.

So no, its not christian unless you are talking about the dwindling christian population.

This is a very interesting argument. You are certainly correct in saying that Christianity was changed by the founding of America (Between the Constitution giving the freedom of religion and many states abandoning religious tests for office, American churches began to become increasingly progressive, liberal, and emphasized personal salvation as a means to compete with eachother for church attendance as state sponsorship no longer artificially boosted church attendance), but perhaps you have understated Christianity's role in the formation of America. According to Catherine Brekus in Sarah Osborn's World it was from the pulpit that support for hte revolution grew, and Americans saw the struggle with both France in the 7 years war and the struggle with Britain as a conflict between good and evil - an apocalyptic struggle that would usher in the second coming of Christ. Part of the entire reason why liberty and democracy was so emphasized by Americans was because they believed that only through the spreading of freedom could Christ return. This postmellinialist sentiment was not driven by humanitarian ends, and while it might sound enlightenment-like, it was truly not. Evangelicalism and protestantism went hand in hand with liberty, and it was believed that if men were free from the tyranny of kings and the Catholic church they would naturally find the "true" gospel. American's believed from the very beginning that the founding of America was the Lord supernaturally selecting a "second chosen people" who would be a light to the world and spread democracy and freedom throughout it, thus ushering the second coming of Christ. While there are heavy undertones of manifest destiny within these ideas, it went beyond this, as Americans hoped to be a "city on a hill" which would spark revolution and breed liberty throughout the world - liberty, of course, as defined by evangelicals and Christian Protestantism. Indeed, for the first 150 years of the nations history, Protestantism went hand in hand with patriotism. To be American was to desire to see liberty and Christian values spread across the world in a civilizing mission. If America was not a Christian nation, someone forgot to tell the Americans.

The point here isn't to reveal my ultimate conclusion about whether or not America was a Christian nation, but is to say that I think you understate Christianity's influence in the formation of America. If Christians did not live in America, I do not believe the revolution would have happened - or conversely, if the revolution was opposed by Christian leaders, people would not have joined. But instead, American's understanding of what the revolution was indicates a distinctive Christian influence in the conflict.

Dinwatr:
The Treaty of Tripoli makes this issue pretty cut-and-dried: the United States of America is not, nor was it founded as, a Christian nation. (I believe that the Constitution puts treaties above national law, so until it's unratified it's the law of the land.) It was founded by what we'd now call deists, and was intetionally designed to protect all religions. Sure, there were Christian influences, but there were also Irequois influences and no one calls us an Irequois nation. The government was specifically created to separate Church and State, thus preventing ANY theocracy, including a Christian one (unlike England, which at least was technically a theocracy).

When modern speakers say "The USA was founded as a Christian nation" they mean, almost without exception, theocracy. Note that you never hear Muslims, Jews, Hindus, or atheists saying it; it's only ever Evangelicals.

ahhh I was wondering if someone would bring up the Treaty of Tripoli.

Yes but in Church of the Holy Trinity v. United States Supreme Court Justice Brewer declared, "these, and many other matters which might be noticed, add a volume of unofficial declarations to the mass of organic utterances that this is a Christian nation." So who has greater legitimacy here? the Supreme Court, who has the power of interpreting law, or a treaty that was made with a muslim nation and included a clause to appease the orthodox muslim rulers and allow for free trade in the mediterrainian?

Also, I would disagree with the idea of a theocracy. There is no historical roots in the idea that most Americans, evangelicals or not, desired a democracy, and instead from the founding till now, the idea was that the United States was not a "Christian nation" in "the sense that Christianity is the established religion or that the people are in any manner compelled to support it." But it was perceived as a "Christian nation" in terms of culture and history. Most Americans believed that the fact America WASN'T a theocracy was it's strength - to put any more unnecessary power in the Church would be running too closely to Catholicism, which was ever the enemy of evangelicals and protestants. Today, there still isn't much of a desire to move towards a theocratic end, but instead to move towards a great Christian influence, and I think most evangelicals would be appalled by the idea.

Heronblade:
Depends on how you define the parameters of the question.

Where the majority of Americans Christians of one kind or another? Not all of them by choice, but yes

Where the principles that lead to its creation Christian in origin? Mostly no. The primary principles of the "age of enlightenment" originated in Islamic and ancient Grecian culture, not European. In point of fact, the Vatican actively suppressed many of those ideals for a large part of history.

Where the founding fathers Christian? Mixed. Quite a few were, but many, perhaps most, of them appear to have preferred deism. The details vary, but most deists hold to the idea that there was/is a monotheistic creator figure, but that it, for whatever reason, does not take part in the lives of mankind. This is in keeping with the fact that most of the founding fathers were Freemasons. There even appear to have been a few atheists/agnostics among that group (although none self identified as such), President Jefferson in particular. Perhaps most importantly, the predominant opinion among this group appears to be that orthodox Christianity was oppressive at best. I have strong reason to believe that they would strongly reject the idea of any group using religious principles to override the rights of others. Whether or not they could be persuaded to accept the secular reasoning for some of the debates where the "christian nation" excuse keeps popping up may be another question.

Again, I think you underplay the importance and role of Christianity in pre-founding America - see my post to Ultratwinkie for more.

Shock and Awe:
I am a Christian and I would say that it is not. The Government itself was meant to be secular, that much is obvious. When you have things such as the No religious test clause and the 1st Amendment its pretty hard to make the argument that the founders wanted a Christian foundation for government. Now it gets a little more interesting if we look at the founding principles of the United States as they are Enlightenment Ideals which were influenced by Christianity as they did come from Christian Europe. However, as they were only influenced by Christianity I wouldn't call the principles exclusively Christian.

As far as many on the Religious Right wanting to make the claim that America's founders wanted a Christian nation; I find that based upon their want for religious values having a greater influence in government and society.

But Thomas Jefferson himself authored a Bill introduced to the Virginia legislature a few years before which required a 10% tax on individuals which would have gone to the state church of Virginia. It was a forced tithe on the people. In fact, outside of a single letter, it can scarcely be said Jefferson supported seperation of Church and State except for the Federal government. Indeed, considering that every State constitution held a reference to God, and that the last religious test/official, state church wasn't abolished until well into the 1850's, it appears that the 1st Amendment was only in reference to the federal government, so that it would not favor any one sect of the Christianity, and thus, any one state. All this brings up an important point: is the seperation of Church and State the same as seperation of religion and state?

Mimsofthedawg:

Shock and Awe:
I am a Christian and I would say that it is not. The Government itself was meant to be secular, that much is obvious. When you have things such as the No religious test clause and the 1st Amendment its pretty hard to make the argument that the founders wanted a Christian foundation for government. Now it gets a little more interesting if we look at the founding principles of the United States as they are Enlightenment Ideals which were influenced by Christianity as they did come from Christian Europe. However, as they were only influenced by Christianity I wouldn't call the principles exclusively Christian.

As far as many on the Religious Right wanting to make the claim that America's founders wanted a Christian nation; I find that based upon their want for religious values having a greater influence in government and society.

But Thomas Jefferson himself authored a Bill introduced to the Virginia legislature a few years before which required a 10% tax on individuals which would have gone to the state church of Virginia. It was a forced tithe on the people. In fact, outside of a single letter, it can scarcely be said Jefferson supported seperation of Church and State except for the Federal government. Indeed, considering that every State constitution held a reference to God, and that the last religious test/official, state church wasn't abolished until well into the 1850's, it appears that the 1st Amendment was only in reference to the federal government, so that it would not favor any one sect of the Christianity, and thus, any one state. All this brings up an important point: is the seperation of Church and State the same as seperation of religion and state?

Can you cite that? Because the Virginia Statue of Religious Freedom was drafted by Thomas Jefferson. I'll post it's entirety in a spoiler but one part of it directly contradicts what you're claiming, "That to compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves is sinful and tyrannical;". Sounds to me he would be quite pissy over a forced tithe.

As for state constitutions referencing god and the establishment of state churches early on in the Country's history; you must remember that many of the early founders (Including Jefferson) were quite wary of the idea of Federal Government, much less the strong Federal Government we have today. It would make sense to not have the federal government bar the states from establishing official churches as long as they did not restrict others from practicing their faith, which is what the 1st amendment covers.

Mimsofthedawg:

ahhh I was wondering if someone would bring up the Treaty of Tripoli.

Yes but in Church of the Holy Trinity v. United States Supreme Court Justice Brewer declared, "these, and many other matters which might be noticed, add a volume of unofficial declarations to the mass of organic utterances that this is a Christian nation." So who has greater legitimacy here? the Supreme Court, who has the power of interpreting law, or a treaty that was made with a muslim nation and included a clause to appease the orthodox muslim rulers and allow for free trade in the mediterrainian?

That was not the ruling of the case, it was the opinion of one of the Justices. I can guarantee you that many other Justices would disagree with him. His opinion is exactly that; opinion. I admit that the opinion of a Supreme Court justice is worth considering, but it is not the end of the line. You must also consider that the Treaty of Tripoli was drafted and signed under the watchful eye and blessings of the actual Founders.

Mimsofthedawg:

Yes but in Church of the Holy Trinity v. United States Supreme Court Justice Brewer declared, "these, and many other matters which might be noticed, add a volume of unofficial declarations to the mass of organic utterances that this is a Christian nation." So who has greater legitimacy here? the Supreme Court, who has the power of interpreting law, or a treaty that was made with a muslim nation and included a clause to appease the orthodox muslim rulers and allow for free trade in the mediterrainian?

For this particular discussion I would say that the case in question is irrelevant. Not necessarily because the judgement of the supreme court is lacking or unimportant, but because of the timing involved.

The treaty of Tripoli occurred while most of those involved in this nation's origins were still both alive and active. Within living memory in other words.

The case you are quoting from however did not, it was almost a century too late for that in fact.

So, let me reverse the question. Who has a greater legitimacy when it comes to the intent of those who founded the nation, the people who actually did it, or those who have only heard legends about those who did it?

Heronblade:

Mimsofthedawg:

Yes but in Church of the Holy Trinity v. United States Supreme Court Justice Brewer declared, "these, and many other matters which might be noticed, add a volume of unofficial declarations to the mass of organic utterances that this is a Christian nation." So who has greater legitimacy here? the Supreme Court, who has the power of interpreting law, or a treaty that was made with a muslim nation and included a clause to appease the orthodox muslim rulers and allow for free trade in the mediterrainian?

For this particular discussion I would say that the case in question is irrelevant. Not necessarily because the judgement of the supreme court is lacking or unimportant, but because of the timing involved.

The treaty of Tripoli occurred while most of those involved in this nation's origins were still both alive and active. Within living memory in other words.

The case you are quoting from however did not, it was almost a century too late for that in fact.

So, let me reverse the question. Who has a greater legitimacy when it comes to the intent of those who founded the nation, the people who actually did it, or those who have only heard legends about those who did it?

Yet in the American public the war with Tripoli was consider a holy war, much like a crusade against the Muslims. The signing of the document to the American people was considered to be a religious victory.

Plus there's a question of whether or not the founders intent is even relevant - they were simply the representatives of hte people, which want a democracy. These people saw liberty as a religious dogma used to further the coming of Christ and evangelical ideals. Further, both past and future conflicts were framed as a religious struggle to break free of backward church doctrine and bring about a liberty that would propagate the founding of a new religious nation which would bring religious enlightenment to the world. The first founding document of America (the Declaration of Independence) is rife with religious sentiment. So is it really appropriate to discount Christianity's role in the founding if the people who accepted this founding didn't see it as a secular invention but instead saw it as the culmination of a religious crusade?

America was a nation founded BY (a significant majority of) Christians. If it was a 'Christian Nation' it would be a theocracy - which it isn't.

I do find the entire argument moot as even if it was the founders' intents the country is not what it was at its founding. The very idea that we should consider what the founding fathers would have thought or done in a situation is just as applicable as thinking what William the Conqueror would have thought when it comes to United Kingdom politics. Both situations are equally absurd.

i've always thought of it more as a product of "The Enlightenment".

hell, Benjamin Franklin was one of the greatest Enlightenment raconteurs...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Age_of_Enlightenment

the Enlightenment was many things but "pro God in government" probably isn't one of them.

or as wikipedia puts it : "Its purpose was to reform the way of thinking using reason, challenge ideas grounded in tradition and faith, and advance knowledge through the scientific method. It promoted scientific thoughts, skepticism and intellectual interchange and completely opposed any kind of superstition, intolerance and some abuses of power by the church and the state."

i would perhaps advise some reading on the "The Enlightenment" as a counterbalance :)

It was not founded as a "christian nation", but it is worth noting that christian assumptions about many things were so prevalent as to have been taken for granted by the founders. Even the deists were usually "christian" deists. But the US was expressly founded in part to be a secular nation (which its founders assumed would be highly religious, primarily christian). And you know what? They were right. The freedom of religion and lack of official church actually spurred the creation of more compatible and flexible religions, the result of which is that Americans today are pretty well more religious than any European county with an established church.

It is a bit of both, yes and no. It's a bit confusing especially when you look up quotes on the founding fathers about this topic as they give contradictory responses, even sometimes from the same founding father himself, for example George Washington who said (and I'm paraphrasing) "America was not founded as a Christian nation" but later says "God and the Bible is the best direction for our Government and country to follow" (or something along those lines).

In truth I would say that Christian ideals and beliefs no doubt did play a big role, but there were other elements as well including some secular one's. However it is a myth that this country was founded as a secular nation, I often see many atheists make that claim but it's not true.

 

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