Wednesday, November 25, 2009

America is Not a Christian Nation, Part 3

In the previous two posts I've examined the religious beliefs of the founding fathers and have shown that the bible wasn't actually as influential as many christian apologists might have you believe. In this third part, I'm going to examine the claim that the united states was founded upon "christian principles." I mentioned this subject briefly in the first part of this series, but I'm going to go into more detail this time around. I will also address a few other claims that I failed to address in the previous two parts.

Many christians argue that because the Ten Commandments and modern legal codes include the laws "Do not steal", "Do not kill," etc. that this is grounds for a christian based legal system. Now, I agree that religion contains these ideas of no killing and stealing, but evolutionary speaking, these prohibitions would have come naturally because it obviously doesn't help the species if there is a lot of strife going on because people are taking things that aren't theirs and are killing one another.

It also seems that the idea of punishment wasn't developed with religions first. I've read some research which seems to indicate that the concept of punishment was a part of humans' primitive social groups and that would have been favored by humans' social evolution, [1] and therefore, religion is not needed as an explanation. When religion finally came upon the scene, it simply took this already in place idea of punishment and created a supernatural element to it. It should also be mentioned that about every religious system, even those predating christianity (such as Buddhism) contain the same prohibitions, so it's not as if civilization owes some debt to the religion of christianity for these ideas. In fact, prohibitions against killing and stealing can even be found in the Code of Hammurabi, which predates the bible by hundreds of years.

However, the main principles that the united states was founded upon, namely, a government based upon the people (instead of a god) and the separation of powers were borrowed from writers during the Enlightenment in Montesquieu and Rousseau. [2] These ideas heavily influenced the founders, as I have shown in the first part of this series.

A very common rebuttal to the claim of a christian nation is the Treaty of Tripoli, in which article 11 states:

"As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquillity, of Mussulmen; and, as the said States never entered into any war, or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties, that no pretext arising from religious opinions, shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries." [emphasis mine]

This would seem to be an open and shut case but as usual christian apologists have a read-made counter at the ready (there are many but here are just two examples [3]).

Many christian apologists argue that the English translation done by Joel Barlow was a distorted version and the original Arabic treaty did not have article 11 in it. Whether or not that's true doesn't do anything to refute the fact that the Barlow translation was the one that was read aloud, shown to all senate members, and even signed by John Adams. There was even a copy of the treaty printed in several widely circulated newspapers, along with the following:

"Now be it known, That I John Adams, President of the United States of America, having seen and considered the said Treaty do, by and with the advice consent of the Senate, accept, ratify, and confirm the same, and every clause and article thereof. And to the End that the said Treaty may be observed and performed with good Faith on the part of the United States, I have ordered the premises to be made public; And I do hereby enjoin and require all persons bearing office civil or military within the United States, and all others citizens or inhabitants thereof, faithfully to observe and fulfill the said Treaty and every clause and article thereof."

There is no record of one person objecting to the wording of the treaty. So, regardless if it was a legitimate translation or not, everyone from the president down, agreed that the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion. This fact clearly illustrates the founders' intentions. [4]

A second argument is that after 1805 Article 11 was not included in the new treaty. Apologists make it sound as if this fact is significant - as if that wasn't the true intention of the founders to include the "not founded on the christian religion" phrase, and was purely for political reasons. The reason Article 11 was no longer included is because recent events made it necessary to rewrite the treaty. As of 1797, the united states had never "entered into any voluntary war or act of hostility against any Mohametan nation," as was stated in Article 11. As of 1805 this was no longer true, so the treaty needed to be revised. It had to be added that the only exception to this had been to defend the right to navigate the high seas. In rewriting the sentence, Tobas Lear left out the phrase "is not in any sense founded on the christian religion." A likely reason Lear left it out was because it was unnecessary, and with what was added to the revised treaty it made the Article too long. This fact doesn't do anything to prove an apologists' case because the intention of Jefferson was to rewrite the treaty with the current situation in mind, and not with trying to prove this was not a christian nation. [5]

It's often been said that the "Creator" mentioned in the Declaration of Independence is said to refer to the Christian god, however, this just isn't true. As I pointed out in the second post of this series in his autobiography Thomas Jefferson noted how the majority didn't want to include any references to Jesus because it would exclude anyone who did not believe in him. The same could be said for the Christian god. The term Creator is simply a common name for the Deistic god, and not any reference whatsoever to the god of Christianity, which was a compromise, I imagine, with the founders not wanting to exclude any of the various believers in the united states, but at the same time wanting to show the secular foundation of this new nation.

Other arguments that are often used to somehow prove this is a "Christian nation" is to argue that the united states' national motto is "In God We Trust" and the fact that the Pledge of Allegiance contains the phrase "under God."

First of all, the original motto of the united states was E Pluribus Unum, or Out of many one, and wasn't changed to "In God We Trust" until 1956. [6] The Pledge of Allegiance was also not changed to include "under God" until the 1950's due to the Communist scare. [7]

As has been demonstrated, the distortions by these historical revisionists are many and there is no doubt hundreds of claims that need refuting, though I am only one person and there are people who are much more knowledgeable than I about history so I now will point you to a few good sources about the founding of the country that I've found particularly useful:

The Faiths of the Founding Fathers, by David L. Holmes

The Founding Fathers and the Place of Religion in America by Frank Lambert

Liars For Jesus: The Religious Right's Alternate Version of American History Vol. 1, by Chris Rodda

The Separation of Church and State: Writings on a Fundamental Freedom by America's Founders, by Forrest Church (Editor)

1. Did Man Create God? Is Your Spiritual Brain at Peace with Your Thinking Brain?, by David E. Comings, M.D., Hope Press, 2008; 480-481

2. The Knowledge Book, by various contributers, published by National Geographic Society, 2007; 32

3. Liars for Jesus: The Religious Right's Alterative Version of American History, Volume 1, by Chris Rodda, Self-Published, 2006; 281-317; This book and the entire seventh chapter deals with various arguments against the sentence in question in the Treaty of Tripoli, and the many arguments christian apologists have come up with to avoid it, or attempt to counter it.

4. Ibid.; 289-290

5. Ibid.; 315-316

6.; accessed 11-17-09

7. The Pledge of Allegiance: America's Little Hypocrisy, by Steven Schafersman - April, 2003; accessed 11-7-09

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

America is Not a Christian Nation, Part 2

As I alluded to in the first post I want to expose the creationists' and history revisionists' claims that this is a “Christian nation” and that the Founders were pious Christians who wanted to favor one religion over another. This attempt to change history is one more prong in the attack by misguided Christians who want to breach the wall between church and state, as envisioned by the Founders. I believe their reasoning is thus: If it can somehow be shown that this is a country founded by Christians, which favored Christianity, then it should be allowed to have intelligent design in schools, an obviously Christian belief, as was exposed in the infamous Wedge Document

Anyone who does any reading up about the religious beliefs of the Founders is going to get a variety of answers. Some argue they were all Christians and believers; others argue that they were all nothing but Deists; while others, which is the stance I am taking, claim that there was much variety among the Founders of this country. In the following post I am going to briefly sum up the religious views of several of the major and minor founders of this country.

Thomas Jefferson:

Thomas Jefferson was most certainly not a Christian. His beliefs mostly rested upon a spectrum of Deist-Unitarianism. He highly valued and was influenced by the Enlightenment thinkers [1], and even worked to close William and Mary's divinity school and its two divinity professorships and replace them with the fields of science and law, but ended up failing this so he opened up his own university, the University of Virginia, which was “essentially a Desitic institution, with neither a religious curriculum nor a chaplain.” [2]

Jefferson also believed that no government had the authority to mandate religious conformity, which he sought to prevent with his Act for Establishing Religious Freedom (1786). [3] Even in his autobiography Jefferson recalled the time when explicitly Christian religious views were to be placed within the first amendment that Jesus Christ was the source of religious liberty, and how this was “rejected by the great majority, in proof that they meant to comprehend, within the mantle of its protection, the jew and the gentile, the christian and mohammedan, the hindoo and infidel of every denomination." [4]

Thomas Jefferson's great-grandson also classified him as a “conservative Unitarian”, [5] and not any kind of Christian. Of course, I would think it strange that Jefferson would take out from the Bible all mention of Jesus' rising from the dead, not to mention all forms of miracles, or anything he felt were irrational in his own version of the New Testament, which he called the “Syllabus.” That doesn't sound very Christian to me. [6]

George Washington:

Like Jefferson, George Washington is often portrayed as a pious Christian, and this has been taking place since the 1800's. [7] However, like with Jefferson, the evidence weighs heavily against those who make such claims.

After the Revolution, Washington was never reported to have received Holy Communion, [8] and was even scolded by bishops for walking out when the time came for this service. [9]

Many use Washington's speeches as evidence of his Orthodoxy, but this is puzzling because when his speeches and letters are examined they clearly show a Deistic tendency.

Washington's letters and speeches “omit such words as ' Father,' 'Lord,' 'Redeemer,' and 'Savior.' In their place, they use such Deistic terms as 'Providence,' 'Heaven,' 'the Deity', 'the Supreme Being,' 'the Grand Architect,'” and they “refer infrequently to Christianity and rarely to Jesus Christ.” [10]

One would think a pious Christian would use more Christian language.

An even better argument regarding Washington's beliefs come from the people who knew him best. Some clergy, and even other Founders, when asked of his beliefs, stated clearly, “Sir, he was a Deist.”

Another blow to the claim that Washington was a Christian is a speech given by Bird Wilson in New York, on October of 1831. Wilson knew each of the Founders personally and of their beliefs he said, "Washington...had not been an orthodox Christian; in reality he had really been an eighteenth-century deist. Wilson cited support on this point from clergy who had known Washington and whom he himself knew. Then - in significant words - he went on to state that 'among all our presidents downward, not one was a professor of religion, at least not of more than Unitarianism." [11]

Another of Washington's pastors in Bishop White had this to say on the subject in 1832 in a letter responding to an inquiry about Washington's religious beliefs: “I do not believe that any degree of recollection will bring to my mind any fact which would prove General Washington to have been a believer in the Christian revelation.” [12]

Benjamin Franklin:

Benjamin Franklin was a clear Deist, though not anti-religious like fellow Deists in Thomas Paine. There appear to be no stories that depict Franklin as pious or faithful, but rather “skeptical, puckish...and irreverent.” [13] Franklin actually became a Deist at the age of 15 and by the age of 17 had read many representatives Deistic writers as Locke, Collins, and Joseph Addison. [14] He also doubted Jesus' divinity. [15]

John Adams:

John Adams was a Unitarian, in which there is no depute about. [16] Adams considered himself a Christian and a self-proclaimed “church-going animal.” [17] However, Adams' Unitarian views differed from that of Orthodox Christians. Adams did not believe that Jesus was a “demigod” but was simply a human being who God had raised to divine status because of his unique obedience and morality during his time on earth. [18] Nor did he believe in the Trinity, as was customary for Unitarians during Adams' time. [19] He also believed in the Biblical miracles and a personal God, however, he also was influenced by Christian Deism, in which reason and reflection caused him to abandon many Orthodox teachings, such as the divinity of Christ, total depravity, and predestination. He also opposed religious oppression and narrow-mindedness. [20]

James Madison:

Historians know very little about Madison's views. He wrote and said little on the subject of religion, however, there is still some information we can examine to determine as close as possible, Madison's personal beliefs. [21]

During his youth, Madison was an Orthodox Christian, however during his twenties he was influenced by Enlightenment thought through Donald Robertson, a Scots schoolmaster in King and Queen County, whom Madison “later declared a lifelong indebtedness to.” [22] These are the beliefs that stuck with him throughout the rest of his life.

James Madison was a dedicated advocate of religious freedom, and when “Virginia adopted a new constitution in 1776, he insisted that the document guarantee civil and political liberty.” He also wrote the anonymous and influential Memorial and Remonstrance against Religious Assessments which aided in defeating a bill in the Virginia House of Delegates insisting for state subsides to religious bodies. He also devoted himself to getting Jefferson's Act for Establishing Religious Freedom accepted and it's principle “enumerated in the federal Bill of Rights.” [23]

An issue that bares directly upon the issue of separation of church and state is that Madison, as time went on, “increasingly became convinced that the separation of church and state was best not only for the state but also for the churches and synagogues.” [24]

Not only his actions, but speeches as well, can be analyzed and shown that Madison highly favored the principle of the separation of church and state. He opposed executive proclamations that used religious language, though during the War of 1812 when forced to use such language he kept it as neutral and nonsectarian as possible. [25] He also believed that citizens should voluntarily support religion which caused him to fight the appointment of chaplains for Congress, as well as for the army and navy. [26]

Despite a few deathbed conversion stories that were likely spread by Bishop William Meade, who hated Deism, there is no indication that Madison converted to the Orthodoxy of his youth upon the end of his life. [27]

James Monroe:

The religious beliefs of James Monroe are even more shrouded in mystery than that of Madison. Monroe left virtually no writings at all about his personal beliefs so all we really have to go on is speculation. [28] However, it appears that Monroe may have been “the most skeptical of the early American presidents” and “seems to have been an Episcopalian of Deistic tendencies...” [29]

This could very well be correct since Monroe was a member of the Freemasons, which had close ties to Deism [30] and there is little else to go on, other than several speeches in which Monroe uses many Deistic phrases when referring to God, such as “the Grand Architect,” which is language that also comes directly from Freemasonry and not the Bible. [31]

Samuel Adams, John Jay, and Elias Boudinot:

Samuel Adams was an Orthodox Calvinist who was highly influenced by the Great Awakening, despite the popularity of Deistic thought. [32] It is unknown whether he believed in the “traditional five points of Calvinism” nor which of the two major branches of Calvinism Adams adhered to, however, he was clearly very devout. He opposed Freemasonry, led his family in grace before meals, and read to his family from the Bible, and observed the Lord's day, as well as attended church regularly on Sundays. [33]

John Jay differed from most of the other founders in both orthodoxy and religiosity. John Adams once commented that “John Jay had retired 'to study prophecies to the end of his life'” and was seen as “almost too religious” to John Adams. [34] He also felt the need to distribute Bibles “everywhere” and he seemed to believe in the literal fall of man, a literal Noah along with the worldwide flood, and in the tower of Babel. [35]

Elias Boudinot, like John Jay, was one of the most orthodox and devout founders. He was brother-in-law of a leader of the Great Awakening; throughout his life he was president of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America, president of the American Bible Society, as well as a leading figure in the establishment of Princeton Theological Seminary. [36]

He also wrote books on such religious topics as a refutation of Deism, the imminent Second Coming of Jesus, along with one in which he argued that the Native Americans were descendants of the Israelites. [37]

As you can see, the majority of the founding fathers were not your average christians and believers. Most were highly influenced by the Enlightenment thinkers and Deism, though there were some very devout traditional christians. Of course, as I noted earlier, Jefferson stated in his autobiography that this was a nation created for all people, and not just christians. The very fact that the majority struck down having any mention of jesus in the founding documents is definitive proof of the secular nature of this country and the true intentions of the founders.


1. The Faiths of the Founding Fathers, by David L. Holmes, Oxford University Press, 2006; 79
2. Ibid.; 85
3. Ibid.; 86
4. Kingdom Coming: The Rise of Christian Nationalism, by Michelle Goldberg, W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2007; 32
5. The Faiths of the Founding Fathers, by David L. Holmes; 88
6. Ibid.; 83
7. Ibid.; 68-69
8. Ibid.; 62
9. Ibid.; 63-64
10. Ibid.; 65
11. Ibid.; 162
12. Ibid.; 162-163
13. Ibid.; 53
14. Ibid.; 54
15. Ibid.; 57
16. Ibid; 73
17. Ibid.; 77
18. Ibid.; 74
19. Ibid.; 73
20. Ibid.; 78
21. Ibid.; 93-94
22. Ibid.; 92
23. Ibid.; 93
24. Ibid.; 93.
25. Ibid.; 93-94
26. Ibid.; 94
27. Ibid.; 97
28. Ibid.; 107
29. Ibid.; 107
30. Ibid.; 105-106
31. Ibid.; 106
32. Ibid.; 144-145
33. Ibid.; 145-146
34. Ibid.; 154
35. Ibid.; 157
36. Ibid.; 150
37. Ibid.; 150

Monday, November 9, 2009

America is Not a Christian Nation, Part 1

The "Christian Nation" myth is one that I haven't covered very often on my blog, though I have written about it a few times in the past and have also given it fairly extensive treatment in my refutation of David Aikman's book The Delusion of Disbelief. However, many of the facts can be hard to find throughout these many posts and long reviews so I decided to create a series of posts bringing together all the facts which debunk this lie of a christian nation.

With many christian apologist websites claiming the opposite, it can often be hard for the average person surfing the internet to figure out what to believe. From big time frauds and hucksters like David Barton to lesser known individuals, many christians are knowingly and unknowingly spreading this revisionist history (some even claim that those trying to correct these distortions are the revisionists!!!). It's time to sort out fact from fiction.

Having lost the legal battles to get Creationism/Intelligent Design into schools, many Christian apologists have begun to use a new tactic, and that is trying to distort history and claim this is a “Christian Nation”, or a country founded upon Christian principles and founded by Christians. Many of these apologists are commonly called historical revisionists. Two examples of this breed of apologist are David Barton, author of Original Intent, [1] and Stephen K. McDowell, author of America's Providential History, co-authored by Mark A. Beliles.

If pseudo-historians can fool enough people about this country being founded upon Christian principles and by Christians than perhaps they will allow religion taught in schools (ie. Creationism/Intelligent Design).The sad part is that many judges have even fallen for this ploy and they are the ones who are supposed to uphold the constitution!

For example, in 1985 Justice William H. Rehnquist said:

"The wall of separation between church and state is a metaphor based on bad history; a metaphor that has proved useless as a guide to judging. It should frankly and explicitly abandoned." [2]

Two of the most common claims spread is that this was a country founded upon “Christian principles” and the other, that this country was founded by Christians. Both of these are false.

In this first part I will tackle the claim that this country was founded upon “Christian principles.” [3]

When defenders of the faith are trying to convince people of their claims they often say that the United States was originally founded by pious Christians and was meant to be a “city upon a hill.” It is true that the original settlers did intend this land to be a “Christian” nation, a nation full of hope and new beginnings, but something that many seem to overlook is the fact that the actual United States was not founded with the Mayflower Compact as some historical revisionists would have it. They do this because the Mayflower Compact used much religious language, which the revisionists try to fool those less knowledgeable of history into thinking that the country was founded with christianity in mind with the Mayflower Compact. [4] In truth, the United States was actually founded over 150 years later, in 1787, while the Mayflower was signed in 1620.

This is important because the Constitution includes no religious wording other than "no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office..." and that "congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion..." The United States of America and the colonies that were set up in present day Massachusetts and other places are two separate entities.

Failing with that argument, many revisionists claim that the Bible had much influence over the Founding Fathers and greatly inspired them, leading them to the conclusion that this was founded upon “Christian” principles. Once again, the facts cast serious doubt upon this claim as well, though they often use deception to fool people into believing this was the case.

One such example is David Aikman who, in his book The Delusion of Disbelief, wrote that “It is hard to ignore the evidence that the Jewish and Christian Bible provided the clearest sources of inspiration to [the Founders]. Scholars have looked at what the original source material was of the quotations in the Founder's writings, and they have discovered that by far the largest percentage came from the Bible: 34 percent. The next largest source, 22 percent, were the Enlightenment authors...” [5]

Mr. Aikman does not cite which “scholars” came to that conclusion, so I'm unsure of his exact source, however, I happened to come across a chart in a book by Donald S. Lutz titled The Origins of American Constitutionalism and on page 141 is likely the chart that Aikman referenced. [6]

As can be easily seen the percentages match those that Aikman gave, unfortunately, the chart doesn't tell the whole story.

On page 140 of The Origins of American Constitutionalism Lutz explains these percentages:

"If we ask which book was most frequently cited in that literature [the public political literature], the answer is, the Bible. Table 1 shows that the biblical tradition accounted for roughly one-third of the citations in the sample. However, the sample includes about one-third of all significant secular publications, but only about one-tenth of the reprinted sermons. Even with this undercount, Saint Paul is cited about as frequently as Montesquieu and Blackstone, the two most-cited secular authors, and Deuteronomy is cited about twice as often as all of Locke's writings put together. A strictly proportional sample with respect to secular and religious sources would have resulted in an abundance of religious references.

About three-fourths of all references to the Bible came from reprinted sermons. The other citations to the Bible came from secular works and, if taken alone, would represent 9 percent of all citations - about equal to the percentage for classical writers. Although the citations came from virtually every part of the bible, Saint Paul was the favorite in the New Testament, especially parts of the Epistle to the Romans in which he discusses the basis for and limits on obedience to political authorities."

So, the three-quarters of that 34% total came from a sub-category of one of the categories of the documents in the study. This would cause the bible (as Lutz explains above) to be knocked down to about nine percent, more in agreement with another historian in Frank Lambert, who says that “almost 90 percent of the references are to European writers who wrote on Enlightenment or Whig themes or who commented on the English common law. Only about 10 percent of the citations were biblical, with most of those coming from writings attributed to Saint Paul." [7]

In the second part I will tackle the beliefs of the Founding Fathers and expose the claim that they were all pious Christians.


1. - David Barton; accessed 10-9-09

2. Wallace v. Jaffree, 105 U.S. 2479 (1985); accessed 10-9-09

3. One historical revisionist making this claim can be found at
America: Was it founded on Christian beliefs and principals? (Part one)

4.; accessed 10-9-09

5. The Delusion of Disbelief: Why the New Atheism Is a Threat to Your Life, Liberty, and Pursuit of Happiness, by David Aikman, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2008; 156

6. Because Aikman did not cite his source for this information I must assume that he either read Lutz's study and didn't not look deep enough into what Lutz said on the issue or he read another historical revisionists' work and simply trusted that the information was accurate.

7. The Founding Fathers and the Place of Religion in America, by Frank Lambert, Princeton University Press, 2003; 246