The New United States: A “Christian Nation”?

Politicians and pop history writers squabble endlessly about whether America was founded as a “Christian nation.” Skeptics routinely point to the 1796 Treaty of Tripoli, in which American officials declared that “the government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion” and “has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion or tranquility of [Muslims].”

A little-noticed letter to Benjamin Franklin from America’s agent in Morocco, the Italian Francisco Chiappe, in 1784, struck an opposite note. “His Majesty the Emperour of Marocco (whom God preserve) commands me to write to your Excellency that he is in good Friendship and Peace with all the Christian Nations,” Chiappe said. This letter was in regard to an American vessel detained in Morocco. It is fascinating to see that, according to the Emperor of Morocco, the new United States stood among the “Christian Nations,” which would have also included Britain and the countries of Europe.

a Castro, Lorenzo (Active c. 1664 – died c.1700?), “A Sea Fight with Barbary Corsairs,” after 1681. Dulwich Picture Gallery. Google Art Project, Public Domain.

Assuming this note accurately reflected the Moroccan emperor’s sentiment, what did it mean for America to be a “Christian nation”? The First Amendment, which formally renounced a national established church for America, had not yet been adopted. But America was born out of Britain, which did have an official church. Many early American settlers came from other European nations with official churches. Most of the colonies had an official church, too, either the Church of England, or the Congregationalist Church.

In 1784, discussions were beginning in Virginia about disestablishing the Church of England, a move which would signal the beginning of the end for most of America’s state established churches. (Massachusetts would be the last to go, dropping its formal commitment to the Congregationalist Church in 1833.)

More pertinent, though, was the fact that the vast majority of European-background Americans in 1784 would have identified as Christians. Evangelicals might have quibbled about how many of these Americans were actually converted believers. Nevertheless, if you could have done a public survey in 1784, only small numbers of Jews and skeptics among those of European background would have professed not to be Christians. (Only minorities among African Americans and Native Americans would have identified as Christians at that time, however.)

To an outside Muslim observer, it was common sense: America was a “Christian nation.” There were few Muslims living in America (most of them were Muslim-background African slaves). Virtually all public officials and voters were at least nominally Christian. To people used to the notion that nations had public faith commitments, there seemed no other option than a Christian affiliation for America.

Yet in the Tripoli treaty, which generated little public controversy twelve years later, the American government said it was in no sense “founded on the Christian Religion.” Why would the U.S. say this? Primarily because of the diplomatic value of it. If America was not founded on Christianity, then it had no necessary conflict with Muslim nations. And by that time, it had ratified the First Amendment, which prevented Congress from making laws respecting an established national church.

Demographically, nothing had changed – white Americans remained overwhelmingly Christian. But the First Amendment gave the government a plausible (and convenient) basis on which to tell North African Muslims that their nation was not officially Christian.

Was America a “Christian nation”? Then and now, it depends a lot on your perspective.

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • mikehorn

    First, there is a big difference between a nation consisting mostly of Christian citizens and a Christian nation. Words have different meanings in different contexts, and I think the author here is comparing the same word used with different meanings at different times.

    America wrote its Constitution and could have put references to religion in it. Most nations at the time did, basing their government on biblical or theological or pontifical authority. A bishop or other clergy would usually preside over a coronation. But America did write a specific source for its laws, the Constitution. It also specifically mentions the source of its authority above the Constitution. It’s not God. It’s “We the People”. Citizens without regard to religion (and later race and gender) were the ultimate source of American power. Not any God. Not any scripture. Not any bishop or pope or imam. The people.

    The treaty of Tripoli spoke truly in this sense. While most of American citizens then and now are some version of Christian, making us generally a Christian nation in demographic sense, America itself is not a Christian nation in any legal or foundational sense. We are a constitutional republic, with voters and the founding document (with amendments) the ultimate authority. The bible and religion have no legal authority here, so in the legal sense we are absolutely, definitively, purposefully, NOT a Christian nation.

  • Jerry Lynch

    I agree. No matter how many references to God or self-evident truths may be inserted in the founding documents, to be a Christian Nation Jesus must be specifically mentioned, our government admitting dedication to his words in law and practice. Had that happened, perhaps “socialism” (really social justice) would have come a lot sooner to the States.

  • Hollif50

    Marxism is a theory of class justice. The only political rights it respects are those exercised by members of the oppressed class, with different left-wing ideological strands defining those classes in economic, racial, or gender terms, or sometimes all at once.
    The basics of Marxism: Karl Marx, writing with Friedrich Engels, developed a theory of social and economic principles and a sharp critique of the capitalist form of government in the mid-1800s. Marx believed that workers, under the capitalist system of government, sold their labor and that this labor became a commodity. This commodity, or “labor power” translated into surplus value for the capitalist, but not for the worker. Marx concluded that this created an inherent conflict between the working class (proletariat) and the ownership class (the bourgeoisie). Because capitalism has this “built in” inequality, Marx argued that the working class would eventually take power over the ruling class, reconstructing society. This reconstruction would take place in stages. The next stage after capitalism, according to Marx, would be a socialist form of government.

    The Economics of Socialism

    Socialism advocates public ownership of property and natural resources rather than private ownership. The socialist system of government values cooperation over the competitiveness of a free market economy. Socialists believe that all people in society contribute to the production of goods and services and that those goods should be shared equally. This differs from the capitalist system in which individual efforts trump the collective and the free market determines the distribution of goods. Examples of socialist policies include a living wage, free higher education and universal health care. Advocates of socialism believe that capitalism creates vast inequality and that it ultimately leads to imperialism, a hyper-form of capitalism.

    Communism: The Last Stage

    The communist doctrine differs from the socialist worldview because communism calls not only for public ownership of property and natural resources, but also for the means of production of goods and services. Karl Marx argued that capitalism, with its strict adherence to free market principles, divided people because of competition. He believed communism was the solution. According to Marx, communism would give people a chance to develop into their very best. He concluded that communism was a natural progression from socialism and would occur in two stages. First, the working class would gain control of society and push the ownership class out. Second, society would evolve into a classless one without government. According to Britannica.com, Marx and Friedrich Engels defined communists in their “Communist Manifesto” as, “The most advanced and resolute section of the working class which parties every country, that section which pushes forward all others.”

  • Jerry Lynch

    And I got this lesson I did not need for what reason?

  • dr. james willingham

    Socialism was an Invention of the Capitalists to control the poor (the late Bella Dodd, once chairman of the Communist Party USA who was ordered by Moscow to take her orders from one of three capitalists during WWII, cf. School of Darkness.
    Milovan Djilas in his work the New Capitalist pointed out that Communism created a new class, one more greedy, rapacious, and cruel than any other in History, the Communist Party which got the perks and exercised them. I studied under one of the theoreticians of Marxism years ago and wrote him a paper on the subject.

  • gizmo23

    Another misreading of that treaty, but that’s typical.

  • mikehorn

    How exactly should I read this, the text that was presented to the Senate for consideration, and passed unanimously? Many Founders were in the Senate, and John Adams himself signed this treaty into law. It was meant as written: the USA is a secular state, founded on the rule of law which includes the expressed will of the people but is bound by the rules and restrictions of the Constitution without regard to any religion. This is in conscious contrast to the Christian nations in Europe of the time, which were often bound by Catholicism or other denominations.

    “Art. 11. 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 tranquility, of Mussulmen (Muslims); and as the said States never entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mahometan (Mohammedan) 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.”

    Go ahead. I’m making popcorn.

  • dr. james willingham

    Never read such an article.

  • mikehorn

    Also refer to the “Syllabus of Errors”, 39-55, proclaimed by Pope Pius IX in 1862. The head of the Catholic Church himself viewed America as a secular nation, where church and state were separate, liberty and rights were given and protected outside the church, and civil authority was free to act without regard to theology or dogma.

    Further, Pope Leo XIII in 1898 specifically lamented this Heresy of “Americanism”.

  • Barking Dawg

    The millions of American Protestants could not care less what some pope says. Sounds like you don’t eve know the difference between Catholic and Protestant, but here you are spewing your ignorance anyway. You’re like some guy on a sports blog who never heard of Mike Ditka.

  • dr. james willingham

    Your still overlooking the 1792 decision of the Supreme Court which received no objection from the supposed Deists who wrote the Constitution. Amazing.

  • Mr JCS

    There have been countless cases throughout history of an elite with one religion/worldview ruling over people with a very different religion/worldview. The Muslims ruled over many nations that were predominantly Christian, the British Christians ruled countries that were predominantly Hindu or Muslim or pagan, the atheists in the Soviet Union ruled over millions of Christians and Muslims and people of other faiths. We a predominantly Christian nation ruled by a secular (and anti-Christian) elite, even if most members of that elite identify themselves as Christian (I’m thinking of Anthony Kennedy and Nathan Deal, off the top of my head). As we know from history, Christians have been considerably more tolerant of other religions/worldviews than have secularists/atheists. The British made minimal efforts to convert the Hindus in India to Christianity. The French Revolution set the pattern for whole attempts of secularists to exterminate (swiftly, or incrementally) Christianity.

  • a r tompkins

    selective memory there… you’ve never heard of the Inquisition, I take it? the Catholic church in general? the conquest and subjugation of the people native to the Americas before the tolerant Christians arrived? Hitler even? Ku Klux Klan?
    and ps, just to keep the record straight, “atheism” is not a religion. Leaders of Soviet and Communist regimes have been despots, to be sure, and despotism has much more in common with religionism than it does with atheism. you probably don’t believe in Greek gods, Roman gods, Egyptian gods, Inca gods, Pygmy gods, etc, just like atheists. so, you are in that sense also an atheist. most atheists just go one god further than you – they don’t believe in your gods either.

  • dr. james willingham

    Perhaps, I know more about the Inquisition than you might imagine, having taken some where around nearly a 1000 notecards on the subject from variety of sources. Every faith has its betrayers, just as Jesus had Judas. It is not those who are the misleaders that set the tone, the course.

    I was an Atheist at one time. And it helped confirm my turn from that vacuous belief to read the Gulag Archipelago and One Day in The Life Ivan Denisovich by Solzhentsyn, the latter recommended to me by my commie professor at Columbia University back in 1971. I am also aware of how the Romans thought of the Christians as Atheists, when they first encountered them. However, the people who encountered or wee encountered by Christ worshipped and served Him as God come in the flesh.

  • a r tompkins

    first of all, I wasn’t replying to you re: Inquisition; I was replying to “Mr JCS”. second, we have a saying in the STEM field in which I work when someone makes a comment or argument that is so orthogonal to the discussion, so irrelevant, that we can’t even respond in the given context. We say about the comment: “That’s not even wrong”. Your comments, in this post, and on others, are not even wrong.
    Hmmph – “Dr” indeed.

  • dr. james willingham

    A British Historian said only under the government by the British with their Christian Faith could Gandhi have succeeded, and the same has been said of Martin Luther King Jr., being in the Christian South. For all their resistance and reluctance, he had the moral high ground, the Christian principle that they could not resist.

  • ken

    The Treaty of Tripoli, drawn up 1796, approved by the U.S. Senate in 1797, was a peace treaty between the U.S. and the Barbary states (which were Muslim) of north Africa. It is often cited by atheists because it states that “the government of the United States is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion.” What follows this declaration is an assurance that the U.S. bears no animus against Muslims – in other words, the treaty is merely affirming that the undeclared war that had been going on between the U.S. and the Barbary pirates of north Africa was not religious in nature. The Barbary pirates justified their piracy by claiming they were Muslims at war with Christian nations, so the treaty was worded to make it sound like the US government was neutral toward religions – NOT an indication that the nation itself wasn’t predominantly Christian. The treaty was in no sense binding forever, and in fact it was superseded by an 1805 treaty with the Barbary states, and that 1805 treaty did not contain the clause about “not founded on the Christian religion.” No one in 1797 or afterward saw the Treaty of Tripoli as in any way defining the role of religion in the U.S. It had no legal status once it was superseded by the 1805 treaty, and it has no legal status today. Most newspapers at the time did not print the text of the treaty or even refer to it. Considering how outspoken preachers were in those days about attacking “infidels” (Thomas Jefferson being a favorite target), they certainly would have raised a ruckus if they believed the Treaty of Tripoli was defining the US as a secular nation.

    John Adams, who as president signed the Treaty of Tripoli, certainly did not think of the U.S. as secular. In a letter to Thomas Jefferson, dated June 28, 1813, Adams wrote: “The general principles on which the fathers achieved independence were the only principles on which that beautiful assembly of young men could unite. . . . And what were these principles? I answer, the general principles of Christianity, in which all those sects were united.” While president, Adams proclaimed April 25, 1799 as a national “day of solemn humiliation, fasting, and prayer.” That proclamation refers to “Most High God” and to Christ as “the Great Mediator and Redeemer.” How ironic that all the secularists know of John Adams is that he signed the Treaty of Tripoli, when in fact his proclamation of April 25, 1799 had much more effect on the American public and reflected his own personal beliefs more than the Treaty of Tripoli.

  • ahermit

    “The general principles on which the fathers achieved independence were
    the only principles on which that beautiful assembly of young men could
    unite. . . . And what were these principles? I answer, the general
    principles of Christianity, in which all those sects were united.”

    One should avoid using fake quotes to make an argument…here’s the whole thing:

    https://fakehistory.wordpress.com/2010/05/08/adams-and-the-general-principles-of-christianity/

    Who composed that army of fine young fellows that was then before my eyes? There were among them Roman Catholics, English Episcopalians, Scotch and American Presbyterians, Methodists, Moravians, Anabaptists, German Lutherans, German Calvinists, Universalists, Arians, Priestleyans, Socinians, Independents, Congregationalists, Horse Protestants, and House Protestants, Deists and Atheists, and Protestants “qui ne croyent rien.” Very few, however, of several of these species; nevertheless, all educated in the general principles of Christianity, and the general principles of English and American liberty.

    Could my answer be understood by any candid reader or hearer, to recommend to all the others the general principles, institutions, or systems of education of the Roman Catholics, or those of the Quakers, or those of the Presbyterians, or those of the Methodists, or those of the Moravians, or those of the Universalists, or those of the Philosophers? No. The general principles on which the fathers achieved independence, were the only principles in which that beautiful assembly of young men could unite, and these principles only could be intended by them in their address, or by me in my answer. And what were these general principles? I answer, the general principles of Christianity, in which all those sects were united, and the general principles of English and American liberty, in which all those young men united, and which had united all parties in America, in majorities sufficient to assert and maintain her independence. Now I will avow, that I then believed and now believe that those general principles of Christianity are as eternal and immutable as the existence and attributes of God; and that those principles of liberty are as unalterable as human nature and our terrestrial, mundane system. I could, therefore, safely say, consistently with all my then and present information, that I believed they would never make discoveries in contradiction to these general principles. In favor of these general principles, in philosophy, religion, and government, I could fill sheets of quotations from Frederic of Prussia, from Hume, Gibbon, Bolingbroke, Rousseau, and Voltaire, as well as Newton and Locke; not to mention thousands of divines and philosophers of inferior fame.

    As that article points out he never defines exactly what they are, but it’s remarkable that these “general principles of Christianity” Adams is referring to are ideas that he says are acceptable even to deists and atheists…

  • a r tompkins

    so, let us for a moment embrace that the United States is a “Christian Nation, with all privileges and responsibilities thereof”. where would you be going with that? how would that work? what does that even mean? would the Methodists be allowed, but not the Catholics? there have been times when those two branches of Christianity would not have recognized the other. how about Baptists, Pentacostals, Mormons, Born-agains, Jehovah’s Witnesses? all of these sects have viewed the others with great suspicion or worse. Would the Jews be deported? Atheists arrested? where are you going with this? would we practice biblical principles and stone fornicators, adulterers, homosexuals, rape VICTIMS to death? your unmarried non-virgin daugher? it’s all in your bible. how about working on Sundays? what is your ideal Christian Gov’t?
    Be careful what you wish for…

  • dr. james willingham

    There is a depth to the Bible that most people do not know, since it is inspired by Omniscience..

  • dr. james willingham

    If the US was not founded on Christian principles, why would the Northwest Ordinance for the formation of states in the area of Ohio, et.al.,(call for the teaching of religion in the schools) and the Supreme Court’s Ruling in 1792 which called the US a Christian nation not be dealt with by Washington, Madison, Jefferson, et. al., as a violation of the founding principles of secularism, if secularism was at the basis of the Constitution? The answer is that all of the Founding Fathers desired the Christian Faith in its practice, i.e., the ten commandments, love, etc., to be the basis of the practice.

  • Tony TV

    Sorry to interject on all this erudition, but I don’t think anyone here is arguing that the U.S. was founded on secularism, just that it wasn’t founded on Christianity. A common practice of Evangelical Christians is to twist an argument in this way. That comes from drawing a conclusion then finding facts to support it, rather than gathering all the facts you can then basing your conclusion on those facts. In the small mind it’s either founded on secularism or on Christianity.

    You are obviously well read and educated, but you are living proof that someone can assimilate all the knowledge presented to him without learning how to process it in a rational way, in other words, how to reason or how to think.

  • Doug Indeap

    You misapprehend, I think, the pertinence and import of Article 11 of the Treaty of Tripoli. Shortly after the founding, President John Adams (a founder) signed, with the unanimous consent of the Senate (comprised in large measure of founders), the Treaty declaring, in pertinent part, “the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion.” No need to resort to reading tea leaves to understand that. Moreover, this is not an informal comment by an individual founder, but rather an official declaration of the most solemn sort by the United States government itself.

    You rightly observe that this declaration pertains to the government of the United States, and not to some more generalized concept such as America or nation.

    Your further suggestion, though, that the treaty somehow is not “binding forever” and “has no legal status today” is off target. Quite apart from whatever legal effect the treaty may yet have, Article 11 stands as a plain statement of fact by the government of the United States—when it was run by founders—that it (i.e., the government) was not in any sense founded on the Christian religion. Historical evidence hardly gets more plain and definitive than that.

    Your further supposition that the treaty somehow slipped through without anyone noticing Article 11, otherwise they would have raised a ruckus, is simply contrary to the evidence. Secretary of War McHenry called Adams’s attention to the article and voiced his misgivings. As the Senate’s records reveal, Adams nonetheless sent the treaty to the Senate for ratification in May 1797, copies were printed for use of the Senators, and the treaty was read aloud on the floor of the Senate. The Senate referred the treaty to a committee, which after consideration recommended ratification. The Senate then voted—unanimously–on June 7 to ratify it.

    The treaty was published in newspapers with this proclamation appended:
    “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 fulfil the said Treaty and every clause and article thereof.” As far as I am aware, there is no evidence that publication of the treaty prompted any public dissent.

    Moreover, the United States continued to make use of Article 11 for years after you suppose it to have no legal status. Mordecai Noah, our diplomatic agent to Algiers in 1813-1815 used the article to point out that the United States government is not Christian in his effort to secure release of American prisoners from pirates. In 1899, the U.S. Minister to Turkey used the article to gain the help of the Sultan of Turkey in persuading Muslims in the Philippines not to fight Americans in the war with Spain.

    While later statements by Adams alone could hardly undo a duly ratified treaty, I note that the two you mention hardly contradict or undo either the treaty or Adams’s earlier proclamation that he accepted, ratified, and confirmed the treaty clause declaring that “the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion.” If you read the entirety of Adams’s June 28, 1813, letter to Jefferson, you’ll find that the excerpts you quote refer not to the Constitution or the founding of the government, but rather to the “army of fine young fellows” gathered to fight the war. Adams’s proclamation recommending a day of prayer may well have strayed beyond what Jefferson and Madison thought proper under the Constitution, but it did not have the effect of law nor did it contradict the Treaty of Tripoli’s declaration about the founding of the government.

  • cwayneu

    Great review, Thanks.

  • cken

    It would seem more appropriate to say the founding fathers incorporated religious principles, not specifically or solely Christian principles into the constitution.

  • gizmo23

    Curious that some people who call themselves Christians inevitably side with secularists. Makes you wonder where their true loyalty lies. The New Testament says that people who are ashamed of Christ won’t enter heaven.

  • Sven2547

    Do you have anything to offer, other than an attack on cken’s character?

  • gizmo23

    Who died and made you queen?

  • cken

    You should be more selective in your comments so you don’t demonstrate your lack of intelligence. Name calling is hardly a rational response. The old saying goes if you don’t have anything intelligent to say, keep quiet.

  • Barking Dawg

    Too bad you don’t follow that old saying.

  • Sven2547

    I’ll take that as a “no”.

  • cken

    In this instance I am just giving a synopsis of historical fact. i am not siding against Jesus, If one insists on saying our founding fathers founded this country on Christian principles then we would have to redefine Christian, Very few of the founding fathers were Christians and certainly not Christians by today’s standards. Unfortunately many who proclaim Christianity today do not act Christian and many today who deny Christianity act Christian. There is no shame of Jesus in acknowledging history. The shame is in not walking the way so you can be known by your fruits. It is not the fruit of a Christian life to rewrite history. Follow the way the truth and the life today; let yesterday be gone.

  • dr. james willingham

    Funny, how the Supreme Court in 1792 and 1892 identified America as a Christian nation, the latter, so I understand, after a ten year study of the issue. The denominational aspect or the state church had nothing to do with it, so to speak, as they were removed from their positions as state churches over a period of years. However, the basis of government in the states and in the US Government was the Bible or the Christian Faith, taking them to be synonymous. The reason the church was so accepted and recognized was due to its support of the revolution, a point that no one could overlook at that time, but which has been forgotten in modern times due to the rise of the secularists. A few quotes here and there for political purposes hardly constitutes a serious denial of the Supreme Court’s decisions or the affirmations of so many back in the early history of our country. The King of England thought his colonies had runoff with Presbyterian parsons. The denominational support hardly gives countenance to the idea that this was not a Christian nation. Even as late as FDR an appeal was made to the Christian soldier by a soldier’s NT with a letter in it from the President. Not too secular then.

  • FA Miniter

    Dr. Willingham said: “However, the basis of government in the states and in the US Government was the Bible or the Christian Faith, taking them to be synonymous.”

    First, the Bible and Christian faith are hardly synonymous. I believe Jewish people would have a lot to say about that. And, really, the Bible is only a gathering of texts on a particular topic.

    Second, the basis of government in the states and in the U. S. Government is certainly not the Bible – or Christian faith. First, as to the latter, our federal or state governments are neither monarchies, like the papacy, nor assemblies of the whole (like non-hieratic churches). Our governments are structured on the Roman principles of a Republic, where elected representatives represent the people. And Rome was very much a polytheistic land with a secular government. A similar form of representative government had been developing in England for a number of centuries, as repeated conflicts between the king and (at first) the barons and (later) the commons led to an effective parliament that was in the process of clipping the wings of the monarchy.

  • dr. james willingham

    Since the Jewish element was not very prominent in the revolution, and the Christians were plus the fact that they were beginning to get new light from the Book of God, I think your issue does not fly. You might want to read Black’s work on Law back in the 1700s and see how, legally, the Christian Faith was treated.

  • Murigen

    The Jewish reference is for the old testament which is mostly a Jewish collection of books. I would listen more to Christians if they followed only the teachings of their faith, the new testament. As to government, there is nothing in the old or new testaments that form our government. However the structure of the Roman Republic does.

  • dr. james willingham

    There were Christians practicing the faith, though few in nature. The failure of the others was the misunderstanding of the Bible, usually enforced by those who had an axe to grind. E.g.,, Calvin and Servetus. The former’s actions with reference to the lattetr is enough to make a Baptist see Red.

  • FA Miniter

    As a retired lawyer who did a good bit of constitutional work, I think I have read far more law books and supreme court cases than you have, Doctor Willingham.

    And, please note, that while many of the framers of the Constitution were deists, they were not Christians. They had before them a history of people oppressed by Christian colonial governments, and they wanted an end to that. So religion was excluded in the document, especially from qualification for office.

  • dr. james willingham

    The old saw that many of the framers were deists will not fly to well. Consider how Washington was a believer and recommended it to the Indians and kep a record of his devotional life. They also had a history of Christians who wanted religious liberty and believed it to be a biblical teaching, useful in order to win people like they were supposed to be won, that is, by persuasion alone. I refer to the Baptists of Rhode Island where the Puritan Baptist Roger Williams (His being a seeker was only for someone with the authority to baptize him) and Dr. John Clarke. All of the Founders, it seems was aware of the fact that Rhode Island was practicing religious liberty for a century or more before the American Revolution. The first synagogue built in the US area (and still in use at last account I had of it) is in Rhode Island.

  • FA Miniter

    I did not say that ALL of the framers were deists. One counter-example proves nothing. You refer to the Baptists of Rhode Island. I hope you know what happened when they would proselytize in Massachusetts. There was a very ugly history of religious persecution in the colonies.

    See:
    http://www.pbministries.org/History/John%20T.%20Christian/vol2/history2_part1_03.htm
    http://www.brucegourley.com/baptists/persecutionoutline.htm

  • cwayneu

    Yes, the founders had already seen first hand the genesis of various religious factions trying to persecute each other across the colonies, which is another reason why they were motivated to keep any religious power out of the government.

  • dr. james willingham

    The folks of Rhode Island who sought to proselytize, as you put it (prejudicial term), or evangelize, believed like the Puritans. In fact, you might call them Baptist Puritans who sought to teach the folks of Massachusetts something about religious liberty. Eventually they succeed, but it took nearly two centuries. And I am very much aware of one of the laymnen being whipped so bad that he had to sleep on his elbows and knees, if memory serves correctly.

  • dr. james willingham

    Being a lawyer as you were, I would hope you had read more books on the subject than I have. My subject was American Social and Intellectual History and Black History. But that does not discount the fact that many called the US a Christian Nation, including Madison in his Memorial and Remonstrance. And why in the world did TJ attend a Baptist Church that was meeting in the Capital building for the eight years he was president, and why did they allow all the denominations to meet in the various buildings of the Federal Government??? And who do you think were the people behind that religious liberty idea? The Baptists.

  • dr. james willingham

    I suggest that you might want to read the materials related to the Calvinistic background of our government. Seems Calvin had a Republic in Geneva as did other nations of the Sovereign Grace Faith. Why?

  • FA Miniter

    And I suggest you read Madison’s Notes of Debates in the Federal Convention of 1787 (Norton paperback ed. 1987). While Hamilton referred to the Roman Repubic, the Greek city-states, the Glorious Revolution in England and the German Confederacy with favor, he stated “The Swiss cantons have hardly any Union at all, and have been more than once at war with one another . . . .” [page 132] Madison cited the weakness of mere confederations, such as the Swiss. [page 145] It seems that Calvin’s paradise was not an example for the framers.

  • dr. james willingham

    Read Madison’s Notes about 25-30 years ago. Please note Ben Franklin’s call for prayer and the answer that they did not have the money to pay for preacher. Also the info. supplied about the Roman Republic, etc., was hardly new to anyone who had been to school as they studied those very subjects. As to the Greek city-states, the biblical disciples used that very term with reference to the church, i.e., ekklesia, and there is a number of examples of Greek city-states presented in the New Testament. What no one wanted was a King like the Old Testament presented and which God did not approve. They all were looking elsewhere. Did not say the Swiss were the best, but merely that they had republics. Calvin’s failures are like any other leader’s, numerous and, in some cases, inexcusable, i.e., Servetus. John Knox found Scotland to be a tough nut to crack, but Samuel Rutherford’s Lex Rex indicates that the Scots did some learning from their exposure to the Bible and other forms of government. Negative the King of England.

  • dr. james willingham

    The morals of the Christian Faith, including the ten commandments, were what Jefferson, etc. sought. Washington commended the Savior to the Native Americans. Again, I observe that the schools taught about the Republic of Rome as well as the Greek city states which latter could be had by simply reading the NT. It is said Jefferson called the Baptist church that meet at the bottom of Buck Mountain a nursery for democracy. Since I lost most of my answers to your issues, I will try to itemize a single reply and call it quits, being a conspiracist by research.
    1. The idea that people were not acquainted with the Roman Republic or the Greek city states will not fly. The latter due to the knowledge which the NT presents concerning Ephesus, Corinth, etc. Also the Church uses the same term, ekklesia, as a description of itself and its government which might explain why TJ is reputed to have said that the Baptist Church at the base of Buck mountain was a nursery for democracy.
    2. Many of the delegates to Declaration of Independence and the Constitutional Convention were church members. If they were also Deists, then they would be guilty of deception, and even Ben Franklin for all of his Deism called for prayer in the Constitutional Convention only to learn that they did not have the money to pay the preacher. Cf. Madison’s notes.
    3. I would hope a lawyer would have read more books on the Constitution than I have. After all, I am retired minister, historian, and professional counselor. Madison also made the egregious mistake of calling the US a Christian nation in his Memorial and Remonstrance. As to the doctrine of Religious Liberty, please note that it was the Baptists who introduced it in England and went to prison (and some died because of it), and then they established that truth in precept and practice in Rhode Island which is why the Jews built their first synagogue in Rhode Island in the New World..so I understand – which is still in use.
    4. And please note that inspite of Calvin’s evil with reference to Servetus, he, too, had a republic. As to the Baptists going into Massachusetts to proselytize (a prejudicial term as you might know) or evangelize as we know it, they were trying to spread the truth of religious liberty, because they believed that persuasion by the truth, regardless of its problems, was the only way to make true converts. About a 175 years they succeeded as to that colony getting rid of its state church.
    5. I know how they whipped one of the group so bad that he had to sleep on his hands and knees (or was it elbows?) for some time. As to the religious liberty in Virginia the Baptists had a bit to do with that. And Madison could not get elected to the Constitutional convention without the support of a Baptist preacher, one John Leland.
    6. What the Founders were seeking were the morals of the Christian Faith which even Jefferson praised. Well, I must close as my heart tells me it is near to quitting.

  • McJakome

    Of the ten commandments, only 3 [to be very generous] could be seen in our basic laws, and they are common to all civilizations. Most of the ten [I hope you know the real ones and are not referring to the fake movie version beloved by ignorant Southern “Christians”] are either irrelevant or are illegal under our Constitution. Not allowed as crime under our Constitution are:Taking the Name of God in Vain, working on the Sabbath, wearing mixed fibers, cooking a lamb in its mother’s milk, converting to another religion, eating Pork, blood or non-scaled sea-animals, allowing non-believers to live among us, etc.

  • a r tompkins

    oh my, a “Dr” – very impressive indeed! so, since you’re a “Dr”, you must know a LOT! so, can you help me please? I am trying to find where the bible says anything about “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” as being an “inalienable right”. I am trying to find in the bible where there is any verbage about the state being prohibited from identifying an “established religion”. I am trying to find where in the bible there is anything about the one-white-property-owning-man-to-one-vote principle (which has been greatly expanded since the time the Constitution was ratified, no thanks to god by the way). Where in the bible are the rights of the minority protected from the tyranny of the majority? Where in the bible is there anything about democracy at all? where in the bible is there anything about an executive branch, a legislative branch, and a judicial branch to establish a system of checks and balances? where in the bible is “cruel and unusual punishment” prohibited? How about a right to a trial with jury composed of peers? how about the prohibition of religious tests for elected officials? Please answer these questions, for I have many more.
    we can grant that the framers of the US Government were themselves born of primarily Christian traditional religions, but they were clearly driven to rise above that pedigree to give birth to their great experiment in a secular democracy.

  • dr. james willingham

    Don’t make to much of the doctorate. It is merely a Doctor of Ministry with the project being on the subject, Christian Love and Race Relations. However, I would note that my Masters is in American Social and Intellectual History, which involved the study of the sources, including the Founding Fathers. What ever their written words, their actions spoke louder than their words.. Evidently, you have not read Christian History and legal jurisprudence which have emphasized these qualities as coming from the Bible. Likewise you might want to consider Lex Rex by Samuel Rutherford, one of the works inspiring John Witherspoon who taught Madison and others. As to the vote issue, the Bible is like leaven working its way through the masses. As to the Democracy, what do you think is the nature of a Baptist and a Congregational Church Government. If you have ever studied ekklesia as it is used in Greek History and the Greek New Testament, you will find that every member has a right to vote, to take part in the deliberations, etc. Even Roman stills pays lip service, when a new pope is elected and the masses come to the Vatican and give their vocal approval of what was done. Admittedly, they leave much to be wanting, but the New Pope has adopted religious liberty, and who do you think established the first colony in the New World with religious ;liberty? It was Roger Williams and Dr. John Clarke. Jefferson and the other Founding Fathers were fully aware of that example, when they established the national practice. There is a verse in the Old Testament, which is not readily available to my memory now which mentions all three branches of government. Checks and balances? Perhaps I can locate it for you tomorrow. As to the cruel and unusual punishment, have you considered I Cors.13? I really must close and hurry on to answer a few others. O yes, I have18 hrs, toward a Ph.D, 12 at Columbia University where I wrote a Prospectus for a Doctoral Dissertation in Black History on the subject, The Baptists and Slavery,” and delivered a lecture in an afternoon lecture series on a professor who had claimed that only Uncle Toms and Black Sambos came out of slavery. My subject was The Stanely Elkins Thesis: A Critique.’ I also was elected to membership Phi Alpha Theta – The International Honor Society of Historians. Have you ever read the Pilgrims’ pastor, John Robinson who said, “Who knows what new light is getting ready to break forth from God’s word.” Among some of the first advocates of womens rights were the Puritans, some of the them , not all, advocated that a woman had the right to preach. That is why we find Eldresses among the Separate Baptists of the Sandy Creek Association in the 1700s.

  • McJakome

    You certainly do excel at cherry picking. The Puritans persecuted anyone who did not hew to their strict interpretation of their version of the Holy Bible cobbled together by the Imperial Greco-Roman Catholic Church bureaucrats around 325 [presumably you studied the councils of Nicaea and others where the Trinity was invented].

    Some of my ancestors were Puritans, in the Boston area, and I am not proud of their persecution of Quakers, Baptists, and old ladies suspected of being witches. You should not be proud of that either.

  • cwayneu

    If you examine private writings of the founding fathers
    (letters, memoirs, diaries), as opposed to public political speeches,
    most would not pass as Christian today. They were religious, but driven
    by morality, openness, and rationalization. Some denied the deity of
    Christ; they denied the Trinity; they denied the atonement (no hell),
    all pretty key Christian attributes. Jefferson actually took a pair of
    scissors to his Bible, and cut out all the supernatural and miraculous
    elements, putting it back together into a more believable doctrine. (1)

    (1) Gregg Frazer, “The Religious Beliefs of America’s Founders: Reason,
    Revelation and Revolution”

  • Doug Indeap

    Some make much of Justice Brewer’s statement in Church of the Holy Trinity v. United States (the 1892 case to which you allude) that “this is a Christian nation,” some even thinking the Court “ruled” to that effect or that the opinion pertained to the Constitution. Neither is so. The Court held that a statute restricting importation of any alien under contract to perform labor or service did not preclude a church from contracting with an alien to come to this country and serve as its pastor. The Court based this holding on its finding that, notwithstanding what a literal reading of the statute suggested, Congress intended simply to stay the influx of cheap, unskilled labor and did not intend to address circumstances such as the church’s contract with an alien pastor. It supported this finding, in dictum (i.e., a statement not essential to its holding), with the further thought that as this is a Christian nation, Congress would not have intended to restrict the church in this situation.

    Brewer later clarified that he meant simply to observe that the nation’s people and culture are largely Christian and not that the nation’s government or laws are somehow Christian: “But in what sense can [the United States] be called a Christian nation? Not in the sense that Christianity is the established religion or the people are compelled in any manner to support it. On the contrary, the Constitution specifically provides that ‘congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.’ Neither is it Christian in the sense that all its citizens are either in fact or in name Christians. On the contrary, all religions have free scope within its borders. Numbers of our people profess other religions, and many reject all. […] Nor is it Christian in the sense that a profession of Christianity is a condition of holding office or otherwise engaging in public service, or essential to recognition either politically or socially. In fact, the government as a legal organization is independent of all religions. Nevertheless, we constantly speak of this republic as a Christian nation – in fact, as the leading Christian nation of the world.” D. Brewer, The United States: A Christian Nation (1905) 12.

  • https://manwiththemuckrake.wordpress.comr Denis E.

    Why is it ‘important’ and/or meaningful to describe our nation, any nation, based on the religious preference of it’s citizens? It may be as meaningless as Right-handed nation. Or brown-eyed nation. Of what value is such a delineation?

    If some would suggest that it IS important to characterize a nation by the religious preference of the majority, them it might require a defense of such a label. If so, do the 350,000,000 people of our country have Christian characteristics? And, what would exemplify such a ‘characteristic’? Love one another? Peace? Sharing? Turn the other cheek? Blessed are the…?

  • cwayneu

    “Why is it important…”

    It is only important to the Christians who have often used this banner to justify pushing Christian beliefs and privileges into our public schools, policies, and laws. The founding fathers absolutely did not want to end up like England, where a religion could dictate rules for all citizens.

  • Hollif50

    I was in school back in 1963 when they took God and prayer out of the schools.. Quickly fast forward 53 years- from the children of that era- to the children of today.. See any difference? Maybe your “secular society ain’t all you claim it’s cracked up to be, huh? Your secular “religion” will brook no competition in it’s quest of indoctrinating the nation’s children…..

  • cwayneu

    Yes, Salem witch trials, over a century of slavery, and let’s not forget the KKK, all under the “Christian” watch.

    And FYI, the prisons today are full of Christain’s, but the prison atheist population is at about 1/10 of 1%. It must be a miracle…

  • Hollif50

    Ah, and then we have the atheists Stalin and Pol Pot with about 100-120 million people liquidated -sort of makes Christians look like pikers, huh?.. Better take down your halo.. Oh, that’s right you don’t have those.. You’re human meatsacks with no soul and with the worms ready greet you when your meat sack croaks……

  • cwayneu

    Stalin was an atheist, but his motives were strictly political. And you are obviously are confused. The topic is the United States. Last I checked Stalin was in Russia.

  • Hollif50

    Really? Political.. Or was it the type of ideology he had – in this case, godless – which meant he had no qualms about doing such things.. BTW: You don’t get to set the topic or the country… Own up for your own monsters…..

  • https://manwiththemuckrake.wordpress.comr Denis E.

    Regarding your comment several lines above regarding ‘removing God from the classroom,’ is your argument/thesis this: The removal of God-talk from U.S. classrooms was a direct cause of corruption of the social fabric of our nation.?

    If this is not your inference, please spell it out differently. Thank you.

  • Sven2547

    Or was it the type of ideology he had – in this case, godless – which meant he had no qualms about doing such things.

    “Atheist” doesn’t mean “amoral”.

  • https://manwiththemuckrake.wordpress.comr Denis E.

    …but, of course, it really does to him. Apparently if one does not worship a deity, one has a tendency to become anti-social at the least, a mass murderer at the extreme!

  • Hollif50

    Atheist certainly doesn’t mean moral either… What’s your anchor when things get tough? Your own sophomoric preconceived notions of morality which IMO: change like the wind?

  • Sven2547

    I’ve seen plenty of religious morality change like the wind. There are Christians on both sides of every single contentious moral/ethical debate in the world today.
    Personally, my moral anchors are empathy, compassion, and reason.

  • cwayneu

    You obviously have a warped notion of atheists from scriptures, or church, or a few bad apples. There are always jerks in any group be it atheists, Christians, Jews, gays, you name it (Westboro Baptist Church ring any bells). All the atheists I know are very decent, caring, loving people. We live simply by empathy and the golden rule. I have been married for 47 years, have wonderful children and grand children, give to many charities on a regular basis (even 2 local church sponsored charities). I have tutored students in math and computer science for free, and donated labor to the Habitat For Humanity. We are not Satan worshipers like some believe; we do not believe in Satan either.

  • McJakome

    Are the Duggars moral? Were the child raping Catholic priests moral? Are the grifting pastors like Creflo Dollar moral? Oh, wait, they were all atheists right because “No True Christian™ would ever do immoral things.

  • Brad F

    It means “immoral and no conscience at all.”

  • Sven2547

    Is that some kind of joke?

  • cwayneu

    “Really? Political.. ”

    Yes political. Stalin was eliminating the Kulaks people that were seeking independence from Russia. It had nothing to do with religion.

    “BTW: You don’t get to set the topic or the country…”

    If you bothered to actually read this article, the topic (The New United States: A “Christian Nation”?) was set by Thomas Kidd, the author.

    And you conveniently ignored the fact that our prisons are full of Christians, where atheists are virtually non-existent. I suppose I should be very happy that the Bible and churches exist. Otherwise every Christian in America would apparently be running wild, raping and killing everyone in sight.

  • Tony TV

    Same as what’s going to happen to you, but you lack the guts to face it,so you take comfort in fairy tales about pearly gates and streets paved with gold. Oh and don’t forget The Inquisition and The Crusades, and I believe Pol Pot was a Buddhist.

  • McJakome

    You left out the Catholic Hitler [who used both RCC and Lutheran antisemitism to achieve his goals]. Congratulations for finally realizing that people know about that lie. Now, how about Stalin being in a seminary studying to be a priest? That is not atheistic.

    As to the Stalinist regimes [including Pol Pot and Mao as well as North Korea] they opposed all religion in the same way that they opposed and persecuted any and all political opposition. It was not about religion, but about power and control of the state. Now, power and control of the state is an obvious motive of religious fundamentalists, especially those who try to take over the secular governments of the U.S.

    Your attempts to blame atheism are nonsensical. Atheism has only one belief, “there is no god.” You could make that two beliefs if you include, “I do not believe in god(s) because there is no evidence.” That is neither a dogma nor a program nor an agenda. Your attempts to portray it as one are ludicrous, particularly as atheists, agnostics, skeptics and free thinkers are not by any means united on anything.

  • a r tompkins

    oh yes, i remember now; everything was perfect when you were a kid. it was such a lovely time.

  • Uzza

    Yeah, I was too in ’63. Schools had bomb drills coz we all expected to die soon in a nuclear holocaust, hospitals had Iron Lungs, our classmates were crippled by polio, we had Jim Crow, domestic violence was treated as a joke and our environment as a trash heap, kids were dying of cancer that our secular nation now has a cure for, and getting raped by priests.
    Looks like our secular society is a lot more than it’s cracked up to be

  • Murigen

    I was in school back then too. Didn’t miss a thing. If you want to look at kids today and us, when we were kids, the difference has nothing to do with prayer in school and everything to do with parenting at home and discipline – or the lack thereof – in school.

  • Tony TV

    I find that it’s Christians who are in the business of indoctrination. I don’t give a f**k what you believe. Why do you care what I do? Those who don’t believe in evolution ignore it even as it takes place all around them passing them by in its inexorable march to the future.

  • McJakome

    Strangely, your complaint could be used to justify segregated schools, or keeping women uneducated and oppressed in the home first of their father and then of their husband. Like all conservatives you pine for the simpler world of the past without seeing it as the awful place it really was.

  • Kara Connor

    Ask that “see any difference” question to people of color, women, and minorities.

  • 2ndIINone

    don’t waste your time with this lying tranny Kara Conner. He is a liar and likes to take inconclusive data and present it as being factual. He likes to twist and manipulate reality, in order to convince people of that which he desires which is that even though he is a biological male, he is a real woman. This is no woman, It is a tranny. Someone who claims God is not real bu that he is a real woman, using deceit to achieve his desired outcome. Sounds a lot the devil to me. BTW’ This is Kara. The one on the right. Tell me that is not a tranny: http://i.imgur.com/ibezk0V.jpg

  • Carlo

    More profound thoughts from Denise

  • https://manwiththemuckrake.wordpress.comr Denis E.

    Thanks, Karl.

  • a r tompkins

    Thomas Kidd: “Was America a ‘Christian Nation’? Then and now it depends a lot on your perspective.”

    Um, no it doesn’t. It depends on whether or not you can read. And when you actually read the foundational documents of this bold experiment in a secular, self-governing society, you will find no mention of Jesus, nor even Jesus’ Pa. There is a mention of “inalienable rights, endowed by their Creator”, but that’s the full extent of religious reference in those documents, other than to say the US Gov’t will have no official relationship with any religion. that doesn’t really sound like “Christian Nation” nonsense to me. does it sound that way to you?

  • Steve Pehnec

    It depends only on the Truth contained in the writings of the Founders and in the American State Documents.

  • Uzza

    In 1784 the vast majority of people in the future United States, as in both Americas, were pagans. If the place became a Christian nation it’s only because the Christian newcomers killed everybody else. It’s hardly a thing to brag about.

  • bmayer504

    Do you have documentation to support your claim. I have never heard any historian make this claim in print, even those who would have nothing to do with any form of religious expression.

  • Barking Dawg

    Strange, there are millions of Americans, myself included, who have American Indian ancestors, so “Christian newcomers killed everybody else” is one of the stupidest statements I ever read. In case you didn’t get the memo, there are still huge numbers of Native Americans walking around today.

  • Uzza

    I’m terribly sorry, you are correct. Christians have every right to be proud of creating a Christian nation by only killing 95% of the people whose land they took. It’s not as if they killed everybody.

  • McJakome

    Replying to over-the-top propaganda with your* own over-the-top propaganda might be useful if the irony could be perceived by the other side. However, fundamentalists are as immune to irony as they are to history and logic. So your* excess will simply make you* seem like one of them.
    [*take the second person to be the general case as applies to everyone.]

  • Duan Walker

    America is a xtian nation to the extent that it is also a muslim, jewish, mormon, atheist etc nation…

  • Jim

    “If men are now sufficiently enlightened to disabuse themselves of artifice, imposture, hypocrisy, and superstition, they will consider this event (the writing of the
    Constitution) as an era in their history…It will never be pretended that any
    persons employed in that service had interviews with the gods, or were in any
    degree under the influence of Heaven, more than those at work upon ships or
    houses, or laboring in merchandise or agriculture; it will forever be
    acknowledged that these governments were contrived merely by the use of reason
    and the senses.” John Adams wrote that.
    Adams, who opposed have chaplains in the army, said, “We’d be better off without religion.”
    Franklin said that lighthouses are more helpful than churches.
    Jefferson was a deist. Deists believe that God created mankind and then left it to muddle through on its own.

  • Barking Dawg

    Amazing ignorance, that people think that “no national religion” is the same as “secular.” Not even close.

  • Doug Indeap

    The oft-heard “Christian nation” claim generally produces more heat than light for the simple reason that exactly what is meant by that claim is not clear. It is not, moreover, a legal term that carries any legal meaning or effect. Those advancing the claim typically content themselves to offer ill-defined, soft-focus happy talk about America being a Christian nation. What for instance do they mean in this context by “nation”? Government(s), society, something else?

    It is important in particular in this discussion to distinguish between “society” and “government.” To the extent one equates “nation” with “society,” whether it is legitimate and appropriate to label our nation “Christian” may be debated on various grounds, e.g., the demographic makeup of the population. To the extent one equates “nation” with “government,” it is an entirely different matter that calls for analyzing the legal nature of our government.

    While it is much debated in some circles whether the Constitution separates church and state, it is at least plain that the Constitution (1) establishes a government on the power of “We the people” and not a deity, (2) accords that government limited, enumerated powers, (3) says nothing to connect that government to god(s) or religion, (4) says nothing to give that government power over matters of god(s) or religion, and (5), indeed, says nothing substantive about god(s) or religion at all except in a provision precluding any religious test for public office. Given the norms of the day (by which governments generally were grounded
    in some appeal to god(s)), the founders’ avoidance of any expression in the
    Constitution suggesting that the government is somehow based on any religious
    belief was quite a remarkable and plainly intentional choice. The founders later buttressed the Constitution’s treatment of government and religion with the First Amendment, which affirmatively constrains the government from undertaking to establish religion or prohibit individuals from freely exercising their religions.

    The founders of course would not establish a government that is inherently at odds with their religious convictions, which were largely Christian in nature. That said, there is no reason to suppose that Christianity or theism is an inherent aspect of our constitutional government. Indeed, any such claim is antithetical to the constitutional principle against government establishment of religion and inconsistent with the Christian principle that people cannot be coerced to believe but rather must come to God voluntarily. By founding a secular government and assuring it would remain separate from religion, the founders basically established government neutrality in matters of religion, allowing individuals to freely choose and exercise their religions and thus allowing Christianity (and other religions) to flourish or founder as they will. It is to be expected that the values and views of the people, shaped in part by their religions, will be reflected in the laws adopted by their government. There is nothing in the Constitution that requires or calls for this; it is simply a natural outgrowth of the people’s expression of political will in a republican government. To the extent that the people’s values and views change over time, it is to be expected that those changes will come to be reflected in the laws adopted by their government. There is nothing in the Constitution to prevent this; indeed, just the opposite–the Constitution establishes a government designed to be responsive to the political will of the people. It is conceivable, therefore, that if Christianity’s influence in our society wanes relative to other influences, that may lead to changes in our laws. Nothing in the Constitution would prevent that–and moreover the establishment clause would preclude Christians from using the government to somehow “lock in” (aka establish) Christianity in an effort to stave off such an eventuality.

    Does the foregoing describe a “Christian nation”? And what is the import of that label anyway? Certainly, the label carries no legal effect; it appears to speak more to political or cultural interests.

  • https://twitter.com/DykeVanTom Tom Van Dyke

    And what is the import of that label anyway?

    You answered your own question infra.

    The founders of course would not establish a government that is inherently at odds with their religious convictions, which were largely Christian in nature.

    The current crisis is that the state has indeed set itself at odds with religious conviction. After 200+ years of accommodation of religion, we are into new, hostile territory.

  • Doug Indeap

    You misapprehend my meaning in two respects; perhaps I did not express myself well. First, it is one thing for a government by its very nature to be inherently at odds with Christianity. It is another for a government that by nature is not inherently at odds with Christianity, e.g., one that is neutral on the subject, nonetheless to occasionally enact a law or two to which some Christians object on religious grounds. Indeed, over the long sweep of time, depending on the changing views of the electorate, such a government could in some periods enact a suite of laws much to the liking of most Christians and in other periods not so much.

    Second, is the label “Christian nation” appropriate for or descriptive of such a government that is not by nature inherently at odds with Christianity, e.g., one that is neutral about religion?

  • https://twitter.com/DykeVanTom Tom Van Dyke

    I apprehend you just fine, thank you. And ‘neutrality’ is seldom neutral. It certainly isn’t these days.

  • Wayne

    No, as Doug explained, the founders were quite purposeful in not linking the running of the government to any religious beliefs or rules (Christian or otherwise). The reason Christians like the label “Christian Nation”, is because they feel it helps justify Christian belief laws and policies.

    In the past, many Christian privileged laws and policies were pushed in by Christian leadership (school prayer, the pledge, our money, Christian icons on public buildings, sodomy laws, same sex marriage bans, bans on atheists to hold public office). Most of these laws and policies were purely Christian belief motivated, and had nothing to do with the well being of the country. As people in recent decades challenge these old privileges, the Supreme court has voided these privileges, because they should have never been allowed to begin with. Of course Christians see this loss of privilege as persecution, instead of simply putting our government back on a neutral religious footing.

  • https://twitter.com/DykeVanTom Tom Van Dyke

    the founders were quite purposeful in not linking the running of the government to any religious beliefs or rules (Christian or otherwise)

    Absolutely untrue. Religion was left to the individual states, as were most laws governing everyday life, such as marriage, sodomy, prayer, whathaveyou.

    Your thesis is pure fiction. Massachusetts had an official state church until 1833–the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause didn’t affect it an iota.

  • Wayne

    Not fiction at all. Your denial does not change the facts.

    “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion”

    And in case you have this wrong too, federal law always trumps any conflicting state law. (ie: so when the feds said sodomy laws are unconstitutional, any and ALL state sodomy laws (14 states had sodomy laws) are null and void.)

  • https://twitter.com/DykeVanTom Tom Van Dyke

    Congress shall make no law. Religion was left to the states.

    What grade are you in, son?

  • Wayne

    You obviously do not understand how laws work. If the federal government says no religious established by the government, the states cannot override this. Federal law trumps state law.

  • https://twitter.com/DykeVanTom Tom Van Dyke

    You’re boring me. Had the First Amendment applied, Massachusetts would have been forced to disestablish its official church.

    It did not. Even Kramnick and Moore’s “Godless Constitution” admits this fact. You had your shot.

  • Wayne

    States can and have created invalid laws. It happens all the time, and they stay that way until someone finally challenges it. Why do you think 14 states had sodomy laws on the books for years, until a law suit finally forced that decision to SCOTUS. After SCOTUS declared sodomy laws unconstitutional, every single state sodomy laws was now unenforceable. That is how it works. That is how it has always worked.

  • https://twitter.com/DykeVanTom Tom Van Dyke

    Sodomy laws were overturned under the 14th Amendment, ratified in 1868, not the Bill of Rights. Your original argument was based on “the founders.” The timeline for your thesis was off by 80 years and thus was a fiction.

    You don’t know what you’re talking about.

  • Wayne

    It doesn’t matter which federal law we’re talking about. Federal laws trump state laws.

    And what are you smoking. There is no official state church of Massachusetts since 1833, so you are way beyond 80 years. North Carolina tried that crap recently and it completely flopped.

  • https://twitter.com/DykeVanTom Tom Van Dyke

    Massachusetts illustrates that “Congress shall make no law” did not apply to the states.

    You don’t know what you’re talking about. Stop digging your hole deeper and do your homework.

  • Wayne

    No state has a state church or state religion. We are talking about the United States. Not sure what country you are talking about.

    And again, look up constitutional law. States cannot legally override federal laws. They do sometimes, but eventually get caught.

  • https://twitter.com/DykeVanTom Tom Van Dyke

    Congress shall make no law. You can run roughshod over anything by twisting the 14th Amendment, but the left has no claim to the Founding principles. Religion was left to the states. Some had official churches; MANY had religious tests for statewide office.

    Our education system failed: You’re not even familiar with the facts and arguments that disprove your thesis. There’s the real pity, that you don’t even know there’s another side to the story.

    https://www.chapman.edu/law/_files/publications/CLR-10-2-l-scott-smith.pdf

  • Wayne

    Your living in a fantasy. Doesn’t matter what any lawyer writes. Try actually looking at reality. How do you think all of the “no prayer in public schools”, Christian icons being removed from public properties, same sex marriage bans banned, sodomy laws banned, in case after case after case no longer buckling to Christian pressure. So no matter what you or L. Scott Smith think, this is what it really means and the results are obvious, no matter how you try to spin it.

  • https://twitter.com/DykeVanTom Tom Van Dyke

    Yes, we know the left doesn’t give a fig for our actual history or what’s in the Constitution. You will steamroll the rest of us by force and get what you want.

    That’s the point. You haven’t been listening.

  • Wayne

    No you have not been listening. Just open your eyes and ears and experience reality. These rules and laws were erroneously pushed into place, way back when no one would dare challenge the Christian churches. Well that day is gone, and all of those special Christian privileges (not allowed in the constitution) are now slowly being removed. So now Christians are having to live with the same rules the rest of us have been living with all alone, and you don’t like it. It is not persecution, it is a reckoning. The government shall favor no religion over any others.

  • https://twitter.com/DykeVanTom Tom Van Dyke

    Ignorance and disdain for our history and the ruthlessness of the Sexual Revolution. I hear you just fine.

  • Wayne

    It is the reckoning Tom. Privileged position in our government no more…

  • https://twitter.com/DykeVanTom Tom Van Dyke

    The disrespect and hatefulness for anyone standing in the way of the Sexual Revolution is obvious. And the ruthlessness.

    Surely you don’t think I believed you’d respond to anything I actually wrote. I wanted everyone to see what they’re dealing with. Tommy seems to think that non-retaliation, letting you shit all over his blog, is virtuous.

    Perhaps it is.

  • Wayne

    I have given nothing but true facts in a calm straight forward manner. There is not a single thing I have said that is not true, although the reverse is not true. I have not insulted you one single time, although the reverse is not true. You just don’t like the answer, because the facts do not line up with how you wished laws worked, so you get upset.

    And you can’t blame this all on the “sexual revolution”, whatever that is suppose to mean. I remember these exact same conversations and same rhetoric when the federal government told states that banning mixed race marriages was unconstitutional. People hated it, and said the feds cannot do this. But like you, they did not understand how this governments laws work. Federal laws always trump state laws. Otherwise, some state would probably try to re-legalize slavery.

  • Mrs. Webfoot

    Do you think that both Washington and Colorado will someday get caught for breaking federal drug laws?

  • WayneMan

    That is a battle yet to happen. Who knows how that will turn out, since attitudes are changing, and people are getting sick of spending $100’s of billions to feed our prison system.

    As I said before, states do pass illegal laws that will eventually get challenged, or are unenforceable. Look what happened to mixed race and same sex marriage bans. When the feds say no, all contrary state laws went null and void. Seven states have laws that do not allow an atheist to hold public office, which is clearly a constitutional violation. Some atheist one day will sue, and are virtually guaranteed to win. So put your money on that court case.