More Christian Nation Falsehoods

More Christian Nation Falsehoods May 18, 2009

My latest post on Christian nation falsehoods attracted commenters leaving yet more falsehoods. I’ve decided to move them up to their own post to debunk them. The first several came from someone using the name Derender and he starts out with one of the classic false quotes:

“It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great nation was founded, not by religionists but by Christians, not on religions, but on the gospel of Jesus Christ.” – Patrick Henry

One of the most common false quotations passed around by the Christian Nation crowd. Henry never said this. Even David Barton has admitted that the quote has never been found in any of Henry’s original writings. Henry was certainly a Christian, of course. In fact, he was a virtual theocrat.

But even if the quote was accurate, so what? Remember that Patrick Henry opposed the passage of the constitution and he did so largely on the basis that it was not Christian enough. This is a man who supported taxing people to support the churches, a battle he lost to Jefferson and Madison both in Virginia and nationally.

27 of our 56 founding fathers had Christian seminary degrees

Absolutely false (and I’d love to hear Derender actually name which ones had such degrees and from which schools). In fact, it seems that he can’t even repeat the Christian Nation propaganda correctly. David Barton only says 24, not 27 (out of the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence, not the founding fathers in general). But Barton’s reasoning is absurd. He counts as a “seminary degree” any degree from any university that began as a seminary. Harvard, for instance, started as a seminary in the early 1600s (along with Yale, Princeton and most of the other major colleges), but by the time the founding fathers went there it was a full university. The vast majority of them got degrees in things like law, not religion, but Barton calls those “seminary or Bible degrees” even if they were in a completely different subject. Highly dishonest.

Jefferson was trying to protect religion from the government, not the opposite

Actually, he was trying to do neither. He was trying to protect the individual from the imposition of someone else’s religion under all circumstances.

Some people call Jefferson agnostic, deist, and other such things, but those ideas can be countered simply by knowing history.

This I agree with. Anyone who thinks Jefferson was an agnostic is utterly ignorant of Jefferson’s own writings. Nor was he a deist because he believed in an active, provident, interventionist God. But he certainly was not a Christian by any reasonable standard either.

Jefferson did, in a way, contradict his own words about separation of church and state and actually clarified things in his second Inaugural address in 1805, three years after his letter to the Danbury Baptists. The words of this address are ignored by those who, today, still believe in a “separation of church and state” through Jefferson’s letter. In his second Inaugural address, he states:

“In matters of religion I have considered that its free exercise is placed by the Constitution independent of the powers of the General Government. I have therefore undertaken on no occasion to prescribe the religious exercises suited to it, but have left them, as the Constitution found them, under direction and discipline of the church or state authorities acknowledged by the several religious societies. Many contemporary writers attempt to read back into the past a ‘wall of separation’ between church and state which, in fact, never has existed in the United States”.

These words spoken by Jefferson should proof enough about the truth of separation of church and state.

Actually, this “quote” only proves that Derender, or whoever he is cutting and pasting from, is a baldfaced liar (or incapable of putting quotation marks in the correct place). Jefferson said no such thing. It’s not as if Jefferson’s second inaugural address is not available on about a billion webpages to check the accuracy. The first two sentences are accurate; the third is obviously someone else’s commentary that someone incorporated into the text. And the first two sentences do not, in any way, contradict Jefferson’s stance on separation of church and state.

After Derender blathered in several more comments about irrelevant subjects, someone using the nickname Right Wing Man dropped some more nonsense. Like this:

In 1892, the Supreme Court of the United States declared, “This is a Christian nation.”

Yes it did, but what did that mean? If it only means that America is a nation made up primarily of Christians, that is very different from claiming that America is officially Christian. And Christian Nation apologists love to conflate the two. This was actually a throwaway line in Justice Brewer’s ruling in the case, Church of the Holy Trinity v. United States; it was dicta, not part of the holding, and it had no relevance at all to the legal issue. But any claim that the nation is officially Christian is patently absurd; the constitution says no such thing.

During the War for Independence, Congress resolved to import 20,000 volumes of the Bible because “the use of the Bible is so universal, and its importance so great.”

This old claim has been thoroughly debunked by my friend Chris Rodda. You can read it here.

The New England Confederation stated that the purpose of the colonies was “to advance the Kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ and to enjoy the liberties of the gospel in purity with peace.”

I’m always amused when Christian Nation apologists quote founding documents from the colonies rather than the United States. Most of the colonies were founded as theocracies, not free societies. And our revolution and constitution was, quite obviously, a rejection of both theocracy and colonization.

Harvard College required that each student believe that “the main end of his life and studies is to know God and Jesus Christ which is eternal life.”

I can’t imagine why this is relevant. Harvard is a private university founded as a seminary. What this has to do with the identity of the nation is….nothing.

John Adams wrote, “The Christian religion is…the Religion of Wisdom, Virtue, Equity, and humanity.”

John Adams used the term “Christian” very broadly, declaring that all good people were “Christians” even if they were, in fact, Muslims or Hindus or non-believers. I doubt very much that Right Wing Man would consider John Adams a Christian if Adams told him what he believed. He rejected the divinity of Jesus, for example, and the authority of almost all of the Bible. He was a unitarian and a universalist.

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