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Founded as a Christian Nation? No.

One of the common claims that tends to irk me more than some others is the claim that the United States was founded as a Christian nation or based on Christian principles. This misconception has been refuted a multitude of times, but the refutations always seem to fall on the deaf ears of self-righteous, Christian ignorance.

The claim is usually made during political discussions, but the intellectual morose of the argument is evident regardless of context. I most frequently hear the statement from people who don’t have the information required to back up the claim and who refuse to acknowledge any evidence that threatens to penetrate their self-imposed cocoon of ignorance. For good reason, it seems, since if they did choose to acknowledge the evidence, their claim would be simply invalidated.

Looking at the text that the Founding Fathers of the United States of America used makes it unquestionably evident that a “Christian Nation” was not what they intended to create.

The text of the Declaration of Independence mentions “Nature” and “Nature’s God” and says that people are “endowed by their Creator” with certain inalienable rights. The wording of “Nature’s God” and the reference to an indistinct “Creator” is a result of the deist beliefs of a number of the founding fathers and does not refer to what is typically considered today to be the “Christian” god. It is specifically vague so as not to indicate a specific religion.

The Constitution does not mention a god of any sort. It even goes so far as to specify (in Article Six) that “no religious test” shall ever be required as a qualification for public office. That’s far from qualifying as a “Christian” principle. It is specifically stating that the government should not be a “Christian” one… or one of any other denomination.

The Bill of Rights goes even further than the “no religious test” statement to specify that the government “shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” The Fourteenth Amendment expanded this to include state and local governments as well.

That clause is decidedly not Christian. Not only does it prohibit this country from establishing itself as Christian, but it is also interpreted as prohibiting preferential treatment of one religion over another. It also makes it quite clear that people are free to practice whatever religion they choose. What that means is that the United States Government is absolutely non-secular. It is not Christian. It is not Islamic. It is not Catholic. It is not any of the multitude of religions that are practiced on this planet. Nor is it Atheist. It is simply non-secular. The First Amendment effectively makes religion irrelevant, regardless of denomination.

The religious beliefs of some the founding fathers is often used as a point to argue against the United States being a “Christian” nation. Some being deists and some opposed (vehemently) to organized religion, they would obviously have been opposed to creating a government that was saddled with the baggage of any religious denomination. While I agree with that, I feel that it’s not particularly relevant.

Even if all the Founding Fathers had been strongly Christian (which they were most certainly not), it would not be evidence that the government they created was based on Christian principles. How could it be? If someone is a Christian, does it mean that everything he creates is based on Christian principles? If he makes a sculpture of an elephant, is it somehow inherently Christian? If he writes a murder mystery novel, is it somehow inherently Christian? If he creates a playbook for a professional sports team, is it somehow inherently Christian? It seems an absurd notion.

The Founding Fathers were not creating a system of rules for peoples’ lives. They were not creating a set of moral imperatives to show people the way to salvation. They were creating a government; one that would provide for the fair and safe governing of a newly formed country in a way that would allow individual freedoms. They included no religious dogma. They even included straightforward provisions to prevent it from ever interfering in the government’s workings.

John Adams even stated it outright when he said, “This nation of ours was not founded on Christian principles.”

There is absolutely no basis for the statement that the United States of America was founded as a Christian nation. It is pure wishful thinking, lacking any kind of evidence or rationality.

Perhaps that explains why so many Christians continue to believe it.

One Comment

  1. […] Since Mr. Dalpiaz wasn’t specific about what he means by “religious heritage,” I’ll have to leave that alone. I will say, however, that the United States, though populated mostly by Christians of one form or another, does not have a “Christian” government and was not founded on “Christian” principles. For more detail, see my related post about why the United States is not a Christian Nation. […]

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