In your learned opinion:

Which of the founding fathers, of the United States of America, were considered as Christian? Has anyone studied this? Do you know which ones, or how many of them, actually called themselves, followers of the bible?

And also, what is the foundation of the United States founded upon?

Answer #1

Nowhere in the Constitution does it mention religion, except in exclusionary terms.
When the Founders wrote the nation’s Constitution, they specified that “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.” (Article 6, section 3) This provision was radical in its day– giving equal citizenship to believers and non-believers alike. They wanted to ensure that no single religion could make the claim of being the official, national religion, such as England had. The words “Jesus Christ, Christianity, Bible, and God” are never mentioned in the Constitution– not once.

While the founding fathers were Christian, you must consider that “christian” was viewed differently during the establishment and founding of this country. In their time, Christianity was part of society, and most people identified themselves as “Christian”. By today’s standards, such a label might not apply. The Declaration of Independence gives us important insight into the opinions of the Founding Fathers. Thomas Jefferson wrote that the power of the government is derived from the governed. Up until that time, it was claimed that kings ruled nations by the authority of God. The Declaration was a radical departure from the idea of divine

The first treaty of Tripoli is viewed as evidence in the controversy over whether there was religious intent by the founders of the United States government. Article 11 of the first treaty has been interpreted as an official denial of a Christian basis for the U.S. government.

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; 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.

United States Constitution

The First Amendment “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion…”

Article VI, Section 3 “…no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.”

John Adams (the second President of the United States)

Adams signed the Treaty of Tripoli (June 7, 1797). Article 11 states: “The government of the United States is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion.”

From a letter to Charles Cushing (October 19, 1756): “Twenty times in the course of my late reading, have I been upon the point of breaking out, ‘this would be the best of all possible worlds, if there were no religion in it.’”

From a letter to Thomas Jefferson: “I almost shudder at the thought of alluding to the most fatal example of the abuses of grief which the history of mankind has preserved – the Cross. Consider what calamities that engine of grief has produced!”

Additional quotes from John Adams: “Where do we find a precept in the Bible for Creeds, Confessions, Doctrines and Oaths, and whole carloads of trumpery that we find religion encumbered with in these days?”

“The Doctrine of the divinity of Jesus is made a convenient cover for absurdity.”

“…Thirteen governments [of the original states] thus founded on the natural authority of the people alone, without a pretence of miracle or mystery, and which are destined to spread over the northern part of that whole quarter of the globe, are a great point gained in favor of the rights of mankind.”

Thomas Jefferson (the third President of the United States)

Jefferson’s interpretation of the first amendment in a letter to the Danbury Baptist Association (January 1, 1802): “Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legislative powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should ‘make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,’ thus building a wall of separation between church and State.”

From Jefferson’s biography: “…an amendment was proposed by inserting the words, ‘Jesus Christ…the holy author of our religion,’ which was rejected ‘By a great majority in proof that they meant to comprehend, within the mantle of its protection, the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and the Mohammedan, the Hindoo and the Infidel of every denomination.’”

Jefferson’s “The Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom”: “Our civil rights have no dependence on our religious opinions, more than on our opinions in physics and geometry…The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods, or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.”

From Thomas Jefferson’s Bible: “The day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus, by the Supreme Being as his father, in the womb of a virgin, will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerva in the brain of Jupiter.”

Jefferson’s Notes on Virginia: “Reason and persuasion are the only practicable instruments. To make way for these free inquiry must be indulged; how can we wish others to indulge it while we refuse ourselves? But every state, says an inquisitor, has established some religion. No two, say I, have established the same. Is this a proof of the infallibility of establishments?”

Additional quotes from Thomas Jefferson: “It is error alone which needs the support of government. Truth can stand by itself.”

“They [the clergy] believe that any portion of power confided to me, will be exerted in opposition of their schemes. And they believe rightly: for I have sworn upon the alter of god eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man.”

“I have examined all the known superstitions of the world, and I do not find in our particular superstition of Christianity one redeeming feature. They are all alike founded on fables and mythology. Millions of innocent men, women and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined and imprisoned. What has been the effect of this coercion? To make one half of the world fools and the other half hypocrites; to support roguery and error all over the earth.”

“In every country and in every age the priest has been hostile to liberty; he is always in alliance with the despot, abetting his abuses in return for protection to his own.”

“Fix reason firmly in her seat, and call to her tribunal every fact, every opinion. Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, than that of blindfolded fear…Do not be frightened from this inquiry by any fear of its consequences. If it end in a belief that there is no God, you will find incitements to virtue on the comfort and pleasantness you feel in its exercise and in the love of others which it will procure for you.”

“Christianity…[has become] the most perverted system that ever shone on man…Rogueries, absurdities and untruths were perpetrated upon the teachings of Jesus by a large band of dupes and importers led by Paul, the first great corrupter of the teaching of Jesus.”

“…that our civil rights have no dependence on religious opinions, any more than our opinions in physics and geometry.”

James Madison (the fourth President of the United States)

Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments: “Religious bondage shackles and debilitates the mind and unfits it for every noble enterprise…During almost fifteen centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial. What have been its fruits? More or less, in all places, pride and indolence in the clergy; ignorance and servility in laity; in both, superstition, bigotry, and persecution.”

Additional quote from James Madison: “Religion and government will both exist in greater purity, the less they are mixed together.”

Benjamin Franklin

From Franklin’s autobiography, p. 66: “My parents had given me betimes religious impressions, and I received from my infancy a pious education in the principles of Calvinism. But scarcely was I arrived at fifteen years of age, when, after having doubted in turn of different tenets, according as I found them combated in the different books that I read, I began to doubt of Revelation itself.”

From Franklin’s autobiography, p. 66: “…Some books against Deism fell into my hands…It happened that they wrought an effect on me quite contrary to what was intended by them; for the arguments of the Deists, which were quote to be refuted, appeared to me much stronger than the refutations, in short, I soon became a thorough Deist.”

Thomas Paine

From The Age of Reason, pp. 89: “I do not believe in the creed professed by the Jewish church, by the Roman church, by the Greek church, by the Turkish church, by the Protestant church, nor by any church that I know of…Each of those churches accuse the other of unbelief; and of my own part, I disbelieve them all.”

From The Age of Reason: “All natural institutions of churches, whether Jewish, Christian, or Turkish, appear to me no other than human inventions, set up to terrify and enslave mankind, and monopolize power and profit.”

From The Age of Reason: “The most detestable wickedness, the most horrid cruelties, and the greatest miseries that have afflicted the human race have had their origin in this thing called revelation, or revealed religion.”

From The Age of Reason: “What is it the Bible teaches us? – rapine, cruelty, and murder.”

From The Age of Reason: “Loving of enemies is another dogma of feigned morality, and has beside no meaning…Those who preach the doctrine of loving their enemies are in general the greatest prosecutors, and they act consistently by so doing; for the doctrine is hypocritical, and it is natural that hypocrisy should act the reverse of what it preaches.”

From The Age of Reason: “The Bible was established altogether by the sword, and that in the worst use of it – not to terrify but to extirpate.”

Additional quote from Thomas Paine: “It is the duty of every true Deist to vindicate the moral justice of God against the evils of the Bible.”

Ethan Allen

From Religion of the American Enlightenment: “Denominated a Deist, the reality of which I have never disputed, being conscious that I am no Christian.”

Answer #2

“It has always been my opinion, that one of the main ideas behind the constitution, is the right to religious freedom, and the fact that all men were created equal, Is that not right?”

You’re right that we have the right to freedom of religion, but that stems from the Establishment Clause in the First Amendment. None of the rights as laid out in the Constitution stem from the idea that a god created us as equals.

That phrase is from the preamble of the Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

The Declaration of Independence was a document that laid down the argument as to why the colonies were breaking from Britain. It’s purpose was to announce that they were no longer under the rule of the British Empire.

The Declaration really only returned to the public eye because Lincoln used it as part of his argument for the abolition of slavery, but it’s more of a historic document than a legal one. It’s never had weight when it comes to American law, and it’s not part of the Constitution.

Answer #3

The majority were Christian. It’s a common misconception that they were mostly deists. This is probably because most of the more influential founding fathers, those whose names you’re likely to recognize, were probably deists. Thomas Jefferson (author of the Jefferson Bible, which contains no supernatural elements), Thomas Pain, Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, and John Adams were all more closely identified with deism or agnosticism than any religion, and were all very critical of religion. Some were even identified by others as atheists, although that’s not as clear-cut.

More important than any individual founding father’s belief was their collective stance on religion. They agreed that the freedom to practice religion was a right, and understood what that entails: that no one should have the power to force their religions beliefs on others. They agreed that religion had no place in the government, and that the government had no place in religion. Today it’s easy to find resistance to and erosion of this ideal among believers, but if you think about it, the separation protects religion as much as it does the government.

It’s hard to say what the United States is founded upon. You might say that it’s foundation was the idea that we all have rights, and that the best society is one in which an individual’s rights are only limited by the rights of others. The foundation certainly wasn’t religion; it was driven more by the philosophies of the enlightenment. That the government was completely secular was a very important concept. The founding fathers were escaping a government that forced beliefs upon them - the last thing they would want to do is create another government that did the same.

Answer #4

Rickd- I completely respect the fact that you try to participate in these discussions regarding the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. Perhaps it might be helpful to actually read those documents first and then remark upon their content. You seem, on several questions, to be confusing one with the other. My answer to this question was right on the mark. Silverwings asked about the founding fathers, which I quoted. She also asked about what this country was founded upon. I answered with regard to the Constitution of the United States. This is not rhetoric, this is historical fact you should have learned in elementary school. As I stated in a previous question - we are not governed by the Declaration of Independence– it is a historical document, not a constitutional one.

Answer #5

It has always been my opinion, that one of the main ideas behind the constitution, is the right to religious freedom, and the fact that all men were created equal, Is that not right?

Answer #6

It’s kind of ironic how far we’ve shifted from these positions. We still have the “no religious test” clause, but if the first four presidents (Washington, Adams, Jefferson, and Madison) were to run for president today, their low religiosity would probably ruin their chances of winning.

Answer #7

“Also the constitution does talk about a ‘Divine Providence’ in the last paragraph. Do you really think they would leave God out of our constitution?”

I’m pretty sure you’re mistaken. As far as I know, the closest thing to an inclusion of God is the manner in which they wrote the date: “the Seventeenth Day of September in the Year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and Eighty seven.” Of course that’s not an endorsement of Christianity, it was just the most formal way to write a date at the time.

Answer #8

“Was the Constitution designed to protect the church from the state, or the state, from the church?”

Both. The main fear of the time was that the government would interfere with people’s ability to practice their beliefs. There would be a danger of this if the government meddled with religious groups, but it would also present a danger if one religious group were to gain intrude in the government and have an oppressive influence on others.

Jefferson actually coined the “wall of separation between church and state” phrase in a letter allaying a Baptist group’s fear that the government would try to influence their practices.

Answer #9

Was the Constitution designed to protect the church from the state, or the state, from the church?

Answer #10

I just read the Declaration again, and it ends: “And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.”

As I mentioned in a previous post, the Declaration of Independence is not a document laying out law or basis for our government, and it’s not part of the Constitution.

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