Monday, August 22, 2005


The following is from . Thanks to Jolly Roger of "Reconstitution" at . Check out his site! And if this topic interests you, there is also some interesting information at the Deism Links Page .

The Founding Fathers Were Not Christians
by Steven Morris, in Free Inquiry, Fall, 1995

"The Christian right is trying to rewrite the history of the United States as part of its campaign to force its religion on others. They try to depict the founding fathers as pious Christians who wanted the United States to be a Christian nation, with laws that favored Christians and Christianity.

This is patently untrue. The early presidents and patriots were generally Deists or Unitarians, believing in some form of impersonal Providence but rejecting the divinity of Jesus and the absurdities of the Old and New testaments.

Thomas Paine was a pamphleteer whose manifestos encouraged the faltering spirits of the country and aided materially in winning the war of Independence: 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 for my own part, I disbelieve them all." From: The Age of Reason by Thomas Paine, pp. 8,9 (Republished 1984, Prometheus Books, Buffalo, NY)

George Washington, the first president of the United States, never declared himself a Christian according to contemporary reports or in any of his voluminous correspondence. Washington Championed the cause of freedom from religious intolerance and compulsion. When John Murray (a universalist who denied the existence of hell) was invited to become an army chaplain, the other chaplains petitioned Washington for his dismissal. Instead, Washington gave him the appointment. On his deathbed, Washinton uttered no words of a religious nature and did not call for a clergyman to be in attendance. From: George Washington and Religion by Paul F. Boller Jr., pp. 16, 87, 88, 108, 113, 121, 127 (1963, Southern Methodist University Press, Dallas, TX)

John Adams, the country's second president, was drawn to the study of law but faced pressure from his father to become a clergyman. He wrote that he found among the lawyers 'noble and gallant achievments" but among the clergy, the "pretended sanctity of some absolute dunces". Late in life he wrote: "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!"
It was during Adam's administration that the Senate ratified the Treaty of Peace and Friendship, which states in Article XI that "the government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion." From: The Character of John Adams by Peter Shaw, pp. 17 (1976, North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill, NC) Quoting a letter by JA to Charles Cushing Oct 19, 1756, and John Adams, A Biography in his Own Words, edited by James Peabody, p. 403 (1973, Newsweek, New York NY) Quoting letter by JA to Jefferson April 19, 1817, and in reference to the treaty, Thomas Jefferson, Passionate Pilgrim by Alf Mapp Jr., pp. 311 (1991, Madison Books, Lanham, MD) quoting letter by TJ to Dr. Benjamin Waterhouse, June, 1814.

Thomas Jefferson, third president and author of the Declaration of Independence, said:"I trust that there is not a young man now living in the United States who will not die a Unitarian." He referred to the Revelation of St. John as "the ravings of a maniac" and wrote: The Christian priesthood, finding the doctrines of Christ levelled to every understanding and too plain to need explanation, saw, in the mysticisms of Plato, materials with which they might build up an artificial system which might, from its indistinctness, admit everlasting controversy, give employment for their order, and introduce it to profit, power, and pre-eminence. The doctrines which flowed from the lips of Jesus himself are within the comprehension of a child; but thousands of volumes have not yet explained the Platonisms engrafted on them: and for this obvious reason that nonsense can never be explained." From: Thomas Jefferson, an Intimate History by Fawn M. Brodie, p. 453 (1974, W.W) Norton and Co. Inc. New York, NY) Quoting a letter by TJ to Alexander Smyth Jan 17, 1825, and Thomas Jefferson, Passionate Pilgrim by Alf Mapp Jr., pp. 246 (1991, Madison Books, Lanham, MD) quoting letter by TJ to John Adams, July 5, 1814.

James Madison, fourth president and father of the Constitution, was not religious in any conventional sense. "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 the laity, in both, superstition, bigotry and persecution." From: The Madisons by Virginia Moore, P. 43 (1979, McGraw-Hill Co. New York, NY) quoting a letter by JM to William Bradford April 1, 1774, and James Madison, A Biography in his Own Words, edited by Joseph Gardner, p. 93, (1974, Newsweek, New York, NY) Quoting Memorial and Remonstrance against Religious Assessments by JM, June 1785.

Ethan Allen, whose capture of Fort Ticonderoga while commanding the Green Mountain Boys helped inspire Congress and the country to pursue the War of Independence, said, "That Jesus Christ was not God is evidence from his own words." In the same book, Allen noted that he was generally "denominated a Deist, the reality of which I never disputed, being conscious that I am no Christian." When Allen married Fanny Buchanan, he stopped his own wedding ceremony when the judge asked him if he promised "to live with Fanny Buchanan agreeable to the laws of God." Allen refused to answer until the judge agreed that the God referred to was the God of Nature, and the laws those "written in the great book of nature." From: Religion of the American Enlightenment by G. Adolph Koch, p. 40 (1968, Thomas Crowell Co., New York, NY.) quoting preface and p. 352 of Reason, the Only Oracle of Man and A Sense of History compiled by American Heritage Press Inc., p. 103 (1985, American Heritage Press, Inc., New York, NY.)

Benjamin Franklin, delegate to the Continental Congress and the Constitutional Convention, said: As to Jesus of Nazareth, my Opinion of whom you particularly desire, I think the System of Morals and his Religion...has received various corrupting Changes, and I have, with most of the present dissenters in England, some doubts as to his Divinity; tho' it is a question I do not dogmatize upon, having never studied it, and think it needless to busy myself with it now, when I expect soon an opportunity of knowing the Truth with less trouble." He died a month later, and historians consider him, like so many great Americans of his time, to be a Deist, not a Christian. From: Benjamin Franklin, A Biography in his Own Words, edited by Thomas Fleming, p. 404, (1972, Newsweek, New York, NY) quoting letter by BF to Exra Stiles March 9, 1970.

The words "In God We Trust" were not consistently on all U.S. currency until 1956, during the McCarthy witch hunts.


Blogger Sheryl said...

My friend Charles hosts discussion meetings every month and he suggested that he could have one on the topic "Is there a God?"

I must had an uninspired expression on my face because he said "you don't look excited by the topic."

I told him that having been brought up as an agnostic, I am fully sick of the debate. To put things in perspective, it's like if people held endless debates on whether Zeus actually exists or not.

I can see how people who have been duped by christianity would feel emotional about it, but if you haven't it starts to be a bore.

That's not a complaint about your posting, just an observation on how the topic of religion looks to someone who has never been religious. I mean, I certainly have not been able to escape all the debates on the topic, but I think if you put it into perspective it is about as ridiculous as debating whether Apollo is truely up there in the sky making the sun shine.

Certainly anything is possible, but the evidence is against that as well.

1:04 AM  
Blogger Sheryl said...

PS When I ask my mom if she religious, she often says that she considers herself a "Jeffersonian Deist." She says he rewrote the Bible and removed all the miracles from it.

She also was telling me about a discussion she had with her dad when he was about to die. He asked her if she believed in an afterlife. (Understand he was born into a devout baptist family. Tee totalers.) And she said to him, well to behonest I don't know. She didn't want to tell him that she did not believe in an afterlife, but she said he surprised her by replying, "you know, I don't know either."

I don't know if something created the universe or not, but I am pretty sure that when I die I will become food for earthworms, unless they put some much embalming fluid on my body that the worms won't eat me. Death is pretty much the end of the road, which is why making the most of life is so damn important. Least that is how I see it.

3:35 PM  
Blogger Snave said...

Heeheehee! I know what you mean... I have eaten so many things with preservatives in them during my lifetime that if I was buried I would be just as good as mummified.

9:09 PM  
Blogger Sheryl said...

I never thought of food preservatives as my ticket to immortality, but I suppose it's as close as we'll get to life after death, eh?

1:27 AM  
Blogger Mandelbrot's Chaos said...

The Deists were considered a very liberal branch of Christianity at the time, but finally broke away around the middle of the 20th Century. Were they Christians in the modern sense of the term? Absolutely not.

4:50 AM  
Blogger Snave said...

Great point. It is interesting to see how things change over time, over the ages. I think it's also interesting what one can find when one does even a little bit of research. Seeing some of the quotes from Jefferson et al must make those guys look like atheists to some of today's Christians. I suspect this might be part of why the idea of our founding fathers being Christians gets pushed quite a bit. Forbid there should ever be news stories about them being Deists, with some of their quotes included... ! What a "liberal media" uproar that would create...

6:57 AM  

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