Is America a Christian Nation?
Nobody can deny the fact that Christianity has played a huge role in our history. From the first Thanksgiving to the ideas of Jesus Christ that are embroidered in our culture today, Christianity and the Bible are responsible a significant part of our heritage, but are they the Soul of our Nation?
While Jesus’ primary challenge was to shift humanity’s concept from an emotional and fearful God (necessary in the time of Moses) to a loving God (and to open mankind up to being self-empowered – which the Church could not allow), following His more secular teachings (being charitable, loving one another, treating strangers with kindness) is what the men who founded this country were for.
Let’s simply list pertinent quotes straight from our Founding Fathers:
“If I could conceive that the general government might ever be so administered as to render the liberty of conscience insecure, I beg you will be persuaded, that no one would be more zealous than myself to establish effectual barriers against the horrors of spiritual tyranny, and every species of religious persecution.”
~ George Washington, letter to the United Baptist Chamber of Virginia (1789)
“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.”
~ Thomas Jefferson, letter to Peter Carr (1787)
“In regard to religion, mutual toleration in the different professions thereof is what all good and candid minds in all ages have ever practiced, and both by precept and example inculcated on mankind.”
~ Samuel Adams, The Rights of the Colonists (1771)
“Persecution is not an original feature in any religion; but it is always the strongly marked feature of all religions established by law. Take away the law-establishment, and every religion re-assumes its original benignity.”
~ Thomas Paine (labeled as an atheist), The Rights of Man (1791)
“Congress has no power to make any religious establishments.”
~ Roger Sherman, Congress (1789)
“The way to see by faith is to shut the eye of reason.”
~ Benjamin Franklin, Poor Richard’s Almanack (1758)
“I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people build a wall of separation between Church & State.”
~ Thomas Jefferson, letter to the Danbury Baptists (1802)
“To argue with a man who has renounced the use of reason is like administering medicine to the dead.”
~ Thomas Paine, The American Crisis No. V (1776)
“Our civil rights have no dependence on our religious opinions, any more than our opinions in physics or geometry.”
~ Thomas Jefferson, A Bill for Establishing Religious Freedom (1779)
“Christian establishments tend to great ignorance and corruption, all of which facilitate the execution of mischievous projects.”
~ James Madison, letter to William Bradford, Jr. (1774)
“There is nothing which can better deserve our patronage than the promotion of science and literature. Knowledge is in every country the surest basis of public happiness.”
~ George Washington, address to Congress (1790)
“During almost fifteen centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial. What has been its fruits? More or less, in all places, pride and indolence in the clergy; ignorance and and servility in the laity; in both, superstition, bigotry and persecution.”
~ James Madison, General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Virginia (1785)
However, many conservatives will take this fact way out of context. They’ll think that you have to be a Christian to be patriotic, which, as we can see from the above quotes, is simply not true. While Jesus was primarily attempting to shift the monotheistic religion of the day from a fearful god to a loving god, his more secular teachings (being charitable, loving one another, treating strangers with kindness) is what the men who founded this country were for.
The Establishment Clause and the Judiciary
The Establishment Clause (the first amendment to the Constitution) states that Congress shall make no law “respecting an establishment of religion” (possibly reflective of Mark 12:17?). This clause is generally interpreted to mean three things:
- That the Congress may not establish an official religion or denomination and require people to support it or believe in it.
- The Congress may not favor in its laws one religion or denomination over another.
- Congress may not favor or disfavor believers or unbelievers in any religion or denomination over any other.
Nowhere in the First Amendment, or elsewhere in the Constitution, does the phrase ‘separation of church and state’ exist. Simplistically, if the words don’t explicitly appear in the constitution then the idea they refer to isn’t constitutionally guaranteed. However, following English legal tradition, there is statute law (in this case the Constitution) and there is judicial law (the courts, with the Supreme Court being the ultimate interpreter of federal constitutional law). Every ruling since Everson v. Board of Education and Lemon v. Kurtzman has confirmed that, in the view of the highest court in the land, the Constitution created a separation of church and state.
It should also be noted that 92% of all Supreme Court Justices have been Christian, none of them being an atheist. The reality is that the constitution was never meant to be a stagnant document adhering strictly to the written word. As Thomas Jefferson said “The constitution, on this hypothesis, is a mere thing of wax in the hands of the judiciary, which they may twist and shape into any form they please.” Over our history, the Supreme Court has shaped the constitution to contain a clear separation of church and state that protects every religion equally.
Treaty of Peace and Friendship
The entire text of this document is fascinating. For those wondering if in fact the founders of our country intended American to be a Christian nation, find the direct answer to the question, Is America a Christian nation? in Article 11 of this document. Dated and signed 1796-97, it is reputed that George Washington himself drafted this treaty, supported by Thomas Jefferson and John Adams. Morocco was the first Barbary Coast State to sign a treaty with the U.S. on 23 June 1786…the first country whose head of state publicly recognized the new United States.
~ Don Chapin
The original fourteen pages in Arabic are a reproduction of the text in the original treaty book, first the pages of the treaty in left-to-right order of pagination, and then the ” receipt ” and the ” note ” mentioned, according to the Barlow translation, in Article 10. Following the Arabic and in the same order, is the translation of Joel Barlow as written in the treaty book—the twelve articles of the treaty, the “receipt,” and the “note”; and after these is the approval of David Humphreys from the same document.
Treaty of Peace and Friendship, signed at Tripoli November 4, 1796 (3 Ramada I, A. H. 1211), and at Algiers January 3, 1797 (4 Rajab, A. H. 1211). Original in Arabic. Submitted to the Senate May 29, 1797. (Message of May 26, 1797.) Resolution of advice and consent June 7, 1797. Ratified by the United States June 10, 1797.