Five articles appear below:

1.    America Not Founded as a 'Christian Nation'
2.    A Creator God in Fifty State Constitutions
3.    Founded as a Christian Nation?
4.    Bergman and Mr "A" — A Losing Battle
5.    America's Founding



'The Land of the Free' – NOT founded as 'a Christian Nation'!

Bob Potter

(Investigator 136, 2011 January)


Jerry Bergman in We Must Obey the Law in America (#132) writes "America was founded as a Christian nation…our people's heritage and laws reflect this fact". The following explores the 'religious' views of the major founders of 'independent America' and the largely irrelevant role of Christianity to the ideological basis of 'free' America.

Around 1776  important individuals in the American colonies realized that as a 'separate nation' they would inherit the land, profits and political power 'belonging to' the British Empire and create the rule of a new, privileged American elite. The three individuals recognized (at the time) as creators of the United States of America were Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Paine and Thomas Jefferson; subsequently, a fourth name has been added,  Abraham Lincoln.

All four were freethinkers, hostile to the Christian religion. Three of them belonged to a 'power-seeking' bourgeois elite only Tom Paine fought fervently for a fully democratic Republic, representing the lower orders of society. An appreciation of the 'political division' between these individuals is essential for understanding how organized religion would later misrepresent Paine pillorying him for his alleged 'atheism', whilst largely ignoring the heretical views of the other three.


THOMAS PAINE

In England, Paine had many jobs, eventually, in 1772, an excise officer, representing his colleagues in their struggle for a wage increase and petitioning the British Parliament to alleviate the poverty of civil servants.

He met Benjamin Franklin, visiting Great Britain on 'Colonial' business. The two young men became friends, sharing scientific interests. The American suggested Paine think about 'a new life' in the American Colony, advice Paine followed in September 1774.   

The following year Paine was editor of the newly established Pennsylvania Magazine. Paine authored articles on numerous topics, including the futility of duelling and the total abolition of negro slavery (attacking the 'accepted' Christian view that the institution had great benefits, by taking heathen Negroes away from their savagery and transforming them into civilized Christians). Within a month, the first anti-slavery movement set up shop in Philadelphia, then the colony's cultural centre.

When Paine arrived, there was no national movement for independence.  In May, 1775, Washington told a friend "if ever he heard of his joining in any such (independence) measures, he should set him down for everything wicked." Even two months after the so-called Battle of Bunker Hill, where American colonials distinguished themselves in action against the English armed forces, Tom Jefferson wrote he was "looking with fondness toward a reconciliation with Great Britain."

The fight for American Independence began with Tom Paine — his Common Sense, urging the Colonies to break with Great Britain, was the most widely read 'book' in the colony.  George Washington wrote of, "the sound doctrine and unanswerable reasoning contained in the pamphlet". John Adams, second President would add, "History is to ascribe the Revolution to Thomas Paine". It was Tom Paine who first named, in print, the future 'United States of America'!   Elbert Hubbard, described Paine as "the first of all men who proposed American independence, suggested the Federal Union of States, proposed the abolition of slavery, suggested protection for dumb animals, proposed arbitration and international peace, advocated justice for women, pointed out the reality of human brotherhood, suggested international copyright, proposed the education of children of the poor at public expense and suggested a great republic of all nations of the world ..."

More than any other individual, Tom Paine changed the public attitude to English rule with his 47-page pamphlet, Common Sense, first appearing in January, 1776, an immediate 'best seller', going through twenty five editions. During the first six months, one hundred thousand copies were sold. The book's message: "I challenge the warmest advocate for reconciliation to show a single advantage that this continent can reap by being connected with Great Britain." In later years, Ben Franklin referred to the inspiration provided by Common Sense when he wrote the first draft of the Declaration of Independence.

The established Church employed every Biblical argument imaginable against the Independence movement; 'God commands you to submit to your rulers, to be obedient to the higher powers for conscience sake', argued Rev John Bullman, leading light of his day, who added: "Every idle projector, who perhaps cannot govern his own household, or pay the debts of his own creating, presumes he is qualified to dictate how the state should be governed..."

Following independence, Paine continued his work in mechanics and science, inventing an iron bridge (an astonishing conception for the eighteenth century mind). Visiting England, to construct it, he was a welcome guest at many establishment homes, Whig politicians especially hoping he might make possible a 'favoured nation' understanding, once American independence was firmly established.  In 1788, he sold his iron bridge to the French government. From Thomas Jefferson, American minister in Paris, and under the patronage of Lafayette, Tom learned the undercurrents of French political affairs. Visiting Paris, in 1789, with the French Revolution well under way, he was accorded understandable respect.  

Meanwhile the French upheaval (not called a 'revolution' in these early stages) turned into wholesale slaughter.  Edmund Burke, a personal friend, wrote his Reflections on the Revolution in early 1790. Given advance warning it would be a diatribe against the French revolution, Paine replied with The Rights of Man – arguably the most important book written during the 18th Century on human society and the relation of people to one another. (Fifty thousand copies of the first printing were promptly sold in England; however, the book was labelled 'seditious' by Royal proclamation and banned. Exhortations that "all hereditary government is in its nature tyranny" were understandably considered very dangerous in royalist Albion.)

In August 1792, the French National Assembly declared Paine an honorary 'French citizen'; elected to the National Convention. Paine made tremendous efforts to save the King's life, believing the execution could contribute nothing to the cause of human freedom. Paine suggested Louis XVI be exiled in America. Jacobin leader, Jean-Paul Marat, ruled Paine incompetent to vote on the question – after all, he was a Quaker, opposed to the death penalty.  It went to the vote: 387 for death, 334 for imprisonment.

The French revolution was devouring its children and Tom Paine soon found himself in a dangerous situation. Expelled from the Convention, awaiting execution in the Luxembourg Prison, he worked on the book for which he is best remembered today, The Age of Reason, in which he defends the Deist/Quaker point of view, insisting the only acceptable personal creed is, "I believe in God." A person seeking knowledge of God is advised to look at the natural world, not at the absurd and contradictory 'revealed' Scriptures. I'll leave it to readers to get hold of the book for themselves to discover the details of his 'miraculous' escape from the guillotine. Religious freedom is only safe in the hands Freethinkers, Paine insisted: "He who would make his own liberty secure, must guard even his enemy from oppression."
 
Although his old friend, Ben Franklin (who, as we shall see, essentially agreed with Paine on religious matters), warned him not to publish The Age of Reason ("He that spits against the wind, spits in his own face"), fortunately he ignored the warning.  

The first part of the Age of Reason remains the great classic of Deism; never 'out of print' since the day of publication! In his later years, 'back home' in America, his crucial services to Independence were forgotten, while his most recent exposures of Christianity provoked a barrage of additional slanders from the churches. His final days were accompanied by poverty and illness.

Quakers refused his remains interment in their burial grounds; his coffin was buried on his small farm in the outskirts of New York.  In 1819 William Cobbett furtively exhumed his bones, planning a shrine to be erected in his English homeland. The bones were smuggled back but on Cobbett's death were entrusted to his son who lost them.  


BENJAMIN FRANKLIN

Ben Franklin was born an infidel, a heretic and a sceptic. In later life, he detailed the origins of his enlightenment from religious mythology: "some volumes against Deism fell into my hands…said to be the substance of sermons preached at Boyle's lecture. It happened that they produced on me an effect the opposite of what was intended by the writer; for the arguments of the Deists, which were cited in order to be refuted, appealed to me much more forcibly than the refutation itself.  In a word I soon became a thorough Deist."  

As a teenager, Franklin attended meetings at a Freethinkers club.  Sundays, he said, were too precious to be wasted on prayer meetings; he resolved to exclusively devote that day to study. With older brother (James), he contributed vigorous attacks upon religion to the New England Courant; his popularity spreading world-wide, as he poured satire upon 'the miserable and degrading superstitions' of Puritanism. In spite of his brother being jailed for 'blasphemy', Ben continued his onslaughts – "Revealed religion ", he wrote, "has no weight with me. The church is concerned with making good adherents to the creed and not in making good citizens; religion…serves principally to divide us and make us unfriendly to one another".   

His scientific research covered many fields — animal magnetism, ballooning, bi-focal vision, body temperature and sweating, causes of the common cold, copperplate press (first in America), electricity, fort building, 'Franklin' stove, Gulf Stream, internal combustion, lead poisoning, light and mass energies, meteorology, ocean saltiness, refrigeration. In 1752, through his well-known kite experiment, Franklin discovered the nature of electricity, tore the mask from the face of the Gods and freed the heavens of a hideous monster. His fame intensified into universal approbation — the only dissenting voice being that of the clergy, who roundly termed his lightning rod the "heretical rod", refusing to place it on their churches.  [Consequentially, God singled them out for destruction!] 

Franklin's approach was always practical, best illustrated by two anecdotes:

Travelling in Europe with his son, their ship encountered a storm at sea, saved from shipwreck by the fortunate existence of a lighthouse.  Writing to his wife the next day, he said: "If I were a Catholic, on my arrival home I would ask subscriptions to build a church, but being an unbeliever, will raise money to build a lighthouse instead." When Anglican evangelist George Whitefield, herald of the 'Great Awakening', visited the locality, he found himself without lodging; Franklin offered his home.  Referring to Whitefield's acceptance, Franklin reported: "He replied that, if I made that offer for Christ's sake, I should not miss a reward.  And I returned, 'Don't be mistaken; it was not for Christ's sake, but for your sake.'"

Three years before his death, writing to an English friend, Benjamin Franklin asked to be remembered to an old acquaintance, "the honest heretic, Dr Priestly", adding, "I do not call him honest by way of distinction, for I think all the heretics I have known have been virtuous men.  They have the virtue of fortitude, or they would not venture to own their heresy; and they cannot afford to be deficient in any of their virtues…  Do not, however, mistake me.  It is not to heresy that I impute this honesty. On the contrary, it is his honesty that has brought upon his head the character of a heretic."


THOMAS JEFFERSON

Jefferson, disciple of Voltaire and intimate companion of Thomas Paine, dispatched an American vessel for the safe voyage home of Paine from France after his 'miraculous' escape from the guillotine. Let Jefferson provide his own 'credo': "I have never conceived that having been in public life required me to belie my sentiments, or to conceal them.  Opinion and the just maintenance of it shall never be a crime in my view, nor bring injury on the individual. I will never by any word or act, bow to the shrine of intolerance. I never had an opinion in politics or religion which I was afraid to own… to that end I have no hesitancy in saying, 'I am a materialist.'"

Arguably the greatest law(s) ever written in the Statute books of the United States was the Statute of Religious Freedom, drafted by Thomas Jefferson for the Virginia Constitution.

Prior to this enactment, any citizen denying the existence of God or Trinity, or that the Bible was a text of divine authority, could not hold any civil or military office. Jefferson believed there must be complete separation of Church and State; a church, supported by a State, was an enemy to humanity, whether under monarchy or Republic. For eight long and tedious years he battled against ignorance, bigotry and entrenched superstition; final victory resulting in the enactment of the Statute of Religious Freedom. What Thomas Paine achieved as citizen, Jefferson accomplished as government executive.

There were huge and powerful financial interests backing George Washington including Benjamin Franklin with his fortune of $150,000.  Washington possessed enormous landholdings, as did his close friend and adviser Alexander Hamilton, with wealthy connections through his father-in-law and brother-in-law, to the great slave plantations of James Madison. Washington and Hamilton strove for an 'aristocracy of government', going so far as to advocate the establishment of a state church.  

Convinced that so long as any church enjoyed state support it would usurp the right to regulate the people's lives, Jefferson insisted Christianity and its priests could not be trusted with people's freedom: "In every country and in every age the priest has been hostile to liberty, always in alliance with the despot, abetting his abuses in return for protection to his own.  It is error alone that needs the support of government. Truth can stand by itself."

Jefferson thwarted Hamilton and Washington's efforts to establish a state church and aristocracy with his 'ten amendments', the bulwark of American liberties, known as the Bill of Rights, incorporated into the Federal Constitution. Jefferson, and some time later, Lincoln, preserved the Union (Jefferson from Aristocracy, Lincoln from Secession). During their struggles both were routinely challenged as 'infidels'. When Jefferson took office, he swore to uphold the Constitution – and refused to issue a single religious proclamation during his eight years as President: "I know it will give great offence to the clergy, but the advocate of religious freedom is to expect neither peace nor forgiveness from them…every one must act according to the dictates of his reason and mine tells me that civil powers alone have been given to the President, and no authority to direct the religious exercises of his constituents."

Jefferson spoke often on religion, admonishing his hearers "to read the Bible as any other book; if you find therein instances inconsistent with facts, it was the facts which were to be accepted and the authority of the Bible rejected. Fix reason firmly in her seat, and call to her tribunal every fact, every opinion.  Question with boldness even the existence of God; because, if there be one, he must approve the homage of reason rather than of blindfolded fear. Do not be frightened from this inquiry by any fear of consequences…if it end in a belief that there is no God…" His assessment of the Old Testament God is summarized in a single sentence:  "Jehovah was a being of terrific character, cruel, vindictive, capricious and unjust"; he held similar views regarding the New Testament: "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 classified with the fable of the generation of Minerva in the brain of Jupiter"… the Christian gospels and epistles are: "a groundwork of vulgar ignorance, of things impossible, of superstitions, fanaticism and fabrications."

Following passing of the Bill of Rights Jefferson wrote to John Adams (a lawyer converted by Common Sense, but with very strong reservations regarding Paine's emphasis on total democracy; he became second President of the USA, preceding Jefferson, who was the third), saying, "I join you therefore, in sincere congratulations that the den of priesthood is at length broken up and that a Protestant Popedom is no longer to disgrace the American history and character".  Adams replied: "This would be the best of all possible worlds if there were no religion in it", to which Jefferson concluded, "If by religion we are to understand sectarian dogmas, in which no two of them agree, your exclamation on that hypothesis is just…indeed this would be the best of worlds if there were no religion in it."

It was the proud wish of Jefferson that the stone above his grave should mention his authorship of the Declaration of Independence and the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom and also founder of the University of Virginia. Yet when he was elected in 1801 newspapers printed borders of black, and flags were flown at half mast, as grief tokens originating from the still powerful clergy.


ABRAHAM LINCOLN

A Freethinker throughout his adult life, as a teenager Lincoln first made contact with the views of Voltaire, Volney and Paine — Voltaire for his bolts at the caste system; Volney a personal friend of Ben Franklin was one of the first to challenge the historicity of Jesus; Paine the first on the American continent to raise his voice against negro slavery.  

Although Abraham Lincoln opposed slavery in principle, he was primarily a 'politician' and refused to denounce the Fugitive Slave Law (1850) publicly. He wrote to a friend: "I confess I hate to see the poor creatures hunted down…but I bite my lips and keep quiet."  As Congressman in 1849 he moved a motion to abolish slavery in the District of Columbia but incorporated a section for the arrest and return of fugitive slaves caught entering Washington. Put bluntly, to Lincoln blacks were inferior — a constant theme in his speeches was they should all be returned to Africa.  Boston abolitionist, Wendell Phillips, understandably referred to Lincoln as "that slavehound from Illinois"!

As with many 'politicians' Lincoln's expressed views were flexible depending on the views of his audience.  In his ultimate 1858 campaign in Chicago, he began: "Let us discard all quibbling about this man and the other man, this race and that race being inferior, and therefore they must be placed in an inferior position. Let us discard all these things and unite as one people throughout this land, until we shall once more stand up declaring that all men are created equal."

Yet just two months later, in Charleston, he told his audience:  "I am not, nor ever have been in favour of bringing about in any way, the social and political equality of the white and black races (applause); that I am not, nor ever have been, in favour of making voters or jurors of negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people…while they do remain together there must be the position of superior and inferior, and I as much as any other man am in favour of having the superior position assigned to the white race."

Behind the secession of seven Southern states following Lincoln's election as President in 1860, the prime issue was not slavery (most Northerners were indifferent). Rather, the northern elite were seeking economic expansion – free land, free labour, a free market – policies opposed by Southern slave holding interests, who realized Republican victory would end the 'comfortable and prosperous life style of the South'.

In his Inaugural Address of March 1861, Lincoln made clear he did not wish to disrupt the Southern 'system': "I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the States where it exists.  I believe I have no lawful right to do so, and I have no inclination to do so". Even after the first shots were fired in the civil war, Congress passed a resolution, "this war is not waged…for any purpose of…overthrowing or interfering with the rights of established institutions in those states, but … to preserve the Union."  

The abolitionist campaign intensified, Wendell Philips saying: "Abraham Lincoln may not wish it, but the nation cannot prevent it; the nation may not will it, but the nation cannot prevent it… the negro is the pebble in the cog-wheel and the machine cannot go on until you get him out." The Emancipation Proclamation (1862) intensified the campaigns significantly and made the ending of slavery in the South an increasingly important war aim.

Lincoln believed 'no man had property rights in man'; on this important question he had set himself against most churches of his day. Just three very typical exhortations from prominent contemporary clerics: "There is not one verse in the Bible inhibiting slavery, but many regulating it. It is not then, we conclude, immoral." "Slavery was incorporated into the civil institutions of Moses; it was recognized accordingly by Christ and his apostles. They condemned all intermeddlers with it." "I have no doubt that if Jesus Christ were on earth, he would, under certain circumstances, become a slave holder."

This is not the place to provide a history of the disastrous American civil war, where 10% of Northern young men and 30% of Southerners lost their lives.  The Confederates could not match Union forces in men or materials –  the crunch coming at Gettysburg, 1863, where Lincoln made his famous Gettysburg Address, known by heart by most Americans. There are several versions, the major difference between them being that the Freethinking President made no reference to the Almighty (I have a facsimile of the handwritten draft before me as I write)…although later versions include the words "under God"

So, what were the religious views of Abe Lincoln?

His first law partner, John T Stewart, said: "Lincoln was an avowed and open infidel, and sometimes bordered on Atheism.  He went farther against Christian beliefs, doctrines and principles than any other man I ever heard." — one of many Lincoln citations, on the topic, "The Bible is not my book, nor Christianity my profession."

Had Lincoln been a Christian, the emancipation of Negro slaves would never have entered his mind. Slavery was as basic to Christianity as the Virgin Birth: Lev 25:44-46 or in Tim 1:1 or Titus 2:9…Paul's admonition to Philemon — quotations from contemporary clergy, cited earlier.   [Likewise, back home in Britain, when Pitt's bill to abolish slavery in the British Empire was introduced, Lord Chancellor Thurlow characterized the move as "miserable and contemptible" and as being "contrary to the word of God".]  From his actions, ambivalent as they may have seemed at times, it would have been utterly impossible for Abraham Lincoln to be a believer in the Bible and author of the Emancipation Proclamation.

Occasionally, Lincoln used the word 'God' in his speeches, but not in the Christian sense of the word. His close friend, fellow lawyer and biographer, William Herndon, wrote: "No man had a stronger or firmer faith in Providence than Lincoln, but the continued use by him late into life of the word 'God' must not be interpreted to mean that he believed in a personal God. In 1854 he asked me to erase the word 'God' from a speech I had written and read to him for criticism, because my language indicated a personal God, whereas he insisted no such personality existed". His wife, Mary Todd Lincoln, affirmed after his death: "He never joined a church.  He was not a technical Christian. He had no hope or faith in the usual acceptation of those words."

Not only did the foundation fathers of the United States fundamentally oppose any idea of establishing a 'Christian nation', the Laws they passed spelled this out very clearly. Jerry Bergman should look beyond his theological fantasies before he reports 'American history'.






A Christian Creator God in 50 State Constitutions

Compiled by Jerry Bergman

(Investigator 137, 2011 March)


Every state constitution refers to God as understood by the writers as a creator Christian God, not the impersonal Hinduism or Buddhism god. Furthermore, the Judeo-Christian creator God from whom comes our freedoms and rights is, either directly or indirectly, written into all 50 state constitutions.

The common expression "grateful to Almighty God for our freedom" refers to the belief that the source of our rights is not from government, but rather from God. A good example is Maine's constitution that calls God the "Sovereign Ruler of the Universe." Delaware's says "Divine Goodness all men have, by nature, the rights of worshiping and serving their Creator" The Virginia Bill of Rights refers to the duty that "we owe our Creator." The Washington State Constitution Preamble says "We the People …[are] grateful to the Supreme Ruler of the Universe." Teachers denied the right to critique Darwinism could simply teach their state's constitution. It could not to be unconstitutional to teach the state's constitution! All 50 state constitutions acknowledge God, most as the creator, and the ACLU and the federal courts are wrong to deprive students of this knowledge.  Below are the relevant sections.


Alabama 1901, Preamble: We the people of the State of Alabama, invoking the favor and guidance of Almighty God, do ordain and establish the following Constitution.

Alaska 1956, Preamble: We, the people of Alaska, grateful to God and to those who founded our nation and pioneered this great land.  

Arizona 1911, Preamble: We, the people of the State of Arizona, grateful to Almighty God for our liberties, do ordain this Constitution.

Arkansas 1874, Preamble: We, the people of the State of Arkansas, grateful to Almighty God for the privilege of choosing our own form of government.

California 1879, Preamble: We, the People of the State of California, grateful to Almighty God for our freedom.

Colorado 1876, Preamble: We, the people of Colorado, with profound reverence for the Supreme Ruler of the Universe.  

Connecticut 1818, Preamble:  The People of Connecticut, acknowledging with gratitude the good Providence of God in permitting them to enjoy.

Delaware 1897, Preamble: Through Divine Goodness all men have, by nature, the rights of worshiping and serving their Creator according to the dictates of their consciences.  

Florida 1885, Preamble: We, the people of the State of Florida, grateful to Almighty God for our constitutional liberty, establish this Constitution.  

Georgia 1777, Preamble: We, the people of Georgia, relying upon protection and guidance of Almighty God, do ordain and establish this Constitution.  

Hawaii 1959, Preamble: We, the people of Hawaii, Grateful for Divine Guidance ... Establish this Constitution.

Idaho 1889, Preamble: We, the people of the State of Idaho, grateful to Almighty God for our freedom, to secure its blessings.  

Illinois 1870, Preamble: We, the people of the State of Illinois, grateful to Almighty God for the civil, political and religious liberty which He hath so long permitted us to enjoy and looking to Him for a blessing on our endeavors.  

Indiana 1851, Preamble: We, the People of the State of Indiana, grateful to Almighty God for the free exercise of the right to choose our form of government.  

Iowa 1857, Preamble: We, the People of the State of Iowa, grateful to the Supreme Being for the blessings hitherto enjoyed, and feeling our dependence on Him for a continuation of these blessings establish this Constitution.

Kansas 1859, Preamble: We, the people of Kansas, grateful to Almighty God for our civil and religious privileges establish this Constitution.  

Kentucky 1891, Preamble: We, the people of the Commonwealth are grateful to Almighty God for the civil, political and religious liberties.  

Louisiana 1921, Preamble: We, the people of the State of Louisiana, grateful to Almighty God for the civil, political and religious liberties we enjoy.

Maine 1820, Preamble: We the People of Maine acknowledging with grateful hearts the goodness of the Sovereign Ruler of the Universe in affording us an opportunity ... And  imploring His aid and direction.

Maryland 1776, Preamble: We, the people of the state of Maryland, grateful to Almighty God for our civil and religious liberty.  

Massachusetts 1780, Preamble: We...the people of Massachusetts, acknowledging with grateful hearts, the goodness of the Great Legislator of the Universe .. In the course of His Providence, an opportunity and devoutly imploring His direction.

Michigan 1908, Preamble: We, the people of the State of Michigan, grateful to Almighty God for the blessings of freedom establish this Constitution.

Minnesota 1857, Preamble: We, the people of the State of Minnesota, grateful to God for our civil and religious liberty, and desiring to perpetuate its blessings.  

Mississippi 1890, Preamble: We, the people of Mississippi in convention assembled, grateful to Almighty God, and invoking His blessing on our work.

Missouri 1845, Preamble: We, the people of Missouri, with profound reverence for the Supreme Ruler of the Universe, and grateful for His goodness... Establish this Constitution.  

Montana 1889, Preamble: We, the people of Montana, grateful to Almighty God for the blessings of liberty establish this Constitution.

Nebraska 1875, Preamble: We, the people, grateful to Almighty God for our freedom… establish this Constitution.

Nevada 1864, Preamble: We the people of the State of Nevada, grateful to Almighty God for our freedom establish this Constitution.  

New Hampshire 1792, Part I.  Art. I. Sec. V. Every individual has a natural and unalienable right to worship God according to the dictates of his own conscience.  

New Jersey 1844, Preamble: We, the people of the State of New Jersey, grateful to Almighty God for civil and religious liberty which He hath so long permitted us to enjoy, and  looking to Him for a blessing on our endeavors.  

New Mexico 1911, Preamble: We, the People of New Mexico, grateful to Almighty God for the blessings of liberty  

New York 1846, Preamble: We, the people of the State of New York, grateful to Almighty God for our freedom, in order to secure its blessings.  

North Carolina 1868, Preamble: We the  people of the State of North Carolina, grateful to Almighty God, the Sovereign Ruler of Nations, for our civil, political, and religious  liberties, and acknowledging our dependence upon Him for the continuance of those

North Dakota 1889, Preamble: We, the people of North Dakota, grateful to Almighty God for the blessings of civil and religious liberty, do ordain.  

Ohio 1852, Preamble:. We the people of the state of Ohio, grateful to Almighty God for our freedom, to secure its blessings and to promote our common.  

Oklahoma 1907, Preamble: Invoking the guidance of Almighty God, in order to secure and perpetuate the blessings of liberty establish this.  

Oregon 1857, Bill of Rights, and Article I. Section 2. All men shall be secure in the Natural right, to worship Almighty God according to the dictates of their consciences.

Pennsylvania 1776, Preamble: We, the people of Pennsylvania, grateful to Almighty God for the blessings of civil and religious liberty, and humbly invoking His guidance.  

Rhode Island 1842, Preamble: We the People of the State of Rhode Island grateful to Almighty God for the civil and religious liberty which He hath so long permitted us to enjoy, and looking to Him for a blessing

South Carolina 1778, Preamble: We, the people of he State of South Carolina grateful to God for our liberties, do ordain and establish this Constitution.  

South Dakota 1889, Preamble: We, the people of South Dakota, grateful to Almighty God for our civil and religious liberties.
 
Tennessee  1796, Art. XI.III. that all men have a natural and indefeasible right to worship Almighty God according to the dictates of their conscience.  

Texas 1845 Preamble: We the People of the Republic of Texas, acknowledging, with gratitude, the grace and beneficence of God.  

Utah 1896, Preamble: Grateful to Almighty God for life and liberty, we establish this Constitution.  

Vermont 1777 Preamble: Whereas all government ought to enable the individuals who compose it to enjoy their natural rights, and other blessings which the Author of Existence has bestowed on man.

Virginia 1776, Bill of Rights, XVI Religion, or the Duty which we owe our Creator can be directed only by Reason and that it is the mutual duty of all to practice Christian Forbearance, Love and Charity towards each other

Washington 1889, Preamble: We the People of the State of Washington, grateful to the Supreme Ruler of the Universe for our liberties, do ordain this Constitution.
 
West Virginia  1872, Preamble: Since through Divine Providence we enjoy the blessings of civil, political and religious liberty, we, the people of West Virginia reaffirm our faith in and constant reliance upon God.

Wisconsin 1848, Preamble: We, the people of Wisconsin, grateful to Almighty God for our freedom, domestic tranquility.  

Wyoming 1890, Preamble: We, the people of the State of Wyoming, grateful to God for our civil, political, and religious liberties establish this Constitution.






FOUNDED AS A CHRISTIAN NATION?

Anonymous

(Investigator 136, 2011 March)


In #136 Dr Potter had a go at Dr Bergman's "theological fantasies" for stating: "America was founded as a Christian nation. Both our people's heritage and laws reflect this fact." (#132)

Potter says that the "creators of the USA" were Franklin, Paine, Jefferson and Lincoln and these were "freethinkers hostile to the Christian religion."

The US Constitution adopted in 1787 does not mention God. But the individual State Constitutions do mention "God", evidently the God Americans were familiar with, the biblical God.

For further evidence that America was "founded as a Christian nation" I'll consider Jamestown (1607) and colonies established by Puritans (1620/1630), agreement of America law with the Bible, the Declaration of Independence, opposition to slavery, and the USA as the greatest scientific nation.


Jamestown and Slavery

The Jamestown settlers (1607) were mainly Protestant Christians who went to America to escape religious restrictions in Europe. The same is true of the Puritans who established colonies further north in 1620 & 1630.

Time magazine says:
In 1618 the Virginia Co. created a general assembly to advise the Governor — including "burgesses," or representatives, elected by property owners — on the theory that "every man will more willingly obey laws to which he has yielded his consent." … From this seed would grow the House of Burgesses, the elective house of Virginia's colonial legislature and the political academy of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. In their rough and ready way, the Jamestown settlers had planted the seeds of a dynamic system, democratic capitalism, along with an institution that would pervert it, chattel slavery, and a force that would supply the cure, the goal of liberty. (May 7, 1987, p. 38)
Chronicle of America (1989) referring to August 14, 1619, says:
The first general assembly in Virginia has passed a series of laws…against gambling, drunkenness, immorality, idleness and "excess in apparell." All colonists are required to attend two divine services every Sunday… (p. 50)
These "laws" are consistent with the Bible or straight from the Bible.

Slavery America-style, however, was not biblical. In instituting slavery the colonists went wrong. Dr Potter needs to re-read the Investigator slavery debate at http://users.adam.com.au/bstett/BSlavery76.

Slavery was incompatible with the doctrine that Christ "ransomed" or "purchased" the human race. The New Testament urges slaves to become free if possible (Corinthians 7:23) and the legal means to achieve freedom was to earn it by good service. (Titus 2:9) Rome had experienced some slave rebellions (notably Spartacus); therefore, runaway slaves could be crucified and accomplices executed. Furthermore, in Rome slaves often enjoyed greater prosperity than free labourers. Therefore if a slave-owner permitted Christian slaves to worship God and follow Christian morality (by not misusing his slaves as sex-slaves) then slavery was not an issue worth being crucified for.

Christians "give Caesar's things to Caesar and God's things to God". Therefore in a society where "Caesar" has instituted slavery, Christians do not foment slave rebellions but treat slaves ethically by the same principles as non-slaves and help them acquire freedom if beneficial.

The Oxford History of the Classical World (1992) sums this up:
Gregory of Nyssa [330-395] boldly attacked the institution of slavery. Augustine [354-430] thought the domination of man over his neighbour inherently wrong, but saw no way of ending it… Slaves in a good household with a reasonable master enjoyed a security and standard of living that seldom came the way of free wage-labourers. But not all slaves had good masters, and in special cases bishops used the church chest to pay the costs of emancipation. Refusal on moral grounds to own slaves became a rule for monasteries. (Softback Preview edition, p. 824)

Declaration of Independence

In 1776 representatives of "thirteen united States of America" signed the Declaration of Independence. The Declaration refers to "Nature's God" and says:
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.
Toward the end we read: "We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions…"

Although omitting direct reference to the Bible and Christianity the notions of "Nature's God", "Creator", "Supreme Judge" and "pursuit of Life, Liberty and Happiness" are all biblical.

Take happiness: Proverbs teaches "Get wisdom" (4:5-9) and says "those who hold her fast are called happy." (3:13-18) Also: "Happy is the nation whose God is the LORD." (Psalm 33:12)

The 56 signatories to The Declaration include Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson who Dr Potter classes among the four "creators" of the USA.


Potter's "Four Creators"

Thomas Paine was raised by Quakers, a Christian group that opposes war and emphasizes the performance of "good works". Despite Paine's apostasy and attacks on the Bible, many biblical principles remained stuck to him since he:  "proposed the abolition of slavery, suggested protection for dumb animals, proposed arbitration and international peace, advocated justice for women, pointed out the reality of human brotherhood, suggested international copyright, proposed the education of children of the poor at public expense and suggested a great republic of all nations of the world ..."

These notions are either in the Bible or consistent with it.

Thomas Jefferson, Potter reminds us, admonished people: "to read the Bible as any other book; if you find therein instances inconsistent with facts, it was the facts which were to be accepted and the authority of the Bible rejected. Fix reason firmly in her seat, and call to her tribunal every fact, every opinion. Question with boldness even the existence of God; because, if there be one, he must approve the homage of reason rather than of blindfolded fear."

Jefferson here demonstrates a scientific attitude. It's also how I've investigated the Bible for decades — I examine statement after statement, verse after verse by consulting scientific literature. In numerous cases science has confirmed the Bible and refuted criticisms.

Investigation, making sure, and proving are biblical principals. The prophet Daniel even did research using a control group and an experimental group — which is a fundamental method of science. (See Daniel 1:9-16)

Furthermore, modern science began in Christianity (from the 13th century onwards). Benjamin Franklin (another "creator" of the USA) was himself a noted scientist, and Article 1 Section 8 of the American Constitution gives Congress the power "To promote the progress of science…" The USA became the world's greatest science-promoting nation. In that sense also the USA was "founded as a Christian nation".

The fourth "creator", Abraham Lincoln, was in his principles and conduct Christian. Chambers Biographical Dictionary says: "Lincoln was fair and direct in speech and action, steadfast in principle, sympathetic and charitable, a man of strict morality, abstemious and familiar with the Bible, though not a professed member of any church."

Lincoln regarded the Declaration of Independence as being anti-slavery and in 1854 he opposed the expansion of slavery:
Nearly eighty years ago we began by declaring that all men are created equal; but now from that beginning we have run down to the other declaration, that for some men to enslave others is a "sacred right of self-government." … Let us re-adopt the Declaration of Independence, and with it, the practices, and policy, which harmonize with it... If we do this, we shall not only have saved the Union: but we shall have saved it, as to make, and keep it, forever worthy of the saving.

Conclusion:

The USA being "founded as a Christian nation" is not an all or nothing proposition — we need to consider "in what sense", and whether "founded" means a single act or a longer historical process.

If we refer to the influence of biblical ideas and ethics in American history, and to the influence of people (Christian or non-Christian) whenever they correctly followed the Bible, to that extent the USA was "founded as a Christian nation".

 



Jerry Bergman & Mr A are fighting a losing battle

(Investigator 138, 2011 May)


My article, 'The Land of the Free' – NOT founded as 'a Christian Nation' (Investigator 136) provoked two amazing 'responses'. Jerry Bergman provides five pages of citations culled from constitutions of the separate American States, all referring to a 'creator God', while Mr A, like Jerry, insists the God referred to can only be seen as the 'Biblical God'. Both writers conclude my contribution totally misrepresents the true opinions of America's founding fathers regarding the proposed role of Christianity in the 'new society'.

My initial reaction was an unexpected shock! Had I forgotten what I'd written? The two 'responders' seemed to be protesting about things neither claimed nor suggested! My first submitted text was considered 'much too long'; at editor's request, it was reduced by roughly a third; still 'too lengthy', it was left to the editor to cut an additional thousand words. I was reasonably happy with the final text - most 'lost' material consisted of quotations from Christian apologists opposing the American revolution and/or Lincoln's fight against slavery.

Mr A opens by saying "Potter says 'the creators of the USA' were Franklin, Paine, Jefferson and Lincoln", all "freethinkers hostile to the Christian religion". Several pages later, he writes under his sub-heading 'Potter's "Four Creators"'. What I did say was these individuals were "recognized at the time as the creators of the 'United States of America'" – an important difference, which draws attention to the fact the expressed (and cited) opinions of these four reflected 'accepted views' of those settling in America at the time.

My essay made no secret of the fact that each of these four believed in God. My overview of Paine's contributions included his 'personal creed'; "I believe in God", likewise, Franklin was cited as being impressed "by the arguments of the Deists", Jefferson as being a disciple of the Deists, Voltaire and Paine, and finally gave a longish quotation from Abe Lincoln's life-long friend and associate who reported "No man had a stronger or firmer faith in Providence than Lincoln". Like other 'Christians' before them, Bergman and Anonymous then attempt to impose their view of God into the historic Declaration of Independence; a document mentioning the Creator only once, but not describing Christianity's God – rather "the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God", a creator perceived in terms of the then popular deist philosophy.

Here's the important first sentence of the Declaration of Independence:
When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
  I had included evidence that Tom Paine had written "the most widely read book in the colony" and that John Adams, second President and signatory to the declaration, insisted "History is to ascribe the Revolution to Thomas Paine". So we have clear indication as to where the verbiage of the Declaration originated — here's a small section from Paine's Age of Reason dealing with the 'God' topic:
It is only in the CREATION that all our ideas and conceptions of a 'word of God' can unite. The creation speaketh an universal language, independently of human speech or human language, multiplied and various as they be.  It is an ever existing original, which every man can read. It cannot be forged; it cannot be counterfeited; it cannot be altered; it cannot be lost; it cannot be suppressed.  It does not depend upon the will of man whether it shall be published or not; it publishes itself from one end of the earth to the other.  It preaches to all nations and to all worlds; and this 'word of God' reveals to man all that is necessary for man to know of God.

Do we want to contemplate his power? We see it in the immensity of the creation. Do we want to contemplate his wisdom?  We see it in the unchangeable order by which the incomprehensible Whole is governed… In fine, do we want to know what God is; search not the book called the Scripture, which any human hand might make, but the Scripture called the Creation.
A Christian God? Hardly — yet so determined are Messrs Bergman and 'A' to show the 'founders' of the USA followed 'a Christian God', they attempt to 'use' Bergman's carefully prepared extracts to 'prove' their case. However, Bergman's listing is open to serious criticism on two levels:

(1) If we seek views prevalent among the 'founding fathers', we require documents written at the time of the Declaration – as opposed to later 'edited & revised modifications', produced a hundred, sometimes even two hundred years later. Only 20% of Jerry's selections pre-date the 19th Century.  (Remember, the infant republic was born on 4th July 1776.)

(2) Bergman's carefully selected mini-extracts, isolated from context, fail to accurately capture the stance of the whole. This is easy to check and Investigator readers might like to do a little research for themselves; for example, Bergman's attempt to show the state of Michigan must have had a 'Christian God' in mind, because they were 'freely able' to compose the document. His 'extract' is from the third version, dated 1908, but readers will more readily get into the minds of the document writers if they Google the whole document and read, Sec.4:
Every person shall be at liberty to worship God according to the dictates of his own conscience. No person shall be compelled to attend, or, against his consent, to contribute to the erection or support of any place of religious worship, or to pay any tithes, taxes or other rates for the support of any minister of the gospel or teacher of religion. No money shall be appropriated or drawn from the treasury for the benefit of any religious sect or society, theological or religious seminary, nor shall property belonging to the state be appropriated for any such purpose. The civil and political rights, privileges and capacities of no person shall be diminished or enlarged on account of his religious belief.  
Here we have a secular nation being created, NOT a Christian nation!  Getting to grips with the overall view that has guided the drafters of these documents, we have no reason to suppose Paine, Franklin, Jefferson or Lincoln would have argued with most of Bergman's carefully selected 'extracts'; but the evidence is overwhelming that they did not have a 'Christian' God in mind. Paine, Franklin, Jefferson and Lincoln rejected 'revealed religion' (as I demonstrated in the earlier article) – Paine's Age of Reason (actually completed long after the American revolution) is the classic universal rejection of all 'holy scriptures'; the first three agreed with Lincoln's insistence his occasional use of the word God "must not be interpreted to mean he believed in a personal God".

Put bluntly, the United States of America was founded as a secular society, not a Christian society. An appropriate 'conclusion' to this debate is to allow the 'founding fathers' themselves to answer the nonsense of Jerry Bergman and Anonymous in their own words!

Having established a secular government and aware other peoples might be unfamiliar with this structure, clarifications were often included in documents exchanged with other states; a relevant example of which is a section in the Treaty of Tripoli, agreed in 1796, ratified by the Senate on 10th June, the following year. Here is Article 11 of that historic document:

"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 tranquillity of Musselmen; and as the said States never have entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mehomitan 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." (my emphasis)

Surely the 'founding fathers' of the USA must have the last word.





AMERICA'S FOUNDING

Anonymous

(Investigator 139, 2011 July)


My conclusion about the USA's "founding" was:
The USA being founded as a Christian nation is not an all or nothing proposition — we need to consider…whether "founded" means a single act or a longer historical process. (#137 p. 43)
If "founded" refers to the actions of the "founding fathers" and to the Constitution, then Dr Potter (#138) wins and America was not "founded as a Christian nation".

But when Dr Bergman used the phrase "founded as a Christian nation" he was not referring to the "founding fathers" but to "our people's heritage and laws" (#132). He later also referred to the mention of God in fifty state constitutions. (#137)

To understand my point, imagine if Dr Potter writes a Constitution for nations around the Indian Ocean, then announces the founding of the "United States of the Indian Ocean", and calls himself "founding father". No one would take him seriously, because it requires much more background than these actions to "found" a nation.

America's background includes vast numbers of immigrants with Christian beliefs. This led to many biblical principles being incorporated into American law and culture and to Christian holidays — America's Thanksgiving feast, for example, was inaugurated in 1621 by Christian Pilgrims and is still observed by millions every November.

Part of the USA was founded as a "Bible Commonwealth":
From 1630 to 1643 some 20,000 people migrated to the Bay Colony [Massachusetts]…the largest colonizing exodus in English history to that time…
The 1634 General Court had completed the Bible Commonwealth. Massachusetts became a Puritan state with the clergy playing a vital role; yet it was not a theocracy. The clergy functioned as teachers expounding on the Bible, and their election sermons shaped government policy, but secular officials executed that policy. No clergyman held government office, but no government officer acted without clerical advice. In return for advice and guidance, the state nursed the Puritan Church. Thus religious and secular power were sharply separated, but nonetheless subtly overlapped. (Leder, L.H. 1978 America 1603-1789 Prelude to a Nation, pp 56-59)
Note again the words in the Declaration of Independence (1776):  "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."

"All men created equal" reflects such Bible verses as:
•    From one ancestor he made all nations to inhabit the whole earth… (Acts17:25)
•    For the Lord your God…is not partial and takes no bribe… (Deuteronomy 10:17)
•    For the wrongdoer will be paid back for whatever wrong he has done, and there is no partiality. (Colossians 3:25)
•    All, both Jews and Greeks, are under the power of sin… (Romans 3:10)
The concepts of "Life, Liberty and Happiness" we see in:
•    Choose life so that you and your descendants may live. (Deuteronomy 30:19)
•    For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters… (Galatians 5:13)  You were bought with a price; do not become slaves of human masters. (I Corinthians 7:23)
•    Happy is everyone who fears the LORD, who walks in his ways. (Psalm 128:1)  Happy are those who find wisdom. (Proverbs 3:13)
If we limit the concept of "founding" to the Constitution and to statements of "founding fathers", which is what Dr Potter has done, then America was founded as a secular nation. But the "founding" still has a biblical/Christian background including principles, ethics, and ideas now incorporated into America's laws and institutions.

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