America Not Founded as a 'Christian Nation'
Creator God in Fifty State Constitutions
Founded as a Christian Nation?
Bergman and Mr "A" — A Losing Battle
'The Land of the Free' –
founded as 'a
(Investigator 136, 2011
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.
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.
freethinkers, hostile to the Christian religion. Three of them
belonged to a 'power-seeking' bourgeois elite — only Tom Paine fought
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.
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.
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.
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.
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."
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 ..."
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.
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..."
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.
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.)
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
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."
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.
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
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.
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."
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".
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
always practical, best illustrated by two anecdotes:
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.'"
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."
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.'"
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
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.
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.
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."
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."
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."
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."
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.
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.
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"!
'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."
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."
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'.
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."
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
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."
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"
religious views of Abe Lincoln?
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."
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
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."
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
by Jerry Bergman
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.
Preamble: We the people of the State of Alabama, invoking the favor and
guidance of Almighty God, do ordain and establish the following
Preamble: We, the people of Alaska, grateful to God and to those who
founded our nation and pioneered this great land.
Preamble: We, the people of the State of Arizona, grateful to Almighty
God for our liberties, do ordain this Constitution.
Preamble: We, the people of the State of Arkansas, grateful to Almighty
God for the privilege of choosing our own form of government.
Preamble: We, the People of the State of California, grateful to
Almighty God for our freedom.
Preamble: We, the people of Colorado, with profound reverence for the
Supreme Ruler of the Universe.
Preamble: The People of Connecticut, acknowledging with gratitude
the good Providence of God in permitting them to enjoy.
Preamble: Through Divine Goodness all men have, by nature, the rights
of worshiping and serving their Creator according to the dictates of
Preamble: We, the people of the State of Florida, grateful to Almighty
God for our constitutional liberty, establish this Constitution.
Preamble: We, the people of Georgia, relying upon protection and
guidance of Almighty God, do ordain and establish this Constitution.
Preamble: We, the people of Hawaii, Grateful for Divine Guidance ...
Establish this Constitution.
Preamble: We, the people of the State of Idaho, grateful to Almighty
God for our freedom, to secure its blessings.
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
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
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.
Preamble: We, the people of Kansas, grateful to Almighty God for our
civil and religious privileges establish this Constitution.
Preamble: We, the people of the Commonwealth are grateful to Almighty
God for the civil, political and religious liberties.
Preamble: We, the people of the State of Louisiana, grateful to
Almighty God for the civil, political and religious liberties we enjoy.
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.
Preamble: We, the people of the state of Maryland, grateful to Almighty
God for our civil and religious liberty.
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.
Preamble: We, the people of the State of Michigan, grateful to Almighty
God for the blessings of freedom establish this Constitution.
Preamble: We, the people of the State of Minnesota, grateful to God for
our civil and religious liberty, and desiring to perpetuate its
Preamble: We, the people of Mississippi in convention assembled,
grateful to Almighty God, and invoking His blessing on our work.
Preamble: We, the people of Missouri, with profound reverence for the
Supreme Ruler of the Universe, and grateful for His goodness...
Establish this Constitution.
Preamble: We, the people of Montana, grateful to Almighty God for the
blessings of liberty establish this Constitution.
Preamble: We, the people, grateful to Almighty God for our freedom…
establish this Constitution.
Preamble: We the people of the State of Nevada, grateful to Almighty
God for our freedom establish this Constitution.
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
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
Preamble: We, the People of New Mexico, grateful to Almighty God for
the blessings of liberty
Preamble: We, the people of the State of New York, grateful to Almighty
God for our freedom, in order to secure its blessings.
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
Preamble: We, the people of North Dakota, grateful to Almighty God for
the blessings of civil and religious liberty, do ordain.
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.
Preamble: Invoking the guidance of Almighty God, in order to secure and
perpetuate the blessings of liberty establish this.
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
Preamble: We, the people of Pennsylvania, grateful to Almighty God for
the blessings of civil and religious liberty, and humbly invoking His
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
1778, Preamble: We, the people of he State of South Carolina grateful
to God for our liberties, do ordain and establish this Constitution.
Preamble: We, the people of South Dakota, grateful to Almighty God for
our civil and religious liberties.
1796, Art. XI.III. that all men have a natural and indefeasible right
to worship Almighty God according to the dictates of their conscience.
Preamble: We the People of the Republic of Texas, acknowledging, with
gratitude, the grace and beneficence of God.
Preamble: Grateful to Almighty God for life and liberty, we establish
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.
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
Preamble: We the People of the State of Washington, grateful to the
Supreme Ruler of the Universe for our liberties, do ordain this
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.
Preamble: We, the people of Wisconsin, grateful to Almighty God for our
freedom, domestic tranquility.
Preamble: We, the people of the State of Wyoming, grateful to God for
our civil, political, and religious liberties establish this
FOUNDED AS A CHRISTIAN NATION?
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)
says that the
"creators of the USA" were Franklin, Paine, Jefferson and Lincoln and
these were "freethinkers hostile to the Christian religion."
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.
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
(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.
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)
(1989) referring to August 14, 1619, says:
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…
These "laws" are
consistent with the Bible or straight from the Bible.
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.
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.
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.
Oxford History of
the Classical World (1992) sums this up:
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)
of "thirteen united States of America" signed the Declaration of
Independence. The Declaration refers to "Nature's God" and says:
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
"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…"
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.
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)
signatories to The
Declaration include Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson who Dr
Potter classes among the four "creators" of the USA.
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
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
notions are either
in the Bible or consistent with it.
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
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.
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)
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".
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."
regarded the Declaration
of Independence as being anti-slavery and in 1854 he opposed the
expansion of slavery:
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.
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.
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
Jerry Bergman & Mr A are
fighting a losing battle
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'.
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.
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.
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.
first sentence of the Declaration of Independence:
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:
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.
A Christian God?
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:
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.
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.)
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:
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
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".
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!
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
"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)
fathers' of the USA must have the last word.
conclusion about the
USA's "founding" was:
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)
the actions of the "founding fathers" and to the Constitution, then Dr
Potter (#138) wins and America was not "founded as a Christian nation".
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.
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.
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.
the USA was
founded as a "Bible Commonwealth":
1643 some 20,000 people migrated to the Bay Colony [Massachusetts]…the
largest colonizing exodus in English history to that time…
Note again the
the Declaration of Independence (1776): "We hold these truths to
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."
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
reflects such Bible verses as:
From one ancestor he made all nations to inhabit the whole earth…
The concepts of
Liberty and Happiness" we see in:
the Lord your God…is not partial and takes no bribe… (Deuteronomy 10:17)
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
Choose life so that you and your descendants may live.
If we limit
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.
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)