UPDATE: After reading this article, you may wish to read my most recent article about McCain and the US as a Christian nation: The United States is A Christian Nation: True or False?: McCain and Parsley have it wrong
The United States was founded as a Christian nation? I think it’s time for Senator McCain to get a refresher course on the Constitution of the United States.
I guess he has been too busy reading polls. Sixty-five percent of Americans believe that the nation’s founders intended the U.S. to be a Christian nation and 55% believe that the Constitution establishes a Christian nation, according to the “State of the First Amendment 2007” national survey released Sept. 11 by the First Amendment Center.
“Senator John McCain said in an interview posted on the Internet on Saturday that the Constitution established the United States as a Christian nation and that his faith is probably of better spiritual guidance than that of a Muslim candidate for president.” (New York Times 9/30/07)
It is rubbish. The Framers derived an independent government out of Enlightenment thinking against the grievances caused by Great Britain. Our Founders paid little heed to political beliefs about Christianity. The 1st Amendment stands as the bulkhead against an establishment of religion and at the same time insures the free expression of any belief. The Treaty of Tripoli, an instrument of the Constitution, clearly stated our non-Christian foundation. We inherited common law from Great Britain which derived from pre-Christian Saxons rather than from Biblical scripture.
A few Christian fundamentalists attempt to convince us to return to the Christianity of early America, yet according to the historian, Robert T. Handy, “No more than 10 percent– probably less– of Americans in 1800 were members of congregations.”
The Founding Fathers, also, rarely practiced Christian orthodoxy. Although they supported the free exercise of any religion, they understood the dangers of religion. Most of them believed in deism and attended Freemasonry lodges. According to John J. Robinson, “Freemasonry had been a powerful force for religious freedom.”
Freemasons took seriously the principle that men should worship according to their own conscious. Masonry welcomed anyone from any religion or non-religion, as long as they believed in a Supreme Being. Washington, Franklin, Hancock, Hamilton, Lafayette, and many others accepted Freemasonry.
The most convincing evidence that our government did not ground itself upon Christianity comes from the very document that defines it– the United States Constitution.
If indeed our Framers had aimed to found a Christian republic, it would seem highly unlikely that they would have forgotten to leave out their Christian intentions in the Supreme law of the land. In fact, nowhere in the Constitution do we have a single mention of Christianity, God, Jesus, or any Supreme Being. There occurs only two references to religion and they both use exclusionary wording. The 1st Amendment’s says, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion. . .” and in Article VI, Section 3, “. . . no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.”
Thomas Jefferson interpreted the 1st Amendment in his famous letter to the Danbury Baptist Association in January 1, 1802:
“I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should ‘make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,’ thus building a wall of separation between church and State.”
Some Religious activists try to extricate the concept of separation between church and State by claiming that those words do not occur in the Constitution. Indeed they do not, but neither does it exactly say “freedom of religion,” yet the First Amendment implies both.
Let’s look further at Jefferson. In spite of Christian right attempts to rewrite history to make Jefferson into a Christian, little about his philosophy resembles that of Christianity. Although Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence wrote of the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God, there exists nothing in the Declaration about Christianity.
Although Jefferson believed in a Creator, his concept of it resembled that of the god of deism (the term “Nature’s God” used by deists of the time). With his scientific bent, Jefferson sought to organize his thoughts on religion. He rejected the superstitions and mysticism of Christianity and even went so far as to edit the gospels, removing the miracles and mysticism of Jesus leaving only what he deemed the correct moral philosophy of Jesus.
Distortions of history occur in the minds of many Christians whenever they see the word “God” embossed in statue or memorial concrete. For example, those who visit the Jefferson Memorial in Washington will read Jefferson’s words engraved: “I have sworn upon the altar of God eternal hostility against every from of tyranny over the mind of man.” When they see the word “God” many Christians see this as “proof” of his Christianity without thinking that “God” can have many definitions ranging from nature to supernatural. Yet how many of them realize that this passage aimed at attacking the tyranny of the Christian clergy of Philadelphia, or that Jefferson’s God was not the personal god of Christianity? Those memorial words came from a letter written to Benjamin Rush in 1800 in response to Rush’s warning about the Philadelphia clergy attacking Jefferson (Jefferson was seen as an infidel by his enemies during his election for President).
The complete statement reads as follows:
“The returning good sense of our country threatens abortion to their hopes, & they [the clergy] believe that any portion of power confided to me, will be exerted in opposition to their schemes. And they believe rightly; for I have sworn upon the altar of God, eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man. But this is all they have to fear from me: & enough too in their opinion, & this is the cause of their printing lying pamphlets against me. . .”
In Jefferson’s writings there are numerous castigations of Christianity. Here are a few:
“Millions of innocent men, women and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined and imprisoned; yet we have not advanced one inch towards uniformity.” –Notes on Virginia, 1782
“Where the preamble declares, that coercion is a departure from the plan of the holy author of our religion, an amendment was proposed by inserting “Jesus Christ,” so that it would read “A departure from the plan of Jesus Christ, the holy author of our religion;” the insertion was rejected by the great majority, in proof that they meant to comprehend, within the mantle of its protection, the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Mohammedan, the Hindoo and Infidel of every denomination.” –Autobiography, in reference to the Virginia Act for Religious Freedom
“I concur with you strictly in your opinion of the comparative merits of atheism and demonism, and really see nothing but the latter in the being worshipped by many who think themselves Christians.” – Letter to Richard Price, Jan. 8, 1789 (Richard Price had written to TJ on Oct. 26. about the harm done by religion and wrote “Would not Society be better without Such religions? Is Atheism less pernicious than Demonism?”)
Senator McCain- What do you have to say about that? To suggest that our nation was founded as a Christian nation is a complete and utter distortion of the intent of the founders of our nation and the framers of the Constitution. Rewriting history is dangerous especially when that revisionist history includes hateful and pious remarks about our leaders needing to adhere to a “Judeo-Christian” ethic and that this makes for a better presidential candidate than does faith in Islam.
Excuse me Senator McCain- but not only do you need a refresher on American History, but you obviously need a refresher course in Comparative Religion. Remember- Abraham is the father of all three faiths!
I guess Senator McCain made one too many visits to Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University. It is clear that Falwell needs to be exorcised from McCain’s soul!