America's Secular Origins

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America's Secular Origins

Far too often we hear that the founding fathers intended America to be a nation based on Christian principles. Even if that statement were true, it is an egregious argument. An idea should stand and fall on its own merit, regardless of who supported it 200 years ago. Why should we continue leading blindly when we now have the ability to open our eyes?

Nevertheless, it is unequivocally false that the founding fathers of America intended this nation to be a Christian nation. The United States was created partially as a reaction to religious oppression in Europe. It is asinine to believe that those who fought so valiantly for religious liberty would impose their own form of religious oppression upon the nation they created. Though some of the founding fathers may have been Christian themselves, they were above all secularists, as evinced by the constitution, the foundation of the United States, and various other documents.

The best evidence we have that the United States was not meant to be a Christian nation is the constitution itself. If the founding father’s intended this to be a Christian nation they left out some important things, such as any mention of Christianity or Jesus Christ in the constitution. In fact, the constitution only mentions religion twice, and in both cases it stipulates the separation of religion and government.

Some claim that the “separation of church and state” is a phrase that has been fabricated recently. This is simply not true. We see this phrase as early as 1802 when Thomas Jefferson lends us his interpretation of the establishment clause in a letter to the Danbury Baptist Association by stating “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. James Madison, the primary author of the constitution, had a similar interpretation of how the United States should be run: “The civil Government, though bereft of everything like an associated hierarchy, possesses the requisite stability, and performs its functions with complete success, whilst the number, the industry, and the morality of the priesthood, and the devotion of the people, have been manifestly increased by the total separation of the church from the State.”

The fact that the United States was to be a government that was divorced from religion was a given to the founding fathers. However, other nations may not have known our intent. An esoteric document known as the Treaty of Tripoli, written in the late 1700s, reveals this intent. The treaty states, “. . . the Government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion . . . .” The intent of the fathers is now unambiguously known.

The intent behind the establishment clause is incontrovertibly separation between church and state. Clutching to last straws, people try and cite specific examples of some founding father who said something which, with the proper twist, might be able to be seen as advocating the nation promoting Christian principles. Let’s see exactly what our founding fathers thought about such matters.

The myth that George Washington was a devout Christian probably comes from a book titled Life of Washington written by Mason Weems, a Christian minister and a contemporary of Washington. Though Weems’ book depicts Washington as a devoted Christian, evidence says otherwise. Washington’s diaries show that he rarely attended church services, hardly a sign of a devout Christian. In the thousands of his letters that have come to light, we never see a mention of Jesus Christ, and hardly ever see him mention his religion. What he does mention, however, is his affiliation with the freemasons. This strongly points to a belief in deism. On his deathbed, Washington did not call for a clergyman, nor is their any record of him saying anything religious. When Washington’s friend, Dr. Abercrombie, was questioned after Washington’s death, Abercrombie replied that Washington had been a deist. Those that claim that the founding fathers were all Christians need to acknowledge that their champion was most likely a deist.

Benjamin Franklin, undoubtedly one of the most influential men of the time and a founding father of America, reveals that he rejected Christianity and was a deist in his autobiography.

John Adams described Christianity as the “most bloody religion that has ever existed” in a letter to Van der Kamp. Adams was a Unitarian, and flatly denied the existence of hell and the idea of eternal damnation.

Thomas Jefferson frequently referred to Christian stories as superstitions in his letters. He did not believe in any miracles, souls, or other metaphysical nonsense. In a letter to Peter Car, Jefferson wrote “Question with boldness even the existence of a God.” Jefferson championed reason and science in his day and age.

Madison, who penned the constitution, as I have already mentioned, also wrote a piece called Memorial and Remonstrance against Religious Assessment. In his work he wrote, “During almost fifteen centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial. What have been its fruits? More or less in all places, pride and indolence in the Clergy, ignorance and servility in the laity; in both, superstition, bigotry and persecution.” We have already seen what Madison intended with the establishment clause, now we know what his personal opinions on Christianity were as well. Given the combination of those two, I severely doubt that he would have advocated the idea of a Christian nation.

We have seen that the constitution never insinuates anything about Christianity. In fact, its principles seem more humanist than Christian; more derived from Thomas Paine than the Bible. We have taken a brief look at the religious views of some of our founding fathers and seen that they most likely would not have desired Christianity to rule the nation, and they certainly would not have impeded medicine or science in the name of religion. We have seen various documents that elucidate the desire of the founding fathers that this nation’s government be above all secular. So when you say “I think we should model our nation off of the desires of the founding fathers,” I wholeheartedly concur. I only contend that you should first educate yourself on what these desires were. Though some of our founding fathers were undoubtedly Christian, they were champions of reason and secular government. We should continue their tradition of reason and deny the ascension of superstition.


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Great post

Tiktaalik wrote:
We should continue their tradition of reason and deny the ascension of superstition.

Hear, hear! If not us, who? If not now, when?

It's frightening just how LITTLE Americans know about their own country, its founding documents and their authors.

As wholeheartedly as I wish to see my loved ones be released from the spell of religious belief, the blatant invasion of religion into OUR Constitutionally-guaranteed secular government is what most motivates me to be an aggressively vocal atheist. Any law that is proven to be based exclusively upon Scripture should be immediately repealed as a violation of the First Amendment rights of every American citizen.

Invisible friends are for children and psychopaths.

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Separation of Church and State

US Paper money between 1776 -1955 (179 years) did not have the phrase "In God we trust" on it. This was added in 1955 by then Secretary of the Treasury, George W. Humphrey and approved by President Eisenhower.

US Coins between 1776-1864 (88 years) did not have the phrase "In God we trust" on them. This was added in 1864 by then Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase and approved by Congress.

The original pledge of Allegiance as written in 1892 and recited for 62 years did not contain the phrase "under God". In 1954 this phrase was added by the Knights of Columbus and approved by President Eisenhower.

The entire US Constitution does not contain the word "God." The US Constitution does not define religion; not even in the First Amendment, which bars the Federal Government from interfering with religion in the United States. Article VI, states that "no religious Test shall ever be required as Qualification" for federal office holders.

The oath taken by the President of the United States is Article II, Section 1 of the US Constitution. It does NOT contain "So help me God", which has been added verbally by most modern Presidents.

The Declaration of Independence uses "God" only once. It is in a God of nature or "mother earth" sense.
Quote: "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 entitles them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation."
The Declaration of Independence once uses the phrase "Divine Providence" without definition. A common definition is "The cooperation of nature with everything that happens."   Every religion has its own interpretation of this phrase.

Of the 204 founding fathers:
54.7% were Episcopalian/Anglican (Church of England)
18.6% were Presbyterian 16.8% were Congregationalist Many of the more prominent Founding Fathers were vocal about their opposition to organized religion or anti-clerical. Some of them often related their anti-organized church leanings in their speeches and correspondence, including George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin.


As early as 1802, religious groups began questioning the intent of the Separation of Church and State. The Danbury Baptists wrote to Founding Father and third President Thomas Jefferson when they feared that their minority could threaten their freedoms. Thomas Jefferson responded in a letter (Which is on record with the U.S. Library of Congress)Quote: "Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions, 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 & State."

James Madison, fourth President and the principal drafter of the United States Bill of Rights wrote the following in the document: "Backgrounder on the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom" (Which is on file with the US State Department) Quote: "... no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burthened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief; but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinion in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish enlarge, or affect their civil capacities."

Thomas Jefferson designed the campus of the University of Virginia. On August 4, 1818, Jefferson outlined the proper curriculum for the first nonreligious public institution for higher education. His proposed branches of study emphasized languages, mathematics, the natural sciences, and law. He did not include religion, its teachings or its rituals whatsoever. (In the collection of  the University of Virginia Library)



First President George Washington was a religious man and expressed this in his National Thanksgiving Proclamations. He enforced the separation between Church & State and made no impositions on Americans with regard to religion.A bill was proposed which would have the government impose a levy "towards the support of that which [religion] they profess." On October 3rd, 1785, Washington wrote a letter to George Mason concerning this bill. He stated that though he is not opposed to the concept of membership to a faith requiring payment, it is unwise to impose religious matters by law. (Library of Congress)Quote:"I think it will be productive of more quiet to the State, than by enacting it into a Law; which, in my opinion, would be impolitic…" 


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When I was a fundie, I

When I was a fundie, I remember asking about were the rebels of the American revolution really Christian. The New Testament teaches that true believers are to always submit to government authority because God put these leaders in these positions. Jesus teaches pay your taxes and submit to masters and government.

The leaders of the American revolution clearly did not follow these new testament teachings. So why do they insist on claiming they were all Christian? To revolt against the government clearly is against New Testament teachings.

We as atheists have to remind Christians of what their own bible teaches.


Taxation is the price we pay for failing to build a civilized society. The higher the tax level, the greater the failure. A centrally planned totalitarian state represents a complete defeat for the civilized world, while a totally voluntary society represents its ultimate success. --Mark Skousen

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The main architects of this

The main architects of this nation, Jefferson, Washington, Adams, Hamilton, Paine, and Madison, and other leaders, like Rush, Burr,  Wilson and others, were Deists who occasionally went to church for a variety of reasons, not because they believed in the doctrine of those churches.  There were others, who were more strongly involved in their churches who also saw the wisdom of the separation of church/state.  There were several who wanted to include a state supported religion but they were voted down by the vast majority.  In fact, there was only one who might have been considered a born again christian and he stood silent on the issue.

The Constitution not only protects religion from intrusion by state, it protects the state from interference by religion in it's religious test clause.  Bush and the other modern presidents have violated the Constitution by injecting god into the oath.

Jeebus freaks have tried to theocratize the government several times since the founding, the most recent beginning in the early 1970's with Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson and others.  This was a knee-jerk reaction by fundies over Roe v. Wade, the Civil Rights Movement, school prayer and other issues of the times.  The result of these bigoted asses is what's now known in some circles as the Karl Rove Era.  Rove, not much of a believer in anything except power and greed was in large part responsible for the current faith-based government led by the biggest moron ever to enter the White House.  If nothing else, the last seven years should give pause to anyone with a mind.  It is a classic example of how theocons can fuck up a good thing with their dogma and ignorance.

Here in Bakersfield, CA, we have a large contingent of fundies who routinely display their ignorance on the subject of church/state because they are unable to comprehend the English language or are simply too lazy to find out for themselve by reading the Constitution. On an almost daily basis you can read in the newspaper's Op-Ed section some redneck claiming this is a christian nation and condemning those who don't share their narrow-minded world view. god help us (tongue-in-cheek) should they ever get their way.

"Erecting the 'wall of separation between church and state,' therefore, is absolutely essential in a free society." Thomas Jefferson

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I left one important piece of history out:

During Washington's Presidency, US ships were falling victim to pirates off the coast of Tripoli (now Libya.) A twelve-article treaty with the Muslim nation was drafted to arrange payment in exchange for safe passage of US ships in their waters and peace.  To help dispel basis for a religious war, this treaty included the wording: "Article 11. As the government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian Religion..." The Treaty of Tripoli was unanimously ratified by the Senate, then signed into law and proclaimed to the Nation by second President John Adams on June 10, 1797. It was published in US newspapers with no record of any objection.


To clarify above, the 204 individuals classified as founding fathers are:


Signers of the Declaration of Independence, Articles of Confederation or US Constitution, in attendance of the Constitutional Convention of 1787 or served as Senators or Representives in the First Federal Congress [1789-1791]

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Why the truth is being de-railed...

 I have discovered a MAJOR reason why this information is no longer obvious to Americans.

David Barton.

Barton is a Pseudohistorian, meaning he revises history to meet his needs. He has decided his 'calling' to Evangelism is to re-write American History to create an illusion of a Christian Nation and to spread his lies through the network of misinformation- the gullible evangelist community. (Some of which hold office, such as our President!)

Barton has a BA in Religion from Oral Roberts University, founded by the televangelist faith healer of the same name. (Oral had a vision of a 900 foot Jesus that told him to add a Medical Curriculum to the school, which he did- it failed. MC 900 foot Jesus got his name here, folks!) Barton has no background in history, but has been a co-chair of the Texas Republican Party for eight years.

Barton founded an organization called "Wallbuilders LLC." The purpose of this organization is to distribute materials and misinform the public regarding the place of Religion during the founding of our nation. He has published and continues to publish an endless stream of rubbish containing completely fabricated quotes of our founding fathers.

To give you an idea of how far this charlatan goes in his revisions I quote him: "Today, we would best understand the actual context of the First Amendment by saying, 'Congress shall make no law establishing one Christian denomination as the national denomination.' "

After being caught by actual historians for his outlandish fabrications, Barton wrote an article titled "Unconfirmed Quotations" where he admitted he did not locate primary sources for eleven alleged quotes he routinely uses from James Madison, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and U.S. Supreme Court decisions, but he maintains that this is not important to his central thesis because they are consistent with what he feels are the views of the Founders.

The February 7, 2005 issue of TIME Magazine cited David Barton as one of the 25 most influential evangelicals in America.