I’ve decided to write a few essays about current events. This is not a diatribe against Christianity, it is an attempt to set the historical record straight.
The first current event of importance is the mobilization of American Christian fundamentalism against a “foreign” religion; in this case Islam.
This is as traditionally American as apple pie. Numerous modern presidents have sought to sustain the myth that the United States was founded as a Christian nation for their own political reasons and, in today’s divided America, it is again a useful tool in getting angry, disenchanted Americans to renew their discontent at having a black president with apparently liberal leanings trying to direct the course of the Nation.
One of the 14 recently identified pillars of fascism is when religion is consistently mentioned and utilized by a government’s leadership or opposition, to bolster its support and justify its actions.
Numerous examples of this type of social bigotry can be found in our checkered past but the most recent is the attempt by many of today’s conservative fundamentalists to try to depict the Founding Fathers as pious Christians who wanted the United States to be a Christian nation, with laws that favored Christians and Christianity.
An example of this is an excerpt from the Web sit of Barbara Martin. “According to the Preamble to the Constitution for the United States of America (1787) the founders were ‘We the People.’ ‘We the People’ were all free, white and of the original stock of Europe … They were Christians, recognizing, acknowledging and accepting Jesus Christ as their Lord, the one and only God and their only Sovereign, and the Nation they ordained and established is a Christian Nation.”
This is patently untrue.
Having escaped from the state-established religions of Europe, only seven out of every 100 people in the 13 colonies belonged to a church when the Declaration of Independence was signed.
It was not that the Founding Fathers were hostile to religion; they simply did not believe that religion was a pillar of liberty. The early presidents and patriots were generally Deists or Unitarians, believing in some form of impersonal Providence but rejecting the divinity of Jesus and what they viewed as the absurdities of the Old and New Testaments.
It is important to note that the first Constitutional Conventions opened without prayer and both Jefferson and Madison refused to utilize public prayer even when pressured to do so.
Here is what some of the Founding Fathers wrote about Bible-based Christianity.
“I have examined all the known superstitions of the world, and I do not find in our particular superstition of Christianity one redeeming feature. They are all alike, founded on fables and mythology. Millions of innocent men, women and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined, and imprisoned. What has been the effect of this coercion? To make one half the world fools and the other half hypocrites; to support roguery and error all over the earth.”
Jefferson also wrote, “Christianity … (has become) the most perverted system that ever shone on man. … Rogueries, absurdities and untruths were perpetrated upon the teachings of Jesus by a large band of dupes and importers led by Paul, the first great corrupter of the teaching of Jesus.”
Jefferson referred to the Bible as a “dunghill.” “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 classed with the fable of the generation of Minerva in the brain of Jupiter.”
“Twenty times in the course of my late reading, have I been upon the point of breaking out, “This would be the best of all possible worlds, if there were no religion in it!”
“Where do we find a precept in the Bible for Creeds, Confessions, Doctrines and Oaths, and whole carloads of other trumpery that we find religion encumbered with in these days?” Adams wrote.
Also attributed to him: “The doctrine of the divinity of Jesus is made a convenient cover for absurdity.”
Adams signed the Treaty of Tripoli, passed by the U.S. Senate in 1797. The treaty was written during the Washington administration, and sent to the Senate during the Adams administration. It was read aloud to the Senate, and each senator received a printed copy.
At that time it was only the third occasion a vote was unanimous and there is no record of public outcry or complaint in subsequent editions of the papers. Article 11 states: “The Government of the United States is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion.”
“Among the most detestable villains in history, you could not find one worse than Moses … I would not dare so dishonor my Creator’s name by (attaching) it to this filthy book (the Bible).”
“It is the duty of every true Deist to vindicate the moral justice of God against the evils of the Bible,” Paine wrote.
He also wrote, “I do not believe in the creed professed by the Jewish church, by the Roman church, by the Greek church, by the Turkish church, by the Protestant church, nor by any church that I know of … Each of those churches accuse the other of unbelief; and for my own part, I disbelieve them all.”
“Religion and government will both exist in greater purity, the less they are mixed together,” and “Religious bondage shackles and debilitates the mind and unfits it for every noble enterprise.”
Another of Madison’s writings: “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.”
“What influence, in fact, have Christian ecclesiastical establishments had on civil society?” Madison asked. “In many instances, they have been upholding the thrones of political tyranny. In no instance have they been seen as the guardians of the liberties of the people. Rulers who wished to subvert the public liberty have found in the clergy convenient auxiliaries. A just government, instituted to secure and perpetuate liberty, does not need the clergy.”
The first president of the United States, never declared himself a Christian and championed the cause of freedom from religious intolerance and compulsion.
When John Murray (a Universalist who denied the existence of hell) was invited to become an army chaplain, the other chaplains petitioned Washington for his dismissal. Instead, Washington gave him the appointment.
On his deathbed, Washington uttered no words of a religious nature and did not call for a clergyman to attend.
Ethan Allen: “That Jesus Christ was not God is evidence from his own words.”
Allen noted that he was generally “denominated a Deist, the reality of which I never disputed, being conscious that I am no Christian.”
When Allen married Fanny Buchanan, he stopped his own wedding ceremony when the judge asked him if he promised, “to live with Fanny Buchanan agreeable to the laws of God.” Allen refused to answer until the judge agreed that the God referred to was the God of Nature, and the laws those “written in the great book of nature.”
“As to Jesus of Nazareth, my Opinion of whom you particularly desire, I think the System of Morals and his Religion … has received various corrupting Changes, and I have, with most of the present dissenters in England, some doubts as to his Divinity; tho’ it is a question I do not dogmatize upon, having never studied it, and think it needless to busy myself with it now, when I expect soon an opportunity of knowing the Truth with less trouble.”
No one categorically disputes the faith of the Founding Fathers. To speak of inalienable Rights being endowed by a Creator certainly shows sensitivity to our spiritual selves.
What is surprising is that fundamentalist Christians think the Founding Fathers’ faith had anything to do with the Bible. Without exception, the faith of our Founding Fathers was deist, not theist. It was best expressed earlier in the Declaration of Independence, when they spoke of “the Laws of Nature” and of “Nature’s God.”
To be sure, Islam and Christianity share a contentious past, but to insist that the Country favor one religion over another is at odds with the Constitution.
On the other hand, it is very much in keeping with the dissatisfaction of those who imagined themselves superior to all – racially, morally, socially, politically. How far the once mighty have fallen; brought down by arrogance and greed, they churn and stir the seeds of insurrection rather than join their brothers and sisters in perfecting one Nation.
Source: James BlueWolf