Why the United States is not a Christian nation

As America celebrates its birthday on July 4, the timeless words of Thomas Jefferson will surely be invoked to remind us of our founding ideals — that “All men are created equal” and are “endowed by their Creator” with the right to “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” These phrases, a cherished part of our history, have rightly been called “American Scripture.”

But Jefferson penned another phrase, arguably his most famous after those from the Declaration of Independence. These far more contentious words — “a wall of separation between church and state” — lie at the heart of the ongoing debate between those who see America as a “Christian Nation” and those who see it as a secular republic, a debate that is hotter than a Washington Fourth of July…

While president in 1802, Jefferson wrote: “Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man and his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, and 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 and State … ”

The idea was not Jefferson’s. Other 17th- and 18th-century Enlightenment writers had used a variant of it. Earlier still, religious dissident Roger Williams had written in a 1644 letter of a “hedge or wall of separation between the garden of the church and the wilderness of the world.”

Williams, who founded Rhode Island with a colonial charter that included religious freedom, knew intolerance firsthand. He and other religious dissenters, including Anne Hutchinson, had been banished from neighboring Massachusetts, the “shining city on a hill” where Catholics, Quakers and Baptists were banned under penalty of death.

Jefferson regarded this law so highly that he had his authorship of the statute made part of his epitaph, along with writing the Declaration and founding the University of Virginia. (Being president wasn’t worth a mention.)

RTFA. Re-examine the history that most Americans sorely have not understood – for the first time.

Christian revisionists of American history absolutely understand they are lying to support their ideology, they absolutely recognize their actions as counter to the spirit of history as understood by the Founding Fathers and Mothers – and they don’t care.

They assume their religious ideology supersedes the achievements of our Constitution and would rather return to the religious wars of the Crusades in exactly the same way their counterparts on the fringe of Islam would do. They are equally bereft of understanding, deserving of as little support and coddling as any poison in the gut of this modern world.

15 thoughts on “Why the United States is not a Christian nation

  1. Cures Riches says:

    Pardon my cynicism but how much of the separation of church and state is simply good cop / bad cop, both in the employ of the devil? Able was working for the devil and Cain was working as the devil. More up to date they’re working for or as a short fat morally retarded chicken-pig spirit fag in a scab on the shin a dusty boot that hasn’t won a war in a thousand years. Proud of yourselves?

    • E Trams says:

      Prove your dibble. Where you there?

      Religious fanatics end the way of Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden. If anything takes down the United States it will be her religous fanatics.

  2. ivonne says:

    @ Cures Riches…seperation of church and state implies that the devil has nothing to do with anything other than being a religious symbol, and hence has nothing to do with state government any more than any other religious symbol, including Christ or Mohammed….

  3. Doug King says:

    I agree with this post except for some of the stuff at the end in bold font. While I get frustrated with certain evangelicals who believe Christians (as their theology defines the term) are the only ones fit for high office, But I don’t think they want to restart the Crusades. And I don’t think they are consciously lying; they just have some kind of religious belief that America’s destiny is to be a Christian homeland.

    Like the author, I reject the assertion that America is a Christian republic. There’s not a shred of legal evidence to support it.

    However, I hope America can be a christian (spelled with a small ‘c’) nation as opposed to a Christian (big ‘C’) republic. I think of “christian” (an adjective that includes civic virtues traditionally associated with Christ’s teachings) as descriptive of those who practice the Golden Rule, regardless of how they worship or what they believe. I think Jefferson would agree with me. He printed and distributed an edited version of the four gospels, emphasizing the “good neighbor” aspects of Christ’s teachings. Nobody seems to know whether he believed in Jesus as God’s son. But there is no question he believed in religious freedom and tolerance for all faiths. In fact, he was almost a fanatic on the subject.

    • god says:

      Consciously lying – certainly about history, certainly about the philosophy of the central founders of this nation.

      Yes, their motivation may be a silly belief in a “chosen” nation – but, that doesn’t justify distortion and deceit.

      • northwestdoug says:

        You seem to believe these people are “consciously lying” whereas I have assumed they are simply ignorant. Have you seen something in print that leads you to believe they are lying? Or are you speaking from personal experience in interacting with these people?

        If you’ve got strong evidence these people are deliberately misrepresenting the facts, I’d be interested in learning about it.

        • god says:

          Google is your friend and American History 101 is all you need. AFAIC deliberately misrepresenting the history of this nation, spending your political efforts on trumping up an ideology to make it look and sound like the predominant and intended guide of those brave folks who founded this nation — is a lie.

          The ideologues who promote the Christian nation platform have the same opportunity to read the overwhelming body of history as any scholar. When they ignore and avoid that body of work and attempt to counter it with belief opposed to fact – I see no need to waste politesse on fraud.

          If it makes you feel more “Christian” to presume ignorance, well, that’s what trips your trigger. I think that simply diminishes responsibility for their political actions. Using religious conviction to excuse reactionary behavior doesn’t make it any less harmful. Take it to a logical extreme which happens every year in American life. Murdering a doctor because your God says that’s how to eliminate abortions doesn’t lessen that murder. At least not in most courts of law.

          • northwestdoug says:

            I think the rank-and-file believer in ‘America as a Christian Republic’ is more or less relying on common myth. I speak from personal experience. Having done some research the last few years on the subject of Religious freedom, I have revised my views. But I think many people were just as I was, relying on this myth. And busy people — those with jobs and raising families, for instance — do not find it easy to make time for research.

            I think there is a big difference between ignorance and willful misrepresentation.

            Granted, there are probably a few myth makers out there who deliberately misrepresent the truth and can rightfully be called liars. But there are liars and fanatics associated with every movement, whether it be pro-life or pro-gay marriage or pro-jihad or whatever. I try to ignore the extremists and understand what the majority of the people think. To paraphrase MLK, we should judge individuals by the content of their character, not the color of their skin or some label attached to their movement. We need to give people the benefit of the doubt until we learn more. Just because we feel we are right and others disagree, that doesn’t make them demons. I find so much of what people believe (especially about others) is not based in fact but rather in perception framed by myths and oft-repeated stories.

            I consider myself Christian, but many other Christians would deny me that title because of theological differences. And yes, I strongly oppose abortion except where a mother’s life is at stake. But I strongly support the rule of law. Murdering an abortion clinic doctor is murder and should be punished as such. The SCOTUS has decreed abortion to be legal. Abortion should not be curbed or promoted by seizing the government and issuing executive orders but rather through the power of persuasion and voluntary influence. But I digress from the topic of religious freedom.

          • eideard says:

            Dougie – seems like once every other month I should take the time to back up and note that I do differentiate between Christians and christians – big C and little c – just as I respect individual students of one or another idealist philosophy like Buddhism while separating that respect from “official” Buddhism which serves as a state religion in some nations.

            I imagine those differences don’t need to be explained to anyone who spends time studying the history of religions, origins of idealist philosophy.

            As someone who’s dedicated over a half-century to progressive politics, civil disobedience confronting the evils of racism and bigotry, I’ve spent some absurdly cheerful time sharing cells with priests and rabbis, ministers, monks and laity dedicated to the activist roots of one or another religion. They would be the first to admit they are not representative of their flock or the “leaders” of their organized faith.

            In turn, they were often more at ease than their peers spending survival time under arrest with an atheist, a philosophical materialist. I won’t bore regular readers by repeating some of my favorite anecdotes. But, as Willard Uphaus used to say, “There’s nothing wrong with old-time religion if it’s old-time enough!”. Yes, he was still a defrocked minister at the time – it took the Methodist Church decades to apologize for their cowardice back in the days of McCarthyism.

          • northwestdoug says:

            Sounds like you’ve got some interesting stories to share with posterity.

            The older I get, the more wisdom I can see in other people’s traditions and experiences, even though they are very different from my own.

            There are perhaps significant issues you and I see very differently. I very much consider myself old fashioned in most aspects (morality, marriage, religion, for example). But I hope we both agree that Americans should be able live peacefully and contentedly alongside with neighbors who are different. The Golden Rule is key. For example, I do not favor same-sex marriage, but I’d rather live next door to a gay couple that practiced the Golden Rule than next to a church-going family of hypocrites. But please don’t misunderstand. I do not think all church-going people are hypocrites — not by a long shot. But hypocrites do abound in every religious, ethnic, and political community.

            I care very little about what people think. I care a lot about how people treat each other. I hope others more or less consider me the same way.

        • moss says:

          Or you could just rely on that stalwart of Christianity – Hypocrisy. Though, I’d suppose that would also involve owning up to something more than ignorance.

  4. exult49 says:

    Hi Ed,
    you gave me a wonderfull hint with you blog! So I decided to consider the Jefferson’s principles and decline them by comparison with our history. In addition I added ,as resident alien, my personal thoughts about the nowadays tea parties approach to religion. You know, as foreigner I can talk about it without being politically correct. i hope you’ll enjoy my considerations. Good life to you all.

  5. exult49 says:

    Ed, I realized right now the number of comments you got on the recent blog. It is a pity to see how deep into the hole the country ,your country, went.
    We have endured ,as you know ,the idiot of Berlusconi,but believe me, George W ,did in the past 8 years what b
    Berlusconi could not do it to us , not even in a century!

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