The religious right of this country has a problem. They are claiming that we are straying from our constitution and we need to “go back” to the words of our founding fathers, who, THEY claim, intended for us to be a Christian nation. Wow! Unless the followers of the religious right are more ignorant than their leaders — which, I hope, is not possible — that is going to be a real problem. It is tempting to dismiss the likes of Sarah Palin, Michelle Bachman, and their kind as being just absolutely nuts, but the sad thing is that there are many lazy people who will accept what they say as “Truth”. It is anything but.
So, lets check it out. First of all, were the writers Christians and did ANYONE intend for the US to be a Christian Nation?
After a successful revolution starting with the writing of the Declaration of Independence in 1776, the founding fathers got together in 1787 to write the basis of American Laws, The Constitution. There is no doubt that there were a lot of Christians among the representatives that were sent to the constitutional convention in Philadelphia. Generally, at that time a lot of the most respected men of the community were ministers. Most were probably Anglican/Episcopal. There were also atheists, deists, and others. Historians tell us that at around the year 1800 only about 10% of the American population belonged to any church.
The Americans seeing what a mess that Europe was — what with all their religious wars — wanted to make sure that we didn’t have that sort of problem in our new country. The obvious way to do that is to keep the government out of religion — and religion out of the government.
This constitutional convention — whose members were elected by the 13 original colonies — selected a committee of their most respected and intelligent members to listen to all of the states concerns and to hammer together a framework for the constitution. Everyone’s short list included Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and Thomas Paine. Interestingly, none of the men chosen would have regarded themselves as Christians. That was simply not an issue. There is no record of anyone raising objection to these three men on the religious issue.
Thomas Jefferson did belong to an Episcopal Church in Virginia. But no Christian would consider Thomas Jefferson to be one of them. He was a deist (he believed that there was a God), but he was certainly not a Christian. His writings showed that he did not believe in The Trinity, virgin birth, rising after 3-days, etc. He has left enough written proofs of his beliefs that anyone who would call him a Christian is dishonest or just ignorant. He was so adamant about his beliefs (and disbeliefs) that he actually re-wrote the new testament. Even today, you can get The Jefferson Bible – which he wrote – from Amazon. It is worth reading, and, by the way, it is very short. Go to http://www.amazon.com and do a search for “Jefferson Bible”. It pops right up.
Regarding Thomas Paine: he did not and would not belong to any church. He was probably the most brilliant of the group and was well respected for his mental capacity. In his writings he referred to Genesis (the first book of the Old Testament) as “an anonymous book of stories, fables, and traditionalry (sic) or invented absurdities, or of downright lies”.
Paine further 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. My own mind is my own Church. Each of those churches accuse the other of unbelief; and for my own part, I disbelieve them all”.
Another of his quotes, “The study of theology, as it stands in the Christian churches, is the study of nothing; it is founded on nothing; it rests on no principles; it proceeds by no authority; it has no data; it can demonstrate nothing; and it admits of no conclusion.”
Need I say more about Thomas Paine?
John Adams, who became the third president of the United States, attended a Unitarian Church throughout his adult life. He also left a lot of writings and, for example, referred to the Christian cross as “That engine of grief”. He would not have called himself a Christian.
The actual writer (putting the pen to the paper) was Jacob Shallus who was assistant clerk of the Pennsylvania State Assembly. He was charged with producing a document in which the words were large and clear. I would say that he did pretty good.
Think about it! These men are giants in American history. They formed our country. If those people were in Congress today, would they stand a chance of being put on ANY committee? Would they have even been elected?
Since our constitution has held up pretty well against all assaults for over 200 years, I would say that these “unelectables” must have done a pretty good job.
I have heard people say that the constitution is based on biblical law. No such thing. It is based on “English Common Law” which was derived from the pre-Christian Saxons. It had nothing to do with the Old or New Testament.
Today, who are the contemporaries of Jefferson, Paine, and Adams?
How far we have fallen.