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Old 12-12-2019, 06:54 AM
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Our Founding Fathers and Christianity.


I am a little confused by some modern Christian's and their claims our country was founded on Christianity. I think our country was founded on Deism, wasn't it? Jefferson, Ben Franklin and Washington were all Deists, weren't they? And Deists aren't even Christians.

Who is right and who is wrong, exactly?

Thank you all in advance for your civil debate.

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Old 12-12-2019, 07:39 AM
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Those "modern Christians" you refer to are factually incorrect:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Treaty_of_Tripoli

"the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion."

This treaty was signed by John Adams.

And from Thomas Jefferson:

"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. Adhering to this expression of the supreme will of the nation in behalf of the rights of conscience, I shall see with sincere satisfaction the progress of those sentiments which tend to restore to man all his natural rights, convinced he has no natural right in opposition to his social duties."

Also:

"Jefferson's metaphor of a wall of separation has been cited repeatedly by the U.S. Supreme Court. In Reynolds v. United States (1879) the Court wrote that Jefferson's comments "may be accepted almost as an authoritative declaration of the scope and effect of the [First] Amendment." In Everson v. Board of Education (1947), Justice Hugo Black wrote: "In the words of Thomas Jefferson, the clause against establishment of religion by law was intended to erect a wall of separation between church and state.""

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Separa..._United_States

The recognition of "our Creator" in the Declaration of Independence is not specific to any religion at all, much less Christianity.

It should also be noted that the Bill of Rights expressly upholds the right to violate the Ten Commandments and many other Christian laws/rules as a fundamental (and the most important!) right. Only two of the Ten Commandments are backed up by law in the US, and the right to violate many or most of the rest is held as a fundamental right.

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Old 12-12-2019, 08:18 AM
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As I mentioned in the other thread about religious decline, I think it's helpful to break things down by what areas of religion we are talking about. In terms of metaphysics, the founders were mostly deists. They were scientifically literate. Sure, they weren't aware of later discoveries and theories like evolution, the Big Bang, and so on, but they probably didn't believe in a literal seven day creation, the literal resurrection of the dead, and those sorts of things either. On the other hand, their morality did come from a Christian background.
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Old 12-12-2019, 08:36 AM
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As I mentioned in the other thread about religious decline, I think it's helpful to break things down by what areas of religion we are talking about. In terms of metaphysics, the founders were mostly deists. They were scientifically literate. Sure, they weren't aware of later discoveries and theories like evolution, the Big Bang, and so on, but they probably didn't believe in a literal seven day creation, the literal resurrection of the dead, and those sorts of things either. On the other hand, their morality did come from a Christian background.
ISTM they were cultural Christians as are the vast majority of Westerners -- it's what most were taught on their parents' knee, and they were raised to participate in the rites and forms of church life because in their world that's just what a virtuous respectable person does and it provides community and comfort and a common language with which to refer to the spiritual. For them, having one form or another of "Christian" values pervade society would just be the sociocultural default.

But they were not creating a deliberately Christianity-based polity and most definitely not a theologically "Evangelical" Republic.
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Old 12-12-2019, 08:59 AM
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Originally Posted by iiandyiiii View Post
Those "modern Christians" you refer to are factually incorrect:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Treaty_of_Tripoli

"the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion."

This treaty was signed by John Adams.

And from Thomas Jefferson:

"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. Adhering to this expression of the supreme will of the nation in behalf of the rights of conscience, I shall see with sincere satisfaction the progress of those sentiments which tend to restore to man all his natural rights, convinced he has no natural right in opposition to his social duties."

Also:

"Jefferson's metaphor of a wall of separation has been cited repeatedly by the U.S. Supreme Court. In Reynolds v. United States (1879) the Court wrote that Jefferson's comments "may be accepted almost as an authoritative declaration of the scope and effect of the [First] Amendment." In Everson v. Board of Education (1947), Justice Hugo Black wrote: "In the words of Thomas Jefferson, the clause against establishment of religion by law was intended to erect a wall of separation between church and state.""

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Separa..._United_States

The recognition of "our Creator" in the Declaration of Independence is not specific to any religion at all, much less Christianity.

It should also be noted that the Bill of Rights expressly upholds the right to violate the Ten Commandments and many other Christian laws/rules as a fundamental (and the most important!) right. Only two of the Ten Commandments are backed up by law in the US, and the right to violate many or most of the rest is held as a fundamental right.
I think there's a third enshrined in law:
no killing
no stealing
no bearing false witness (though we've added "under oath" to that).

i think it's torturing the English language to say that violating the others are fundamental rights. Saying that has no more meaning than stating I have the "fundamental" right to eat ice cream. Big whoop.

Last edited by BwanaBob; 12-12-2019 at 09:02 AM.
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Old 12-12-2019, 09:04 AM
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I think there's a third enshrined in law:
no killing
no stealing
no bearing false witness (though we've added "under oath" to that).

i think it's torturing the English language to say that violating the others are fundamental rights. Saying that has no more meaning than stating I have the "fundamental" right to eat ice cream. Big whoop.
Pretty sure that "false idol" stuff is protected under the 1st amendment, and the sex stuff is covered under various rights to privacy... YMMV if those are considered "fundamental" rights, though IMO the 1st Amendment clearly is.
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Old 12-12-2019, 11:07 AM
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I am a little confused by some modern Christian's and their claims our country was founded on Christianity. I think our country was founded on Deism, wasn't it? {...}
AIUI it wasn't founded on any religion. At best, you can say it was founded by people that had a variety 'religious' beliefs.

CMC fnord!
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Old 12-12-2019, 11:30 AM
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I am a little confused by some modern Christian's and their claims our country was founded on Christianity. I think our country was founded on Deism, wasn't it? Jefferson, Ben Franklin and Washington were all Deists, weren't they? And Deists aren't even Christians.
George Washington was an Anglican. Jefferson and Franklin were deists as was the pamphleteer Thomas Paine, but if I recall correctly, all three said that Jesus Christ was the greatest and wisest person ever, or something along those lines. They only denied the divinity of Christ, so the question of whether they were Christians would depend on who's drawing the line.

Among signers of the Declaration of Independence, most were members of Christian denominations. For some their religion was unknown. Only a handle were known to be deists. Full list here.

Last edited by ITR champion; 12-12-2019 at 11:31 AM.
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Old 12-12-2019, 12:01 PM
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People say the U.S. was founded as a Christian nation because the U.S. was founded as a Christian nation.

But that's actually a complicated sentence that takes a book to fully unroll. And many books have tried to do so.

The shortest possible answer I can give is that many of the colonies were founded as religious havens, places where a sect could freely practice their religion - while treating all other religions badly. Ministers were both cultural and political leaders. They made the laws and the laws enshrined their religious practices, many of which last to this day.

After 150 years of this, the colonial laws got transformed into state laws, usually with few changes. It took some states decades to eliminate their state religions. Connecticut didn't do so until 1818, Massachusetts until 1833, and New Hampshire until 1877. For much of this time non-Protestants were barred from holding office. Remember, the Bill of Rights was not seen as applying to state laws until the 14th Amendment.

What's the other side to this? That horrible "D" word: Diversity. It was one thing to impose total control on a small, homogeneous colony, another on ever-growing cities with five-figure populations. And yet another level up to try to enmesh the often antithetical cultures of 13 disputatious colonies. Creating a country with one overriding set of federal laws meant that much of the individuality had to go. The differences between Quaker Pennsylvania and Catholic Maryland and Episcopalian Virginia were profound, and none of these wanted to be governed by the purported Christians in the others. The no establishment of religion clause added to the First Amendment applied to other states as much as it was a reference to the Church of England.

It wasn't so much the religious beliefs of the Founders that set the tone for the country as their political pragmatism (and tacit hatred of others). None of them doubted that this was a Christian nation, if Catholics were counted as Christian, a matter that Protestants often disputed. They lived in a sea of Christians; only a handful, most of them in heathen New York, weren't. But they didn't want any particular sect to rule the others, a remarkably progressive stance for the day.

So. America was founded as a secular nation by a band of fractious Christians. That's ironic. And it sure didn't help non-Christians much for most of the country's history. But the difference between "not much" and "not at all" turned out to be huge, much to the Christians' chagrin, and it gets huger every year. Diversity, again, triumphs.
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Old 12-12-2019, 12:18 PM
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IMHO it's a bit like saying the US was or was not founded as an English speaking nation. It's not codified in federal law, but English is certainly the default language. I don't think any federal laws were officially written in any other language. They've been translated certainly, but if there was any dispute the English version would be official. (This might not apply to treaties.)
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Old 12-12-2019, 01:12 PM
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George Washington was an Anglican. Jefferson and Franklin were deists as was the pamphleteer Thomas Paine, but if I recall correctly, all three said that Jesus Christ was the greatest and wisest person ever, or something along those lines. They only denied the divinity of Christ, so the question of whether they were Christians would depend on who's drawing the line.

Among signers of the Declaration of Independence, most were members of Christian denominations. For some their religion was unknown. Only a handle were known to be deists. Full list here.
Washington was an Anglican, and did go to services, but seldom took communion. Cite

I wouldn't be surprised if Paine said nice things about Jesus (Lenny Bruce did also) but if you read The Age of Reason you can quickly see that he was not a Christian in any way. The book is devoted to the absurdity of the Bible. Paine was not an atheist since he saw no way for the solar system to form without some kind of divine guidance. I suspect he would be an atheist today.
Madison, by the way, supported Paine when he came back from France, so I think he was a deist also. Supporting Paine at that time was not a popular thing to do.
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Old 12-12-2019, 01:19 PM
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Though as the link also states, it was not uncommon to pass on participating in communion in the late 1700s (if you were Protestant). So that doesn't particularly show anything regarding Washington.
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Old 12-12-2019, 02:54 PM
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IMHO it's a bit like saying the US was or was not founded as an English speaking nation.
I agree. The United States has always been a nation in which the citizenry is predominantly Christian. But it was founded on the clearly stated basis that no religion, including Christianity, had any official status or authority.
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Old 12-12-2019, 03:15 PM
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Though as the link also states, it was not uncommon to pass on participating in communion in the late 1700s (if you were Protestant). So that doesn't particularly show anything regarding Washington.
Or a Catholic who hadn't been able to fast. The first Mass used to be super-early to allow people to have a bearable fast; nowadays it's rare to see one before 8am on weekdays or 10am on Sundays and high Holydays. My current parish has them at 9:30am every day.
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Old 12-16-2019, 08:51 PM
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Founders had 3 chances to establish a Christian nation - Declaration of Independence, Articles of Confederation, and the Constitution. Didn’t happen.
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Old 12-16-2019, 09:51 PM
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They only denied the divinity of Christ, so the question of whether they were Christians would depend on who's drawing the line.
Just how many people's "line" characterizes denying the divinity of Christ to be the position of a Christian?
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Old 12-16-2019, 11:19 PM
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Just how many people's "line" characterizes denying the divinity of Christ to be the position of a Christian?
Haven't you noticed that there are 167,000,000 Christians in America and 168,000,000 denominations?
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Old 12-17-2019, 07:33 AM
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It does no good to exaggerate the numbers. It's hard to tell exactly how many denominations there are, but it numbers in the thousands, not the millions.
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Old 12-17-2019, 07:42 AM
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Pretty sure that "false idol" stuff is protected under the 1st amendment, and the sex stuff is covered under various rights to privacy... YMMV if those are considered "fundamental" rights, though IMO the 1st Amendment clearly is.
Sex crimes have been and remain a thing in America. There is no right to privacy. The Georgia Supreme Court overturned their law against fornication (sex by non-married people) the same year the US Supreme Court overturned sodomy laws (Lawrence v Texas 2003). Some Virginia legislators are trying to more narrowly define sodomy so they can bring back sodomy laws.

Depending on jurisdiction, sodomy was defined either by case law or by legislative decree as anal, oral, and anywhere else a couple could think to put a penis. Cunnilingus was usually overlooked.
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Old 12-19-2019, 01:03 PM
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Have little time to participate in this thread, wish I could, but still would like to recommend an excellent book entitled The Religious Beliefs of Our Presidents from Washington to F.D.R. by Franklin Steiner. None of this Christian revisionist funny business going on. If my time frees up next week, and this thread is still going on, will try to make it here.
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Old 12-28-2019, 09:15 PM
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It does no good to exaggerate the numbers. It's hard to tell exactly how many denominations there are, but it numbers in the thousands, not the millions.
I scanned my Sonoma County, California phone book when I lived there before 2002. IIRC the Yellow Pages listed over 300 sects and denominations in the county - not merely separate churches, but distinct religious organizations. This, in a county of about 300k population then. If we scale that up nationwide, our 330-million-odd Murkans would support up to 300k sects. A million? Probably not yet, but just wait awhile...

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Old 12-29-2019, 05:54 AM
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I agree. The United States has always been a nation in which the citizenry is predominantly Christian. But it was founded on the clearly stated basis that no religion, including Christianity, had any official status or authority.
That is absolutely true. No question. However, it is a bit deficient if we are going to be fully honest about the overarching question.

First, the founding documents, questions, and policies were made to differentiate the United States from Great Britain, two nations filled with Christians, but the latter required a specific method of Christian worship.

For that reason we said that not only would there be no compulsion to follow a state religion (and further that we wouldn't have one) we would allow any sort of religious belief, or indeed no religious belief.

Further, this only originally applied to the national government and not to state governments as mentioned above.

None of this calls into question that our basic laws, understandings, and structure of government was based or "founded" on the Christian religion as it clearly and absolutely was. The moral Judeo-Christian law was embedded in early laws such as forbidding blasphemy, profane oaths, travelling on the Sabbath Day, and prohibitions of sodomy, fornication, and adultery, just for a few examples.

None of what you said supports the 60s-80s Supreme Court jurisprudence.

But I agree with the prior poster that we were not in a literal sense "founded" on the Christian religion because it was so rather obvious that such a religion was who we were as a people that such a distinction needed not to be enacted, and the comments about religious freedom were those of tolerance for those who had other religious opinions because we came here because of state demands that we adhere to their particular Christian denomination of religion.

In a sense, we were absolutely "founded" on the Christian religion, but if you equivocate on that word, then we were not.
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Old 12-29-2019, 09:11 AM
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...

None of this calls into question that our basic laws, understandings, and structure of government was based or "founded" on the Christian religion as it clearly and absolutely was. The moral Judeo-Christian law was embedded in early laws such as forbidding blasphemy, profane oaths, travelling on the Sabbath Day, and prohibitions of sodomy, fornication, and adultery, just for a few examples.
...
All of those examples are from the Old Testament, so it sounds like you're arguing that the country was founded on Jewish law to me. And, all the current countries that I can think of that have those laws still on the books are Muslim -- are you saying that Pakistan or Saudi Arabia was founded on Judeo-Christian law? China and Japan seemed to have had laws against sodomy and homosexuality (from a quick Google search) -- are they founded on Judeo-Christian principles?
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Old 12-29-2019, 05:51 PM
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All of those examples are from the Old Testament, so it sounds like you're arguing that the country was founded on Jewish law to me. And, all the current countries that I can think of that have those laws still on the books are Muslim -- are you saying that Pakistan or Saudi Arabia was founded on Judeo-Christian law? China and Japan seemed to have had laws against sodomy and homosexuality (from a quick Google search) -- are they founded on Judeo-Christian principles?
Christianity, Judaism and Islam come from the same basic foundation. It is not unusual that the laws would be similar. Unless you are saying that the United States was founded upon Judaism or Islam, I'm not seeing your point.
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Old 12-29-2019, 06:00 PM
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Christianity, Judaism and Islam come from the same basic foundation. It is not unusual that the laws would be similar. Unless you are saying that the United States was founded upon Judaism or Islam, I'm not seeing your point.
Nearly all the world, Abrahamic or not, had the same prohibitions against sodomy/etc. That's the point -- it wasn't "Christian" -- it was "default". Thomas Jefferson explicitly stated that the US was, in no way, founded upon the Christian religion. The country was founded by people who were mostly Christian, and undoubtedly their sensibilities bled into the founding principles. But the US was and is explicitly a secular nation, in terms of government and founding principles.
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Old 12-29-2019, 06:29 PM
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Though as the link also states, it was not uncommon to pass on participating in communion in the late 1700s (if you were Protestant). So that doesn't particularly show anything regarding Washington.
In the late 1700’s? I was a teen in the late 60’s / early 1970’s, raised Episcopalian. Although I took communion in my church and in other Protestant churches, I was taught that it wasn’t proper for me to take communion in the Catholic Church and some Orthodox denominations. Because they believed in transubstantiation and “we” ( my family and my fellow Episcopalians, I guess ) didn’t.

And it WAS something that came up a lot. I frequently had Saturday night sleepovers with friend and I would go to church with their family in the morning. My church youth group spent a lot of time on comparative religion, and we went to services of other dominations and religions a few times a month - a couple of times a year we would get a weekend trip out of it. And we discussed the religion before attending the service and that included the appropriateness of taking communion.

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Old 12-29-2019, 06:31 PM
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iiandyiiii says it better than I ever could. You just listed aspects of law that are common basically everywhere, and specifically stuff from the Jewish religion. This thread is specifically about Christianity and the founding fathers. Our founding document, the Constitution, says nothing about travelling on the Sabbath or which God, if any, to worship, or any prohibitions on idols, etc.

I would argue that all moral laws come from the same basic foundation -- our inbuilt sense of morality. Even chimps have a moral sense. But, that's an argument for another thread.

ETA: You, meaning Ultravires

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Old 12-29-2019, 08:31 PM
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IMHO it's a bit like saying the US was or was not founded as an English speaking nation. It's not codified in federal law, but English is certainly the default language. I don't think any federal laws were officially written in any other language. They've been translated certainly, but if there was any dispute the English version would be official. (This might not apply to treaties.)
I think this is the best take on it. The whole haggling of "Is America Christian or not" is two sides talking past each other with two different definitions on what "Christian" means. America isn't founded on the Bible, but a large percentage of Americans are Christians.
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Old 12-29-2019, 09:06 PM
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In a sense, we were absolutely "founded" on the Christian religion, but if you equivocate on that word, then we were not.
Quibble: no such thing as "the Christian religion" exists, only scads of sects that may share some symbols but not much else.
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Old 12-29-2019, 10:11 PM
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I think this is the best take on it. The whole haggling of "Is America Christian or not" is two sides talking past each other with two different definitions on what "Christian" means. America isn't founded on the Bible, but a large percentage of Americans are Christians.
Agreed. However I would add to the end of your sentence.....and many of our laws and traditions stem from Christianity.

The problem with "we were not founded on Christianity" is that it seems to imply that we were like the French Revolution and therefore the eradication of religion or religious symbols in public is somehow required. That conclusion does not follow.

But I agree that the purpose of the creation of the United States was not to promote Christianity or embed it in government. But likewise the fact that most people were Christians made the government of the United States--it made it contain many Christian elements and one that was inherently Christian. It just had a clause that said that if you were not a Christian, then no problem.
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Old 12-29-2019, 11:28 PM
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Agreed. However I would add to the end of your sentence.....and many of our laws and traditions stem from Christianity.

The problem with "we were not founded on Christianity" is that it seems to imply that we were like the French Revolution and therefore the eradication of religion or religious symbols in public is somehow required. That conclusion does not follow.
I agree, and "we were not founded on Christianity" implies no such thing. Who said it implied that? It's like you're arguing with yourself.

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But I agree that the purpose of the creation of the United States was not to promote Christianity or embed it in government. But likewise the fact that most people were Christians made the government of the United States--it made it contain many Christian elements and one that was inherently Christian. It just had a clause that said that if you were not a Christian, then no problem.
Which element in the Constitution was inherently Christian?
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Old 12-30-2019, 12:51 AM
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There is no right to privacy.
Wrong unless you want to write the Supreme Court out of the Constitution:
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In the United States, the Supreme Court first recognized the right to privacy in Griswold v. Connecticut (1965). Before Griswold, however, Louis Brandeis (prior to becoming a Supreme Court Justice) co-authored a Harvard Law Review article called "The Right to Privacy," in which he advocated for the "right to be let alone."
... and the fact Griswold is one of my favorite Supreme Court cases ever isn't why I'm citing to it. The holding in that case was very narrow, but on narrow foundations is precedent built, and later cases have expanded the right to privacy we currently enjoy today.

The right to privacy has to be balanced with the right of minors to not be sexually abused, but all rights exist in a similar balance.
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Old 12-30-2019, 04:09 PM
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I agree, and "we were not founded on Christianity" implies no such thing. Who said it implied that? It's like you're arguing with yourself.



Which element in the Constitution was inherently Christian?
1) Many on the left say that. Just last year in the Bladensburg Cross Case, every year with religious displays around the holidays, the Ten Commandments being posted, etc. Those things would have been wholly unobjectionable at the founding and were not even seriously questioned until the 1960s. Saying that "we were not founded on Christianity" gives the impression that there is legitimacy to those arguments. The founders would have not recognized that their tolerance of non-religion demanded that religion be confined to the four walls of a church.

2) The Constitution was written against the backdrop that it was going to govern a Christian population. That was implicit in its design. It was also written for the limited purpose of governing relations between previously independent states. Anything in it must be taken with that understanding.

Many of the State Constitutions, which were close to the people contained religious declarations and religious oaths. See, e.g.

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Originally Posted by First words of MD Constitution
We, the People of the State of Maryland, grateful to Almighty God for our civil and religious liberty,
Again, to say that the United States was not "founded on Christianity" is true only in its most literal application and says nothing about other issues which are always appended to that statement.
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Old 12-30-2019, 04:17 PM
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1) Many on the left say that. Just last year in the Bladensburg Cross Case, every year with religious displays around the holidays, the Ten Commandments being posted, etc. Those things would have been wholly unobjectionable at the founding and were not even seriously questioned until the 1960s. Saying that "we were not founded on Christianity" gives the impression that there is legitimacy to those arguments. The founders would have not recognized that their tolerance of non-religion demanded that religion be confined to the four walls of a church.

2) The Constitution was written against the backdrop that it was going to govern a Christian population. That was implicit in its design. It was also written for the limited purpose of governing relations between previously independent states. Anything in it must be taken with that understanding.

Many of the State Constitutions, which were close to the people contained religious declarations and religious oaths. See, e.g.



Again, to say that the United States was not "founded on Christianity" is true only in its most literal application and says nothing about other issues which are always appended to that statement.
You said "religion or religious symbols in public", not "...on government land." Are you saying that the "Left" is trying to ban the display of crosses on necks, in churches, in private windows, in tattoos? Is the "Left" in this country trying to ban burkas? Or, do you mean government-sanctioned religious display, which is very different from your earlier statement? Can we agree that was a pretty drastic movement of goal posts?

And, the State Constitutions have nothing to do with the Founding Fathers, so would seem to be irrelevant to this thread. If you were to ask me, did some states have an established religion at their founding I would say, "Probably!", but that's not what this thread is about.
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Old 12-30-2019, 04:23 PM
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You said "religion or religious symbols in public", not "...on government land." Are you saying that the "Left" is trying to ban the display of crosses on necks, in churches, in private windows, in tattoos? Is the "Left" in this country trying to ban burkas? Or, do you mean government-sanctioned religious display, which is very different from your earlier statement? Can we agree that was a pretty drastic movement of goal posts?

And, the State Constitutions have nothing to do with the Founding Fathers, so would seem to be irrelevant to this thread. If you were to ask me, did some states have an established religion at their founding I would say, "Probably!", but that's not what this thread is about.
The courthouse is "public" no? I didn't move any goalposts.

The State Constitutions have everything to do with it. The Constitution was written to determine the nature of the national government and its relationship with the states and nothing more. The fact that the founders permitted a society where states could have actual established religions sort of slams the door on the idea that they would have abhorred a nativity scene at the county courthouse.
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Old 12-30-2019, 04:37 PM
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The founders would have not recognized that their tolerance of non-religion demanded that religion be confined to the four walls of a church.
This is a classic example of the "fallacy of the excluded middle". Even a very strict interpretation of separation of church and state--one in which Ten Commandments monuments in courtrooms or on the lawns of state capitols are prohibited; "In God We Trust" is recognized as an inappropriate national motto for a religiously diverse country; and so forth--does not confine religion to "the four walls of a church". Even in a country with very strict SOCAS rules, there would be--as of course there in fact are--a vast array of spaces for the active promotion of religion, "spirituality", irreligion, and anti-religion, and including the promotion of religious belief in general or of a group of related sects or of one specific religious denomination. Those spaces include (among other things) those moveable-letter signs outside the churches, the exteriors and front lawns of private homes, the bumpers of privately-owned vehicles, all sorts of advertising and branding of privately-owned businesses, the distribution of pamphlets or other literature in public places, billboards along the sides of public highways, newspapers and magazines and books (all of which may be purchased, with taxpayer dollars, for display in and loan from public libraries, and which can also be sent through the United States Mail), private schools and private colleges or universities, student organizations in public high schools and most especially in public colleges or universities, radio and television (whether specific programs, or Very Special Episodes of otherwise non-sectarian programs, all the way up to and including entire radio stations or TV channels), message boards and blogs and other websites, and pretty much everything from private conversations to public lectures (the latter of which in many cases could take place in places owned and operated by various levels of government).

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The Constitution was written against the backdrop that it was going to govern a Christian population. That was implicit in its design.
What, exactly, is implicit in the design of the United States Constitution that would somehow make it unsuitable as a governing document for a population that is not majority Christian?
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Old 12-30-2019, 04:49 PM
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What, exactly, is implicit in the design of the United States Constitution that would somehow make it unsuitable as a governing document for a population that is not majority Christian?
The fact that it said only that "Congress" shall not establish a religion but left each state free to do so with the knowledge that many states had done so and those were all Christian denominations.

That makes the idea that the Constitution requires that religion be restricted to only those public places you mentioned nearly laughable.

I have no problem with the idea that as we become a more heterogeneous population with a diversity of religion that perhaps it is a better idea not to have these displays on government property. If you want to have a living constitution and amend it by fiat to say that the Constitution prohibits these displays on government property, then that is another thread. But to say that the founding fathers would have demanded that they be stricken because this country "was not founded on Christianity" is simply not supported by history.
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Old 12-30-2019, 04:51 PM
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The courthouse is "public" no? I didn't move any goalposts.

The State Constitutions have everything to do with it. The Constitution was written to determine the nature of the national government and its relationship with the states and nothing more. The fact that the founders permitted a society where states could have actual established religions sort of slams the door on the idea that they would have abhorred a nativity scene at the county courthouse.
Oh, give me a break. The courthouse is a tiny subset of "in public". You said "in public" not "on public, government owned land." Just own that goalpost move. Jeez. This isn't going to be useful discussion.

The State Constitutions have nothing to do with the Founding Fathers and Christianity, which is the purpose of this thread, except for those State Constitutions that the Founding Fathers wrote. So, I'll give you that for those states where the FFs wrote the Constitutions. Otherwise, we have the written record of one of the FFs specifically saying that the US is in no way founded on the Christian religion. So, yes, they may not have abhorred a nativity scene, just as they may not have abhorred a menorah or the Hebrew Commandments or the Bhagavad Gita, since the US was in no way founded on the Christian religion.
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Old 12-30-2019, 05:06 PM
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Oh, give me a break. The courthouse is a tiny subset of "in public". You said "in public" not "on public, government owned land." Just own that goalpost move. Jeez. This isn't going to be useful discussion.

The State Constitutions have nothing to do with the Founding Fathers and Christianity, which is the purpose of this thread, except for those State Constitutions that the Founding Fathers wrote. So, I'll give you that for those states where the FFs wrote the Constitutions. Otherwise, we have the written record of one of the FFs specifically saying that the US is in no way founded on the Christian religion. So, yes, they may not have abhorred a nativity scene, just as they may not have abhorred a menorah or the Hebrew Commandments or the Bhagavad Gita, since the US was in no way founded on the Christian religion.
Good, so you agree with me that the founders, while not basing a government strictly on Christianity, nonetheless would have had no problem with religious displays on government property, and that they further recognized that they were establishing a government in which individual states could compel Christian worship?

If we can agree on that, then I won't quibble about the "founded on the Christian religion" statement because it is technically true. I only object when the statement is used for nefarious statements that are wholly disconnected from history.
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Old 12-30-2019, 05:12 PM
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Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
The thing is, I don't see any way to restrict this argument to just the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. You can't say that the "red states" can promote Christianity, without also saying that the "blue states" can restrict or even outlaw Christianity. In fact, by the plain text of the First Amendment, all the states can also censor speech they don't like, and lock up journalists who publish things the state government doesn't want published, and call out the National Guard or the State Police to go all Tiananmen Square on any kind of assembly (however peaceable it may be) that the Powers That Be in that particular state don't like. And although the rest of the amendments that make up the Bill of Rights don't specifically include that "Congress shall make no law..." language, the Bill of Rights were adopted as a unit, and before the Civil War it's doubtful that any part of the Bill of Rights would be held to apply to state governments, so having convicted someone of seditious slander of state institutions or blasphemy against the One True Faith or the propagation of anti-science propaganda, a state government could also sentence that person to be drawn and quartered, or have their brain forcibly re-wired, or who knows what; and of course such a "conviction" could be done by some Star Chamber panel of judges, no jury or other due process rights required--IF all we are looking at is the Bill of Rights (the first ten amendments) of the U.S. Constitution.

But we don't live in the Antebellum Era, the Constitution has been repeatedly amended since the adoption of its first ten amendments, and in particular the Fourteenth Amendment guarantees that, as the United States Supreme Court put it, "...a provision of the Bill of Rights that protects a right that is fundamental from an American perspective applies equally to the Federal Government and the States".
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Old 12-30-2019, 05:21 PM
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But we don't live in the Antebellum Era, the Constitution has been repeatedly amended since the adoption of its first ten amendments, and in particular the Fourteenth Amendment guarantees that, as the United States Supreme Court put it, "...a provision of the Bill of Rights that protects a right that is fundamental from an American perspective applies equally to the Federal Government and the States".
The OP asks if the country was founded on Christianity, not what the amendment process was nearly a hundred years later and what the Supreme Court said two hundred years later.

Even if we concede that the entire Bill of Rights is applicable to the States because of the 14th amendment (even though the left wouldn't have applied the 2nd amendment, but that's another thread) it cannot be argued that the 1st Amendment is far stricter on the states than on the feds. This idea of no religion in public schools or government property would have been absurd at the founding and should be equally absurd today.
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Old 12-30-2019, 05:30 PM
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No one is arguing that the First Amendment should be "far stricter on the states than on the feds". We are only arguing that the post-Reconstruction Era Constitution's protections for individual rights should be equally strict on the federal government and on the states.
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Old 12-30-2019, 05:36 PM
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Good, so you agree with me that the founders, while not basing a government strictly on Christianity, nonetheless would have had no problem with religious displays on government property, and that they further recognized that they were establishing a government in which individual states could compel Christian worship?

If we can agree on that, then I won't quibble about the "founded on the Christian religion" statement because it is technically true. I only object when the statement is used for nefarious statements that are wholly disconnected from history.
"Nefarious statements"?? As in, "wicked or criminal"? WTF are you talking about?

Anyway, all of your discussion of the states is utterly irrelevant to this thread, so I'll step away. It's not just technically true, it's also actually true that this country was not founded on the Christian religion. You say that there are parts of the Constitution that came from the Christian bible but then failed to back that up, and instead changed to talking about the states.

As I mentioned above, this isn't a fruitful debate, since you're not actually debating my points or sticking to this subject, so I'll bow out. MEBuckner, thanks for doing the heavy lifting! I love your point about states outlawing Christianity!

ETA: Can you stop with your bullshit broad brush "the Left" asides? It adds exactly nothing to the conversation and just makes it yet another bullshit partisan slog.

Last edited by RitterSport; 12-30-2019 at 05:37 PM.
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Old 12-30-2019, 06:21 PM
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No one is arguing that the First Amendment should be "far stricter on the states than on the feds". We are only arguing that the post-Reconstruction Era Constitution's protections for individual rights should be equally strict on the federal government and on the states.
None of the reconstruction amendments placed any restrictions on the federal government. Not a one. You could argue that the 13th amendment prevented any sort of federal legalization of slavery (which was never contemplated), but the 14th and 15th applied to states only. Nothing in those amendments could reasonably be argued that a restriction of federal power in the BOR was more restricted.

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"Nefarious statements"?? As in, "wicked or criminal"? WTF are you talking about?

Anyway, all of your discussion of the states is utterly irrelevant to this thread, so I'll step away. It's not just technically true, it's also actually true that this country was not founded on the Christian religion. You say that there are parts of the Constitution that came from the Christian bible but then failed to back that up, and instead changed to talking about the states.

As I mentioned above, this isn't a fruitful debate, since you're not actually debating my points or sticking to this subject, so I'll bow out. MEBuckner, thanks for doing the heavy lifting! I love your point about states outlawing Christianity!

ETA: Can you stop with your bullshit broad brush "the Left" asides? It adds exactly nothing to the conversation and just makes it yet another bullshit partisan slog.
My whole point which you have failed to acknowledge or accept is that I have never argued that the United States is a theocracy. However what really is beyond debate and I wish you would simply accept is that the United States was founded by a Christian populace and lived by Christian principles. As such, displays of Christianity at the courthouse or on government property were prevalent and continued to be for nearly two hundred years. This was so undisputed as to not be necessary to discuss it in a constitution which merely discusses the balance of power between states and a new national government it created.

If this new government was meant to prohibit religious displays on government property or otherwise require abject neutrality or hostility towards any displays of religion in this new society, it seems odd that they continued to allow states to do that and so much more.

This nonsense and LOLs about how the states could outlaw Christianity illustrates my point. In a Christian society, you do not have to worry about such a thing so you fail to address it.

If you would agree that "not founded on Christianity" does not equal "no religious displays on government property," then we are good. But you want to equate them.
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Old 12-30-2019, 06:39 PM
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Let me know if you want to re-engage on the topic of this thread, and please bring the cite for the section of the Constitution that was "inherently Christian". Until then, bye!
  #46  
Old 12-31-2019, 12:23 AM
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George Washington was an Anglican. Jefferson and Franklin were deists as was the pamphleteer Thomas Paine, but if I recall correctly, all three said that Jesus Christ was the greatest and wisest person ever, or something along those lines. They only denied the divinity of Christ, so the question of whether they were Christians would depend on who's drawing the line.

Among signers of the Declaration of Independence, most were members of Christian denominations. For some their religion was unknown. Only a handle were known to be deists. Full list here.
IMO if you don't believe Jesus is God, you aren't a Christian.
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Old 01-01-2020, 04:24 PM
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IMO if you don't believe Jesus is God, you aren't a Christian.
And if you do, you're a Paulist, since Yeshua bir Miryam aka Jesus never claimed divinity, and Saul / Paul, the torturer and death-squad leader who founded Xianity, never quoted his supposed lord.
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Old 01-06-2020, 02:44 AM
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IMO if you don't believe Jesus is God, you aren't a Christian.
Agreed.
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Old 01-06-2020, 03:29 PM
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There's a popular saying that is centuries old that often gets attributed to various people, Lord Beaconsfield is one. When people are inclined to ask another what is their religion, some reply, A religion of wise men. And when asked further what that may be, one replies, Wise men never tell. There are many times when George Washington was pressed to say one way or the other what his personal religious beliefs were. If he was some kind of Christian, I think it would have benefited him politically to do say so.

However, if he was a Deist, he had to be more careful, more so for total unbelief, it wouldn't have been wise to say so (see what happened to Thomas Paine for just being a Deist). I think he went to his grave never showing his hand.

The Mt. Vernon site does use Franklin Stenier on occasion with some authors, something I wished they would have went to more, because he tracked down many of the popular sources trying to Christianize Washington posthumously. He also relied on his best source of all, George Washington's personal diaries which he started writing at age 13, and often daily entries up until his death. His diaries are also on-line at the Library of Congress, although a difficult read due to his cursive style.

I found Franklin Steiner on-line, and here is the entry on George Washington that is only a 20-30 minute read:George Washington-The Vestryman Who Was Not A Communicant
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Old 01-06-2020, 04:32 PM
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Good, so you agree with me that the founders, while not basing a government strictly on Christianity, nonetheless would have had no problem with religious displays on government property,
"The fair inference is that there was no common understanding about the limits of the establishment prohibition, and the dissent’s conclusion that its narrower view was the original understanding, post, at 2–3, stretches the evidence beyond tensile capacity. What the evidence does show is a group of statesmen, like others before and after them, who proposed a guarantee with contours not wholly worked out, leaving the Establishment Clause with edges still to be determined. And none the worse for that. Indeterminate edges are the kind to have in a constitution meant to endure, and to meet “exigencies which, if foreseen at all, must have been seen dimly, and which can be best provided for as they occur.” McCreary County v. American Civil Liberties Union of Ky., 545 U.S. 844 (2005).
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