The Faith of our Founding Fathers
In response to several posts for and against religion in government, I thought I would reprint this article by Dean Worbis. I guess it is easy to find quotes by people long dead to support your position so here is my submission.
No one disputes the faith of our Founding Fathers. To speak of "unalienable Rights being endowed by a Creator" certainly shows a sensitivity to our non-denominational spiritual selves. What is surprising is when modern Protestants think the Founding Father's faith had anything to do with the Bible. Without exception, the faith of our Founding Fathers was Deist, not Theist. Deism is the acknowledgement and belief in a higher, Divine creative and sustaining power, apart and removed from the confines of conventional organized religions. It was best expressed earlier in the Declaration of Independence, when they spoke of "the Laws of Nature" and of "Nature's God." "God" has been used throughout the history of the English language as a noun - synonymous with "Deity" and only recently has been usurped as only implying the name of the primary Deity of the Protestant faiths.
In a sermon of October 1831, Episcopalian minister Bird Wilson said, "Among all of our Presidents, from Washington downward, not one was an adherent of religion, at least not of more than Unitarianism."
The Bible? Here is what our Founding Fathers wrote about Bible-based Christianity:
"The United States is not a Christian nation any more than it is a Jewish or a Mohammedan nation."
Article 11 states: "The Government of the United States is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion."
-- Treaty of Tripoli (1797) signed by President John Adams
" I almost shudder at the thought of alluding to the most fatal example of the abuses of grief which the history of humankind has preserved - the Cross. Consider what calamities that engine of grief has produced!"
"Where do we find a precept in the Bible for Creeds, Confessions, Doctrines and Oaths, and whole cartloads of other trumpery that we find religion encumbered with in these days?"
"The doctrine of the divinity of Jesus is made a convenient cover for absurdity."
"Whenever we read the obscene stories, the voluptuous debaucheries, the cruel and tortuous executions, the unrelenting vindictiveness with which more than half the Bible is filled, it would be more consistent that we call it the word of a demon than the word of God. It is a history of wickedness that has served to corrupt and brutalize humankind."
"Any system of religion that has anything in it that shocks the mind of a child, cannot be a true system."
"Persecution is not an original feature in any religion; but it is always the strongly marked feature of all religions established by law."
"The Christian church has set up a religion of pomp and revenue in pretend imitation of a person, Jesus, who lived a life of poverty."
"Among the most detestable villains in history, you could not find one worse than Moses. Here is an order, attributed to 'God' to butcher the boys, to massacre the mothers, and to debauch and rape the daughters. I would not dare to 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."
"Accustom a people to believe that priests and clergy can forgive sins...and you will have sins in abundance."
"When a religion is good, I conceive it will support itself; and when it does not support itself, and God does not take care to support it so that its professors are obliged to call for help of the civil power, 'tis a sign, I apprehend, of its being a bad one."
Ulysses S. Grant:
"Leave the matter of religion to the family altar, the church, and the private schools, supported entirely by private
contributions. Keep the church and the state forever separated."
"During almost fifteen centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial. What has 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? 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."
Madison objected to state-supported chaplains in Congress and to the exemption of churches from taxation. He wrote: "Religion and government will both exist in greater purity, the less they are mixed together."
These Founding Fathers were a reflection of the American population. Having escaped from the state-established religions of Europe, only 7% of the people in the 13 colonies belonged to a church when the Declaration of
Independence was signed.
Among those who confuse Christianity with the founding of America, the rise of conservative Baptists is one of the more interesting developments. The Baptists believed God's authority came from the people, not the priesthood,
and they had been persecuted for this belief. It was they - the Baptists - who were instrumental in securing the separation of church and state. They knew you can not have a "one-way-wall" that lets religion into government
but that does not let it out. They knew no religion is capable of handling political power without becoming corrupted by it. And, perhaps, they knew it was Christ himself who first proposed the separation of church and state; "Give unto Caesar that which is Caesar's and unto the Lord that which is the Lord's."
In the last few years Christianity, and Baptists in particular, have been taken over by a fundamentalist faction that insists authority comes from the Bible and that the individual must accept the interpretation of the Bible from a higher authority. These usurpers of the Christian faith are those who insist they should meddle in the affairs of the government and it is they who insist the government should meddle in the affairs of individuals.
WWJD: What Would Jefferson Do?
April 13, 2003 marked Thomas Jefferson's 260th birthday. In honor of this occasion, Americans United has pulled together some of Jefferson's best statements on church and state. Jefferson, along with James Madison, was a
key architect of the religious liberty guarantees we enjoy today. What better way to honor the memory of this visionary founder than spending a few moments reading and reflecting on his timeless wisdom? With issues such as voucher aid to religious schools and government-sponsored prayer in public schools pending in Congress and the state legislatures, Jefferson's comments are just as relevant today as they were then.
Religious Right activists claim the framers never intended to separate church and state. Christian Coalition president Pat Robertson says separation is a "lie of the left." TV preacher Jerry Falwell calls it "a modern fabrication."
Here are Jefferson's own words on the subject.
Separation of Church and State:
"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."
--Letter to the Danbury (Conn.) Baptist Association, January 1, 1802
Taxation for Religion:
"To compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves, is sinful and tyrannical; that even the forcing of him to support this or that teacher of his own religious persuasion, is depriving him of the comfortable liberty of giving his contributions to the particular pastor whose morals he would
make his pattern, and whose powers he feels most persuasive to righteousness....Be it therefore enacted by the General Assembly, That no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burdened 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 opinions in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish, enlarge, or affect their civil capacities." -- Excerpts from Jefferson's Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, 1786
Government-Sponsored Prayer and Other Religious Worship:
"I do not believe it is for the interest of religion to invite the civil magistrate to direct its exercises, its discipline, or its doctrines; nor of the religious societies, that the General Government should be invested with the power of effecting any uniformity of time or matter among them. Fasting and prayer are religious exercises; the enjoining them an act of discipline. Every religious society has a right to determine for itself the times for these exercises, and the objects proper for them, according to their own particular tenets; and the right can never be safer than in their hands, where the Constitution has deposited it." -- Letter to Samuel Miller, January 23, 1808
Other views on the Bible and Christianity:
"Question with boldness even the existence of God; because if there be one, He must approve the homage of Reason rather than that of blindfolded Fear."
"It does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are 20 gods, or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg."
"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."
"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 imposters led by Paul, the first great corrupter of the teachings of Jesus."
"The clergy converted the simple teachings of Jesus into an engine for enslaving mankind and adulterated by artificial constructions into a contrivance to filch wealth and power to themselves...these clergy in fact, constitute the real Anti-Christ."
Jefferson's word for the Bible? "Dunghill."
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References: The writings of Thomas Jefferson exist in 25 volumes. Much of the quotes of Jefferson came from "THE MEMOIRS, CORRESPONDENCE AND MISCELLANIES FROM THE PAPERS OF THOMAS JEFFERSON," 4 volumes. Edited by Thomas Jefferson Randolph (the grandson of Thomas Jefferson).
References for this article were also found in the book, SIX HISTORIC AMERICANS, by John E. Remsburg
(who interviewed many of Lincoln's associates).
So there you go...flame away. Tell me I am going to Hell (something in which I do not believe anyway). But the words of our Forefathers can not be disputed.
My belief is simple. No matter what your religion, it DOES NOT BELONG IN GOV''T. This is a simple concept which some can not grasp for some reason. When we have religion in gov't, people get hurt and oppressed. It is an historical fact. The Christian Bible foretells this very things in Revelations, with the one world gov't and the number of the beast and so on. Subscribe to the party line, or you can not be a member of society. Our history (even recent history) is rife with abuses of power ,and subsequently of people. When religion and gov't mix we get Crusades, Inquisitions, Jihads, Fatwahs. We have a nation that is far too diverse in culture and heritage and varied religions to pick just one to be the Official Religion. So no, as I stated before. God...which ever one you choose...does not belong, nor have an Official place in goverment.
Peace and Light