Is America a Christian Nation?

November 28, 2007 | By | 15 Replies More

Any fundamentalist will tell you that our nation was founded as a Christian nation by Christians and for Christians. Their carefully crafted surveys show that a massive majority of Americans say that they are Christian, and therefore approve the fundamentalist platform.

Let’s look at some of their potent evidence. I pulled this fact from a Christian political activist site, ObjectiveMinistries.org

“Done in Convention by the Unanimous Consent of the States present the Seventeenth Day of September in the Year of our Lord [i.e. Jesus Christ] one thousand seven hundred and Eighty seven and of the Independence of the United States of America the Twelfth In Witness whereof We have hereunto subscribed our Names…”

– Article VII, US Constitution

Yeah. I’m sure that our Deist founders inserted the phrase “Year of our lord” to enforce Christian doctrine. This was simply a declaration of what calendar they were using (as opposed to the Chinese or Hebrew calendars). But then, this site also is currently pushing “Roy Moore for Alabama Governor — Taking America Back For The Lord One State At A Time!”

Apparently the word “Objective” in their URL refers to its meaning as “Target” rather than “unbiased”. I got to this site while looking for the obvious parody site, LandoverBaptist.org. Anyone with the sense of a 10 year old would recognize that it is a pointed parody, yet the ObjectiveMinitries site has labeled it as hate-speech and misleading, and is running a campaign to get it shut down.

I suggest viewing both sites regularly, one to see what the radical churchies are up to, and the other for comic relief. Mind the ads in the latter.

But, back to my point: America was founded in part to avoid having “the church” be a political player. Every time ossified doctrine directs social interaction, things go badly. Our founders knew their history. When authors of the Federalist Papers, the Declaration of Independence, or the Constitution mention “God”, it is generally in a vague, Einsteinian sense of a generic creator or an embodiment of eternity.

Our nation was born when western culture was beginning to embrace the intersection of evidence and reason. This Dangerous Intersection was beginning to supplant the earlier blend of supposition and reason; the Aristotelian method. That technique had a good run, and did its bit to move civilization forward. But around the time of our secession from the British Empire, educated people were aware of the widening gap between what the church claimed, and what correlated evidence proved.

But weren’t our founders all raised as Christians? I’ll address the few Jews shortly. Well, they were also raised as farmers. As people learn, they outgrow insufficient memes. As for Jews, they were always here. The first religious refugees to come and permanently settle in the future United States were Spanish Jews. Look that one up for yourself.

For more about our founders, try this article at infidels.org.

But, what about current demographics? Most non-believers and undecided folk were raised in this Christian culture. Given a survey where the choices are Christian, Jew, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, or Atheist, these would likely pick “Christian” rather than the loaded, hated “Atheist”. After all, Pascal’s Wager isn’t a bad bet unless you look at the numbers. Keep in mind that many versions of Christianity now popular in the U.S. claim that most of the others are false. Choose with care!

I don’t deny that more people attend Christian churches of some sort or another in the country than all the others combined. But to leave room for the others, it is imperative that we stop passing laws based on one particular faith, especially those that go against the conclusions of Science.

“Science is just another religion,” I hear from the back row. No. Science is a filter for progressively separating reality from nonsense, and carefully recording both. “Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.” – Philip K. Dick

From the 1940’s through the 1970’s, America was an important nation of Science and industry. We have since been sliding down the slope into a nation of faith. We are no longer #1. Watch this Bill Maher riff on that topic.

So, in conclusion, I admit that there are more Christians here than any other faith. However, the intentions of our founders was to create a nation of reason and morality, not blind obedience to any particular brand of invisible friend.

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Category: Current Events, History, Politics, Religion

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A convoluted mind behind a curly face. A regular traveler, a science buff, and first generation American. Graying of hair, yet still verdant of mind. Lives in South St. Louis City. See his personal website for (too much) more.

Comments (15)

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  1. Mary says:

    Dan – You'll be interested in seeing The Barbary Treaties: Treaty of Peace and Friendship, Signed at Tripoli November 4, 1796. Link here: http://www.yale.edu/lawweb/avalon/diplomacy/barba

    If it doesn't automatically come up at this point, scroll down to Article 11.

  2. Dan Klarmann says:

    Mary: I've seen that treaty. Started under Washington, it was ratified by John Adams, arguably the most intelligent of all presidents (and looking good on the 2007 Dollar coin).

    11. As the government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion

    One of my favorite lines of American Policy from the early years.

  3. Erich Vieth says:

    "Christian" means a lot of different things to different people. Are we a "Christian nation"? It depends.

    If by "Christian nation" one means that we love our enemies, then, sorry, we're not a Christian nation.

    If by "Christian nation" one means a nation where there are a lot of Christians, then that is statistically plausible.

    If by "Christian nation" one means we don't torture, sorry, we don't qualify.

    If by "Christian nation" one means we are kind and decent to the poor and disenfranchised, then those atheist Scandinavian nations are more "Christian" than we are.

    If by "Christian nation" one means that our government has the right to make laws respecting the establishment of Christianity, then, sorry. The First Amendment prohibits this activity and it also outlaws the government from prohibiting the free exercise of any religion other than Christianity.

    If by "Christian nation" one means that we have lots of people here who cherry-pick our founding documents to embellish their loud and false claims that we are a Christian nation, then, unfortunately, that is too often true.

  4. Erich Vieth says:

    Thanks for the reminder to visit Landover Baptist Church. I found this advice at the Landover site today:

    Our motto is "get saved, get to a Christian Clothing store, and get fitted for the kingdom." A man should dress and act like a man, and a woman should dress and act like a submissive female helpmate. That about sums it up.

  5. xiaogou says:

    Erich, if we take the Bible as the book that Christians follow. Then it should describe what a Christian nation should be like. Without going into long drawn out details I will come to the point, the Bible itself states that America is not a Christian nation. If one says America is a Christian nation or Judeo-Christian nation is stating an oxymoron. For Christians to say such things actually means either they have no understanding of their own religious text or they are not really Christians. (one exception is the Latter Day Saints)

  6. Ben says:

    I thought America was a Mormon Nation?

    I asked Mr. Romney whether he would consider including qualified Americans of the Islamic faith in his cabinet as advisers on national security matters, given his position that "jihadism" is the principal foreign policy threat facing America today. He answered, "…based on the numbers of American Muslims [as a percentage] in our population, I cannot see that a cabinet position would be justified. But of course, I would imagine that Muslims could serve at lower levels of my administration."

    Romney, whose Mormon faith has become the subject of heated debate in Republican caucuses, wants America to be blind to his religious beliefs and judge him on merit instead. Yet he seems to accept excluding Muslims because of their religion, claiming they're too much of a minority for a post in high-level policymaking.

    http://www.unscrewingtheinscrutable.com/node/1627 http://www.slate.com/id/2178568/

    It ought to be borne in mind that Romney is not a mere rank-and-file Mormon. His family is, and has been for generations, part of the dynastic leadership of the mad cult invented by the convicted fraud Joseph Smith. It is not just legitimate that he be asked about the beliefs that he has not just held, but has caused to be spread and caused to be inculcated into children. It is essential. Here is the most salient reason: Until 1978, the so-called Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was an officially racist organization. Mitt Romney was an adult in 1978. We need to know how he justified this to himself, and we need to hear his self-criticism, if he should chance to have one.

    The Book of Mormon, when it is not "chloroform in print" as Mark Twain unkindly phrased it, is full of vicious ingenuity…

  7. Dwight says:

    It's specifically dishonest of ObjectiveMinistries to claim that the postscript to the Constitution beginning "Done in Convention by the Unanimous Consent of the States …" is part of Article VII. It is clearly not, as can be seen in this facsimile of the last page of the Constitution. In fact, immediately after Article VII comes the errata, not the postscript they quote, and it clearly does not belong to Article VII either.

  8. grumpypilgrim says:

    A couple of thoughts:

    1) I find it utterly absurd that Christian fundies should be discussing this issue at all, as if American federal government policy in the 21st century should hinge upon whether or not George Washington took communion more than two centuries ago.

    2) The fact that Christian fundies are so vigorously pursuing their goals through political means speaks volumes about their inability to achieve their goals through non-political means; i.e., prayer.

  9. Dan Klarmann says:

    "[Separation of Church and State] was not a sop to Jews or Muslims or ACLU atheists. It was developed to keep some Christians from ruling the consciences of other Christians"

    This article from the Houston Chronicle lists many events of the early, "more Christian" America that make me glad that we have less Christian values now than then. Or arguably more, depending on whose version of "Christian" we are using.

  10. Erich Vieth says:

    Here's another Bill Maher video on religion. Maher is behind Religulous, a documentary critical of religion. Here's Maher discussing it. Religulous will be released about Easter, 2008. Maher argues that "We need a person of doubt in the White House." Here is another exerpt of Maher discussing his documentary with Larry King.

  11. I'm looking forward to seeing Religulous very much! Do I think that it will start an agnostics revolution? No. Despite the statistic that Maher presents that 20% of all young people are doubters, one must never underestimate the power of fear and inertia.

    In my experience most strongly religious people are abjectly and horrifyingly in terror of the Great Abyss. So much so that they will accept any ludicrous claim as long as they are promised a reprieve from oblivion.

    Most of the rest (again, this is in my experience) are just lazy. They don't really give a s**t one way or the other. It's just something they do so the wife won't get mad or they won't seem like a weirdo.

    This documentary will do little to affect either kind of religious person.

  12. Dan Klarmann says:

    Imagine a double feature of "Religulous" and Ben Stein's "EXPELLED: No Intelligence Allowed", that documents the persecution of Creationists in the science world.

    But I haven't seen an actual double feature since the Tivoli (local repertory cinema with 7 different double features a week in the 1970's and 1980's) went multiplex.

  13. Alvin Ambers says:

    That was a convoluted concoction of rhetoric with little if any substance. I am posting some of the minutes from the Congressional sessions on the proposed First Amendment which any objective reading of can leave NO DOUBT what the founding father's intentions were. Banning religion from government was probably the farthest thing from their minds. I have more examples of public and private statements by some members which supports the view that God was ESSENTIAL to America in every way, including government and school. I don't expect the facts to change the minds of those who are intent of banning God (Christian one anyway), but I believe in these minutes an objective mind will see the truth of the matter, and all the denial in the world will not change the facts. I had posted this on another web-site.

    The Amendment to the Third Article reads:

    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.

    Some people quote the "wall of separation" statement as if it was written

    into the Constitution. It wasn't.

    Thomas Jefferson said: 'I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of

    the whole American people [the First Amendment] 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….." (emphasis added). Jefferson's statement actually addressed the concern that GOVERNMENT could attempt to disallow or ban RELIGION, thereby infringing upon the rights of

    the people to have and EXPRESS their religion.

    From the 1789 Congressional debates on the "no establishment of religion"

    Amendment, these are the most pertinent thoughts as expressed by members

    regarding the core intention of the Amendment. These expressions reveal

    that core intention to be that no particular DENOMINATION would be

    established as the official NATIONAL RELIGION. I have highlighted the

    essential words and phrases in all capital letters.

    Mr. SYLVESTER had some doubts of the propriety of the mode of expression used in this paragraph. He apprehended that it was liable to a construction different from what had been made by the committee. HE FEARED IT MIGHT BE THOUGHT TO ABOLISH RELIGION ALTOGETHER.

    Mr. GERRY said it would read better if it was no religious DOCTRINE shall

    be established by law.

    Mr. MADISON said he apprehended the meaning of the words to be, that

    Congress should not establish a religion, and enforce the legal observation

    of it by law, nor compel men to worship God in any manner CONTRARY TO THEIR

    CONSCIENCE. Whether the words are necessary or not, he did not mean to say,

    but they had been required by some of the state conventions, who seemed to

    entertain an opinion, that under the clause of the Constitution, which gave

    power to Congress to make all laws necessary and proper to carry into

    execution the constitution, and the laws made under it, enabled them to

    make laws of such a nature as might infringe the rights of conscience, and

    establish a NATIONAL RELIGION; to prevent these effects he presumed the

    amendment was intended, and he thought it as well expressed as the nature of the language would admit.

    Mr. HUNTINGTON said . . . By the charter of Rhode Island, no religion could

    be established by law; he could give a history of the effects of such a

    regulation; indeed the people were now enjoying the blessed fruits of it.

    He hoped, therefore, the amendment would be made in such a way as to secure

    the rights of conscience, and the free exercise of religion, BUT NOT TO

    PATRONIZE THOSE WHO PROFESSED NO RELIGION AT ALL.

    Mr. MADISON thought, if the word 'NATIONAL' was inserted before religion,

    it would satisfy the minds of honorable gentlemen. He believed that the

    people feared one sect might obtain a pre-eminence, or two combined

    together, and establish a religion, to which they would compel others to

    conform. He thought if the word 'National' was introduced, IT WOULD POINT

    THE AMENDMENT DIRECTLY TO THE OBJECT IT WAS INTENDED TO PREVENT.

    The intention was, although back then there weren't as many different

    denominations as there are now, to not establish, say, the Baptist Church as being the official church of the United States. This is abundantly clear in a

    reading of the member's statements and concerns. It also makes perfect sense as many knew all too well the oppression that could result because England had an official state church (The Church of England). Further, to reiterate, the

    PROTECTION was imbued to Faith (religion) to prevent it being usurped by the GOVERNMENT. This is precisely what is being done now when some are distorting the Constitution to ban the Ten Commandments and mention of God in school, etc.

    There are NUMEROUS statements by these same men and others admnishing that God was a NECESSARY element to American life and Government. There is no real controversy about what the Constitution and the intent behind it was. The only controversy is that created by the lying claims of some that our Constitution intended no place for religion in Government or public expression.

    Let no one tell you that America was not and is not a Christian Nation, or that Judeo-Christians have no right to express and exercise the Faith in any and EVERY venue of life, INCLUDING Government.

  14. Erich Vieth says:

    Alvin Ambers: Even if the U.S. Constitution establishes a national religion, it certainly doesn't establish a "Christian" nation. The word Christian does not appear in the Constitution. Nor does the word "Jesus." Your interpretation is consistent with the U.S. being a Muslim Nation, a Mormon Nation or a Hindu Nation.

    I've printed your comment in full, even though you haven't included any links to the material you've cited. I leave it to readers to double-check to make sure that your historical assertions are accurate. In the meantime, I would urge you to provide links to reputable sites to substantiate this material.

    As an attorney, I am well aware that there is a maxim in law that when interpreting enacted law, the first and only method, when the meaning seems clear from the words themselves, is to rely only on the words themselves. With that maxim in mind, you need to go to the source and reconsider the exact wording of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Ask yourself how it is that those words establish a national religion, where non-believers are made second-class citizens or where Jesus is honored as a Divine. The founding fathers certainly knew all about the many claims regarding the alleged divinity of Jesus. They all knew about the Bible. Many of them were, to some extent, religious. As you can see by a simple and quick reading of the First Amendment, all of these questions are fully answered:

    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.

    As the U.S. Supreme Court held in Board of Education of Kiryas Joel Village School District v. Grumet, 512 U.S. 687 (1994), the government "should not prefer one religion to another, or religion to irreligion".

  15. grumpypilgrim says:

    Alvin Ambers: I have not researched your assertions to see if you have accurately reflected the statements of (some of) the people who wrote the U.S. Constitution, but I do know that when it came time to sign the final version of that document, they quite clearly rejected the notion of a national religion. Indeed, those guys said a lot of things that never made it into the final draft, and they also compromised and left many sections deliberately ambiguous because it was the only way they could reach agreement on the final draft. Given all these uncertainties about what they truly "intended," there simply is no valid basis upon which to pick and choose among the things they said but didn't codify. As Erich points out, the only valid landmark we have is the document itself, and it expressly rejects the notion of an officially, government-sanctioned religion.

    Moreover, although it is true that everyone who works in any job inevitably carries their experiences and beliefs, including their spiritual beliefs, there is obviously a vast difference between having the freedom to entertain personal spiritual beliefs in the privacy of one's mind and (mis)using the power of the state to impose those beliefs on the other citizens of that state. In this regard, religion poses what is arguably the greatest threat to democracy: a mindset that ignores (indeed, vilifies, even demonizes) the wishes of the minority. When religious believers declare themselves to be the sole arbiters of public morality, public immorality (war, genocide, torture, The Inquisition, etc.) will almost surely follow.

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