Discussing politics with Fundagelicals is often challenging to the patience and intelligence of non-Fundagelicals. The religious right has created so many “alternative facts” about history that political mythology has replaced political science. Fundagelicals love to claim that the United States was founded as a “Christian nation.” They use this claim to further their agenda of setting up a theocracy. Woe to us if they succeed. Their Fundagelical theocracy will be based on their religious right interpretation of the Bible instead of the actual teachings of Jesus.
Let’s bust this myth of the United States being founded as a Christian nation right now. Here are the key arguments you might hear to support their claim.
- The founding fathers were all Christians.
- The Declaration of Independence references God.
- The United States was founded on Judeo-Christian principles.
- We print “In God We Trust” on our money.
- The phrase “Under God” is in the pledge of allegiance.
As for the claim itself, “The United States was founded as a Christian Nation.” historians are quick to point out the Constitution, written in 1787 to replace the earlier Articles of Confederation, has no mention of Christianity and only two references to religion. Article VI prohibits any “religious test” for political office. If our founders wished a “Christian nation” they would have written in a “Be a Christian” religious test. The First Amendment bars laws “respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” In other words, the government isn’t to impose or interfere in religious practices. Also, the very first treaty the new United States signed under the Constitution was the Treaty of Tripoli (now Libya). In that treaty was the following clause in Article 11 of the English language American version which states that “the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion.”
Fundagelicals don’t like to let facts get in the way of their arguments, so they move on to the secondary arguments listed above. Let’s look at those.
The Founding Fathers were all Christians.
While many of the founding fathers were Christians, they were certainly not what Fundagelicals would consider “Real Christians” or “Born Again” Christians. Many were Anglican/Episcopalians, Presbyterians, and Congregationalists. If you mix in the Unitarians, Deist, and Catholics, the list of “Real Christians,” according to Fundagelicals is small. Remember that Fundagelicals don’t recognize Catholics as Christians; Fundagelicals don’t recognize Episcopalians as Christians; Fundagelicals don’t recognize each other at the porn store. Most of our Founding Fathers would fail the religious test to qualify as a “Real Christian.” It’s a good thing that no religious test for public office was added to the constitution. Check out the article by the Encyclopedia Britannica on the religious backgrounds of our Founding Fathers.
The Declaration of Independence references God.
The Religious Right cites the following phrases: “The Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God,” “Their Creator,” “The Supreme Judge of the world” and “Divine Providence.” These are more Deistic ideas than Christian. There is no mention of Jesus, Yahweh, Elohim, or the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
The United States was founded on Judeo-Christian principles.
The Religious Right often cites the Ten Commandments as principles that are built into our laws. Let’s look at them.
Commandments 1-4 established Yahweh as the only God, other gods and idols are not permitted, Using Yahweh’s name in vain was prohibited and the Sabbath was enforced. The First Amendment does allow for other gods, you can make all the idols you want, free speech allows for you to take the Lord’s name in vain, and except for Chik-Fil-A, working on Sunday isn’t against the law.
Commandment 5 is to honor your father and mother. Let me scan my copy of the Constitution. No moms and dads in it. Except for the Hallmark Holidays of Mother’s Day and Father’s day, established long after our constitution, no fifth commandment in our founding documents.
Commandments 6-9 are basics of any civilization. It would be equally true to say that the United States was founded on the Code of Hammurabi if you use the commands not to steal, murder, bear false testimony, or commit adultery as evidence for the basis of our laws.
Commandment 10 is not to covet. Sorry, not in our founding documents. Americans love to covet. Advertisers work hard to make us covet, so we buy stuff. Coveting is a way of life. Even Fundagelicals covet. I was often told they would “Covet my prayers” for whatever it was they wanted my prayers for. So much for Judeo-Christian principles.
We print “In God We Trust” on our money.
“In God we trust” was printed on one type of coin (1863) during the Civil War (Lincoln had declared martial law and suspended Habeas Corpus) and wasn’t added to our general currency until 1956. That’s a long time after the Founding Fathers. That was during the “Red Scare” and the Communist witch hunts. Adding “In God We Trust” was a product of a dark time in U.S. history. Both times “In God We Trust” was added to our currency was during times of fear and great political disunity. Neither time was at the founding of our county.
Interestingly enough, our supposed Christian Forefathers did create a symbol for the United States, the goddess Columbia. She appeared on many of our coins in the early years of the United States, the District of Columbia is named after her, and Hail Columbia is the official song for the Vice President of the United States. Sorry, Pence, you get heralded onstage by an anthem to a made-up goddess.
The phrase “Under God” is in our Pledge of Allegiance.
True it’s there now, but the Pledge of Allegiance was written in August 1892 by the socialist minister Francis Bellamy. It wasn’t created by our Founding Fathers. In fact, I’m sure Fundagelicals would have an apoplectic fit over the fact it was written by a (GASP!) socialist.
The original pledge didn’t contain the words “Under God.” The pledge has been changed multiple times over the years and the phrase “Under God” was added during the dark days of McCarthyism in 1954. Ironically it was added between “One nation” and “Indivisible.”
Fundagelicals have created a mythology that inserts Christianity into politics. The perpetuation of this myth is nothing short of a lie. For a nation whose laws are supposedly built on the Ten Commandments breaking the ninth commandment to prove your point seems self-defeating. It is this kind of Fundagelical myth-making that has created a deep divide in our country. It is this kind of Fundagelical myth-making that our Founders feared. James Madison wrote, (Federalist Papers, Number Ten) that the zeal of different opinions concerning religion has divided humankind into parties and enflamed mutual animosity.
It should be noted that the original motto for the United States was “E Pluribus Unum” (from many, one). Fundagelicals have erased that unifying theme and replaced it with their divisive myth.
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