So many, many times I hear so many of my fellow Americans claim that the United States is a Christian nation, as our founding fathers intended it to be. They continue to claim that our founders were god fearing, Christian men who for all intents and purposes designed our nation to be Christian, first and foremost. They are simply mistaken.
Many of the men who helped forge this great nation of ours were indeed Christians. Some were deists who believed in a supreme creator, but that creator took no active interests in the daily lives of his greatest creation, mankind.
Our founders were products of The Enlightenment, or the Age of Reason. The Age of Reason was a cultural movement of intellectuals beginning in late 17th-century Europe emphasizing reason and individualism rather than tradition. Its purpose was to reform society using reason, to challenge ideas grounded in tradition and faith, and to advance knowledge through the scientific method. It promoted scientific thought, skepticism, and intellectual interchange. The Enlightenment was a revolution in human thought. This new way of thinking was that rational thought begins with clearly stated principles, uses correct logic to arrive at conclusions, tests the conclusions against evidence, and then revises the principles in the light of the evidence.
Many of the founders saw, first hand, the terrible results of religious rule in Europe. They saw the fear and subservience that came from allowing religion a large hand in governing the people of Europe, and elsewhere in the world. As a result, they were determined not to allow such ignorance, freedom killing, thought killing dominance occur in the, oh so new nation, they were building.
I offer here some prime examples of their views on religion having the final say in the lives of men and women. These are some of their very well thought out and experience guided beliefs on religion and why religion should not be allowed to govern a nation of free thinking, liberty loving people.
“If I could conceive that the general government might ever be so administered as to render the liberty of conscience insecure, I beg you will be persuaded, that no one would be more zealous than myself to establish effectual barriers against the horrors of spiritual tyranny, and every species of religious persecution.”
– George Washington, letter to the United Baptist Chamber of Virginia (1789)
“Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, then that of blindfolded fear.”
– Thomas Jefferson, letter to Peter Carr (1787)
“Persecution is not an original feature in any religion; but it is always the strongly marked feature of all religions established by law. Take away the law-establishment, and every religion re-assumes its original benignity.”
– Thomas Paine, The Rights of Man (1791)
“I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people build a wall of separation between Church & State.”
– Thomas Jefferson, letter to the Danbury Baptists (1802)
“Congress has no power to make any religious establishments.”
– Roger Sherman, Congress (1789)
“In regard to religion, mutual toleration in the different professions thereof is what all good and candid minds in all ages have ever practiced, and both by precept and example inculcated on mankind.”
– Samuel Adams, The Rights of the Colonists (1771)
“Our civil rights have no dependence on our religious opinions, any more than our opinions in physics or geometry.”
– Thomas Jefferson, A Bill for Establishing Religious Freedom (1779)
These are but a handful of very clear examples that show just what our founders thought about religious rule. There is little doubt in these wonderful thoughts that the founders clearly wanted a secular nation with the people being able to choose which faith they would follow, or if they chose no faith at all. This is what is meant when they spoke of religious freedom. They clearly meant that there should be no state religion, and no religious meddling in the creation of our laws.
They very clearly believed that no religion should be dominant over any other. They did not want any single religion to have power over, and control those who were of different faiths.