Were America’s Founding Principles, Christian Principles?

A couple of days ago, in some comments on another post, a commenter by the handle of oldancestor stated:

For the record, the United States was not founded on Christian anything.

While some of the points that he makes in his argument that follows are true in so far as they go, which is to say that the Bible doesn’t outline the form or type of government our Founders set forth and things of that nature.  The idea that there is no Christian influence at the heart of our founding as a nation is patently false.  The morals of Christianity were anticipated as the only way to sustain the government “of the people, by the people and for the people.”

We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge, or gallantry, would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution was made only for a religious and moral people. It is wholly inadequate for the government of any other.

- John Adams [Letter to the Officers of the First Brigade of the Third Division of the Militia of Massachusetts (11 October 1798)]

Religion in general, but Judeo-Christian religion in particular, acts as a civilizing influence on people.  Our government was designed with this influence expected to play a part in its success.  This civilizing influence is highlighted by Adams as well:

I will insist that the Hebrews have done more to civilize men than any other nation. If I were an atheist, and believed in blind eternal fate, I should still believe that fate had ordained the Jews to be the most essential instrument for civilizing the nations. If I were an atheist of the other sect, who believe or pretend to believe that all is ordered by chance, I should believe that chance had ordered the Jews to preserve and propagate to all mankind the doctrine of a supreme, intelligent, wise, almighty sovereign of the universe, which I believe to be the great essential principle of all morality, and consequently of all civilization.

John Adams [Letter to François Adriaan van der Kemp (16 February 1809]

Just to be perfectly clear, Christianity inherited its central tenets from the Judaism.  That is the reason it is often referred to as Judeo-Christian.  Admittedly, there are plenty of corners of modern Christianity that have lost their connection to the Jewish roots of the faith, but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist and aren’t there.

And even Jefferson, who was generally considered a deist, and certainly wasn’t thought of as a professing Christian, still recognized this connection of God and morality to the continuance of our nation as it was envisioned and birthed through the Constitution and Bill of Rights:

And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are of the gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with his wrath? Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just: that his justice cannot sleep for ever: that considering numbers, nature and natural means only, a revolution of the wheel of fortune, an exchange of situation, is among possible events: that it may become probable by supernatural interference!

- Thomas Jefferson [Notes on the State of Virginia, Q.XVIII (1782)]

Yet there are many in our country who wish to do exactly this.  They seek to violate God-given liberties by insisting that those liberties are instead a creation of the state.  Indeed, it would be impossible for an atheist to rationally argue otherwise.  How would you make a case for liberties that are given from a being you refuse to acknowledge at all?

I have to say that I appreciated oldancestor’s demeanor in the other comment thread and he even mentioned that he might stop by again to make his case for rational atheism.  I just wanted to take the occasion of his comments to offer some food for thought based on what he mentioned.  He isn’t the only one I have seen make this claim that America wasn’t founded on “Christianity” in any way.  I wanted to show some reasons why it can be argued that Christianity did in fact play a huge part in America’s birth and the way our nation was founded.

What do you think?

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Categories: America, Atheists, Christianity, Culture, Freedom, politics, Truth | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

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5 thoughts on “Were America’s Founding Principles, Christian Principles?

  1. Thanks for this post. I saw his comments yesterday and was going to try pulling out the quotes that you wrote above.

    Adams’ hit the nail on the head: you can’t have our type of government without morality. It doesn’t work. And quite frankly, that’s exactly what is happening right before our eyes: it’s coming apart at the seems because we are getting further and further away from our founding principles.

  2. Nice Blog, Keep it up.

    Jared Winn
    http://jcwinn.com

  3. Jared,
    Thanks for the complement.

    Joe,
    The Adams quote is extremely telling. I wrote a post almost two years ago titled, Liberty in Law, that touched on this same issue. The freedoms of our country are presumed to be held on a bedrock of morals that come from the Judeo-Christian religion. This is repeated over and over again by many of the Founders. As we lose the bedrock, we are going to lose the country itself. And atheism isn’t enough to fill the vacuum that will be left. It is self-defeating and self-contradictory in this area and cannot serve as an adequate replacement.

  4. Wow. I happened to stroll in again and saw my name mentioned.

    Thanks for treating me respectfully in your comments. Though we obviously have some disagreements on certain beliefs and philosophies, I’ve enjoyed reading your posts.

    Peace.

  5. Hey, I am all about having a civil conversation when possible. I usually try to wait to go sarcastic and snarky if I can.

    You are welcome around these parts anytime.

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