A Christian Nation? Not So, According to These Founding Fathers

More than half of the residents in 11 Southern states believe the United States was founded as an explicitly Christian nation, according to the Winthrop Poll Southern Focus Survey.  This doesn’t come as a surprise to anyone who lives in the Bible Belt. You probably don’t have to think back too far to remember the last time someone made that claim.

While humanists aren’t surprised by the results of the poll, religious southerners might be shocked by the truth.

Many of the founding fathers were so skeptical about religion they would have a hard time getting elected today.

George Washington

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George Washington was technically an Anglican, but many of his contemporaries referred to him as a deist, a label that Washington himself seemed to embrace when you consider the way he described god and religion. While deists do believe in god, they don’t believe he intervenes in the universe. Basically, they don’t see god as some supernatural entity that interacts with humans. He referred to god as a “supreme architect,” showing that while he believed in god, he didn’t necessarily believe that god was pulling the strings on the earth.

This isn’t just about his belief in god, though. It’s also about the way he viewed religious freedom. Washington was a staunch advocate of religious freedom for all regions, not just Christians. He stated he wouldn’t have signed the constitution if it had endangered the religious rights of any group, not just Christians.

He also wrote this in a letter to the Hebrew Congregation at Newport:

“All possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship It is now no more that toleration is spoken of, as if it was by the indulgence of one class of people, that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights. For happily the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens, in giving it on all occasions their effectual support.”

It's clear that Washington didn’t believe the United States was founded as a Christian nation, and he did everything in his power to embrace all religions.

John Adams

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When Christians talk about the United States being founded as a Christian nation, they must be ignoring John Adams. While he was part of the Congregationalist church, he was actually a Unitarian who didn’t believe in the divinity of Jesus.

One just has to turn to Adams’ own diary to see how much he rejected this core Christian belief. “A pleasant morning. Saw my classmates Gardner, and Wheeler. Wheeler dined, spent the afternoon, and drank Tea with me. Supped at Major Gardiners, and engag'd to keep School at Bristol, provided Worcester People, at their ensuing March meeting, should change this into a moving School, not otherwise. Major Greene this Evening fell into some conversation with me about the Divinity and Satisfaction of Jesus Christ. All the Argument he advanced was, 'that a mere creature, or finite Being, could not make Satisfaction to infinite justice, for any Crimes,' and that 'these things are very mysterious.' (Thus mystery is made a convenient Cover for absurdity.)”

Adams also signed the Treaty of Tripoli, which states, “The government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion.”

So, it’s probably safe to say Adams wasn’t into the idea of a Christian nation.

Thomas Jefferson

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If you want to know Thomas Jefferson’s religious views, you don’t need to look any further than the “Jefferson Bible.” Jefferson edited the New Testament, taking out all the miracles while leaving behind Jesus’s moral teachings. Basically, he liked what Jesus had to say from a moral standpoint, but he didn’t care for all the supernatural miracles that didn’t make any sense.

He was also concerned about religion creeping into the government, and famously used the phrase “wall of separation between church and state” when talking about the First Amendment. Many members of the religious right like to say that the founding fathers didn’t intend to have a separation of church and state, but Jefferson made it very clear that was the intention.

And Many More

The list goes on and on. James Madison, Thomas Paine, and others made it clear that they had no interest in forming a Christian nation. The next time someone tells you otherwise, show them this post and let the facts do the talking.