I’m Still Looking

With apologies to our international readers, I’m revisiting my hang up with a particular part of U. S. history.  It’s the part where many Christian apologists say the founding fathers meant for the U. S. to be a “Christian nation.”

When I’ve raised this issue before, that there is not evidence of the founding fathers putting into the record intentions for the U. S. to be a Christian nation, I’ve been bombarded with quotes from speeches and private correspondence.   These quotes have no importance.  They do not reflect the founding fathers at their offices or in the halls of Congress making an effort to accomplish some Christian end.

I looked for evidence of a Christian intention in the book, The Summer of 1787.  This was about the debates leading up to signing the Constitution.  No one spoke of a Christian intention there.

During a weekend road trip, I finished a new book, Ratification; The People Debate the Constitution, 1787-1788, by Pauline Maier.  I bought the book to see if there was discussion of the “Christian nation” argument during the long and difficult process of ratification.

The author went from state to state, combing through the surviving newpaper accounts, letters and public records.   As much as we admire the Constitution today, it was looked on as a terrible document by perhaps 40 percent of the public in the years 1787-8. 

The author must have looked at several thousand pieces records in telling the story.  With the exception of small parts of The Federalists Papers, which she concluded were not very important in the effort, she did not mention anyone else discussing religion at all, let alone proclaiming a preference for a “Christian nation.”

So, I’m still looking.

15 thoughts on “I’m Still Looking

  1. Jon, Here is a quote taken from the Treaty of Treaty of Tripoli, signed by President John Adams in 1776. ” The government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion”.

    • Long John 1:36 Thanks for reminding me of the Treaty quote. It happens our Red River Freethinkers have quite an affection for that quote. We proposed putting up a monument next to our City’s Ten Commandments with the Treaty of Tripoli quote on it. We had an artist make a mock up monument out of cardboard with the quote. USA Today published an article about it with a picture of yours truly holding the mock up next to the 10C. Our City government was not amused.

  2. What is left out is often as interesting as what is put in. Things that are so close to us that we take them for granted and do not even consider them are often what is left out.

    • Forgive me but nearly a century into the enlightment while Thomas Jefferson was busy re-writing his personal bible to excise references to the supernatural? I have to question that god wasn’t mentioned because he was being taken for granted.

    • Buffalo Gal 9:54 Thank you for your concern. It reflects what I find you to be–a fine person. This blog, as you can observe, is observations about the world of a person who does not represent, as yet, and maybe never, the majority. I’m honored that you take the time to open it.

  3. ” Good one. I really think I’m needed here, however. There are 10 preacher blogs and only one Freethinker on the Forum site, me.”

    Mr. Thinker: That is the equivalent of saying there are 10 blogs of those who represent honesty and one blog for those who represent dishonesty. No – we don’t need your opnion just because you’re one of eleven. It’s OK for you to believe whatever you want – just keep it to yourself. We don’t nee to understand your beliefs. We don’t need to hear them. You are starved for attention and want to use your pulpit to think you are smarter than the believers. Not so – and quite the opposite. Most feel sorry for you as somewhere in your past you have built up a large amount of resentment to those who believe and want to live a godly life. And lastly, if you have trouble understanding the correlation between religion and the intent of our founding fathers – read a coin.

    • unbiased 2:07 “And, lastly, if you have trouble understanding the correlation between religion and the intent of our founding fathers–read a coin.” I did not know the founding fathers put “In God we Trust” on our coins. I was under the impression that was done after WWII.

    • I think Jon is confusing the “under God” inclusion into the Pledge of Alegiance. I’m thinking about 1950-51. I was still in rural school at the time.

  4. I’ll help you look it up. Here is a cut/paste. Please get your facts straight. Did not you teach?

    One of the first found references of the motto “In God We Trust” is heard in the U.S. National Anthem, The Star-Spangled Banner. The song was written by Francis Scott Key in 1814 and later adopted as the national anthem. In the last stanza Key writes a variation of the phrase: “…And this be our motto: In God is our trust. And the Star Spangled Banner in triumph shall wave, O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.” The words were shortened to In God We Trust and first applied to U.S. coins in 1864.

    • unbiased 2:54 You are correct, it was first used in 1864 and has appeared on coins off and on since then. We both have to eat a little crow. The founding fathers are generally thought to be the ones who wrote and signed on to the Constitution. This was 1787. (But, I suppose that is an arbitrary title and Abraham Lincoln or Ronald Reagon could be designated a “founding father”.) By the year 1864, all of the men commonly referred to as founding fathers were dead.

      The National Anthem and god on the coins has nothing to do with the point I am making. It is that there is no record of the founding fathers discussing, in public meetings where the laws and principles behind the laws were being discussed, ever mentioned anything about the United States being a “Christian nation”. Now, if you have found something important like that, I hope you will post it here so I can eat crow again.

  5. Has anyone ever noticed that often times Christians think they hold the patent on altruistic or virtuous behavior? Most faiths and no faiths all have traits of decency, kindness, respect and character.

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