Thursday, February 10, 2005

Despite popular belief, founding fathers were not all Christians

Was the United States founded on Christianity? Were our most respected and revered founding fathers devout Christians? The answer, despite the protestations of the religious right, is "no."

John Adams, our second president, explained that our country was "founded on the natural authority of the people alone, without a pretense of miracle or mystery." It's also worth mentioning that the U.S. Constitution, the legal foundation of our nation, is an entirely secular document; there is absolutely no mention of God, Jesus or Christianity.

The Treaty of Tripoli, written during the administration of George Washington, clearly indicates how uncontroversial our secular status was during the period of our founding. The treaty states unequivocally: "the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion." That ought to be clear enough for even a raving, evolution-denying theocrat to understand. Read aloud on the floor of the Senate, the treaty was unanimously ratified, without debate or dissension, and signed into law in 1797 by President John Adams.

The Rev. Bird Wilson, an Episcopal minister and historian, lamented in an 1831 sermon, "The founders of our nation were nearly all Infidels." Wilson's hyperbole aside, many of our best-known founders were highly influenced by the Enlightenment, and were Deists, not traditional Christians. In fact, several founders had contempt for central myths of Christianity, and many shared a profound concern about the tendency of organized religion to become tyrannical and malevolent.

Founding father Thomas Jefferson, our third and arguably most brilliant president, made his overall opinion of Christianity clear in a letter to John Adams: "the day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus, by the supreme being as his father, in the womb of a virgin, will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerva in the brain of Jupiter" (the Goddess Minerva sprang forth, fully grown, from Jupiter's brain).

Jefferson considered the supernatural aspects of Christianity (trinity, virgin birth, resurrection, etc.) as equivalent to the ridiculous and primitive beliefs of ancient mythology, and was offended by the rampant absurdity within the New Testament. He was, however, impressed by the moral philosophy of Jesus. Jefferson wrote of the gospels, "I find many passages of fine imagination, correct morality, and of the most lovely benevolence; and others, again, of so much ignorance, so much absurdity, so much untruth, charlatanism." This conflict drove Jefferson to the pinnacle of blasphemy; he gutted the Bible. Jefferson sought to distill the agreeable moral insights of Jesus by "abstracting what is really his from the rubbish in which it is buried," separating the "diamond from the dunghill."

With razor blade and paste, Jefferson crafted a version of the Bible that wasn't abhorrent to his rational mind. Consequently, the "Jefferson Bible" contains no reference to divinity, angels, miracles or virgin birth; it ends without any mention of resurrection.

Another founding father, Thomas Paine, a radical pamphleteer who greatly influenced and aided the American Revolution with his potent writing, was a harsh and outspoken critic of Christianity.

The State News -



Post a Comment

<< Home