Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Was the United States of America founded as a Christian nation?


This is our last posting of the year. If you have not posted at least two comments for two different topics, this is your last chance to get one on the books. If you need to make more than one post see Mike or Mike about possible options(maybe).

7 comments:

Rich Restifo said...

The core beliefs of the Founding fathers were Judeo-Christian. They separated church from state, but did not separate God from state. They acknowledged that our political and human rights came from a power higher than government; God was the source of our rights. Jefferson and Adams noted that Liberty cannot survive without its divine connection. They certainly believed in something greater. They believed in the idea of equality before a Creator and the law, but not forced government equality. This made them liberals for their day.

Thone said...

Once again I see it hard to see both sides of the argument. From reading the book it seemed obvious that many of our founding fathers were deists who disapproved of organized religion. Yes, many were Christian Deists, but the ideals of the enlightenment made it hard for them to buy into any Christian doctrine that could not be explained by reason. The only arguments that I can see being made are that some colonial governments established state churches and the majority of population was Christian. The argument that our founding fathers tried to establish a Christian government I just can't see. Last controversy I also could not see the other side until listening to Professor Berkin. Maybe this controversy will be the same.

AFisk said...

The intention of the founding fathers was to create a country that was not based on any religion. Most of the beliefs of the leaders who shaped the country were more in line with a Universalist’s perspective rather than those of a traditional Christian. Certainly, if they intended the country to be based on any religion it would not be the Christianity of today’s evangelicals. I thinks they while individually each may have been deeply spiritual in their own particular ways, all understood the inherent evils of organized religion. However, they all also understood that a society’s moral code was often based in religion. Balancing the good and evil of religion was challenging but by developing a government that separates church and religion they sought to keep the best of religion and minimize the worse. Interestingly, many of the founding fathers, like Jefferson, believed in the moral teachings of the Christian religion but disagreed with the institutions created by men that purported to have the only “right” way of interpreting them. These institutions turn out to behave more politically (not to mention corruptly) than morally anyway!
It will be interesting to see if my opinion changes after the guest speaker … every class has made me change some aspect of what I had originally thought.

LMorpurgo said...

The United States of America was not founded as a Christian nation.
The founding fathers embraced the Deist philosophy because it was based upon logic and reason, which consolidated the religious diversity in the country at that time.
The belief in God was needed for diplomacy because of such great religious diversity abroad. The U.S. would have to recognize religion to some extent but not fully embrace an organized religion and its dogma to be accepted as a nation. As the author David L. Holmes states, “This ambivalence toward dogma fostered Franklin’s conviction that no system of thought is wholly right or entirely wrong. As a result, Franklin (like other Deists) came to believe that religious toleration was vital to a free society.” (56). What better way for the Founding Fathers to achieve independence than to be accepting of all and exclusive of none.

jratchford said...

I don't think the founding fathers intended to create the United States as a Christian nation. I think the founding fathers contemplated their religious beliefs more than the average person today, or at least they wrote about it more. The founders were pragmatic about the role of religion in society. Such as Franklin believing that religion should guide people to moral behavior and doing good for others as a true sign of religious devotion and service to God. Today's politicians seem to make more of a show of their religion because it is expected. This show of religion is perhaps how Americans imagine the past and how they would like themselves to be ideally. It is far from the intentions of the founding fathers.

msmilow said...

According to David Holmes, orthodox Christianity was not on the minds of the Founding Fathers. Rather it was Deism in its many guises that influenced the nation's founders. Preoccupation with the religious beliefs of these men seems to have become a topic of debate and concern only recently as all presidents from Ford on have come under scrutiny by the religious right. To support the call that presidents "...be sincere men and women of faith", many today believe that the founding fathers were of the same evangelical persuasion that we see in America today. In fact, Holmes, convincingly argues that Deism in its many forms and orthodox Christianity in the late eighteenth century were quite different. Notions of moral behavior as informed by the moral teachings of Jesus and the acknowledgment "the Creator" were more precisely the view of Washington, Adams, Madison and Franklin.

As an aside, the Epilogue was particularly interesting and informative. Incredibly, the religious practices and beliefs of our recent presidents cause the reader to agree with Holmes who quotes a writer who once stated that "the past is a foreign country." For the religious right to hearken back to a time where George Washington knelt in the snow at Valley Forge seems quite absurd given the evidence presented by Holmes in his examination of Washington's religious practices. Our first president left before communion services as any self-respecting Deist would, later sending his carriage back to the church to retrieve the pious Martha.

Mr. Gatto said...

You hear people bring this issue up a lot lately. When ones reads the Federalist papers, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, the Declaration of Independence, there is absolutely no evidence that the founders intended the United States to be "Christian". In fact, there seems to be agreement among the founders that Americans should be guaranteed freedom of conscience and tha "providence" dictate right and wrong. Religious tests are explicitly banned by the Constitution. If they intended to create a Christian nation they would have included Christian words in the Constitution and/or included some requirement that citizens demonstrate their Christianity.