Feb 26th 2015

Founding Fathers: We Are Not a Christian Nation

by Jeff Schweitzer

Jeff Schweitzer is a scientist and former White House Senior Policy Analyst; Ph.D. in marine biology/neurophysiology

"The government of the United States is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion."
John Adams

As we witness yet again the brutal and bloody consequences of religious intolerance in the form of ISIS, we have the majority of Republicans pining for a Christian America. Proponents of converting the United States into a theocracy do not see the terrible parallel between religious excess in the Middle East and here at home; but they would not because blindness to reason is the inevitable consequence of religious zealotry.

Conservatives who so proudly tout their fealty to the Constitution want to trash our founding document by violating the First Amendment in hopes of establishing Christianity as the nation's religion. This is precisely what the Constitution prohibits:

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances."

Back to the Beginning

How terribly ironic that the louder Christians protest against the excesses of Islam the more they agitate for Christian excess. We really need to stop this ridiculous argument about being a Christian nation. If there should be any doubt, let us listen to the founding fathers themselves. This from Thomas Jefferson in an April 11, 1823, letter to John Adams:

"The day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus by the Supreme Being in the womb of a virgin, will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerva in the brain of Jupiter."

He went on to say in his concluding paragraphs,

"But we may hope that the dawn of reason and freedom of thought in these United States will do away with all this artificial scaffolding..."

These are not the words form a man who wishes to establish a Christian theocracy. Jefferson promoted tolerance above all, and said earlier that his statute for religious freedom in Virginia was "meant to comprehend, within the mantle of its protection, the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and the Mohammeden, the Hindoo and Infidel of every denomination." He specifically wished to avoid the dominance of a single religion.

Let us be perfectly clear. We are not now, nor have we ever been, a Christian nation. Our Founding Fathers explicitly and clearly excluded any reference to god or the almighty, or any euphemism for a higher power, in the Constitution. Not one time is the word "god" mentioned in our founding document. Not one time.

The facts of our history are easy enough to verify. Anybody who ignorantly insists that our nation is founded on Christian ideals need only look at the four most important documents from our early history to disprove that ridiculous religious bias: the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation, the Federalist Papers and the Constitution all unambiguously prove our secular origins.

Declaration of Independence (1776)

The most important assertion in this document is that "...to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed."

Note that the power of government is derived not from god but from the people. No appeal is made in this document to god for authority of any kind. In no case are any powers given to religion in the affairs of man.

Remember, too, that this document was not written to form or found a government, but was stating intent meant to appeal to an audience with European sensibilities. Only four times is there any reference at all to higher powers, specifically: laws of nature and of nature's god, supreme judge of the world, their creator, and divine providence. In all four cases the references to a higher power appeal to the idea of inherent human dignity, never implying a role for god in government.

Articles of Confederation (1777)

Throughout the entire document, in all 13 articles, the only reference to anything remotely relating to god is the phrase used one time, the "great governor of the world" and then only in the context of general introduction, like "ladies and gentlemen, members of the court..." Unlike the Declaration, this document did indeed seek to create a type of government in the form of a confederation of independent states. The authors gave no power or authority to religion. And this document is our first glimpse into the separation of church and state: because just as the Articles give no authority to religion in civil matters, so too does the document deny any authority of government in matters of faith.

U.S. Constitution (1787)

This one is easy, because the Constitution of the United States of America makes zero reference to god or Christianity.

The only reference to religion is a negative one in Article VI, which states that "no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States." And of course we have the First Amendment, which states that "Congress shall make no law respecting an established of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof."

Federalist Papers (1787-88)

As Thomas Jefferson was the genius behind the Declaration, John Jay, Alexander Hamilton and James Madison (publishing under the pseudonym of Publius) were the brains providing the intellectual foundation of our Constitution. And what brilliance they brought to the task. I remember the first time I picked up the Federalist Papers I intended to scan the book briefly, and then move on to more interesting pursuits. But I could not put it down; the book reads like an intriguing mystery novel with an intricate plot and complex characters acting on every human emotion. There is no better way to get into the minds of our Founding Fathers and to understand their original intent than by reading this collection of amazing essays.

As with the Constitution, at no time is god ever mentioned in the Federalist Papers. At no time is Christianity every mentioned. Religion is only discussed in the context of keeping matters of faith separate from concerns of governance, and of keeping religion free from government interference.

The Founding Fathers could not be clearer on this point: god has no role in government; Christianity has no role in government. They make this point explicitly, repeatedly, in multiple founding documents. We are not a Christian nation.

In God We Trust

Our national obsession with god in politics is actually a recent phenomenon, and would seem completely alien to any of our founders. "In God We Trust" was first placed on United States coins in 1861 during the Civil War (more about that in a bit).Teddy Roosevelt tried to remove the words from our money in 1907 but was shouted down. Only in 1956 was that phrase adopted as the national motto by the 84th Congress. The clause "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance was inserted only in 1954 when President Eisenhower signed legislation to recognize "the dedication of our Nation and our people to the Almighty." But conservatives, ignorant of our history, or willfully ignoring it, wish us to believe that the pledge always referenced god. Here is Sarah Palin's take, defending the "under god" clause: "If the pledge was good enough for the founding fathers, its [sic] good enough for me and I'll fight in defense of our Pledge of Allegiance." One wonders if she thinks the founders were alive in 1954. I guess in Noah could live to be nearly 800 years old...

That we are a secular nation was obvious to past generations. So much so that several groups formed in the mid-1800s to rectify what they considered a mistake of our forefathers in founding our country on principles of reason rather than faith. Perhaps the most prominent was the National Reform Association, established in 1863 for the purpose of amending the preamble to the Constitution to acknowledge God and Jesus Christ as the sources of all government power. Because the original document does not.

The National Reform Association believed that the civil war was evidence that God was punishing the country for their failure to put God into the Constitution. Nothing to do with slavery of course. Also, note that this apparent knowledge of god's mind is reminiscent of Pat Robertson's claims about god's wrath in Haiti, Florida and anywhere else he believes the devil has taken hold. Anyway, in their 1864 convention the Association agreed on a preamble that would replace "We, the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union..." with "Recognizing Almighty God as the source of all authority and power in civil government, and acknowledging the Lord Jesus Christ as the governor among the nations, his revealed will as the supreme law of the land, in order to constitute a Christian government..."

They presented their suggestion to President Lincoln, who avoided it like a dirty diaper. The Congress also dodged the idea, but threw the group a bone by agreeing to put "In God We Trust" on our currency in an act of pure political pandering . So "In God We Trust" was first placed on United States coins in 1861 during the Civil War. From the Treasury, we also find out that:

"The use of 'in God We Trust" has not been uninterrupted. The motto disappeared from the five-cent coin in 1883, and did not reappear until production of the Jefferson nickel began in 1938. Since 1938, all United States coins bear the inscription. Later, the motto was found missing from the new design of the double-eagle gold coin and the eagle gold coin shortly after they appeared in 1907. In response to a general demand, Congress ordered it restored, and the Act of May 18, 1908, made it mandatory on all coins upon which it had previously appeared. IN GOD WE TRUST was not mandatory on the one-cent coin and five-cent coin. It could be placed on them by the Secretary or the Mint Director with the Secretary's approval. The motto has been in continuous use on the one-cent coin since 1909, and on the ten-cent coin since 1916. It also has appeared on all gold coins and silver dollar coins, half-dollar coins, and quarter-dollar coins struck since July 1, 1908."

For much of our existence, the United States never included god in its motto, on its currency, or in any document creating the republic. We were born a secular nation and must remain one to sustain our future, unless we want to go the way of ISIS.

Our Founding Fathers understood well the extraordinary danger of mixing religion and politics; we forget that lesson at our great peril. If we forget, just glance over to the Middle East. I tremble in fear for my country when the majority of conservatives believe we are a Christian nation; that frightening majority has forgotten our history, ignored our founding principles and abandoned our most cherished ideal of separating church and state. In mixing religion and politics the religious right subverts both. And the world suffers.



Dr. Jeff Schweitzer is a marine biologist, consultant and internationally recognized authority in ethics, conservation and development. He is the author of five books including Calorie Wars: Fat, Fact and Fiction (July 2011), and A New Moral Code (2010). Dr. Schweitzer has spoken at numerous international conferences in Asia, Russia, Europe and the United States.Dr. Schweitzer's work is based on his desire to introduce a stronger set of ethics into American efforts to improve the human condition worldwide. He has been instrumental in designing programs that demonstrate how third world development and protecting our resources are compatible goals. His vision is to inspire a framework that ensures that humans can grow and prosper indefinitely in a healthy environment.Formerly, Dr. Schweitzer served as an Assistant Director for International Affairs in the Office of Science and Technology Policy under former President Clinton. Prior to that, Dr. Schweitzer served as the Chief Environmental Officer at the State Department's Agency for International Development. In that role, he founded the multi-agency International Cooperative Biodiversity Group Program, a U.S. Government that promoted conservation through rational economic use of natural resources.Dr. Schweitzer began his scientific career in the field of marine biology. He earned his Ph.D. from Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego. He expanded his research at the Center for Learning and Memory at the University of California, Irvine. While at U.C. Irvine he was awarded the Science, Engineering and Diplomacy Fellowship from the American Association for the Advancement of Science.Dr. Schweitzer is a pilot and he founded and edited the Malibu Mirage, an aviation magazine dedicated to pilots flying these single-engine airplanes. He and his wife Sally are avid SCUBA divers and they travel widely to see new wildlife, never far from their roots as marine scientists..To learn more about Dr Schweitzer, visit his website at http://www.JeffSchweitzer.com.


To follow what's new on Facts & Arts please click here.


     

 


This article is brought to you by the author who owns the copyright to the text.

Should you want to support the author’s creative work you can use the PayPal “Donate” button below.

Your donation is a transaction between you and the author. The proceeds go directly to the author’s PayPal account in full less PayPal’s commission.

Facts & Arts neither receives information about you, nor of your donation, nor does Facts & Arts receive a commission.

Facts & Arts does not pay the author, nor takes paid by the author, for the posting of the author's material on Facts & Arts. Facts & Arts finances its operations by selling advertising space.

 

 

Browse articles by author

More Essays

Jul 29th 2022
EXTRACTS: "China uses incarcerated prisoners of conscience as an organ donor pool to provide compatible transplants for patients. These prisoners or “donors” are executed and their organs harvested against their will, and used in a prolific and profitable transplant industry."
Jul 29th 2022
EXTRACT: "In the first episode of season three of The Kominsky Method (2021), there is a funeral service for Michael Douglas’ character’s lifelong friend Norman Newlander (played by Alan Arkin). By far the most inconsolable mourner to give a eulogy is Newlander’s personal assistant of 22 years who, amid a hyperbolical outpouring of grief, literally cannot bring herself to let go of the casket. It is a humorous scene, to be sure, but there is something else going on here that is characteristic of employer-employee relations in this era of neoliberal capitalism. “Making him happy made me happy,” she exclaims, “his welfare was my first thought in the morning, and my last thought before I went to sleep.” That isn’t sweet – it is pathological. ----- Employee happiness is becoming increasingly conditional on, or even equated with, the boss’ happiness. As Frédéric Lordon observes in his book, Willing Slaves of Capital (2014), “employees used to surrender to the master desire with a heavy heart…they had other things on their minds…ideally the present-day enterprise wants subjects who strive of their own accord according to its norms.” In a word, the employee is increasingly expected to internalize and identify with the desire of the master."
Jul 20th 2022
EXTRACT: "For three decades, people have been deluged with information suggesting that depression is caused by a “chemical imbalance” in the brain – namely an imbalance of a brain chemical called serotonin. However, our latest research review shows that the evidence does not support it."
Jul 13th 2022
"But is he “deluded”? " ---- "....we sometimes end up with deluded leaders because we ourselves can be somewhat delusional when we vote." ---- "David Collinson, a professor of leadership and organization at Lancaster University, associates this predicament with excessive positive thinking, or what he calls “Prozac leadership,” in reference to the famous antidepressant that promises to cheer people up without actually fixing what is wrong in their lives. “ ---- "In politics, Prozac leaders come to power by selling the electorate on wildly overoptimistic views of the future. When the public buys into a Prozac leader’s narrative, it is they who are already verging on the delusional." ----- "Another potential example is Vladimir Putin, who has conjured a kind of nostalgic dream world for his followers and the wider Russian public."
Jun 25th 2022
EXTRACT: "Many veterans, refugees and other people who have experienced trauma and have mental health issues spend little time thinking about the future. Instead, they are narrowly focused on the negative past. However, people who have experienced trauma and developed a healthy future perspective report being better at coping with life, having fewer negative thoughts about the past, and getting better sleep compared with those who have a negative future perspective. So, instead of dwelling on the past, people who have suffered trauma should be encouraged to think about the future and set goals that help them develop hope for a good life."
Jun 8th 2022
EXTRACT: " The devastation of war is a recurring theme in Turner’s work, and unlike his contemporaries Turner is willing to forego the occasion to bolster national pride or the patriotism of its fallen heroes. In “The Field of Waterloo” (1818), Turner’s great tragic vision of war, “The…  dead of both sides lay intertwined, nearly indistinguishable surrounded by the gloom of night.” Near the bottom center there are three women. The one farthest from us is bearing a child and in her right hand a torch which illumines the sea of mangled bodies. Beside her is another woman struggling to keep a third (also with child) from collapsing outright. Turner reflects not only on the dead and dying, but on the widows and orphans that war produces."
May 19th 2022
EXTRACTS: "Thus experimental creativity could be witnessed, but not verbalized.  When five leading Abstract Expressionist painters founded an art school in New York in the late 1940s, they offered no formal courses, because, as Robert Motherwell explained, "in a basic sense art cannot be taught." ------ "Conceptual artists are ...... more inclined to use written texts to accompany their works in other genres.  In 1883, Vincent van Gogh wrote to his brother, "One of these days I will write you a letter;  I shall write it carefully and try to make it short, but say everything I think necessary."
May 17th 2022
EXTRACT: "Unfortunately, it’s common for dark triad personalities to become leaders. ..... their ruthlessness and ability to manipulate means they attain positions of power quite easily. When a “dark” leader attains power, conscientious, moral people rapidly fall away. A government operating under these conditions soon becomes what the Polish psychologist Andrzej Lobaczewski called a “pathocracy” – an administration made up of ruthless individuals devoid of integrity and morality. This happened with Donald Trump’s presidency, as the “adults in the room” gradually headed for the exit, leaving no one but staffers defined by their personal allegiance to Trump. A similar decay in standards has occurred in the UK."
May 11th 2022
EXTRACT: "The proportion of US electricity deriving from wind and solar in the month of April climbed to 20%. Thus, the renewables total was 26.5 if we add in hydro. This statistic is unprecedented."
Apr 24th 2022
EXTRACT: "Every year, around 12,000 men in the UK die from prostate cancer, but many more die with prostate cancer than from it. So knowing whether the disease is going to advance rapidly or not is important for knowing who to treat." ...... "For some years, we have known that pathogens (bacteria and viruses) can cause cancer. We know, for example, that Helicobacter pylori is associated with stomach cancer and that the human papillomavirus (HPV) can cause cervical cancer." ....... "....we have identified five types (genera) of bacteria linked to aggressive prostate cancer." ...... "We examined prostate tissue and urine samples from over 600 men with and without prostate cancer," ..... "....men who had one or more of the bacteria were nearly three times more likely to see their early stage cancer progress to advanced disease, compared with men who had none of the bacteria in their urine or prostate."
Apr 13th 2022
EXTARCTS: "Steve Jobs dreaded turning 30, because he knew it would be fatal to his creativity: "It's rare that you see an artist in his 30s or 40s able to contribute something amazing." ....... "When Ford introduced the Model T, he was 45 years old" ...... "Ford’s Model T arrived only after a series of earlier cars – Models A, B, C, K, N, R, and S." .... "Sam Walton opened Wal-Mart No. 1 in Rogers, Arkansas, at 44, and discovered “that there was much, much more business out there in small-town American than anybody, including me, had ever dreamed of.” At 53, Warren Buffett wrote in his annual letter to Berkshire Hathaway shareholders that “your chairman, always a quick study, required only 20 years to recognize how important it was to buy good businesses.” "
Mar 29th 2022
EXTRACT: ".... Christie's web site calls Shot Sage Blue Marilyn [1964], to be auctioned in May, 'among the most iconic paintings in history', " ------ "Andy Warhol's annus mirabilis was not 1964, but 1962. This is recognized both by the market and by scholars. Thus in a paper published in the Journal of Applied Economics, Simone Lenzu and I found that in all auctions held during 1965-2015, the average price of Warhol's paintings executed in 1964 was significantly lower than the average price of those he made in 1962. And in a survey of 61 textbooks of art history published during 1991- 2015, whose authors included such eminent scholars as Martin Kemp and Rosalind Krauss, we found that fully 45% of the total of 137 illustrations of Warhol's paintings were of works from 1962, compared to only 12% of works from 1964. Thus not only do collectors value Warhol's works of 1962 more highly than those of 1964, but so do scholars of art history,.... "
Mar 29th 2022
EXTRACTS:".....there is plenty of space to scale. For internet-based businesses, the addressable total market is often large. In many areas, such as software, it spans the globe. Chinese estimates indicate that the average distance between seller and buyer on e-commerce platforms is roughly 1,000 kilometers (621 miles), compared to five kilometers for a traditional retail or service business." ------- "While the internet has removed many geographical barriers, high-growth companies cannot emerge just anywhere. In fact, though such firms can be found in more countries than ever, they remain concentrated in entrepreneurial hotspots. For example, of the 24 unicorns in Germany (as of March 2022), 17 are based in Berlin and five in Munich. Of France’s top 24 unicorns, 19 are based in Paris and one in a Paris suburb." ------ "Tech entrepreneurship has become global, but its beating heart remains local."
Mar 27th 2022
EXTRACTS: " We are supposed to be living in a post-ideological era, where everyone one is a cynic, not so gullible as to believe in anything anymore, least of all in the quaint notion of objective truth. This rejection of truth as such is among the great disasters to have befallen our relations with each other and between nations.  We appear to be beyond truth’s demise – we are now witnessing its unpleasant putrefaction and decay." ------ " If we want to grasp how ideology functions in America today, there is no better place to look than at the phenomenon of Trumpism. While he may be only a symptom, Trump himself is the quintessential embodiment of America’s moral and epistemic decline. " ------ "By its disavowal of truth and perpetuation of lies for the sake of self-aggrandizement, Trumpism represents an existential threat to this country and to the future of the Republic. It is a cancer that threatens whatever is good and decent in American life. " ----- "All they know is negative freedom – freedom from – but ignore the need for positive freedom, the freedom to… as in the freedom to flourish, to realize oneself in the world; to make and re-make oneself and the world through action."
Feb 14th 2022
EXTRACT: "In the decades since its inception, there has been heavy criticism directed towards the War on Drugs. These complaints include the increased incarceration rates, the increase in the number of prisoners in jail due to nonviolent offenses, uneven sentencing guidelines often based on the drug type and race, and suggestions of a racist component in terms of who was targeted by law enforcement. Various studies show that instead of reducing crime, the strict sentencing guidelines created more criminals and undermined many of the communities most strictly targeted by law enforcement. Long sentences for non-violent offenses made it difficult for those released to find work and weakened their bonds with family and their broader community."
Feb 2nd 2022
EXTRACT: "......... there are countries that have had a relatively high number of infections but which have still managed to keep their death numbers low – countries like Japan. It’s had 17,612 infections per million people yet only 146 deaths per million. This is despite almost one in three people in Japan being over the age of 65 and so at greater risk of severe COVID (the average age of people dying from COVID is over 80). What has kept the death rate there down? A recent Japenese study has proposed an answer. It reports that the risk of people dying of COVID in Japan is related to the microbes present in their guts. "
Jan 26th 2022
EXTRACT: "Then there was a revolution. In 1964, Bob Dylan created a new kind of popular music. The simple, clear love songs ...... were replaced by complex and opaque lyrics, filled with literary allusions and symbolism. Dylan rejected the role of craftsman: "I'm an artist. I try to create art." Nor were his songs intended to be universal: "My songs were written with me in mind." "
Dec 13th 2021
EXTRACT: " We all know that Father Christmas would struggle to deliver presents to everyone around the world without the help of his magical reindeer. But why were they chosen to pull the sleigh rather than any other animal? It turns out that the biology of reindeer makes them ideal for the job. Here are five reasons why."
Dec 4th 2021
EXTRACT: "Planting more forests is a potent tool for mitigating the climate crisis, but forests are like complex machines with millions of parts. Tree planting can cause ecological damage when carried out poorly, particularly if there is no commitment to diversity of planting. Following Darwin’s thinking, there is growing awareness that the best, healthiest forests are ones with the greatest variety of trees - and trees of various ages."
Nov 19th 2021
EXTRACTS: "At a time when the struggle between authoritarianism and democracy is so intense, if not fateful for the future of democracies, NATO and the EU must warn these countries [Editor's note: Poland and Hungary, EU and NATO, Turkey NATO] that they are on the precipice of being kicked out if they do not change their governing practice. They must be required to restore the principles of democracy by upholding universal human rights and abiding the rule of law, or else they will forfeit their membership and suffer from the consequences of their crimes." ------ "A narcissistic leader, such as Trump, whose hunger for power seems to know no limit, has happily sacrificed the good of the country on the altar of his twisted ego. America’s democracy cannot be repaired unless he and those who helped him are held accountable and face the weight of the law."