Founding Fathers: Deists or Christians?

10 01 2007

Filed under: Church and State, David Barton, Christianity, Politics

UPDATED 1/11 – The Christophobes Respond. Scroll for updates.

Were the Founding Fathers deists or Christians? Arguments are made for both, usually from ignorance. The truth is, it depends on which Founder we are discussing.

Many liberals have a fear, Christophobia, that drives them to obliterate anything Christian that enters the public. The determining factor rests on beliefs such as, “Keep your religion in your church and we can all get along.” Or, “Don’t tell me how live my life.”

Christophobes translate their fear into also assuming that all conservative-voting Christians believe and desire a Christian nation where everyone would be forced to recite Bible verses and worship God.

This is simply not true. America has never been a Christian nation and never will be. However, it was founded as a nation of Christians, still is, and, God willing, always will be. There is a difference. In a Christian nation, it would be easier to craft laws to force citizens to worship God. But God doesn’t want that and neither do Christians. Christians just want a nation that welcomes God and promotes Him, but not forces.

Joe Carter posted about an author, David Holmes, who provides a methodology for examining the relevant evidence.

The religious beliefs of the founding fathers can be broadly classified as:

Non-Christian Deists: Deists who rejected all sacraments and rarely attended church services. (Thomas Paine, Ethan Allen)

Deistic Christians/Unitarians: Held Deistic beliefs, attended church regularly, but rejected the Lord’s Supper and confirmation. (George Washington, Ben Franklin, George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe)

Orthodox Christians: Accepted orthodox Christian beliefs, attended church regularly, participated in the sacraments and ordinances. (Patrick Henry, Samuel Adams, John Jay, Elias Boudinot, John Witherspoon)

With the exception of the handful of orthodox Christians, the majority of the founding fathers subscribed to a religious view that we would nowadays classify as Unitarianism. A rejection of Trinitarianism clearly puts one outside the bounds of orthodox Christianity. We should not, therefore, claim that a historical figure is a “Christian” when we would consider someone who held those beliefs today to be a heretic. The leaders during the revolutionary era may have subscribed to a Judeo-Christian view of morality, but few of them were orthodox believers.

I must differ slightly in opinion with my fellow Christian and conservative here. I would word his last sentence as “… few well-known founders were orthodox believers.” There were over one hundred of them that were directly responsible for giving us a government that welcomed and promoted God. Hundreds more contributed in a more indirect way and thousands of Christian citizens influenced these men.

David Barton of Wallbuilders provides a slightly opposing point of view. Keep in mind that David Barton has made some questionable quotes that many try to disqualify him with while ignoring the overall evidence. David admits that he has made some mistakes and the claims that he has purposefully exaggerated things is without merit. But the Christophobes cannot dismiss everything as they attempt to.

Research by David Barton, founder of Wallbuilders, Inc. exposes the alleged separation of church and state for the myth that it really is. The words separation of church and state don’t appear in any official government documents authored by the founding fathers. This concept and these particular words were fabricated by an ACLU attorney named Leo Pfeffer in 1947 in the Supreme Court case of Everson versus Board of Education of Ewing Township. That liberal supreme court imposed it on the nation by a 5 to 4 vote. The ACLU and other anti-Christian organizations and individuals have used it to harass Christians with ever since. It is also used by evolutionists to try to keep a theistic explanation of origins out of the public schools. Many young people today are not aware of the fact that this concept is an ACLU invention, and that it is a concept our founding fathers would have been appalled at.

The key here is this: While we Christians can claim only some founding fathers as fellow believers, the humanist secularist can claim none. Not one of the significant leaders was an atheist, much less subscribed to the modern idea of secularism and “separation of church and state.”

UPDATED 1/11 – The Christophobes respond. Ed Brayton at Science Blogs writes:

No, that isn’t the key to anything. Atheism was virtually unheard of at the time, but that hardly disqualifies founders like Jefferson, Madison, Paine and Franklin from being humanists or secularists. The religious beliefs of any particular founder had nothing to do with their view on separation of church and state. Many of the most outspoken advocates of strict separation at the time were devout Christians, particularly Baptists, who often found themselves jailed by the Anglicans and Puritans who ran the colonies in which they lived. So the fact is that claiming that this or that founder was a Christian tells us nothing whatsoever about their position on church and state matters.

Ed is shooting his own argument in the foot here. In context, religion, at the time, defined which denomination of Christianity you worshipped in, which is why jailed colonists early on. They had no laws governing them. Ed is confirming what the First Amendment says about not establishing a “religion.” In other words, not forcing citizens to worship in a certain denomination. Beyond that, the government can legally promote religion.

The Founders’ religious beliefs had much to do with how they worded the First Amendment and how they felt about it. Little known Founder, Fisher Ames is responsible for penning the final version. He would be classed as an orthodox Christian. He and many other Founders held firm Christian beliefs and parlayed those into the Constitution. How else can you explain various rights we enjoy being directly derived from scripture?

A commenter at the Science Blogs post said this:

I second the notion that the statement really is completely irrelevant, but what troubles me is what the #$% does “humanist secularist” even mean? and why is it bad? I see it a lot in Religious Right propoganda, but to me it’s an empty phrase that’s casually thrown around to basically mean “anyone who disagrees with me.”

I appreciate the honesty, and I think his (corrected) definition is almost correct. An accurate definition might read, “anyone who disagrees with the Bible.” Don’t shoot the messenger because you don’t like what’s in the envelope.

Others: Stop The ACLU

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