Thursday, September 20, 2007
US Founders on Religon & the Constitution
"Most Americans believe the nation's founders wrote Christianity into the Constitution, and people are less likely to say freedom to worship covers religious groups they consider extreme, a poll out today finds.
The survey measuring attitudes toward freedom of religion, speech and the press found that 55% believe erroneously that the Constitution establishes a Christian nation. In the survey, which is conducted annually by the First Amendment Center, a non-partisan educational group, three out of four people who identify themselves as evangelical or Republican believe that the Constitution establishes a Christian nation. About half of Democrats and independents do."
Only 56% agree that freedom of religion applies to all groups "regardless of how extreme their beliefs are." That's down from 72% in 2000. More than one in four say constitutional protection of religion does not apply to "extreme" groups.
Support for constitutional freedoms has rebounded from a low the year after 9/11, when 49% said the First Amendment "goes too far in the rights it guarantees." Now, 25% agree."
The entire USA Today article can be found here
The full poll results can be found here:
In contrast to what many inadequately educated Americans today think, consider what many of the nation's best-known founders actually DID say about Religion, and our "Christian Nation:"
It's useful to have the facts handy when talking to anybody who believes such things.
"As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquillity, of Mussulmen; and, as the said States never entered into any war, or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties, that no pretext arising from religious opinions, shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries."
--Article 11, Treaty of Peace and Friendship between the United States and the Bey and Subjects of the Bey of Tripoli of Barbary,'Authored by American diplomat Joel Barlow in 1796, the following treaty was sent to the floor of the Senate, June 7, 1797, where it was read aloud in its entirety and unanimously approved. John Adams, having seen the treaty, signed it and proudly proclaimed it to the Nation.'
"The United States of America have exhibited, perhaps, the first example of governments erected on the simple principles of nature; and if men are now sufficiently enlightened to disabuse themselves of artifice, imposture, hypocrisy, and superstition, they will consider this event as an era in their history. Although the detail of the formation of the American governments is at present little known or regarded either in Europe or in America, it may hereafter become an object of curiosity. It will never be pretended that any persons employed in that service had interviews with the gods, or were in any degree under the influence of Heaven, more than those at work upon ships or houses, or laboring in merchandise or agriculture; it will forever be acknowledged that these governments were contrived merely by the use of reason and the senses."
--John Adams, "A Defence of the Constitutions of Government of the United States of America" (1787-88)
Thomas Jefferson had this written on his tombstone:
HERE WAS BURIED
AUTHOR OF THE
OF AMERICAN INDEPENDENCE
STATUTE OF VIRGINIA
AND FATHER OF THE
UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA
BORN APRIL 2, 1743 O.S.
DIED JULY 4. 1826
"Where the preamble declares, that coercion is a departure from the plan of the holy author of our religion, an amendment was proposed by inserting "Jesus Christ," so that it would read "A departure from the plan of Jesus Christ, the holy author of our religion;" the insertion was rejected by the great majority, in proof that they meant to comprehend, within the mantle of its protection, the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Mohammedan, the Hindoo and Infidel of every denomination."
--Thomas Jefferson, Autobiography, re Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom
Here's the text of the U.S. Constitution in a variety of handy formats
It never mentions God or deity.
It mentions religion only twice, in Article VI clause 3:
"The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States."
And in the First Amendment:
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;"
The founders meant what they wrote.
George Washington, 1st President (1789-1797)
"... the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion ..."
Source: The "Treaty of Tripoli," negotiated and signed by the First President of the United States, on November 4, 1796
John Adams, 2nd President (1797-1801)
"This would be the best of all possible worlds, if there were no religions in it.
Source: A letter to Thomas Jefferson, May 15, 1817
Thomas Jefferson, 3rd President (1801-1809)
"Christianity ... (has become) the most perverted system that ever shone on man. ... Rogueries, absurdities and untruths were perpetrated upon the teachings of Jesus by a large band of dupes and importers ..."
Source: Six Historic Americans, by John E. Remsberg
James Madison, 4th President (1809-1817), often called the Father of the Constitution:
"Religious bondage shackles and debilitates the mind and unfits it for every noble enterprise."
Source: Letter to William Bradford, April 1, 1774
"I have found Christian dogma unintelligible. Early in life I absented myself from Christian assemblies."
Source: "Toward the Mystery"
Thomas Paine (1737-1809):
"I would not dare to so dishonor my Creator God by attaching His name to
that book (the Bible)."
The Age of Reason, Part 1, Section 5
"In every country and in every age, the priest has been hostile to liberty. He is always in alliance with the despot ..."
Source: Thomas Jefferson letter to Horatio G. Spafford, 1814. ME 14:119
Thomas Paine (1737-1809):
"The study of theology, as it stands in the Christian churches, is the study of nothing; it is founded on nothing; it rests on no principles; it proceeds by no authority; it has no data; it can demonstrate nothing; and it admits of no conclusion."
From The Age of Reason
And not as founders of the USA, but similarly well-known:
Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865):
"The Bible is not my book, and Christianity is not my religion. I could never give assent to the long, complicated statements of Christian dogma."
Sources: Salvation for Sale, Gerard Thomas Straub; also quoted by Joseph Lewis
And for Southerners, although not a founder of the United States, but as a leader in the brief-lived Confederacy:
Robert E. Lee, in a Letter to President Pierce:
"...Is it not strange that the descendants of those Pilgrim Fathers who crossed the Atlantic to preserve their own freedom have always proved the most intolerant of the spiritual liberty of others?"
Oh, and by the way, of the activities that the Bible's Ten Commandments prohibit, throughout the history of the USA, its secular laws enacted by those founders and all of their successors, prohibit only two as crimes. (VI and VII)
And this, from one of my former high school students who's now a shrink <grin>:
"If you talk to God, it's religion. But is God talks to you, it's schizophrenia." -- James Latham
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