Saturday, July 5, 2008

Myths of the Founders

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

I always love hearing and reading this beautiful and moving document. The Declaration was of course penned by Thomas Jefferson, the same Jefferson that atheists and the anti-religious crowd love to quote frequently as "proof" that Christianity had no significant role among the founding of America. Naturally, they'll always ignore these famous words of the Declaration.

But even the deist, not atheist, Jefferson acknowledged the basic understanding that moral rights come from God. There is no other rational basis for human freedom and rights than the knowledge that they were given to us from on high because of the intrinsic value human beings hold as sentient, intelligent, and moral creatures fashioned in the image of the Creator. That is Natural Law.

How far has America fallen from her glorious foundation? It's time to move back to the fundamental values of the Constitution and the founding of America. The corruption must end. We need to re-establish where our rights come from and why we are entitled to them.

But many argue that the United States and her government was meant to be a completely secular and faith-free institution and that Judeo-Christianity played little, if any substantial role in creating the laws and building the foundations upon which America was founded. This faulty notion is based on historical ignorance and denial but regrettably is becoming more regularly believed and accepted, thus I feel the need to shed light on the truth, and part the murky clouds of the sky to expose the sun on the falsehoods I commonly see being spread about the Founding Fathers, particularly Jefferson.

Before I continue, I know people are going to falsely accuse me of advocating a theocracy. That's fine, but for the record I am not agreeing with any such accusation. I don't desire my faith or any other faith to be forced upon everyone else under penalty of the law. I don't want the government to tell all of you what you should think and believe in your personal life or to force you against your own conscience. Many of those who always cry "theocracy" in reaction to any public religious acknowledgment, do not understand what a real theocracy is.

Despite what many would like to think, the Founders (most of them) never set out to establish a purely secular state nor did they set out to set up an impenetrable wall to remove all traces of religion from public and even governmental institutions. However, they also did not set out to establish a theocracy or a government dictated by the Church, but at the same time they never abandoned or rejected the Christian identity of America or the vital role that religion should and must play in society. And even if one were to argue that they did, then they failed miserably. Christianity has been an integral part of American society and government since the beginning.

In fact, the same congress that approved the First Amendment, issued a resolution 24 hours later that said, "Resolved, that a joint committee of both Houses be directed to wait upon the President of the United States, to request that he would recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging, with grateful hearts, the many signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceable to establish a Constitution of government for their safety and happiness." Congress issued proclamations of national days for fasting and prayer numerous times. George Washington and Abraham Lincoln issued a general order for the military to observe the Sabbath and for a long time most of American society acknowledged the Sabbath by keeping most businesses and stores closed on Sunday.

Unfortunately, most people do not know how to read the First Amendment which states that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion..." Many people assume this means that religion can have absolutely no role or support in any public or government setting. What it actually means is that Congress cannot establish a federal denomination. It cannot recognize or honor and enforce the beliefs a specific church or religious organization and adopt it as the State Church or a national religion. Madison, who proposed the wording for the First Amendment said, "It is the mutual duty of all to practice Christian forbearance, love, and charity toward each other." He also said, "The civil rights of none shall be abridged on account of religious belief or worship, nor shall any national religion be established." Madison though once supportive of paid chaplains later denounced his activities as unconstitutional. Of course it was George Mason and other Founders who supported the Bill of Rights which Madison initially opposed several times.

Admittedly, quoting either Madison or Jefferson is somewhat dubious because both men made statements that flatly contradict each other and as a result, people on both sides of this argument use them to justify their views.

Thomas Jefferson

Even Thomas Jefferson was not as anti-religion as many secular and atheist militants wish to make him. Jefferson, who was indeed a deist is often claimed by the secularists as one of their own. But consider the fact that Jefferson was among the least religious of the Founders and yet he was more reverent and supportive of religion than most atheists would want to admit.

Deism, for those that don't know, is a near extinct belief system that few people hold anymore. Deists believe in the existence of God or a higher power and intelligence but they believe that God is inactive in creation. God initiated the creation process but stepped back and lets the natural workings of the universe continue on without any concern or interference. In other words God is impersonal, apathetic, and unknowable in contrast to the theistic notion that God is personally interested and active in the affairs of the universe and human beings. It must also be contrasted with atheism which asserts that there is no God or any supernatural, higher being. This is important to note.

A fact that few of you probably know about and may be surprised to hear is that the United States Capital building was also used as a church before congress officially moved into the building up until after the Civil War. Many prominent figures attended including Jefferson (who was the most regular attendee), John Quincy Adams, James Madison, and later on Abraham Lincoln. Dorothy Ripley was the first woman to preach before the House in that building and Henry Highland Garnet became the first black man to preach in front of Congress to commemorate the Thirteenth Amendment abolishing slavery. Christian prayer was held unchallenged in the federal Capital building for 71 years.

Here the House would hold religious services of prayer and sermons that could last 2-3 hours before they began their sessions. Not only did Jefferson regularly attend the services, but he asked Congress to support religious causes. In 1803, Jefferson recommended to Congress the approval of a treaty providing government funds to Catholic priests to minister to the Kaskaskia Indians. He signed extensions of a measure, three different times, which was described as a "an Act regulating the grants of land appropriated for Military services and for the Society of the United Brethren for propagating the Gospel among the Heathen."

But wait, didn't Jefferson give the "wall" metaphor? Yes he did. "Believing that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legislative powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their Legislature should "make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof," thus building a wall of separation between Church and State."

But there is a little problematic factor here that people who quote Jefferson forget to acknowledge...context. Jefferson wrote these words in a letter to the Danbury Baptist Association in 1802. Jefferson's rhetoric here was intended to assure the Baptists that the government would not infringe on their right to worship or interfere with their religious life. He also said this immediately after the wall of separation line, 'Adhering to this expression of the supreme will of the nation in behalf of the rights of conscience, I shall see with sincere satisfaction the progress of those sentiments which tend to restore to man all his natural rights, convinced he has no natural right in opposition to his social duties. I reciprocate your kind prayers for the protection and blessing of the common Father and Creator of man, and tender you for yourselves and your religious association assurances of my high respect and esteem.' Secularists conveniently leave that part out. Jefferson never said anything about religion having no role in government but he indeed said that the government must never interfere with religious freedom.

It wasn't until 1947 that the Supreme Court created the doctrine of a wall of separation between church and state, quoting Jefferson out of context as the basis for the decision.

Another quote that has been misused, "I do not believe it is for the interest of religion to invite the civil magistrate to direct its exercises, its discipline, or its doctrines; nor of the religious societies that the general government should be invested with the power of effecting any uniformity of time or matter among them. Fasting and prayer are religious exercises. The enjoining them, an act of discipline. Every religious society has a right to determine for itself the times for these exercises and the objects proper for them according to their own particular tenets; and this right can never be safer than in their own hands where the Constitution has deposited it... Every one must act according to the dictates of his own reason, and mine tells me that civil powers alone have been given to the President of the United States, and no authority to direct the religious exercises of his constituents."

Jefferson is merely reiterating here that government must not direct or interfere with religious practice and that religious institutions have the right to establish their own doctrine and practices where the Constitution has placed protective status. He is not saying that religion should have no part or role in the government. He also says that everyone must act according to the dictates of his or her own reason. Jefferson applied this to public prayer, not demanding that it be abolished but that if a man decides to pray, he should pray however he believes. In other words, Jefferson actually rejected generic public prayers and advocated that an individual, say a Christian, use Jesus Christ in his prayers in the public setting. Jefferson definitely stressed individual conscious and reason. That had nothing to do with whether or not he was against public expressions of faith.

Jefferson also said, "[O]ur excellent Constitution . . . has not placed our religious rights under the power of any public functionary."

"[N]o power over the freedom of religion . . . [is] delegated to the United States by the Constitution."

"In matters of religion, I have considered that its free exercise is placed by the Constitution independent of the powers of the general [federal] government."

But didn't Jefferson say "I do not find in orthodox Christianity one redeeming feature" and "I have recently been examining all the known superstitions of the world, and do not find in our particular superstition (Christianity) one redeeming feature. They are all alike founded on fables and mythology," and "Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, than that of blind-folded fear?" Indeed he did.

But strangely, he also said, "The doctrines of Jesus are simple, and tend all to the happiness of mankind."

"I concur with the author in considering the moral precepts of Jesus as more pure, correct, and sublime than those of ancient philosophers."

"No nation has ever existed or been governed without religion. Nor can be. The Christian religion is the best religion that has been given to man and I, as Chief Magistrate of this nation, am bound to give it the sanction of my example."

"God who gave us life gave us liberty. And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure if we have lost the only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are the gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with His wrath?"

And of course, there is the Declaration of Independence. Unfortunately for secularists and atheists, there is just as much material by Jefferson speaking kindly about Christianity and religion as there is against it, perhaps even more so. And given Jefferson's documented actions and behavior regarding his religious activity and support, the more logical conclusion is that he was a firm supporter of religious rights and the positive impact of religion, specifically Christianity, on society.

Jefferson spent most of his life reading and studying the Bible, although supposedly he ripped out the pages that involved miracles and things he didn't like. His admiration for the teachings of Christ were undeniable however.

At worst it seems Jefferson contradicted himself. But he certainly was not limited to just negative remarks about Christianity and religion. Actions speak louder than words and Jefferson's affirming actions overpower his verbal criticism.

"Give up money, give up fame, give up science, give the earth itself and all it contains rather than do an immoral act. And never suppose that in any possible situation, or under any circumstances, it is best for you to do a dishonorable thing, however slightly so it may appear to you. Whenever you are to do a thing, though it can never be known but to yourself, ask yourself how you would act were all the world looking at you, and act accordingly. Encourage all your virtuous dispositions, and exercise them whenever an opportunity arises, being assured that they will gain strength by exercise, as a limb of the body does, and that exercise will make them habitual. From the practice of the purest virtue, you may be assured you will derive the most sublime comforts in every moment of life, and in the moment of death."

Faith-Affirming Quotes and Statements from Other Founders

But as stated previously, Jefferson was one of the -least- religious of the Founders. Consider this extensive list of quotes by some of the most famous and significant framers and founders of the United States that describe the Judeo-Christian foundation for national law and conduct.

"[O]ur citizens should early understand that the genuine source of correct republican principles is the Bible, particularly the New Testament, or the Christian religion." - Noah Webster

"The most perfect maxims and examples for regulating your social conduct and domestic economy, as well as the best rules of morality and religion, are to be found in the Bible. . . . The moral principles and precepts found in the scriptures ought to form the basis of all our civil constitutions and laws. These principles and precepts have truth, immutable truth, for their foundation. . . . All the evils which men suffer from vice, crime, ambition, injustice, oppression, slavery and war, proceed from their despising or neglecting the precepts contained in the Bible. . . . For instruction then in social, religious and civil duties resort to the scriptures for the best precepts." -Noah Webster

"To instance in the case of murder: this is expressly forbidden by the Divine. . . . If any human law should allow or enjoin us to commit it we are bound to transgress that human law. . . . But, with regard to matters that are . . . not commanded or forbidden by those superior laws such, for instance, as exporting of wool into foreign countries; here the . . . legislature has scope and opportunity to interpose." - Blackstone's commentaries

"All [laws], however, may be arranged in two different classes. 1) Divine. 2) Human. . . . But it should always be remembered that this law, natural or revealed, made for men or for nations, flows from the same Divine source: it is the law of God. . . . Human law must rest its authority ultimately upon the authority of that law which is Divine." - James Wilson, Signer of the Constitution; U. S. Supreme Court Justice

"Far from being rivals or enemies, religion and law are twin sisters, friends, and mutual assistants. Indeed, these two sciences run into each other. The divine law, as discovered by reason and the moral sense, forms an essential part of both." -James Wilson

"[T]he law . . . dictated by God Himself is, of course, superior in obligation to any other. It is binding over all the globe, in all countries, and at all times. No human laws are of any validity if contrary to this." - Alexander Hamilton, Signer of the Constitution

"[T]he . . . law established by the Creator . . . extends over the whole globe, is everywhere and at all times binding upon mankind. . . . [This] is the law of God by which he makes his way known to man and is paramount to all human control. - Rufus King, Signer of the Constitution

John Adams
"[I]t is religion and morality alone which can establish the principles upon which freedom can securely stand. The only foundation of a free constitution is pure virtue."

"[W]e have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. . . . Our constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other."

"The moment the idea is admitted into society, that property is not as sacred as the laws of God, and that there is not a force of law and public justice to protect it, anarchy and tyranny commence. If "Thou shalt not covet," and "Thou shalt not steal," were not commandments of Heaven, they must be made inviolable precepts in every society, before it can be civilized or made free."

"Statesmen may plan and speculate for liberty, but it is Religion and Morality alone which can establish the principles upon which freedom can securely stand. A patriot must be a religious man."

John Quincy Adams
"The law given from Sinai was a civil and municipal as well as a moral and religious code; it contained many statutes . . . of universal application-laws essential to the existence of men in society, and most of which have been enacted by every nation which ever professed any code of laws."

"There are three points of doctrine the belief of which forms the foundation of all morality. The first is the existence of God; the second is the immortality of the human soul; and the third is a future state of rewards and punishments. Suppose it possible for a man to disbelieve either of these three articles of faith and that man will have no conscience, he will have no other law than that of the tiger or the shark. The laws of man may bind him in chains or may put him to death, but they never can make him wise, virtuous, or happy."

"[N]either the wisest constitution nor the wisest laws will secure the liberty and happiness of a people whose manners are universally corrupt." - Samuel Adams

"Our liberty depends on our education, our laws, and habits . . . it is founded on morals and religion, whose authority reigns in the heart, and on the influence all these produce on public opinion before that opinion governs rulers." - Fisher Arms (Framer of the First Amendment)

Benjamin Rush
"The only foundation for a useful education in a republic is to be laid in religion. Without this there can be no virtue, and without virtue there can be no liberty, and liberty is the object and life of all republican governments."

"We profess to be republicans, and yet we neglect the only means of establishing and perpetuating our republican forms of government, that is, the universal education of our youth in the principles of Christianity by the means of the Bible. For this Divine Book, above all others, favors that equality among mankind, that respect for just laws, and those sober and frugal virtues, which constitute the soul of republicanism."

By renouncing the Bible, philosophers swing from their moorings upon all moral subjects. . . . It is the only correct map of the human heart that ever has been published. . . . All systems of religion, morals, and government not founded upon it [the Bible] must perish, and how consoling the thought, it will not only survive the wreck of these systems but the world itself. "The Gates of Hell shall not prevail against it." [Matthew 1:18]

"Remember that national crimes require national punishments, and without declaring what punishment awaits this evil, you may venture to assure them that it cannot pass with impunity, unless God shall cease to be just or merciful."

"[W]here there is no law, there is no liberty; and nothing deserves the name of law but that which is certain and universal in its operation upon all the members of the community."

George Washington
"While just government protects all in their religious rights, true religion affords to government its surest support."

"Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of man and citizens. The mere politician, equally with the pious man, ought to respect and to cherish them. A volume could not trace all their connexions with private and public felicity. Let it simply be asked, Where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths, which are the instruments of investigation in Courts of Justice?"

"And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle. It is substantially true, that virtue or morality is a necessary spring of popular government. The rule, indeed, extends with more or less force to every species of free government. Who, that is a sincere friend to it, can look with indifference upon attempts to shake the foundation of the fabric?"

"reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle...Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports."

"Without morals a republic cannot subsist any length of time; they therefore who are decrying the Christian religion, whose morality is so sublime & pure, [and] which denounces against the wicked eternal misery, and [which] insured to the good eternal happiness, are undermining the solid foundation of morals, the best security for the duration of free governments." - Charles Carroll (signer of the Declaration of Independence)

"[T]he primary objects of government are the peace, order, and prosperity of society. . . . To the promotion of these objects, particularly in a republican government, good morals are essential. Institutions for the promotion of good morals are therefore objects of legislative provision and support: and among these . . . religious institutions are eminently useful and important. . . . [T]he legislature, charged with the great interests of the community, may, and ought to countenance, aid and protect religious institutions—institutions wisely calculated to direct men to the performance of all the duties arising from their connection with each other, and to prevent or repress those evils which flow from unrestrained passion." -Oliver Ellsworth (Chief-Justice of the Supreme Court)

"[O]nly a virtuous people are capable of freedom. As nations become corrupt and vicious, they have more need of masters. I have lived, Sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth, that God governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without His notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without his aid? We have been assured, Sir, in the Sacred Writings, that "except the Lord build the House, they labor in vain that build it." I firmly believe this; and I also believe that without His concurring aid we shall succeed in this political building no better, than the Builders of Babel: We shall be divided by our partial local interests; our projects will be confounded, and we ourselves shall become a reproach and bye word down to future ages. And what is worse, mankind may hereafter from this unfortunate instance, despair of establishing governments by human wisdom and leave it to chance, war and conquest.

I therefore beg leave to move that henceforth prayers imploring the assistance of Heaven, and its blessings on our deliberations be held in this Assembly every morning before we proceed to business, and that one or more of the clergy of this city be requested to officiate in that service."
- Benjamin Franklin

"[P]ublic utility pleads most forcibly for the general distribution of the Holy Scriptures. The doctrine they preach, the obligations they impose, the punishment they threaten, the rewards they promise, the stamp and image of divinity they bear, which produces a conviction of their truths, can alone secure to society, order and peace, and to our courts of justice and constitutions of government, purity, stability and usefulness. In vain, without the Bible, we increase penal laws and draw entrenchments around our institutions. Bibles are strong entrenchments. Where they abound, men cannot pursue wicked courses, and at the same time enjoy quiet conscience." - James McHenry (Signer of the Constitution)

"To the kindly influence of Christianity we owe that degree of civil freedom, and political and social happiness which mankind now enjoys. . . . Whenever the pillars of Christianity shall be overthrown, our present republican forms of government, and all blessings which flow from them, must fall with them." - Jedediah Morse

"[I]t is impossible that any people of government should ever prosper, where men render not unto God, that which is God's, as well as to Caesar, that which is Caesar's." - William Penn

"No free government now exists in the world, unless where Christianity is acknowledged, and is the religion of the country."
- Pennsylvania Supreme Court

"Indeed, the right of a society or government to [participate] in matters of religion will hardly be contested by any persons who believe that piety, religion, and morality are intimately connected with the well being of the state and indispensable to the administrations of civil justice. The promulgation of the great doctrines of religion—the being, and attributes, and providence of one Almighty God; the responsibility to Him for all our actions, founded upon moral accountability; a future state of rewards and punishments; the cultivation of all the personal, social, and benevolent virtues—these never can be a matter of indifference in any well-ordered community. It is, indeed, difficult to conceive how any civilized society can well exist without them." - Joseph Story

"Men, in a word, must necessarily be controlled either by a power within them or by a power without them; either by the Word of God or by the strong arm of man; either by the Bible or by the bayonet." -Robert Winthrop

"There is a just God who presides over the destinies of nations, and who will raise up friends to fight our battles for us [2 Chron. 32:8]. The battle, sir, is not to the strong alone [Eccl. 9:11]; it is to the vigilant, the active, the brave. Besides, sir, we have no election. If we were base enough to desire it, it is now too late to retire from the contest. There is no retreat but in submission and slavery! Our chains are forged! Their clanking may be heard on the plains of Boston! The war is inevitable--and let it come! I repeat it, sir, let it come.

It is in vain, sir, to extenuate the matter. Gentlemen may cry, Peace, Peace-- but there is no peace [Jer. 6:14]. The war is actually begun! The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle [Matt. 20:6]? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!"
-Excerpt from the famous speech given by Patrick Henry in 1775

"It has been the error of the schools to teach astronomy, and all the other sciences and subjects of natural philosophy, as accomplishments only; whereas they should be taught theologically, or with reference to the Being who is the author of them: for all the principles of science are of Divine origin. Man cannot make, or invent, or contrive principles. He can only discover them; and he ought to look through the discovery to the Author. When we examine an extraordinary piece of machinery, an astonishing pile of architecture, a well executed statue or a highly finished painting where life and action are imitated, and habit only prevents our mistaking a surface of light and shade for cubical solidity, our ideas are naturally led to think of the extensive genius and talents of the artist. When we study the elements of geometry, we think of Euclid. When we speak of gravitation, we think of Newton. How then is it, that when we study the works of God in the creation, we stop short, and do not think of God? It is from the error of the schools in having taught those subjects as accomplishments only, and thereby separated the study of them from the Being who is the author of them." - Thomas Paine (yes, the Thomas Paine who authored The Age of Reason)

Another interesting fact taken from states that "according to Donald S. Lutz in his book The Origins of American Constitutionalism, the leaders of the Revolution and framers of the US Constitution quoted William Blackstone, John Locke, and Charles Secondat de Montesquieu quite significantly. These three men had a massive influence on the formation of American government. Quotes from the Bible, though, outnumbered all the quotes from these men combined. Of 3154 citations from the 1760's - 1805, a full 34 percent were from the Bible. Montesquieu came in second with 8.3 percent of the quotes. It's also important to note 7.9 percent of the quotes were from the great jurist William Blackstone, whose Commentaries depended on the God of the Bible as the true Giver of law and the One on whom all human law should be based."

My argument here has not been whether it is good or bad for the United States to consider herself a "Christian nation," although it is of my opinion that Christianity has been a mostly beneficial, vital, and foundational influence in American society, government, and judiciary, but I am arguing for the reality that Christianity has been a dominant, if not THE dominant ideological, philosophical, and moral force that molded the United States into what it is today.

"The framers may not have mentioned Christianity in the Constitution, but they clearly intended that charter of liberty to govern a society of fervent faith, freely encouraged by government for the benefit of all. Their noble and unprecedented experiment never involved a religion-free or faithless state but did indeed presuppose America's unequivocal identity as a Christian nation." - Michael Medved

"Those people who will not be governed by God will be ruled by tyrants." - William Penn

(Credit to for the quotes. Very interesting and informative website.)