The Founding Fathers on Religion – In Their Own Words

Last August, President Obama declared: “This is America. And our commitment to religious freedom must be unshakeable. The principle that people of all faiths are welcome in this country and that they will not be treated differently by their government is essential to who we are.”       But is it so?

In the storybook version most of us learned in school, the Pilgrims came to America aboard the Mayflower in search of religious freedom in 1620. The Puritans soon followed, for the same reason. Ever since these religious dissidents arrived at their shining “city upon a hill,” as their governor John Winthrop called it, millions from around the world have done the same, coming to an America where they found a welcome melting pot in which everyone was free to practice his or her own faith.

The problem is that this tidy narrative is an American myth. The real story of religion in America’s past is an often awkward, frequently embarrassing and occasionally bloody tale that most civics books and high-school texts either paper over or shunt to the side. And much of the recent conversation about America’s ideal of religious freedom has paid lip service to this comforting tableau….

In newly independent America, there was a crazy quilt of state laws regarding religion. In Massachusetts, only Christians were allowed to hold public office, and Catholics were allowed to do so only after renouncing papal authority. In 1777, New York State’s constitution banned Catholics from public office (and would do so until 1806). In Maryland, Catholics had full civil rights, but Jews did not. Delaware required an oath affirming belief in the Trinity. Several states, including Massachusetts and South Carolina, had official, state-supported churches.

(James) Madison also made a point that any believer of any religion should understand: that the government sanction of a religion was, in essence, a threat to religion. “Who does not see,” he wrote, “that the same authority which can establish Christianity, in exclusion of all other Religions, may establish with the same ease any particular sect of Christians, in exclusion of all other Sects?”

By Kenneth C. Davis.   Read More @ Smithsonian Magazine


by Allen C. Dexter

The ten commandments are supposedly the foundation of Christianity and the other Abrahamic faiths. The reality — not so much. Especially when it comes to manufacturing support from famous people of the past who are no longer around to defend themselves.

The anti-religious writings and comments of our esteemed founding fathers and subsequent presidents, etc. have always been a thorn in the side of religionists. So, if actual history wasn’t on their side, some of them have gone so far as to create fictions out of whole cloth. As in many other moral issue matters, some seem to think that breaking those venerable commandments is perfectly alright if they conclude that the cause is “just.” “Just” meaning the promotion of Christianity or whatever other Abrahamic approach happens to be involved.

A guy named David Barton wrote a whole book on the subject which he had to admit was made up when he was cornered. This is revealed in a website blog currently available:

I have been angrily denounced many times when I have pointed out that this country wasn’t founded by staunch Christians. Christians desperately search for anything to back up their assertion that this is a Christian nation, founded on Christian principles and doctrine. Or, as one former associate who has turned to Judaism likes to put it, “judeo-christian,” with emphasis on “judeo.”

My wife had a university professor who was Jewish. He constantly tried to tie anything consequential that happened in history to Jews and Israel. We had a similar mindset in the old WCG. Isn’t chauvinism amazing? More of the “mine doesn’t stink” syndrome.

The most vocal, outstanding and readily available of these founding fathers is Thomas Paine. His great book, Age of Reason, is available on this site. The comments of Jefferson, Washington, etc. are more scattered and harder to ferret out. Don’t expect your pastor to point them out. Nor anyone else with a religious ax to grind.

I wish someone younger with the research time and capability would take up the cause of gathering up what our departed founding fathers really did write and say on the subject and get it out in an organized, documented volume, or volumes. If some of that work has been done and is readily available, please comment on the sources you know about. I am aware of many and have referred to them in other posts, but the blogosphere is loaded with sites I’m constantly discovering.

I especially value online sources. Books are expensive and take up a lot of space. Still, I’ll be happy to pay for documented facts. I’m not giving one cent for Barton’s scam.

Rush Limbaugh can quote him.

I won’t!