Wednesday, December 30, 2009

America's Founding -- Not a Christian Nation

As a result of a recent response on Facebook to becoming a fan of the Secular Coalition for America, I felt I needed to put together some references about aspects of the founding of our country. In short, the question is:
Was America founded as a Christian nation or not?

Without too much effort on Google, I found the following information and references. I haven't had the time to search Wikipedia yet but I hope to do that in the near future.

From the Freedom From Religion Foundation (site here), there is this "nontract" entitled Is America a Christian Nation? This is a short, brochure-style Q&A sheet that briefly addresses most of the major issues (the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, the Treaty of Tripoli, the Pilgrims and Puritans, separation of church and state, majority rule, state standing under the Constitution, and displaying the Ten Commandments in government facilities.

An article in The Nation from 2005 entitled Our Godless Constitution contains more detailed information about the Treaty of Tripoli (signed with little ado in 1797.) It also details some the thoughts of our most famous founders -- Tom Paine, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, James Madison, Ben Franklin, John Adams, and others. It quotes Jefferson on one of three accomplishments he wished to be remembered for: The Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom -- that there would finally be "freedom for the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian, the Mohammeden, the Hindu and infidel of every denomination." The article also addresses the issues confronting politicians in public life, even 230 years ago.

A blog post by Jim Walker entitled The Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense founded on the Christian religion is another brief summary style of piece. It touches on the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, the Treaty of Tripoli, and the development of common law as it informed the development of Western legal systems. The title of the article itself is a verbatim quote from the beginning of Article 11 of the Treaty of Tripoli.

A more light-hearted, somewhat satirical piece entitled The United States: A Country Founded on Paganism examines the origins of the many symbols of our government and society. From documents to coins to statues to buildings to memorials, we have been inspired by a wide range of other cultures and beliefs.

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