Thanks to all who read and follow this debate, and special thanks to the four officials and my opponent, for their time and effort.
"It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great nation was founded not by religionists, but by Christians; not on religions, but on the Gospel of Jesus Christ." ~ Patrick Henry
"As the government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion" . ~ Treaty of Tripoli
Both of the above historic statements can’t be right. The fact is, neither of them are right. The foundings of the US are somewhere in between those two statements. The first century of US existence showed that selected Christian principles would establish US prosperity, not as completely secular nor completely Christian, but as a Godly republic marked by religious pluralism. In the thread from the religion forum that sparked this debate, I made these statements.
The resolution “All basic principles in the U.S. constitution are Christian in nature” is not an extreme claim. If the basic principles in the US founding are all Christian in nature, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it contains all Christian principles that exist, any more than a bucket full of water does not contain all water that exists.Was the U.S. founded on Christianity? NO
Does the U.S Constitution establish a Christian nation? NO
Is the U.S. a nation that was founded on Christian principles? YES
When it comes to human activity, Christianity is about two things
A) Love the Lord thy God
B) Love thy neighbor as thyself
While these can and do often relate to each other, they don’t necessarily always relate to each other. Man does not apply them proportionately. It can be said that a few European kings of the 17th and 18th century did a much better job of loving God than they did their fellow man, and of course many atheists often love their neighbors as themselves. . So there is no automatic correlation between how man relates to God, and how he relates to his fellow man.
While the US was not founded ON a common ethnicity, language, or religion that could be taken for granted as a source of identity, it was founded BY a common people. The following paragraph of Federalist paper number 2 makes that clear;
http://www.foundingfathers.info/fede...pers/fed02.htmWith equal pleasure I have as often taken notice that Providence has been pleased to give this one connected country to one united people--a people descended from the same ancestors, speaking the same language, professing the same religion, attached to the same principles of government, very similar in their manners and customs, and who, by their joint counsels, arms, and efforts, fighting side by side throughout a long and bloody war, have nobly established general liberty and independence.
Again, it’s important to note that while the US founding principles weren’t RESTRICTED TO a common people, they were FOUNDED BY a common people. This Christian principle of unselfishness, of not restricting their countrys’ founding on only themselves, is largely what has made the U.S. Constitution unique, and successful.
Though they were a common people, the founders were a diverse group when it came to beliefs concerning “Love the Lord thy God” – any adherence to a particular set of religious doctrines. They despised religious tyranny, yet greatly valued the virtue and morality of “Love thy neighbor as thyself” – virtue and morality that much, if not most of the Bible taught them. Thomas Jefferson edited his own Bible, cutting out subjects and references to faith, enough to convince many that he was not a Christian. If he didn’t believe strongly in the parts of the Bible that he left in, the virtue and morality of Christianity, he wouldn’t have gone to the trouble to do this editing job of his.
Considering Jeffersons Bible, George Washingtons thanksgiving proclamation, James Madisons Presbyterian upbringing, John Jays devout Christianity, and countless other facts and quotes about them and all the other founding fathers, it’s not surprising that the Bible was by far their most referred to source for how to structure this democratic – republican form of government that has survived longer than any other;
http://home.flash.net/~gregball/godly_am.htmThe University of Houston political science professors set out to determine the origins and influences on our Constitution. They collected 15000 writings, condensed them down into 3154 significant and important writings. The task took them 10 years. The 3 men quoted most often are: Blackstone 12 times, Montesquieu 4 times, and John Locke 16 times. The book most often quoted from lathe Bible. with 34% direct references. and 00% secondary references. Deuteronomy was the most often quoted book of the Bible.
The Constitution and the Bill of Rights are brief, but the detailed analysis of ideals of justice, the general welfare, and the rights of individuals are contained in what largely led up to them, the Federalist Papers. An overall summary of the Federalist Papers is that the primary political motive of man is selfish, and that men – whether acting individually or collectively – are selfish and only imperfectly rational. Isaiah 33; 22 says “For the Lord is our judge; the Lord is our lawgiver; the Lord is our king…” - it’s no coincidence that the constitution contains three separate divisions for; judging (Supreme court and inferior courts), lawgiving (Congress) and king (president) The checks and balances, the separation of powers, that are much of what the Constitution is about, is patterned after the Christian doctrine that men are sinners, and that the only possibility of good government lay in mans capacity to devise several political institutions that would police each other.
Jeremiah 17; 9 says “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure, who can understand it?” Romans 3; 23 says “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”. Only two Biblical examples of many – one Old Testament and one New Testament – that show men to be imperfect.
The concept of freedom and liberty are found throughout the Bible. Starting with Deuteronomy (mentioned above as the most referenced book of the Bible by the founders), we see the concept of settling new land, (chapter 1;8) not being afraid of any man, (chapter 1;17) and in chapter 4; 6 “observing [decrees and laws] carefully, for this will show your wisdom and understanding to the nations, who will hear about all these decrees and say, “Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people”.
From Leviticus 25; 10, “Consecrate the fiftieth year and proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants.
2nd Corinthians 3; 17 “ Now the Lord is the spirit, and where the spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.
Freedom not only to LIVE free, but to REJECT the word of the Lord. Jeremiah 6; 19 “they have rejected”, 8; 9 “….”since they have rejected the word of the Lord”. Mark 7; 8 “..you have let go of the commands of God…”
It makes perfect sense that Godly men would use Christian guidelines and history to establish a country of religious freedom, without mentioning Christianity, or restricting people any more than God did, in terms of allowing the freedom to disobey any one Christian denomination, or all of Christianity, if their intent was to avoid religious tyranny. Avoiding religious tyranny, or any tyranny, was one of their greatest passions, in the formation of a new government. It was inspired by their argument with the British government – the argument about first principles. They questioned exactly where power came from, and who defined rights between kings and subjects. The opposition to the idea that ruling power stair-stepped from any god, to a king or monarch, and then to common people, was the one thing that united the founding fathers, in spite of whatever differences may have existed in their personal beliefs. Thomas Jeffersons immortal words about unalienable rights coming from our creator as written in the Declaration of Independence were a common bond among them, there are simply no records of detailed opposition to it, among themselves or of that eras public-at-large, claims that rights originate anywhere else.
This link gives an overall look of the religious beliefs of most notable U.S. founders. While deism was not an organized religion, it can be applied to some founders, in varying ways. George Washington was considered a “Christian deist” by many historians, while Thomas Paine was a non-Christian deist. As the founders, and most people today, consider religion to be a personal matter, attaching the Deist label to many founders is speculative at best. It probably fit Jefferson and Franklin well, but to apply it to Madison and Washington is very questionable. Not one founder was clearly established as an atheist – not one.
Considering the founders common background as described in Federalist #2, and considering their documented Biblical references, there is no question that their concept of a creator never included all creators ever devised by all previous world religions, or all those devised today, “mother natures”, “spaghetti monsters” and the like. The conception of a Creator was then, and is now, specific only to a tiny handful of the world religions. The conception of the creator described by Jefferson, Madison, and others, and applied to their vision of individual freedom, their vision of mans selfish nature etc, narrows it to only two - Judaism and its offspring, Christianity. The general Christian background of the majority of founders is made clear by the reference in Article One, Section Seven of the Constitution. When setting standards for how laws are passed – setting time limits for interaction between president and congress, the following statement appears;
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Article...s_ConstitutionIf any bill shall not be returned by the President within ten days (Sundays excepted) after it shall have been presented to him…….
The “Sundays excepted” statement clearly shows basic Christian thought in lawmaking, and general government activity.
The most notable thing about the Jewish-Christian conception of the relation between the Creator and his human subjects is that, without government interference, it allows for three things at once: the freedom of the individual conscience; second, a freedom ordered to law and social unity; and, third, a comfortable pluralism, in which diverse communities live in unity, with the free exercise of conscience. This is an original conception, a new idea for government without precedent on the face of the earth. And it proved itself very well for the next 150 years. In the first 100 years particularly, there were several US Supreme Court decisions that made all the more clear that opposition to established religion is not opposition to religion in general. Separation of church and state, IS an opposition to religion in general, as it is being defined today. It does exist in a constitution, but not the U.S. constitution. It’s found in the Soviet Constitution, article 52.
http://members.tripod.com/Sludge/ussr.htm(2) In the USSR, the church is separated from the state, and the school from the church.
The socialism, communism, and redistribution of wealth of that constitution are not Christian principles. No mention of “Sunday” in the USSR Constitution.
As prompted by my opponent, I’ll probably go into more detail about 19th century court decisions, and of course “separation of church and state” as this debate progresses.
As time marches further and further away from the founding of the U.S., differences of opinion seem to grow about the intent of the framers, particularly in the last 60 years – Christian principles vs. secularism. Time does not change actual history. As this debate moves along, I’ll continue to represent actual history, and show clear correlation between Christian principles and the U.S. Constitution.