Christian Nation Quiz
It seems to me that if the founding fathers of this country were very bright, and I think they were, then their intentions to form a "Christian Nation" would be clearly evident in our founding documents. I mean, aside from their private writings where no indication of such intent can be found, wouldn't such intent be clear in the very documents that declared and established this country?
To that end, I have examined some of the early documents, written by these founding fathers, upon which this nation was founded. First, there is the Declaration of Independence. While the view of the founding fathers was that the Declaration did not found a new nation, but rather returned the power to govern to the source, i.e., the people, this document is often cited as evidence of a “Christian Nation” by advocates of a repressive theocracy. The Declaration of Independence left the 13 Colonies without a legislative body and without law. As the founding fathers expressed at the time, the people were returned to the state of nature.
Second, I have examined the eleven constitutions, written concurrently with or immediately after the Declaration in 1776 and 1777, which reestablished governments in ten of the newly independent states, and also established the independent Republic of New Connecticut (now known as Vermont) from the disputed territories that were claimed by Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and New York. Three colonies (Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut) didn't draft and adopt constitutions until later and instead reverted to a previous charter.
Third, I examined the Articles of Confederation, the initial founding document of The United States of America, The Constitution itself, and the Bill of Rights.
So here are some questions about these documents. Keep in mind that the intent of the founding fathers to form a “Christian Nation” should be quite clear in these documents, if that were their intent.
1. The Declaration shows the intention to form a “Christian Nation” in that it mentions Jesus Christ how many times? a. zero, b. one, c. three, d. five.
Of course, everyone knows the answer. This initial document of the United States mentions Jesus zero times. A bit peculiar upon the founding of a “Christian Nation,” don’t you think?
2. The Declaration shows the intention to form a “Christian Nation” in that it mentions God how many times? a. zero, b. one, c. three, d. five.
I’m sure you all got this right too. God is mentioned one time. Sadly for the “Christian Nation” crowd, “Nature and Nature’s God” is an expression typical of deism, written by Thomas Jefferson, an undisputed deist. The deity was typically mentioned as the “Creator,” or “Divine Providence” (also in the Declaration). The idea was that nature was established by the deity who then had no further part in the course of events – thus, “Nature’s God.”
3. How many times in the 11 state constitutions of 1776 & 1777 is Jesus mentioned?. a. zero, b. one, c. five, d. eleven.
A hint. It’s more than zero. It’s true. Even at the state level, in founding Christian governments, the drafters of the state constitutions failed to mention Jesus Christ more than a single time, specified in the oath taken by the legislators in a single state, Delaware. While it may not have been a Christian Nation, at least in Delaware only Christians and liars could be members of the legislature.
4. How many times in the 11 state constitutions of 1776 & 1777 is the word “Christian” used? a. zero, b. three, c. six, d. nine
Bet you thought you had this one too. The correct answer is six times in three of the 11 constitutions. But that isn't necessarily a good thing for the “Christian Nation” advocates. Let’s consider New York first. Article XXXV of the Constitution of New York of April, 1777 states in part, “That all such parts of…common law, and…statutes and acts…as may be construed to establish or maintain any particular denomination of Christians or their ministers, …are repugnant to this constitution,…and they hereby are, abrogated and rejected.”
The Constitution of Virginia of June 1776 states in Sec 16 of the Bill of Rights, “That religion, or the duty which we owe to our Creator…can be directed only by reason and conviction…and therefore all men are equally entitled to the free exercise of religion, according to the dictates of conscience; and that it is the mutual duty of all to practice Christian forbearance, love, and charity towards each other.” That isn't really establishing a “Christian” government but an encouragement to the people to respect the right of each person to practice religion as he sees fit.
Finally, there is the Maryland Constitution of November, 1776. Christianity is mentioned twice in Article XXXIII where it states that every man has the right and duty to worship God any such a manner as seems most acceptable to him. It mentions Christians when it specifically extends the same right to those “professing the Christian religion.” In that same article, the legislature is authorized to levy taxes for the support of religion. However, control of where that money is to be spent is retained by the citizen rather than being given to the established state religion. Further on, in Articles XXXV and again in Article LV, a belief in the “Christian Religion,” along with requirements to reject the sovereignty of the King and to swear allegiance to the state, is specified as a requirement to hold elective or appointive office. It also states that no further religious test is required. It is interesting to note that the Supreme Court found a similar provision in the Maryland Constitution unconstitutional when a man appointed as a notary public was denied that commission by a court clerk because he refused to declare his belief in God. (Torcaso v. Watkins, 367 U.S. 488 (1961))
At any rate, here in the Constitution of Maryland we do find intent to form a “Christian Nation.” However, I don’t think that two of the 13 states that we have found so far are enough to ascribe that view to the founding fathers from all states.
5. How many times in the 11 state constitutions of 1776 & 1777 is there a reference to the “Creator?” a. zero, b. four, c. eight, d. twelve
Did you take a lucky guess and say eight? Then you are wrong because it is four. In the Constitution of New York of April, 1777 the Declaration of Independence is quoted, all of it. Thus, just as the Declaration contains one reference to the Creator, so does the Constitution of New York.
In the Constitution of Pennsylvania of September, 1776, the form of the oath to be taken by members of the state assembly contains the word “Creator.” “I do believe in one God, the creator and governor of the universe, the rewarder of the good and the punisher of the wicked. And I do acknowledge the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament to be given by Divine inspiration.” It goes on to state that there should be no further religious test. Here was the perfect place to specify a “Christian Nation” (or at least a Christian State) and it misses the mark. It doesn't require a belief in Christianity and thus, even deists could be members of the state assembly. Thus, Benjamin Franklin was not only a member, but the President of the Executive Council.
Since the Constitution of Vermont of July, 1777 was an almost verbatim copy of the Constitution of Pennsylvania, it contains one reference to a “Creator” in the oath sworn by members of the state legislature.
The single mention of a “Creator” in the Constitution of Virginia has already been mentioned in question 4. Remember that it was in reference to the duty to practice religion and that every man is free to do so as he sees fit.
Also remember that use of “Creator” for the deity was typical of deists and apparently acceptable for Christians.
6. How many times in the 11 state constitutions of 1776 & 1777 is there a reference to “God?” a. zero, b. eight, c. eighteen, d. twenty-eight.
Of course, the mention of God is not an indication that one is a Christian. Such a claim would be silly in the extreme. However, the 11 state constitutions mention God a total of twenty eight times. Delaware = 2 – both times in the profession of faith for legislators. Georgia = 4 – in all cases as “so help me God” in the form of the oaths for various offices. Maryland = 1 – in the previously mentioned (in question 4) statement of freedom of religion from Article XXXIII. New Jersey = 1 – in a rather forceful statement of religious freedom in Article XVIII. New York = 2 – the first being the previously mentioned quote of the entire Declaration of Independence and the second being in Article XXXIX, where it prohibits ministers of religion from holding any state office. Peculiar if the intent was to establish a “Christian Nation.” North Carolina = 2 – once in a weak statement of religious freedom, and once in Article XXXII, where denial of God or the Protestant faith prohibits service in any state office. (So that makes 3 “Christian Nations.”) Pennsylvania = 3 – twice in Article II, a forceful statement of religious freedom, and once in Sect. 10, in the oath taken by legislators. South Carolina = 1 – in the oath taken by legislators. Vermont = 12 – 9 are in the form of various oaths, and 3 are in the statement of religious freedom.
7. In how many of the 13 original states plus the Republic of Vermont were members of the clergy allowed to sit in the legislature? a. fourteen, b. nine, c. five, d. three.
I presume that the answer is five, since nine states expressly forbade members of the clergy from being elected to the legislature. Some were stricter than others and prohibited clergy members from holding any office in government or commission in the militia. The states were Maryland, Virginia, Delaware, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Georgia, New York, South Carolina, and New Hampshire.
8. How many total times did the Articles of Confederation mention God, Jesus, Christian, Creator, or religion? a. zero, b. three, c. five, d. seven
You’re getting the hang of this by now, aren't you? Yes, it’s true. The initial founding document of the United States of America, the Articles of Confederation, contained references to any of the above zero times. Wouldn't it be more logical that if it were the intent of the men who wrote the Articles of Confederation to establish a “Christian Nation” there would be some mention of Jesus, God, or religion?
9. How many times does the Constitution of the United States mention God, Jesus, Creator, or Christian? a. zero, b. three, c. five, d. seven.
I’m sure you got this one right too. Again, the answer is zero times. It’s a peculiar state of affairs for a document that is purported to establish a “Christian Nation.”
10. How many times does the Constitution of the United States make any reference to religion? a. zero, b. one, c. two, d. three.
I know that it seems strange for a “Christian Nation,” but the answer is once, in 3. of Article VI. “but no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.”
11. How many times does the Bill of Rights mention God, Jesus, Creator, Christian, or make any reference to religion? a. zero, b. one, c. two, d. three.
You all got this one too, right? The answer is, of course, one time in the First Amendment. “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;” Again, strange if the purpose was the establishment of a “Christian Nation.”
12. How many of the 13 original colonies had an established religion at one time or another in their history? a. thirteen, b. twelve, c. eight, d. five.
Every one of them with the exception of Rhode Island. One of the final works of James Madison before he left for the Continental Convention of 1787 was to defeat a bill that would have paid “teachers of Christian religion” from taxes, and then to reintroduce Jefferson’s religious freedom bill that essentially disestablished the Anglican church in Virginia. The last state to have an established church was the Congregational church of Massachusetts. There is a letter from Thomas Jefferson to John Adams congratulating Adams on the occasion.
13. “Christian Nation” advocates claim that they are correct because most of the people of the 13 colonies were Christians. In reality, according to historians, what percentage of the people actually attended any church at around the time of the Revolution? a. 75-90%, b. 50-75%, c. 20-50%, d. 5-20%.
Did you guess d? Right. For example, Lynn R. Buzzard, executive director of the Christian Legal Society states that not only were a good many of the revolutionary leaders deists, but that perhaps as little as 5% of the populace were church members. Other sources (I have 5 more) place the number as low as 4% up to 10-15%.
14. True or false. The Constitution of the United States does not mention the separation of church and state.
A big talking point with the “Christian Nation” crowd, it is true. But our Constitution is based on the principle that any power not granted to the federal government by the Constitution is reserved to the people and the states. Thus, since no religious powers are granted, the federal government has no right to legislate in religious matters. At least this is what was argued at the time of the ratification of the Constitution. Nevertheless, the First Amendment formalized the restriction on the Congress. It was actually Thomas Jefferson who stated that the purpose of the First Amendment was to erect a “wall of separation” between church and state.
And isn't it funny that “Christian Nation” advocates think that it is meaningful that the separation of church and state isn't specifically mentioned, and yet have no problem with the fact that God, Jesus, and Christian Nation aren't mentioned either?
15. How many of the first 7 Presidents of the United States were Christians? a. zero, b. two, c. four, d. six.
According to the Reverend Bird Wilson, an Episcopal minister in Albany, “among all our presidents from Washington downward, not one was a professor of religion.” Rev. Wilson, in the same sermon in 1831 asserted that the founders of our nation were nearly all Infidels, and that of the presidents who had to that time been elected, not a one had professed a belief in Christianity. Those Presidents were Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, J.Q. Adams, and Jackson. During his time as President Jackson was never known to attend church. However, after he left the Presidency and retired to Nashville, he joined the First Presbyterian Church. He was over 70 at the time.
It seems to me that if it was the intention to found a “Christian Nation” that their intent would be quite clear. The founding fathers of at least three states had no problem in making their intentions known. To participate in those governments a citizen had to be a Christian. In others, it seems that deism would also have been acceptable. But in our “Christian Nation” matters of religion are dealt with only in the form of restrictions on the part of the government to interfere with the free practice of any religion. To me the intent to form a secular nation is quite clear.
Tell us how you did on this quiz.
Last edited by pandion; 07-16-2011 at 12:04 AM.
From The Treaty of Tripoli, Art. 11, negociated under Washington, passed unanimously by the senate, and signed by Adams -- "As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion;"