- Politics and Social Issues»
- Church & State Relations
The United States a Christian nation? More on the Republican/Christian dichotomy
The beliefs of the Founding Fathers
I realize I'm flirting with conspiracy theory with this subject, but that is not my intention and I will aim to steer as clear as possible from anything too whack-a-doodle. But the fact remains that many of the Founding Fathers were Freemasons (just FYI, one of the requirements for Masonic membership is a belief in a supreme being, no matter what form it takes), and a good number of them were deists.
Deism (according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary): a movement or system of thought advocating natural religion, emphasizing morality, and in the 18th century denying the interference of the Creator with the laws of the universe.
Or, as a professor of religion and philosophy I had a few years ago put it: "The belief that God created the universe, put in place certain immutable laws - like physics and human intellect - and then moved on to bigger and better things."
David L. Holmes of the the College of William and Mary in his book The Faiths of the Founding Fathers, breaks the belief system of the early bureaucrats down into three general categories:
The "hardcore" deists, those who left their Judeo-Christian faith altogether and advocated Enlightenment thought on nature and reason. Thomas Paine, Ethan Allen and possibly Thomas Jefferson are among those that fall into this category. This is the smallest group, but highly influential nonetheless.
Those who retained Christianity and a supernatural, interventionist view of God and Christ, such as Patrick Henry and Samuel Adams (yay beer!) continued to adhere to their denominational beliefs. The second largest category. Holmes also notes that most of the FF's wives fall into this category as well (see James Madison, below).
Then there were those that were a mixture. They were deists, but believed that Christ had a moral code worth following while eschewing the idea of a Trinity. This was the largest group and included George Washington, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin and James Monroe.
Thomas Paine even went so far as naming Jesus a purely mythological being:
"The fable of Christ and his twelve apostles...is a parody of the sun and the twelve signs of the Zodiac, copied from the ancient religions of the Eastern world.... Every thing told of Christ has reference to the sun. His reported resurrection is at sunrise, and that on the first day of the week; that is, on the day anciently dedicated to the sun, and from thence called Sunday..."
There is ample albeit speculative evidence that Washington and Jefferson were Christ mythicists as well.
Jefferson, in a letter to Adams, wrote:
"...the day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus, by the supreme being as his father in the womb of a virgin will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerva in the brain of Jupiter."
Thomas Jefferson was a deist and a Biblical revisionist; he wrote a version of the Bible that discluded any divine intervention and miracles. He was also the one who created the idea of separation of church and state. Consequently, in 2010, the Texas Board of Education, an elected body with a Republican majority, voted to have any mention of Jefferson as an influencer of the forming of the US removed from history books in the state. He was replaced by the likes of St. Thomas Aquinas and John Calvin. Yay, Texas! Let's keep 'em stupid, fat and gun-totin'!
James Madison, the primary author of the US Constitution, was nominally Christian (Baptist), but only because his wife was very devout and he was a devoted husband. But in Virginia at the time, Baptists and Anabaptists were killing each other and burning down each others' churches and homes. He didn't think very highly of "Christians."
"Christian" nations of the past
Virtually every Western empire in the current era labeled itself "God's Country" and used the concept of divine right to conquer and pillage other European nations and foist their beliefs and lifestyles upon the "savages" of other continents. Most of these countries were Catholic, with the notable exception of England, a country that had a king (Henry VIII) who was so egotistical he refused to take orders from the Vatican and therefore named himself Pope, creating the Anglican (Episcopalian in the US) Church in the process.
England - Once God's country, now known for beyond-fascist immigration laws, rampant racism and bad teeth. Good bands and TV though.
France - Once God's country, now known for wines, cheeses and adultery.
Spain - Once God's country, now known for anarchist terrorism and past (shame!) tolerance of Jews and Muslims..
Portugal - Once God's country, now known as Brazil.
Germany - Once God's country, now known for beer, schnitzel, harsh accents and Hitler.
The United States - Still God's country but more well-known for bigotry, jingoism, financial inequality and lots and lots of guns.
All of these European "Godly" empires fell into disarray and financial hardship. Guess who's next?
Poll on US religion
Does the First Amendment prohibit religious-based legislation?
The table below shows a breakdown of registered voters political and religious affiliations. Notice that less Democrats are religious yet tend to be the ones that vote for policies that reflect the teachings of Christ, such as welfare, raising the minimum wage and subsidized healthcare.
What the US would look like if it really were a Christian nation
If the US' government was truly founded on Christ's ideals, here are some of the policies and realities that would be in place:
There would be no homelessness. The unemployed, mentally ill, shell shocked veterans of unjust wars and others would have roofs over their heads and three squares a day. And not in squalor, prison or psychiatric hospitals. Not necessarily living in luxury, but comfortable. According the the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), there were 610,042 people experiencing homelessness in January 2013. This may not be a huge percentage in relation to a population of nearly 320 million, but the number should be zero - if this were a Christian country.
Capitalism would not exist in its current form. Capitalism as it stands today is leading to a polar opposition in class: The Very Rich and The Very Poor. Bye-bye Middle Class.
Perhaps capitalism wouldn't exist at all. Gene Roddenberry, the creator of Star Trek, envisioned a future Utopian society in which supply so vastly exceeded demand that paying for just about anything became a thing of the past. Working would be a matter of choice. No one on the USS Enterprise drew a paycheck, not Captain nor lowly crewman. Why? They have everything they need through replicators. Today's leaders of industry would not like replicators. Maybe that's why we don't have them.
Without financial inequality, crime rates would plummet as there would no longer be have-nots, only haves.
Being sick would not be a cause of financial hardship. Medicine is a multi-billion dollar a year industry. Not because it needs to be, but because being sick somehow makes one less of a person and it takes money to become more of a person apparently. Profiting from hardship is a time-honored American tradition.
The US would have an open immigration policy. Extending from the "God's country" bullshit paradigm, it seems that non-Americans are less than human and we don't need them rubbing elbows with our daughters. Not that the US was ever a bastion of diversity. We put our native diversity into concentration camps, ahem, reservations as soon as humanly possible. But "love they neighbor" means inviting them into our "home" even if they are Hispanic.
Truly equal rights. No one would be looked down upon because of their sex, lifestyle or skin color. Women's bodies would be theirs to govern. Equal pay for equal work (or no pay as Roddenberry would have it).