Is the United States a Christian nation, or a secular nation?
Is the United States a Christian nation? The answer is simple and obvious:
No. The United States is a secular nation.
If the American founding fathers had wanted the United States to be a Christian
nation, they obviously would have mentioned Jesus Christ, Yahweh/Jehovah, the
Bible and the Ten Commandments in the American Declaration of Independence and
Constitution. But they did no such thing.
The first commandment is very clear: "Thou shalt have no other gods before me
[Yahweh/Jehovah]." The Bible does not grant human beings religious freedom, but
compels them to believe in and obey a specific god. Thus the Bible and the American
Founding Fathers are in complete and utter disagreement,
because the Founding Fathers established religious freedom for Americans, in
defiance of the first commandment.
The second commandment says that the name of the God of the Bible is sacred, and
yet that name was never once mentioned in the Declaration of Independence, the
Constitution or the Bill of Rights. There is
absolutely no mention of the names Yahweh, Jehovah, Jesus or Christ in these
foundational documents. The generic term Creator is used once, but only to
reinforce the idea that the rights of human beings are intrinsic to human life.
The third commandment makes the seventh day of the week a holy day, but the
American founding fathers said absolutely nothing about Sabbath Day observances
in the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution.
As a matter of fact, none of the Ten Commandments are mentioned anywhere in the
Declaration of Independence, the Constitution or the Bill of Rights.
The First Amendment provides exclusionary wording:
"Congress shall make NO law respecting an establishment of religion, or
prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of
the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the
government for a redress of grievances." But this wording places human rights
(freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, freedom to
petition the government) on the same level as the rights of God and religion,
and still there is no preference for the Bible or Christianity over other
religious texts or religions.
So it is patently ridiculous for anyone to suggest
that the United States was intended by the Founding Fathers
to be a "Christian Nation." The basis of Christianity is the belief in Christ.
But the American Founding Fathers never once mentioned Christ in their
foundational texts. Rather, they specifically stated that the United States was
not founded on the Christian religion:
"As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded
on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against
the laws, religion, or tranquillity, of Mussulmen; and, as the said States never
entered into any war, or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is
declared by the parties, that no pretext arising from religious opinions, shall
ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two
countries."—Article 11, Treaty of Peace and Friendship between the United States
and the Bey and Subjects of the Bey of Tripoli of Barbary. The treaty was sent
to the floor of the Senate, June 7, 1797, where it was read aloud in its
entirety and unanimously approved. John Adams, one of the best-known founding
fathers, having seen the treaty, signed it and proudly proclaimed it to the
John Adams, one of the best-known American Founding Fathers, made it very clear
that the United States was founded on human reason, not religion:
"The United States of America have exhibited, perhaps, the first example of
governments erected on the simple principles of nature; and if men are now
sufficiently enlightened to disabuse themselves of artifice, imposture,
hypocrisy, and superstition, they will consider this event as an era in their
history. Although the detail of the formation of the American governments is at
present little known or regarded either in Europe or in America, it may
hereafter become an object of curiosity. It will never be pretended that any
persons employed in that service had interviews with the gods, or were in any
degree under the influence of Heaven, more than those at work upon ships or
houses, or laboring in merchandise or agriculture; it will forever be
acknowledged that these governments were contrived merely by the use of reason
and the senses."
—John Adams, "A Defence of the Constitutions of Government of the United States
of America" (1787-88)
Thomas Jefferson, the primary author of the American Declaration of
Indepencence, had this written on his tombstone:
HERE WAS BURIED THOMAS JEFFERSON
AUTHOR OF THE DECLARATION OF AMERICAN INDEPENDENCE
OF THE STATUTE OF VIRGINIA FOR RELIGIOUS FREEDOM ...
Jefferson made it clear that the insertion of the name "Jesus Christ" into the
Declaration of Independence was rejected by the majority of the founding
fathers, for the sake of true religious freedom:
"Where the preamble declares, that coercion is a departure from the plan of the
holy author of our religion, an amendment was proposed by inserting "Jesus
Christ," so that it would read "A departure from the plan of Jesus Christ, the
holy author of our religion;" the insertion was rejected by the great majority,
in proof that they meant to comprehend, within the mantle of its protection, the
Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Mohammedan, the Hindoo and Infidel of
every denomination."—Thomas Jefferson, Autobiography
While serving as president in 1802, Jefferson wrote: "Believing with you that religion
is a matter which lies solely between Man and his God, that he owes account to
none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of
government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign
reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their
legislature should 'make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or
prohibiting the free exercise thereof,' thus building a wall of separation
between Church and State ... "
The idea was not Jefferson's. Other 17th- and 18th-century Enlightenment writers
had proposed it. Earlier still, religious dissident Roger Williams had
written in a 1644 letter of a "hedge or wall of separation between the garden of
the church and the wilderness of the world."
Williams, who founded Rhode Island with a colonial charter that included
religious freedom, knew intolerance firsthand. He and other religious
dissenters, including Anne Hutchinson, had been banished from neighboring
Massachusetts, the Puritanical Stalag where Catholics, Quakers and Baptists were
either exiled or tortured over items of religious dogma.
As president, Jefferson was voicing an idea that was fundamental to his view of
religion and government, expressed most significantly in the Virginia Statute
for Religious Freedom, which he drafted in 1777.
Here's the text of the U.S. Constitution in a variety of formats:
It never mentions God or any deity, much less Yahweh/Jehovah or Jesus Christ.
It mentions religion only twice, in Article VI clause 3:
"The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the
several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the
United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation,
to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a
Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States."
And in the First Amendment:
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or
prohibiting the free exercise thereof."
So the only mentions of religion refute any suggestion that Christianity was to
be favored in any way. This itself is a refutation of the Ten Commandments,
which demand that the God of the Bible be worshipped and obeyed.
As Miles Fidelman has pointed out: "Yes, there were always people who wanted the
U.S. to be a Christian nation, by which they meant to have a Christian
government, and some who tried to make out that it was and that the founders
meant it to be. They were wrong then and they're still wrong now. Actually, not
a single one of the first seven presidents was a Christian in the sense most
people then accepted (believer in the Trinity, member of a church, and partaker
The Rev. Dr. Wilson, who was almost a contemporary of our earlier statesmen
and presidents, and who thoroughly investigated the subject of their
religious beliefs, in his sermon already mentioned affirmed that the
founders of our nation were nearly all Infidels, and that of the presidents
who had thus far been elected — George Washington, John Adams, Thomas
Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe, John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson
— not one had professed a belief in Christianity.
When the Senate unanimously approved the Tripoli Treaty, Andrew Jackson was a
Senator from Tennessee, Thomas Jefferson was Vice President and thus President
of the Senate, and John Adams signed the treaty as President.
From this sermon I quote the following: "When the war was over and the
victory over our enemies won, and the blessings and happiness of liberty and
peace were secured, the Constitution was framed and God was neglected. He
was not merely forgotten. He was absolutely voted out of the Constitution.
The proceedings, as published by Thompson, the secretary, and the history of
the day, show that the question was gravely debated whether God should be in
the Constitution or not, and, after a solemn debate he was deliberately
voted out of it. ... There is not only in the theory of our government no
recognition of God's laws and sovereignty, but its practical operation, its
administration, has been conformable to its theory. Those who have been
called to administer the government have not been men making any public
profession of Christianity. ... Washington was a man of valor and wisdom. He
was esteemed by the whole world as a great and good man; but he was not a
professing Christian.—Six Historic Americans, George Washington, by
John E. Remsburg, 1906
This link has details on how God was voted out of the Constitution:
Note that it was Sam Adams, not John Adams, who objected to the prohibition on
John Adams, Ben Franklin, and James Madison are clearly on record as being for
the prohibition on religious tests, and Washington was the chair of the
Constitutional Convention that passed it. Madison was also one of the people
most active in getting the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom passed, which
Jefferson wrote. There you have the first four presidents and Andy Jackson. The
rest aren't much more difficult to track down on this subject. The first seven
(actually, at least the first 19) presidents were all for a secular Republic and
weren't even Christians themselves.
"I could not do otherwise without transcending the limits prescribed by the
Constitution for the President and without feeling that I might in some degree
disturb the security which religion nowadays enjoys in this country in its
complete separation from the political concerns of the General Government."—U.S.
President Andrew Jackson, 12 June 1832, letter to the Synod of the Reformed
Church of North America, explaining his refusal of their request that he
a "day of fasting, humiliation, and prayer."
The American founding fathers had read the Bible, and were fully aware of the
Biblical names of God: Yahweh, Jehovah, Jesus and Christ. Yet they obviously
chose not to mention those names in the American Declaration of Independence or
Constitution. They also chose not to mention the Bible, the Ten Commandments or
Sabbath Day observances. This means that they willfully ignored the direct
commandments of the Bible. They were freethinkers and men who believed in their
own powers of reason. They were not slaves to irrational religious beliefs. If
they had believed the Bible was the infallible word of God, they would not have
disobeyed its commandments. But they obviously did not believe in the
infallibility of the Bible, nor in the divinity of Yahweh/Jehovah or Jesus