Monday, September 03, 2007
This is a pretty interesting post that I found on the Internet. Pardon the spelling and grammar errors, they are not mine.
THE FOUNDING FATHERS WERE NOT CHRISTIANS
A brief survey of readily-Googled resources has produced the following summary of the religious beliefs of American Founding Fathers.
George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, James Madison, and Thomas Paine, with Abe Lincoln thrown in for good luck.
NOT ONE OF THEM WAS A CHRISTIAN. Some of them were Deists, believing in the existence of a God or Supreme Being but denying "revealed" religions (such as Christianity), instead basing their belief on the light of nature and reason. Some were Unitarians. Unitarianism is the belief that God exists in one person, not three: it denies the deity of Christ, the person hood of the Holy Spirit, eternal punishment, and the vicarious atonement of Jesus. Unitarianism is obviously not Christian.
So while they all believed in "God" and "His Providence", and thoroughly appreciated the moral teachings of Jesus, not one of these men was a Christian, and some of them had some pretty scathing things to say about the Christian religion, as you will see. (Jefferson and Franklin, as you might expect, are particularly juicy.)
If there was ever something to "send to everyone you know" this would be it. Please copy the text and e-mail it or print it or send people the link to this page. Read on!
GEORGE WASHINGTON: a Deist, not a Christian. Said "no one would be more zealous than myself to establish effectual barriers against the horrors of spiritual tyranny." (more about George below)
THOMAS JEFFERSON: a Deist. Said "In the New Testament there is internal evidence that parts of it have proceeded from an extraordinary man; and that other parts are of the fabric of very inferior minds. It is as easy to separate those parts, as to pick out diamonds from dunghills." (much more below)
BEN FRANKLIN: a Deist, said (about the story of Jesus): "I apprehend it has received various corrupting changes, and I have, with most of the Dissenters in
JOHN ADAMS: a Unitarian. As President of the
THOMAS PAINE: Said "I do not believe in the creed professed by the Jewish church, by the Roman church, by the Greek church, by the Turkish church, by the Protestant church, nor by any church that I know of…. Each of those churches accuse the other of unbelief; and for my own part, I disbelieve them all."
JAMES MADISON, fourth president and Father of the Constitution, said: "Religious bondage shackles and debilitates the mind and unfits it for every noble enterprise" and "During almost fifteen centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial. What have been its fruits? More or less in all places, pride and indolence in the Clergy, ignorance and servility in the laity, in both, superstition, bigotry and persecution."
ABE LINCOLN said "That I am not a member of any Christian Church, is true,"
GEORGE WASHINGTON by Prof Peter Henriques,
Rev. Dr. Bird Wilson, sermon in 1831: GW "was esteemed by the whole world as a great and good man; but he was not a professing Christian."
Bishop William White "I do not believe that any degree of recollection will bring to my mind any fact which would prove Gen. W. to have been a believer in the Christian revelation."
According to Arthur Bradford, Rev. Ashbel Green declared, "while GW was very deferential to religion and its ceremonies…. He was not a Christian but a Deist."
It seems clear that never took Holy Communion, despite considerable pressure to do so. He rarely quotes the Bible and then to make a secular point. Most likely he did not pray on his knees. [And almost certainly not in the snow at
There is an interesting story which Thomas Jefferson tells, as he wrote it in his Diary, for February 1, 1800, just six weeks after
"Feb. 1. Dr. Rush tells me that he had it from Asa Green that when the clergy addressed General Washington on his departure from the Government, it was observed in their consultation that he had never on any occasion said a word to the public which showed a belief in the Christian religion and they thought they should so pen their address as to force him at length to declare publicly whether he was a Christian or not. They did so. However, he observed, the old fox was too cunning for them. He answered every article in their address particularly except that, which he passed over without notice…. "I know that Gouverneur Morris, who pretended to be in his secrets and believed himself to be so, has often told me that General Washington believed no more in the system (Christianity) than he did." (The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, vol. 1, p. 284.)
GW does not see the truth revealed so there is no dispute as to what it is - thus the key is to act in concert with your conscience, which has more power for GW than revealed religion. From rules of civility which GW copied as a youngster and which influenced his life, the final rule was: keep the heavenly spark of conscience alive in you. This he does. GW is confident he knows what is "just" and "right" and he does not rely on some kind of revealed religion or holy book to tell him so.
As Dorothy Twohig notes,
"If I could have entertained the slightest apprehension that the Constitution framed in the convention, where I had the honor to preside, might possibly endanger the religious rights of any religious society, certainly I would never have placed my signature to it; and, if I could now conceive that the general government might ever be administered as to render liberty of conscience insecure, I beg you will be persuaded that no one would be more zealous than myself to establish effectual barriers against the horrors of spiritual tyranny, and every species of religious persecution." (To the General Committee Representing the United Baptist Churches of
"For happily the Government of the
THOMAS JEFFERSON by John E. Remsburg
Jefferson said: "The whole history of these books [the Gospels] is so defective and doubtful that it seems vain to attempt minute enquiry into it: and such tricks have been played with their text, and with the texts of other books relating to them, that we have a right, from that cause, to entertain much doubt what parts of them are genuine. In the New Testament there is internal evidence that parts of it have proceeded from an extraordinary man; and that other parts are of the fabric of very inferior minds. It is as easy to separate those parts, as to pick out diamonds from dunghills."
Of immense appeal is the image of President Jefferson, up late at night in his study at the White House, using a razor to cut out large segments of the four Gospels and pasting the parts he decided to keep onto the pages of a blank book, purchased to receive them. This original project of 1804, which he titled "The Philosophy of Jesus," he refined and greatly expanded in his later years. The final product, completed in 1820, he called the "Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth," which was the version Congress published [and traditionally given as a welcoming gift to every new congressman].
In the gospel history of Jesus,
In the same communication he characterizes the Four Evangelists as "groveling authors" with "feeble minds." To the early disciples of Jesus he pays the following compliment:
"Of this band of dupes and impostors, Paul was the great Corypheus, and first corrupter of the doctrines of Jesus."
[Corypheus: The conductor, chief, or leader of a party or interest.]
In the following significant passage we have
It is probably safe to say that
He considered Jesus the teacher of a sublime and flawless ethic. Writing in 1803 to the Universalist physician Benjamin Rush,
"Millions of innocent men, women and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined and imprisoned; yet we have not advanced one inch towards uniformity. What has been the effect of coercion? To make one-half the world fools and the other half hypocrites."
"I never submitted the whole system of my opinions to the creed of any party of men whatever in religion, in philosophy, in politics, or in anything else where I was capable of thinking for myself. Such an addiction is the last degradation of a free and moral agent."
"History, I believe, furnishes no example of a priest-ridden people maintaining a free civil government. This marks the lowest grade of ignorance of which their civil as well as religious leaders will always avail themselves for their own purposes."
"And 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. But may we hope that the dawn of reason and freedom of thought in these
"It is between fifty and sixty years since I read it [the Apocalypse], and I then considered it merely the ravings of a maniac, no more worthy nor capable of explanation than the incoherences of our own nightly dreams."
In his letter to Ezra Stiles, he extols the system of morals taught by "Jesus of Nazareth," but says, "I apprehend it has received various corrupting changes, and I have, with most of the Dissenters in
Dr. Franklin and Dr. Priestley were intimate friends. Of
"It is much to be lamented that a man of Franklin's general good character and great influence should have been an unbeliever in Christianity, and also have done as much as he did to make others unbelievers" (Priestley's Autobiography, p. 60).
Dr. Franklin: "Some volumes against Deism fell into my hands. They were said to be the substance of sermons preached at Boyle's Lecture. It happened that they produced on me an effect precisely the reverse of what was intended by the writers; for the arguments of the Deists, which were cited in order to be refuted, appealed to me much more forcibly than the refutation itself. In a word, I soon became a thorough Deist"
His expressed opinions are ample to show that at no time during his career was he a Christian -- that he lived and died a Deist. In a letter to the Rev. George Whitefield, written in 1753, when he was forty-seven years old, we have his opinion of Christianity:
"The faith you mention has doubtless its use in the world. I do not desire to see it diminished, nor would I desire to lessen it in any way; but I wish it were more productive of good works than I have generally seen it. I mean real good works, works of kindness, charity, mercy, and public spirit, not holy-day keeping, sermon-hearing, and reading, performing church ceremonies, or making long prayers, filled with flatteries and compliments, despised even by wise men, and much less capable of pleasing the Deity" (Works, Vol. vii, p. 75).
At the age of eighty-four, just previous to his death, in reply to inquiries concerning his religious belief from Ezra Stiles, the President of Yale College, he wrote as follows:
Here is my creed: I believe in one God, the Creator of the universe. That he governs it by his providence. That he ought to be worshiped. That the most acceptable service we render him is doing well to his other children. That the soul of man is immortal, and will be treated with justice in another life respecting its conduct in this."
This is pure Deism.
As President of the
Allen Guelzo, professor of American history at
Religion became a hot issue in 1846 when
The Ambiguous Religion of President Abraham Lincoln
by Mark A. Noll
As Carl Sandburg recounts in Abraham Lincoln: The Prairie Years, Lincoln attended one of Cartwright's revival meetings. At the conclusion of the service, the fiery pulpiteer called for all who intended to go to heaven to please rise. Naturally, the response was heartening. Then he called for all those who wished to go to hell to stand. Not many takers.
Some people claim that with the carnage of the Civil War, the difficulties with Mary Todd, and the death of his son, Lincoln underwent a conversion to Christianity in his later years:
John Remsburg (1848-1919), President of the American Secular Union in 1897, argued against claims of
- The man who stood nearest to President Lincoln at
-- nearer than any clergyman or newspaper correspondent -- was his private secretary, Col. John G. Nicolay. In a letter dated May 27, 1865, Colonel Nicolay says: "Mr. Lincoln did not, to my knowledge, in any way change his religious ideas, opinions, or beliefs from the time he left Washington to the day of his death." Springfield
- His lifelong friend and executor, Judge David Davis, affirmed the same: "He had no faith in the Christian sense of the term."
- His biographer, Colonel Lamon, intimately acquainted with him in
Illinois, and with him during all the years that he lived in , says: "Never in all that time did he let fall from his lips or his pen an expression which remotely implied the slightest faith in Jesus as the son of God and the Savior of men." Both Lamon and William H. Herndon published biographies of their former colleague after his assassination relating their personal recollections of him. Each denied Washington 's adherence to Christianity and characterized his religious beliefs as deist or skeptical. Lincoln