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View Poll Results: Was America founded as a Christian nation?
Yes 43 27.04%
No 103 64.78%
other (please explain) 13 8.18%
Voters: 159. You may not vote on this poll

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Old April 25th, 2016, 04:00 PM   #1
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Was America founded as a Christian nation?


What do you think?

Why did you vote yes?

Why did you vote no?

I think we were founded, in a sense, as a Christian nation. Here's something I said in another thread:

"Whatever the personal beliefs or convictions of the Founding Fathers, I would say that they were all Christians, at least as part of their cultural identity.


I agree that there isn't any official or historical document (at least not any I'm aware of) claiming the United States as a Christian nation, but that doesn't mean that Christianity wasn't a huge part of the lives of America's founders. And when I say founders in this case, I'm referring to more than the list of men who had their names on the Declaration of Independence.

I would say that most early Americans and colonists owned Bibles and went to a church of some kind. So, in a sense, America was founded as a Christian nation."


The above reasoning is part of why I think we were founded as a Christian nation.
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Old April 25th, 2016, 04:32 PM   #2
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No. Not at all. The nation was founded on the principals of freedom for individuals. In the beginning, that meant white males, but the nation was clearly founded, in part, to expressly NOT be a Christian nation, but a nation where Christians and anyone else, have the freedom to do as they please with regard to their beliefs and convictions.


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Old April 25th, 2016, 04:34 PM   #3

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From my perspective, not being a Christian nation is a large part of the entire point of the USA, as of the earliest years of its existence.

Christianity has been the most widely-practiced religion in every generation of American history so far, but to me, that has no bearing on the fundamentally secular way that our government, law, and society is supposed to function.
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Old April 25th, 2016, 04:39 PM   #4

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Menshevik View Post
[...] Christianity was a huge part of the lives of America's founders. And when I say founders in this case, I'm referring to more than the list of men who had their names on the Declaration of Independence.
With all due respect, I think this is the central fallacy in your argument.
Generally the way I understand it by founders we mean those that were part of the intellectual elite that had some influence in drafting the Constitution, from the earliest thoughts inside of Thomas Paine's head all the way to the feather of James Madison.
I don't think anyone who picked up a musket can be considered a founder, especially since it's regarded as a myth that most people in the Colonies championed or even wanted the Revolution.

It all depends on how you want to define each word.
Does "founding" mean "being alive during the Revolution" and does "Christian nation" mean "majority 'culturally' Christian population"? Then yes, technically under those propositions America was founded as a Christian nation.

Does "founding" mean "what the Founding Fathers envisioned" and does "Christian nation" mean "Christianity as the official religion"?
Then no. Jefferson demanded a "wall of separation between church and state." The First Amendment guarantees Freedom of and from Religion.

That settles it for me.

Last edited by David101; April 25th, 2016 at 04:42 PM.
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Old April 25th, 2016, 04:50 PM   #5

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As far as I know, the Constitution is not in any way based on religion or, in particular, Christianity. The pre-Amendment Constitution only mentions religion once, to mandate that there will never be a religious test for holding office in the new government. Madison and others were skeptical about religion entering politics and feared that majoritarian sects would seek to manipulate federal offices to exclude others and dictate their religion on others.

However, "In God We Trust" is on our currency, in our courtrooms and government buildings. Each session of the House and the Senate opens with a prayer, and probably every state and municipal legislature. All religious institutions get tax breaks from every taxing entity. Christmas is a national holiday, even though it's nominally a Christian event.

I think the Founding Fathers were concerned that the new United States not establish a state religion, as the Church of England was. They never intended that God be absent from public life. America has more churches, synagogues, mosques, temples, and other religious institutions than any other nation. This is because we cherish religious freedom and have enshrined it in our Constitution.
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Old April 25th, 2016, 05:07 PM   #6
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The dominant American culture is not just Christian but Protestant if not downright Calvinist.
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Old April 25th, 2016, 05:17 PM   #7

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I don't think any nation or state could really be called "Christian".

Let's take for example the medieval states. Catholic Church was a powerful institution back then and culturally Christianity was everywhere, but could you really call those states "Christian"? Certain forms of secularism existed all the time in Western (Christian) civilization even before the Enlightenment, that's why you had monarchs having conflicts with the Pope, investiture controversy and so on, the Papal states going to war with other states etc.

Pure theocracy isn't present in Western Christian tradition, there was always a concept of separation of the Church and the state. Maybe some brief moments in Protestant history could be called "theocracies" (like Zwingli's Zürich or Calvin's Geneva), but it's not a rule. The more we progress in modernity the more the important institutions (like the school system) were becoming the domain of the state. Protestantism fastened this process too and the 19th century nationalism and liberalism really started the modern secularism but it was bound to happen anyway because the roots of secularism were always there. USA was founded on these principles as a modern nation state.

It just happens to be that for a long period of time a lot of very important institutions in the state were in domain of the Church because it had a large enough Europe-wide infrastructure to run them. But did those states reflect "Christianity" with their actions? Were they run by clerics or prophets claiming they're receiving instructions from God directly? No, because they were run by secular rulers, even though some form of Christianity was the state religion. But does that make the state in itself "Christian"? Personally I don't think so, at the end of the day a state is a complex mechanism consisting of individuals and groups of various personal beliefs and opinions.
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Old April 25th, 2016, 07:11 PM   #8

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bishop View Post
As far as I know, the Constitution is not in any way based on religion or, in particular, Christianity. The pre-Amendment Constitution only mentions religion once, to mandate that there will never be a religious test for holding office in the new government. Madison and others were skeptical about religion entering politics and feared that majoritarian sects would seek to manipulate federal offices to exclude others and dictate their religion on others.
Agreed; the government created by the Constitution of the United States is explicitly secular, and no god is mentioned in the document except in Article VII, where the date is described according to the custom of the time as "the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and eighty seven." Though a "Creator" is mentioned in the Declaration of Independence, that document carries no legal weight.

Quote:
In Philadelphia, the delegates agreed that the federal government should be kept out of religion. Some, like Madison, favored a complete separation of church and state at the federal and the state level. Others wanted to permit the individual states to support established churches if they so chose. Both groups were reluctant to make explicit references to God in the nation's founding document. Religion was only mentioned in Article VI, which forbids any religious test for public office. In spite of this, many states did have religious tests for office.

[source]
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bishop View Post
However, "In God We Trust" is on our currency, in our courtrooms and government buildings.
That motto came into existence during the US Civil War, not during the time of the founders.

Quote:
In December 1863, the Director of the Mint submitted designs for new one-cent coin, two-cent coin, and three-cent coin to Secretary Chase for approval. He proposed that upon the designs either OUR COUNTRY; OUR GOD or GOD, OUR TRUST should appear as a motto on the coins. In a letter to the Mint Director on December 9, 1863, Secretary Chase stated:
I approve your mottoes, only suggesting that on that with the Washington obverse the motto should begin with the word OUR, so as to read OUR GOD AND OUR COUNTRY. And on that with the shield, it should be changed so as to read: IN GOD WE TRUST.
The Congress passed the Act of April 22, 1864. This legislation changed the composition of the one-cent coin and authorized the minting of the two-cent coin. The Mint Director was directed to develop the designs for these coins for final approval of the Secretary. IN GOD WE TRUST first appeared on the 1864 two-cent coin.

[source]
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bishop View Post
Each session of the House and the Senate opens with a prayer, and probably every state and municipal legislature.
In the case of the federal government, that is because of long-standing custom, not law; though the chaplains of the two houses of Congress are elected by the members, no law sanctions or mandates their prayers (source).

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bishop View Post
All religious institutions get tax breaks from every taxing entity.
The tax-exempt status of churches existed as a custom until 1894, and only became law in 1909.

Quote:
The Wilson-Gorman Tariff Act of 1894, one of the earliest statutory references to the tax-exempt status enjoyed by charitable organizations, established the requirement that tax-exempt, charitable organizations operate for charitable purposes. While establishing a flat 2-percent tax on corporate income, the act stated “nothing herein contained shall apply to… corporations, companies, or associations organized and conducted solely for charitable, religious, or educational purposes, including fraternal beneficiary associations.” Though the law was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 1895, the exemption language contained in the act would provide the cornerstone for tax legislation involving charitable organizations for the next century.

The Revenue Act of 1909 mirrored and expanded the language from the 1894 act. Under this statute, tax exemption was granted to “any corporation or association organized and operated exclusively for religious, charitable, or educational purposes, no part of the net income of which inures to the benefit of any private stockholder or individual.” This important addition set forth the idea that tax-exempt charitable organizations should be free of private inurement—in other words, nonprofit.

[source]
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bishop View Post
Christmas is a national holiday, even though it's nominally a Christian event.
Again, this was not the work of the founders. Christmas did not become a federal holiday until 1870.

Quote:
The first five congressionally designated federal holidays were New Year’s Day, George Washington’s Birthday, Independence Day, Thanksgiving Day, and Christmas Day. Approved in the 1870s, they were applicable only to federal employees in the District of Columbia. In 1885, Congress began to extend holiday coverage to federal employees outside Washington.

[source]
Quote:
After the American Revolution, English customs fell out of favor, including Christmas. In fact, Congress was in session on December 25, 1789, the first Christmas under America’s new constitution. Christmas wasn’t declared a federal holiday until June 26, 1870.

[source]
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bishop View Post
I think the Founding Fathers were concerned that the new United States not establish a state religion, as the Church of England was. They never intended that God be absent from public life. America has more churches, synagogues, mosques, temples, and other religious institutions than any other nation. This is because we cherish religious freedom and have enshrined it in our Constitution.
Agreed; there was never any intention to exclude religion from public life in the United States. However, it's clear that the founders fully intended to exclude it from government, except for the ceremonial tradition of prayer before legislative sessions, as mentioned above.
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Old April 25th, 2016, 09:37 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Menshevik View Post
What do you think?

Why did you vote yes?

Why did you vote no?

I think we were founded, in a sense, as a Christian nation. Here's something I said in another thread:

"Whatever the personal beliefs or convictions of the Founding Fathers, I would say that they were all Christians, at least as part of their cultural identity.


I agree that there isn't any official or historical document (at least not any I'm aware of) claiming the United States as a Christian nation, but that doesn't mean that Christianity wasn't a huge part of the lives of America's founders. And when I say founders in this case, I'm referring to more than the list of men who had their names on the Declaration of Independence.

I would say that most early Americans and colonists owned Bibles and went to a church of some kind. So, in a sense, America was founded as a Christian nation."


The above reasoning is part of why I think we were founded as a Christian nation.
America was founded for two reasons: (1) Religious European persecution; (2) poverty.

But there was also Separatism between Christians, such us among the Protestants themselves, and even Christians themselves, such us between Protestants and Catholics. As a Catholic, for example, if had lived in England in the 1600s, I would have forced to go to America, or France, or Spain.

Think of the Calverts, for example, who founded Maryland. Or Roger Williams who was forced to go to Rhode Island because of his ideas.

Then think of poverty: thousands of English moved to America to improve their way of life.

Then, in the following years, America became the home of all religions, little by little, but, initially, it was a struggle among Christians only.
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Old April 25th, 2016, 09:37 PM   #10

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Recusant
Agreed; there was never any intention to exclude religion from public life in the United States. However, it's clear that the founders fully intended to exclude it from government, except for the ceremonial tradition of prayer before legislative sessions, as mentioned above.
Indeed, many of the liturgical customs in our government were inserted after the time of the founders. Congress placed "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance on June 14, 1954, for example. The founding fathers are better described as men of the enlightenment, who were motivated by science, intellectualism and reason. They were inspired more by Locke than Leviticus.

Last edited by Bishop; April 25th, 2016 at 09:40 PM.
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