Why is christianity not the state religion of the USA?

May 2019
14
greece
I'm really glad that it isn't but i find it weird. Even today, one in three Americans want it to be; i assume this number was much greater in the late 18 century, and given that the usa was,even then, a functional representative(if not democratic intially), republic you'd assume that people would have elected representatives who would make Christianity the state religion.
But it didn't happen. Why?
 

AlpinLuke

Forum Staff
Oct 2011
27,185
Italy, Lago Maggiore
Substantially because of the ideology of freedom and equalitarism of that time. Rationalism a part, they knew that religion divided and since they weren't all Christian in the same time [there were Protestants, Catholics ... not to underline the presence of not a few confessions ...] the Constitution prohibited a religious connection for a government [or to impose a religion]. So it was impossible to have a government religion.

So the best choice was to endorse freedom of religion.
 

Chlodio

Forum Staff
Aug 2016
4,579
Dispargum
There were so few non-Christians in America at that time that no one ever considered Christianity to be a religion in competition with other religions (like Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, etc) . Instead the debate was between various Christian denominations like Congregationalist, Anglican, Baptist, Lutheran, etc. Individual states had different opinions about state, or established, religion. In the northeast the preference was for Congregationalism. In the south Anglicism was preferred. At least one state wanted to establish all Christian sects. Others were opposed to any established religions. Ultimately America's founders could find no consensus on which sect to establish, so they delegated the decision to the states. Most states chose to also not establish any religion. The few states that did establish a religion circa 1790 had reversed that decision by the 1830s.

The modern movement to establish Christianity as the official religion of the US comes from a relatively recent fear of non-Christian religious activity - aetheism, agnosticism, Judaism, Islam, etc. Church attendance in America has been declining in recent decades. Part of the movement to establish Christianity might be an attempt to divert tax dollars into church coffers.
 

betgo

Ad Honorem
Jul 2011
6,424
Before the American Revolution, the Congregational Church was established in New England and the Anglican Church everywhere else but Pennsylvania. Some New England states kept the Congregational Church established into the 19th century.

The Bill of Rights to the US Constitution prevented Congress from establishing a national religion.

There were many different religions in the 19th century US. In colonial times, the middle atlantic states were religiously diverse, but in Virginia until the Revolution all churches were Anglican. In early Maryland, all churches were Catholic.

Some states restricted voting to Christians or Protestants after the Revolution.

I don't think anyone thought of establishing Christianity in general. The established Anglican and Congregational Churches were funded by tax money in colonial times. (Both of those religions now have small and elite memberships.) I am not sure how you would establish a bunch of religions.
 
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Jul 2019
113
Pale Blue Dot - Moonshine Quadrant
Hamilton was asked once why religion was not mentioned in the Constitution. He replied: "We forgot."
 

Maki

Ad Honorem
Jan 2017
3,634
Republika Srpska
What Christianity? Most states that have or had Christianity as their official religion gave that status to a particular denomination. For example, France's official religion was Catholicism, Russia's was Orthodoxy, Sweden's was Lutheranism etc. US had and still has many denominations, giving one of them official religion status would have been quite controversial.
 
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Jun 2018
179
New York
It's in our Constitution. Right in the first Amendment.

"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."

Declaring an official religion would go against that and all America stands for within that First Amendment. There will always be one religion or sect of a religion with more members, but it won't be the official religion of the United States. Simply put, we have a freedom of religion, having an official religion infringes upon that right.
 

betgo

Ad Honorem
Jul 2011
6,424
There is a clause in the original Constitution banning religious tests for office. The "no law respecting the establishment of religion" in the First Amendment actually protected the existing established religions in New England.

Anglicanism was established in most colonies at the time of the American Revolution, and that was probably part of the reason for the Revolution. Most Loyalists / Tories were Anglicans.
 

stevev

Ad Honorem
Apr 2017
3,558
Las Vegas, NV USA
As already made clear, the Bill of Rights protects freedom of religion. Moreover Christianity is not A religion. It is a family of religions and like any family each member thinks they are right. The founders were wise not to pick one over the others and have an American style Thirty Years.War.
 
Jul 2019
650
New Jersey
There is a clause in the original Constitution banning religious tests for office. The "no law respecting the establishment of religion" in the First Amendment actually protected the existing established religions in New England.

Anglicanism was established in most colonies at the time of the American Revolution, and that was probably part of the reason for the Revolution. Most Loyalists / Tories were Anglicans.
I remember reading a quote somewhere from a British officers diary which said something to the effect that "this rebellion won't be put down until we eradicate every last damn Presbyterian". Which kind of makes sense, given the Presbyterians' substantial contribution to the Parliamentary cause in the English Civil Wars.