Why is christianity not the state religion of the USA?

betgo

Ad Honorem
Jul 2011
6,216
#11
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.
Congregationalist and Presbyterians tended to be Patriots. At that time most of the population was those two religions and Anglicans. Quakers were pacifist, but my understanding was the Quaker and Anglican elite in Philadelphia was mostly Loyalists. Generally, any religion other than Anglican or Quaker was mostly Patriot. It was sort of a continuation of the English Civil War.

The Anglican Church went from being the biggest to almost nonexistent. The first Anglican Bishop in the US (there was none in colonial times) had been a chaplain in American recruited portions of the British Army.

Incidently, Jews petitioned for the clause in the Constitution banning religious tests, citing their contributions in fighting and financing the war. Any test would likely have required the office holder be Christian or Protestant. However, the main reason it was included was that test in colonial times had specifically required the holder be Anglican or Congregationalist depending on the colony. Tests in Europe required the holder to be Catholic, Lutheran, Orthodox, and Muslim, depending on the country.
 
Jan 2010
4,439
Atlanta, Georgia USA
#12
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.
The question the OP raised was why this is.
 
Jun 2018
151
New York
#13
The question the OP raised was why this is.
Having an official state religion would spit in the face of the separation of church and state. Freedom of religion keeps the government out of it and ensures the people are able to practice what they believe. We don't have a state religion, because of the Constitution. Our founding fathers all practiced a different belief (albeit all within the umbrella of Christianity). It was how they made sure the government had no power over what was acceptable to practice in faith and what was not. Giving more power to the people.
 
May 2018
120
Houston, TX
#14
I have generally thought that the Framers were well aware of the history of religious wars in Europe over the centuries and did not want the newly minted USA to be subject to those kinds of divisive conflicts. Thus, they kept government out of the religious sphere and vice versa.

I also think that the zeitgeist of the 18th century was colored by the Age of The Enlightenment. Since Reason, Science, and Knowledge were continuing to be considered the basis of a civilized society, Religion lessened in its importance as a factor in government. So, why then incorporate Religion into the Constitution.

Just my way of thinking...
 

Scaeva

Ad Honorem
Oct 2012
5,589
#15
Part of the reason is because - contrary to popular belief in some quarters - many of the founders *were not* devout Protestants, and a few held opinions that would have ruffled the feathers of some modern religious Americans who like to claim incorrectly that the U.S. was founded as a "Judeo-Christian" nation.

“The government of the United States is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion.”
---John Adams


"The divinity of Jesus is made a convenient cover for absurdity. Nowhere in the Gospels do we find a precept for Creeds, Confessions, Oaths, Doctrines, and whole cartloads of other foolish trumpery that we find in Christianity."
---John Adams


"We should begin by setting conscience free. When all men of all religions shall enjoy equal liberty, property, and an equal chance for honors and power we may expect that improvements will be made in the human character and the state of society."
---John Adams


"The priesthood have, in all ancient nations, nearly monopolized learning. And ever since the Reformation, when or where has existed a Protestant or dissenting sect who would tolerate A FREE INQUIRY? The blackest billingsgate, the most ungentlemanly insolence, the most yahooish brutality, is patiently endured, countenanced, propagated, and applauded. But touch a solemn truth in collision with a dogma of a sect, though capable of the clearest proof, and you will find you have disturbed a nest, and the hornets will swarm about your eyes and hand, and fly into your face and eyes.”
---John Adams


"Have you considered that system of holy lies and pious frauds that has raged ane triumphed for 1,500 years?"
---John Adams


“This would be the best of all possible worlds, if there were no religion in it.”
---John Adams


"I almost shudder at the thought of alluding to the most fatal example of the abuses of grief which the history of mankind has preserved– the Cross. Consider what calamities that engine of grief has produced!”
---John Adams


"The day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus by the Supreme Being in the womb of a virgin, will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerva in the brain of Jupiter. ... But we may hope that the dawn of reason and freedom of thought in these United States will do away with all this artificial scaffolding... "
---Thomas Jefferson


"Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, than that of blindfolded fear.”
---Thomas Jefferson


“Because religious belief, or non-belief, is such an important part of every person’s life, freedom of religion affects every individual. State churches that use government power to support themselves and force their views on persons of other faiths undermine all our civil rights. Moreover, state support of the church tends to make the clergy unresponsive to the people and leads to corruption within religion. Erecting the wall of separation between church and state, therefore, is absolutely essential in a free society."
---Thomas Jefferson


"The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods, or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.”
---Thomas Jefferson


" I am not afraid of priests. They have tried upon me all their various batteries of pious whining, hypocritical canting, lying and slandering. I have contemplated their order from the Magi of the East to the Saints of the West and I have found no difference of character, but of more or less caution, in proportion to their information or ignorance on whom their interested duperies were to be played off. Their sway in New England is indeed formidable. No mind beyond mediocrity dares there to develop itself.”
---Thomas Jefferson


"Difference of opinion is advantageous in religion. The several sects perform the office of a common censor over each other. Is uniformity attainable? Millions of innocent men, women and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined, imprisoned; yet we have not advanced an inch towards uniformity. What has been the effect of coercion? To make one half the world fools, and the other half hypocrites. To support roguery and error all over the earth.”
---Thomas Jefferson


“Whenever we read the obscene stories, the voluptuous debaucheries, the cruel and tortuous executions, the unrelenting vindictiveness with which more than half the Bible is filled, it would be more consistent that we call it the word of a demon than the word of God."
---Thomas Paine


'Persecution is not an original feature in any religion; but it is always the strongly marked feature of all religions established by law. Take away the law-establishment, and every religion re-assumes its original benignity.”
--Thomas Paine

"What is it the New Testament teaches us? To believe that the Almighty committed debauchery with a woman engaged to be married; and the belief of this debauchery is called faith.”
---Thomas Paine


"“All national institutions of churches, whether Jewish, Christian or Turkish, appear to me no other than human inventions, set up to terrify and enslave mankind, and monopolize power and profit.”
---Thomas Paine


"Religious bondage shackles and debilitates the mind and unfits it for every noble enterprise.”
---James Madison


"What influence, in fact, have ecclesiastical establishments had on society? In some instances they have been seen to erect a spiritual tyranny on the ruins of the civil authority; on many instances they have been seen upholding the thrones of political tyranny; in no instance have they been the guardians of the liberties of the people. Rulers who wish to subvert the public liberty may have found an established clergy convenient auxiliaries. A just government, instituted to secure and perpetuate it, needs them not.”
--James Madison

"Experience witnesseth that ecclesiastical establishments, instead of maintaining the purity and efficacy of religion, have had a contrary operation. During almost fifteen centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial. What has 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.”
---James Madison


"The purpose of separation of church and state is to keep forever from these shores the ceaseless strife that has soaked the soil of Europe in blood for centuries.”
---James Madison

"“When a religion is good, I conceive it will support itself; and when it does not support itself, and God does not take care to support it so that its professors are obligated to call for help of the civil power, it’s a sign, I apprehend, of it being a bad one.”
---Benjamin Franklin


"“Lighthouses are more helpful than churches.”
---Benjamin Franklin


"In regard to religion, mutual toleration in the different professions thereof is what all good and candid minds in all ages have ever practiced, and both by precept and example inculcated on mankind.”
---Samuel Adams
 
Sep 2012
3,847
Bulgaria
#16
Benjamin Franklin is often misquoted with this 'lighthouses are more helpful than churches'. He wrote this after narrowly surviving a shipwreck:
The bell ringing for church, we went thither immediately, and with hearts full of gratitude, returned sincere thanks to God for the mercies we had received: were I a Roman Catholic, perhaps I should on this occasion vow to build a chapel to some saint, but as I am not, if I were to vow at all, it should be to build a light-house.
7 Things Benjamin Franklin Never Said
 
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botully

Ad Honorem
Feb 2011
3,544
Amelia, Virginia, USA
#17
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.
Agreed.
In Massachusetts everyone was forced to tithe to the Congregational church, whatever your denomination. Failure to do so could result in confiscation of property, jail, public whipping, or other sanctions. The struggle in Massachusetts for religious freedom played a large part in the eventual 1st Amendment.
 
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betgo

Ad Honorem
Jul 2011
6,216
#18
As for the quotes, Paine was an atheist, Jefferson a Deist, and John Adams a Unitarian. They don't reflect the opinion of all leaders. Certainly, much of that could not be said by politicians these days.

However, remember that the Congregationalist Church remained established in several states in the 19th century.
 
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Scaeva

Ad Honorem
Oct 2012
5,589
#19
As for the quotes, Paine was an atheist, Jefferson a Deist, and John Adams a Unitarian. They don't reflect the opinion of all leaders. Certainly, much of that could not be said by politicians these days.

However, remember that the Congregationalist Church remained established in several states in the 19th century.
I never claimed they represented all leaders. I said that, "many of the founders were not devout Protestants, and a few held opinions that would have ruffled the feathers of some modern religious Americans."

That the Constitution prohibited Congress from passing any legislation that would either establish a state religion or prohibit a citizen from practicing their faith is not all that surprising considering that not all of the founders were religious, some of the more influential among them (like Madison, Jefferson, and Adams) were quite skeptical of organized religion, and those who were religious Protestants often belonged to different sects.
 

Futurist

Ad Honoris
May 2014
20,091
SoCal
#20
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?
For one, because some of the Founding Fathers were probably Deists and/or agnostics. For instance, in a letter a couple of weeks before his death. Benjamin Franklin expressed some doubts about Jesus's divinity. This tradition continued later on. For instance, in 1908, future US President William Howard Taft wrote in a private letter that he does not believe in the divinity of Jesus Christ.
 
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