The Whole "We were founded as a Christian nation" argument
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01-03-2015, 06:53 PM
The Whole "We were founded as a Christian nation" argument
So most of us TTA contributors know the familiar argument of saying we were founded as a christian nation by american Christians. We also know that per the first amendment this is not the case. However, me being the skeptic that I am I decided to make sure I was spot on in this area. So of course I checked the first amendment for the 100th time and clear as day "prohibits the making of any law respecting an establishment of religion, impeding the free exercise of religion, abridging the freedom of speech, infringing on the freedom of the press, interfering with the right to peaceably assemble or prohibiting the petitioning for a governmental redress of grievances."

Ok no problem there so where are these christians getting this idea from. Maybe the declaration of independence?

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

Ah that's where the confusion must lie. First of all, the Declaration of Independence is not a legal document for this nation. What this means is that it has no authority over our laws, our lawmakers, or ourselves. It cannot be cited as precedent or as being binding in a courtroom. The purpose of the Declaration of Independence was to make a moral case for dissolving the legal ties between the colonies and Great Britain; once that goal was achieved, the official role of the Declaration was finished. Now after this anyone wanna guess what document does spell out our laws? The freaking constitution.

So I think that's where a lot of this "We were founded as a christian nation" bull comes from. Like many things just a lack of research or just sheer ignorance.
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01-03-2015, 07:05 PM
RE: The Whole "We were founded as a Christian nation" argument
This Constitution, and the laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof; and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby, anything in the Constitution or laws of any State to the contrary notwithstanding.

But....but...If this is a Christian nation. Shouldn't the BIBLE be the supreme law of the land instead of the fallible writings of MAN?!

*gasp*

oh...almost forgot...the last sentence in article six.

but no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.


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01-03-2015, 07:13 PM
RE: The Whole "We were founded as a Christian nation" argument
(01-03-2015 07:05 PM)Shadow Fox Wrote:  This Constitution, and the laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof; and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby, anything in the Constitution or laws of any State to the contrary notwithstanding.

But....but...If this is a Christian nation. Shouldn't the BIBLE be the supreme law of the land instead of the fallible writings of MAN?!

*gasp*

oh...almost forgot...the last sentence in article six.

but no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.

Ah how did I forget that point. As for the no religious test part it still happens anyway just not an official test. Try being an atheist or hell even a Muslim and run for office. Lol.
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01-03-2015, 07:15 PM
RE: The Whole "We were founded as a Christian nation" argument
My nation was founded by stinking barbarians who wealded axes at Romans and prayed to a god who wealed a warhammer at giants....

So I guess we are a nation of peagan norse gods!

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01-03-2015, 07:15 PM
RE: The Whole "We were founded as a Christian nation" argument
The religious right already have no problem stomping the shit out of the first amendment, why should they be concerned whether or not It's true about a 'christian foundation?'
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01-03-2015, 07:17 PM
RE: The Whole "We were founded as a Christian nation" argument
I think there's something more to it. Coming from an outsider's perspective, I think the foundations of a nation can have many details, and some become obsolete and insignificant with progress of time. My country has some of the oldest borders in Europe. 1000 years ago Christianity was a determinant and uniting factor for our independence. But that's completely irrelevant nowadays.

So basically, even if America was based on the Christian religion, that doesn't mean that 200-300 years later it still needs to be. After all, America accepted slavery in the beginning but now it doesn't. Ideologies, ideas, values and concepts evolve with time.

"A casual stroll through the lunatic asylum shows that faith does not prove anything" - Friedrich Nietzsche
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01-03-2015, 07:34 PM
RE: The Whole "We were founded as a Christian nation" argument
(01-03-2015 06:53 PM)MrKrispy601 Wrote:  So most of us TTA contributors know the familiar argument of saying we were founded as a christian nation by american Christians. We also know that per the first amendment this is not the case. However, me being the skeptic that I am I decided to make sure I was spot on in this area. So of course I checked the first amendment for the 100th time and clear as day "prohibits the making of any law respecting an establishment of religion, impeding the free exercise of religion, abridging the freedom of speech, infringing on the freedom of the press, interfering with the right to peaceably assemble or prohibiting the petitioning for a governmental redress of grievances."

Ok no problem there so where are these christians getting this idea from. Maybe the declaration of independence?

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

Ah that's where the confusion must lie. First of all, the Declaration of Independence is not a legal document for this nation. What this means is that it has no authority over our laws, our lawmakers, or ourselves. It cannot be cited as precedent or as being binding in a courtroom. The purpose of the Declaration of Independence was to make a moral case for dissolving the legal ties between the colonies and Great Britain; once that goal was achieved, the official role of the Declaration was finished. Now after this anyone wanna guess what document does spell out our laws? The freaking constitution.

So I think that's where a lot of this "We were founded as a christian nation" bull comes from. Like many things just a lack of research or just sheer ignorance.

People point to the Declaration as an example, but I think it was simpler than that. There is a usually-unspoken assumption that the trends of today extend infinitely backwards in time. So, for example, the trend today is towards sexual liberty and openness. We are at this moment moving from less-free to more-free, not only in our laws and attitudes, but what we are comfortable speaking of. The assumption, therefore, is that the further back in time you go, the less freely these things are spoken of. In actuality, there are cycles of liberty ranging from the conservative 50s to the swinging 20s. There are peaks of extreme staidness, such as the Victorian eras, and times preceding that which are much more... earthy in attitude.

Similarly with Christianity. The modern trend is of a downfall of Christianity. More people are not believing. Those that do believe, are shifting towards more liberal, less literal belief. We unconsciously reverse this trend and think that the further back in time we go, the more religious people were. So someone back in the 1770s and 1780s? HAD TO BE UBER-RELIGIOUS! I mean, just compare today with, say, the Pilgrims to see this trend! Never mind the contemporary juxtaposition of these people with the fundamentally mercantile New Yorkers and Williamsbergers, for example... we don't see pictures of those people every Thanksgiving, so we don't think of their religious belief and lack in intensity thereof. Never mind the effect of the many revivals across the country's history -- what were those, if not spikes of people becoming MORE religious? But no, that's not considered, it's all one general trend getting more religious the further back you go. And it's not more religious in a bunch of different ways, but more religious along a CONTEMPORARY scale... more likely to view sexual impropriety as sin, more likely to attend Sunday church, more likely to denounce science and the like, more likely to be caught up in the holy-rolling style of religious fervor and ecstasy.

Honestly, there's a germ of truth to this. The Founding Fathers WERE more likely to believe a god existed than present day Americans. But the fact of the matter is usually not considered.

Instead, it's based mostly on this assumption. In fact, church attendance at the time of the Revolution was, if I recall, somewhere in the low 20-percents. (This may have had something to do with a rural population not easily able to commute to and from a church in a single day.) The denominational issues of the day were less doctrinal and more geopolitical, less the bickering we see today and more Counterreformation thinking. Established churches were the rule, and rebellion against the crown of England also meant, perforce, rebellion against the CHURCH of England. The two were the same. Of those that did attend church, many seemed to do so as a sign of loyalty to the government and a requirement of the public offices they held (like Washington) rather than actual belief in that denomination's doctrines. Deism, rather than Christianity, was highly popular among the intellectual class that gave rise to many of the Founding Fathers, and particularly among the leading lights of the Revolution and the founding of the new republic. Franklin was an outright atheist, Thomas Paine an outspoken Deist, Jefferson most likely a more private one. Washington prayed to SOMETHING but kept his faith private (probably out of a mix of being reserved in general, plus not wanting to be seen favoring one denomination over another). Madison, who largely authored the Constitution, was harshly anti-religious (though arguably was angry at organized religion than the contents of the faith in general). Monroe seems to have been an apatheist.

But all that's avoiding the real questions.

1) Did they intend for this to be a Christian nation?

If so, they did a shit-poor job of recording this. As MrKrispy points out, the governing document, the Constitution, mentions religion only to limit its control over government and government's control over it. The Declaration DOES mention a god, but it's a very general, vague sort of god. Not specifically Christian or interventionary, which is what we would have expected from the writings of a Deist like Jefferson. And also not particularly central to the point that the Declaration was mentioning.

Particularly telling are the following facts: First, they established no church. NONE. When pretty much EVERY other country in the Western world had an established church. By the standards of their day, this was radically secular. Second, the much-touted treaty of Tripoli, in which many of these leading lights either authored or ratified a document explicitly distanced the American government from being distinctly Christian, and therefore not necessarily at ends with Muslim nations. And third, there is little to no evidence, other than whatever personal beliefs they practiced, that they INTENDED for the country to be explicitly Christian. There were plenty of contemporary examples of nations making broad statements of that sort, from Spain to Austria to Russia, in which they are identified as explicitly this or that or the other version of the Christian faith. That sort of thing was hardly radical, and indeed was the norm. Even if the Founding Fathers had intended some sort of general, non-denominational, ecumenical Christianity, they could have easily crafted a statement to this effect. They did not.

2) Should we be following the Founding Fathers blueprint, even if they had created America as a Christian nation?

HELL no. At least not simply on the grounds that it was their intention. By that logic, we should still be a nation of slavery, where only rich white men were allowed to vote. (And indeed, the Constitution spends a lot more effort establishing the character of the US as a nation of slavery, than as a Christian nation.) The founding fathers explicitly inserted a mechanism into the constitution by which it could evolve with the zeitgeist of the day and new ways of doing things. They knew that they were forging ahead into untested ground, and that they were likely making mistakes that would need to be rectified. They knew things would change, and that capacity and even necessity of change was far more part of their creation than any religious identity.

So, in short, it's not true, and also doesn't matter.
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01-03-2015, 07:39 PM
RE: The Whole "We were founded as a Christian nation" argument
Is it possible to sue a state for having an unconstitutional law? Even if that state is not your own?


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01-03-2015, 07:43 PM
RE: The Whole "We were founded as a Christian nation" argument
In Europe I can sue another state for having an unconstitutional law if I'm an immigrant in that country. But it's a long and not worthy of the time/effort process. It's a pain in the ass to sue the state AND win.

"A casual stroll through the lunatic asylum shows that faith does not prove anything" - Friedrich Nietzsche
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01-03-2015, 08:15 PM
RE: The Whole "We were founded as a Christian nation" argument
(01-03-2015 07:39 PM)Shadow Fox Wrote:  Is it possible to sue a state for having an unconstitutional law? Even if that state is not your own?

In order to have standing, you'd have to show that you are in some way impacted by the law. So for example, the various states with constitutions saying atheists can't hold office? Since those laws aren't in force, you can't sue, because they don't damage you. (MAYBE you could make a case that you were being unduly illegitimized, but it would be a stretch.) On the other hand, if you don't live in the state and are passing through and ARE impacted by the law, then yes, you can.
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