Yes, the Founding Fathers were Christians!

Ryan S. Walters | @ryanswalters73

In response to my most recent piece on gay marriage and civil disobedience, much of the criticism I have seen has been on Christianity and the Founding Fathers, with many people holding the opinion that they were not Christians. To that I say, Yes they were!

To prove that I am resurrecting an older column I wrote in response to a Bill Maher rant on his HBO show in January 2011. It shows the Founders as Christians and takes on Maher and Leftists like him who twist historical facts.

Left-wing bomb-thrower, failed actor, and wannabe comedian Bill Maher recently attacked Tea Partiers and Christians in a rant on his less-than successful HBO television show, the only channel that would air such drivel.

Tea Party viewpoints are “antithetical” to the Founders, according to Maher.  He classifies not the Founders but the “teabaggers” as “a group of exclusively white men who live in a bygone century, have bad teeth and think of blacks as three-fifths of a person.”

His rant continues: “I want you teabaggers out there to understand one thing, while you idolize the Founding Fathers and dress up like them and smell like them, I think its pretty clear that the Founding Fathers would have hated your guts!  And what’s more, you would have hated them.  They were everything you despise.  They studied science, read Plato, hung out in Paris, and thought the Bible was mostly bullsh*t!”  All to uproarious laughter.

The Founders disagreed on many things, Maher reminds us, but one thing they did agree on was that political power must stay in the hands of the smartest people “and out of the hands of the dumbest loudmouths slowing down the checkout line at Home Depot.”

The Founders were not the common man of their day, Maher proudly exclaims, they were super-smart philosophers and learned men, unlike today’s “teabaggers.”

So I guess it’s Maher and his ilk that should be running the country, not us dumb ole commoners.

He also used his episode to bash Christianity, a favorite sport of his.  He attacked the “super religious guy Glenn Beck” for dressing up as Thomas Paine, who Maher points out was “an atheist who said churches were human inventions set up to terrify and enslave mankind.”

John Adams, he continued, “said this would be ‘the best of all possible worlds, if there were no religion in it.’  Which is not to say the Founders didn’t have a moral code.  Of course they did.  They just didn’t get it from the Bible.”

But Maher’s leftwing, atheistic views have no basis in historical fact.

Thomas Paine was indeed an atheist, who disliked Christianity.  His pamphlet Common Sense was enormously successful in providing a moral boost to the American cause.  But Paine should not be considered a Founding Father.  A revolutionary, he only came to America from England in 1774 to participate in a revolution that many saw as inevitable.  He was never a member of the Continental Congress, did not sign the Declaration of Independence, nor help form the Constitution. In fact he left America in 1789 and headed to France to participate in that revolution.

But as for Adams, Maher took his quote completely out of its context.  Adams had been reading books on different religious viewpoints, and had grown tired of the back-and-forth bickering from the different authors.  He wrote to Thomas Jefferson of his frustration.  “Twenty times in the course of my late reading have I been on the point of breaking out, ‘This would be the best of all possible worlds, if there were no religion in it!!!’ But in this exclamation I would have been as fanatical as Bryant or Cleverly. Without religion this world would be something not fit to be mentioned in polite company, I mean Hell.”

So you see, Adams did NOT believe the world could exist without religion, and that it would be Hell on earth if there were none.

The Founders did not think the Bible was “bullsh*t.”  In fact, many of the Founders were Christians and read the Bible religiously, contrary to the teachings in our leftwing schools.

“The Bible contains the most profound Philosophy, the most perfect Morality, and the most refined Policy, that ever was conceived upon earth,” wrote John Adams.  “It is the most Republican Book in the World, and therefore I will still revere it.”

According to David Barton, 34 percent of the more than 3,000 quotes used in all founding documents came from the Bible.  That sacred book was the most widely-used source, not Plato.  And of those quotes, most came from the Book of Deuteronomy, the laws of Moses.

The Ivy League schools, today hotbeds of liberalism and anti-Christian fervor, were all originally created to train missionaries to spread the Gospel.  They were not secular institutions.

Harvard College’s “Rules and Precepts” in 1642 contained the following:

“Let every Student be plainly instructed, and earnestly pressed to consider well, the maine end of his life and studies is, to know God and Jesus Christ which is eternal life, John 17:3, and therefore to lay Christ in the bottome, as the only foundation of all found knowledge and Learning.”

Such an enunciation would be enough to get one fired from Harvard today!

Most of the Founders themselves were devout followers of Christianity.  They were deeply religious men and were not Deists, an Enlightenment religion consisting of a creator god uninterested in the plight of mankind.

Dr. Benjamin Rush, a very influential Founder, established the first Bible Society in America, the purpose of which was to print Bibles and distribute them.  He also founded the concept of Sunday School in America.

James Wilson, who signed both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, established the first law school in America and required the use of the Bible in the curriculum.

Thomas Jefferson, himself accused of being a deist and an outright atheist, began church services in the U.S. Capitol building in which he personally attended.  He signed all his presidential documents “In the Year of Our Lord Christ.”  He also drew up a list of books for the curriculum in the Washington, D.C. public schools.   On that list was the Bible.

Benjamin Franklin, also accused of being a deist, stopped the proceedings of the Constitutional Convention and called for a prayer to seek guidance.  Not something a deist would have done!

For it was not the smartest people the Founders wanted in public service, but Christians.  John Adams stated in his only Inaugural Address that “A veneration for the religion of a people who profess and call themselves Christians, and a fixed resolution to consider a decent respect for Christianity among the best recommendations for the public service.”

John Jay, an author of the Federalist Papers and the first Chief Justice of the United States, believed that “Providence has given to our people the choice of their rulers, and it is the duty as well as the privilege and interest of our Christian nation to select and prefer Christians for their rulers.”

When a call was made for the Constitutional Convention, Christians dominated its proceedings.  James Madison, the Father of the Constitution, and a Christian, stated that “The best & purest religion, the Christian Religion itself.”

He was not alone in his religious beliefs.

Christian Delegates to the Constitutional Convention

Abraham Baldwin – Congregationalist

Richard Bassett – Methodist

Gunning Bedford – Presbyterian

John Blair – Episcopalian

William Blount – Presbyterian

David Brearly – Episcopalian

Jacob Broom – Lutheran

Pierce Butler – Episcopalian

Daniel Carroll – Catholic

George Clymer – Quaker/Episcopalian

William Richardson Davie – Presbyterian

Jonathan Dayton – Episcopalian

John Dickinson – Quaker/Episcopalian

Oliver Ellsworth – Congregationalist

William Few – Methodist

Thomas FitzSimons – Catholic

Elbridge Gerry – Episcopalian

Nicholas Gilman – Congregationalist

Nathaniel Gorham – Congregationalist

Alexander Hamilton – Episcopalian

William Churchill Houston – Presbyterian

William Houstoun – Episcopalian

Jared Ingersoll – Presbyterian

Daniel Jenifer – Episcopalian

William Samuel Johnson – Anglican

Rufus King – Episcopalian

John Langdon – Congregationalist

John Lansing – Dutch Reformed Church

William Livingston – Presbyterian

James Madison – Episcopalian

Alexander Martin – Episcopalian

Luther Martin – Episcopalian

George Mason – Episcopalian

John McHenry – Presbyterian

John Francis Mercer – Episcopalian

Thomas Mifflin – Quaker/Lutheran

Gouverneur Morris – Episcopalian

Robert Morris – Episcopalian

William Paterson – Presbyterian

William Pierce – Episcopalian

Charles Cotesworth Pinckney – Episcopalian

Charles Pinckney III – Episcopalian

Edmund Jennings Randolph – Episcopalian

George Read – Episcopalian

John Rutledge – Episcopalian

Roger Sherman – Congregationalist

Richard Dobbs Spaight – Episcopalian

Caleb Strong – Congregationalist

George Washington – Episcopalian

Hugh Williamson – Presbyterian

James Wilson – Episcopalian

George Wythe – Episcopalian

Robert Yates – Dutch Reformed Church

Bill Maher holds a history degree from Cornell but he is not using history for its true purposes – the pursuit of fact – only abusing it in order to attempt to destroy that which he despises. When the left can’t find evidence to support their flawed thinking, they simply distort it, ignore it, or make it up.

Maher should stop accusing Tea Partiers, Christians, and Conservatives of complete ignorance and stupidity, when he himself is guilty of a far more serious offense – outright deception.

But then again, you can’t be a successful liberal without lying!

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Comments

  1. David Frazier says:

    Hey Ryan: Although it may be a trifle overstated, thanks for the reminder. From their Protestant background, the Founding Fathers also strongly believed in the idea of civic virtue–honesty, industriousness, community, and religiosity. Even though they created a secular democratic republic, as you have documented so well, the Judeo-Christian-Protestant influence on America’s early culture and laws is unmistakable.

  2. Bill Smith says:

    Ryan, I think you are wrong to assert that the Founders were generally Christians. If you mean by that they held to historic Christian beliefs about God, Jesus, the atonement, salvation, etc., most probably were not. They were members of churches, but they were not what you or I, as evangelical Christians, would think of as Christians. The were rationalists who believed reason led to belief in God and the afterlife, and some thought of themselves as Christians, but they were not the sort of Christians who believed in Biblical Christianity. On the other hand, David, I think you are wrong to keep claiming that the Founders were establishing a secular democratic republc. They were not Christians in the historic sense, but they believed in God and Christian morality. If they questioned the first 4 commandments, they certainly believed in the last 6 in public life – which btw is what most who believe in a Christian America believe. They did not at all mean to detach the republic from God. Most of them would have thought that impossible. So while they would not have believed that Jesus is God, or that he died for their sins, or that he was raaised from the dead, they believed in God and God given morality and did not bar God from government. They made too many references to him, they engaged in too much prayer, etc. to be the sort of secularists you envision. As is the case even now, the general populace were much more sincerely and cosistently Christian that their government, and thought of their nation as a Christian nation (would have been shocked to hear someone deny it) – the First and Second Awakenings largely responsible fo that. I thinik both Ryan and David impose too much of personal belief or lack of belief on the religious life of the Founders. Some were evangelical believers. But the beliefs of most consisted of varying combinations of Christianiy, Deism, and rationalism. A mixed bag you might say.

    • “the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion”
      Considering this is directly stated by a founder though…

  3. Douglas says:

    http://www.mayflowercompact.org/

    The first civil act of the Pilgrims after their arrival in Cape Cod Harbor, was to draw up a compact or ” combination,” as it is called by Bradford, which was signed by the male members of the company, and became the foundation on which the structure of our government has been built.

    THE MAYFLOWER COMPACT 11th day of November, 1620

    IN THE NAME OF GOD, AMEN. We, whose names are underwritten, the Loyal Subjects of our dread Sovereign Lord King James, by the Grace of God, of Great Britain, France, and Ireland, King, Defender of the Faith, &c. Having undertaken for the Glory of God, and Advancement of the Christian Faith, and the Honour of our King and Country, a Voyage to plant the first Colony in the northern Parts of Virginia; Do by these Presents, solemnly and mutually, in the Presence of God and one another, covenant and combine ourselves together into a civil Body Politick, for our better Ordering and Preservation, and Furtherance of the Ends aforesaid: And by Virtue hereof do enact, constitute, and frame, such just and equal Laws, Ordinances, Acts, Constitutions, and Officers, from time to time, as shall be thought most meet and convenient for the general Good of the Colony; unto which we promise all due Submission and Obedience.

    “Glory of God, and Advancement of the Christian Faith”

    Uh.. yeah, we are a Christian nation and have been from the very beginning. Our early public school books used to teach God’s creation of the universe. That is not done anymore, look where we are now as a nation. May God have mercy on our nation.

    • Bill Smith says:

      Douglas, you are right about the Mayflower Compact. But there are 150 years between the Mayflower Compact and the Constitution, and there was a great deal of difference between that little colony and the nation of 13 states. Then in New England well before the time of the Constitution Arminianism was challenging the Calvinism in New England, and Unitarianism which grew out of Arminianism was beginning to challenge even Armininian orthodoxy. So, yes, the Mayfower Compact was intentionally and explicitly Christian, but NE had changed greatly and the country as a whole did not much resemble the Plymouth colony.

      The Constututon was adopted in a world in which Christianity had great influence and respect, including including among those who did not believe in Biblical Christianity. As I say above, there were some evangelical believers among the Founders, but the general milieu was various blendings of Christianity-Deism-Rationalism. There was an acceptance of Christian morality but a lot of skepticism about the Trinity, the Deity of Christ, the miracles of Jesus, the atonement, the resurrection, etc.

      The country has something of a Christian foundaton and in most of its history has shown a great deal of deference to Christianity. But to say that the country was a Christian country at its Constitutional beginning is to go too far.

  4. David Frazier says:

    Here’s another idea to ponder. In his new book, “Nature’s God: The Heretical Origins of the American Republic”, Mathew Stewart states the following: “[I]n the preamble of the Declaration of Independence [the Founders refer] to ‘the laws of Nature’ and of ‘Nature’s God’. * * * ‘Nature’s God’ properly belongs to the radical philosophical religion of deism. It refers to nothing that we commonly mean by the term ‘God’, but rather something closer to ‘Nature’. It tells us that we are and always have been the source of our own authority; that we govern ourselves not through acts of faith but through acts of understanding; and that if we find ourselves beholden to some imagined authority, this can only mean that we have constructed the conditions of our own servitude. The Declaration of Independence–precisely where it superficially seems to invoke the bleeding of the established religion–really stands for an emancipation of the political order from[the orthodox] God.” Very enlightening, don’t you think? 🙂

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