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Is the United States a Christian nation, or a secular nation?

Is the United States a Christian nation? The answer is simple and obvious: No. The United States is a secular nation.

If the American founding fathers had wanted the United States to be a Christian nation, they obviously would have mentioned Jesus Christ, Yahweh/Jehovah, the Bible and the Ten Commandments in the American Declaration of Independence and Constitution. But they did no such thing.

The first commandment is very clear: "Thou shalt have no other gods before me [Yahweh/Jehovah]." The Bible does not grant human beings religious freedom, but compels them to believe in and obey a specific god. Thus the Bible and the American Founding Fathers are in complete and utter disagreement, because the Founding Fathers established religious freedom for Americans, in defiance of the first commandment.

The second commandment says that the name of the God of the Bible is sacred, and yet that name was never once mentioned in the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution or the Bill of Rights. There is absolutely no mention of the names Yahweh, Jehovah, Jesus or Christ in these foundational documents. The generic term Creator is used once, but only to reinforce the idea that the rights of human beings are intrinsic to human life.

The third commandment makes the seventh day of the week a holy day, but the American founding fathers said absolutely nothing about Sabbath Day observances in the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution.

As a matter of fact, none of the Ten Commandments are mentioned anywhere in the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution or the Bill of Rights.

The First Amendment provides exclusionary wording: "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." But this wording places human rights (freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, freedom to petition the government) on the same level as the rights of God and religion, and still there is no preference for the Bible or Christianity over other religious texts or religions.

So it is patently ridiculous for anyone to suggest that the United States was intended by the Founding Fathers to be a "Christian Nation." The basis of Christianity is the belief in Christ. But the American Founding Fathers never once mentioned Christ in their foundational texts. Rather, they specifically stated that the United States was not founded on the Christian religion:

"As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquillity, of Mussulmen; and, as the said States never entered into any war, or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties, that no pretext arising from religious opinions, shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries."—Article 11, Treaty of Peace and Friendship between the United States and the Bey and Subjects of the Bey of Tripoli of Barbary. The treaty was sent to the floor of the Senate, June 7, 1797, where it was read aloud in its entirety and unanimously approved. John Adams, one of the best-known founding fathers, having seen the treaty, signed it and proudly proclaimed it to the Nation.

John Adams, one of the best-known American Founding Fathers, made it very clear that the United States was founded on human reason, not religion:

"The United States of America have exhibited, perhaps, the first example of governments erected on the simple principles of nature; and if men are now sufficiently enlightened to disabuse themselves of artifice, imposture, hypocrisy, and superstition, they will consider this event as an era in their history. Although the detail of the formation of the American governments is at present little known or regarded either in Europe or in America, it may hereafter become an object of curiosity. It will never be pretended that any persons employed in that service had interviews with the gods, or were in any degree under the influence of Heaven, more than those at work upon ships or houses, or laboring in merchandise or agriculture; it will forever be acknowledged that these governments were contrived merely by the use of reason and the senses."
—John Adams, "A Defence of the Constitutions of Government of the United States of America" (1787-88)

Thomas Jefferson, the primary author of the American Declaration of Indepencence, had this written on his tombstone:


Jefferson made it clear that the insertion of the name "Jesus Christ" into the Declaration of Independence was rejected by the majority of the founding fathers, for the sake of true religious freedom:

"Where the preamble declares, that coercion is a departure from the plan of the holy author of our religion, an amendment was proposed by inserting "Jesus Christ," so that it would read "A departure from the plan of Jesus Christ, the holy author of our religion;" the insertion was rejected by the great majority, in proof that they meant to comprehend, within the mantle of its protection, the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Mohammedan, the Hindoo and Infidel of every denomination."—Thomas Jefferson, Autobiography

While serving as president in 1802, Jefferson wrote: "Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man and his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should 'make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,' thus building a wall of separation between Church and State ... "

The idea was not Jefferson's. Other 17th- and 18th-century Enlightenment writers had proposed it. Earlier still, religious dissident Roger Williams had written in a 1644 letter of a "hedge or wall of separation between the garden of the church and the wilderness of the world." Williams, who founded Rhode Island with a colonial charter that included religious freedom, knew intolerance firsthand. He and other religious dissenters, including Anne Hutchinson, had been banished from neighboring Massachusetts, the Puritanical Stalag where Catholics, Quakers and Baptists were either exiled or tortured over items of religious dogma.

As president, Jefferson was voicing an idea that was fundamental to his view of religion and government, expressed most significantly in the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, which he drafted in 1777.

Here's the text of the U.S. Constitution in a variety of formats:

It never mentions God or any deity, much less Yahweh/Jehovah or Jesus Christ.

It mentions religion only twice, in Article VI clause 3:

"The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States."

And in the First Amendment:

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof."

So the only mentions of religion refute any suggestion that Christianity was to be favored in any way. This itself is a refutation of the Ten Commandments, which demand that the God of the Bible be worshipped and obeyed.

As Miles Fidelman has pointed out: "Yes, there were always people who wanted the U.S. to be a Christian nation, by which they meant to have a Christian government, and some who tried to make out that it was and that the founders meant it to be. They were wrong then and they're still wrong now. Actually, not a single one of the first seven presidents was a Christian in the sense most people then accepted (believer in the Trinity, member of a church, and partaker of communion):"
The Rev. Dr. Wilson, who was almost a contemporary of our earlier statesmen and presidents, and who thoroughly investigated the subject of their religious beliefs, in his sermon already mentioned affirmed that the founders of our nation were nearly all Infidels, and that of the presidents who had thus far been elected — George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe, John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson — not one had professed a belief in Christianity.

From this sermon I quote the following: "When the war was over and the victory over our enemies won, and the blessings and happiness of liberty and peace were secured, the Constitution was framed and God was neglected. He was not merely forgotten. He was absolutely voted out of the Constitution. The proceedings, as published by Thompson, the secretary, and the history of the day, show that the question was gravely debated whether God should be in the Constitution or not, and, after a solemn debate he was deliberately voted out of it. ... There is not only in the theory of our government no recognition of God's laws and sovereignty, but its practical operation, its administration, has been conformable to its theory. Those who have been called to administer the government have not been men making any public profession of Christianity. ... Washington was a man of valor and wisdom. He was esteemed by the whole world as a great and good man; but he was not a professing Christian.—Six Historic Americans, George Washington, by John E. Remsburg, 1906
When the Senate unanimously approved the Tripoli Treaty, Andrew Jackson was a Senator from Tennessee, Thomas Jefferson was Vice President and thus President of the Senate, and John Adams signed the treaty as President.

This link has details on how God was voted out of the Constitution:

Note that it was Sam Adams, not John Adams, who objected to the prohibition on religious tests.

John Adams, Ben Franklin, and James Madison are clearly on record as being for the prohibition on religious tests, and Washington was the chair of the Constitutional Convention that passed it. Madison was also one of the people most active in getting the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom passed, which Jefferson wrote. There you have the first four presidents and Andy Jackson. The rest aren't much more difficult to track down on this subject. The first seven (actually, at least the first 19) presidents were all for a secular Republic and weren't even Christians themselves.

"I could not do otherwise without transcending the limits prescribed by the Constitution for the President and without feeling that I might in some degree disturb the security which religion nowadays enjoys in this country in its complete separation from the political concerns of the General Government."—U.S. President Andrew Jackson, 12 June 1832, letter to the Synod of the Reformed Church of North America, explaining his refusal of their request that he proclaim a "day of fasting, humiliation, and prayer."

The American founding fathers had read the Bible, and were fully aware of the Biblical names of God: Yahweh, Jehovah, Jesus and Christ. Yet they obviously chose not to mention those names in the American Declaration of Independence or Constitution. They also chose not to mention the Bible, the Ten Commandments or Sabbath Day observances. This means that they willfully ignored the direct commandments of the Bible. They were freethinkers and men who believed in their own powers of reason. They were not slaves to irrational religious beliefs. If they had believed the Bible was the infallible word of God, they would not have disobeyed its commandments. But they obviously did not believe in the infallibility of the Bible, nor in the divinity of Yahweh/Jehovah or Jesus Christ.

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