The Mythological Christianity of the Founding Fathers

The United States of America was founded on the principles of freedom, by a group of men who were ahead of their time in many ways. They were a mixture of open-mindedness and bigotry, devotion and irreverence, liberal beliefs and conservative. What they were NOT on the whole were devout christian men, set on building a christian nation ruled by biblical precepts.

In fact, despite the efforts of later historians to paint the founding fathers as a group of righteous disciples of christ, religious beliefs among the founding fathers ran the gamut. Many of the most powerful players ascribed to a much broader definition of god than christianity allowed, and several abandoned all forms of organized religion or christianity entirely.

Thomas Jefferson was an self avowed member of ‘a sect by myself’; George Washington repeatedly dodged questions fired at him about his beliefs and spoke often in his masonic related writings of the ‘great architect’; Benjamin Franklin was likewise a mason and a confirmed deist. Thomas Paine, whose writings influenced many prominent leaders of the day, stated, “I do not believe in the creed professed by the Jewish church, by the Roman church, by the Greek church, by the Protestant church, nor by any church that I know of. My own mind is my church.”

John Adams was a very liberal unitarian, and James Madison was a token episcopalian; yet both fought most vigilantly for separation of church and state; battling against tax exempt status, claiming any true church to be more than capable of supporting itself by donations from its followers, and rejecting the idea that religious tenets had any legitimate place in the government of a nation.

The founding fathers’ concept of ‘freedom for all’ was hampered on all sides by prevailing beliefs and prejudices, however. Abigail Adams wrote her husband that women should be given equal rights with men, and was shot down thunderously by Adams’ answering polemic – he stated that “As to your extraordinary Code of Laws, I cannot but laugh… Depend upon it, We know better than to repeal our Masculine systems.and rather than give up this, which would completely subject Us to the Despotism of the Petticoat, I hope General Washington and all our brave Heroes would fight.” Adams went on to say scornfully that giving in to ‘rebellious women’ would open the door for “Tories, Landjobbers, Trimmers, Bigots, Canadians, Indians, Negroes, Hanoverians, Hessians, Russians, Irish, Roman Catholicks, and Scotch Renegadoes” to demand concessions as well.

Likewise, the issue of slavery was bitterly contested by Jefferson and Madison, but they were shouted down by those who felt too much change would hamper the solidification of the new country by alienating many of the wealthier supporters of the revolution. Blacks (as well as other minorities) and women were not accorded basic rights for a good century and more after the revolution, and only continual suffrage finally forced both issues. The christian bible was continually interpreted to justify the subjugation of both groups of people, and is still used today to justify denying rights to those who do not ascribe to heterosexual standards.

No wonder religion (specifically christianity) was looked on by many of the founding fathers as a hindrance rather than a benefit to the emergence of the new nation. Benjamin Franklin wrote, “If we look back into history for the character of the present sects in Christianity, we shall find few that have not in their turns been persecutors, and complainers of persecution. The primitive Christians thought persecution extremely wrong in the Pagans, but practiced it on one another. The first Protestants of the Church of England blamed persecution in the Romish church, but practiced it upon the Puritans. These found it wrong in the Bishops, but fell into the same practice themselves both here [England] and in New England.

Adams fully understood that religion and politics was a bad mix, saying hopefully, “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.” Adams classed all of the old testament and most of the new under ‘superstition’, and as a unitarian staunchly denied the divinity of christ.

Madison was more circumspect in his deviations from the episcopalian sect, yet was the strongest opponent of any mixture of religion and government. He wrote: “During almost fifteen centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial. What have 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… 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.”

How, then, did we end up with a country ruled so blatantly by christian methodology? Other world powers knocked down the walls separating blacks and white, men and women, gays and straights far in advance of the United States. Our country determinedly lags behind, with the rights of women to their own bodies continually challenged and anyone with a sexual orientation other than hetero continually denied the rights accorded others, in the name of ‘christian morality’.

Is freedom only applicable to those who play by rules set forth by those who often have no stake in the outcome? Until men can bear children, they should not be allowed to dictate to the gender who can. Until the entire nation willingly converts to fundamental christianity, rules from a religious book should not be used to batter non-conformists into submission. If our country claims to have  separation of church and state, there should BE ACTUAL SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE.

This blog is designed to create awareness of how the freedoms of certain human beings are being curtailed and rights denied to huge groups of our nation’s citizens. It’s going to be controversial. It’s going to be messy. Hopefully, however, it will allow for real discussions to take place and some eloquence to be brought to bear on real issues that plague our country today. Comments will be moderated – flamers will have their comments deleted, as will evangelists; this is not a platform to argue over how right or wrong christianity is, but rather how to end its stranglehold on our legislative and judicial system, as Madison intended.

And yes, I am blatantly ignoring capitalization of many words.  It’s deliberate.

For those interested in reading more about this topic, an EXCELLENT article exists here; I lifted several quotes from it and it contains wonderful notes about the derivation of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.


About Sadie G

Grace Alexander is the founder of Brilliance On Demand, a full service copy-writing and social media marketing company specializing in helping her clients rule Google in their respective niches.
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8 Responses to The Mythological Christianity of the Founding Fathers

  1. Dawn says:

    Hi Grace,

    I just finished reading the blog. It is a very good article. I don’t agree with some aspects, but it is very well put together and researched. The part that I disagree with has to do with a woman’s right to do with what she wants to her body. Though that may be part of my religious beliefs shining through, even if I didn’t have a religion, I would find that off for one reason. When a woman has sexual relationships, she knows she can get pregnant as well as a man knows he can get her pregnant. The baby, on the other hand, is given no choice. When a woman is pregnant, it is two bodies, not just one. To me, and this is just my opinion, that is a cop out. The part about women being able to do what they want with their bodies. People in general aren’t allowed to attempt to or successfully commit suicide. I don’t know if that is true in every state, but it is in Maryland. So would that be covered under the same assumption that it is our body and we should be allowed to do with it what we want. Or what about smoking? It’s my body. If I choose to smoke and take the chance, shouldn’t I be allowed to do that? But many people would like to see smoking outlawed. I could go on and on about that. I want to make clear that I am not jumping on you or upset at all. I just thought I would share my view on it with you.

    Thanks for the excellent article!!

    • quickgracenotes says:

      Thanks for reading and commenting, Dawn. Likewise, this isn’t an attack back atcha 🙂

      You bring up an interesting point RE suicide. I think a lot of people tragically commit suicide when they still have wonderful years of life ahead of them. I also believe many people are in enormous pain and suffering at the end of a long life and should be allowed to make a graceful exit. So, I’d have to say I’d support the right to die. Most suicide in younger people is prompted by a feeling that life is no longer worth living, which is in turn prompted by abuse, persecution, bullying, or any number of preventable issues. I’ll address this topic in an upcoming post.

      RE abortion, many christians support abortion in case of rape or incest, which I find to be slightly hypocritical in that they insist abortion is murder of an unborn child who does not deserve it – unless that unborn child’s mommy has a reallllly good reason. (To those people, I say, make up your mind – it’s either murder or it isn’t.) Your POV is that a woman who has sexual relations knows she can get pregnant. I agree it’s irresponsible to not take precautions, and to treat abortion as an after the fact form of birth control, but accidents happen and then we have instances of forcible assault in which the woman had no say.

      You are looking at the issue through the tinted glasses of religion, and even if you had no religion, you would still be looking at it as a ”right or wrong’ morality issue, predicated on the viewpoint that a ‘baby’ is formed at conception. I would uphold your right to choose for yourself, and vehemently oppose attempts to impose your viewpoints on others. That’s kind of what this blog is about. I plan to address the abortion issue in depth as well.

      A lot of people are going to disagree with me on a lot of things. I believe people have the right to put in their bodies what they want to the extent that they do not harm others. I believe many things should be legalized and taxed, including many types of drugs as well as all forms of adult prostitution. I believe punishment for hurting others should be harsher. I believe we have a grievous need for prison reform. I believe this country spends enormous amounts of money abroad on wars and relief that should be spent at home. All of these things will be addressed at length at some point.

      Again, thanks for being my first comment. I respect your right to your belief system. I hope I don’t come across as christian bashing – that is not my intent. As mentioned, this blog is for exploring hypocrisy, and if a christian ‘values’ system should be running the country.


  2. Diane Quinn says:

    A very thought provoking article, Grace. Well done, as always.
    I totally agree about the importance of “separation of church and state. We need more politicians today who will stand up and acknowledge the true intent of our founding fathers and be less worried about the vocal right wing Christians in our country who prefer to make up fairy tales to support their often absurd positions.

    We need politicians of good character and judgment. Whether or not they follow a specific religion matters not. What matters is that they make decisions that are in the best interest of our country as a whole and not for any personal or religious agenda. This can only happen by keeping church and state separated and by solving our problems through a prism of objectivity.

    • quickgracenotes says:

      Thanks Diane!

      I agree that we need people of good character, and good character needs to be defined in a different way than ‘Staunch family man, defender of the sanctity of heterosexual marriage and of the rights of the unborn’ which is currently nearly the only acceptable standard. The video I posted earlier today on Facebook shows what a man of true character is – one who isn’t afraid to speak up in a hostile environment and stand for truth over some idealized fiction of how the world ‘should’ be.

  3. waymonddh says:

    This is a very good post. Well thought out and well presented. As far as I can tell, I pretty much agree with every point. Religion interfering in government is something I simply can’t abide. Neither could the Founding Fathers who these same people so often refer to as founding a “Christian country.” I myself have been trying to make many of these same points for a long time now and it makes me sad that so few people will listen. I will be reading more of your posts in future and I am glad to see someone else out there speaking up for the rights of all people regardless of race, religion, sex or sexual preference.
    In my opinion people are people no matter, and God loves us all. It makes me so angry when one of these Christians say I should or should not do something simply because they believe it to be wrong according to their limited view of Christianity. America is being held hostage by a conservative movement that behaves like a religious cult, instead of a legitimate political entity. The truth is there is no difference in the way they function than the way the Fundamentalist Muslims, who they claim to hate, do. The only difference is in who they claim to worship. Our Founding Fathers created a country that was supposed to be free from this sort of tyranny but they have eroded away at those foundations so much in recent years that this country, and the ideals it was founded on, is on the verge of collapse.

    • Grace Alexander says:

      Thank you, Waymond!

      I wish I had more time to devote to this blog, I have scads of research done and just haven’t had time to post. It is one of my priorities for 2012 to spend more time here 🙂

  4. Pingback: Non-Christian Foundations of Our Country « Modern Religion & Politics

  5. Jef With One F says:

    Just brilliant. A wonderful article.

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