Political Chowder Ingredients: Facts, Events, Policy, Politicians, Journalists, and YOU
Political Chowder Ingredients:
Facts, Events, Policy, Politicians, Journalists, and YOU

This Week's "You"
June 07, 2009
Letter to the Nashua Telegraph

U.S. wasn’t founded as a Christian nation

In a letter of May 20 (“Lasky was mistaken on ‘Christian nation’ ”), Audrey Robinson stated that the United States was founded as a Christian nation. In fact, she is wrong.

Actually, according to historian Robert T. Handy: “No more than 10 percent – probably less – of Americans in 1800 were members of congregations.”

Although some founders, such as Alexander Hamilton, were Christians, many were not. John Adams, for example, was a Unitarian.

Although I am not aware of all Unitarian beliefs, the Unitarian Universalist Church of Nashua Web site states that they welcome atheists and agnostics to their church and that they do not have a creed. Therefore, they would not be considered traditional Christians.

Many of the Founding Fathers were in fact deists. Deism is a philosophy more than a religion and is usually explained with an analogy.

God is compared to a watchmaker who built a watch, wound it and walked away. Therefore, the deists see God as a creator only, and they do not believe in revealed religion, miracles or in a personal God. After all, these were men of the Age of Enlightenment. They believed in reason, not superstition, ritual or magic.

Who were these deists? Because they had no churches, they are known primarily by their writings and their lack of membership in particular congregations, although they sometimes went to churches on various occasions.

George Washington was a Freemason and likely a deist, although he did include “so help me God” when he took the presidential oath of office. However he apparently never participated in any church sacraments, and his friend, Dr. James Abercrombie, stated that Washington was a deist.

Benjamin Franklin was also a Freemason and a deist. He said so in his autobiography. In a letter he wrote a few months before he died, he said that although he admired the person Jesus, he did not believe in the divinity of Jesus. Thomas Jefferson, who Alexander Hamilton frequently called an atheist, was likely a deist. In many of his writings about religion, he used the expression, “if there is a God . . .” He also wrote: “I am of a sect by myself, as far as I know.”

Thomas Paine, who was often called an atheist, was likely a deist, if not actually an atheist. And there were many, many more.

But to the point. A treaty, usually referred to as the Treaty of Tripoli, was passed by the Senate and signed by President John Adams in June 1797.

Section 11 of this treaty contains the statement “(T)he Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion.” It appears that the case is closed for those who accept evidence.


William Hodge