Was the USA founded on Christianity?

Many assert that it was, 
but it seems not to be so

© Pip Wilson, Wilson's Almanac

Reprinted with permission


Image courtesy http://yorick.infinitejest.org


"As the government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion ..."

Treaty between USA and Libya, November 4, 1796

The Tripoli Treaty of 1796



Someone wrote to me once that the USA is specifically a Christian nation, and I often hear it said that the American 'founding fathers’ intended America to be Christian or theistic. This, I assume, is why at the late date of 1954, after a campaign by the Catholic Knights of Columbus, Senator Homer Ferguson of Michigan sponsored a bill to amend the  Pledge of Allegiance (an American text sometimes recited in school) to include the words "under God". On June 8, 1954, Congress adopted this change.

I believe there is ample evidence that it is not the case that America is a 'Christian nation'. In fact, the very first treaty signed by the USA confirms this view in no uncertain terms. Since the current US administration is so populated with fundamentalist Christians whose views are apparently influencing domestic and foreign policy, I thought it would be useful to assemble some quotes on the subject.
Pip Wilson


George Washington, President at the time of the Treaty of LibyaAs 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 tranquility of Musselmen, – and as the said States never have entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mehomitan 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.
Treaty between USA and Libya, signed at Tripoli, November 4, 1796, and at Algiers January 3, 1797
     Senate advice and consent to ratification June 7, 1797
     Ratified by George Washington, the first President of the United States, June 10, 1797
     Entered into force June 10, 1797
     Proclaimed by the President of the United States June 10, 1797

Where do we find a precept in the Bible for Creeds, Confessions, Doctrines and Oaths, and whole carloads of other trumpery that we find religion encumbered with in these days?
John Adams, second President of the USA

Gentlemen, we are not, nor have we ever been a Christian Nation ...
The United States is not a Christian nation any more than it is a Jewish
or Mohammedan nation.

John Adams, second President of the USA

The doctrine of the divinity of Jesus is made a convenient cover for absurdity.
John Adams, second President of the USA

The hocus-pocus phantasy of a God, like another Cerberus, with one body and three heads, had its birth and growth in the blood of thousands and thousands of martyrs.
Thomas Jefferson, third President of the USA, Jefferson’s Works, Vol. IV, 360, Randolph's ed.

No man [should] be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor [should he] be enforced, restrained, molested, or burthened in his body or goods, nor ... otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief ... All men [should] be free to profess and by argument to maintain their opinions in matters of religion, and ... the same [should] in no wise diminish, enlarge, or affect their civil capacities.
Thomas Jefferson, third President of the USA, Statute for Religious Freedom, 1779

Thomas JeffersonI have examined all the known superstitions of the word, and I do not find in our particular superstition of Christianity one redeeming feature. They are all alike founded on fables and mythology. Millions of innocent men, women and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined and imprisoned. What has been the effect of this coercion? To make one half the world fools and the other half hypocrites; to support roguery and error all over the earth.
Thomas Jefferson, third President of the USA, letter to William Short

Christianity ... (has become) the most perverted system that ever shone on man. ... Rogueries, absurdities and untruths were perpetrated upon the teachings of Jesus by a large band of dupes and importers led by Paul, the first great corrupter of the teaching of Jesus.
Thomas Jefferson, third President of the USA

The clergy converted the simple teachings of Jesus into an engine for enslaving mankind and adulterated by artificial constructions into a contrivance to filch wealth and power to themselves...these clergy, in fact, constitute the real Anti-Christ.
Thomas Jefferson, third President of the USA

Thomas Jefferson, third President of the USA, referring to the Bible

What influence in fact have Christian ecclesiastical establishments had on civil society? In many instances they have been upholding the thrones of political tyranny. In no instance have they been seen as the guardians of the liberties of the people. Rulers who wished to subvert the public liberty have found in the clergy convenient auxiliaries. A just government, instituted to secure and perpetuate liberty, does not need the clergy.
James Madison, fourth President of the USA

Religion and government will both exist in greater purity, the less they are mixed together.
James Madison, fourth President of the USA

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.
James Madison, fourth President of the USA,
A Biography in his Own Words, edited by Joseph Gardner, p. 93

Thomas PaineAmong the most detestable villains in history, you could not find one worse than Moses. Here is an order, attributed to 'God' to butcher the boys, to massacre the mothers and to debauch and rape the daughters. I would not dare so dishonor my Creator's name by (attaching) it to this filthy book (the Bible).
Thomas Paine, American revolutionary philosopher

It is the duty of every true Deist to vindicate the moral justice of God against the evils of the Bible.
Thomas Paine, American revolutionary philosopher

Accustom a people to believe that priests and clergy can forgive sins ... and you will have sins in abundance.
Thomas Paine, American revolutionary philosopher

The Christian church has set up a religion of pomp and revenue in pretended imitation of a person (Jesus) who lived a life of poverty.
Thomas Paine, American revolutionary philosopher  


Benjamin Franklin

As to Jesus of Nazareth, my Opinion of whom you particularly desire, I think the System of Morals and his Religion ... has received various corrupting Changes, and I have, with most of the present dissenters in England, some doubts as to his Divinity; tho' it is a question I do not dogmatize upon, having never studied it, and think it needless to busy myself with it now, when I expect soon an opportunity of knowing the Truth with less trouble. 
Benjamin Franklin, A Biography in his Own Words, edited by Thomas Fleming, p. 404, (1972, Newsweek, New York, NY) quoting letter by Franklin to Exra Stiles March 9, 1790





David Frost: Say is this still a Christian Country?
Billy Graham: No! We're not a Christian Country. We've never been a Christian Country. We're a secular Country, by our constitution. In which Christians live and which many Christians have a voice. But we're not a Christian Country.
Dr Billy Graham is an American evangelist and associate of US presidents; Sir David Frost is a British interviewer

Declaration of Independence

Note: Christianity did influence the world view of the 'founding fathers' in many ways. It is true that on September 6, 1774 the first resolution ever made by the Continental Congress said: "Tuesday, September 6, 1774. Resolved, The Rev. Mr. Duche be desired to open the Congress tomorrow morning with prayers, at the Carpenter's Hall, at 9 o'clock."
(The Journals of the Continental Congress 1774-1789, Washington DC)



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