Did You Know that Half the Declaration's Signers Had Divinity School Training?





Mr. Schweikart is Professor of History, University of Dayton and co-author of the recently published, A Patriot's History.

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No phrase has been more egregiously misapplied than Thomas Jefferson’s infamous “wall of separation between church and state,” a line he used in a letter to the Danbury Baptist Association in 1802.This line, along with references to the supposed lack of Christian faith among the Founders, has for decades fed the fires of the American leftists in their drive to excise any references to God and/or Christ from the public square. Yet how “ir-religious” were these Founders?

It is worth beginning at the beginning and to note that entire colonies were established precisely to serve as religious sanctuaries for various denominations of the Christian church, with Pennsylvania a Quaker state, Maryland a Catholic state, and Massachusetts a Puritan state. Moreover, the supposedly “deistic” Jefferson wrote Virginia’s Sabbath law, and far from wishing to move America away from her Christian roots, Jefferson’s Bill for “Establishing Religious Freedom” in 1786 was expressly designed to move the nation toward a less-Anglican, more Protestant base. These words hardly sound like those of a man committed to atheism or even “deism”: “Almighty God hath created the mind free,” and “all attempts to influence it by temporal punishments or burdens, or by civil incapacitations, tend only to beget habits of hypocrisy and meanness, and are a departure from the plan of the Holy Author of our religion, who being Lord both of body and mind . . . .” Jefferson wanted to extend the Gospel by “its influence on reason alone,” not coercion. Nevertheless, that hardly supports the notion that Jefferson lacked faith in God, or, for that matter, the Gospels.

What is completely ignored in the debates about “religious freedom” is that every one of the groups fighting the tax assessments for public funding of ministers desired “religious freedom” within a Christian tradition, and none, in their wildest dreams, would have suspected the concept of religious freedom would be used to justify the removal of Christian crosses from public squares, the elimination of prayers in school, or the removal of copies of the Ten Commandments from courtrooms. In the minds of these groups, the threat of tyranny by an Anglican Church would have been a far lesser evil than the complete removal of Christianity from the public square.

There was certainly no separation of church from our Founding statesmen. Half the Declaration’s signers had some sort of divinity school training, and while John Adams was the most overtly pious, even the supposed non-believers among the Founders, such as Benjamin Franklin, found the need to turn to God in times of trouble. During the Constitutional Convention's most contentious moments, it was Franklin who not only offered a prayer but who added:

Our prayers, Sir, were heard, and they were graciously answered. All of us who were engaged in the struggle must have observed frequent instances of a Superintending providence in our favor. To that kind providence we owe this happy opportunity of consulting in peace on the means of establishing our future national felicity. And have we now forgotten that powerful friend? or do we imagine that we no longer need His assistance [emphasis added].

Do these words sound like those of a “deist” who thinks human ability sufficient for the challenges of the day? Franklin not only went on to quote scripture a la Adams, but stated flatly that “God governs the affairs of men” (emphasis Franklin’s).

Modern historians, steeped in the “feelings” and emotions of people, demand more evidence of the “inner man” from the Founders. But faith, to all of them, was a deeply private issue, lest one come up short against another. Whether or not George Washington prayed in the snow, or whether or not declarations such as Franklin’s were for “public consumption,” it is abundantly obvious that these men spoke of God, the Creator, the Lord, the Divine (capital “D”) relentlessly. Even if it were true that, initially, such pronouncements were intended for the ears of others, it nevertheless bespeaks a Biblical law that “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” (Romans 10:17). By constantly speaking faith, they consistently built up their own. Non-believers might see hypocrisy; believers would see confession and optimism, whereby one “calls those things which do not exist as though they did.” (Romans 4:17).

The omnipresence of Christianity in America provided an undergirding to everything the Founders said and did. It was so common that most people, aside from an ultra-pious man like John Adams, did not delve deeply into the implications of their faith for every daily interaction. Yet how can one escape the fact that virtually all of the Republic’s early universities were founded by denominations with the intent of advancing the cause of Christ---and not some generic “Creator”? How does one reconcile the evidence of a long and tortured spiritual journey of Abraham Lincoln, who only “surrendered all” after Gettysburg? How can the divinity school training of so many early giants---and many later presidents, who studied theology formally---be cavalierly swept aside? And all this in a young nation in which the path to power and fame was anything but the clergy!

Jefferson’s wall of separation between church and state clearly did not apply to a wall separating church and statesmen, for it was assumed by all that men of poor character could not govern. The unstated assumption beneath that was that character came from God, and faith, not from man’s own works. They spoke of character without ceasing: Alexander Hamilton stated that he would “willingly risk my life, though not my character, to exalt my station.” But of course, Hamilton had gotten that training from a New Jersey minister, who funded his education. Jefferson wrote in his Bible, “I am a real Christian, that is to say, a disciple of the doctrines of Jesus. I have little doubt that our whole country will soon be rallied to the unity of our creator.” Jefferson, we might add, was the chairman of the American Bible Society. Patrick Henry, in 1776, stated, “It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great Nation was founded not by religionists, but by Christians; not on religions, but on the Gospel of Jesus Christ. For that reason alone, people of other faiths have been afforded freedom of worship here.” The First Continental Congress authorized the purchase of 20,000 Bibles in 1777 from Holland---a fact that anti-religious websites deliberately misrepresent. Indeed, the most common argument against the faith of the Founders is an argument from silence. Yet that speaks more about their view of what was properly discussed in public---even in private letters---than it does their lack of Christian faith.

Had the Founders been subject to the incessant polling we suffer from today, three things are clear: 1) They would have overwhelmingly, if not unanimously, characterized the United States as a Christian nation (leaving aside what each interpreted that to mean); 2) They would have overwhelmingly, if not unanimously, thought it imperative that leaders display the type of character that sprang from Christianity; and 3) They would have almost certainly unanimously agreed that the “wall of separation” was to prevent one Christian denomination from dominating, and was never intended to be a wedge between the government and Christianity. Even the so-called “Deists” among them would be horrified at the actions taken under the guise of protecting “religious liberty,” when in fact they are usually efforts to attack religion. I’d wager that had they seen the perversions of their intended protection of Christianity, more than a few would have uttered, “Oh, my God!”


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j c - 7/25/2005

I found this out about schweikart by doing a google search

-Larry Schweikart has also published on issues of faith, most notably serving as a trusted ghost-writer to the famous "televangelist" Frederick K.C. Price for several of his books, and he is slated to be Price’s official biographer later this year.-

One could argue that he is re-writing history in order to please Frederick K.C. Price. If Schweikart did not embrace the fraudulent notion that the U.S. is a "Christian nation" then Frederick would have likely chosen someone else to ghost-write for him. To me this is an obvious conflict of interest for someone who is writing about history.


j c - 7/25/2005

I found this out about schweikart by doing a google search

-Larry Schweikart has also published on issues of faith, most notably serving as a trusted ghost-writer to the famous "televangelist" Frederick K.C. Price for several of his books, and he is slated to be Price’s official biographer later this year.-

One could argue that he is re-writing history in order to please Frederick K.C. Price. If Schweikart did not embrace the fraudulent notion that the U.S. is a "Christian nation" then Frederick would have likely chosen someone else to ghost-write for him. To me this is an obvious conflict of interest for someone who is writing about history.


Oscar Chamberlain - 6/8/2005

I think Mr. Haas has it just about right. Schweikart wants to narrow the intellectual range of the founders to make a point. In fairness, he is not the first, and he can rightly point to people who had minimized the impact of Christianity in order to make the era seem more secular.

Educated colonials were remarkably well read. Alan Taylor, in his biography of William Cooper notes that Cooper--by no means one of the era's great intellects--borrowed a wide range of books from the Burlington PA lending library. These included Pope's translations of Homer and Jonathon Swift's writings as well as books on the manners of the upper class to which he aspired. He also could draw on a somewhat fitful Quaker upbringing for a knowledge of Christianity.

While there is not much evidence that he knew his Cicero and Polybius--though he almost certainly knew of them--he helps to confirms Haas's point, that this generation of educated people is not as narrow as many wish them to be.


John Henry Haas - 6/7/2005

I'm fully with you there, though perhaps (with Noll) I'd talk of the ubiquity of the Bible rather than Christianity per se. So, yes, there was a lot of theology and Biblical allusion in that world--they knew the text. But they also knew their Cicero and Polybius. To select out their familiarity with the Bible and their allusions to "Providence" and then imply they were proto-new-Christian-right is just wrong, wrong, wrong.


Thomas W Hagedorn - 6/7/2005

I my view, what we are really talking about is the relative importance of Christianity in the Revolutionary culture. You mention in your own post that "they had no other options" (but to attend a college that was designed for ministry education). Doesn't that show the pervasive nature of Christian thought in those times. The rhetoric yields the same result (heavy reliance on Christian themes and biblical references). Take another look at "Common Sense'. I think Paine was forced to use some of the Christian rhetoric there because of the ubiquity of Christianity.

I can't speak to Schweikart or anyone's motives for writing his piece. I think we can get closer to the truth if we move away from the more secular-oriented interpretations of the revolution. By the same token, those who would move totally into the "Christian nation" camp are certainly off the mark as well.


John Henry Haas - 6/7/2005

It is more than an unfortunate choice of words. It's a sly and deliberate choice to distort the nature of the case. The point is, exactly as you say, colonial colleges had been formed to prepare ministers, but by the 18th century were serving--intentionally so--a much wider range of purposes. The curricula of these colleges retained elements of their earlier design, and no one would argue that the education anyone received was devoid of Christian content. But to present them as "divinity schools" is absurd, and very telling. The author cannot make his case without such exagerations, which is the most important thing we can learn from his article. He implies that, out of an array of choices available, these early political leaders chose to attend divinity schools as a way of preparing themselves for public service. In fact, there were no other options. Their choice to attend these colleges therefore has none of the significance he's attempting to imply. This simply was the educational system of the day. It would be like claiming that all present day politicians started out in "mathematical training" because they had required math courses as undergraduates, and then saying to any skeptics (as you do above) "they definitely received the same undergraduate training as beginning mathematicians." When you have to go to these sorts of lengths to make your case, it just shows how weak the case is. Put that together with the other howlers in this piece--the distortions regarding Jefferson especially--and what you have is an embarressment to true scholarship.


Thomas W Hagedorn - 6/6/2005

Thanks, I'll definitely take a look at it.


Thomas W Hagedorn - 6/6/2005

"Divinity school training" may be an unfortunate choice of words, because it implies to our 21st century understanding that they attended separate, free-standing seminaries. Yet, Schweikart is essentially correct. Almost all the colonial colleges had as their primary goal the training of ministers. Most of the graduates went on to other pursuits (law, teaching, medicine, agriculture or other businesses), but the curriculum contained heavy doses of theological and moral content. Like other professions, after graduation you basically apprenticed under a lawyer (law), docter (medicine) or pastor(Christian ministry). The pastors were sort of adjunct professors for their college and their student/apprentices received a Master's upon completion of the program.

I don't believe separate "Divinity Schools" existed until the early 1800's, but that does not mean that like training didn't exist in the late colonial period. That was the reason for the founding of these colleges. In fact, you run into the term "seminary" being used to describe most colleges well into the 19th century.

There certainly was a lot of religious skepticism and deism in these colleges during the revolutionary era, but I think much less so during the years when the Founders would have attended.

So, the Founders definitely recieved the same undergraduate training as those who would go on to the apprencticeship/master's program for ministers.


John Henry Haas - 6/6/2005

Too bad professor Schweikart couldn't have been a little more indulgent of our curiosity and given us a list of these "Divinity Schools." By choosing that term, rather than say "Denominational Colleges" or "Courses in Moral Philosophy and Natural Theology" he implies--I imagine deliberately--that half the founding fathers attended something similar to present day seminaries. That is to say, formally designated institutions of theological study and preparation for the pastorate. I am not at all aware that that is the case. Indeed, I'm not aware of how many separate "Divinity Schools" there were in America before the Revolution. The one I attended wasn't founded till 1812, for example. If anyone can get us a list, or point us to one on the web, that shows which founders went to which Divinity Schools, that would be really, really helpful! And, if we can see what degrees they earned, that would be even better! Awaiting enlightenment on this one . . .


John Henry Haas - 6/6/2005

You should take a look at the book Noll wrote with Marsden and Hatch, A CHRISTIAN AMERICA? It's a necessary corrective to those, like the author here, who would jump from the fact that the population and worldview of the day were largely Christian to the idea that the nation they formed was (anymore than say the institution of slavery they built was).


Ralph E. Luker - 6/3/2005

Point well taken!


Andre Mayer - 6/2/2005

Hard to see any relevance to current religious situation -- none of the "born again" would consider most of the Founders truly Christian. Anyway, by this standard, Clinton and (of course) Gore have "divinity school training," while Bush and Cheney do not -- so whose opinions carry weight?


Thomas W Hagedorn - 6/2/2005

I don't question any of your facts but I do disagree with your seeming conclusion that Franklin and Jefferson were part of the "spirit of the age".

Mark Noll is an eminent historian of American religion. His analysis is that few of the founders were Christian, however, they were big proponents of the positive effect of Christianity on society and its importance for the survival of a new republic. If we look at (as Noll and others have) the Revolutionary Generation and the Early Repbulic eras and did below the level of the top leaders, we find an America that is much more devout and Christian. Starting in about 1800 the 2nd Great Awakinging pushed the culture and society in an even more pietist (and obviously Christian) direction.

Harvard hurts your case because Harvard was quite exceptional in its Unitarian theology. Yale and Princeton stayed quite true to their Christian mission with a Calvinist flavor. All the historiography on higher education between the revolution and the Civil War that I am aware of shows the virtual hegemony of evangelical Christians, mostly Calvinists, in the explosion of colleges that were created in that period.

My own work on the origins of the public schools shows the dominant role played by graduates of Yale, Princeton and the "log colleges" of the Presbyterians in the creation of the schools. In looking at about 40 common school activists, I have found only one Harvard graduate.

If one focuses his study on Massachusetts, Harvard and the Unitarians loom large. As you move to the west, their cultural impact on the country, up to the Civil War, is quiet minimal.


Walter D. Kamphoefner - 6/2/2005

It should be noted that Jefferson considered his Virginia edict of religious liberty worth mentioning on his gravestone, in contrast to his presidency. Recommending a course of study for his nephew, he wrote from Paris in 1787: "Religion. . . Fix reason firmly in her seat, and call to her tribunal every fact, every opinion. Question with boldness even the existence of a god; because, if there be one, he must more approve the homage of reason, than that of blindfolded fear. . . . Read the bible then, as you would read Livy or Tacitus.”
Jefferson’s "The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth Extracted Textually from the Gospels in Greek, Latin, French & English" has already been mentioned. Encouraged in his undertaking by John Adams, he wrote: "We must reduce our volume to the simple Evangelists, select, even from them, the very words of Jesus [cutting out the misconceptions of the writers]. I have performed this operation for my own use, by cutting verses by verse out of the printed book, and arranging the matter which is evidently his and which is as easily distinguished as diamonds in a dung hill." Later he wrote, "A more beautiful or precious morsel of ethics I have never seen; it is a document in proof that I am a real Christian, that is to say, a disciple of the doctrines of Jesus."
Ben Franklin, ever the pragmatist, wrote six weeks before his death that he believed in a Creator and an immortal soul. "As to Jesus of Nazareth . . . I have 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 . . ."
Not exactly testimonies that would win you fellowship with the “Shiite Baptists” of our day. While Jefferson and Franklin may have been “worst case scenarios” among the founding fathers, they were very much part of the spirit of the age. This was a time, after all, when Unitarians were taking over Harvard divinity school from orthodox Congregationalists.


Oscar Chamberlain - 6/1/2005

Thomas,

I have no idea what the entire book is like. Given Larry's skills, I suspect some of the economic sections are excellent, even if I were to disagree with some of the conclusions.

However, Larry chose to single out this area of history and post it here. He made it fair game.


Thomas W Hagedorn - 6/1/2005

Your judgement to condemn the entire book based upon your charge seems a bit extreme. If Howard Zinn can write a history text, then so can Schweikart. I wouldn't condemn either because of one error, especially in a first edition. In my areas of competance, I find his Patriot's History quit compelling.


Thomas W Hagedorn - 5/31/2005

Yes, I am referring to the ideology that came out of the widespread study of classical Rome and Greece. Citizens were to be "virtuous", sacrificing their self interest for the common good. Republics were fragile and required an educated citizenry.


Jurretta Jordan Heckscher - 5/31/2005

Apart from any ideological argument, a historian's first obligation is to accuracy. To judge by this sample, this book fails that fundamental test.

To take perhaps the most egregious example, here is what Schweikart writes about Jefferson: "Jefferson wrote in his Bible, 'I am a real Christian, that is to say, a disciple of the doctrines of Jesus. I have little doubt that our whole country will soon be rallied to the unity of our creator.' Jefferson, we might add, was the chairman of the American Bible Society."

This passage is suspiciously similar to one in a historically spurious email currently making the rounds of the Internet (it has crossed my account more than once at the instigation of pious and well-meaning but historically naïve friends), which reads: "Consider these words that Thomas Jefferson wrote in the front of his well-worn Bible: 'I am a real Christian, that is to say, a disciple of the doctrines of Jesus. I have little doubt that our whole country will soon be rallied to the unity of our creator.' He was also the chairman of the American Bible Society, which he considered his highest and most important role."

Is it possible that Schweikart’s source is an Internet legend? So it would seem from the similarity of the two passages. In any case, one hardly knows where to begin to criticize them. They put historical truth into a funhouse mirror. Jefferson's Bible--he actually had many of them, in multiple languages--was "well worn" because he was convinced that all the supernatural references in the Gospel were later distortions (a kind of "Platonism") and only Christ's humanistic ethical teachings were authentic, so he cut out all the latter passages (in English, French, Greek, and Latin) and pasted them into a separate book (the so-called "Jefferson Bible") so he could study them without having to pay attention to things like the Virgin Birth and the miracles and the Resurrection. (That's surely not the kind of approach to the Bible most believing Christians want to advocate, is it?)

As for the words Schweikart and the spurious email attribute to Jefferson: yes, he wrote them, but in two different places five years apart and in two different contexts that give them a completely different meaning from that which they convey by being deceptively strung together. (Did Schweikart fail to verify the accuracy of his quotation in an authoritative textual source? Apparently so. The obvious choice, which contains all the relevant material including personal letters, would be _Jefferson's Extracts from the Gospels: "The Philosophy of Jesus" and "The Life and Morals of Jesus”_, ed. Dickinson W. Adams and Ruth W. Lester; introduction by Eugene R. Sheridan; Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1983 [The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, Second Series]; Library of Congress call number BS2549.J5 J43 1983—-hardly a difficult volume to locate.)

Here's what Jefferson actually wrote, in a letter to Charles Thomson on January 9, 1816, concerning his version of the Gospels: "It is a document in proof that I am a real Christian, that is to say, a disciple of the doctrines of Jesus, very different from the Platonists, who call me infidel and themselves Christians and preachers of the gospel, while they draw all their characteristic dogmas from what it's Author never said nor saw. They have compounded from the heathen mysteries a system beyond the comprehension of man. . . ." And on February 27, 1821, he wrote a letter to Timothy Pickering in which he lauded the replacement of "the incomprehensible jargon of the Trinitarian arithmetic" by the "pure and simple doctrines" of Unitarianism "which he [Jesus] inculcated." When Jefferson concluded this letter by saying "I have little doubt that the whole of our country will soon be rallied to the Unity of the Creator," his reference to "Unity" meant "Unitarianism," which is pretty much where Jefferson himself ended up theologically--that is to say, not in a Christianity in any sense of the term that orthodox Christians can recognize as their own, then or now.

Finally, Jefferson was never "chairman of the American Bible Society" (that's a bad joke, don't you think, considering what he did to the Gospels?); he was president of the American _Philosophical_ Society, which incorporated among its members a thoroughly heterogeneous range of religious belief.

If this passage is an example of Schweikart's scholarship, this book is simply bad history—-and however appealing its philosophical premise may be to some readers and teachers, therefore, it belongs in no classroom worthy of the name.


Oscar Chamberlain - 5/31/2005

Nearly every point at which Schweikart says "Christian" should be restated as "Protestant Christian." Although few founders, if any, would have banned Catholicism, most saw it as a font of ignorance. Protestantism, with its emphasis on searching the scriptures personally, was far more congential to American leaders, both Christian and Deist.


J J Maher - 5/31/2005

First, it is probably more accurate to say that the "founding fathers" would have characterized the newly formed US as a "nation of Christians" rather than a "Christian nation" (even if they used the latter phrase).

Second, I'm not sure that Jefferson's definition of "real Christian" (as he described hmself)would satisfy most Christian conservatives today.

And third, in any case, it is true that the "founding fathers" assumed that the form of government they were founding would work best (if not only) if both the governed and the governors held to high moral principals -- which in that time and place meant "Christian" principals. Nevertheless, they seemed to understand that raising a personal commitment to a national priority would be disastrous. Hence the First Amendment.


Robert F. Koehler - 5/31/2005


If you are using "Republicanism" in its 18th century meaning as diversly understood within the zeitgiest of the time, which I believe you do, than I cannot disagree with the contents of your post.


Robert F. Koehler - 5/31/2005


I'll not go so far as to say that what died with the founding generation "deserved to die." What they agonized, suffered, fought and slaughtered each other over was true for them, and only them. As for some bogeyman, culprit, movement or group as a scapegoat upon whom to solely pin the "bulk" of todays follies & woes of contemporary American culture & society, those who point fingers should take a long, hard, merciless look in the mirror first. That we would "deeply disagree" would not be surprising, or for that matter of any lasting or significant importance.


Thomas W Hagedorn - 5/31/2005

Schweikart's article is supported by the political, religious and intellectual history of the founding generation and the early republic. James Hutson had done a lot of work on government practices that openly endorsed Christianity. Mark Noll and Henry May before him show the hegemony of Christian thought in America from the Revolution to the Civil War, whether you call it the the Didactic Enlightenment (May), Scottish Common Sense Realism, or the Christian Enlightenment (Noll). It is hard to read documents in these periods and not see generous doses of Christian rhetoric (along with Republicanism).

The term Christian Nation can get the blood boiling and needs to be carefully explained (I prefer not to use it because of its 21st century baggage), but in many respects we were a "Christian nation". To the extent historians have missed early Christian influences at the expense of secularism and revolutionary philosophy, they have really missed the mark badly.

Jefferson and Paine obviously made great contributions to the U.S. but philosophically, they and their ideological freinds filled a very small room.


Jonathan Dresner - 5/31/2005

Some of what they built deserved to die -- three-fifths compromise, etc. -- but as to who bears the bulk of responsibility for the rends and clefts of society today, I suspect that we would deeply disagree.


Paul Noonan - 5/30/2005

If the author is correct in his statement that half of the signers of the Declaration of Independence had "divinity school training" this presumably simply reflects the fact that those who had attended college had to take mandatory religion courses. I believe that all colleges in the colonies in the middle third of the 18th Century (when those founders who had the benefit of higher education would have been attending college) were basically religious institutions. It is certainly incorrect to imply that the mere attendance at such an institution implies an intention to seek ordination.

I suppose that most or all colleges and universities in the Islamic world today have mandatory religion courses. If someone who wishes to be an engineer or a physician has to take mandatory courses in the Koran to attend university, that does not make his attendance at the university any sort of affirmation of religious faith.


Robert F. Koehler - 5/30/2005

The "social and political fabric" of this country is already torn apart with America having ceased representing the kind of country the founding generation crafted a very long time ago. What they built died with them. Your right, today's America is something else.


walt nash - 5/30/2005

New Amsterdam and the southern colonies? While to be sure by 1776 the colonies were in British, although soon not to be, control, the Dutch founded what became New York and the southern colonies were mostly founded as profit making ventures. While these folks were indeed religious in the 17th century sense, their motives were monetary not religous. Most historians know quite well that the founding of the colonies is much more complicated than Mr. Schweikart suggests. Also, what of Rhode Island, that was founded because of the religious orthodoxy of the Puritans. While it is interesting to note that many of the signers of the Declaration had religious training, it does not follow that the U.S. is a solely Christian nation that the contemporary religious right tries to assert. By 1787-89, those who debated and wrote the Constitution knew full well the problems of state sponsored religion. Now, did Judeo-Christian values shape some of their lives, sure. But to say that the nation was founded as a Christian nation is drawing a simple conclusion from a complex story. As usual, history is much too complex for simple answers. That is why it is so much fun to debate.


Jonathan Dresner - 5/30/2005

and there were a few... thousands, actually... in the colonies at this time.

This is the problem with "originalism": even if Schweikart is right, and I don't believe that he is, this is not the Founder's nation anymore. Defining American identity through specific religious formulations is a step towards a virulent and narrow nationalism which would tear the social and political fabric of this nation asunder.


Nathaniel Brian Bates - 5/30/2005

Unfortunately, for this position, it must be remembered that Jefferson rewrote the New Testament in order to excise what he did not like. Franklin and Adams also "rewrote" Christianity for their liking.

Their definition of Christianity is not that of a true Bible believing Judeo-Christian. It was even more Romanized/Hellenized than even traditional Constantinian Gentile Christianity was. Moses was a "tyrant" in Jefferson's eyes (G-d forbid!). The Greeks were his model.

However, that does NOT mean that the Founders would have approved of modern ethical/religious relativism. They understood the necessity of a Godly value system, as they defined it. We should remember how much of this Ethical Certainty we have lost on this Memorial Day. The epidemic of divorce and adultery, celebrated on such disgusting programs as "Desparate Housewives" and "Sex in the City", along with "Friends" and other cesspools, is a direct result of leaving that value system.

In a day and age when Deists and Freethinkers of old are more G-dly than so-called "Christians" of today, we are in sad times. No, the Founders did not create a Christian Nation. However, the morality of what they did create should shame modern Chr*stianity, with its Easy Belivism, which could never duplicate such a feat. The shame is on you, not on the Founders or on the modern liberals. The root sin is adultery/divorce, not the gays or "liberals".

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