Monday, November 30, 2009

Secular Nation

While reading a book recently, I found a reference to an interesting document called the Northwest Ordinance.

This document was written and unanimously passed by the Congress of the Confederation of the United States. It was a precursor to the United States Constitution.

In this document I found this interesting quote:
"Religion, morality, and knowledge being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged."
I also found it interesting when I read that General George Washington used to require the troops he commanded to attend religious services during the War of Independence.

But our founding fathers were actually trying to create a secular nation. Riiiiight.

1 comment:

  1. Everything that I have read about Washington stated that he used the church services as a way to keep order in the ranks. We actually know very little about Washington’s personal religious beliefs. He rarely wrote about religion, but when he mentioned it in speeches he often used terms like “Providence” instead of God. We do know that he was active in his local church but that was expected of someone of his standing at the time.

    If we are too look at some of the other key Founding Fathers, Jefferson, Madison, and Franklin all come to mind, based on what they have written, how they referred to them selves, and the laws that they proposed (Jefferson and Madison specifically with this one, see the Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom) it is very safe to say that they were not pious Christians. Most scholars and historians agree that these three (and probably Washington too) were deists. Heck, Jefferson even edited the New Testament removing all of the supernatural elements from it, leaving just the moral teaching of Jesus.

    John Adams, the most outwardly religious of the core Founding Fathers, expressed doubt in organized religion *it has even been theorized, based on the letters between Adams and Jefferson that Jefferson had a deeper faith in God than Adams did). He went to church like crazy, but is not someone that I would call a pious Christian either.

    I guess my point with all of this is that while the Founding Fathers were obviously influenced by the teaching of Jesus, they were not trying to build a Christian nation. In fact I think that it is safe to say that the top four influences on the creation of our nation are as follows – 1) The Enlightenment, 2) Ancient Greece, 3) Ancient Rome, and 4) the Bible. Unfortunately we can’t ask them what was really going on in their heads at the time, so all of this is speculation. But based on the evidence I think that it is a bit intellectually dishonest to think that they were trying to build a Christian nation.

    I hope that doesn’t come off as harsh or anything Steve. You know I love you but I just had to comment.