Is America a Christian Nation Founded by Christians?

No. Key players in the founding of America—such as Jefferson, Paine, and Franklin—were not Christians. They were Deists and religious skeptics. And other icons of America’s cultural history—people like Abraham Lincoln and Emily Dickinson—were agnostics with a lot of emotional ambivalence toward the Bible and Christianity.

Further, the biblical model of political governance is monarchy: the divine right of kings carried forth via a bloodline. Think of King David to “King Jesus.” The Gospel of Matthew begins with a geneology, not an election. By contrast, the models on which America was founded were Greek democracy and the Old (Roman) Republic. Rome for a time was controlled, not by an emperor, but by elected senators. This was the ancient model that the American Founders aspired to—not anything out of the Bible.

America is the “New Republic” (following Rome) and a democracy (following Greece).

And so America is not a Christian country, and never has been. It is a nonsectarian democratic Republic. It’s governing model is derived from ancient Greco-Roman sources and in reaction to the Judeo-Christian monarchical model that was then present in England. The Founders, in violation of St Paul’s admonishment to obey all authorities placed over us by God, rebelled against the divinely installed monarch, King George III. In becoming revolutionaries enamored of free-thinking Enlightenment ideals and Greco-Roman models of self-governance, they were in rebellion against both the biblical God and a Christian sovereign.

Our country’s Greco-Roman roots can be seen in the architecture that dots the nation’s capital: the chief buildings and monuments are all after Greco-Roman models. Had there been a Judeo-Christian architectural style at work in our nation’s capital, we might have seen a great profusion of crosses, cherubims, kingly thrones, and altars on display. Obviously, we don’t see this.

Know-nothing fundamentalists like Sarah Palin have been successful in spreading about a revisionist “Christian nation” meme that bears little resemblance to America’s actual lineage and evolution. And the meme functions as cultural code to other right-wing religious authoritarians ignorant of, and indifferent toward, any serious recounting of intellectual history.

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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21 Responses to Is America a Christian Nation Founded by Christians?

  1. concerned christian says:

    You maybe right if you think that the signers of the declaration of independence were all of America in the late 1700. But the majority of the American population at that time were Christians many of them were devout believers from every denomination in Europe, and some were fleeing Europe because they were persecuted for their special set of beliefs. So does it matter if not every signer of the declaration of independence was a true believer? No. Because if you use this argument you may tell me that North Carolina is not a Christian State, because you can find some leading professors at its major universities who do not believe in God!
    Don’t be elitist, America was and continue to be a Christian Country as long as the majority of its population are Christians.

    • Tanker says:

      Assuming your assertion were true why would these men, many of whom not only wearn’t Christians but thought it was evil, make this a Christian nation? What possible motivation could they have had? According to the 1790 census there were about 10% of the American population who were practicing Christians. Christianity in the U.S. has waxed and waned over the years. Recently in the McCarthy era, where anything deemed un-Christian somehow equaled Communism. Which is similar to the fear mongering used in the recent administration which has again used fear to promote Christian “values”.

      Did you know most of the Founding Fathers and prominent citizens of the colonies were Stone Masons? A group known (among other things) for accepting all creeds sects and religions and promoting that acceptence. Does that sound like Christianity or secularism?

      This is the Establisment Clause of the First Ammendment. The rellevent portion being “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_Amendment_to_the_United_States_Constitution

      How about Jefferesons Letter to the Danbury Baptist Church when the asked him exactly what the First Ammendment meant.

      http://candst.tripod.com/tnppage/baptist.htm

      Or that when this nation was young and started interacting with other nations they needed clear and defined passages in our treaties to make sure they knew where we stood as a nation. i.e. the Treaty of Tripoli (article 11).

      http://www.stephenjaygould.org/ctrl/treaty_tripoli.html

      This nation was founded on the principle that we should all be allowed to worship, prey or follow what ever religion we want, however we want (or not). It is not now nor has it ever EVER been a “Christian Nation”. You have nerve to claim the OP is an “elitist” when you somehow think that because your particular belief system is in the majority you have the right not only to dictate from your Christian moral high horse but to also rewrite history to match the way your sect thinks it should have happened instead of how history actually unfolded.

  2. santitafarella says:

    Concerned:

    You are making a demographic observation, not a legal argument. The law is what matters here, and the law says that the American government cannot favor one “establishment of religion” over any other. That’s in the First Amendment to the Constitution, and it has been part of the country’s law for over 200 years. That means that, legally, our country is in no wise a “Christian nation.” Demography must be distinguished from what the law explicitly declares. People who are not Christians are not second class citizens living here under the discretion of Christian tolerance. That means that North Carolina is not a “Christian State.” It is subject to Federal law. The state of North Carolina cannot make laws that violate the US Constitution. There are no “Christian cities” in America either.

    —Santi

  3. The Declaration efforts to establish rebellion as a code of ethics to combat tyranny. Jesus Christ taught to turn the cheek and leave such weeds grow. Yet, Christ also allows for prayer that one’s joy may be made full. In as much as the classical Greek and Roman influence can be seen in the formation of the United States of America, the Declaration is not a prayer. As noted it is outright treason in terms of English law. As the Declaration contains it’s own code of conduct in dealing with such things, how can it not equate to a separate religion in itself?

    It is an illusion that “establishment of religion” is not favored.

  4. So the very Declaration contains an “establishment of religion” – a religion of terror and presumption, a religion which efforts to put the Gospel of Jesus Christ as 2nd fiddle.

    It is the buffet of nations and fools.

  5. What it calls law is a mockery of it. It claims innocent until proven guilty yet murders without cause. A nature of the Declaration’s religion is to presume war is a household appliance that one may turn on and off at one’s leisure. It opens up anew to its citizens every outrage, hostility, crime, betrayal and blasphemy ever contrived or committed.

  6. Madaketgal says:

    Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, January 16, 1786 written by Thomas Jefferson:

    “Be it enacted by the General Assembly, That no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested or burthened [sic] in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief; but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinion in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no way diminish, enlarge, or affect their civil capacities.

    And though we well know that this assembly elected by the people for the ordinary purposes of legislation only, have no power to restrain the acts of succeeding assemblies, constituted with powers equal to our own, and that therefore to declare this act to be irrevocable would be of no effect in law; yet we are free to declare, and do declare, that the rights hereby asserted are of the natural rights of mankind, and that if any act shall be hereafter passed to repeal the present, or to narrow its operation, such act will be an infringement of the natural right.”

  7. “Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s.” (Matthew 22:21)

  8. santitafarella says:

    Edward:

    That sounds like the beginnings of the separation of church and state to me.

    —Santi

  9. santitafarella says:

    Madak:

    Great quote.

    —Santi

  10. It is a reminder that we are duty bound to both church and state, to love God and neighbor.

    I’ve heard the Jefferson speech argued to be a guilt response due to the Revolution.

    The seeds of communism were planted in the 18th century.

    Jordan Maxwell’s series “Dawn of a New Day” begins with such an exposition.

    The seperation of church and state is the very fabric of the antichrist.

  11. santitafarella says:

    Edward:

    We are only bound to the church if we take that binding on freely, correct?

    For those in America who do not take on the obligation of being “duty bound” to the church, we are at our liberty—free—in the John Stuart Mill sense of the term, right?

    Or is John Stuart Mill part of the fabric of the antichrist as well?

    And why the either/or?: binding oneself to religion or binding oneself to communism. Isn’t there a middle ground that you’re not considering?

    —Santi

  12. Santi -

    No. Jesus Christ outlined the two greatest commandments, in short, to love God and neighbor. Further prophetic study shows that man does not live by bread alone, but by the word of God. Though one may judge oneself without binding contract to one’s Maker, the very manner in which the Gospel has been preached betrays such a notion. The order to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ to all nations goes hand in hand with such prophecy as “…shall know that I am the Lord.” God is not hiding from us.

    On the other side of things is that prophetic precursor to Christ, the Antichrist. This drama has been set in motion ever since God said “Let there be light.” The error of fallen angels and men culminate in a final scene of the utmost deception and depravity. The lures to such end are baited with words like ‘freedom’, ‘truth’, ‘justice’. At the best of times we can see such terms as everlasting attributes of the Living God. But in times of darkness, they serve a different purpose.

    It has been shown that secret societies have been in the dark for millenia. For every piece of their puzzle, we seem to suffer something new. And there is a piece written into the Declaration.

    I’m still reading of John Mill.

    As to middle ground, that is exactly where we are.

  13. To Whom It May concern,

    This is Rev. Robert Wright, Editor for http://www.Christian.com which is a social network made specifically for Christians, by Christians, to directly fulfill Christian’s needs. Christian.com has many great features aside from the obvious like christian TV, prayer request or even find a church/receive advice and to offer the ENTIRE christian community an outlet to join together. We have emailed you because we have interest in collaborating with you and your blog to help us spread the good word. I look forward for your response regarding the matter,

    Thanks! God Bless

    |Rev.Robert Wright|Christian.com|
    |1 International Blvd.|Mahwah, NJ 07495|
    |rev.robertwright@gmail.com|

  14. santitafarella says:

    Reverend Robert:

    My response is to ask you to stop sending spam to my threads.

    Thanks for collaborating with me on that.

    —Santi

  15. Edward Palamar says:

    Do you really think that is spam, Santita?

    I began responding to on-line sites that contain mention of “Peter the Roman” (the last name of the St. Malachy Pontifical Prophecy, which is a reference to me) and was accused of the same thing. Several sites were downright contemptuous and rude, one also accused me of spamming. The fact is, my message is good news to all those sites.

    Is your original question intended to be rhetorical?

  16. santitafarella says:

    Edward:

    I prefer to hear from people who actually read and respond to whatever argument my post is making, or respond to something in the thread. I don’t want my blog to be a whale that carries blind message barnacles that are only asserting themselves and not attending to the individual that they are attaching themselves to.

    —Santi

  17. Edward Palamar says:

    Then you’ve basically outlined a negative response as to the original question being rhetorical.

    And the question does not contain an argument.

    All that aside, America is where Christ chose to bring back the Prophet of the Most High. Nostradamus wrote of the Prophet of the Most High, “long a stump in Tunis”.

  18. santitafarella says:

    Edward:

    Your reference certainly stumped me.

    —Santi

  19. Pingback: American Herderite Watch: Tim Pawlenty Believes American Muslims Bear Collective Guilt for 9-11 « Prometheus Unbound

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