The Christian Nation Myth

ConstitutionA 2007 poll by the First Amendment Center reported that over half of the American people believe that the Constitution establishes a Christian nation.  Anyone who actually takes the time to read and comprehend the Constitution will recognize the absurdity of that myth.  The Constitution is abundantly clear in founding America as a secular nation with staunch religious neutrality.  The first amendment is quite direct in its separation of church and state:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

And the only mention in the original Constitution itself of religion, besides the utilitarian dating of “in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and eighty seven” is in Article VI’s separation of religion from the government:

The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the members of the several state legislatures, and all executive and judicial officers, both of the United States and of the several states, shall be bound by oath or affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.

Are you still uncertain of what the founding fathers intended?  Then consider the Treaty with Tripoli’s Article 11, negotiated with Muslim rulers in North Africa by George Washington’s administration and unanimously approved by the Senate in 1797 during the administration of John Adams:

As 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 tranquillity, of Mussulmen; and, as the said States never entered into any war, or act of hostility against any Mahometan 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.

So how do our two serious candidates for the presidential election of 2008 deal with the myth that America was founded as a Christian nation?  Barack Obama told the religious right’s CBN News:

I think that the right might worry a bit more about the dangers of sectarianism.  Whatever we once were, we’re no longer just a Christian nation; we are also a Jewish nation, a Muslim nation, a Buddhist nation, a Hindu nation, and a nation of nonbelievers.  We should acknowledge this and realize that when we’re formulating policies from the state house to the Senate floor to the White House, we’ve got to work to translate our reasoning into values that are accessible to every one of our citizens, not just members of our own faith community.

And now for John McCain, from his interview with the website

I would probably have to say yes, that the Constitution established the United States of America as a Christian nation. But I say that in the broadest sense. The lady that holds her lamp beside the golden door doesn’t say, “I only welcome Christians.” We welcome the poor, the tired, the huddled masses. But when they come here they know that they are in a nation founded on Christian principles.

McCain’s spin doctors later tried to re-interpret his statement, but methinks he is in need of some remediation.  I would assign the following:

Americans United for Separation of Church and State: Is America a “Christian Nation”?
Farrell Till: The Christian Nation Myth

About Granger Meador

I enjoy day hikes, photography, podcasts, reading, web design, and technology. My wife Wendy and I work in the Bartlesville Public Schools in northeast Oklahoma, but this blog is outside the scope of our employment.
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9 Responses to The Christian Nation Myth

  1. Brady01 says:

    McCain’s an atheist. When people realize this, Obama will win.

  2. stillfree2speak says:

    Every elected offiicial should be an Atheist – while he or she is “on the clock”. Religious beliefs are personal and personal things belong at home, not at the office. An elected official must represent ALL of us-not just the ones he or she agrees with.

  3. stillfree2speak says:

    Oh, and “I believe” the Constitution promises us freedom FROM religion. Or at least I hope so. Keep it yourselves, people. It’s personal.

  4. Reality in America says:

    “Anyone who actually takes the time to read and comprehend the Constitution will recognize the absurdity of that myth.”

    Well, herein is the problem. False “Christians,” by which I mean the ones who spend more time attempting to convince everyone else how good a Christian they are, instead of actually following Christ, are too ignorant and afraid to actually read and comprehend anything, including their own Bible. Reading the consistution is out of the question. Anything that brings their false cosmology or the self-declare supremacy of their religion into question is vehemently rejected.

    Christianity always has been and always will be a religion of ignorance. It must be this to survive. Anyone who educates oneself in religion, mythology, psychology, sociology and history comes to understand that Christianity, as we know it today, is a made-up religion bearling no resemblance to that which was envisioned by the early followers of Christ. This is why societies move toward secularism as their populations become more educated.

    • There are some educated Christians out there. People that read the Bible and the Constitution. People like me. We see a problem with both the modern church and the United States. Neither has an understanding of the founding ideals. Both are content to let “experts” tell them what documents that any individual can read for himself say without bothering to check. I in no way believe this to be a Christian Nation, (I am writing my own series on this presently) but I believe we have fallen away from the spirit and intent of the Constitution. I wonder which might be more difficult: reforming the Government or reforming the Church. Perhaps reforming the bigoted thoughts of those that think all Christians are ignorant because they have never looked deep enough into Christianity to see anything but the few morons screaming loud enough to be heard.

  5. Marik Bromine says:

    I would rather vote for an atheist. Gods get in our way. It’s deeply disturbing that some people actually believe that America has a national religion. Those are conditions that breed intollerance, lead to pesky conversion attempts, or get people to run those with differences out of town or eradicate them. Concentration… Ovens… Gas chambers… Intollerance is not God.

  6. softwarenerd says:

    Some founders did want a closer bond between church and state. Patrick Henry was pushing for Virginia to support the church via taxation. Jefferson and Madison were vehemently opposed, with Jefferson writing to Madison that they ought to “devotedly pray for his [Henry’s] death”!

    Other politicians of the time thought like Henry did. However, the constitution and the Bill of Rights represent the final result of their deliberation, negotiation and compromise, and it is abundantly clear from those that government should be free OF / / FROM religion.

  7. Chaviva says:

    Thank You!!!!
    I totally agree with your article.
    Yes, if one were to take a Poll, most people would say they were “christian”…. But where does that leave all the OTHER non Christians in this country? I am NOT anti-Christian, nor am I an atheist. I just don’t fall in the slot of “Christian”.
    Very good article.

  8. w1pi says:

    An interesting and thought provoking article.

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