Essay:Was the United States Founded as a Christian Nation?

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This is a short essay I wrote on a whim today. Just a collection of thoughts and reflections. Debate it on the talk page if you wish...


More passion and argument has gone into the fantastically irrelevant question, ‘Was America founded as a Christian Nation?’. It has become in its own right a major front of the never ceasing American culture wars between those two perennial foes, Liberal and Conservative. The good Liberal will argue that the United States was founded on grand principles of ‘freedom of religion’, the much bloviated ‘separation of church and state’. The evidence for this position is quite transparent – the proponent of this recollection omits two major points.

Point One[edit]

A nation does not begin the moment its dejected people take up arms against the oppressor. It does not begin the moment it establishes its code of laws (In this case, the Constitution). A nation may exist in a system that excludes a state. Indeed, today there are several examples of ‘nations within a state’ spread across the globe[1]. Therefore it is important to ask, is the foundation of a nation synonymous with the foundation of a state? Some may argue otherwise, but a state is nothing more than a political construct, a system of organisation. The ‘state’ may change several times within a ‘nations’ lifetime[2]. The nation as it was regarded then usually remains the same. This is essentially because what defines a nation is the glue that holds a society together - The sense of conformity, of collective ‘togetherness’, of solidarity, values, of race and of religion. Religion of course could also refer to secular values (Or anti-Clerical). Secular nations hold themselves together out of necessity – they contain such a variety of sects and religions that it would be impossible to sanction one centrally controlled sect or religion within its borders. They hold themselves together by tolerating the distinct religions and sects in the nation.

The United States was a colony before it was an independent state. It is this colonial period which fostered the ties of nationhood which later became the political construct of the USA. The colonies were founded by Puritans to a large extent[3] and it was these people who created and fostered the nationhood of the United States.

Point Two[edit]

Even if my first point fails to persuade readers, point two argues that the much applauded ‘constitutional convention’ did not result in a secular United States and neither did the intent of the founding fathers. The founding fathers, regarded as semi-divine creatures by most Americans today were almost to a man practising Christians. There is a case to be made for Jefferson and others, namely the charge that they were deists. The fact is that Jefferson approved of Christ profoundly, as indicated by his works. Even if he didn’t, he was but one man whose role has been enhanced beyond all recognition by popular history.

The constitution itself is virtually absent of God, this is undeniable. The declaration of independence however is awash with divinely ordained notions of ‘natural rights’. Is this really evidence that that the US was not founded as a Christian nation, with all its associated Christian values and mannerisms? The fact is that the ‘separation of church and state’ mentioned in the first amendment is not a rejection of God and Christianity within the nation but rather is an assertion of the independence of the myriad of Protestant and reformed churches which existed in the United States at this time. In essence, it was an assertion of necessary pragmatism than any measure of principled secularism.


Was the United States founded on Christianity and Christian values? Undeniably, yes. Is it relevant today? Of course not. Those conservatives that hold the embarrassingly simplistic view that the ‘United States was founded on Christianity and is therefore a Christian nation’ are wholly misguided. History is a testament to the necessity of change. A system of values, struggles and challenges relevant in the late 18th century is of little value to today’s struggles. I’d advise US Liberals (As an outsider) to simply accept that the United States was founded on Christian principles (Lockean notions of Natural Rights, for example) Shrug your shoulders and say ‘so what?’, and point out that the passing centuries tend to evolve the nature of the nation. Do not be fooled into believing that a value that was essential to American Nationhood four hundred years ago is of any value to today.

Addendum by BruceGrubb[edit]

The above ignores the Treaty of Tripoli (1796) which states and I quote "As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion,...". One of the first treaties of the United States of America expressly states the country was NOT in any sense, founded on the Christian religion. In fact the Foundering Fathers were deists as shown by these quotes:

"The whole history of these books [the Gospels] is so defective and doubtful that it seems vain to attempt minute enquiry into it: and such tricks have been played with their text, and with the texts of other books relating to them, that we have a right, from that cause, to entertain much doubt what parts of them are genuine. In the New Testament there is internal evidence that parts of it have proceeded from an extraordinary man; and that other parts are of the fabric of very inferior minds. It is as easy to separate those parts, as to pick out diamonds from dunghills."--Thomas Jefferson, letter to John Adams, January 24, 1814

"And the day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus, by the supreme being as his father in the womb of a virgin will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerva in the brain of Jupiter. But we may hope that the dawn of reason and freedom of thought in these United States will do away with all this artificial scaffolding, and restore to us the primitive and genuine doctrines of this the most venerated reformer of human errors." --Thomas Jefferson, letter to John Adams, April 11 1823

"As to Jesus of Nazareth, my Opinion of whom you particularly desire, I think the System of Morals and his Religion, as he left them to us, the best the world ever saw or is likely to see; but I apprehend it has received various corrupt changes, and I have, with most of the present Dissenters in England, some Doubts as to his divinity …"--Ben Franklin.

"I do not believe in the creed professed by the Jewish church, by the Roman church, by the Greek church, by the Turk church, or by the Protestant church, nor by any church that I know of. My own mind is my own church. (...) All institutions of churches, whether Jewish, Christian, or Turkish, appear to me no other than human inventions set up to terrify and enslave mankind, and monopolize power and profit." --Thomas Paine Age of Reason

"As I understand the Christian religion, it was, and is, a revelation. But how has it happened that millions of fables, tales, legends, have been blended with both Jewish and Christian revelation that have made them the most bloody religion that ever existed?" John Adams in a letter to F.A. Van der Kamp, Dec. 27, 1816

  1. The Basque and Catalan regions in Spain, certain parts of China, Russia and Africa etc.
  2. France and her five Republics and Empires is a particularly good example of this
  3. See the original Jamestown Charter