Thursday, April 1, 2010

The Founding Fathers: Faith or Fiction?

Even a casual perusal of recent articles and blogs reveal an increasingly slippery-slope trend towards historical revisionism, especially concerning the issue of the faith of the "founding fathers," or, should I say, the secularism of the "founding fathers."

Consider this quote from an article entitled: The Founding Fathers Were Not Christians:

"One of the most common statements from the "Religious Right" is that they want this country to "return to the Christian principles on which it was founded". However, a little research into American history will show that this statement is a lie. The men responsible for building the foundation of the United States had little use for Christianity..."

Another recent article lamented that a well-educated "Christian" pastor told the congregation: “Our founding fathers were not Christians. They were deists, atheists, and agnostics.”

The real issue at stake is two-fold:
(1) Who were the "founding fathers"?
(2) Were these founders:

(A) men of faith (those who acknowledge the Creator of the universe, as revealed in the Bible)
(B) deists (God exists but has no daily interest in the affairs of mankind, general disbelief in the supernatural and sacred texts/revelation)
(C) secularists/agnostics/atheists (no faith in God, a general disbelief in a personal God)

Before I get too far into this, let me clarify a few personal points:
(1) A nation cannot be "Christian." Only individual people can become Christians.
(2) I realize that there can be a great disconnect between church attendance and true inward belief (which no one can see but God). The following information is only an indication of the philosophy of these men. It is based upon their words, letters, and other pieces of historial information that can be verified.
(3) I am not at all interested in establishing any semblance or form of a "theocracy" in America. I do not want the government legislating matters of worship. That is a denial of the Lord's teaching that faith is a personal matter, and the Bible says "let every person be fully persuaded in their own mind." In other words, you can't force faith--and I wouldn't want to.
(4) But I do believe that one of the most important functions of government is to maintain moral and socially acceptable behaviors, and it should penalize destructive actions (murder, theft, perjury, etc.)

Also, before we get too far into this discussion, a simple statement will clear up volumes of confusion. Here we go:

A few of the most notable of the founding fathers were deists.

There, I said it. And it doesn't bother me in the least. For those who are scratching their heads, let me clarify. Most of the websites, books, articles, and diatribes about how "most of the founding fathers were not Christians," revolve almost exclusively around a handful of high-profile men, namely Thomas Jefferson (liberal-deist, though he identified himself as Unitarian), John Adams (Christian-deist), Benjamin Franklin (Christian/liberal deist), and Thomas Paine (deist).

Some try to include George Washington in the list of deists (he did use deist language at times), but the jury is still out on our first president. Also James Madison and James Monroe are often labeled deist, as well as Alexander Hamilton (though less so) but this is based on very scant evidence, and their lives contradicted that identification in many ways.

The way the secularists use this small, handful of men and extrapolate that out to somehow be the overwhelming majority of the founding fathers, would be like saying that "the overwhelming majority of US Presidents have been assassinated." (There have only been four presidents assassinated). You see, that kind of mathematics doesn't work when people see an analogy they can get a grasp on (faith is hard to pin down, but assassination is a bit more concrete).

Once you accept that fact that there were about 4 confirmed deists (though even some of those had mixed Christian-deist views) out of roughly 204 men (more on that later), you can get on to the truth about this emotionally-charged issue. Let's be generous and say there were 10 deists (double the confirmed number just to be safe)---mathematically that works out to be less than 5%. By the way, there were no atheists (or at least ostentatious atheists) among any of the founding fathers.

Now, how many "founding fathers" are there?
This is somewhat difficult to answer, because many of the men who were involved in the revolution, were also involved in the founding documents, and there are many who are involved in the revolution, but do not impact the future political landscape of the new America. I will consider anyone to be a "founding father" if they had substantial involvement in any of the following founding documents of our nation (this is usually an accepted standard for inclusion):
(1) Declaration of Independence (2) Articles of Confederation (3) US Constitution,
or they were involved in the first US Congress as Senators or Representatives.

If you count those who are involved in multiple documents as still just one founding father (the way it should be) then there are about 204 men in the camp of "founding father."

Here is the breakdown of the known religious affiliation of these men based upon the different groupings (some of the men we do not have any information about their religious affiliation):

(1) FOUNDING FATHERS (any of the 3 documents or a first US Congressman)

NOTE: Deists from this era are usually labeled as Unitarians, and some deists maintained regular church attendance and never publicly denounced their denominational affiliation, and therefore were included within those denominations. Additionally, some of the founders changed denominations in their lifetime.



Once the numbers are in black in white, this whole revisionist notion of America being founded by secularists, or primarily by deists, is not only a distortion, if it were a boxing match, then the contest was decided in the first round, and it wasn't even close.

I am not saying that 95% of the founding fathers walked around carrying a Bible everyday and that they went door to door sharing Jesus every weekend. Rather, I am saying that the contemporary notions that America's founders were generally secularists is factually incorrect, and destructive to a sound investigation into our history as a young nation.

When you finally consider that the deism of the late 18th and early 19th century had substantial Christian roots, the imaginary agnosticism and secularism of this amazing group of visionary men vanishes into the very thin air that those baseless charges must have originated from.

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