Subject: Christian Nation???
From: email@example.com (John Dewey)
As a Society sensitive to the intentions and actions of the Founding Fathers, perhaps we should refresh ourselves as to their actual points of view on the issue of religion:
Most importantly, of course, the U.S. Constitution explicity forbade Congress to create or in any way provide for an establishment of religion. During the 1787 Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, a motion to pray collectively was voted down. Benjamin Franklin noted that there were only two or three besides himself who wanted to open with prayers.
Ironically Franklin himself, during his time in England, had been a member of Sir Francis Dashwood's infamous Hell-Fire Club, summarized by Daniel Mannix as "an association dedicated to Black Magic, sexual orgies, and political conspiracies." Adds Mannix: "Franklin was able to meet the Hell-Fire Club on its own ground. As far as any abhorrence of the Black Mass went, Ben announced that he did not believe in the immortality of the soul and he considered evil permissible, since God had created things and so had presumably created evil also. Even when he was an old man of 84, Franklin wrote to Ezra Stiles, the president of Yale, saying he doubted the divinity of Christ although he believed in his moral teachings.
George Washington, a professed Deist, refused either to take communion or to kneel in church. Pictures that show him kneeling at Valley Forge have nothing more than an artist's imagination behind them. (Deists believe that a God created the laws of nature but exercised no control over the subsequent evolution of those laws, _including_ the_appearance_of_humanity.)
"The divinity of Jesus is made a convenient cover for absurdity," said John Adams, a very anti-dogmatic Unitarian. He once speculated, "This would be the best of all possible worlds if there were no religion in it." Adams was the second U.S. president (1797-1801).
In 1802 Thomas Jefferson made the Founders' concept of the First Amendment even more explicit, writing that its intent was to build "a wall of separation between church and state", adding that "I do not find in orthodox Christianity one redeeming feature." During the eight years of his Presidency, Jefferson refused to issue a Thanksgiving proclamation. "I consider the Government of the United States as interdicted by the Constitution of the United States from meddling with religious institutions, their doctrines, discipline or exercises," he explained in a letter to the Rev. Mr. Miller. Needless to say, Jefferson was hated by the devout from his home state of Virginia, and they even referred to him as the "Anti-Christ!" Jefferson was sickened by the antics of the dominant Anglican church which used its "bully pulpit" to push forward civil laws to punish protestants and other non-believers who would not conform to their narrow mandate. (Sound familiar?) Jefferson declared, "The Christian God...is cruel, vindictive, capricious and unjust." He then proceeded to compose his _own_ Bible... a "kinder and gentler" version with less fire and brimstone - he began to rip the pages out of his own Holy Bible, and pasted the paragraphs he agreed with into a notebook. In between he penned in his own remarks for future generations to see. (Not so long ago, Barnes & Noble bookstore sold "The Jefferson Bible" via mail-order.) Thomas Jefferson, above all, approached dogma with a healthy dose of skepticism. Said he, "Religions are all alike - founded upon fables and mythologies." Many of us will remember Jefferson as the man who drafted the United States Constitution...
Now that we've mentioned our first three presidents, it's time to proceed with the fourth... James Madison. He was very caustic in his remarks regarding religion; "During almost fifteen centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial. What has been its fruits? More or less, in all places, pride and indolence in the clergy; ignorance and servility in the laity; in both, superstition, bigotry, and persecution." Madison added, "In no instance have... the churches been guardians of the liberties of the people."
It must be remembered that, The Founding Fathers did NOT put "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance or "In God We Trust" on U.S. currency. "Under God" was added to the Pledge by an act of Congress in 1954, during the McCarthy "communist witch hunt" hysteria. "In God We Trust" began to appear on coins in 1864 and became the official motto of the United States only in 1956. [The motto conceived by the Founding Fathers was "E Pluribus Unum" (Out of Many, One).]