Taking even a brief look at the USA, its culture, traditions and ideas, is enough to understand that the entire country is shot through with the spirit of Christianity; every single detail starting from the morning sermons to the Christmas traditions, serves as an undeniable evidence of people’s faith.
However, when reconsidering the history of the nation objectively, one can see that the entire state is based on the principles that do not comply with the basic ideas of the Christian faith. Therefore, the controversial issue of the USA fundamental faith needs to be researched.
Despite the common belief that the USA is nowadays populated mostly by Christians, who make 76% (Diversity Resources, Inc., n. p.), and is considered to have been founded by Christians, it is highly doubtful that the basic principles of the USA democracy are based on solely Christian ideas, which means that the USA is rather a country of considerable religious diversity and a place where people of any faith can find their shelter and be treated equally.
To understand the essence of the way Christian ideas and the Christian belief settled in the United States and the way the American people came to believing in the Christian principles, it is necessary to travel back in time and see what the United States were based on.
Therefore, it is most reasonable to start with the Founding Fathers themselves and the postulates that they were trying to promote to the newly established States of America. Since the religion that the former were grounding the first set of laws in the United States and the principles of the USA democracy on certain beliefs, it is reasonable to suggest that the faith the Founding Fathers relied on was the foundation for the further USA cultural and spiritual development.
Oddly enough, unlike most people might have thought, the Founding Fathers could hardly be called fully Christian – professing deism, they were not exactly the Christians. According to Holmes, deism was the primary religion çà the United States, which is why it “proved influential in the United States from roughly 1725 through the first several decades of the nineteenth century” (Holmes 49).
As Holmes marked, “Emphasizing human inquiry, reason, and personal freedom, it catered to American principles of individuality” (Holmes 49), thus, offering sufficient grounds for the further development of the democracy stronghold.
Therefore, it must be admitted that at the very beginning of the United States formation, the basic belief that the state principles were being based on could hardly be denoted as the Christian ones – even though Deism is, strictly speaking, a branch of Christianity, it differs too much from the traditional Protestant or Catholic vision of what belief is. Hence, it can be considered that the American nation did have certain non-Christian roots deep down in the past.
It can be argued, though, that in the Declaration of Independence, the idea of Christianity and the faith of the American nation did appear, yet it is also obvious that the Declaration of Independence is not an actual law, but rather the premises for the future laws to be based on and, hence, cannot be considered the fundament for the country’s ideas and beliefs were solely the Christian ideas.
Following the peculiar piece of advice given by McDowell, who, in his original manner, states that the USA is not a Christian nation and suggests to define the ideas of Christianity that the USA principles do not coincide with before referring the state to any other religion, it will be reasonable to suggest the definition of not belonging to Christianity,. As McDowell explains,
A Christian nation is not one where Christianity is the established religion, nor one where every citizen is a Christian, nor one where a majority of the citizens are Christian. It is also not a nation that is without sin, for all men and nations have sinned. (McDowell 1)
With that in mind, one should realize that the principles of the Founding fathers could be those of the Christian belief, namely, the ideas that could be depicted as the striving for the common good and the belief that the humankind should be based on mercifulness.
In addition, McDowell offers a number of historical references to the USA as a completely Christian nation: “In Church of the Holy Trinity v. United States (1892), the U. S. Supreme Court said that “this is a Christina nation” and presented much historical evidence in support of this declaration” (3).
Therefore, it cannot be denied that, since the day the United States were founded, the country was constantly referred to as the Christian one, being founded on the Christian principles, with its government guided by the Christian ideas when undertaking a certain decision. Thus, it can be considered that, logically, the faith of the Founding Fathers in fact was the Christian one, since these were the Christian ideas at the helm in the system of the U. S. government back then.
However, it would be erroneous to think that the Founding Fathers never referred to the USA as the Christian nation. Moreover, they openly spoke of the USA as the state based upon the ideas of Christianity. As McDowell mentions, “The Founders certainly spoke of America as a Christian nation” (3).Thus, it can be suggested that the USA was based on what was believed to be purely Christian ideas.
Nevertheless, it is important to mention that, strictly speaking, the religion that the Founding Fathers, namely, Washington and Madison, could not be called the Christian one, being merely a shape that deism had taken at the early stage of the USA formation. According to the Rev. Bird Wilson, the Founding Fathers’ belonging to the Christianity is nothing but the myth that was supposed to inspire the future generations on the patriotic attitudes and the desire to fight for the Christian justice. As Curtis explains,
The Rev. Wilson had researched this sermon very carefully before it was delivered. He stated that Washington was a “great and good man,” but no professor of religion. The Reverend Bird Wilson was just a few years removed from being a contemporary of the Founding Fathers.
He summed up his delivered sermon with the following remarks, “The founders of our nation were nearly all infidels, and that of the presidents who had just thus far been elected (George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe, John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson) not a single one professed belief in Christianity.” (Curtis 238)
Thus, Curtis makes I clear that the founders of the USA were not exactly Christian and that the idea of the USA as the nation which roots from the Christian belief is quite wrong. Indeed, if considering closer the actions that some of the Founding Fathers undertook, one will be able to see that the latter were not exactly eager to turn the entire nation into the stronghold of Christianity. As Fea explains,
Following the ratification of the Constitution, which forbade a religious establishment on a national level, Jefferson kept a watchful eye out for “false religions” that he believed were trying to promote a Christian nation. “Presbyterians” – a name that Jefferson probably used as a general term to describe any and all Calvinists – drew his particular ire […] (Fea 211)
Hence, it is evident that at present, the idea that the Founding Fathers were Christian and that the United States are based fully on Christian belief are forced into the society and, thus, are highly likely to be erroneous. Instead of searching for the proper evidence from the past and analyzing it carefully, modern historians are simply trying to find the proof of the USA Christian origin, which leads the nation to another misconception.
Trying to persuade people that the Christian religion was the cradle of the American nation, researchers are tearing the fabric of the U .S. history by all corners, obviously distorting the truth. As Curtis explains, the fact that the founders of the American nation were not really Christian seems obvious, and this fact “flatly contradicts the frantic efforts of present day fundamentalists to make the “founding fathers,” into Orthodox Christians who wrote a Constitution based on religious values” (238).
Indeed, it is essential to mention that, according to certain sources, Jefferson, one of the Founding Fathers, was against not only imposing the Christian belief on the nation, but also at professing the Christian belief as such. As Curtis explained,
Jefferson didn’t just reject the Christian belief that the Bible was “the inspired word of God,” he rejected the whole Christian system. In writing, “Notes on the State of Virginia,” he said of this religion, “There is not one redeeming feature in our superstition of Christianity. It has made one half of the world fools and the other half hypocrites.” (235)
It must be admitted that, in the light of the above-mentioned, the USA foundation should not be perceived as solely the Christian belief and the Christian postulates. In fact, the Jefferson’s explicit denial of the Christian origin of the USA principles disputes the fact that the Founding Fathers used Biblical ideas when developing the basis for the USA as a nation and entity.
On the one hand, it seems preposterous to judge the ideas of an entire nation basing on the words of its single representative, yet on the other hand, Jefferson was one of the Founding Fathers, which means that at least one of the people who contributed to the country’s formation and the establishment of its democratic principles was not Christian and did not force the Christian belief into the nation’s subconscious. Hence, the USA clearly was not based on the Christian ideas solely.
It is worth mentioning that the idea of the USA being a Christian nation started the time when Jefferson expressed his ideas of religion in the United States explicitly, denying the Christian faith the right to be the guiding light for the country and its people.
Causing an outburst of protests against his non-Christian ideas, Jefferson, thus, launched the process of “Christianization” of the country and its people, since some of those beholding power in the United States of the end of the XVIII century did not approve of the radical ideas Jefferson expressed. As Curtis mentioned,
William Linn, a Dutch Reformed minister in New York City made the most violent of all attacks on Jefferson’s character and all of it entirely based on religious grounds. He accused Jefferson “of the hideous crimes of not believing in divine revelation and of a design to destroy religion and introduce immorality” (Curtis 235).
Therefore, it can be deduced that the USA was not initially a Christian nation, but was shaped as such due to the over-explicit policy against the Christian faith that Jefferson conducted. The idea that the USA were not initially Christian but came to the principles of Christianity after the years of development makes the fact that the modern state is Christian nonetheless important.
In addition, the fact that the USA principles do not belong entirely to the Christian ideas make it possible for the country to demonstrate tolerance towards other religions and beliefs, which is of utter importance for the democratic principles that the state is founded on. According to Bates,
As the government of the United States of America is not, in any case, founded on the Christian religion, as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquility, or Mussulmans; and, as the said States never entered into any war, or act of hostility against any Mohametan nation, it is declared y the parties, that no pretext, arising from religious opinions, shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries. (Bates 553)
It is important to add that Bates’s considerations concerning the American tolerance are supported by the President Obama’s speech. Denying the fact that the USA is a completely Christian nation, Barack Obama clarifies that the state is a free country where people of any religious beliefs feel absolutely free:
That’s something that’s very important to me. And I’ve said before that one of the great strengths of the United States is – although as I mentioned, we have a very large Christian population, we do not consider ourselves a Christian nation or a Jewish nation or a Muslim nation; we consider ourselves a nation of citizens who are bound by the ideas and a set of values. (Johnson, n. p.)
According to Obama’s speech, the USA is a country mostly populated by Christians, yet offering the room for the people of any religion and, hence, exposing ultimate tolerance, which is a truly Christian principle. Thus, it is obvious that the USA nation is nowadays guided by the beliefs and ideas of freedom and equity that the Bible teaches.
Offering every single citizen the right to choose his/her own belief and declaring a freedom of faith, the USA is nowadays more than a Christian state – it is a state that is ruled by the Christian principles, namely, the one of tolerance and he acceptance of any other culture, no matter how alien it might seem when contrasted to the one of the American nation.
Bates, M. Searle. Religious Liberty: An Inquiry. Whitefish, MT: Kessinger Publishing, 2005. Print.
Curtis, Ian. Jesus: Myth or Reality? Bloomington, IN: iUniverse, 2006. Print.
Diversity Resources. Religious Identity. Amherst, MA: Diversity Resources, Inc., n.d. Print.
Fea, John. Was America Founded as a Christian Nation? A Historical Introduction. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2011. Print.
Holmes, D. Lynn. The Faiths of the Founding Fathers. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2006. Print.
Johnson, Larry. Ye Shall All Be Gods: Humanism and Christianity. Owasso, OK: Anvil House Publishers, LLC. 2011. Print.
McDowell, Stephen. America, a Christian Nation? Medical Parkway Waco, TX: Providence Foundation, 2005. Print.