04 March 2015

Miscellaneous Musing #68: Not Founded on, but Confounded By

For years I’ve been wondering just where people got the idea that the United States of America was “founded on Christian [or “Judeo-Christian”] principles”.  Perhaps it has a quasi-historical basis; the Second Great Awakening is reckoned by some as a motivation for the Revolution, and some of the Puritan sects of the Seventeenth Century had a democratic character and therefore might be adduced as evidence of a connection between Christianity and our Revolution, which, however, was not really so “democratic” as people today think it was. (I say “quasi-historical” because, in my opinion, neither any Great Awakenings nor any Nonconformist denominations had any influence whatsoever upon the founding of the USA.  I might write more on this topic on another occasion.)  It could also be merely that readers of the founding documents of the USA make the same mistake that I did at approximately age 18.  Reading through the Declaration of Independence, I was impressed by the multiple mentions of God made therein; as I learned more of history and religion, though, I realized the significance of the fact that the Declaration nowhere mentions God simply as “God”, but always calls Him “Nature’s God” or “the Creator”; this betrays the opinion of Eighteenth-Century Deists like the document’s author, Thomas Jefferson, who believed that the Deity created the universe and established the physical laws by which it functions, but takes no further part in its operation.  This attitude is not atheism in the sense of a doctrine that God does not exist, but it’s not Christianity (or Judaism, or any other organized religion) either.
I know that those who write or say that the USA was “founded on Christian principles” are trying to fight the Culture War, and I sympathize with them; but I have a passion for the truth, and so it troubles me when people delude themselves, and there’s no question that this idea is a delusion; the founders of this country were products of their era, the misnamed Enlightenment, which was anti-Christian.  Furthermore, it’s hard to win any kind of war without waging it intelligently, and, unfortunately, the people who have heretofore led the effort to turn our country back toward God—the generals, so to speak, in the Culture War—have been super-patriots who seem to think that the solution to any problem facing the USA is to somehow “return to the principles of the Founders”.  What I’m trying to make people understand is that the principles to which we need to return are those not of the Deists and Freemasons whom we call the Founding Fathers, but those of the Church Fathers.