Christians today have the same problem as their fellow believers of two hundred years ago: “One of the embarrassing problems for the early nineteenth-century champions of the Christian faith was that not one of the first six Presidents of the United States was an orthodox Christian.” –The Encyclopedia Britannica, 1968.
The ‘Christian’ label did not even fit some of our early Presidents. However, whether religious or not, the great intellects of democracy had a vision of all that the United States could be. They wouldn’t have dreamed of imposing religion on their fellow Americans; they knew that this nation’s greatness came from not being a Christian one. In their own emphatic words:
1) “Enforced uniformity confounds civil and religious liberty and denies the principles of Christianity and civility. No man shall be required to worship or maintain a worship against his will.” Roger Williams, Puritan minister and founder of Rhode Island, in The Bloudy Tenet of Persecution, 1644.
2) “As the government of the United States of America is not on any sense founded on the Christian Religion, – as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion or tranquility of Musselmen (Muslims), – and as the said States never have entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mehomitan nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.” –Treaty of Tripoli
–initiated under President George Washington, 1796
–signed into law by President John Adams, 1797
–ratified unanimously by the Senate, 1797
–Published in full in all 13 states, with no record of complaint or dissent.
3) “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, letter to F.A. Van der Kamp, Dec. 27, 1816
4) “Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship… I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should ‘make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,’ thus building a wall of separation between church and State.” –Thomas Jefferson, letter to Danbury Baptist Association, CT
5) “I consider the government of the United States as interdicted by the Constitution from intermeddling with religious institutions, their doctrines, discipline, or exercises.”–Thomas Jefferson, letter to Samuel Miller, 1808 [note that this does not say Christian religion; it refers to all religions, equally]
6) “History, I believe, furnishes no example of a priest-ridden people maintaining a free civil government. This marks the lowest grade of ignorance, of which their political as well as religious leaders will always avail themselves for their own purpose.” –Thomas Jefferson to Baron von Humboldt, 1813
7) “Religious bondage shackles and debilitates the mind and unfits it for every noble enterprise.” –James Madison, letter to William Bradford, April 1, 1774
8) “Who does not see that the same authority which can establish Christianity, in exclusion of all other religions, may establish with the same ease any particular sect of Christians, in exclusion of all other sects?” –James Madison, A Memorial and Remonstrance, addressed to the General Assembly of the Commonwealth of VA, 1795
9) “What influence, in fact, have ecclesiastical establishments had on society? In some instances they have been seen to erect a spiritual tyranny on the ruins of the civil authority; on many instances they have been seen upholding the thrones of political tyranny; in no instance have they been the guardians of the liberties of the people… A just government, instituted to secure and perpetuate it, needs them not.” –James Madison, A Memorial and Remonstrance, 1785 .
10) “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.” –James Madison, A Memorial and Remonstrance
11) “He had no faith, in the Christian sense of the term– he had faith in laws, principles, causes and effects.” –Supreme Court Justice David Davis, on Abraham Lincoln
12) “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” –First Amendment, Constitution of the United States