The myth of a "Christian" United States goes something like this:
Christians seeking religious freedom founded our nation as a place where they could properly obey god's law. The Puritans and others founded biblical law settlements that established a Christian colonial culture. Christian leaders and ideals thus generated the American Revolution, our Constitutional democracy of personal freedom, and everything else that made our nation great. Bad things now happen because we have fallen away from our founders' Christian values. America now needs religion in government and laws promoting religion so we can restore our lost Golden Age of Christian Faith.
Like most religious traditions, the evidence fails to support this Golden Age myth.
Puritan heritage is nothing anyone should be proud of or wish to restore. The Puritans came to the colonies to establish a religious tyranny. As a state church, Puritans oppressed other religions like they had been oppressed in England. They wanted religious freedom only in the sense that they wanted the freedom to practice their Puritanism and to punish or banish all other religious beliefs. Only Puritan Congregationalist churches were allowed. Baptists, Quakers, Presbyterians, Catholics and others were banished, often with a death sentence if they returned. Puritans punished even minor "impious" behavior, and they killed 25+ people as witches. America's colonial Christians were an undemocratic minority that opposed freedom of conscience and denied political rights based on religious beliefs.
The actions of the Constitution's authors at the 1787 Convention best reveal their thoughts and intent regarding religion. They avoided attempts to insert worship into their deliberations, keeping religious activities separate from the process of creating our government. If no religion at the Constitutional Convention was good enough for our founders, it should be good enough for all public officials in the execution of their duties.
Our founders created a secular government based on freethinking political philosophies. Our founders' Constitution is a stunning rejection of government under god. Only the Constitution establishes our government, not any other document with pious words, such as the Declaration of Independence, Mayflower Act etc. The Constitution ignores god, except for the date, "in the year of our Lord." "We the People," not god, is the authority for our government. The Constitution prohibits any religious test for national office. The Constitution's first amendment prohibits Congress from passing any laws even "respecting an establishment of religion." During many Constitution ratification sessions in the states, Christians tried to add references to God and Jesus into the Preamble and to remove the "no religious test for office" provision. Their failure demonstrates that even though the Constitution was a heated public issue, it was ratified as written. Our founders and the public knowingly chose a godless Constitution.
Conservative Christians argue that the First Amendment language, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion," means our founders only meant to prohibit one denomination from becoming the official national religion. The evidence refutes this narrowest of interpretations, aside from the fact that the Constitution must give government such a power, and there is no power to do anything religious in the Constitution. In his letter to the Danbury Baptist Association (1/01/1802), Thomas Jefferson cited "a wall of separation between Church and State" as his reason for denying their request for a national day of fasting. Jefferson's metaphor came from London schoolmaster James Burgh, one of England's leading enlightenment political writers. Burgh's Crito (1767) had the phrase, "build an impenetrable wall of separation between things sacred and civil." Along with numerous other documents, Jefferson's message clarifies the intention of the amendment.
The Constitution and amendments only mention religion three times, and only as prohibitions against government doing things religious. One cannot pervert express prohibitions against government doing religious things into powers for government to do religious things. Many public officials have a long history of violating their oath of office by mixing religion into government or by supporting religious groups. A tradition of violating the Constitution does not, however, change the Constitution. This traditional disrespect for the Constitution by religious believers should end.
We have an invaluable ally in our uphill struggle to preserve the truth. We have the words and actions of our founders, which directly contradict the myth of a "Christian" United States.
(This answer (c) Howard Thompson, from DEBUNKING THE MYTH OF A "CHRISTIAN" UNITED STATES)
Posted in: About atheism