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Not In Any Sense Founded On The Christian Religion


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I've been dealing with an email debate about the founding principles of the United States government. I've plainly stated that I believe the US is NOT founded on Christian principles in government or as a nation ( I see the two as intertwined, but apparently the Christians I'm dealing with don't). I cited articles and documents including Article 11 of the Treaty of Tripoli that undeniably states that "...the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion..." A response was sent with the comment "If you care to really be informed!" at the top and a copy of the article linked to below beneath it.

 

Treaty of Tripoli

 

I read the article and immediately sat down to compose my rebuttal which I've inserted below.

 

First and foremost, the statement, "Advocates of this idea use the Treaty of Tripoli as the foundation of their entire argument…" is a bold faced lie. I even brought this up in the emails I sent regarding the issue. The Constitution of the United States is the basis for the idea that this country was not founded as a Christian nation and the Treaty of Tripoli is merely supporting evidence. There is no mention of any aspect of the Christian faith in the Constitution, the governing document for this nation, including appeals to the Christian deity as the source of authority for our Republic.

 

Mr. Barton next claims the following:

 

“The 1797 Treaty of Tripoli is the source of Washington’s supposed statement. Is this statement accurate? Did this prominent Founder truly repudiate religion? An answer will be found by an examination of its source.”

 

Mr. Barton points out the obvious fact that the quote is not from George Washington. The authors of this treaty included at the least, Richard O’Brien, one of the first U.S. sailors captured by the Barbary pirates, and Joel Barlow, a former military chaplain and close friend of both Thomas Jefferson and Thomas Paine. While Washington may have had a hand in the writing of the treaty (though it is doubtful) the pertinent phrase was not authored by Washington and it is falsely attributed to him only because the treaty was penned and brought before Congress during his presidency. No doubt some overanxious separationists made this error initially. The fact that the quote is not from Washington does not lessen the impact it has on the debate. The fact still remains that the US Congress unanimously sanctioned a treaty that claimed our government, and thus this nation, was in no sense based on the Christian religion.

 

Barton continues to try to prove his point by claiming that the Article is taken out of context. The entire treaty is available for all to read online. Here is a link for anyone who would like to view it.

 

The Treaty of Tripoli – 1796-1797

 

If Article 11 is being taken out of context by those of us who see it as further evidence that our founding fathers did not intend for the government of the United States of America to be founded on Christianity or its principles, someone is going to have to do a better job at pointing it out than merely saying that it is being taken out of context. I see nothing indicating any such thing in this document.

 

The author goes on to give a nice little history lesson on the Barbary Powers Conflict. None of the points brought up affect the statement in Article 11 in any way, unless you want to claim that Congress was being pusillanimous and was trying to get Tripoli to leave us alone by essentially crying "We're not Christians! We've got nothing against you! Here’s the money you want! Leave us alone, PLEASE!!!" when they truly believed they were a nation based on Christianity. Of course, that wasn't the case at all.

 

It was recognized by the Barbary powers that both England and France were officially Christian nations. Since the United States had been a colony of England, it was no doubt assumed by Tripoli that the U.S. was also a Christian nation. Article 11 of the Treaty of 1797 alleviated this fear by assuring Tripoli that our government was in no way founded on the Christian religion and therefore no religious matter would bring us to war with the Muslims. Whether Article 11 was a request from Tripoli to be added into the treaty or an addition by one of the authors, it shows that the founding fathers saw no problem in identifying the new nation of the United States of America as non-religious and specifically non-Christian.

 

No one knows for certain who penned Article 11. What we do know for certain is that there was no brow raised and no argument voiced when it was presented to both the Congress and to the people of the United States. The Congress unanimously voted to approve the treaty. A unanimous decision! While the majority of the population was most certainly Christian, they understood that their nation would not be ruled as a Christian nation. They understood that tyranny of any kind was unacceptable and that included religious tyranny. Their newly found freedoms included the freedom to worship as they saw fit with no interference of any kind by their government. To base a government on a religion’s principles is to force those who do not agree with those principles to abide by them under penalty of law.

 

Barton then makes our point for us. He states,

 

“This article may be read in two manners. It may, as its critics do, be concluded after the clause "Christian religion"; or it may be read in its entirety and concluded when the punctuation so indicates. But even if shortened and cut abruptly ("the government of the United States is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion"), this is not an untrue statement since it is referring to the federal government.”

 

At least Mr. Barton was honest in the last sentence of this passage. The United States is a nation governed by the people. These people founded this nation by implementing our Republic. They made quite sure that religion did not play a part in that government, thus affording a freedom of religion to all who live in this nation. A nation founded on the Christian religion would be ineffectual and meaningless if its government was not also founded on that religion. We see this daily in attempts by Christians to implement their religion in politics. Their faith has no place in politics as our government is secular. If indeed this country had been founded as a Christian nation, the earliest documents involved with the formation of its government would be teeming with references to elements of that religion. The evidence bears up to the task of showing that no such references exist. This nation was founded on the principles of freedom including the freedom of (and from) religion, not on those of Christianity.

 

I'd like any and all input on this subject. The Christian members of this debate continue to bring up things like the fact that the preambles to all 50 state constitutions do mention "God" in some form or fashion. I'm just getting fed up with them.

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While the majority of the population was most certainly Christian, they understood that their nation would not be ruled as a Christian nation. They understood that tyranny of any kind was unacceptable and that included religious tyranny. Their newly found freedoms included the freedom to worship as they saw fit with no interference of any kind by their government. To base a government on a religion’s principles is to force those who do not agree with those principles to abide by them under penalty of law.

 

Too bad most Christians in the US today do not understand that. If only they could hear the voices of their ancestors.

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You know what's really weird? Up until the 50's and 60's, most Christians - yes, even evangelicals - were the most ardent supporters of the seperation of church and state. They believed it kept the government out of their hair when it came to their own practices. That's why so many opposed the election of a Catholic president - they thought all that heirarchy and pope stuff just sounded like a perfect recipe for Catholic control of the nation.

 

Then the sexual revolution and New Age/Eastern religions came along, and those same Christians realized that the seperation of church and state protected those liberal hippie scumbags, too! That's when we start to see the great reversal in American Christian politics.

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'Zackly, Sagie - fundy fuckers were all for "separation" of church and state, but when the government was generally friendly to the zeitgeist they wanted to see society saturated in. Now that the winds of change are against them, the fundies want to control everything and make it seem like that was the idea all along. What shameless bastards :angry:

 

Philosophically speaking, America is perhaps the most un-Xian nation ever founded to date. Any cursory reading of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution make it clear that no Xian principles were involved in America's ethical and political foundation in any way. If they were, there would be no freedom of the press or freedom of speech, just laws commanding obedience to the Xian religion and requiring us to honor the Xian deities and follow Xian social commandments - just like existed in Europe for centuries after the Conversion.

 

America and Xianity are wholly incompatible.

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So when you ask these asshats what Xian principles the nation was founded upon, what kind of answer do you get?

 

Have they enumerated and explicitly described exactly what principles they're talking about?

 

If so, what are they?

 

If not, ask them. See what they say, and how much hemming and hawing happens while they try to answer you.

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So when you ask these asshats what Xian principles the nation was founded upon, what kind of answer do you get?

 

Have they enumerated and explicitly described exactly what principles they're talking about?

 

If so, what are they?

 

If not, ask them. See what they say, and how much hemming and hawing happens while they try to answer you.

 

Yeah, there's no specific answer. They generally think everything good and decent is Christian in origin. All good things come from the lord above, y'know. :Wendywhatever:

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Yeah, there's no specific answer. They generally think everything good and decent is Christian in origin. All good things come from the lord above, y'know. :Wendywhatever:

That's absurd! Everyone knows that all good things come from Furbies and Toaster Strudels.

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Philosophically speaking, America is perhaps the most un-Xian nation ever founded to date. Any cursory reading of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution make it clear that no Xian principles were involved in America's ethical and political foundation in any way. If they were, there would be no freedom of the press or freedom of speech, just laws commanding obedience to the Xian religion and requiring us to honor the Xian deities and follow Xian social commandments - just like existed in Europe for centuries after the Conversion.

 

ABAP,

 

I think the gist of your argument should hinge on the thinking of 1776 during which England was spiritually directed by the Church of England and continued dominance of several nations by the Catholic Church.

 

Not that those bozo's would comprehend the american constitution as a brilliant shield against European theistic tentacles. Nonetheless I think it is the strongest argument.

 

If you were to check the Internet for some pre-revolution instances of religious interference by the Anglican Church, you might have an open/shut case... assuming you wern't wrangling with cabbage heads.

 

Still, I admire your grit!

 

Mongo

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In addition to Mongo's tactic, I would insist upon a clear, cogent, well-thought out, well-researched list of principles, supported not only by the extensive research your would-be challengers have done into American history, but also fully backed by Scripture. They need to cite not only American documents, but also the Biblical chapters and verses which directly support their assertion. If they cannot find a direct support, they need to come up with a convincing, clear, rational argument as to why and how X verse does support Y principle.

 

You won't get it, and I think you know that already; but it's worth a try anyway. :shrug: If they can't offer you anything other than a spluttery, flabbergasted opinion, then they don't have a case at all, just an opinion. And opinions are like assholes: everyone has one, and they all stink.

 

American culture and society was founded on a lot of things: people, evenets, ideas, philosophies, what have you. Xianity was one of them, but it wasn't the only thing by a long shot.

 

Mmmmmm.... Pop Tarts...

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I work with fundies from time to time, and I've actually had this discussion with them before. Without even getting into things like the Tripoli Treaty, because I knew they don't have the ability to grasp much outside of 8th grade history class, I instead asked them to name a few things that they consider "Foundational American Principals". Things mentioned were:

 

1) Freedom. Upon further prodding, this was expanded to Freedom of speech, choice, religion, jobs, etc.

 

I then asked them to find for me in the bible where freedom of thought, speech, choice (esp. religious choice) is exalted and not condemned.

 

2) Democracy.

 

I then asked them to find for me where in the bible democratic rule and government by the masses was sanctioned and allowed. Hell, I even asked them to find some instance where debate is tolerated.

 

At that point the topic was de-railed to something I guess they felt they could argue better. "Xtian America" has never been mentioned by them again. At least...not when I'm around. The one thing that redeems these people is that they have never fired me, even though I am a very open Atheist. Of course, all they were giving me was xtain clients to record, so I guess they thought by sending me to a church to record a choir I would re-convert by osmosis or something. I just started telling them I was too busy to take up their jobs.

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