Freedom of Religion: The Founders Views


As a point of reference in interpreting what the founding fathers wished to avoid with respect to the language in the Constitution on religion as contained within the First Amendment, it might be informative to read the text of Ben Franklin's speech on the day it was ratified.

The failure to provide a "Bill of Rights" for the people of this nation against any abuse of the new government actually was what was responsible for holding up the Constitution's ratification, hence, Mr. Franklin's speech and the promise that the first work of this new government would be those first ten amendments.

And while freedom of religion was the intent in order to prevent what had occurred in England between the Catholics and the Protestants for centuries and then establishment of the state-wide Church of England, it is clear from the text of Mr. Franklin's speech that the provision was intended to protect the freedom of the states on this issue, and also so that no "sect" of the Christian faith was declared the "official" U.S. religion nationwide. 

The provisions also with respect to the exclusion of "religious tests" for holding office were actually meant to protect religion also since the requirement of the British people to swear allegiance to the sovereign over the Pope or God was the cause of much of the religious strife in their homeland whose entire belief system was based on biblical foundations above man-made or "sovereign" law.

"Freedom of religion" is quite different than the ACLU definition which clearly is toward banning religion and religous reference from all public forums and squares.

Below is Franklin's pre-ratification speech:

"Mr. President,

I confess that there are several parts of this constitution which I do not at present approve, but I am not sure I shall never approve them: For having lived long, I have experienced many instances of being obliged by better information, or fuller consideration, to change opinions even on important subjects, which I once thought right, but found to be otherwise.

It is therefore that the older I grow, the more apt I am to doubt my own judgment, and to pay more respect to the judgment of others.  Most men indeed as well as most sects in Religion, think themselves in possession of all truth, and that wherever others differ from them it is so far error. Steele a Protestant in a Dedication tells the Pope, that the only difference between our Churches in their opinions of the certainty of their doctrines is, the Church of Rome is infallible and the Church of England is never in the wrong.

But though many private persons think almost as highly of their own infallibility as of that of their sect, few express it so naturally as a certain french lady, who in a dispute with her sister, said "I don't know how it happens, Sister but I meet with no body but myself, that's always in the right -

In these sentiments, Sir, I agree to this Constitution with all its faults, if they are such; because I think a general Government necessary for us, and there is no form of Government but what may be a blessing to the people if well administered, and believe farther that this is likely to be well administered for a course of years, and can only end in Despotism, as other forms have done before it, when the people shall become so corrupted as to need despotic Government, being incapable of any other. I doubt too whether any other Convention we can obtain, may be able to make a better Constitution.

For when you assemble a number of men to have the advantage of their joint wisdom, you inevitably assemble with those men, all their prejudices, their passions, their errors of opinion, their local interests, and their selfish views. From such an assembly can a perfect production be expected? It therefore astonishes me, Sir, to find this system approaching so near to perfection as it does; and I think it will astonish our enemies, who are waiting with confidence to hear that our councils are confounded like those of the Builders of Babel; and that our States are on the point of separation, only to meet hereafter for the purpose of cutting one throats.

Thus I consent, Sir, to this Constitution because I expect no better, and because I am not sure, that it is not the best. The opinions I have had of its errors, I sacrifice to the public good. I have never whispered a syllable of them abroad. Within these walls they were born, and here they shall die.

If every one of us in returning to our Constituents were to report the objections he has had to it, and endeavor to gain in support of them, we might prevent its being generally received, and thereby lose all the salutary effects; great advantages resulting naturally in our favor among foreign Nations as well as among ourselves, from our real or apparent unanimity. Much of the strength; efficiency of any Government in procuring and securing happiness to the people, depends, on opinion, on the general opinion of the goodness of the Government, as well as of the wisdom and integrity of its Governors.

I hope therefore that for our own sakes as a part of the people, and for the sake of posterity, we shall act heartily and unanimously in recommending this Constitution (if approved by Congress and confirmed by the Conventions) wherever our influence may extend, and turn our future thoughts & endeavors to the means of having it well administred.

On the whole, Sir, I can not help expressing a wish that every member of the Convention who may still have objections to it, would with me, on this occasion doubt a little of his own infallibility, and to make manifest our unanimity, put his name to this instrument."  (Benjamin Franklin, Constitutional Convention at Philadelphia)

And while the "separation of church and state" will continue to be debated and misconstrued, mostly by the ACLU and the atheists, what is lost is that the "separation" of church and state was actually given for the church's protection and to protect the freedom of Americans to worship at the church of their choosing, not to protect the government from the "interference" of the Christian faith at all.

The entire concept of providing for freedom of religion in this country as an individual right in and of itself as primarily Christian or deists themselves, but who abhorred the positions many were placed in during their lives in England having to swear allegiance to king and country when the sovereigns edicts were against their moral and religious principles and beliefs.

The government of the founder's  acknowledged religion and religious beliefs and provided for it in our national culture, with the specific provision for its inclusion attempting merely to avoid the differences in the scriptural teachings with respect to the Protestant and Catholic sectarian differences having application at a governmental level nationwide, since the federal government actually was intended to have few and limited powers over the states and people over-all. 

Historically in its origins, the Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu or Muslim beliefs and their wars were primarily due to intolerance of other faiths, each desiring a "country" of their own where their faith was clearly "nationwide,"  while the Christian wars were fought over sectarian differences between Catholics and Protestants and the various denominations, scriptural interpretations, rituals and practices within them in their former country of England. 

Thus this is what the founders were intending to avoid, and also placing the government as accountable to the people and not above it, so that religious tests and fealty to government over the "supreme" Nature's God's laws in the event of moral conflict when the federal government overstepped itself in any respect would then be lessened or avoided. 

Tolerance of other religions practices and beliefs is actually uniquely Christian in it's origins in its scriptural provisions, as Christ himself taught in the Golden Rule and parable of the Good Samaritan in loving one's neighbor or enemy AS oneself, and doing unto another as you would have them do unto you - allowing them their freedom to worship God in the manner that you yourself enjoy, whether affiliated with a specific church or not, so long as it does not impinge upon the rights of other of his children to worship in the manner they see fit.

And "of" is not "from" except, perhaps, in a language other than English. 

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Excellent Assessment, Betsy

For further readings on the background and intentions of our founding fathers on the subject of religion and other important issues, I encourage all to read Original Intent, the Courts, the Constitution and Religion by David Barton. This well documented book ( 4 appenixes, hundreds of footnotes) shows the real intent of our founding fathers on these major issues. I highly recommend it all. After reading, you will find yourself hard pressed to argue against actual quotes on specific issues from the founding fathers.

The best indication if the founders' intent

is the Constitution itself, wherein God is not mentioned and religion is mentioned only twice, and as prohibitions!




"This would be the best of all possible worlds, if there were no religion in it." --John Adams, Letter To Jefferson


A little more context,

A little more context, please.

context indeed

Cliff Walker, Positive Atheism's Big List of Quotations:


What Adams was saying, in its actual context:

"Twenty times in the course of my late reading have I been on the point of breaking out, "This would be the best of all possible worlds, if there were no religion in it!!!" But in this exclamation I would have been as fanatical as Bryant or Cleverly. Without religion this world would be something not fit to be mentioned in polite company, I mean hell."-- John Adams, quoted from Charles Francis Adams, ed, Works of John Adams (1856), vol. X, p. 254

 John Adams is here describing to Thomas Jefferson what he sees as an emotion-based ejaculatory thought that keeps coming to him. This was not his reasoned opinion. Although John Adams often felt an urge to advocate atheism as a popular world view (because of the sheer abuses perpetrated by religious charlatans), he was of the firm and reasoned opinion (basically undisputed in his day) that religion is essential to the goal of keeping the masses in line.

Knowing what we know today, to say this is pure slander against atheists. And yet it is still quite popular, especially among the uneducated, the widespread acknowledgement of its falsehood notwithstanding.

Thus, Adams was not above presenting such travesties as his National Day of Prayer and Fasting proclamation. These acts reflected his view that the masses needed religion to keep this world from becoming a bedlam. However, Adams, like Washington and Jefferson, did not apply this reasoning to himself -- as we can plainly see from the quotations in the main section: religion was good for the masses but not for John Adams (for the most part), who was above all that and needed no piety in order to maintain his own sense of civility.

Positive Atheism Magazine's Big List of Quotations asks all atheist and separationist web sites to remove this quip from their quotes collections unless they are willing to show it for what it is, in its full context, complete with explanation. This explanation may be used in part or in its entirety, provided it is properly attributed to its author, Cliff Walker, and that it is not altered except to the extent that the segment used was excerpted from the larger piece.


James Madison on rights of religion and the Civil authory

"[I]t may not be easy, in every possible case, to trace the line of separation between the rights of religion and the Civil authority with such distinctness as to avoid collisions and doubts on unessential points. The tendency to unsurpastion on one side or the other, or to a corrupting coalition or alliance between them, will be best guarded agst. by an entire abstinence of the Gov't from interfence in any way whatsoever, beyond the necessity of preserving public order, and protecting each sect agst. trespasses on its legal rights by others." --James Madison, James Madison on Religious Liberty


You Are Misconstruing His Words

He is again speaking of protection of the Church most of all, from interference by the government in religious practices.  Not at all diferentiating between civil law, and moral law at all.  In fact, in the first public schools which Jefferson began, they were held in the Churches, and the Bibles were the books given to the poor in order to teach them to read.  The intent of the founders was to protect the country form a nation-wide religion, just as was stated, and also the reasons for the religious test omissions.  So that a President or any public official would not have to choose between obediance to his moral conscience, and that of any governmental official, and his the oath of office is to the Constitution, for all federal, state and local officials.

And corporations are not "people" they are property, so there is another case of abandoning the intent of the founders - since the entire Boston Tea Party was not simply against taxation, it was also against the private/public partnership King George had with the East India Company, a global monopoly on the tea trade for the colonies, that they were forced to also drink.  And that continues to be left out of the history lessons in our public schools - that the war was over both taxation, and freedom from "foreign" dominance and control.

And the founders were deists, and those unalienable rights in the Bill of Rights referred to are those in the Declaration - as "endowed by the Creator."  And the Delcaration is as much a part of history, and provides the background also to that Constitution.

"Do not separate text from historical background. If you do, you will have perverted and subverted the Constitution, which can only end in a distorted, bastardized form of illegitimate government."-James Madison  

If there is any 'misconstruing', it's you


Becuause, I haven't 'construed' anything from his words, like you seem to do. I merely quoted them (with an emphasis.)

Betsy Ross: "And while

Betsy Ross: "And while freedom of religion was the intent in order to prevent what had occurred in England between the Catholics and the Protestants for centuries and then establishment of the state-wide Church of England, it is clear from the text of Mr. Franklin's speech that the provision was intended to protect the freedom of the states on this issue, and also so that no "sect" of the Christian faith was declared the "official" U.S. religion nationwide. 

"The provisions also with respect to the exclusion of "religious tests" for holding office were actually meant to protect religion also since the requirement of the British people to swear allegiance to the sovereign over the Pope or God was the cause of much of the religious strife in their homeland whose entire belief system was based on biblical foundations above man-made or "sovereign" law.

"Freedom of religion" is quite different than the ACLU definition which clearly is toward banning religion and religous reference from all public forums and squares."

from Skeptic's Dictionary Newsletter 69, 2006:

July 4, 2006

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; in 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. -- James Madison

Independence Day

Today, we commemorate our nation's independence and separation from the British Empire. I'd like to commemorate as well the vision of independence from the tyranny of men who use God and religion to oppress others. That vision is expressed in both the Declaration of Independence and in the U.S. Constitution.

The Declaration of Independence mentions "Nature's God" and asserts that it is self-evident that "all men are created equal" and "are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights." The Founding Fathers and Framers were not establishing an atheist nation, nor were they anti-religious. But the Declaration wisely asserts that governments derive "their just powers from the consent of the governed." The doctrine that governments derive their just powers from God is rejected in our Declaration of Independence. The King of Great Britain might claim that he was owed allegiance because his authority came from God and that to disobey him was to go against God but such a claim would be deemed illegitimate.

A corollary of the consent of the governed concept is that no President of the United States gets his authority from God. He can pray to God. He can ask God to guide him. But he cannot claim we must obey him because he gets his authority from God.

The Founders did not establish an atheist nation but they did establish a secular nation, a nation whose power is derived from the purely secular notion of consent of the governed. They recognized the importance of religion and God in most people's lives and they wisely understood that only a secular nation could protect religious liberty. Had they established a state church, religious liberty would have suffered as it did in England and everywhere else where there is a state church.

The preamble to the Constitution asserts that "We the People of the United States" establish the Union. God is not mentioned here or anywhere else in the Constitution. Again, this does not make the Constitution an atheist document. But it does make it a purely secular document. God is not the source of political power, our Union, or our Constitution. Furthermore, there will be no religious test for any citizen or government official. Obviously, this does not mean that only atheists can be citizens or run for political office. It means that anyone can be a citizen or run for political office without regard for his or her religious affiliation. One expected consequence of this policy was that we would avoid the state-sanctioned religious persecution of minority religions that characterized England and most other countries. There would, of course, still be persecution (witness how the Mormons and other minority religions were treated in the 19th century). Another consequence of this policy is that even an atheist could theoretically become President of the United States. Don't laugh. This country has only been here for 200 years. I don't think we'll last as long as the dinosaurs did, but there is hope that sometime within the next millennium or two the supers will be able to practice in peace while the brights run the government. Granted, we have a few prejudices to overcome. For example, a recent nationwide poll found that 54% wouldn't vote for a Muslim presidential candidate and 37% wouldn't want a Mormon president. The bad news is that the Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg poll didn't even ask participants if they'd vote for an atheist or a bright.

Finally, let's commemorate the First Amendment clauses that assert "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion [the separation clause], or prohibiting the free exercise thereof [the free exercise clause]." They continue to provide ample employment for writers, teachers, judges, and lawyers. As complicated as people have made these simple clauses, I think they (combined with the 14th Amendment) say (1) no laws can be made that apply specifically to religions and (2) no law can be made that prevents people from practicing their religion. Their purpose seems to have been to make sure no national church was established and that the many churches existing at the time would be protected from government persecution. I'm wrong, of course. They actually mean whatever the current majority on the U.S. Supreme Court says they mean.

Of course, the religious fanatics have never accepted the facts that God or Jesus was not named as the source of political power and was not named as the Protector of the Nation in the Constitution. They have declared victory anyway and continue to spread the false notion that this nation is a "Christian" nation not a secular nation that protects Christians and non-Christians alike. The religious fanatics have had their victories. Bibles are used at the swearing in of Presidents and other office holders or in courtrooms when testimony is about to be given or oaths are to be sworn to. "So help me God" and "God bless America" are familiar political phrases. Our currency says "in God we trust." Congress put "under God" in the pledge of allegiance. Athletic contests and military battles are preceded by prayers to Our Father or to Jesus.

And despite the fact that religions have universally been the enemies of freedom and equality, millions of Americans have been taught to believe that Christians didn't support and defend but rather put an end to slavery. We're also mistaught that Christians didn't support and defend the inequality of women and others but were solely responsible for bringing about the 19th Amendment in 1920 and the Civil Rights Act of 1964. I suppose that in one thousand years, when homosexuals and transsexuals are treated as full human beings, Christians will take credit for that, too.

So, on Independence Day 2006 I salute our Nation's Fathers for establishing a secular nation free from the tyranny of a state religion and free from the tyranny of any Articles of Faith that must be sworn to before holding public office. I salute them for their foresight in recognizing that the best way to protect religions and religious people from discriminatory legislation was to prohibit such legislation altogether. Though we should admit that it wouldn't take a prophet of much ability to recognize that religious fanaticism would be a significant problem in a democracy unless there was a built-in limit to restrict its natural tendency toward tyranny. [emphasis mine]


Quoting a Hell-raiser?

a notorious adulterer, and a Deist?

You might as well be quoting Priestley!


No, I am all for religion in the public square. Sacrificial altars and pagan rituals too. But do understand, if you advocate for religion in the public square, you also need to allow the devil-worshippers their space.

It's with that thought in mind, that I at least understand what the "no religion nowhere" folks are actually trying to do -- create the only fair system, one of nothing at all.

No, You Are Wrong

Since the founders were all either deists or Christians, their provisions were for "equality" as those "endowed by the Creator," in those unalienable rights.  If the pagans want to sue or want "equality," then, of course, they must believe there is a God - since just where do they think they got those rights if not "endowed by the Creator" as given to them by the deists who founded this nation - believers.

So their "freedom" is due to the Christians and God-believers in this country who drafed that document, and for which they spit in the face of those founders now at almost every turn. 

Pagan worship was allowed in Rome, a pagan nation.  We were never intended to be a "pagan" nation, but a Godly nation - simply no sect as a nation-wide religion such as the Church of England.  Franklin and Madison were attempting to protect "freedom of worship" for the people, not freedom from influence of the Church on the government in any way, shape or form - since most of them were church attenders and also provided and built many of those buildings with the references to God in them.

So I don't know where you are getting your ideas that our public forums were to be religion free, because that was not their "intent" at all.

"Freedom of" as stated is not "freedom from," at all.  Not in the English language, anyway.

the ACLU has at some points created some rulings

(by suing) that lead in that direction.

Do you spit in the eye of Buddha by following Jesus Christ?

You are being incredibly offensive to pagans, and as a member of a minority religion in this country, I take EXTREME offense at your closemindedness.

Simply because someone chooses to worship as their ancestors did, does not mean that they are denigrating your religion (devil-worshippers aside. those people are ... kooky. and scary).

Pagans tend to believe in a dualism, a God and Goddess. I personally see no difference between that and the polytheism inherent in the Christian 'tripartite' God.

The Huguenots might disagree with you, Betsy

 You wrote "Historically in its origins, the Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu or Muslim beliefs and their wars were primarily due to intolerance of other faiths, each desiring a "country" of their own where their faith was clearly "nationwide,"  while the Christian wars were fought over sectarian differences between Catholics and Protestants and the various denominations, scriptural interpretations, rituals and practices within them in their former country of England." 

The Huguenots, Guy Fawkes, Martin Luther, and the victims of the Spanish Inquisition might disagree with you on that point.  Europe spent roughly three hundred years wracked in wars over whether countries would be purely Catholic or purely Protestant.  While the differences were "sectarian," as you described, there was as much of a search for ideological purity and "a 'country' of their own" as there may have been in the theological conflicts of other religions.

Wilson: Early Presidents Not

Wilson: Early Presidents Not Religious

"The founders of our nation were nearly all Infidels, and that of the presidents who had thus far been elected [Washington; Adams; Jefferson; Madison; Monroe; Adams; Jackson] not a one had professed a belief in Christianity....
     "Among all our presidents from Washington downward, not one was a professor of religion, at least not of more than Unitarianism."
     -- The Reverend Doctor Bird Wilson, an Episcopal minister in Albany, New York, in a sermon preached in October, 1831. One might expect a modern defender of the Evangelical to play with the meaning of "Christianity," making it refer only to a specific brand of orthodoxy, first sentence quoted in John E Remsberg, Six Historic Americans, second sentence quoted in Paul F Boller, George Washington & Religion, pp. 14-15

 [From Chris Walker's Big List quotes]

The Treaty of Tripoli
Signed by John Adams

"As the government of the United States is not, in 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] ... it is declared ... that no pretext arising from religious opinion shall ever product an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries....
     "The United States is not a Christian nation any more than it is a Jewish or a Mohammedan nation."
          -- Treaty of Tripoli (1797), carried unanimously by the Senate and signed into law by John Adams (the original language is by Joel Barlow, US Consul)

  [From Chris Walker's Big List quotes]


At a press conference in Turkey, April 2009, President Obama casually rebuked the old chestnut that the United States is a Judeo-Christian nation:

"One of the great strengths of the United States," the President said, "is ... 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 ideals and a set of values."


Oh my

Where to begin?

I think I'll let our Founding Fathers speak for themselves:

"America is not a Christian Nation"- "None (of the Founders) professed belief in Christianity"

"You do well to wish to learn our arts and ways of life, and above all, the religion of Jesus Christ. These will make you a greater and happier people than you are. " - George Washington to the Delaware Indian Chiefs, June 12, 1779

"Principally and first of all, I recommend my soul to that Almighty Being who gave it and my body I commit to the dust, relying upon the merits of Jesus Christ for a pardon of all my sins."-Sam Adams, Signer of the Declaration of Independance

""This is all the inheritance I can give to my dear family. The religion of Christ can give them one which will make them rich indeed." - Patrick Henry

"To the eternal and only true god be all honor and glory now and forever. Amen!"- Charles Coteworth Pinckney, signer of the Constitution of the United States

"Unto Him who is the author and giver of all good, I render sincere and humble thanks for His manifold and unmerited blessings, and especially for our redemption and salvation by His beloved Son....Blessed by His hly name."  - John Jay, Original Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court.


Religion - the enemy of freedom and Equality-

"The Christian religion is, above all the religions that ever prevailed or existed in ancient or modern times, the religion of wisdom, virtue, equity and humanity..." -John Adams- 2nd President of the United States


Why don't you supply all the references to God, Christ and

religion from the Constitution?

The Declaration, and Other Documents

The Declaration and other documents are a portion of that history, and the Bill of Rights which was also the sticking point at the Convention since Patrick Henry would not sign it and did not due to lack of inclusion in the original, although the other anti-federalists finally consented when that promise was made that that would be the first order of business.

And those "Bill of Rights," are a portion of those "unalienable" rights "endowed by the Creator" they were speaking of.  So Madison's quote holds true, that the "intent" even prior to signing the original in the documents from the war must be taken into consideration when reading it.

He is quoted as warning not to separate text from history or the intent, otherwise we would have a "bastardized" form of government, which is what we have now.

Here, again, is what,signed

Here, again, is what,signed and therefore endorsed by Pres. Adams as well as members of the US Senate, appeared in the Treaty of Tripoli:

The Treaty of Tripoli
Signed by John Adams

"As the government of the United States is not, in 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] ... it is declared ... that no pretext arising from religious opinion shall ever product an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries....
"The United States is not a Christian nation any more than it is a Jewish or a Mohammedan nation."
-- Treaty of Tripoli (1797), carried unanimously by the Senate and signed into law by John Adams (the original language is by Joel Barlow, US Consul)

The language of the Treaty of Tripoli is clear and obvious: The US was not founded on "the Christian religion" and therefore the US was not founded on Christian principles and therefore the US is not a Christian nation.


And here's the extended quote of what appeared in John Adams' Diary dated July 26, 1796:

The Christian religion is, above all the Religions that ever prevailed or existed in ancient or modern Times, the Religion of Wisdom, Virtue, Equity, and humanity, let the Blackguard [Thomas] Paine say what he will; it is Resignation to God, it is Goodness itself to Man.

Note that Adams admired Christianity only insofar as he perceived Christianity to be "the Religion of Wisdom, Virtue, Equity, and humanity" and "Resignation to God" and "Goodness itself to Man."

There is no reference to Jesus = Jesus Christ = God/Godman/Godson/Godspirit = The Only Dying/Rising Savior-god, and, therefore, no admission by Adams that he was an Christian.

In the following, you can note that other influential Deist US Founders admired some aspects of Chistianity/Christian dogma, as, for example, did Jefferson, but we can also conclude that becuase they rejected relevations and miracles and Jesus = Jesus Christ = God/Godman/Godson/Godspirit = The Only Dying/Rising Savior-god then they were not Christians.

In regards to the definition of blackguard, see the following:

We thus note there are definitions of blackguard which include those who say or write, e.g., Thos. Paine, to 'revile' or 'ridicule' a person or institution/organization or religion/philosophy, etc.

 Was Thomas Paine an individual the influential Deist US Founders respected in such manner that 'blackguard' would apply to Paine only in regards to his writings which clearly 'blackguarded' Christianity?

Indeed, Paine wrote one of the most influential works which was supportive of the American Revolution: Common Sense; Paine also wrote The Age of Reason which revealed the nonsense of Christian  dogma/Christianity.


From inre The Age of Reason:

A deist manifesto to the core, Paine acknowledged his debt to Newton and declared that nature was the only form of divine revelation, for God had clearly established a uniform, immutable and eternal order throughout creation. Paine rejected Christianity, denied that the Bible was the revealed word of God, condemned many of the Old Testament stories as immoral and claimed that the Gospels were marred by discrepancies. There was nothing really that new in Paine's argument, but the bitterness of his attack on the Christian churches and his attempt to preach deism to the masses made him more enemies than before.

From inre Common Sense:

Published anonymously by Thomas Paine in January of 1776, Common Sense was an instant best-seller, both in the colonies and in Europe. It went through several editions in Philadelphia, and was republished in all parts of United America. Because of it, Paine became internationally famous.

"A Covenanted People" called Common Sense "by far the most influential tract of the American remains one of the most brilliant pamphlets ever written in the English language."

Paine's political pamphlet brought the rising revolutionary sentiment into sharp focus by placing blame for the suffering of the colonies directly on the reigning British monarch, George III.

First and foremost, Common Sense advocated an immediate declaration of independence, postulating a special moral obligation of America to the rest of the world. Not long after publication, the spirit of Paine's argument found resonance in the American Declaration of Independence.

Written at the outset of the Revolution, Common Sense became the leaven for the ferment of the times. It stirred the colonists to strengthen their resolve, resulting in the first successful anticolonial action in modern history.

Little did Paine realize that his writings would set fire to a movement that had seldom if ever been worked out in the Old World: sovereignty of the people and written constitutions, together with effective checks and balances in government.

Note the reference to Paine's influence on the US Declaration of Idependence and the US Constitution in regards the 'sovereignty of the people' (which John  Adams specified in his "A Defence of the Constitution), a 'written constitution,' and checks and balances in government.'

From, James Chalmers, a Loyalist (American colonist who sympathized with the British) wrote a rebuttal of Paine's Common Sense; Chalmer's work was entitled Plain Truth: A Loyalist Answers Thomas Paine:

No time was wasted as he [James Chalmers, in Plain Truth] called Paine a "political quack" and took offense at the man's attack upon the English constitution. "With all its imperfections [the English constitution] is, and ever will be, the pride and envy of mankind." This was a safe argument in March of 1776. The Declaration of Independence, which so elegantly expressed the dissatisfied American point of view, did not yet exist. The rebellion itself was being propelled mostly by a few loud orators from New England. No one, of course, had suggested how colonists could come up with something better than England's system of laws. Loyalists like Chalmers were banking on the hope that they never would.

A ripe target in Plain Truth was Paine's love of democracy. Few now realize that the word "democracy" didn't have a particularly appealing ring to it in the eighteenth century. Even radical John Adams, a man who was pushing hard for independence, was nervous about Paine's brand of unregulated democracy. It "was so democratical, without any restraint or even an attempt at any equilibrium or counterpoise, that it must produce confusion and every evil work," he once wrote. Later in life, he declared, "What a poor ignorant, Malicious, short-sighted, Crapulous Mass, is Tom Pains Common Sense." For one fleeting moment, Chalmers and John Adams actually agreed on something.

Adams may have been a radical but he was no one's fool. He knew any new government would have to be run by politicians and not by mob leaders. To many Whigs and Tories alike, democracy for its own sake didn't seem like an especially good idea. Historically, democracies had come and gone, a fact that Chalmers doesn't hesitate to point out.

"The demogogues to seduce the people into their criminal designs ever hold up democracy to them.... If we examine the republics of Greece and Rome, we ever find them in a state of war domestic or foreign.... Apian's history of the civil wars of Rome, contains the most frightful picture of massacres.... that ever were presented to the world."

Note that Adams disrespected Paine's Common Sense, and, thus, the interpretation of "Blackguard" in the extended-FlyingScot's Adams' quote is, reasonably both that Adams was disrespectful of Paine in regards to Common Sense and The Age of Reason while recognizing that in Common Sense Paine was ridiculing the British Gov't and in The Age of Reason Paine was ridiculing Christian dogma/Christianity.

In regards to Deism: See

The influential Deist US Founders, as a group, did not believe in revelations by the gods and therefore rejected the revelations claimed by the Old Testament & New Testament of the Bible; nor did they believe in the Trinity, which means they did not believe Jesus was any more than a human being who was wise, moral, and a fine teacher of wisdom and morality, i.e., the influential Deist US Founders did not believe Jesus = Jesus Christ = God/Godman/Godson/Godspirit = The Only Dying/Rising Savior-god, i.e., they did not believe Jesus was crucified and resurrected, and whereas Paul has admitted that Christianity is based upon the claim that Jesus was crucified and resurrected, i.e., if Jesus had not been crucified and resurrected, then Christianity had no Founder and therefore was a phony religion, then anyone who did not believe Jesus was crucified and resurrected was not an Christian.


[1] The question before the human race is, whether the God of nature shall govern the world by his own laws, or whether priests and kings shall rule it by fictitious miracles?
-- John Adams, letter to Thomas Jefferson, June 20, 1815

[2] As I understand the Christian religion, it was, and is, a revelation. 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 FA Van der Kamp, December 27, 1816

[3] When philosophic reason is clear and certain by intuition or necessary induction, no subsequent revelation supported by prophecies or miracles can supersede it.
-- John Adams, from Rufus K Noyes, Views of Religion, quoted from from James A Haught, ed., 2000 Years of Disbelief

[4] Indeed, Mr. Jefferson, what could be invented to debase the ancient Christianism which Greeks, Romans, Hebrews and Christian factions, above all the Catholics, have not fraudulently imposed upon the public? Miracles after miracles have rolled down in torrents.
-- John Adams, letter to Thomas Jefferson, December 3, 1813, quoted from James A Haught, ed., 2000 Years of Disbelief

[5] Let the human mind loose. It must be loose. It will be loose. Superstition and dogmatism cannot confine it.
-- John Adams, letter to his son, John Quincy Adams, November 13, 1816, from James A Haught, ed., 2000 Years of Disbelief

[6] I almost shudder at the thought of alluding to the most fatal example of the abuses of grief which the history of mankind has preserved -- the Cross. Consider what calamities that engine of grief has produced!
-- John Adams, letter to Thomas Jefferson, from George Seldes, The Great Quotations, also from James A Haught, ed., 2000 Years of Disbelief

[7] God is an essence that we know nothing of. Until this awful blasphemy is got rid of, there never will be any liberal science in the world.
-- John Adams, "this awful blashpemy" that he refers to is the myth of the Incarnation of Christ, from Ira D Cardiff, What Great Men Think of Religion, quoted from James A Haught, ed., 2000 Years of Disbelief

In regards to Adams' ...

quote #1: Note the use of the phrase God of nature, similar to nature's God, which is a Deist phrase/phrase commonly used by Deists and not an Christian phrase.

quote #2: Note the contempt which Adams has for bloodthirsty Christians

quote #3: Deists did not believe in revelations by the gods, and herein Adams is testifying how reason, esp. the 18th century version of intelligent design/ID, which was the common philosophical justification for the belief in gods held by the influential Deist US Founders, could not be destroyed by claims of revelations and miracles, etc.

quote #4: Again, Adams is agreeing with Jefferson regarding the nonsense of claims of revelations and miracles.

quote #5: Reason = Good; Superstition, et al [including revelations & miracles] = Bad. Get it?

quote #6: Cross = Engine of Grief = Causer of Calamities. Get it?

quote #7: You gotta believe Jesus was crucified and resurrected to be an Christian.

No belief in Jesus = Jesus Christ = God/Godman/Godson/Godspirit = The Only Dying/Rising Savior-god = No Christian.

Any doubt in your mind that Adams was not a Christian?


Actually, Adams was a Quaker

Actually, Adams wa a Puritan/Quaker, and his family fled England during the Stuart reign, and as one also from Scott ancestry, believe me the grudges between the Catholics and Protestants still reign in Great Britain today, since my grandparents were immigrants, and there still are religious wars in Great Britain, since I remember and lived through the IRA period also.

So taking letters out of context, without knowing that such prejudices in the Christian faith carry down through generations even to this day, his thoughts about God and religion changed much over the course of years, and he was and acknowledged himself to be a Christian, as was Abigail Adams, a Congregationalist.

Some basics

Interesting how you don't mention the Declaration of Independence, which came before the Constitution. You cannot ignore the one and simply highlight the other.

The Constitution neither abolished nor replaced what the Declaration of Independence had established; it (the Constitution) provided the specific details of organization and law of how American government would operate under the guiding principles set forth in the Declaration of Independence.

LIberals always ignore the verbiage and references to God found in the Declaration of Independence and shout from the rooftops about the absense of specifically mentioning God in the if that meant that God wasn't ever there or meant as a given.

Our founding fathers never dreamed that they would have to elaborate to future generations in a document  relating to the structural elements of law and separation of powers (the Constitution) about matters dealing with the spiritual and philosophical, yet in the preamble of the Constitution, ("in the forming of a more perfect union") they do use words that convey this given

"...promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity".

Where did they get such a word...."blessings"? 

 God was a given to our founding fathers. To them God was like gravity. It's just there. Otherwise they would have intentionally stipulated in the Constitution their earlier references to God in the Declaration of Independence as not applying . They would have to refute themselves and their core beliefs (in a diety) in order to do so.

This is where you all scream: First Amendment! First Amendment! 

 The first amendment refers to no law respecting an  establishment of religion (not God) or prohibiting the free exercise thereof (again, of religion). I believe they were referring to not having a state ordained denomination or religious creed imposed upon the people, as it was in England.( Church of England), not the complete eradication and removal of the concept of God.

"All men have an equal, natural and unalienable right to the free exercise of religion, according to the dictates of conscience: and that no particular sect or society of Christians ought to be favored or established by law in preference to others."  -George Mason (member of the Constitional Convention and "The Father of the Bill of Rights")

"The civil rights of none shall be abridged on account of religious belief or worship, nor shall any national religion be established." James Madison, (the Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States, June 8, 1789)

1)If God weren't  a given, they would never have said in the Declaration of Independence, (which did stipulate their philosophical reasoning for breaking from Great Britain)  where " the laws of nature and of Nature's God entitles them" to do so.( paragraph 1)

2)that all men were "endowed by their Creator withn certain unalienable rights...."( paragraph 2)

3)In the conclusion of the Declaration of Independence Thomas Jefferson ( the writer of the Declaration of Independence) concludes that the Representatives and General Congress, "appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world" are free from Great Britain's King and Kingdom and in the last sentence states that they "with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence" would pledge their lives, their fortunes and thier sacred honor.(paragraph 32)

Who the heck is old Tom talking about in all this?


God was a given to our founding fathers, who, never in their wildest dreams would have ever imagined that some from future generations would try to extract God from the "domestic tranquility" or  the "general welfare" of the obvious.

...Yes, George....would you like to add something here? Go right ahead...

"(T)he foundation of our national policy will be laid in the pure and immutable principles of private morality; ...the propitious smiles of Heaven can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right which Heaven itself has ordained..."  George Washington, First Inaugural, April 30 1789

I couldn't have said it better myself.  



So, your argument is they FORGOT to mention God by name?

Can you point me to any other major document from the same time frame that doesn't mention God?


  One can note that whether


One can note that whether or not Adams was a Deist, or theist, is irrelevant to the description he provided of  how it was that US Constitution/Goverment/Legal System was created without inerventions of god(s)

In fact, Charles Thompson, Sec'y/Historian of the Continental Congress, which authorized the Constitutional Convention which created the US Constitution, specifically noted that any references to the god(s), the laws of the god(s), etc., were voted out of the US Constitution:

The "People's Library of Information" contains the following:

The Rev. Dr. Wilson, who was almost a contemporary of our earlier statesmen and presidents, and who thoroughly investigated the subject of their religious beliefs, in his sermon already mentioned affirmed that the founders of our nation were nearly all Infidels, and that of the presidents who had thus far been elected -- George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe, John Quincy Adams, and Andrew Jackson -- not one had professed a belief in Christianity. From this sermon [The Religion of the Presidents, published in the Albany Daily Advertiser in 1831] ... :

"When the war was over and the victory over our enemies won, and the blessings and happiness of liberty and peace were secured, the Constitution was framed and God was neglected. He was not merely forgotten. He was absolutely voted out of the Constitution. The proceedings, as published by Thompson, the secretary, and the history of the day, show that the question was gravely debated whether God should be in the Constitution or not, and, after a solemn debate he was deliberately voted out of it. ... There is not only in the theory of our government no recognition of God's laws and sovereignty, but its practical operation, its administration, has been conformable to its theory. Those who have been called to administer the government have not been men making any public profession of Christianity. ..."


Thus, without the god(s), obviously the US Constitution was 'erected' on secular principles.

Religious tolerance is uniquely Christian...

NO WAY.  In fact, most of the polytheistic religions were FAR more tolerant than Christianity.  Go talk to a Hindu about Jesus Christ.  He'll nod, accept your God, and add him to his ever expanding pantheon, without a blush at the contradictions between Christian doctrine and the Vedas ( which is already chock full of contradictions). 

You may believe this because of the prosecution Christians endured at the hands of the Roman goverment and the suffering of many missionaries.  This prosecution actually occured because of Christian intolerance...i.e they declaimed against the majority religions of the times and much of their preachings were perceived as (and were) a direct attack on the religion of the state and undermining the divine authority of the Caesars.  The authorities of the times had a hard time dealing with a cult that cursed all others to damnation.  There was a good reason to come down on Christians from a pagan perspective.  Remember, at the time, THEY were the old established religions and Christianity was seen as the crazy cult.

The only religions the classical pagans really prosecuted were the Christians (blatant disrespect to the religious fabric of the nation and the cult of the Emperors) and the druids (human sacrifice).  Everyone else was welcome.

I'm simplifiying a lot, because I'm not trying to write a history book.

Now, when the Christianity came into the fullness of its power, it confiscated the properties of the old religions, destroyed the idols and icons (including the Collossus at Rhodes, one of the Seven Wonders of the World), looted the treasuries, and, ultimately, engaged in the slaughter of those who refused to convert or recant.  Again, I'm simplifying some, but...

That does not sound like unique religious tolerance to me.

Christians also repeatedly slaughtered their Christian brethren

during the crusades. Basically, anyone who looked funny got killed.

In Japan, they worship at many temples... including Christian ones, which have Jesus flying around on wires, and people chanting "love and peace".

this also from the country that prominently featured a statue of Santa Claus being crucified in a department store.


The missionaries might have been better not bothering with Japan, methinks ;-)