Undeniably, America is not a Christian nation. It is, in fact, a secular nation. In order to properly understand whether or not the U.S. was founded as a Christian nation, it is necessary to first understand the ideals and backgrounds of the Founding Fathers and the times that they lived in.
For starters, Christianity was the most widespread religion in the U.S. at the time. Churches were centers not just of faith, but of community. So no matter someone’s religious beliefs, or lack thereof, the local church was the place to go if you were to keep up to date on everything from local events to political affairs. Put simply, churches were the central hubs of society at the time, and because of this, many of the Founding Fathers attended services but weren’t necessarily heavily religious. In fact, many were the exact opposite.
Now while it would be irresponsible of me to claim that none of the Founding Fathers described America as a “Christian nation,” it would be just as irresponsible of me not to point out the certainty that many refuted that assertion.
John Adams once stated in a letter to Thomas Jefferson that “the general principles on which the fathers achieved independence… [are] the general principles of Christianity” and that “in favor of these general principles… I could fill sheets of quotations from Frederic of Prussia, from Hume, Gibbon, Bolingbroke, Rousseau and Voltaire as well as Newton and Locke; not to mention thousands of divines and philosophers of inferior fame.”
It is quite obvious that Adams is talking about common principles that are universal to most of humanity, but labeling them as Christian, since Christianity shares many of these principles.
This makes it quite clear that Adams did not consider the U.S. to be a Christian nation, but rather a nation founded under Christian principles which are undoubtedly universal in nature.
In fact, many of the Founding Fathers held a very negative opinion of Christianity and religion in general. Thomas Jefferson is quoted as saying, “To talk of immaterial existences is to talk of nothings. To say that the human soul, angels, God, are immaterial is to say they are nothings, or that there is no God, no angels, no soul. I cannot reason otherwise.”
James Madison, in his “Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments,” said, “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. Rulers who wish to subvert the public liberty may have found an established clergy convenient auxiliaries. A just government, instituted to secure and perpetuate it, needs them not.”
Having read into the religious beliefs and opinions of the Founding Fathers, it is safe to say that at least Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and John Adams were either deists or agnostics, and many held opinions of religion that people today would be shocked to realize. That fact, alongside the fact that nowhere in the Constitution does it state that this nation is a Christian one, makes it evident that it is not so. The Founding Fathers were very forthright about their desire for the United States to be a secular country founded on the universal principles of liberty, justice, fraternity and equality – all principles we would now associate with democracy.
I will end with a quote from Article 11 of the Treaty of Tripoli which states, “As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion.”