Faith of Our Fathers:

The Unbelief of America's Founding Fathers

by Jim Peron

Faith of Our Fathers:

The Fanaticism of America's Founding Fathers

A Vine & Fig Tree Rebuttal to Jim Peron

Jim Peron's article originally appeared in the Laissez-Faire City Times

Vine & Fig Tree opposes the myth of secular America. Our Anti-Separation of Church and State Homepage is here. Our Christian America site, also under construction, is here.

Jim Peron is betting that his article will confirm the myths most people learned in the State's secular schools. His article will not convince anyone who has read David Barton's book Original Intent. Nor would Peron convince the 1892 U.S. Supreme Court, which unanimously concluded that America was "a Christian nation," not just demographically, but legally.

I am a fanatic Christian like Gary North, and I'm not thrilled with the Constitution. By my fanatic standards the Founding Fathers were not "orthodox." But by the ACLU's secularist standards, the Founding Fathers were stark raving fundamentalists, and their Constitution certainly does not require America to be secular, nor prohibit its government from advancing Christian morality. Peron relies on scholars with a secularist axe to grind, but who claim to be "neutral." When he quotes Christians he quotes fanatics, who also have an axe to grind, and thereby make the less-fanatic Founding Fathers seem secular by comparison. The Founders ranged from the fanatic to the less fanatic, but they were all Christian, and none believed that the Constitution forced the government to stop promoting the Christian religion.

Christian Conservatives have misappropriated both the Constitution and the Founding Fathers to promote an agenda that is fundamentally anti-American. They use religion, particularly their own brand of Christianity, as a weapon in their drive to impose a system of government which does not follow our founding principles. They advocate the scraping of the First Amendment which inconveniently allows for freedom of speech and the press and separates church from state. The Religious Right has waged a long war on the Constitution and on the ideal of an open and free society. Everything about this first paragraph is wrong. The purpose of America was to advance the Christian faith. Christian conservatives are increasingly hostile to government power, and are working to take State power out of the hands of those who use it to advance the religion of Secular Humanism. Many have learned that the power of the Sword is deadly, and cannot be used to any good purpose. But even those who would use the State to deter anti-Christian actions such as abortion and homosexuality are not prohibited by the Constitution from doing so.

There is not a single conservative Christian alive today who does not believe in the separation of ecclesiastical and political powers. Peron must create a straw man to advance his secularist agenda.

Key in their drive to “Christianize” America is the myth that the nation was founded by Christians. But the Founding Fathers were open, blatant secularists. In fact, few of them could be considered orthodox Christians in any sense of the word. The Founders were not "open, blatant secularists," as Peron claims. Virtually no one was. There was intense Christian cultural pressure. Even Franklin urged Tom Paine not to publish his Age of Reason. Secularists were still in the closet.

The U.S. Supreme Court unanimously declared that America was "a Christian nation," and noted that it was founded by Christians for the purpose of establishing the Christian Religion in the New World. When this long Christian history is fully appreciated, it becomes impossible to believe that the Constitution was intended to overthrow Christian America, rather than to build upon it.

The American Revolution was a revolt against power. But it opposed all power, both political and theological, over the mind and body of man. The Founding Fathers purposely removed all vestiges of religion from American political life and the Falwells of the day hated them for it. Not a single person who signed the Constitution believed he was engaged in a revolt against theological power. Every single one of them believed God had legitimate power over the mind and body of man, and that a free and prosperous society depended upon universal acknowledgement of God's rightful Sovereignty.

Peron does not understand the difference between "church" and "God."

The Founders -- a majority anyway -- believed that no ecclesiastical denomination had the right to use the State to coerce assent to its own ecclesiastical sovereignty. Every single one of them believed that America had a theological duty to be a nation "under God."

The fact is that the American people were never as religious as today's Religious Right assumed them to be. Felipe Fernández-Armesto and Derek Wilson, in their provocative book Reformation: Christianity and the World 1500-2000 point out:

“It is often assumed that the United States, for instance, was founded by religious impulses, created by the consciences of religious refugees....Yet the usual effect of frontier experience was to dilute Christianity, or, at least, to separate the frontiersmen from the discipline of parent-Churches. The Christianization of America was in one sense a work of reclamation, building penfolds for westward-straying sheep. Only 6.9 per cent of US citizens were registered as belonging to churches in 1800. The number rose to 15.5 per cent in 1850 and 43.5 per cent in 1910 and only exceeded 50 per cent in 1942.”

The American People were clearly far more religious in 1789 than they are today. More people listened to sermons in 1789 than people watch TV today. Only about 3% of Americans who are members of churches today would qualify for church membership in 1789. Most people in 1789 attended church even though they could not qualify to be voting members.

Peron's evidence confuses the vitality of Christian faith with the power of ecclesiastical authorities. Secular Humanists do not understand that Christians can be Christians although attached to no ecclesiastical denomination. The "Promise Keepers" movement fills stadiums, not churches. The idea that the frontier was secular is part of the same myth that says the West was violent and lawless and it's a good thing we now have an omnipotent State and lots of gun control laws.

British historian Paul Johnson, though biased by his own Christian impulses, nevertheless admits that some of the US colonies had very non-religious foundings. The very first colony was established by Sir Walter Raleigh in 1584 at Roanoke, 36 years before the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth. Johnson says this about the first colony: it “was an entirely secular effort.” By today's ACLU-dominated standards, nothing anyone did in the early days of America would qualify as "entirely secular." Everyone was tainted by Christianity. Sir Walter Raleigh was a Falwelite compared to Jim Peron and the ACLU.
Georgia was another secular colony. Johnson admits: “This was another utopian venture, though with humanitarian rather than strict religious objectives — an 18th century rationalist as opposed to a 17th-century doctrinaire experiment.” Humanism and Christianity are in conflict, but not humanitarianism and Christianity. A "strict religious objective" is usually an ecclesiastical objective. Georgia was a Christian colony. Its 1777 Constitution provided in Article VI:

The representatives shall be chosen out of the residents in each county . . . and they shall be of the Protestant religion.
(Gaustad, 162)

Can you imagine the electoral forces that would have to be mobilized to put this plank in the present-day Georgia Constitution? But this "Moral Majority" was omnipresent in colonial America. It is not the case that a majority of Americans now oppose such constitutional provisions. Planks like this were removed not because the majority of Americans became Secular Humanists, but the religion of secularism was imposed by the judiciary, and this did not happen until 1961.

This point alone -- the existence of these constitutional provisions limiting political office to Christians, and the fact that they were not abolished until 1961 by judicial activists in the federal judiciary -- shows that Jim Peron's thesis is wildly mistaken.

He notes, regarding Pennsylvania: “One German observer, Gottlieb Mittelberger, summed it up neatly in 1754: ‘Pennsylvania is heaven for farmers, paradise for artisans, and hell for officials and preachers.’ Philadelphia may have already acquired twelve churches by 1752. But it had fourteen rum distilleries.” Pennsylvania was clearly a Christian colony. Penn was a Falwellite (in the eyes of the ACLU). Christian Reconstructionists like Gary North have nothing against a good cigar and the best rum.

Penn was a Christian, and his "Frame of Government" for Pennsylvania clearly favored Christianity and made unbelievers feel like second-class citizens

Rhode Island, while having a religious founder, was founded on principles more in line with the American Revolution than with colonial Puritanism. Johnson says that to the Puritans of Massachusetts Williams “was not merely an antinomian, he was a secularist, almost an atheist, since he wanted to banish God from government.” Roger Williams was a fanatic Christian who made witchcraft a capital crime. Leo Pfeffer, who argued the secularist position in the Torcaso case above, admits that:

Rhode Island had adopted the pattern prevailing among the other colonies and had enacted a law that limited citizenship and eligibility for public office to Protestants.
L. Pfeffer, Church, State, and Freedom, 252 (1967)

From the vantage point of New England ecclesiocracy, Rhode Island was an apostasy. From the secularist standpoint of the ACLU, Roger Williams was a theophany of Jerry Falwell.

Unbelief was rampant in the United States during these critical years. Harvard University, in the mid 1700s was already openly challenging orthodox Christian teaching and the other centers of higher learning weren’t far behind. When Lyman Beecher entered Yale in 1793 he said the “college was in a most ungodly state. The college church was almost extinct. Most of the students were skeptical... That was the day of the infidelity of the Tom Paine school. Boys that dressed flax in the barn, as I used to, read Tom Paine and believed him; I read, and fought him all the way. Never had any propensity to infidelity. But most of the class before me were infidels...” The 1891 History of Dartmouth College lamented: “In 1798 the state of religion was so far reduced that but a single member of the class of 1799 was publicly known as a professing Christian.” At what become Princeton “there were only three or four who made any pretensions to piety.” Bishop Mead of Virginia said that the College of William and Mary “was regarded as a hotbed of infidelity.” This account omits the fact that virtually all American universities were explicitly Christian in their Founding. It is true that there was a decline in faith, but this account omits the fact that there was a subsequent revival called "the Second Great Awakening." (As war usually does, the Revolution resulted in both monetary and spiritual debasement.) Beecher's daughter, Harriet Beecher Stowe, stirred millions to oppose slavery with her book Uncle Tom. Noah Webster was converted during this revival and wrote his dictionary and other influential school textbooks. Jefferson's attempt at a secular university was a failure, and the Board eventually hired the university's first clergyman: the Rev. William McGuffey.
Such unbelief wasn’t limited to the universities either. Rev. Ashbel Green, of the Second Presbyterian Church of Philadelphia was chaplain of the US Congress from 1792 to 1800. He complained that very few members of Congress attended prayers and attributed two-thirds of the absence to the prevalence of free thought among politicians. Such unbelief wasn’t limited to the educated either. The historian of Windham County, Connecticut wrote in 1880 that the post-revolutionary period was one where,

“...secular affairs were most flourishing, but religion had sadly declined.... Infidelity and Universalism had come in with the Revolution and drawn multitudes from the religious faith of their fathers. Free-thinking and free-drinking were alike in vogue.”

The philosophy which drove the American Founding Fathers was a coherent philosophy of natural, individual rights. And from this rights perspective the only Constitution they could have created would have been one of a secular nature. As we shall see the Founders weren’t just compelled by trends to neglect religion. Their Revolution and Constitution were based on well-considered precepts. What they did, they did knowingly and purposefully.

Rev. Green may have pessimistically overstated the apostasy, as clergy sometimes do. Had the ACLU been around then, they would have complained not only that so many Congressmen did "attend prayers," but that prayers were offered in Congress at all.





The Founders' philosophy of rights was not secular, but Christian. It was everywhere balanced with the Christian philosophy of duty. A secular theory of rights leads to a socialist system of "entitlements."

The Constitution did establish a “wall of separation” between church and state. Today’s Religious Right denies this fact, and as proof offer that this phrase appears no where in the Constitution itself. They are correct but the First Amendment still requires religious neutrality by the US government and the author of the phrase in question was none other than Thomas Jefferson, the man who embodied the ideals of the American Revolution. Jefferson wrote:

“...religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God, ...he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, ...the legislative powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with solemn 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."

The phrase "wall of separation" does not appear in the Constitution. Nor does it appear in the First Amendment. No one who had a hand in drafting or ratifying the First Amendment believed that it compelled America to stop being a nation "under God."

The first time Jefferson's "wall" metaphor was used by the U.S. Supreme Court occurred in a case in which it affirmed that America was a Christian nation. Jefferson said the state can't tell people how to believe, but can tell them how to act. Jefferson operated in a Christian milieu, and drafted laws which made sodomy punishable by castration. Christian criminal codes made America the most prosperous and free nation on earth.

A government which is not limited by Christian principles in the actions which it can criminalize is destined to become a fascist dictatorship.

In 1832 President Andrew Jackson followed Jefferson’s lead when a cholera epidemic brought about pleas from the clergy for Congress to pass a prayer resolution. When Congress passed the resolution, Jackson refused to issue it and cited Jefferson’s view as his justification that such a measure violated the Constitution. Jackson and Jefferson were both in the minority. All the other presidents agreed that the Constitution did not permit such national prayers.
Right-wing Reconstructionist Gary North accepts that the Constitution separates church and state, though he hates the concept. “While the famous phrase of Jefferson’s regarding ‘a wall of separation between church and State’ in his 1802 letter to the Danbury Baptists is not in the Constitution in this familiar form, it is nonetheless in the Constitution judicially.” I consider myself every bit as fanatic as Gary North. The State Bar of California considers me every bit as fanatic as Gary North. Gary North published one of my articles which criticized Jerry Falwell for not being as fanatic a right-winger as he should be. But Gary North is arguably wrong on whether the Constitution mandates a separation. Can "scary" Gary be wrong? Have you seen his y2k web site?

Religion vs. the Constitution

The Religious Right of early America was not happy with the new Constitution. Many pseudonymous pamphleteers attacked the “godless” nature of the American Constitution. One writer in the Virginia Independent Chronicle warned the public of the “pernicious effects” of the Constitution’s “general disregard of religion.” Thomas Wilson of Virginia said the “composers” of the Constitution “had no thought of God in all their consultations.” One opponent, calling himself Aristocrotis, said that the American Constitution was the first in human history to ignore religion. He claimed that until 1787, “there was never a nation in the world whose government was not circumscribed by religion.” One Christian from Massachusetts said the Constitution “left religion to shift wholly for itself” and as a result the new nation would fail. He claimed “it is more difficult to build an elegant house without tools to work with, than it is to establish a durable government without the publick protection of religion.” Rev. Timothy Dwight of Yale University was the Jerry Falwell of his day. He said: “The nation has offended Providence. We formed our Constitution without any acknowledgement of God.... The Convention, by which it was formed, never asked even once, His direction, or His blessings, upon their labours. Thus we commenced our national existence under the present system, without God.”


The clergy were not happy with the Constitution, because they wanted their particular denominations to be legally preferred over the others. America was definitely losing its willingness to be pulled at the bit by clergy. But America was still religious.

Timothy Dwight was not the Jerry Falwell of his day. He was the Gary North of his day. He criticized the Falwells of his day, not the ACLU of his day (nothing even remotely resembling the ACLU existed at the time the Constitution was ratified.

Read more about religion and the Constitution as it was on September 25, 1789.

The clergy felt that if ecclesiastical organizations weren't propped up by the Constitution, they would fall, and all religion with it. They were wrong. Ecclesiocracy has probably been the greatest impediment to the spread of true religion.

The American Constitution did severe all political ties with religion and the Founding Fathers were quite open about this fact. John Adams said “The United States of America have exhibited, perhaps, the first example of governments erected on the simple principles of nature.” He said it cannot even be pretended that any of the architects of America’s Constitution “had interviews with the gods or were in any degree under the inspiration of Heaven” and “that these governments were contrived merely by the use of reason and the senses.” The United States was thirteen governments “founded on the natural authority of the people alone, without a pretense of miracle or mystery.” Anybody who claims divine inspiration for the Constitution is a wacko. Anybody who denies the influence of Christianity upon the birth of America is equally wacko. John Adams agreed with both of these propositions. To say that the Constitution was not the product of miraculous or mystical inspiration is not to say that it bans religion. Adams wrote to Thomas Jefferson, June 28, 1813:

The general principles, on which the Fathers achieved independence, were the only Principles in which that beautiful Assembly of young Gentlemen could Unite....And what were these general Principles? I answer, the general Principles of Christianity, in which all these Sects were United: . . . Now I will avow, that I then believe, and now believe, that those general Principles of Christianity, are as eternal and immutable, as the Existence and Attributes of God; and that those Principles of Liberty, are as unalterable as human Nature and our terrestrial, mundane System.
Lester J. Capon, ed., The Adams-Jefferson Letters 2 vols. (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1959), 2:339-40

Read more here.

In 1797 the United States Senate unanimously passed a treaty with Tripoli which said: “The government of the United States is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion...” These words do not appear in all copies of the Treaty, and in any case do not mean what secularists say they mean. Study the facts.
These words were echoed by the Ohio high court in 1853 in the case Bloom vs. Richards. The court said, “ ...neither Christianity, nor any other system of religion is part of the law of this state.” As I'm not familiar with the case, a citation would be nice. How the Court could say this is unclear, unless the court was referring to a specific denomination of Christianity. Ohio was admitted to the Union under the terms of the Northwest Ordinance of 1787. The 1802 Ohio Constitution used language from that ordinance and required religion to be taught in its schools. So some religion was part of the laws of that state. An argument that it was not Christianity would require great effort.
President Thomas Jefferson, the author of the Declaration of Independence, dedicated much of his life to diminishing the political power of religion in America.

He was constantly attacked by the clergy of the day and he acknowledged that the Religious Right correctly perceived him as their opponent. “They believe that any portion of power confided to me, will be exerted in opposition to their schemes. And they believe rightly: for I have sworn upon the altar of God, eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man. But this is all they have to fear from me: and enough too in their opinion.”

Paul Johnson says this of Jefferson, “The motto of his seal-ring, chosen by himself, was ‘Rebellion to tyrants is obedience to God.’ Yet he shrank from violence and did not believe God existed.”

Jefferson's eccentric views on religion did not represent the views of the men who signed the Declaration or the Constitution. The Congress which ratified the Declaration also amended it to make it more theistic.

Nevertheless, Jefferson did not try to diminish the political power of religion, only the political power of the clergy. There was a world of difference in Jefferson's mind. Jefferson was a theist. He believed the prosperity of America depended on the practice of true religion. Although based loosely on the teachings of Christ, his religion was not orthodox Christianity. But he clearly did not believe government could be free from the demands of religion. See Gaustad's book, Sworn on the Altar.

The clergy is often my opponent. This does not make me an atheist. The clergy who opposed Jefferson were often stooges for Federalists.

Paul Johnson exaggerates. Jefferson wrote to John Adams: "An atheist ¼ I can never be." (Bergh 15:425. [1823] cited in The Real Thomas Jefferson, p.602.)

The artist John Trumbull recounted in his autobiography an incident which happened at a “freethinking dinner party” at the home of Thomas Jefferson in 1793. According to Trumbull, Sen. Giles of Virginia “proceeded so far at last, as to ridicule the character, conduct and doctrines of the divine founder of our religion — Jefferson, in the mean time, smiling and nodding approbation on Mr. Giles, while the rest of the company silently left me and my defense to our fate; until at length my friend, David Franks, took up the argument on my side.” Trumbull was so upset he “turned to Mr. Jefferson and said, ‘Sir, this is a strange situation in which I find myself; in a country professing Christianity, and at a table with Christians, as supposed, I find my religion and myself attacked with severe and almost irresistible wit and raillery, and not a person to aid in my defense, but my friend Mr. Franks, who is himself a Jew.” Trumbull says his rebuttal did no good, and that Senator Giles said of Christianity: “It is all miserable delusion and priestcraft; I do not believe one word of all they say about a future state of existence, and retribution for actions done here. I do not believe one word of a Supreme Being who takes cognizance of the paltry affairs of this world, and to whom we are responsible for what we do.” Jefferson did not agree with every jot and tittle of the gospel according to Senator Giles. Read more here.









Franklin publicly asserted that God is not a "deist" God, but actively and supernaturally intervenes in the "paltry affairs of this world."

The Rights of Unbelievers

Jefferson was not an anomaly. The other revolutionaries who established America also made the same points. Oliver Ellsworth, who defended the Constitution from its Christian critics argued, “The business of civil government is to protect the citizen in his rights... [it] has no business to meddle with the private opinions of the people. ...Legislatures have no right to set up an inquisition and examine into the private opinions of men.” Ellsworth, was a delegate to the Constitutional Convention, a Congressman and served as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.

Oliver Ellsworth was a Christian slightly to the right of Jerry Falwell.
George Washington, while a member of the Episcopal Church, never revealed himself to be a religious man. His extensive correspondence is devoid of any mention of Jesus Christ. One biographer, Barry Schwartz, had this to say: “George Washington’s practice of Christianity was limited and superficial because he was not himself a Christian...He repeatedly declined the church’s sacraments. Never did he take communion....Even on his deathbed, Washington asked for no ritual, uttered no prayer to Christ, and expressed no wish to be attended by His representative.” Jefferson, in his diary, wrote “Gouverneur Morris had often told me that General Washington believed no more of that system [Christianity] than he did himself.” In his work, George Washington & Religion, Paul Boiler, Jr., notes, “if to believe in the divinity and resurrection of Christ and his atonement for the sins of man and to participate in the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper are requisites for the Christian faith, then Washington, on the evidence which we have examined can hardly be considered a Christian, except in the most nominal sense.”

Secular Humanists are going to have to get used to the idea that Christians can be Christians although attached to no ecclesiastical denomination, or even without adherence to their sacramental doctrines. The "Promise Keepers" movement fills stadiums, not churches. Participating in episcopalian sacraments, part Roman and part Jewish, is not a requisite for Christian faith.

Get the facts about George Washington.

In colonial America, the dividing line between believer and unbeliever wasn’t church attendance but communion. The question of Washington’s participating in church sacraments was the topic of heated debate in early America. A Colonel Mercer solicited information from Bishop White, who pastored Washington’s church. Mercer wrote asking if Washington was a communicant of the church. White wrote back, “...truth requires me to say that Gen. Washington never received the communion in the churches in which I am the parochial minister.” Gary North notes the significance of this: “...Washington... systematically refused to take communion. ...Any church member who refuses to take communion has thereby excommunicated himself. A refusal to take communion or a prohibition against one’s taking communion is what excommunication means.”

The Calvinist Gary North has in the past entertained some remarkably Episcopalian/Roman Catholic views on sacraments. His father in law, R.J. Rushdoony, patriarch of the Christian Reconstruction movement, has very different views on the importance of sacraments. The author of this rebuttal, a fanatic Theocrat, is also a preterist, and does not believe in sacraments at all.

James Madison, the fourth President, after Washington, Adams and Jefferson, also opposed linking Christianity with government. He believed that the First Amendment and disestablishment of religion meant that America had “extinguished forever the ambitious hope of making laws for the human mind.” Madison felt so strongly on the issue that he insisted that a Congressional chaplain would be a violation of the Constitutional separation of church and state. In 1774 Madison wrote William Bradford, Jr.: “Religious bondage shackles and debilitates the mind and unfits it for every noble enterprise, every expanded prospect.” Madison changed his views late in life. At the time the Constitution was being framed, when he had his greatest influence, Madison voted in favor of Congressional Chaplains and denounced legislation which did not advance Christianity.

Madison equated laws which imposed the dictates of clergy as slavery, but not pure Christianity.

The Founding Fathers were far more critical of religion than is expressed in the documents on which this nation were founded. Because separation of church and state was taken seriously by these men they kept public pronouncements on religion to a minimum. A few of the great American revolutionaries, however, were not hindered by political office and thus felt free to express their opinions. Ethan Allen, of Vermont’s famed Green Mountain Boys, published his answer to religion in a book Reason, The Only Oracle of Man. Timothy Dwight called Allen’s book “the first formal publication, in the United States, openly directed against the Christian religion.” G. Adolf Koch in Religion and the American Enlightenment said it was difficult to estimate Allen’s influence but that his “book was read throughout New England.” It is the documents that determine the religious character of the nation, not the secretly-held theological beliefs of a few Founders. And it is a myth of modern liberalism that the Federal Constitution determines the religious character of the Union, rather than those of the several States.

When Ethan Allen fought in the War for Independence, he fought as a Christian in a Christian army.

Most people who read Thomas Paine's Age of Reason disagreed with it.

Religion and Common Sense

Another revolutionary who didn’t hold back his opinions was Thomas Paine who, perhaps more than any single man, was responsible for the American Revolution. It was Paine who authored the stirring pamphlet Common Sense, which aroused the passions of the public and created the popular support for the Revolutionary ideals of Jefferson. Common Sense was the most widely read political treatise in the American Colonies. This one pamphlet sold 500,000 copies in early 1776.

Paine, however, later wrote another book, The Age of Reason, which expressed his views on religion. Paine was quite clear that he did not consider Christianity rational or consistent with nature. While he continued to believe in a God, he did not support religion. He hoped that just as his first book helped create a revolution in government, his second would create a revolution in religion. Paine’s new book also took America by storm. Paine’s biographer, John Keane, notes that demand for The Age of Reason,

Get the facts about Thomas Paine's Age of Reason.

...was even more feverish in America [than in Europe]. Eight American editions appeared in 1794, seven the next year, and two in 1796. In Vermont copies were ‘greedily received,’ and at universities such as Yale and Harvard The Age of Reason caused a sensation. New organizations such as the New York Deistical Society and the Baltimore Theophilanthropic Society sprang up in support of Paineite principles. Thousands of copies of The Age of Reason were sold at auction in Philadelphia for a cent and a half, and as early as 1795 there were reportedly tens of thousands of American followers of ‘Mr. Paine’s Reasonable Age.’

There was no conflict in the minds of most Christians of that day between reason and religion. There was a conflict between reason and priestcraft. Many Christians were opponents of priestcraft for very reasonable reasons. To claim that someone who opposed transubstantiation also favored giving the federal judiciary the power to remove the Ten Commandments from municipal schools is the height of sloppy scholarship. But that is the point of the ACLU. Is it Peron's point as well? Does he believe Janet Reno has the power to enforce politically correct liberal religion on localities?
The most vicious attacks on Paine came from the Federalist forces which had been deposed in Jefferson’s “Revolution of 1800.” Paine, who was in France at the time received an “affectionate” letter from Jefferson which riled the anti-libertarians. The Gazette of the United States, a federalist publication reported, “that the President of the United States had written a very affectionate letter to that living opprobrium of humanity, TOM PAINE, the infamous scavenger of all the filth which could be raked from the dirty paths which have been trodden by all the revilers of Christianity....” Another federalist publication sarcastically called Jefferson “our pious president” and Paine was called a “ loathsome reptile.” The federalist press was furious when Jefferson, ignoring their vitriolic attacks, actually invited Paine to visit him at the White House.

Asking the Federalists for the opinion regarding the religious beliefs of their opponents is like claiming that Algore is a born-again right-winger because of his recent suggestion that the feds should work with religious social service providers.

This is a political war, and does not conclusively reflect on whether America was demographically or legally "a Christian nation."

Professors Isaac Kramnick and R. Laurence Moore, in their excellent study The Godless Constitution correctly understood how the philosophy of the American Revolution carried into all of American life. They wrote: Here is a response to The Godless Constitution

‘That the founders of America sought economic laissez-faire, freeing the economy from state intervention, especially in the wake of a decade of oppressive taxation from London, we know well. We are less familiar with their concern for religious laissez-faire, freeing religious life from state interferences, a concern that paralleled the one that drove Roger Williams.”

We've already learned about Roger Williams.
The principles of natural rights, founded on reason not revelation, required the limitation of government in all spheres. It refused to grant privileges to economic monopolies, social elites, or religious institutions. In each case the marketplace: economic, social or religious, was freed from government manipulation and control. Laissez-faire was a revolutionary principle that was carried into all aspects of American life and the Religious Right didn’t like this one bit. The "Religious Right" back then does not parallel the generally non-denominational Religious Right of today. Newsweek magazine identified the Chalcedon Foundation as the "think tank" of the Religious Right, and that Foundation is a libertarian one, which champions Free Market economics. It is truly a pity that Peron seeks to divide libertarians rather than unite them.

Sunday Mail

Many modern Americans would be surprised that the American Founders were so open in their total dedication to separation of church and state. The Constitution gave the federal government the power to establish a system for the delivery of mail. And from the start the federal government refused to acknowledge any sabbath and mail was delivered, and post offices opened, on Sundays. In 1810 Congress passed legislation requiring that all post offices be open every day for at least one hour and that mail be delivered on Sundays. Over the years crusades were launched to end this practice. These was vigorously opposed. The Indiana legislature said: “There are no doctrines or observances inculcated by the Christian religion which require the arm of civil power either to enforce or sustain them: we consider every connection between church and state at all times dangerous to civil and religious liberty.” Sen. Richard M. Johnson of Kentucky produced his Report on the Subject of Mails on the Sabbath, which said: “The framers of the Constitution recognized the eternal principle that man’s relation with God is above human legislation and his rights of conscience unalienable.” Johnson believed that “the line cannot be too strongly drawn between church and state” and that a law banning Sunday mail service is “legislating upon a religious subject and therefore unconstitutional.” Sen. Johnson, even after taking such a strong stand against honoring the Christian sabbath, was elected as Vice President of the United States in 1836. The battle to end Sunday mail service only fully succeeded in 1912 when Congress banned it.


Many modern libertarians would be surprised that the American Founders were so open in their total dedication to a government sponsored postal system.

It is not surprising that when it came to socialist communications systems, there was also confusion about religion. Observance of Sunday is written into the Constitution itself, and Sunday observances have been codified into law since Europeans got off the boats.

Calvinist Gary North recognizes that the American Revolution overthrew religion in public life. He wrote: “The Preamble of the Constitution and the plebiscite of 1788 established a new covenantal foundation for the American republic. It transferred ultimate sovereignty from God to the People.” For centuries the dominant political ideology was that political power was derived from God and not from the people. The results are well known. That is the reason the Founders purposely and explicitly created a “godless” Constitution. The classical liberals of the day advocated free minds and free bodies. They unshackled man politically, economically and intellectually. Calvinist Gary North believed that Y2k would be the end of Western Civilization, and especially of the Federal Government. He wished. He was also a bit reactionary on the issue of the Constitution.

The Founders continually spoke of the duties men and their governments had to God. Their Constitution did not mandate government-imposed secularism. It would not have been ratified if it did.

Conservative scholar Walter Berns, of the American Enterprise Institute, admits that the Constitution, and thus the American Republic, was not Christian in origin. Quite the opposite, says Berns. He believes that the founders of liberal democracy “were enemies of Revealed religion.” He says:

“The American Founders insisted on a separation of church and state not primarily because they wanted to accommodate the varieties of religious beliefs, but because they held it to be self-evident truth that all men were endowed with the natural rights of life, liberty, and the idiosyncratic pursuit of happiness. In the words of the Declaration of Independence, government is instituted by men (not God) in order ‘to secure these rights,’ and a government so instituted is indeed one founded on ‘genuinely secular moral presuppositions.’ I would go further, the very idea of natural rights is incompatible with Christian doctrine, and by its formulators, was understood to be incompatible. In fact, Thomas Hobbes and John Locke were enemies of all revealed religions.”

“...To repeat: The foundation of this new politics, which we know as liberal democracy, was wholly secular. To what extent its philosophical and political founders (Hobbes, Locke, Spinoza, Montesquie, et alia, and Jefferson, Madison, and Washington, et alia.) expected this new order to have to depend on organized religion to perform a civilizing role in it (to teach morality to its citizens) is a complicated subject I cannot explore here. I must say, however, without any supporting argument, that to a great extent it was expected that the commercial society, built on Lockean principles by way of Adam Smith, was intended to be a substitute for morality....”





The Declaration of Independence does NOT say that government is NOT instituted by God. The Declaration is clearly a theistic document.


The idea that John Locke was an "enemy of revealed religion" is so preposterous that it would cause gales of laughter in any one who was not already saddened by Columbine High and other disasters of modern relativism and secularism. Find out the facts.



The Founders clearly linked Christianity with morality and the preservation of social order. Get the facts.

North concurs:

To put it another way, why were the lawyers in charge of the Convention and the pastors absent? Why were the pamphlet debates of 1787-88 conducted in terms of Roman historical examples and not biblical historical examples? Why was there never any appeal to specific biblical laws, but endless appeals to natural law? Why were the symbols adopted by the Continental Congress, the Convention and the post-War nation systematically non-Christian? Why, if the Constitution is Christian, is the name of Jesus Christ missing?


Peron has cited above a pamphleteer who used a Roman name who was clearly a Falwellite. There were Biblical examples used, and these were used by the Founders who are said to be the most atheistic.

There is only one sensible answer: the US Constitution is not Christian. So complete was America’s abandonment of orthodox Christianity that the mournful Timothy Dwight gave his 1798 book the title The Age of Infidelity. It was truly a tragic mistake for the Founders not to mention Jesus Christ. Had they foreseen the ACLU and schools stripped of religion, they would have changed the Constitution.

From a legal perspective, however, the omission of Christ's name from the Constitution did not give the federal judiciary the power to amend state constitutions where they touched on religion, or the power to remove the Ten Commandments from municipal schools. That such egregious constitutional errors could be made is testimony to the ignorance of the Founders' original intent.

Jim Peron is a South African journalist who was interviewed by Alberto Mingardi in a recent issue of The Laissez Faire City Times. He has recently finished a book entitled Two Masters: the Conflict Between Christianity and Capitalism.


from The Laissez Faire City Times, Vol 4, No 8, February 21, 2000

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  Select Bibliography

Bronner, Edwin B. William Penn's "Holy Experiment": The Founding of Pennsylvania 1681-1701. Philadelphia: Temple UP, 1962

Gaustad, Edwin S., Faith of Our Fathers, Harper & Row, 1987.

See also, Portrait of a "Modal Libertarian" - The Strange Case of Jim Peron by Justin Raimondo.

Christmas Conspiracy


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