Religion and Morality vs. The Sword

Many theologians believe that society would collapse into "anarchy" and chaos if depraved human beings did not have a strong civil government keeping them from committing criminal misdeeds. America's Founding Fathers created a government of limited powers because they did not put their faith in the State. Should we?

Wallbuilders, headed by David Barton, produces many important studies of the role of Religion in the founding of America We have added some additional quotes to his article in the left-hand column.

John Adams
Signer of the Declaration of Independence and Second President of the United States

[I]t is religion and morality alone which can establish the principles upon which freedom can securely stand. The only foundation of a free constitution is pure virtue.

(Source: John Adams, The Works of John Adams, Second President of the United States, Charles Francis Adams, editor (Boston: Little, Brown, 1854), Vol. IX, p. 401, to Zabdiel Adams on June 21, 1776.)



Many defenders of capitalism and limited government still oppose anarcho-capitalism because they believe the State is necessary to create respect for property, the foundation of a prosperous economy. No matter how strong the State, it cannot create respect for life, liberty, and property without religion and Christian morality.

[W]e have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. . . . Our constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.

(Source: John Adams, The Works of John Adams, Second President of the United States, Charles Francis Adams, editor (Boston: Little, Brown, and Co. 1854), Vol. IX, p. 229, October 11, 1798.)

The Constitution was not designed to create order among a depraved people. It presupposes a pre-existing moral people. It was created because it was believed that even a moral people need federalization to protect themselves from invaders and to regulate commerce. This is a utilitarian or pragmatic justification for limited socialism.

But the more common argument for the State among Christians is a theological one: that without the State, the people will revert to immorality and lawlessness.

No State -- not even that created by the U.S. Constitution -- can prevent "anarchy." Yet the theologians seem agreed that the State is necessary to prevent "anarchy." By putting their trust in institutionalized vengeance, they ignore those institutions which really do create and maintain social order and morality.

all that I had read of History of Government, of human life and manners, I had drawn this Conclusion, that the manners of Women were the most infallible Barometer, to ascertain the degree of Morality and Virtue in a Nation. All that I have since read and all the observations I have made in different Nations, have confirmed me in this opinion. The Manners of Women, are the surest Criterion by which to determine whether a Republican Government is practicable, in a Nation or not. The Jews, the Greeks, the Romans, the Swiss, the Dutch, all lost their public Spirit, their Republican Principles and habits, and their Republican Forms of Government, when they lost the Modesty and Domestic Virtues of their Women. 

The foundations of national Morality must be laid in private Families. In vain are Schools Accademies and universities instituted, if loose Principles and licentious habits are impressed upon Children in their earliest years. The Mothers are the earliest and most important Instructors of youth.... The Vices and Examples of the Parents cannot be concealed from the Children. How is it possible that Children can have any just Sense of the sacred Obligations of Morality or Religion if, from their earliest Infancy, they learn that their Mothers live in habitual Infidelity to their fathers, and their fathers in as constant Infidelity to their Mothers.

Quoted by John Eidsmoe in Christianity and the Constitution, Baker Book House, 1987, p. 272, from Adams, Diary and Autobiography of John Adams, ed. L.H.Butterfield, Belknap/Harvard, 1962, IV:123.


Feminists would criticize Adams as a proponent of "patriarchal" "oppression." Adams acknowledges that it is largely women that hold together a Patriarchal society.

The Superiority of Mothers over Schools

Who Counts the Most Important Things?

A prosperous Free-Market economy can flourish under a "Patriarchy" even in the absence of the institutions of church and state, as long as virtuous mothers train children in Christian morality.

In addition to the State, opponents of anarcho-capitalism stress the importance of institutions such as the Church and School.

Prevention of crime is best accomplished by strengthening families, not prisons. (State schools are largely prisons for pre-criminals.)

Virtue in a State-free society

Morality in a Church-free society

Social Order under Patriarchy

Trusting God rather than the State

The moment the idea is admitted into society, that property is not as sacred as the laws of God, and that there is not a force of law and public justice to protect it, anarchy and tyranny commence. If "Thou shalt not covet," and "Thou shalt not steal," were not commandments of Heaven, they must be made inviolable precepts in every society, before it can be civilized or made free.

(Source: John Adams, The Works of John Adams, Second President of the United States, Charles Francis Adams, editor (Boston: Charles C. Little and James Brown, 1851), Vol. VI, p. 9.)


Secular and conservative defenders of "the Free Market" oppose both anarchism and Theocracy. They agree with the U.S. Supreme Court that government schools should not teach students religion and morality, e.g., that God says not to steal and not to kill. They believe police and prisons are the best way to protect the cultural ideals necessary for the success of the Free Market. They want more socialism to create an orderly free market. They believe giving power to the State is the best way to limit the State. This "Free Market Defense of the State" is thus a position on a collision course with itself.

John Quincy Adams
Sixth President of the United States

The law given from Sinai was a civil and municipal as well as a moral and religious code; it contained many statutes . . . of universal application-laws essential to the existence of men in society, and most of which have been enacted by every nation which ever professed any code of laws.

(Source: John Quincy Adams, Letters of John Quincy Adams, to His Son, on the Bible and Its Teachings (Auburn: James M. Alden, 1850), p. 61.)


America experienced economic prosperity because God's Commandments held sway, not because there was a policeman on every corner.

American Law based on Ten Commandments throughout American History

There are three points of doctrine the belief of which forms the foundation of all morality. The first is the existence of God; the second is the immortality of the human soul; and the third is a future state of rewards and punishments. Suppose it possible for a man to disbelieve either of these three articles of faith and that man will have no conscience, he will have no other law than that of the tiger or the shark. The laws of man may bind him in chains or may put him to death, but they never can make him wise, virtuous, or happy.

(Source: John Quincy Adams, Letters of John Quincy Adams to His Son on the Bible and Its Teachings (Auburn: James M. Alden, 1850), pp. 22-23.)


The State represents "no other law than that of the tiger or the shark." It behaves in a way that would be universally disapproved if committed by a private citizen. Our approval of the State sets a bad example.

But worse still, the State cloaks its acts of vengeance and theft with high-sounding quasi-religious rhetoric, assuring us that its acts of theft and murder are legitimized by "due process." This brings more confusion.

Samuel Adams
Signer of the Declaration of Independence

[N]either the wisest constitution nor the wisest laws will secure the liberty and happiness of a people whose manners are universally corrupt.

(Source: William V. Wells, The Life and Public Service of Samuel Adams (Boston: Little, Brown, & Co., 1865), Vol. I, p. 22, quoting from a political essay by Samuel Adams published in The Public Advertiser, 1749.)

If this is true, is it not also true that a society could enjoy the blessings of liberty and happiness even if there were no constitution and no State, so long as families inculcated "religion, morality and knowledge?"

Charles Carroll of Carrollton
Signer of the Declaration of Independence

Without morals a republic cannot subsist any length of time; they therefore who are decrying the Christian religion, whose morality is so sublime & pure, [and] which denounces against the wicked eternal misery, and [which] insured to the good eternal happiness, are undermining the solid foundation of morals, the best security for the duration of free governments.

(Source: Bernard C. Steiner, The Life and Correspondence of James McHenry (Cleveland: The Burrows Brothers, 1907), p. 475. In a letter from Charles Carroll to James McHenry of November 4, 1800.)



Without the Christian religion there are no morals. Without morals, social order and economic prosperity are impossible. But can there be social morality without the State? Why would immoral voters elect moral statesmen? Why do those politicians who would protect morality need to do so in Washington D.C. rather than through voluntary associations?

Benjamin Franklin
Signer of the Constitution and Declaration of Independence

[O]nly a virtuous people are capable of freedom. As nations become corrupt and vicious, they have more need of masters.

Source: Benjamin Franklin, The Writings of Benjamin Franklin, Jared Sparks, editor (Boston: Tappan, Whittemore and Mason, 1840), Vol. X, p. 297, April 17, 1787.



"Masters" is a clear reference to "the powers that be." "Masters" is a result of corruption, not a cure.

I have lived, Sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth, that God governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without His notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without his aid? We have been assured, Sir, in the Sacred Writings, that "except the Lord build the House, they labor in vain that build it." I firmly believe this; and I also believe that without His concurring aid we shall succeed in this political building no better, than the Builders of Babel: We shall be divided by our partial local interests; our projects will be confounded, and we ourselves shall become a reproach and bye word down to future ages. And what is worse, mankind may hereafter from this unfortunate instance, despair of establishing governments by human wisdom and leave it to chance, war and conquest.

I therefore beg leave to move that henceforth prayers imploring the assistance of Heaven, and its blessings on our deliberations be held in this Assembly every morning before we proceed to business, and that one or more of the clergy of this city be requested to officiate in that service.

(Source: James Madison, The Records of the Federal Convention of 1787, Max Farrand, editor (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1911), Vol. I, pp. 450-452, June 28, 1787.)

* For more details on this quote, click here or here.



Thomas Jefferson
Signer of the Declaration of Independence and Third President of the United States

Give up money, give up fame, give up science, give the earth itself and all it contains rather than do an immoral act. And never suppose that in any possible situation, or under any circumstances, it is best for you to do a dishonorable thing, however slightly so it may appear to you. Whenever you are to do a thing, though it can never be known but to yourself, ask yourself how you would act were all the world looking at you, and act accordingly. Encourage all your virtuous dispositions, and exercise them whenever an opportunity arises, being assured that they will gain strength by exercise, as a limb of the body does, and that exercise will make them habitual. From the practice of the purest virtue, you may be assured you will derive the most sublime comforts in every moment of life, and in the moment of death.

(Source: Thomas Jefferson, The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, Albert Bergh, editor (Washington, D.C.: Thomas Jefferson Memorial Assoc., 1903), Vol. 5, pp. 82-83, in a letter to his nephew Peter Carr on August 19, 1785.)



This is not the message of the State. The message of the State is, "If you do evil to someone, we will do evil to you." In some cases this prevents evil from occurring. But in every case, it commits a greater evil, by denying that the Bible is true when it commands us to overcome evil with good, by leaving vengeance to God, and refraining from rendering evil for evil.


Jefferson is often used by those who oppose Christian morality and defend the State. See more of the unknown Jefferson here.

The doctrines of Jesus are simple, and tend all to the happiness of mankind.

(Source: Thomas Jefferson, The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, Albert Bergh, editor (Washington, D. C.: Thomas Jefferson Memorial Assoc., 1904), Vol. XV, p. 383.)

The secular (and sometimes conservative) Supreme Court will not allow the government to say this. As a result, it thwarts the happiness of mankind. Jefferson's phraseology appeared in the Northwest Ordinance of 1787, which declared that "religion, morality and knowledge" were "necessary for good government and the happiness of mankind." If we abolish vengeance and the systematic confiscation of wealth (the State), can we still guarantee that "religion, morality and knowledge" will flourish? Why not?

I concur with the author in considering the moral precepts of Jesus as more pure, correct, and sublime than those of ancient philosophers.

(Source: Thomas Jefferson, The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, Albert Bergh, editor (Washington, D. C.: Thomas Jefferson Memorial Assoc., 1904), Vol. X, pp. 376-377. In a letter to Edward Dowse on April 19, 1803.)

In his handwritten comments on his copy of a book by the Marquis de Condorcet, Outlines of an Historical View of the Progress of the Human Mind, John Adams wrote:

As much as I love, esteem and admire the Greeks, I believe the Hebrews have done more to enlighten and civilize the world. Moses did more than all their legislators and philosophers. 

When the Hebrews created the State, they rejected God, and instead of civilizing the world, became like it..

Quoted by John Eidsmoe in Christianity and the Constitution, Baker Book House, 1987, p. 280.

Richard Henry Lee
Signer of the Declaration of Independence

It is certainly true that a popular government cannot flourish without virtue in the people.

(Source: Richard Henry Lee, The Letters of Richard Henry Lee, James Curtis Ballagh, editor (New York: The MacMillan Company, 1914), Vol. II, p. 411. In a letter to Colonel Martin Pickett on March 5, 1786.)


Do we lose our virtue by demanding or creating "the State?"

James McHenry
Signer of the Constitution

[P]ublic utility pleads most forcibly for the general distribution of the Holy Scriptures. The doctrine they preach, the obligations they impose, the punishment they threaten, the rewards they promise, the stamp and image of divinity they bear, which produces a conviction of their truths, can alone secure to society, order and peace, and to our courts of justice and constitutions of government, purity, stability and usefulness. In vain, without the Bible, we increase penal laws and draw entrenchments around our institutions. Bibles are strong entrenchments. Where they abound, men cannot pursue wicked courses, and at the same time enjoy quiet conscience.

Source: Bernard C. Steiner, One Hundred and Ten Years of Bible Society Work in Maryland, 1810-1920 (Maryland Bible Society, 1921), p. 14.



Has the State been the greatest force in the propagation of the Bible? Is it the State's duty to do so? If we all fulfilled this duty and propagated the Bible in our station in life, would we need the State?

Unbelievers without the State

Jedediah Morse
Patriot and "Father of American Geography"

To the kindly influence of Christianity we owe that degree of civil freedom, and political and social happiness which mankind now enjoys. . . . Whenever the pillars of Christianity shall be overthrown, our present republican forms of government, and all blessings which flow from them, must fall with them.

(Source: Jedediah Morse, Election Sermon given at Charleston, MA, on April 25, 1799.)



 . . . not "to the kindly influence of the State."

William Penn
Founder of Pennsylvania

[I]t is impossible that any people of government should ever prosper, where men render not unto God, that which is God's, as well as to Caesar, that which is Caesar's.

(Source: Fundamental Constitutions of Pennsylvania, 1682. Written by William Penn, founder of the colony of Pennsylvania.)



The Need to Render Unto Caesar: A Mark of God's Judgment.

Pennsylvania Supreme Court

No free government now exists in the world, unless where Christianity is acknowledged, and is the religion of the country.

(Source: Pennsylvania Supreme Court, 1824. Updegraph v. Commonwealth; 11 Serg. & R. 393, 406 (Sup.Ct. Penn. 1824).)


The Founding Fathers clearly believed that the more moral and Christian a people were, the less they would be subject to politicians. Where does this relationship end? Why must we always have some politicians? Why should we work to increase their number, or work against those who are working to decrease their number? Why would anyone invest any time or effort to preserve the State rather than increasing religion and morality?

Benjamin Rush
Signer of the Declaration of Independence

The only foundation for a useful education in a republic is to be laid in religion. Without this there can be no virtue, and without virtue there can be no liberty, and liberty is the object and life of all republican governments.

(Source: Benjamin Rush, Essays, Literary, Moral and Philosophical (Philadelphia: Thomas and William Bradford, 1806), p. 8.)



The Founding Fathers and the Bible in Public Schools

We profess to be republicans, and yet we neglect the only means of establishing and perpetuating our republican forms of government, that is, the universal education of our youth in the principles of Christianity by the means of the Bible. For this Divine Book, above all others, favors that equality among mankind, that respect for just laws, and those sober and frugal virtues, which constitute the soul of republicanism.

(Source: Benjamin Rush, Essays, Literary, Moral and Philosophical (Philadelphia: Printed by Thomas and William Bradford, 1806), pp. 93-94.)


Propagation of the Bible, not the State, is the foundation of a free and prosperous economy. A Free Market cannot function without Christian morality. It can function without politicians.

By renouncing the Bible, philosophers swing from their moorings upon all moral subjects. . . . It is the only correct map of the human heart that ever has been published. . . . All systems of religion, morals, and government not founded upon it [the Bible] must perish, and how consoling the thought, it will not only survive the wreck of these systems but the world itself. "The Gates of Hell shall not prevail against it." [Matthew 16:18]

(Source: Benjamin Rush, Letters of Benjamin Rush, L. H. Butterfield, editor (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1951), p. 936, to John Adams, January 23, 1807.)


The Gates of Hell will not prevail against God's Truth. Criminals are no match for the power of "religion, morality and knowledge." Some interpret this passage as a defense of the Institutional Church. But the Church has often been the greatest impediment to the global propagation of God's Word. The Institutional Church is no more a sine qua non for a prosperous free economy than the Institutional State.

The Church against Global Christocracy

Remember that national crimes require national punishments, and without declaring what punishment awaits this evil, you may venture to assure them that it cannot pass with impunity, unless God shall cease to be just or merciful.

(Source: Benjamin Rush, An Address to the Inhabitants of the British Settlements in America Upon Slave-Keeping (Boston: John Boyles, 1773), p. 30.)


The Founding Fathers' doctrine of Providence

Anarcho-Capitalism, Providence, and "National Security"

George Washington
"Father of His Country"

While just government protects all in their religious rights, true religion affords to government its surest support.

(Source: George Washington, The Writings of George Washington, John C. Fitzpatrick, editor (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1932), Vol. XXX, p. 432 n., from his address to the Synod of the Dutch Reformed Church in North America, October 9, 1789.)


The State is a threat to, not a protector of, religious liberty. Governments can exploit religion to buttress their own power, but ultimately true religion will move society into anarcho-capitalism

Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of man and citizens. The mere politician, equally with the pious man, ought to respect and to cherish them. A volume could not trace all their connexions with private and public felicity. Let it simply be asked, Where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths, which are the instruments of investigation in Courts of Justice?

And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle. It is substantially true, that virtue or morality is a necessary spring of popular government. The rule, indeed, extends with more or less force to every species of free government. Who, that is a sincere friend to it, can look with indifference upon attempts to shake the foundation of the fabric?

(Source: George Washington, Address of George Washington, President of the United States . . . Preparatory to His Declination (Baltimore: George and Henry S. Keatinge), pp. 22-23. In his Farewell Address to the United States in 1796.)


Most of those capitalists who oppose anarcho-capitalism believe the State is the indispensable support for the Free Market. This point needs proof. What needs no proof is that a Free Market needs "religion, morality and knowledge." These can all be provided for without "the State."


Religion has deserted our oaths.


Many of the strongest opponents of anarcho-capitalism are atheists, secularists, and "Objectivists" who indulge without caution the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Such people have abandoned reason in an irrational quest for autonomy which ironically leads them to support a State which inevitably evolves into socialism.

[T]he [federal] government . . . can never be in danger of degenerating into a monarchy, an oligarchy, an aristocracy, or any other despotic or oppressive form so long as there shall remain any virtue in the body of the people.

(Source: George Washington, The Writings of George Washington, John C. Fitzpatrick, editor (Washington: U. S. Government Printing Office, 1939), Vol. XXIX, p. 410. In a letter to Marquis De Lafayette, February 7, 1788.)

* For the full text of Geo. Washington's Farewell Address, click here.


But virtue will not long remain in the body of the people when the people agree to take vengeance on their enemies and finance this vengeance by confiscating the wealth of others by force. They have abandoned a commitment to pure virtue, and have embarked on the road to serfdom and totalitarianism.

Daniel Webster
Early American Jurist and Senator

[I]f we and our posterity reject religious instruction and authority, violate the rules of eternal justice, trifle with the injunctions of morality, and recklessly destroy the political constitution which holds us together, no man can tell how sudden a catastrophe may overwhelm us that shall bury all our glory in profound obscurity.

(Source: Daniel Webster, The Writings and Speeches of Daniel Webster (Boston: Little, Brown, & Company, 1903), Vol. XIII, p. 492. From "The Dignity and Importance of History," February 23, 1852.)



Catastrophes are not accidental or random, they are Providential. They are meted out by a Sovereign God against a rebellious people who will not live faithfully by adopting anarcho-capitalism.

Noah Webster
Founding Educator

The most perfect maxims and examples for regulating your social conduct and domestic economy, as well as the best rules of morality and religion, are to be found in the Bible. . . . The moral principles and precepts found in the scriptures ought to form the basis of all our civil constitutions and laws. These principles and precepts have truth, immutable truth, for their foundation. . . . All the evils which men suffer from vice, crime, ambition, injustice, oppression, slavery and war, proceed from their despising or neglecting the precepts contained in the Bible. . . . For instruction then in social, religious and civil duties resort to the scriptures for the best precepts.

(Source: Noah Webster, History of the United States, "Advice to the Young" (New Haven: Durrie & Peck, 1832), pp. 338-340, par. 51, 53, 56.)





Where is the moral principle or precept found in the Scriptures which mandates the formation of institutions which confiscate wealth by force and take vengeance on enemies?

James Wilson
Signer of the Constitution

Far from being rivals or enemies, religion and law are twin sisters, friends, and mutual assistants. Indeed, these two sciences run into each other. The divine law, as discovered by reason and the moral sense, forms an essential part of both.

(Source: James Wilson, The Works of the Honourable James Wilson (Philadelphia: Bronson and Chauncey, 1804), Vol. I, p. 106.)




Robert Winthrop
Former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives

Men, in a word, must necessarily be controlled either by a power within them or by a power without them; either by the Word of God or by the strong arm of man; either by the Bible or by the bayonet.

(Source: Robert Winthrop, Addresses and Speeches on Various Occasions (Boston: Little, Brown & Co., 1852), p. 172 from his "Either by the Bible or the Bayonet.")





James Madison
"Father of the Constitution"

Is there no virtue among us? If there be not, we are in a wretched situation. No theoretical checks, no form of government, can render us secure. To suppose that any form of government will secure liberty or happiness without any virtue in the people, is a chimerical idea. If there be sufficient virtue and intelligence in the community, it will be exercised in the selection of these men; so that we do not depend on their virtue, or put confidence in our rulers, but in the people who are to choose them.



How is virtue nurtured in a society? Fill in the blank:

"Religion, morality, and knowledge, being necessary for good government and the happiness of mankind, _________ shall forever be encouraged."
Northwest Ordinance of 1787

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More in Part Two

Christmas Conspiracy


Vine & Fig Tree

Paradigm Shift


End The Wall of Separation
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