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Did the Founding Fathers (USA) Found the Nation as a Christian Nation?

Recently, due to the Christian (mostly right, some moderate) statements concerning President Obama, his policies, current liberal policies, and former liberal policies, I have decided to list some statistics and quotes concerning the Founding Fathers, especially those who are considered the “great fathers” of the Unites States.

Religious Affliliation:

Religious Affiliation
of U.S. Founding Fathers
# of
% of
Episcopalian/Anglican 88 54.7%
Presbyterian 30 18.6%
Congregationalist 27 16.8%
Quaker 7 4.3%
Dutch Reformed/German Reformed 6 3.7%
Lutheran 5 3.1%
Catholic 3 1.9%
Huguenot 3 1.9%
Unitarian 3 1.9%
Methodist 2 1.2%
Calvinist 1 0.6%
unknown 43 %


Keep in mind, many of these numbers were really Deists – most notably Thomas Jefferson (Episcopal/Anglican) and/Freemasons – most notably George Washington


Thomas Jefferson –

3rd president, Drafted Declaration of Independence, Signer of Constitution, influential on 1st Amendment

“I do not find in orthodox Christianity one redeeming feature.”

“Religions are all alike – founded upon fables and mythologies.”

“Millions of innocent men, women, and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burned, tortured, fined, and imprisoned, yet we have not advanced one inch toward uniformity. What has been the effect of coercion? To make one half of the world fools and the other half hypocrites.” [Notes on Virginia]

“History, I believe, furnishes no example of a priest-ridden people maintaining a free civil government. This marks the lowest grade of ignorance of which their civil as well as religious leaders will always avail themselves for their own purposes” [Letter to von Humboldt, 1813].

“The day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus, by the Supreme Being as His father, in the womb of a virgin will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerva in the brain of Jupiter.” [Letter to John Adams, April 11, 1823]

“In every country and in every age, the priest has been hostile to liberty. He is always in alliance with the despot, abetting his abuses in return for protection to his own” [Letter to H. Spafford, 1814].

“Where the preamble [of the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom] declares, that coercion is a departure from the plan of the holy author of our religion, an amendment was proposed by inserting the words “Jesus Christ,” so that it should read, “A departure from the plan of Jesus Christ, the holy author of our religion;” the insertion was rejected by a great majority, in proof that they meant to comprehend, within the mantle of its protection, the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Mohammedan, the Hindoo and Infidel of every denomination.” [Thomas Jefferson, Autobiography; from George Seldes, ed., The Great Quotations, Secaucus, New Jersey: Citadel Press, 1983, p. 363]

James Madison

4th president, influential in the Constitutional Convention, Proposed the 1st Amendment

“During almost fifteen centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial. What has been its fruits? More or less, in all places, pride and indolence in the clergy; ignorance and servility in the laity; in both, superstition, bigotry, and persecution.”

“In no instance have . . . the churches been guardians of the liberties of the people.”

“Religious bondage shackles and debilitates the mind and unfits it for every noble enterprise.” [April 1, 1774]

Benjamin Franklin

Signer of Declaration of Independence, signer of Constitution

“The way to see by faith is to shut the eye of reason.”
[Poor Richard’s Almanack, 1758]

“Lighthouses are more helpful than churches.”

“He (the Rev. Mr. Whitefield) used, indeed, sometimes to pray for my conversion, but never had the satisfaction of believing that his prayers were heard.” [Franklin’s Autobiography]

George Washington

1st president

After Washington’s death, Dr. Abercrombie, a friend of his, replied to a Dr. Wilson, who had interrogated him about Washington’s religion replied, “Sir, Washington was a Deist.”

In a sermon of October 1831, Episcopalian minister Bird Wilson said, “Among all of our Presidents, from Washington downward, not one was a professor of religion, at least not of more than Unitarianism.”

John Adams

2nd president, Proposed and signed the Treaty of Tripoli

“Have you considered that system of holy lies and pious frauds that has raged and triumphed for 1500 years.”
letter to John Taylor, 1814, quoted by Norman Cousins in In God We Trust: The Religious Beliefs and Ideas of the American Founding Fathers (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1958), p. 106-7, from James A. Haught, ed., 2000 Years of Disbelief

“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.”
letter to Thomas Jefferson, June 20, 1815


Declaration of Independence

(transcript) There are no specific reference to Christianity or Jesus in the Declaration of independence. There are a few references to a ‘Nature’s God’ who is the creator of life, giver of rights and ‘supreme Judge of the world’ but that is rather vague..

“…the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them”

Notice that it specifically describes ‘Natures God’, this is a more generic idea of God, this is god as nature.

“…that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights”

This does describes God as a creator of life and giver of rights but goes no further.

“…appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions”

Here God is the ‘Supreme Judge’.

All three of these examples would fit into nearly any organized religion or idea of god but especially that of Deism and Pantheism due to the lack of specificity.

It is expected that people of the time would speak of a god, there was little to no doubt at that time of God’s existence, but there was plenty of doubt about Christianity among the framers. In order to justify their defiance of the King they had to invoke a higher authority and make the case that they were endowed with the higher power’s blessing.

Articles of Confederation

The Articles of Confederation were the first constitution of the United States. During 17761777. In a sentance stating the date it speaks of ‘our Lord’.

“on the fifteenth day of November in the Year of our Lord…”

This is the only mention of God or Jesus in the Articles and although clearly a Christian practice, it was a common way of writing the date. On March 4, 1789, the new U.S. Constitution took effect, superseding the Articles of Confederation and giving them no legal standing.

The Constitution


The 1787 constitution is a nearly godless document. It mentions neither God, nor Christianity outside of a reference to the date using the Christian calandar. It does however have a provision against requiring specific religious ideas as a qualification for office.

Article VI, Section 3, US Constitution

“…no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.”

Article. VII, US Constitution

“Seventeenth Day of September in the Year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and Eighty seven”

It certainly can be argued that this sentence sets up The United States under ‘our Lord’ Jesus Christ, but when viewed in context it takes on a much lesser importance. The sentence is in the last section of the fourth and final page of the Constitution and was a common way of referencing the Christian calendar. ‘In the year of our Lord’ translated to latin is ‘Anno Domini’ which is commonly abbreviated ‘A.D.’ and is still used to this day by most of the western world when stating the year. It is merely a tradition and holds no religious significance. (more)

First Amendment to the Constitution

If the United States were set up as a Christian Nation would it grant equal rights to all religions?

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press…”

Treaty of Tripoli, article 11

A 1797 treaty between the United States of America and the Bey and Subjects of Tripoli of Barbary, ratified by the US Congress and signed by President John Adams. (more)

“As the government of the United States of America 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…”

Article VI, Section 3 of the Constitution

“…no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.”

First Amendment to the Constitution

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press…”

Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution, Section 1

“… No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

Thomas Jefferson’s interpretation of the first amendment

‘Seperation of Church and State’: a letter to the Danbury Baptist Association (January 1, 1802)

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

In a letter to the Rev. Samuel Miller (Jan. 23, 1808)

“I consider the government of the U.S. as interdicted [forbid] by the Constitution from intermeddling with religious institutions, their doctrines, discipline, or exercises….”

James Madison’s summary of the First Amendment:

“Congress should not establish a religion and enforce the legal observation of it by law, nor compel men to worship God in any manner contrary to their conscience, or that one sect might obtain a pre-eminence, or two combined together, and establish a religion to which they would compel others to conform” (Annals of Congress, Sat Aug. 15th, 1789 pages 730 – 731)

More thoughts from Madison:
“…the number, the industry, and the morality of the priesthood, and the devotion of the people, have been manifestly increased by the total separation of the church from the State” [Letter to Robert Walsh, Mar. 2, 1819]

“Every new and successful example, therefore, of a perfect separation between the ecclesiastical and civil matters, is of importance; and I have no doubt that every new example will succeed, as every past one has done, in showing that religion and Government will both exist in greater purity the less they are mixed together” [Letter to Edward Livingston, July 10, 1822].

U.S. Supreme Court

Hugo Black U.S. Supreme Court Justice
“The establishment of religion clause of the First Amendment means at least this: neither a state nor the Federal Government can set up a church. Neither can pass laws which aid one religion, aid all religions, or prefer one religion over another. Neither can force nor influence a person to go to or remain away from church against his will or force him to profess a belief or disbelief in any religion.”
[Majority opinion Emerson v. Board of Education 330 U.S. 1 (1947)]

“The First Amendment has erected a wall between church and state. That wall must be kept high and impregnable. We could not approve the slightest breach.”
[Emerson v. Board of Education 330 U.S. 1 (1947)]

“We repeat and again reaffirm that neither a state nor the federal government can constitutionally force a person “to profess a belief or disbelief in any religion.” Neither can constitutionally pass laws nor impose requirements which aid all religions as against non-believers, and neither can aid those religions based on a belief in the existence of a God as against those religions founded on different beliefs.”
[Torcaso v. Watkins (1961)]

Warren Burger, Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court:
‘The Lemon Test’,
in the majority opinion in Lemon v. Kurtzman (1971). It Determines if a law is permissible under the establishment clause of the First Amendment.

  • A law must have a secular purpose.
  • It must have a primary effect which neither advances nor inhibits religion.
  • It must avoid excessive entanglement of church and state.


“Christianity is not established by law, and the genius of our institutions requires that the Church and the State should be kept separate….The state confesses its incompetency to judge spiritual matters between men or between man and his maker … spiritual matters are exclusively in the hands of teachers of religion.”
[Melvin v. Easley (1860)]

“First, this Court has decisively settled that the First Amendment’s mandate that ‘Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof’ has been made wholly applicable to the States by the Fourteenth Amendment…. Second, this Court has rejected unequivocally the contention that the Establishment Clause forbids only governmental preference of one religion over another.”
[Justice Tom C. Clark, School District of Abington Township v. Schempp, 374 U.S. 203 (1963)]

“Government in our democracy, state and national, must be neutral in matters of religious theory, doctrine and practice. It may not be hostile to any religion or to the advocacy of nonreligion; and it may not aid, foster, or promote one religion or religious theory against another or even against the militant opposite. The First Amendment mandates governmental neutrality between religion and religion, and between religion and nonreligion.”
[Epperson v. Arkansas, 393 U.S. 97, 103 (1968)]


So, what do you think?

JZ Holloway

10 thoughts on “Did the Founding Fathers (USA) Found the Nation as a Christian Nation?

  1. I do not aim to validate atheists… the Founding Fathers did believe in a higher power… however, the United States was not founded as a Christian nation, that is my point.

    Thanks Padre!


  2. i don’t believe that the founding fathers found America as a Christan nation rather that they founded the nation on the principles of Christianity. They used the morals of Christianity rather then saying there is a god because it would be an oxymoron to say that god does exist but you can believe in whatever.

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