Friday, June 20, 2003

Separation of Church and State

It’s amazing to me how adamant people get when talking about religion and this country. In the Christian camp you have a whole bunch of uneducated folks screaming that this country was founded on Christian beliefs and values. In the other camp, you have people armed with the truth.

I have recently been enlightened about some interesting information about this country, our forefathers, and exactly what they thought about the Christian viewpoint.

An interesting thing happens when you read Article 11 of the "Treaty of peace and friendship between the United States of America and the Bey and Subjects of Tripoli, of Barbary”, also known as the “Treaty of Tripoli”. You discover that this document, which began with a signing on 4 November, 1796 (the end of George Washington's last term as president), clearly lays out what the forefathers were thinking when they formed this country.

"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 tranquillity, of Musselmen; and as the said States never have entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mehomitan nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries."

The Senate approved the treaty on June 7, 1797, and officially ratified by the Senate with John Adams signature on 10 June, 1797.

It is also interesting to note, that many of the founding fathers were not Christian, but Deist. A Deist is defined in Webster's Encyclopedic Dictionary, 1941, as: “One who believes in the existence of a God or supreme being but denies revealed religion, basing his belief on the light of nature and reason."

Here are a few quotes from some of those fathers…

Thomas Jefferson, Third president and author of the Declaration of Independence: "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." -- Thomas Jefferson (letter to J. Adams April 11,1823)

James Madison, Fourth president, and father of the Constitution: "Religious bondage shackles and debilitates the mind and unfits it for every noble enterprise."
"During almost fifteen centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial. What have 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."
From: The Madisons by Virginia Moore, P. 43 (1979, McGraw-Hill Co. New York, NY) quoting a letter by JM to William Bradford April 1, 1774, and James Madison, A Biography in his Own Words, edited by Joseph Gardner, p. 93, (1974, Newsweek, New York, NY) Quoting Memorial and Remonstrance against Religious Assessments by JM, June 1785.

Benjamin Franklin, delegate to the Continental Congress and the Constitutional Convention, said: ”As to Jesus of Nazareth, my Opinion of whom you particularly desire, I think the System of Morals and his Religion...has received various corrupting Changes, and I have, with most of the present dissenters in England, some doubts as to his Divinity; tho' it is a question I do not dogmatize upon, having never studied it, and think it needless to busy myself with it now, when I expect soon an opportunity of knowing the Truth with less trouble." He died a month later, and historians consider him, like so many great Americans of his time, to be a Deist, not a Christian.
From: Benjamin Franklin, A Biography in his Own Words, edited by Thomas Fleming, p. 404, (1972, Newsweek, New York, NY) quoting letter by BF to Exra Stiles March 9, 1790.

Thomas Paine was a pamphleteer whose manifestos encouraged the faltering spirits of the country and aided materially in winning the war of Independence:
I do not believe in the creed professed by the Jewish church, by the Roman church, by the Greek church, by the Turkish church, by the Protestant church, nor by any church that I know of...Each of those churches accuse the other of unbelief; and for my own part, I disbelieve them all."
From: The Age of Reason by Thomas Paine, pp. 8,9 (Republished 1984, Prometheus Books, Buffalo, NY)

So just because Christians have managed to add, “In God we trust” to our money, and “One Nation Under God” to our pledge (incidentally, both were added to these items later), this does not mean the country was founded on their teachings, just that they have infiltrated their beliefs into our society.

What this country was founded on was freedom. All men are created equal! Nowhere in the Constitution, which is the supreme governing document of this country, does it say that this country was created for Christians alone!

The next time you get offended about something government is doing, or not doing, that isn’t Christian, ask yourself instead is it allowing for the freedom for others to practice their beliefs? The Constitution, and the separation of church and state, are for the protection of the Christian belief as much as it is there for the protection of all other religions.

As the song says, “This land is your land, this land is my land.” Some of you need to start acting like Americans, instead of zealots!

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