Dear Military Religious Freedom Foundation,
Since Mikey is too much of a coward to list his email address I will send this to you. You can forward if you want.
Your motto says it all about your beliefs and your lack of historical knowledge. Mikey’s argument against Christianity in the military is ridiculous. Your argument pushes your religion and your god on people while excluding all others. As your motto says, your god is the constitution. You do this while attempting to exclude all other religions. That certainly smacks of intolerance. Your blindness and lack of historical knowledge is heartbreaking. However, your arrogance is disgusting.
I hope that your religion brings you peace. However, I do not see how it ever can. Maybe your ignorance will.
(name withheld), military veteran
Mikey has read your email and has asked me, as a Christian volunteer for MRFF, to respond on his and MRFF’s behalf. Mikey is required to do this due to time constraints, not out of cowardice. However, Mikey and I agree on the importance of responding to all intellectually yapping ankle biters, no matter how many we may have to deal with.
Thank you for your service to our nation. It is, and always will be, greatly valued and appreciated. Although I have no military experience, I am very proud to work with many retired and active duty military members at MRFF who have a very different perspective on what they were, are, and will be fighting for. Although I will always respect your military service, I will not respect the flippant attitude you display towards the oath you took upon entering U.S. Military Service. By enlisting in the U.S. Military you swore an oath to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States”.
The ignorance contained in your diatribe is simply stunning. You rant about a lack of “historical knowledge” yet fail to provide one specific example. You accuse Mikey and MRFF of pushing a ‘god’ on people. This is simply a bald-faced lie that you have made no effort to either specify or prove. However very convenient and disingenuous of you.
You complain about Mikey’s motto:
When one proudly dons a U.S. Military uniform, there is only one religious symbol: the American flag. There is only one religious scripture: the American Constitution. Finally, there is only one religious faith: American patriotism. ~ Mikey Weinstein
…yet you display absolutely no familiarity with the definition of common English words. I’ll attempt to educate you by referring to a basic research tool known as the Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Possibly you’ve heard of this reference tool.
1. a : the state of a religious <a nun in her 20th year of religion> b (1) : the service and worship of God or the supernatural (2): commitment or devotion to religious faith or observance
2: a personal set or institutionalized system of religious attitudes, beliefs, and practices
3 archaic : scrupulous conformity : conscientiousness
4: a cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith
1: relating to or manifesting faithful devotion to an acknowledged ultimate reality or deity <a religious person><religious attitudes>
2: of, relating to, or devoted to religious beliefs or observances<joined a religious order>
3 a : scrupulously and conscientiously faithful b : fervent, zealous
Whether your self-gratifying rant was based on your myopic views or simple ignorance is beside the point actually. What is the point here is your willingness to so easily disregard the actual meaning of words as well as your oath of enlistment. Mikey developed a motto that may have gotten under your skin, but never lacked the courage to stand up for his oath of enlistment.
I defend both my Christian faith and my Constitution proudly and equally. I don’t feel the need to defend one at the expense of the other. This is what brings me peace and I invite you to join me rather than seeking the unsatisfying peace of willful ignorance.
Dear (name withheld),
First, thanks for your service to this nation, and for defending our Constitution.
Thanks also for sharing your concerns. We will do our best to address them as objectively as possible.
I will attempt to answer your questions. First, however, please let me give you some background by way of introduction, and some information on the MRFF to clear up some possible misconceptions.
Far from being a “coward” Mr. Weinstein reads all Es and letters personally, and tries to answer as many letters as possible, but is of course quite busy handling cases and running the MRFF. He did read your E personally and asked me to respond on his behalf.
I would like to add that from my personal standpoint, Mr. Weinstein is one of the bravest men I know. He gave up an extremely lucrative career in corporate law (his last post was with H. Ross Perot), and has spent all of his own considerable fortune and mortgaged his worldly goods, and daily risks his own and his family’s personal safety to pursue a very dangerous, exhausting, and apparently endless struggle to preserve the Constitutional mandates of no establishment of religion and freedom of conscience for all — not just the majority. (More on this later.)
Most of the MRFF’s 28,000-plus clients and volunteers are veterans. They often come from multi-generational service families, and include active, reserve, and retired, from all branches of the US Armed Forces, holding ranks from enlisted through flag officer, with MOSs in all fields, including combat arms, representing eras from WW II, Korea, Viet Nam, on through Gulf I, and the present GWOT.
MRFF members’ awards and decorations are numerous, and include the Purple Heart, the Bronze Star w/ V, the Silver Star, the Army, Navy, and AF Crosses, and one Medal of Honor.
For example, my own family has a long history of US service, which includes 5 generations of Marines, as well as other branches. My thrice-great grandfather fought in the Revolution and my great-grandfather fought in the Civil War (66th OVI). We also had representatives in WW I, WW II, Korea, Vietnam, Gulf I and the GWOT, as well as the smaller wars and conflicts.
My own service included close personal ground combat in several of the major operations in Vietnam in 1967 and 1968, including Operation Scotland (Khe Sanh), before, during, and after the Tet 1968 assault and the Siege, and in the Hue-Phu Bai area both before and after Tet 1968 on several of the operations there.
I later lost a limb which unfortunately ended my active career, but I subsequently went on to teach in the USMC JROTC program for several years, before using my GI Bill to attain a BA in history and later a Master’s degree and teaching credential in Social Studies, after which I taught K-12 and Adult education in a variety of public and private schools, including at-risk inner city schools, as well as neglected and abused children, Juvenile Hall, and incarcerated adults.
Mr. Weinstein is also a veteran, being an Honor Graduate of the USAF Academy, and served for 10 years a JAG officer, including service in the Reagan White House as a Special Counsel. His family has over three generations of service that include distinguished service academy graduates, and members of the US Armed Forces. His nephew (a Christian) is a GYSGT in the USMC in a Combat Arms MOS, who recently returned from another tour in the Sand Box. He is also a member of and supporter of the MRFF.
I think you might therefore agree that we are very familiar with the nature of the military services.
We are also very familiar with the Constitution, which is the focus of our mission. The MRFF supports the Constitutionally and legally mandated requirement that there will be no established religion (i.e. no official state religion), and no religious test for office, as clearly intended by the Founders both in their words and documents, and as supported by subsequent decisions of US courts through the Supreme Court.
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof . . . ” (1st Amendment)
“. . . no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.” (Article VI, Section III)
The MRFF is committed to ensuring that this boundary between church and state is maintained, and that the Constitutional rights to freedom of conscience for all Americans (particularly our servicemen and women) are not violated, and that they are not subjected to unwanted proselytization by any religious group whatsoever.
MRFF’s Position on Faith
Neither Mr. Weinstein nor the MRFF are “for” or “against” Christianity, Islam, Judaism, or any other religion. On the contrary, as the name implies, the MRFF supports religious freedom and pluralism for service personnel of all faiths (or none), in accordance with the US Constitution and public law. Our founder, members, and supporters include people of many different faiths and belief systems, as well as free-thinkers and skeptics.
Mr. Weinstein, the founder of the MRFF, is of Jewish heritage, and his family circle of blended faiths includes observant Christians.
The MRFF staff is approximately 75% Christian (mainly Protestant, followed by Catholics), 15% Jewish, and 10% other.
While we have many people of faith among us, we are (like the US itself) secular in nature, and we defend all US service personnel of whatever faith (or none) against violations of their Constitutional rights to freedom of conscience.
Who MRFF Represents, and Why
All MRFF cases are filed because of complaints brought by active duty, reserve, or retired service personnel or employees of DoD or other military agencies.
96% of the over 28,000 MRFF cases were brought on behalf of professing Christians, (mainly Protestants), followed by Catholics (including Roman and Eastern Orthodox).
The 4% balance of cases includes Jews, Muslims, Hindus, and Sikhs, as well as Pagans (and at least one “Jedi Knight”), as well as some atheists, agnostics, and other free-thinkers.
The great preponderance of our cases involve abuses of authority and violations of the Constitutional guarantees of freedom of conscience by a specific sub-set of aggressive radicals who style themselves “Christians” and who are becoming increasingly entrenched and powerful in the military in all braches and MOSs at ranks up to and including flag officer ranks. They are known by a number of names, but we use the generic term of one of the main branches (“Dominionists”) for convenience. I attach some specifics re: Dominionism below.
In some recent cases, we opposed the placing of US Armed forces, DoD, or Pentagon crest (or that of any other branch of the military or government), which is a CLEAR violation of the First Amendment, in that it wrongly implies government or military sponsorship of religion. US law and judicial decisions have expressly forbade any such show of “favoritism, preference, or elevation of any religion.”
I am not sure from your letter what specific concerns if any, you had, but in cases such as the recent Armed Forces Crests on Bibles, they were in violation of both the US Constitution (which explicitly forbids the establishment of ANY religion — Mr. Weinstein’s, mine, yours, or anyone else’s), and of public law, specifically (as our colleague, SGT Chalker so ably put it):
> “The Defense Department and Military Seals are protected by law and reserved for official use only. Under U.S. Code Title 18, Section 506, unauthorized use of the Seals may include, but is not limited to commercial, marketing, advertising or promotion use by any non-government entity and is punishable.”
> Here is the law: http://trac.syr.edu/laws/18/18USC00506.html
> It was illegal for this company to use the service seals to market their Bibles. They can still sell Bibles and you can buy as many of them as you like. Nobody is threatening your religious freedom by removing the official seal. An official seal implies official endorsement, and the Constitution prohibits government establishment of religion. That means they can’t create a state church or show favoritism to some beliefs over others. Allowing these Bible manufacturers to break the law was an unconstitutional endorsement of your belief over the beliefs of other people. You have every right to believe what you want, but you most certainly do NOT have the right to have government endorsement of your belief over others.
As noted, over 28,000 cases in the last 7 years of service members (mainly Christian) whose religious freedoms were being abused, mainly by members of the group known for convenience as Dominionists. (See above and below for details.)
To us that indicates a clear problem, and the growing number of cases represents a problem that is on the rise.
As to our supposed lack of understanding of history, on the contrary, we are very well versed in history indeed. (In fact, my BA was in history.) I attach some information on the history of the US Constitution and the words of the principal Framers to illustrate their obvious “original intent” in the matter of religion. (See below.)
I hope that this information will help you to better understand the nature of the MRFF and the nature of the struggle we are waging against a large and growing enemy with deep pockets and strong political and economic backing, and who constitute a far greater and more urgent threat to the Republic than a handful of rag-tag radical Islamic fundamentalists either here or elsewhere.
Again, thanks for writing us with your concerns.
I remain, sir,
F. J. Taylor
To support the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, or to learn more about their efforts on behalf of United States military personnel, go to:
It would be tedious and lengthy in the extreme to detail the twisted eschatology of the people we are dealing with, so we refer to them by a name used by a number of others to refer to them –“Dominionists”
Unfortunately, there is not one simple term that covers them and their beliefs, so we sometimes also use the term “radical” and / or “extremist” fundamentalist to describe them. They also describe themselves as “fundamentalists.” Suffice to say that one writer has coined the term “American Taliban” to describe them, and essentially that is what they are — a “Christian” version of the Taliban, with a radical agenda that includes the take-over of the US from within, and the establishment of a harsh “Old Testament” version of Sharia-like religious law that would make an extremist Islamic fundamentalist mullah green with envy.
In violation of the Constitution, public law, and the Uniform Code of Military Justice, Dominionists (a radical and militant subset of evangelical Christianity) aggressively seek converts. Failing persuasion, they harass, bully, and attempt to intimidate under color of authority service members under their command or control, in order to attempt to proselytize even service members who have expressed their unwillingness.
When in command positions, they use tactics ranging from denying choice assignments and promotions to those they don’t consider Christian or “Christian enough” to giving poor performance reviews, and difficult, dirty, and dangerous tasks – including potentially deadly tasks in combat. (One of our clients was assigned as “permanent point” in a combat unit!)
They have advocated in both words and writing the overthrow or “replacement” of the Republic and Constitution (“by ballot or by bullet”), and replacing them with an Old Testament style theocracy, complete with “Biblical” Sharia-like laws, complete with public executions by stoning, sword, or other “Biblical” methods, with mandatory attendance and participation by the whole community – including children.
Anyone not considered not “Christian enough” by these people if they gain power will be forced to either convert to or accept their warped version of Christianity – or die. They have been correctly described as “American Taliban.”
Some people might consider this some sort of tin-hat conspiracy theory, or that they are just far-right fringe loonies without a hope of acheiving power, bu t these people have been operating “under the radar” for years, and are now firmly entrenched in every branch and MOS of our armed forces and government, at every level – and are getting bolder by the day.
Let’s examine the words of the individuals who founded the movement, such as the late Rousas John Rushdoony who wrote that they intend to “…lead them (non-believers) to Jesus – in chains, if necessary.”
Rushdoony also wrote that democracy is “heresy” and that Christians must remember that “a monarchy (referring to “God’s kingdom on earth”) is not a democracy.” and “Democracy is the great love of the failures and cowards of life.”
Rushdoony listed eighteen capital “crimes” including blasphemy, witchcraft, astrology, adultery, incorrigible delinquency, homosexuality, promiscuity or unchastity before marriage, wearing a red dress (for women – though one must suppose these people would apply it to men too), and failure to keep a kosher kitchen.
Punishment for non-capital crimes would include whipping and indentured servitude or slavery (including for debt), and prisons would become temporary holding tanks while prisoners awai ted sentencing. Women and children would again become chattel property of men.
Rushdoony and other Dominionists have been aptly described elsewhere as “the American Taliban” as noted above. This is true in more ways than just their morbid interest in cruel and unusual punishment. They are extremely retrogressive socially and politically, and share many more beliefs in common with the Islamic fundamentalists than they do with the average American.
Perhaps one reason they hate the Islamist fascists is that they have so much in common with them — battles between kindred are always the worst. One can only hope that they never recognize their true kinship, lest they join forces in a truly unholy alliance.
Rushdoony’s Chalcedon Foundation also helped establish The Rutherford Institute, a legal organization to promote their agenda through the very courts they plan to supersede once in power, so although Rushdoony died, his organization and legacy of theocracy lives on.
Gary North, Rushdoony’s son-in-law, espouses (publicly) a slightly less draconian version, stating, “I don’t want to kill homosexuals–I would be happy just driving them back into the closet.” However, he also espouses stoning for blasphemers and those who curse their parents, and has stated that public stoning of “malefactors” would be “a great way to bring communities together.”
A stunning example of their theology (and ultimate plans for everyone not of their belief) is the statement of US Army chaplain MAJ James Linzey, who, in a 1999 video, described mainstream Protestant churches as “demonic, dastardly creatures from the pit of hell ” that should be “stomped out.”
The Council of Full Gospel Churches (Linzey’s accrediting agency founded by retired Army COL Ammerman) not only didn’t pull his accreditation, but supported this egregious violation of his mission and orders as a military chaplain, and of his oath as an officer.(Of course, Ammerman is as bad or worse.)
The CFGC, COL Ammerman, MAJ Linzey, and their cohorts have also denigrated Judaism and Catholicism, as well as mainstream Protestant churches.
COL Ammerman and MAJ Linzey have also spread conspiracy theories about “Satanic forces” in the U.S. government for years aiding a military takeover aided by unnamed “foreign” (presumably UN) troops.
In 2008, COL Ammerman said that four presidential candidates (US Senators Obama, Clinton, Biden and Dodd) should be hanged for treason – for not voting to designate English as America’s official language. He also stated that President Obama would be assassinated as a “secret Muslim.” (In the late 1990s, he had also called for the execution of then-president Clinton for treason.)
CFGC and its chaplains have repeatedly and egregiously violated the Constitution and the laws and regulations regarding chaplaincies, including those on interfaith cooperation, bans on membership in&n bsp;organizations with religious or racial supremacist principles, especially those espousing violence, and that active military personnel cannot make disloyal or contemptuous statements about officials.
This problem, as stated, is very wide-spread and deeply entrenched, not only in the military but in many areas of government and indeed, other nations.
These people are very clever, subtle, well-organized, and well-funded. They are gaining ground in many areas – including the military and the Service Academies.
These people are our main opponents, and regular violators of the very Constitution which guarantees them freedom of religion and pluralism, which they call upon to defend themselve s as they attack and undermine the very principles which allow them to exist and operate.
While we accept their right to believe as they please, within the framework of the Constitution and public law, we balk at allowing them to proselytize unwilling service personnel under their command “under color of authority” and to undermine and work to destroy the Constitution that many of our members (most of whom are former or serving members of the US Armed Forces), swore to “uphold and defend.”
The Dominionists and their allied sects are committing egregious assaults on the Constitution and on the rights of servicemen and women daily. We expose to the clear light of day their violations, as well as those of any other individuals or groups who attempt the same. Unfortunat ely, this group constitutes the bulk of the complaints we receive.
Mr. Weinstein determined that this movement, far from being a few relatively harmless religious lunatics, had developed into a highly dangerous and credible threat to the Constitution and to the Republic itself. He determined that there was no way he could stand aside and let them continue their rise to power. He left his employment, and founded MRFF, using all his own money and mortgaging his possessions, borrowing from friends, family and anyone he could convince of the need to battle this threat. He quite literally has wagered his “life, fortune, and sacred honor” to defend the Constitution he swore (like all of us who have served) to “uphold and defend against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” That is why he (and we) belong, and do what we do. In return, we are demonized, vilified, and daily threatened with death and violence to ourselves and our families.
Perhaps he doesn’t always use the right choice of words, and he freely admits it. I myself have advised him many times to tone down the rhetoric. However, as I said, he faces death threats on a daily basis, and runs the MRFF on a shoe-string, despite a fast-growing client base. It is his baby, and I cannot tell him what to do or how to do it — even if I had accepted his original invitation to join the advisory board.
FYI, some Online sources of information on Dominionism:
Pat Robertson’s “The Secret Kingdom” outlines his own plans for a theocracy.
Influences in the Foundation of the United States
There have been many conflicting statements from various parts of the political spectrum over the years regarding the foundation of the United States of (North) America, and of the nature of its government and the intentions of its principal founders (in this context meaning the colonial revolutionaries of mainly European origin, as opposed to the pre-European inhabitants) in establishing the nation and its Constitution, particularly as concerns the influence of religion in these matters.
These latter Americans hailed from a number of nations, and spoke a diversity of languages, including Spanish, Swedish, Dutch, German, Polish, and Celtic languages (including Gaelic, Welsh, Cornish, and Manx), and a wealth of others. Some persisted in using these languages until quite recently, and some, like the Pennsylvania “Dutch” (actually “Deutsch” – Germans) still do use their native tongues as their primary language.
It is indisputable that many of these people were at least nominally Christians of one sect or another, albeit often quite far apart in beliefs, many of which had waged brutal and bloody religious wars against one another in Europe. (It is also instructive to note that many of the Founders would have been considered “heretics” by Nicene standards — and likewise by the Dominionists that the MRFF opposes.)
It is likewise indisputable that there were also people of Jewish heritage among them. (i.e., Haym Solomon, a Polish Jew of Spanish and Portuguese Sephardic stock, who was among the prime financiers of the Revolution. (It may also surprise some to learn that there were also Muslims among the Revolutionaries.)
So from our very beginning, we were a diverse nation.
But what of the claims for religious antecedents for our form of government?
The USA as a nation (as opposed to its constituent pre-Constitution colonies) was founded as a constitutional republic with democratically elected representatives.
Both these concepts are derived from Greco-Roman political constructs that predated Christianity by centuries. Democracy is borrowed from Greek roots (“dimo kratia” — rule of the people), which blossomed among the (pagan) Greeks, c. 508 BC. The concept of the constitutional republic originates with Aristotle (c. 384 BC – 322 BC, and also a pagan Greek) who contrasts republican government with both pure democracy and oligarchy in book 3, chapter 6 of his “Politics.”
In his concept, the polity would be ruled by elements from both segments in society (the oligarchs and the lower classes) in the best interests of the country as a whole. Indeed, the entire growth, flowering, and height of both the Greek and Roman cultures took place at a time when both groups were pagan.
Christianity, on the other hand, is a spin-off of Judaism, which for much of its existence was essentially a theocractic-based monarchy, ruled by a class of priest-kings (such as David and Solomon), supposedly under the over-arching rule of Yahweh (“God the Father” in Trinitarian Christian theology).
However, neither the Jewish nor the later Christian religions embraced or encouraged either democracy or republican forms of government until relatively modern times, and did little or nothing to advance such ideas, which they by and large considered pernicious. Instead, they supported whichever form of government (generally monarchy) which in turn supported and established them, and as noted above, these establishments invariably engendered bloody, brutal, and vicious religious wars over a period of centuries.
The modern version of our republican form of democracy was part of a broad new flowering of thought among the intellectual elite of European philosophers from about the middle of the 17th century to the early 19th century known as the “Age of Enlightenment” (sometimes included with its early 17th century predecessor, the “Age of Reason”). Its principles were based on reason and intellect instead of illogic, irrationality, and superstition, and sought to replace both the aristocracy and established churches, which were viewed by them as reactionary and oppressive. Many of these philosophers were not religious at all, or Deists at best.
In America, many of the men who became the Founders were followers of, and indeed participants in, the Enlightenment movement. Though most were as mentioned above, born and raised as at least nominal Christians of one sect or another, our seminal thinkers, who were among the most influential and important Founders, and the main crafters of our form of government (such as Jefferson, Madison, Franklin, Paine, among others) were Deists at best, eschewing the “miraculous” elements of religion.
Many (including Washington) were Masons, who, while publicly announcing belief in a higher power, were definitely not mainstream Christians in the modern sense. (In fact, it is extremely doubtful that any of these gentlemen would pass the modern “litmus test” for “true believers” — and I would surmise that were they in the services today, they might well be MRFF clients.)
They had seen the evils generated by the various “established” churches of Europe and elsewhere – which was one of the main reasons that the US was created as a secular nation with NO established religion. (More on this later.)
Of course, their pubic pronouncements often reflected or catered to more mainstream religious beliefs. As Seneca the Younger wrote; “Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers useful.” (That is as true of the ruling classes now as when it was written. Modern politics are rife with pious, sanctimonious hypocrites who use religion as a useful tool, while not really believing in it themselves.)
However, one thing was crystal clear from the beginning – the Founders had NO intention of establishing a Christian state religion – or ANY state religion, which even many preachers of the era were opposed to, given that the establishment of one sect over another would limit their own freedom to proselytize and preach as they saw fit.
I mentioned the beliefs of the principal Founders above. Let’s see what they themselves had to say on the issue of religion;
John Adams, the first Vice President and second President, was certainly an influential Founder. However, he was not a fundamentalist by any stretch of the imagination.
He was an elitist, and firmly believed that religion was necessary to keep the Great Unwashed in check, as other members of the ruling classes have done since time immemorial. (There may be some truth in that idea, but that is another discussion.)
Adams was raised a strict Congregationalist (descended from the Puritans), and his father wished him to become a minister, but he preferred to study law. He wrote back to his father saying that he found among the lawyers “noble and gallant achievements” but among the clergy, the “pretended sanctity of some absolute dunces.” (While I personally agree on his stinging assessment of the clergy, I haven’t as sanguine a view of lawyers as he did.)
Adams eventually broke completely with his Calvinist upbringing and became a Unitarian, not believing in the Trinity, predestination, eternal damnation, or many other essential tenets of Calvinism or what we now refer to as “fundamentalism”– which is interesting, considering that modern fundamentalists often cite him as an example of a religious Founder. It is unlikely that he would have “measured up” to the Dominionists’ “standards” of belief.
Speaking of Calvinism, he wrote (in a letter to Samuel Miller dated July 8th, 1820); “I must acknowledge that I cannot class myself under that denomination.”
Although stoutly defending religion on occasion (he once referred to Thomas Paine as “Blackguard Paine” when denouncing that gentleman’s views on religion), and despite an almost rabid hatred of Catholicism (common in his day, and still common among many Protestants), his views were quite liberal in other respects. He had grave doubts concerning religion.
In a letter to Jefferson, he wrote;
> “I almost shudder at the thought of alluding to the most fatal example of the abuses of grief which the history of mankind has preserved — the Cross. Consider what calamities that engine of grief has produced!”
Of course, despite his realization of all the evil religion has caused, he went on to say that in his opinion, the world would have been worse without it. (Though I understand his reasoning, I can’t say that I agree with him.)
As to his views upon the Founding, Adams himself clearly did not believe the US had been established by divine intervention or assistance – in fact, quite the opposite. In “A Defence of the Constitutions of Government of the United States of America” (1787-88) he stated clearly;
> “The United States of America have exhibited, perhaps, the first example of governments erected on the simple principles of nature; and if men are now sufficiently enlightened to disabuse themselves of artifice, imposture, hypocrisy, and superstition, they will consider this event as an era in their history. Although the detail of the formation of the American governments is at present little known or regarded either in Europe or in America, it may hereafter become an object of curiosity.
> It will never be pretended that any persons employed in that service had interviews with the gods, or were in any degree under the influence of Heaven, more than those at work upon ships or houses, or laboring in merchandise or agriculture; it will forever be acknowledged that these governments were contrived merely by the use of reason and the senses.”
He also wrote;
> “. . . Thirteen governments thus founded on the natural authority of the people alone, without a pretence of miracle or mystery, and which are destined to spread over the northern part of that whole quarter of the globe, are a great point gained in favor of the rights of mankind.”
Surely even the most entrenched “fundamentalist” should be able to read such a clearly worded statement and determine that Adams (one of the prime moves in the Revolution and establishment of this country) had no belief in “Divine Intervention” in the establishment of the US.
Here are some other Adams’ quotes on religion:
> “The divinity of Jesus is made a convenient cover for absurdity. Nowhere in the Gospels do we find a precept for Creeds, Confessions, Oaths, Doctrines, and whole carloads of other foolish trumpery that we find in Christianity.”
> “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?”
(Note his use of the typically Deist phrase, “God of nature.”)
> “The priesthood have, in all ancient nations, nearly monopolized learning…. And, even since the Reformation, when or where has existed a Protestant or dissenting sect who would tolerate A FREE INQUIRY? The blackest billingsgate, the most ungentlemanly insolence, the most yahooish brutality is patiently endured, countenanced, propagated, and applauded. But touch a solemn truth in collision with a dogma of a sect, though capable of the clearest proof, and you will soon find you have disturbed a nest, and the hornets will swarm about your legs and hands, and fly into your face and eyes.” — John Adams, letter to John Taylor, 1814
> “As I understand the Christian religion, it was, and is, a revelation. But how has it happened that millions of fables, tales, legends, have been blended with both Jewish and Christian revelation that have made them the most bloody religion that ever existed?” – John Adams, letter to F.A. Van der Kamp, Dec. 27, 1816
Thomas Jefferson was o ne of the principle Founders, and clearly one of the most remarkable products of the Enlightenment, being a statesman, architect, inventor, archaeologist, and horticulturist, and founder of the University of Virginia. He has been consistently ranked as one of the greatest presidents.
He was also a Deist, who admired the moral teachings of Yehoshua. However, Jefferson did not believe in Yehoshua’s supposed divinity, virgin birth, or miracles
In fact, Jefferson literally cut and pasted together his own version of the Bible, which left out all the miraculous elements, (which he considered nonsense), and only included the moral teachings Yehoshua was reputed to have spoken in his lifetime. (This is why the Dominionist dominated Texas School Board recently wrote him out of most of their so-called “history curriculum.”)
As to his attitude towards Christianity (in the form of dogmatic religions, as opposed to the moral teachings of Yehoshua), I’ll let his words speak for themselves.
> “Millions of innocent men, women and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined and imprisoned; yet we have not advanced one inch towards uniformity.” – “Notes on Virginia” 1782
> “They [the clergy] 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.” – letter to Dr. Benjamin Rush, Sept. 23, 1800
> “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.” – letter to Danbury Baptist Association, CT., Jan. 1, 1802
> “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.” – to Alexander von Humboldt, Dec. 6, 1813.
> “Christianity neither is, nor ever was a part of the common law.” – letter to Dr. Thomas Cooper, February 10, 1814
> “The whole history of these books [the Gospels] is so defective and doubtful that it seems vain to attempt minute enquiry into it: and such tricks have been played with their text, and with the texts of other books relating to them, that we have a right, from that cause, to entertain much doubt what parts of them are genuine. In the New Testament there is internal evidence that parts of it have proceeded from an extraordinary man; and that other parts are of the fabric of very inferior minds. It is as easy to separate those parts, as to pick out diamonds from dunghills.” – letter to John Adams, January 24, 1814
> “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 Horatio G. Spafford, March 17, 1814
> “What need we despair of after the resurrection of Connecticut to light and liberty? I had believed that the last retreat of monkish darkness, bigotry, and abhorrence of those advances of the mind which had carried the other States a century ahead of them. They seemed still to be exactly where their forefathers were when they schismatized from the covenant of works, and to consider as dangerous heresies all innovations, good or bad I join you, therefore, in sincere congratulations that this den of the priesthood is at length broken up, and that a Protestant Popedom is no longer to disgrace the American history and character.” —Letter to John Adams on the disestablishment of the Connecticut Church — vii, 62. M., 1817.)
> “I can never join [John] Calvin in addressing his god. He was indeed an Atheist, which I can never be; or rather his religion was Daemonism. If ever man worshipped a false god, he did.” – letter to John Adams, April 11, 1823
> “And 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 Minerve in the brain of Jupiter. But may we hope that the dawn of reason and freedom of thought in these United States will do away with this artificial scaffolding, and restore to us the primitive and genuine doctrines of this most venerated reformer of human errors.” – Letter to John Adams, April 11, 1823
> “It is between fifty and sixty years since I read it [the Apocalypse], and I then considered it merely the ravings of a maniac, no more worthy nor capable of explanation than the incoherences of our own nightly dreams.” – letter to General Alexander Smyth, Jan. 17, 1825
I might add that Mr. Jefferson, in addition to not being a Christian in the modern Religious Right’s sense of the word, was an early proponent of exactly the kind of multi-cultural society that we now have. Writing in his autobiography about the passage of the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, he said;
> “…a singular proposition proved that its protection of opinion was meant to be universal. Where the preamble declares that coercion is a departure from the plan of the holy author of our religion, an amendment was proposed, by inserting the word ‘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 Mahometan, the Hindoo, and infidel of every denomination.”
James Madison, our 4th President, was the principal author and considered “the Father of the Constitution” expressed a similar sentiment when describing the same incident. (How’s that for “original intent”?)
He also wrote;
> “It was the Universal opinion of the Century preceding the last, that Civil Government could not stand without the prop of a religious establishment; and that the Christian religion itself, would perish if not supported by the legal provision for its clergy. The experience of Virginia conspiciously corroboates the disproof of both opinions. The Civil Government, tho’ bereft of everything like an associated hierarchy, possesses the requisite stability and performs its functions with complete success; whilst 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.”
(Emphasis added. Also, please note below that Madison, like Jefferson, also uses the term “separation of the church from the state” — which appears several times in his writings, as well as in Mr. Jefferson’s. See below for further instances of this phrase. Also note that here he says clearly and plainly that it is the church that is meant to be totally separated from the state, although in the First Amendment of the Constitution he also makes it clear that the state shall not prohibit free worship. )
In his “Memorial and Remonstrance against Religious Assessments” in Virginia (June, 1785), Madison wrote;
> “Experience witnesseth that ecclesiastical establishments, instead of maintaining the purity and efficacy of religion, have had a contrary operation. 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.
> Because finally, the equal right of every citizen to the free exercise of his religion according to the dictates of conscience is held by the same tenure with all our other rights. If we recur to its origin, it is equally the gift of nature; if we weigh its importance, it cannot be less dear to us; if we consult the Declaration of Rights which pertain to the good people of Virginia, as the basic and foundation of government, it is enumerated with equal solemnity, or rather studied emphasis.
> “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.”
(Note above one of the many references to “freedom of conscience” as mentioned above.)
Here it is quite clear again that he is adamantly against mixing religion with government.
Madison (again like Jefferson) was also against public state-sponsored prayer, though he relented once (under pressure) during the War of 1812. In 1813, Madison proclaimed a day of prayer, but later said such proclamations were not appropriate because;
> “They seem to imply and certainly nourish the erroneous idea of a national religion.”
Note the choice of words. Hardly the words of a man who believed the US was in any way intended to be a religion-based nation. He also did not believe that chaplains should be appointed either to the military or Congress, as stated in his “Detached Memorandae.”
Other views he expressed included these;
> “Ecclesiastical establishments tend to great ignorance and corruption, all of which facilitate the execution of mischievous projects” — letter to William Bradford, Jr., January 1774
> “Religious bondage shackles and debilitates the mind and unfits it for every noble enterprize, every expanded prospect.” — in a letter to William Bradford, April 1,1774
> “…Freedom arises from the multiplicity of sects, which prevades America and which is the best and only security for religious liberty in any society. For where there is such a variety of sects, there cannot be a majority of any one sect to oppress and persecute the rest.” — spoken at the Virginia convention on ratifying the Constitution, June 1778
> “No distinction seems to be more obvious than that between spiritual and temporal matters. Yet whenever they have been made objects of Legislation, they have clashed and contended with each other, till one or the other has gained the supremacy.” — in a letter to Thomas Jefferson Oct-Nov 1787
> The purpose of separation of church and state is to keep forever from these shores the ceaseless strife that has soaked the soil of Europe in blood for centuries. — James Madison, c. 1803
Note that Madison, like Jefferson in his letter to the Danbury Baptists, again uses the term “separation of church and state.”
> The Civil Government, though bereft of everything like an associated hierarchy, possesses the requisite stability, and performs its functions with complete success, whilst the number, the industry, and the morality of the priesthood, and devotion of the people, have been manifestly increased by the total separation of the church from the state. — in a letter to Robert Walsh, March 2, 1819
(Note again, the term “separation of church and state.”)
> Strongly guarded as is the separation between Religion & Govt in the Constitution of the United States the danger of encroachment by Ecclesiastical Bodies, may be illustrated by precedents already furnished in their short history. — Madison’s Detached Memoranda, 1820.
Note that he refers to cases where religious bodies had already tried to encroach on the government, and again the concept of separation of religion and state/ Also note his disapprobation of the creeping intrusion of religion into government even in his time — a trend that has only gotten worse over the intervening centuries.
> “Nothwithstanding the general progress made within the two last centuries in favour of this branch of liberty, & the full establishment of it, in some parts of our Country, there remains in others a strong bias towards the old error, that without some sort of alliance or coalition between Gov’ & Religion neither can be duly supported: Such indeed is the tendency to such a coalition, and such its corrupting influence on both the parties, that the danger cannot be too carefully guarded agst.. And in a Gov’t of opinion, like ours, the only effectual guard must be found in the soundness and stability of the general opinion on the subject. Every new & successful example therefore of a perfect separation between 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 shewing that religion & Gov will both exist in greater purity, the less they are mixed together;
> It was the belief of all sects at one time that the establishment of Religion by law, was right & necessary; that the true religion ought to be established in exclusion of every other; and that the only question to be decided was which was the true religion. The example of Holland proved that a toleration of sects, dissenting from the established sect, was safe & even useful. The example of the Colonies, now States, which rejected religious establishments altogether, proved that all Sects might be safely & advantageously put on a footing of equal & entire freedom…. We are teaching the world the great truth that Govts do better without Kings & Nobles than with them. The merit will be doubled by the other lesson that Religion flourishes in greater purity, without than with the aid of Gov.”
[The above paragraphs are by James Madison in a letter to Edward Livingston dated July 10, 1822, ]
Benjamin Franklin’s pious sayings are often quoted by the religious right (although they ignore his rather less pious actual doings). While he certainly believed in a Supreme Being, his ideas were, to say the least, rather interesting.
Franklin (like several of the Founders), was obviously a Deist, despite being (like Adams) raised as a Congregationalist. Like Jefferson and other Founders, Franklin expressed belief in a supreme being, and espoused Christian moral principles (though he often failed to follow them himself) — but did not believe in the divinity, virgin birth, miracles, or any of the other trappings accorded to Jesus by fundamentalists.
> “I have found Christian dogma unintelligible. Early in life, I absenteed myself from Christian assemblies.”
Franklin himself made that clear several times during his life in bis autobiography and other writings, beginning with his “Articles of Belief and Acts of Religion” published November 20, 1728.
(Please see the Benjamin Franklin Papers at http://franklinpapers.org/franklin/framedVolumes.jsp?vol=1&page=101a )
You will notice in these “Articles” that Franklin does not mention the Puritan or Calvinist ideas of belief in salvation, hell, the divinity of Jesus, or other religious dogma. In fact, he has some rather bizarre concepts of what constituted “deity” – and these ideas would not have passed muster with any fundamentalists — then or now.
For example, he sees the ultimate Supreme Being as being indifferent to mankind, and who created other beings superior to man, in themselves “gods” — each of whom has their own fiefdom in terms of a solar system, and who are therefore the more “personal” subordinate gods of their sub-creations, the “local” god of each system. Therefore, in his view, we in our solar system are subordinate to a deity who is more personally concerned with us than the “supreme being” who created all – including our deity.
He further clarified his position in his 1771 autobiography. (Which is well worth reading on its own merits.)
He retained these beliefs until his death. In 1790, just about a month before he died, Franklin wrote a letter to Ezra Stiles, then president of Yale University, who had asked him his views on religion:
> “As to Jesus of Nazareth, my Opinion of whom you particularly desire, I think the System of Morals and his Religion, as he left them to us, the best the world ever saw or is likely to see; but I apprehend it has received various corrupt 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 I think it needless to busy myself with it now, when I expect soon an Opportunity of knowing the Truth with less Trouble….”
Thomas Paine, author, pamphleteer, radical, inventor, intellectual, and revolutionary, was the chief propagandist of the Revolution. His “Common Sense” (1776) was so influential that John Adams said, “Without the pen of the author of ‘Common Sense,’ the sword of Washington would have been raised in vain.”
Paine also authored “The American Crisis” a series which ran from 1776–1783, and “The Age of Reason” among many others. Writing in “The Age of reason” he stated;
> “All national institutions of churches, whether Jewish, Christian or Turkish, appear to me no other than human inventions, set up to terrify and enslave mankind, and monopolize power and profit.”
In addition to the Constitution and the writings of the Founders above, in 1797 America made a treaty with the Muslim kingdom of Tripoli (in the present state of Libya).
This treaty was initially drafted on November 4th, 1796 (at the end of Washington’s presidency) by Joel Barlow, the American consul to Algiers. (Barlow was a friend to Jefferson and Madison, and had been an Army chaplain in the Revolutionary War appointed by Washington himself, but he later abandoned dogmatic religion and became a Rationalist.)
Barlow forwarded the treaty to the Senate, where it was endorsed by Secretary of State Timothy Pickering, approved by the Senate, and signed by the new President, John Adams on June 10th, 1797, and published in the Philadelphia Gazette on June 17th of that year.
This treaty explicitly states (in Article 11);
> “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.”
Thus, in one of our earliest treaties with a foreign power (ironically, an Islamic one), our first two Presidents and Congress agreed that the US was “not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion” – in other words, we were a secular nation. Q.E.D.
As to the Founders’ personal beliefs, a brief glance at their own words (above) should suffice to demonstrate that many would not be considered “Christians” by modern fundamentalists.
That this fact was well known in the early days of the Republic is proven by the words of the Reverend Doctor Bird Wilson, an Episcopal minister of Albany, New York. In a sermon preached in October, 1831, he said;
> “The founders of our nation were nearly all Infidels, and that of the presidents who have thus far been elected not a one had professed a belief in Christianity….
> “Among all our presidents from Washington downward, not one was a professor of religion, at least not of more than Unitarianism.”
In 1831, the presidents had been up to that time: Washington; John Adams; Jefferson; Madison; Monroe; John Quincy Adams; and Jackson. Please note that Dr. Wilson was not being complementary of these early leaders — he was being critical, and stating what was a generally known and acknowledged fact in America in this period, which coincided with an intense religious “revival” known in theological circles as the “Second Great Awakening” — and which in turn was a precursor of the various religious “revivals” that America has experienced up to the present — some of which have involved trying to inject religion into government, despite the best attempts of the Founders to separate them.
However, in the final analysis, ALL the Founders, Theist, Deist or whatever their personal beliefs, came together and wisely constructed and approved a secular government system, which allows freedom of conscience for all, while prohibiting the establishment of ANY religion.
Therefore, the notion of a theistic nature of the Founding of this nation is not supported by the Constitution or actual history. Q.E.D