The more I delve into history, the more I get a better idea of what the founders had in mind in creating our Government.
I have no doubt in my mind the Pilgrims/Early settlers were a religious people. I have no doubt in early America, Christianity was 99% of the religious makeup of the country. At that time, religious groups attempted to force strict religious observance and rules on the citizens. Laws mandated everyone to attend services and to pay taxes to fund the salary of the ministers. Those who wanted to worship differently or may have been a non-Christian faith were often persecuted. In short, back in those days religion controlled people and government. I won’t even argue that our Founding Fathers, Laws and everything else had a certain degree of Christian influence but I will argue that when it came to the founding of our Country and the American Revolution, they were influenced by so much more than just Christianity.
I would argue that the Christian influence, pre-enlightenment, likely helped them decided it best to build a Government outside the influence of religion. There was a great deal of infighting between the different sects of Christianity, often times requests were made to the Government to intervene.
During those times, the influence of the Enlightenment era was spreading through Europe. Many of our Founders were influenced by The Enlightenment era was a time of “‘Secularization’, the process whereby religious observation became an optional rather than a necessary dimension of social life.” (The Enlightenment – John Robertson pg 15). Naturally, in forming a new Government our founding fathers utilized these ideals. I don’t think it is necessary to understand what our founding fathers religions were, just to understand what they wanted out of the Government. The Federal Government did not want to get involved with religious matters and pushed matters of religion off to the states.
Some states had religious laws which regulated who could hold public office!
XXXII. That no person, who shall deny the being of God or the truth of the Protestant religion, or the divine authority either of the Old or New Testaments, or who shall hold religious principles incompatible with the freedom and safety of the State, shall be capable of holding any office or place of trust or profit in the civil department within this State
-North Carolina Constitution of 1776
but wait… Article VI, Clause 3 of the Constitution states:
…no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.
Just an example of the point I made above how the Federal Government pushed these decisions on the state. Some states still have these laws on the books. Imagine in this day and age if someone who was Catholic, Baptist, Lutheran, Jewish, Buddhist, Islamic or Atheist were told they couldn’t run for public office because they are not Protestant?
Depending on who you argue with, there is a great deal of quotes you can find in support of religious and non-religious founding fathers, some could be considered Deist, Catholic, Protestant, Angelica, gosh some people during that time accused Thomas Jefferson of being atheist, he also extracted non-mystical items in the bible and created “The Jefferson Bible”… or “The Life and Morals of Jesus or Nazareth”. There was controversy with George Washington attending church services but not receiving Communion. As I wrote in one of my previous blogs (see James Madison), I pointed out how he spelled out what the founding fathers intended. This is just a small sampling of the complicated debate on the religious beliefs of the founders. …but imagine for a moment if they had a belief in God that was not the same as what was acceptable in that day and age, imagine if they announced they were atheist? Either answer and they would be heretics! I think they were pretty vague for that very reason.
The religion of the country did not matter to them, they all looked at religion and the new Government subjectively and with “Secularization” in mind….It was all about Enlightenment!