Book Plunge: Atheist Universe Part 13

Were the Founding Fathers Christians? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Imagine if I was telling you what a group of scientists believed, let’s say a group of 50+, but I did so by only picking out 3 of them. Suppose I went to the National Academy of Sciences, picked out the scientists that were theists, and then said “See? The NAS is a theistic society.” If you think that’s ridiculous, you have an idea of what it’s like to read David Mills on the founding of America.

To the extent that our Founding Fathers had any religious affiliation at all, it was a tepid embracing of the philosophy of Deism, a popular system of thought in the 18th century. Deism is the belief that a supernatural Power originally created the universe but does not currently manage its day-to-day operation or intervene personally into human affairs. Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Paine, among many others, held Deist, rather than Christian, religious beliefs. If one dismisses all preconceived historical inaccuracies and Christian propaganda, then an extraordinary and very revealing fact emerges: The two documents upon which our country was actually founded—i.e., the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States—contain not a single word about Christianity, Christian principles, the Bible or Jesus Christ. Neither is there any mention at all of the Ten Commandments, Heaven, Hell or being saved. Not a word! The phrase “they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights” was a reference to the Deist Creator, rather than the God of Christianity.

Mills, David. Atheist Universe: The Thinking Person’s Answer to Christian Fundamentalism (p. 205). Ulysses Press. Kindle Edition.

For the former, when people want to talk about the founding fathers not being Christian, you can bet dollars to donuts that they will name the same three people every time. Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Paine, and Benjamin Franklin. MIlls finds it odd that the founding documents don’t mention explicitly Christian language. He gives us no reason why we should think that they would. The Constitution and Declaration were to be for all people, not just Christians.

Yet after saying that these aren’t found in these documents he says:

Witch burning and mandatory church affiliation, among other factors, led the Founding Fathers to establish a “Wall of Separation between Church and State,” allowing, at each citizen’s discretion, freedom of religion or freedom from religion.

Mills, David. Atheist Universe: The Thinking Person’s Answer to Christian Fundamentalism (p. 206). Ulysses Press. Kindle Edition.

You know what else isn’t found in the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution? The Wall of Separation between Church and State. However, that is something golden that obviously all the founders held. There is no mention on how government funds were used to evangelize the Native Americans in the area of the Louisiana Purchase. There is no mention that the wall mention was made to the Danbury Baptist Church to assure them the government would not infringe upon them. There is no mention that after writing that, the very next Sunday Jefferson let worship services take place in the House of Representatives.

The other thing you can be sure that will be mentioned is the Treaty of Tripoli.

In 1797 the United States ratified the Treaty of Tripoli, which was negotiated by George Washington himself and signed by his successor, John Adams. The treaty declared that “the government of the United States is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion.” Congress unanimously approved the text of this treaty.

Mills, David. Atheist Universe: The Thinking Person’s Answer to Christian Fundamentalism (p. 206). Ulysses Press. Kindle Edition.

In other words, Mills is following the atheistic script accurately. Cite only the information that agrees with you. Ignore the rest. Never mind that it can be questioned if Article 11 where the phrase shows up even belongs in the treaty or not seeing as we have a version in two languages. There is no mention of the Treaty of Paris which uses explicit Christian language right in the intro in speaking of it being in the name of the most holy and undivided Trinity.

Modern-day conservative propaganda about the “Christian birth of our nation” is therefore just as erroneous and self-serving as Christian pronouncements about the birth of our universe. In both cases, “men of God” completely ignore the actual evidence at hand and conjure up a fictitious tale. They then spread the myth, along with fabricated evidence, and repeat the myth so frequently that it is soon accepted uncritically by the citizenry.

Mills, David. Atheist Universe: The Thinking Person’s Answer to Christian Fundamentalism (p. 207). Ulysses Press. Kindle Edition.

Oh, the irony.

But to be fair, have I provided positive evidence so far? Not too much. However, if you want to see a listing of such quotations with their sources, you can go here. Here are some that you can find there.

    “From the day of the Declaration, the people of the North American union, and of its constituent states, were associated bodies of civilized men and Christians, in a state of nature, but not of anarchy. They were bound by the laws of God, which they all, and by the laws of the Gospel, which they nearly all acknowledged as the rules of their conduct. They were bound by the principles which they themselves had proclaimed in the declaration. They were bound by all those tender and endearing sympathies, the absence of which, in the British government and nation, towards them, was the primary cause of the distressing conflict in which they had been precipitated by the headlong rashness and unfeeling insolence of their oppressors. They were bound by all the beneficent laws and institutions, which their forefathers had brought with them from their mother country, not as servitudes but as rights. They were bound by habits of hardy industry, by frugal and hospitable manners, by the general sentiments of social equality, by pure and virtuous morals; and lastly they were bound by the grappling-hooks of common suffering under the scourge of oppression.”

————–John Quincy Adams

Letter to Mrs. Jane Mecom:
“I am so far from thinking that God is not to be worshipped, that I have composed and wrote a whole book of devotions for my own use; and I imagine there are few if any in the world so weak as to imagine, that the little good we can do here can merit so vast a reward hereafter.”

————–Benjamin Franklin

“I do hereby appoint THURSDAY, the TWENTY-FIRST of NOVEMBER next, to be a day of Public THANKSGIVING, PRAISE, and PRAYER, throughout this Commonwealth; calling on and requesting the ministers and people of every religious denomination, to meet on that day in their respective sanctuaries, that with unanimity and fervor, we may present our unfeigned praises for all the mercies we have received of our Bountiful Creator, who has continued to us the inestimable blessings of the gospel of Jesus Christ, blessings not confined to time, but extended to eternity, who has confirmed to us our federal and State constitutions, which secure the enjoyment of our lives, liberties and property, who continues to bless us with a National Government and Administration, whose wisdom, virtue, and firmness have not been circumvented, corrupted or appalled by the arts, seductions, or threats of foreign or domestic foes, but whose patriotic efforts have uniformly and manifestly resulted from an ardent desire to promote the public welfare and happiness, who has not punished our ungrateful murmurs, discontents and other crimes, as He has those of distant nations, by war and its dire effects; but has preserved to us peace, the greatest of national blessings, who has favored us with a Clergy, (with few exceptions,) whose conduct, is influenced by the mild, benign and benevolent principles of the Gospel; and whose example is a constant admonition to such pastors and professors of Christianity, as are too much under the guidance of passion, prejudice, and worldly delusion, Who has enabled us from unavoidable spoliations to derive permanent benefits, by gradually diminishing our dependence on foreign markets, for necessary supplies; by rapidly increasing our manufactures thereof; and by thus preventing in future the plunder of such property by avaricious nations, who has not visited us, as He has other countries, with plague, pestilence or famine; but has kindly preserved to us a great degree of health, and crowned with plenty the labors of our industrious husbandmen, Who has increased the martial ardor and discipline of our militia, and enables us to smile at the menaces of mighty potentates, Who continues to us the due administration of justice, the full and free exercise of our civil religious rights, and the numerous blessing which have resulted from them, Who has prospered in a remarkable degree our Schools, Academies and Colleges; those inestimable sources of public information and happiness, who has protected so great a portion of the property of our merchants, when exposed to the depredations of perfidious governments, Who has granted success to our enterprising fishermen, prospered our ingenious mechanics, and loaded us with His boundless munificence.”

—- Elbridge Thomas Gerry

I, ——, do profess Faith in God the Father, and in Jesus Christ his only Son, and in the Holy Ghost, one God blessed for evermore; and I do acknowledge the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testament to be given by divine Inspiration.

—– George Read

“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.”

—– Benjamin Rush

But keep in mind, Mills says this is just fabricating evidence.

I can freely acknowledge that Jefferson, Paine, and Franklin did not hold Christian views, perhaps Franklin was the closest.

Can Mills accept the others?

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)







Book Plunge: The God Virus Part 2

What does Ray think about religion in America? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

This chapter spends a lot of time talking about American Civil Religion. The problem is, Ray never defines it. Now it could be that I am supposed to know what that is, but I honestly don’t. If anyone else doesn’t know, they will be at a loss to wonder what Ray is talking about and it is his job to define it.

He starts off talking some about the history of religions and mentions how Judaism was affected by Zoroastrianism. Unfortunately, we don’t have any writings from Zoroastrianism at the time. Also, even a skeptical scholar like Bart Ehrman is skeptical of this.

More recently scholars have questioned a Persian derivation for the Jewish doctrine because of certain problems of dating.1 Some experts have undercut the entire thesis by pointing out that we actually do not have any Zoroastrian texts that support the idea of resurrection prior to its appearance in early Jewish writings. It is not clear who influenced whom. Even more significant, the timing does not make sense: Judah emerged from Persian rule in the fourth century BCE, when Alexander the Great (356–323 BCE) swept through the eastern Mediterranean and defeated the Persian Empire. But the idea of bodily resurrection does not appear in Jewish texts for well over a century after that. (Heaven and Hell. P. 104-105.

In talking about America next, Ray goes on to quote John Adams. “The government of the United States is in no sense founded on the Christian religion.” Well, I guess that settles it. Adams was the second president so surely he would know. Wait. What’s that? There’s no source for the quote. Hmmm. I wonder what would happen if we looked it up….

Well, good luck to Ray if he can find it. The closest is in the Treaty of Tripoli. Even skeptical atheists recommend that this not be used as an argument. See more information on that here.

Thomas Essel says you could take one quote from Adams and ignore all the others and easily make a doctrine. Let’s suppose I made one from another Adams quote.

“[T]he safety and prosperity of nations ultimately and essentially depend on the protection and the blessing of Almighty God, and the national acknowledgment of this truth is not only an indispensable duty which the people owe to Him, but a duty whose natural influence is favorable to the promotion of that morality and piety without which social happiness can not [sic] exist nor the blessings of a free government be enjoyed.”

Also, little difference with me and Ray. I can tell you where that quote is from.

Okay, well what about James Madison?

“What have been Christianity’s 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.”

Again, this sounds really impressive, until you ask this person who goes on and on about evidence what his source is. It’s a good question, and sadly, Ray doesn’t give it. Some of us who actually do care about evidence looked it up.

As you can see here, Madison isn’t talking about Christianity. He’s talking about the marrying of Christianity to the state. He doesn’t want to see it, and rightly so. Both get damaged by that because both institutions use human beings who have a tendency to use both wrongly. Madison is not making an anti-Christian statement.

One has to ask how Ray got these quotes. Apparently, he got them and never bothered to look them up to make sure he was using them rightly or else they wouldn’t be in the book. I want to give him the benefit of the doubt that he did this without knowing the context. If he did it knowing the context doesn’t show it, then that is just plain immoral on his part.

Now for something incredible here. I’m actually doing to defend Mormonism from a misrepresentation. You all should know by now I care enough about truth that I don’t even want my opponents misrepresented. I am no fan of Mormonism. It is a false religion, though it is one that is fun to study. Ray though is shocked that Mormons and evangelicals can work closely together on social issues. He says even a cursory reading of the Book of Mormon will show you beliefs such as sacred underwear to people becoming gods of their own planets to Native Americans being from the diaspora to Joseph Smith as the last prophet.

Well, not exactly. The doctrine of eternal progression with people becoming gods wasn’t revealed until the 1844 King Follett Discourse of Joseph Smith. You’ll find beliefs like that more in the Doctrines and Covenants. The Book of Mormon is actually quite monotheistic. I also don’t think there’s any mention of sacred underwear in there. Mormons would also not say Joseph Smith is the last prophet since every Mormon president is said to be a prophet.

Finally, let’s look at verses which Ray says shows Christians shouldn’t be interested in ecomonic progress.

Luke 12:33 is about selling all that you have and giving to the poor for the Kingdom of Heaven. Ray still in his fundamentalist mindset reads this as if the apostles were to get naked and sell their clothes right there. (And then when the poor got everything, were they to do likewise?) Jewish teachers often spoke in hyperbole to make a point, this one about generosity.

In Mark 10:25, Jesus says it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God. This is because many rich people at the time were tied to their money and didn’t want to part from it. Their wealth came first. The problem isn’t the wealth, but the person.

Finally, 1 Tim. 6:10 is the well-known verse about the love of money being the root of all evil, except it doesn’t say that. The verse really says the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. Many great crimes are done even today and money is not a motive.

This chapter was thoroughly disappointing due to Ray’s lack of citing sources and doing fact-checking. It doesn’t help your case to say you’re evidence based and then don’t bother to do a basic search like that. Too many of Ray’s readers who think they are people of evidence will believe him as blindly as Christians often believe their pastors, and actually Ray blindly believed some source on this too. Let’s be better than that.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)