Conversation with an Atheist - Founded on Faith, Part 1

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Thursday, September 22, 2016 2 comments

by Steve Risner

Do we live in a Christian nation? Do we live in a Christian state? What's the difference, if any? Is the US partial to Christians? Does it offer rights and privileges to Christians that it does not offer to others? These are questions I hope to help you ponder today as we begin a look at our heritage and what the basis for our freedom is—at least according to our Founding Fathers. This blog post was sparked by a conversation I had with an atheist who I quoted in my last blog post as saying, “... the American system is stacked a little unfairly toward the New Testament crowd.” Pay close attention to the fact that he said the “system” not the people. Further into the conversation I will get into how he actually believes we are not a Christian nation at all. It seems he would like it both ways here, saying we get special favors being Christians yet we are not a Christian nation and it matters little what the foundation of the Constitution is (the Declaration of Independence is what he's getting at there) or what the basis for our legal system is (the Christian Bible is what he's getting at there). Obviously, these things are absolutely not true. The basis or foundation of anything is important in understanding that thing, isn't it? What something is built on is crucial for understanding its intent and meaning, in my opinion. So we'll take a short look at that today, although volumes of books could be and have been written on the subject.

I've very frequently gotten into this discussion with people over the years. In fact, I wrote about this topic in high school and had a special speaker come into my class and speak on it. That was over 20 years ago. My contention in these discussions is always that the United States of America is a Christian nation. What does this mean? That's the kicker. On occasion, the person I'm chatting with will interpret this to mean we are a Christian state—that the government is Christian in nature and the official religion of the country is documented as Christian. This is obviously not true, but people want to argue with me about it, believing this is what I am saying. No. What I am saying is this nation was founded by Christians on Christian principles to govern a Christian people. My friend who I have been quoting in this series says that the foundational beliefs of the Founders and the basis on which the documents that founded our nation were based doesn't matter at all. This is strange to me. Why?

Let's take a short look at the Declaration of Independence which is the actual document in question. The Constitution is NOT the document that founded the nation but is merely the document that establishes our laws and system of government. Our nation was founded the day we stood up and told Great Britain we were sovereign and no longer were under their authority. We did that by writing and signing the Declaration of Independence. The entire premise of that document can be summed up with my paraphrase:
God gives all men rights. Your actions (they gave a list of examples) are attempting to take those rights from us. As a result, we are no longer under your authority but under our own as given by God.

Did you catch that? The entire idea rests on the fact that God gives all men rights. All of us are “precious in His sight” to quote the Sunday school song. If one people group decides to discard the rights afforded to all people by mistreating another group, they are violating God's order in my opinion.

So back to my original stance: We are a Christian nation because we were founded by Christians on Christian principles to govern Christian people. It's because we are a Christian nation that we welcome and respect other faiths to be exercised in this great land. There are many examples of places where you cannot practice your faith freely. Many Muslim nations and communist countries or dictatorships do not allow the free practice of religion. There are other examples as well, but the point is it's because of our Christian heritage that we all can worship as we see fit. This is not the same as saying all religions are equal or true. That's another topic we can get into later. But suffice it to say, that is clearly not what the Founders believed nor is it how reality appears to me.

I'll quote David Josiah Brewer, a Supreme Court Justice in the late 1800's, to explain what I'm saying: “ what sense can it be called a Christian nation? Not in the sense that Christianity is the established religion or that people are in any matter compelled to support it. On the contrary, the Constitution specifically provides that 'Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.' Neither is it Christian in the sense that all of its citizens are either in fact or name Christian. On the contrary, all religions have free scope within our borders. Numbers of our people profess other religions, and many reject all. Nor is it Christian in the sense that a profession of Christianity is a condition of holding office or otherwise engaging in public service, or essential to recognition either politically or socially. In fact, the government as a legal organization is independent of all religions. Nevertheless, we constantly speak of this republic as a Christian Nation--in fact, as the leading Christian Nation of the world. This popular use of the term certainly has significance. It is not a mere creation of the imagination. It is not a term of derision but has substantial basis--one which justifies its use.”

This is in contrast to my friend's belief that Christians get special privileges here in the States. It may be that the people more often support a Christian, sure. That's because many of us are Christians and we have a common belief with the individual. This, in no way, means the “system” shows favoritism. It clearly does not. My atheist friend says, “It is hard to run for public office if you do not profess your love for Jesus Christ.” If this is true, it's because the voters want someone they trust and believe in who shares their values. It has nothing to do with the US government showing special privileges to Christians. If anything, his point supports mine—that we are a Christian nation. We want to be led by men and women who share our faith. That's not favoritism on the part of the state. It's the way we as citizens vote.

I believe my friend decided arbitrarily that the basis for our nation's founding and the concepts employed to develop our government are not useful for determining if we are a Christian nation or not, because the fact that if he accepts either of these things—the beliefs of the Founders, the basis for the Declaration of Independence being written, or the principles used to construct our system of government—then he must admit he's wrong. The case is fairly open and shut. Let's take a peek at a few of the Founders to see what they say on the matter.

Patrick Henry, the man famous for saying, “Give me liberty or give me death,” has a lot of other great things to say. Henry was a general during the Revolutionary War. He served as the governor of Virginia twice, was a legislator, and ratified the US Constitution. He said, “Whether this [the American War for Independence] will prove a blessing or a curse will depend upon the use our people make of the blessings which a gracious God hath bestowed on us. If they are wise, they will be great and happy. If they are of a contrary character, they will be miserable. Righteousness alone can exalt them as a nation.” This statement was based on Proverbs 14:34. It seems rather clear he believed the foundation of life and happiness and, therefore, our nation was based on the worship of our Creator.

George Washington, our first president, Commander-in-Chief during the Revolutionary War, president of the Constitutional Convention, and a judge said, "It is impossible to account for the creation of the universe without the agency of a Supreme Being. It is impossible to govern the universe without the aid of a Supreme Being." Do we think that this great man would say such a thing only to do the opposite? Washington is also quoted as saying, “It is impossible to rightly govern the world without God and the Bible.” Some say he never said this, but it's similar point is found in so many other of his sayings that it seems he may have. If nothing else, it's nearly a paraphrase of the previous quote. He even said, in 1779 to the chiefs of the Delaware Indians, “You do well to wish to learn our arts and ways of life, and above all, the religion of Jesus Christ. These will make you a greater and happier people than you are… Congress will do everything they can to assist you in this wise intention.” He was certainly not a multiculturalist as most separationists were. He and the other Founders believed that converting people to Christianity and assimilating them into our culture was a virtuous task; a far cry from what the government stands for these days.

There is much more to say on this and I've just scratched the surface. Next week, I will reveal a few more things the Founders had to say but even more importantly what they did that confirms we are most certainly a Christian nation founded by Christians on Christian principles to govern Christian people. Thank you for reading and God bless America.

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Marida said...


Steve said...

Thanks for reading and commenting. It is fascinating but just wait until next week's post!