American Law was not founded on Christian Morals

I've picked up enough bits and pieces of information over the years to know that America's Founders were primarily deists and Unitarians. In Moral Minority: Our Skeptical Founding Fathers, author Brooke Allen brings together the un-Christian thinking of six of our Founders: Franklin, Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Madison and Hamilton. Jefferson was the chief advocate of religious freedom as a means keeping the new government from getting involved in the kind of religious strife that had so much dominated Europe. Yes some of the lesser Founders were Christians, these six were not.

The book is so well written I couldn't put it down until I finished. Though 18th century America was largely populated by Christians, she leaves no doubt that America's Founders saw this as reason to keep religion separate from politics. To the disappointment of Christians, it is why "God" was left out of the Constitution. The man who exerted the most influence on the Constitution was John Locke, not Jesus Christ.

Franklin was either an atheist or a deist. Certainly, he did not believe in the divinity of Jesus Christ. His family was devoutly Protestant before they immigrated to America.

Washington was famous for his silence on controversial topics. He was a member of the Episcopalian Church and took part in its rites and rituals as someone in his position was expected to do. In thirty-seven fat volumes of his papers, there are only four mentions of his vestry responsibilities, each one a complaint about paying more than he owed for some expense or other. He paid little attention to the Sabbath or any outward manifestations of religiosity. His private letters point in the direction of deist or even Stoic beliefs. He never mentioned "Jesus."

Adams was raised a Calvinist, more specifically a Congregationalist. He went to Harvard at age 15 to study for the ministry until church politics in his home town turned him off. Around this time he converted to the least dogmatic sect within Christianity, Unitarian. He went to church all his life, but did not proselytize or seek to impose Christianity. Significantly, he was concerned that some charismatic religious leader would upset the balance of power.

Jefferson, a deist, was openly disgusted of clergy of all denominations. He wrote, "In every country and in every age, the priest has been hostile to liberty. He is always in alliance the despot, abetting his abuses in return for protection to his own." The Jefferson gives a false impression that he was religious. It says, "I have sworn upon the altar of God eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man." In the full quote, he was referring to religious tyranny. He was impressed by Jesus' ethics, but thought the priests embellished his biography with supernaturalism, so he edited the New Testament miracles with a razor blade. The Jefferson Bible is still in print. As to claims that American law is based on the Ten Commandments, he wrote a research paper showing English Common Law originated before Christianity was introduced to England.

Madison was as vocal as Jefferson about the separation of church and state. In his early life, he was conventionally religious, but his orthodoxy faded with age, reaching a state of agnosticism. He initially studied at home with an Anglican minister then went to the Presbyterian Princeton rather then the Anglican William and Mary. He was the chief architect of the godless Constitution and the Federalist Papers which set the basis for the Constitution. The one mention of religion in the Constitution voids any religious test for public office. Madison wrote" Religion and government will both exist in greater purity; the less they are mixed together."

Hamilton's religiosity was erratic. He was pious at times, yet irreligious at others. He was never a churchgoer except during his youth. His mother was a French Huguenot and his father a Presbyterian, and he was well learned in Calvinism. He preferred to attend the Presbyterian Princeton College, but he was steered to the Anglican King's College where he converted to a pious Anglican. During the War he rose to prominence when his talents caught Washington's attention. Unlike Jefferson and Adams, Hamilton's goals were focused on action and power rather then thought for its own sake. His letters showed a strong inclination to use religion for political purposes.

The rest of the book gives a short history of religion before and after the Constitution. To my surprise, Puritans were considered a sort of lunatic fringe by the Anglicans and other denominations. In seven colonies, Anglicanism was the established. Three were Congregationalist. Three were non-denominational. Congregationalists, Presbyterians and Separationists, German and Dutch Reformed, and Baptists could be classified as Calvinists. Anglicanism had nothing in common.

Most states had religious charters when the Constitution was signed. Though it couldn't be enforced on the states, eventually, the states dropped their charters. "In God We Trust" was added to currency after the Civil War and "One Nation Under God" was added to the Pledge of Allegiance during the McCarthy hysteria of the 1950s. I highly recommend this book.

See also Moses Didn't Write the Constitution