Deism was belief of Jefferson, Franklin and other founders; NOT CHRISTIANITY
Deist: One who believes in the existence of God or supreme being but DENIES REVEALED RELIGION, BASING HIS BELIEFS ON THE LIGHT OF NATURE AND REASON."
Webster's Encyclopedic Dictionary, 1941
key element in the power of the religious right over minds of followers is false idea they constantly promote regarding the origins of America.
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The World Union of Deists Quarterly Publication
RELIGIOUS RIGHT LIE: AMERICA IS A CHRISTIAN NATION
by Robert L. Johnson
Americans, and most people throughout the world, love freedom. We don't like the idea of anyone telling us what we can and cannot do. The religious right in this country, lead by the Christian Coalition, is in the process of achieving the power to do just that. They are working to change the divorce laws in this country state by state to the extent that no-fault divorces are abolished. If they are successful, the only ones who will benefit other than themselves are divorce attorneys. They are also attempting to remove protection from people who file for bankruptcy. Of course, their specific aim is concerned with religious organizations who are currently being ordered by the bankruptcy courts to return thousands of dollars they recently fleeced from their often sincere yet always gullible followers through tithes and offerings. Due largely to the special treatment they receive while hiding behind the guise of religion, the religious right is currently pressuring Congress to pass legislation that will do away with the bankruptcy protection of their own members (what ever happened to "Christian Charity")! They are pushing for the passage of a bill called the Religious Liberty and Charitable Donation Protection Act sponsored by California Representative Ron Packard. This bill, if passed into law, will allow the Churches, who are already exempt from paying their fair share of taxes, to keep for themselves the money and resources that the people in their congregations need.
A key element in the power of the religious right over the minds of their followers is the false idea they constantly promote regarding the origins of America. They claim America was founded as a Christian nation. This false idea makes many people feel they are un-American or unpatriotic if they question Christianity. A good example of this lie they never tire of telling is found in the writings of the founder of the Christian Coalition, Pat Robertson. On page 270 of his book The Turning Tide he writes: "It is certainly true that the precepts of faith are interwoven throughout the founding documents of this nation. The forms of our constitutional government - as implemented by Jefferson, Madison, Franklin, Washington, Adams, and others - were carefully designed to acknowledge the authority of the Scriptures and our dependence upon the Creator." He is wrong.
None of the five founding fathers mentioned above by Robertson were Christians by Pat Robertson's definition, which requires belief in the absurd idea that Jesus is the Son of God, was born via a miraculous conception, and that he rose from the dead and bodily ascended into heaven. The religion of John Adams was Unitarian which Pat Robertson and the religious fundamentalists reject and do not consider "true" Christianity. George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and Benjamin Franklin were all Deists, not Christians. That is, they believed in God or a Creator based on nature and reason, but rejected revealed religions like Christianity as well as the "Holy Books" of the various revealed religions such as the Bible, the Koran, and the Torah.
Prior to the American Revolution, people who aspired to political advancement needed to belong to the established church. Even though this was the case, George Washington, according to his own diaries, rarely attended church and refused to accept the sacrament of communion. A friend of his, Dr. Abercrombie, said, "Washington was a Deist." In addition to this, George Washington approved of a document which specifically states, "As the Government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion; . . ." The document mentioned is the Treaty of peace and friendship between the United States of America and the Bey and Subjects of Tripoli, of Barbary, more commonly referred to as the Treaty of Tripoli. The above quote is taken from article XI of that treaty. If Washington was a devout Christian, and if America was founded as a Christian nation, would he and the other founders of our nation ever approved such language in an official binding U.S. document?
In Charles B. Sanford's book The Religious Life of Thomas Jefferson we see that Jefferson, too, was a Deist. On page 85 he writes, "But in the intellectual sense of being one who believed in the Deity, as opposed to the atheist who did not, Jefferson was a staunch Deist." For some reason the facts run counter to the dribble of the religious right.
In a letter to his nephew Peter Carr, Thomas Jefferson revealed his true appreciation of truth regardless of the consequences when he wrote, "RELIGION: Your reason is now mature enough to examine this object. In the first place divest yourself of all bias in favor of novelty and singularity of opinion. Indulge them in any other subject rather than that of religion. It is too important, and the consequences of error may be too serious. On the other hand shake off all the fears and servile prejudices under which weak minds are servilely crouched. Fix reason firmly in her seat, and call to her tribunal every fact, every opinion. Question with boldness even the existence of a god; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, than that of blindfolded fear. You will naturally examine first the religion of your own country. Read the bible then, as you would read Livy or Tacitus. The facts which are within the ordinary course of nature you will believe on the authority of the writer, as you do those of the same kind in Livy and Tacitus. The testimony of the writer weighs in their favor in one scale, and their not being against the laws of nature does not weigh against them. But those facts in the bible which contradict the laws of nature, must be examined with more care, and under a variety of faces. Here you must recur to the pretensions of the writer to inspiration from god. Examine upon what evidence his pretensions are founded, and whether that evidence is so strong as that its falsehood would be more improbable than a change in the laws of nature in the case he relates. For example in the book of Joshua we are told the sun stood still several hours. Were we to read that fact in Livy or Tacitus we should class it with their showers of blood, speaking of statues, beasts, etc. But it is said that the writer of that book was inspired. Examine therefore candidly what evidence there is of his having been inspired. The pretension is entitled to your inquiry, because millions believe it. On the other hand you are astronomer enough to know how contrary it is to the law of nature that a body revolving on its axis as the earth does, should have stopped, should not only by that sudden stoppage have prostrated animals, trees, buildings, and should after a certain time have resumed its revolution, and that without a second general prostration. Is this arrest of the earth's motion, or the evidence which affirms it, most within the law of probabilities? You will next read the new testament. It is the history of a personage called Jesus. Keep in your eye the opposite pretensions I. of those who say he was begotten by god, born of a virgin, suspended and reversed the laws of nature at will, and ascended bodily into heaven: and 2. of those who say he was a man of illegitimate birth, of a benevolent heart, enthusiastic mind, who set out without pretensions to divinity, ended in believing them, and was punished capitally for sedition by being gibbeted according to the Roman law which punished the first commission of that offense by whipping, and the second by exile or death." Does this sound like something you would hear on Pat Robertson's 700 Club?
Another aspect of the religious right and religious fundamentalists in general is the importance they put on "the end times." As we approach the year 2,000 the end-timers are coming out of the wood-work. Christians believe the last book of the New Testament, Revelations, tells us what will happen in the last days of earth's existence. If Robertson and his political machine are correct in their ideas about America's Christian origins then surely our founding fathers would have written something positive about that apocalyptic book. But instead of writing something positive about the Biblical book of Revelations, here's what Mr. Jefferson had to say about it: "No man on earth has less taste or talent for criticism than myself, and the least and last of all should I undertake to criticize works on the Apocalypse (Revelations). It was between fifty and sixty years since I read it and then I considered it as merely the ravings of a maniac, no more worthy, nor capable of explanation than the incoherence of our own nightly dreams. I was, therefore, well pleased to see, in your first proof sheet, that it was said to be not the production of St. John, but of Cerinthus a century after the death of that apostle. Yet the change of the author's name does not lessen the extravagancies of the composition; come they from whomsoever they may, I cannot so far respect them as to consider them as an allegorical narration of events, past or subsequent. There is not coherence enough in them to countenance any suite of national ideas. You will judge, therefore, from this how impossible I think it that either your explanation or that of any man in 'the Heavens above or on the earth beneath' can be a correct one. What has no meaning admits no explanation!" (Thomas Jefferson: In His Own Words, page 360).
James Madison was a key figure in the adoption of the United States Constitution. He worked and fought long and hard to bring the Constitution to a reality. In 1785 he wrote in his Memorial and Remonstrance against Religious Assessments: "During almost fifteen centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial. What have 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." Does this sound like someone Pat Robertson and the religious right would endorse?
When Benjamin Franklin was visiting England in his youth he read several Christian books attacking Deism. In his autobiography he wrote concerning this, "Some books against Deism fell into my hands. It happened that they wrought an effect on me quite contrary to what was intended by them; for the arguments of the Deists, which were quoted to be refuted, appeared to me much stronger than the refutations; in short I soon became a perfect Deist." How Pat Robertson can twist this to make Franklin a Christian is unbelievable! In his own words Ben Franklin claimed to be a Deist and not a Christian.
Benjamin Franklin met Thomas Paine in London, England. It was Franklin who suggested to Paine that he come to America. In fact, Ben Franklin wrote a letter of introduction to his son and son-in-law for Tom Paine.
Thomas Paine was pivotal in the American Revolution. He played such an indispensable role John Adams wrote that without the pen of Tom Paine, the sword of George Washington would have been wielded in vain. Thomas Paine wrote Common Sense that brought many of the average people into the camp of the revolutionaries. Later, when it looked like the revolution would be lost and that the British would prevail, he wrote The Crisis which strengthened the resolve of the revolutionaries and filled them with hope and purpose. This enabled them to carry on the struggle and eventually defeat the strongest military power on the face of the earth at Yorktown, Virginia.
Tom Paine wrote an essay comparing the revealed religion of Christianity with the natural religion of Deism. In it he wrote, "Every person, of whatever religious denomination he may be, is a Deist in the first article of his Creed. Deism, from Latin Deus, God, is the belief of a God, and this belief is the first article of every man's creed.
"It is on this article, universally consented to by all mankind, that the Deist builds his church, and here he rests. Whenever we step aside from this article, by mixing it with articles of human invention, we wander into a labyrinth of uncertainty and fable, and become exposed to every kind of imposition by pretenders to revelation.
"But when the divine gift of reason begins to expand itself in the mind and calls man to reflection, he then reads and contemplates God and His works, and not in the books pretending to be revelation. The creation is the Bible of the true believer in God. Everything in this vast volume inspires him with sublime ideas of the Creator. The little and paltry, and often obscene, tales of the Bible sink into wretchedness when put in comparison with this mighty work.
"The Deist needs none of those tricks and shows called miracles to confirm his faith, for what can be a greater miracle than the creation, and his own existence?"
In Paine's monumental book on religion and Deism, The Age of Reason, he honestly looks at the claims of the Jews and Christians as written in the Old and New Testaments. Contrary to the religious right, he doesn't buy the Old Testament story that the Jews are God's chosen people. He looks at them as just another group of people who are being deceived by their religious leaders and priests.
Regarding Christianity he bluntly writes on page 187 of The Age of Reason that, "The study of theology, as it stands in Christian churches, is the study of nothing; it is founded on nothing; it rests on no principles; it proceeds by no authorities; it has no data; it can demonstrate nothing; and it admits of no conclusion. Not any thing can be studied as a science, without our being in possession of the principles upon which it is founded; and as this is not the case with Christian theology, it is therefore the study of nothing."That doesn't sound like a Christian to me.
Another interesting non-Christian figure in the American Revolution is Ethan Allen. He led a group of revolutionaries known as the Green Mountain Boys from Vermont into Canada and captured much needed artillery pieces for General Washington's beleaguered army.
Original sin, the insane idea and dogma of Christianity, did not sit well with Ethan Allen. One of his cousins, Jonathan Lee who was a Christian preacher, told him that without original sin there was no need for atonement through Jesus, and in fact no need for Christianity. The honest straight forward Allen thought about it for a few months and then wrote his preacher cousin that he agreed, there was no need for Christianity!
Before the American Revolution the American colonies were under the same combination of church and state that England suffered and that the religious right wants to bring back today. This un-Godly combination required everyone to attend the government approved church every Sunday or else they would be fined. The fact that today in America churches are exempt from paying their fair share of taxes is a vestige of this pre-revolutionary theocratic colonialism.
Living in a society governed primarily as a theocracy is not only thought stifling, but it can also be dangerous as Allen found out. In Salisbury, Connecticut in 1764, Allen, according to the book by Michael A. Bellesiles, Revolutionary Outlaws, had himself inoculated for smallpox right in front of the church on a Sunday as the services were ending. He was tried in a court of law for blasphemy! The outcome was social ostracism. I'm sure in his heart of hearts, Pat Robertson would love to have blasphemy laws back on the books!
Like Thomas Paine, Ethan Allen wrote a book on religion and Deism called Reason the only Oracle of Man: or a Compenduous System of Natural Religion. In it he confronts the unreasonable doctrines of Christianity and demonstrates how believing in "revealed" religion a person is only putting their trust, not in God, but in someone who says God told them or revealed to them such and such. Allen noted that the various revealed religions, all of which claim special revelation from God, all claim they themselves are the only true revealed religion with true revelation, and all other revealed religions are false. As far as he was concerned, one person's revelation is another person's superstition.
When Pat Robertson writes that, "the precepts of faith are interwoven throughout the founding documents of this nation," he is just as demonstrably wrong as when he states America's key founders were Christians.
The first document of the founders was written before America was even a united nation. That first document is the Declaration of Independence. Thomas Jefferson, already proven to be a Deist and not a Christian, wrote this document. In the Declaration God is referred to as Nature's God, the Creator, Supreme Judge of the World, and divine Providence. Nowhere in the Declaration is God referred to as Jesus, Jehovah, or any other Judeo-Christian name. If America was intended to be a Christian nation the Declaration of Independence would have been filled with Biblical references. But the contrary is true. There is not one reference in it to the Bible or any Christian character or dogma.
The United States Constitution must really give the religious right nightmares. In the Constitution there is not one mention of God in any way, shape or form. Not even in the Deistic sense. How Christian fundamentalists can claim this document as one of their own can never be logically explained.
Christians claim the Bible is the revealed word of God. They place the Bible above any and all writings. Based then on the Bible itself, the founders of our country could not have been Bible believing Christians, since the Bible plainly states that to rebel against any government is a sin. In short, it is not a Christian thing to do. In Romans 13:1-2 we read: "Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore he who resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment." So, according to the Christians' own holy book, America was founded on disobedience to God by rebellion to the British Crown and monarchy. How could any Bible believing, God fearing Christian take part in something as anti-Biblical as the American Revolution? And knowing the Bible, as I'm sure Pat Robertson does, why doesn't he try to distance the Christian Coalition from the disobedient pagans of the American Revolution who are now, according to the Bible, "incurring judgment?"
As you are reading this, the religious right is fighting and working to make sure they will have the final say over what kind of movies you watch, what kind of music you listen to, what kind of books you read, and thereby what kind of thoughts you think. Already they have installed a conservative republican Congress for the first time in decades. Robertson reveals a big part of their secret to political success on page 63 of The Turning Tide. He writes, "The simple truth regarding apathy, low voter turn out, and close elections tells us that the combined strength of dedicated Evangelicals coupled with equally dedicated pro-family Roman Catholics and Orthodox Jews is more than sufficient to decide any election for any office in the land." They are well on their way to turning America into a dangerously repressive un-American theocracy. What are you going to do to stop them?
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From Catholic Priest to Deist!
Thomas Jefferson versus Pat Robertson
Spiritual Advice from Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson on Separation of Church & State
Mind Snaring Techniques of Christianity
Guaranteed Protection From Cults
Ethan Allen on God NOT being the First Cause, but the Eternal Cause
Ethan Allen on the Doctrine of the Depravity of Reason
Ethan Allen on "Miracles"
The Beauty of Deism
A Biographical Sketch of Thomas Paine
Christian Coalition Attacks U.S. Constitution
Christian Coalition Attacks the Rights of Their
If the Bible Were True
If the Bible Were True - II
Clarence Darrow vs. the Religious Right
Thought Provoking Quotes
To Be Saved Or Not To Be Saved
Deistic and Philosophic Links
Pat Robertson's Bible Study Course (ad parody)
Religious Right Lie: America is a Christian Nation
Pat Robertson: Astrologer???
Mormonism: Anatomy of a Colossal Fraud
The Curse of Materialistic Priorities
Faulty Foundations of Islam
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