94 percent of the Founding Fathers’ quotes in 15,000 documents were based on the Bible.
By John E. Carey
Peace and Freedom
July 23, 2007
Because of an essay of mine about the Harry Potter book series (link at the end of this essay), I have already received many emails asking, “What makes you think the Founders of our nation really believed in God? Many didn’t go to church.”
Well, here is some of what I do know, based upon years of reading history (and not fiction and fantasy like the Harry Potter books).
Prayer goes hand-in-hand with hope; and America was founded by men deeply governed by their hope and prayer and belief in God.
The Founding Fathers established the United States, wrote the Declaration of Independence; the Bill of Rights and the Constitution; and created a nation firmly rooted in the belief in God and freedom of religion protected by the separation of church and state.
Many of the Founders and their forefathers fled Europe to escape religious persecution. They wanted this new nation to allow them freedom of religion and thus the very nation is rooted in a belief in God.
The Declaration of Independence starts this way: “When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the Earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation. We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
After signing the Declaration of Independence, Samuel Adams, who was called “the firebrand of the American Revolution,” affirmed his obedience to God by stating, “We have this day restored the Sovereign to whom alone men ought to be obedient. From the rising to the setting of the sun, may His kingdom come.”
James Madison, the fourth president, made the following statement, “We have staked the whole of all our political institutions upon the capacity of mankind for self-government, upon the capacity of each and all of us to govern ourselves, to control ourselves, to sustain ourselves according to the Ten Commandments of God.”
Madison is often referred to as “The Father of Our Constitution.”
Page one of the original copy of the Constitution
When historians at the University of Houston conducted a 10-year study of the ideas that shaped our republic, they found 94 percent of the Founding Fathers’ quotes in 15,000 documents were based on the Bible.
“God created all men equal,” one of the most fundamental and important acclamations of our government, became an underlying reason for the Civil War, a fundamental reason for the Emancipation Proclamation and a keynote of equality ever since.
Every president of the United States is sworn into office, by reciting an oath while he has one hand on the Bible. The oath ends, “So help me God.”
Every session of Congress since 1777 commenced with a prayer by a minister paid by the taxpayers. (Just today my wife and I attended Catholic Mass at the “Cathedral” adjacent to Catholic University in Washington D.C. The celebrant was the Catholic Chaplain to the U.S. Congress.)
Every military service of the United States pays uniformed religious ministers for the officers and men in service. These ministers are from all faiths that recognize the importance of God in human life. Nearly every base has a chapel.
The Ten Commandments are carved into the doors of the Supreme Court and appear prominently in the court’s chambers.Every piece of U.S. currency bears the words “In God We Trust.”
In America, you are even free to start your own religion. Nobody (except possibly the Internal Revenue Service) will interfere, so long as you don’t do anything outside the normal bounds of decent behavior.
So, as we all celebrate the blessings of American freedom, justice and government every day, perhaps we should reflect upon the roots and tenets of our democracy. We are not a Godless people. Or are we?
Yes, our democracy is evolving and we are open and accepting to that evolution. But let us not allow the evolution to turn into a careless revolution or even an unintended erosion of the principles by which we live and we are governed.I am one of those historians that thinks the Founders were pretty smart. Their belief in God, hope and prayer encourages me every day.
Sadly, some and maybe many in our society have moved away from a belief in God and toward beliefs in other things. Money? Drugs? Sex? Harry Potter? I don’t know what all.
I just think there is some merit in reviewing the work of our Founders. It’s time well spent. And certainly time better spent than reading Harry Potter.
The essay that prompted the one above is:
Harry Potter: More Worthless Pop Culture
Priest Says Harry Potter Helps Devil, Evil
“The great good news about America — The American gospel, if you will – is that religion shapes the life of the nation without strangling it. Belief in God is central to the country’s experience, yet for the broad center faith is a matter of choice, not coercion and the legacy of the Founding is that the center holds.”
–John Meacham, managing editor of Newsweek, is also the author of, American Gospel: God, the Founding Fathers and the Making of a Nation.