Our Founding Fathers

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In recent years, several people have put forth the idea that the United States was founded on Christian principles by a group of conservative Christian men. I thought I would write a short note to set the record straight. By the way, this is about facts, not wishful thinking, so please consult history books yourself before calling me names--I'm reporting the facts here, I don't make them up.

The founding fathers (who wrote and signed the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution) were probably as diverse a group of white men as you could find in the United States of that day. Some were conservative Christians, to be sure. Charles Carroll of Carrollton was a devout Catholic, for example. But not all of them were Christians in any real sense. And not all of them were conservative.

Patrick Henry was an atheist and a radical. He came here specifically to be part of the revolution. When the Constitution was adopted, he was so convinced that all the rights won by the revolution would be lost, that he went back to England and never came back.

Thomas Jefferson was very liberal. He got most of the ideas he used in the Declaration and Constitution from liberal European philosophers like Rousseau. He had a slave mistress who bore him children and served as the hostess of his home. Christian? Well, he didn't believe in the divinity of Christ or his resurrection. In fact, he went so far as to rewrite the Bible omitting any notion of Jesus as Divine.

Ben Franklin was also very liberal. He belonged to several secret societies and had illegitimate children by several women. He was not a churchgoing man, nor a believer in anything definite in the spiritual realm.

George Washington was nominally an Anglican, although he belonged to a branch of that church which nearly succeeded in writing the Trinity out of the Book of Common Prayer. He married Martha when she was in her late 20s; they were married for some 60 years more, yet never had any children (she had two from a previous marriage). When George died, Martha burned their letters, so their secrets (whatever they might have been) are safe.

Many of the founding fathers belonged to a secret society of spiritual beliefs said to have roots in the occult. One of its symbols is the pentagram (point down). Anton LaVey, the founder of Satanism, and Aleister Crowley, often called the father of the modern occult, were also members of the same society, although much more recently. Those who join this society take an oath not to divulge its teachings to outsiders on pain of death.

So what distinguished these men as a group? Certainly it was not the morality of their personal lives or the depth of their Christian commitment. But then, I'm sure they never thought of themselves as great moral or theological examples. If anything distinguished them it was their clarity of thought and unflinching awareness of the diversity of religions, political beliefs, and lifestyles that characterized America then and now. This was the first country on earth founded on the notion that government derives its power from the consent of the governed, not the divine right of kings to govern others. Today this idea seems to be a most rational and conservative notion. Two hundred years ago, it was a radical idea that had never been tried in practice.

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