Founders thought religion necessary

George Washington began his 1787 inaugural address by stating that it would be improper to omit “fervent supplication to that Almighty Being who rules over the universe, who presides in the councils of nations, and whose providential aids can supply every human defect, that his benediction may consecrate to the liberties and happiness of the people of the United States.” After claiming that the United States had been more blessed by God’s providence than any other nation, Mr. Washington warned that “the propitious smiles of Heaven can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right which Heaven itself has ordained.”

Washington evidently didn’t know what our local atheists know, that religion and the bible (sic) are to be constitutionally restricted from laws, and relegated to homes and churches.

John Adams’ inaugural address also credited the protection of this nation to God’s providence. He too was evidently unfamiliar with the true intent of the Constitution. In his 1801 inaugural address, Jefferson stated “acknowledging and adoring an overruling Providence, which by all its dispensations proves that it delights in the happiness of man here, and his greater happiness hereafter.”

While Jefferson was admittedly no conservative Bible thumper, he nonetheless clearly credited God with man’s destiny on this Earth and in the next life. In 1789 Congress authorized both prayer and an official chaplain; they evidently misunderstood what they themselves meant in writing the Constitution (I count 22 signers of the Constitution who later served in Congress). Space will not permit me to reproduce Benjamin Franklin’s proposal to end the Constitutional Assembly’s stalemate. To summarize, noted libertine Franklin encouraged the group to pray together as they had during the struggle for independence.

And we are to believe that these were praying to God for help in producing a document that would exclude Him? The irony is thick enough to cut with a knife.

Jefferson’s Danbury letter has little to do with the discussion, unless the atheists are arguing for religion’s role being ceded to state authority rather than federal. That the letter originated with the Danbury Baptists suggests to an honest thinker that their concerns were likely not the specter of too much public religion. They were concerned that the U.S. would follow the English precedent of overtly sponsoring one Christian denomination, up to and including the paying of ministers from public funds. I find myself something to the left of Jefferson’s official position on this, which he clarified in his 2nd inaugural address.

Responding to grumbling that he had not established religious days (such as Washington had with Thanksgiving) Jefferson stated that he had “left them, as the Constitution has found them, under the direction and discipline of the church or state authorities acknowledged by the religious societies.”

I also join Eric Engle in opposing theocracies, since I don’t trust the government that far!

Mr. Engle utilized an argument that God’s sending the 10th plague was morally equivalent to the infanticide he promotes. He needn’t worry that Jim Wilt naively let the cat out of the bag by telling us that these arguments came from atheist echo chamber websites. This is not our first rodeo; we knew where they originated.

Engle’s argument is actually a discussion of the moral principle on the existence of God. It errs in stipulating that the atheist is equal with God who, granted, controls matters of life and death. If God does exist, he certainly has the authority to also take it. As it happens, every human must die by God’s decree. That fails to justify the atheist in advocating crushing the skulls of inconvenient and defenseless children. This argument is shown self defeating by asking “What is morality, absent God? Is it human government? If it is, governments cannot behave immorally, according to the atheist, since there is no higher power. Washington certainly did not agree. In his farewell address, he stated “of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports … reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can be maintained without religion.”

What was that again about the founders’ believing that religion has no place in government?

One writer cited statistics to prove that the more religious a culture is, the more violent and criminal. It’s possible that this is correct in some carefully selected cases. One would think that being responsible for 60 million or so murdered by secularist nations in the 20th Century alone was ignored. Evidently what was meant was “if you ignore the 4 greatest mass murderers of all time, secularism is great!”

I suppose Stalin, Hitler and Mao could claim low crime rates, since their purges were the authoritative law of their respective governments. I predict that these writers will respond with the greatest conversion of all time, in fact, I beg for it.

Those who parrot arguments from atheistic “echo chamber” websites always seem shocked that their arguments are easily answered.

We’ll deal with the silliest one. Was God responsible for having bears kill 42 children (2Ki. 2)? Not exactly. The same word describes children from infancy to age 20 or so; also, their phrasing “go up, baldhead,” is a thinly veiled death threat, referencing fellow prophet Elijah who had recently “gone up” from the earth. When was the last time you observed 40 or so little children threatening an adult? This was a gang of Godless thugs, and yes, God dealt with them appropriately. Such an absurd argument speaks to the questionable credibility of these folks. I am reminded of a line from the 1801 book “The Age of Revelation,” in which Founder Elias Boudinot dismantled Thomas Paine’s skeptical rants. He observed “in every other science, except that of religion, it is necessary to become a learner, before it is expected to be understood.”


Dan Kessinger is a minister of Churches of Christ, and an instructor at the West Virginia School of Preaching, in Moundsville.