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Is the United States founded on Deist Principles?

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Quixote1818 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Feb-20-05 09:04 PM
Original message
Is the United States founded on Deist Principles?
Edited on Sun Feb-20-05 09:07 PM by Quixote1818
I would argue yes.


by Robert L. Johnson

What is it that filled the souls of many of America's founders with such passionate altruism that they were willing to risk everything they had, including their families, careers, and very lives, for an ideal? Was it their strong convictions in the teachings of Christianity and the Bible? Or was it something else?


People like Thomas Jefferson, George Washington and Benjamin Franklin were avid readers of the great philosophers of the European Enlightenment. They treasured the ideas found in the works of such thinkers as Descartes, Voltaire, Bacon and Locke.

One of the cornerstone ideas of the Enlightenment was to give every idea and assumption the test of reason. When they applied reason to religion they found it necessary to strip it of revelation and they ended up with Deism. Deism is belief in God based on reason and nature. The differing alleged revelations of the various revealed religions are conspicuously absent from Deism. It is a natural religion as opposed to a revealed religion such as Christianity, Judaism, or Islam.

Deism first started to evolve when Edward Herbert of England wrote a book called Of Truth in 1624. His book took the position that belief in God can be based on reason, not just revelation.

In 1696 the Irish philosopher John Toland wrote Christianity Not Mysterious. This book claimed that both God and God's revelations were accessible to human reason and that the so called Christian mysteries are nothing but the manipulations of the clergy.

These two works broke the taboo of questioning Christian dogma, which was very courageous at the time, for this was the time of the Inquisition. People who questioned Biblical dogma could meet the same fate as Giordano Bruno who was convicted of being a heretic because he stated that the earth is not the center of the universe. For exercising his God-given reason Bruno paid the heavy price the superstition of revealed religion demanded - he was burned alive. In addition, these books took the additional positive step of injecting the use of reason in religious matters. Latter Deists were to completely reject any idea of revelation and base their ideas of God simply on the application of their reason on the creation. The order of nature to them was evidence of design. The design they detected in nature lead them to believe there is a Designer of nature, which is God.

In Peter Byrne's book NATURAL RELIGION AND THE NATURE OF RELIGION - THE LEGACY OF DEISM, it's stated the paramount difference between Deism/natural religion and revealed religion is, ". . . a distinction between a supposed set of divine truths specially communicated by God in history and a real system of truths available to all by the use of the unaided reason." This cornerstone of Deism was welcomed by people like Jefferson and Washington because it brought ideas of God current with modern science and knowledge.

The Enlightenment philosophers saw no need for the revelations, rituals, and dogmas of Christianity and the other revealed religions. And neither did key figures in American history.


The reliance on reason that Deism demands enabled those who used it at the time of the American Revolution to overcome the Biblical prohibition against rebellion in political and governmental matters. This prohibition is found in Romans 13:1-2 which reads, "Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves."

Article continues
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Hissyspit Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Feb-20-05 09:14 PM
Response to Original message
1. Pretty much, yeah. I'm looking for some other links right now. n/t
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Frumious B Donating Member (282 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Feb-20-05 09:18 PM
Response to Original message
2. It makes sense to me.
Edited on Sun Feb-20-05 09:19 PM by Frumious B
The whole historic justification for self-government is that if you leave people alone without an autocratic regime keeping them in line at every turn that they will, basically with just a few exceptions, be nice to each other and not instantly leap at each others' throats the instant you leave them to their own devices. This goes against the whole "original sin" and "divine right of kings" line of thinking where only an enlightened monarch chosen by God was fit to govern and make decisions for the masses. However, it does imply the existence of an overarching, organizing force in the universe that endows humanity with reason, inherent value, and makes it capable of self-government.
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Hissyspit Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Feb-20-05 09:34 PM
Response to Original message
3. Here's some links. It's really more of a bibliography.
"The Religion of the Founding Fathers" David L. Holmes (professor, William and Mary)

"The Founding Fathers and the Place of Religion In America" by Frank Lambert

"The Myth of Christian America: What You Need to Know About the Separation of Church and State" by Mark Weldon Whitten

"The Godless Constitution: The Case Against Religious Correctness" by Isaac Kramnick, R. Laurence Moore

"Why The Religious Right Is Wrong: About Separation of Church and State" by Rob Boston

"Thomas Jefferson & and the Wall of Separtion Between Church and State" by Daniel L. Dreisbach

"The Jefferson Bible: The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth" by Thomas Jefferson

And here's a GREAT Italian cooking website; lots of recipes:
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Ready4Change Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Feb-20-05 10:04 PM
Response to Original message
4. Never forget...
Edited on Sun Feb-20-05 10:08 PM by Ready4Change
While many of our nations founding fathers were deists of one variety or another never forget what they put in the very FIRST AMENDMENT to that new nations constitution.

Article (I.)

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; ...
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Quixote1818 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Feb-20-05 10:40 PM
Response to Reply #4
7. Absolutely. The founders had MANY belief systems.
Many were Deist, some Fundamentalist Christian and some even Atheist however in my opinion Deism had the biggest impact on our constitution.
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Ready4Change Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Feb-20-05 11:27 PM
Response to Reply #7
10. THE biggest?
In my opinion, the 1st amendment demonstrates our founding fathers fear of government imposed deism. A clear statement that these to topics are not to be mingled.

And I've yet to see a statement that our government is based on deism that doesn't quickly devolve into a statement that this means a SPECIFIC deism. Which deism varies, from era to era and person to person. However, the argument is always used to get a religious foot into the doorjam of our government.
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mikehiggins Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Feb-20-05 10:16 PM
Response to Original message
5. Many of the men you refer to were Freemasons.
I always like to point that out, usually when people start thumping their Bibles and claim the US was founded as a Christian nation.
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independentchristian Donating Member (393 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Feb-20-05 10:19 PM
Response to Reply #5
6. Isn't Skull and Bones connected to the Freemasons
and aren't the Freemasons connected to the Knight of the Garter, which is a title held by Prince Charles?
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The Magistrate Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Feb-20-05 10:56 PM
Response to Reply #6
8. No, Mr. Christian
To both counts....
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hootinholler Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Feb-20-05 11:18 PM
Response to Reply #5
9. Of which one requirement to belong is the declaration
Of one's belief in God, of a supreme inteligence. You need not be Christian, simply believe in a God.

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