Minister’s Forum: Founding fathers at odds with freethinker
On Jan. 25, the Religion page contained an article from atheist Damian Sowers, who wrote an article titled “An unholy union,” in which he reasoned in his own words: “Jefferson was not the only patriot guilty of blasphemy, though. In a letter to a friend, Benjamin Franklin wrote, ‘In the affairs of the world, men are saved, not by faith, but by the lack of it.’ But fear not, good Christian. According to the trusty King James Bible, such slander does not go unpunished. God will ensure that these two brilliant men forever burn in the fires of hell. And Satan’s barbecue isn’t just a table for two. John Adams, the dedicated patriot and president, also signed off on his fiery fate as soon as he announced, ‘This would be the best of all possible worlds, if there were no religion in it.’ Although these three men did not speak for all of the delegates, it’s safe to say the majority of them would agree that America is not ‘One nation under God.’ “
A friend, Evan Williams, wrote a rebuttal to the Tribune that unfortunately was not printed, I believe due to length. However, his points were excellent, and so I’ve chosen to edit his words for publication here:
“Mr. Sowers holds Thomas Jefferson as an example of what he refers to as the ‘heathen’ founders of this nation. One of the most famous passages penned by Jefferson is, of course, the Declaration of Independence, in which he clearly establishes his belief that the Creator is the originator of our ‘inalienable rights.’ In a letter written by Jefferson in 1802, he writes, ‘To the corruptions of Christianity I am indeed opposed; but not to the genuine precepts of Jesus himself. I am a Christian, in the only sense he wished any one to be; sincerely attached to his doctrines, in preference to all others.’
“Mr. Sowers mentions John Adams in his piece, let’s look at some quotes from him. ‘Is it not that the Declaration of Independence first organized the social compact on the Redeemer’s mission upon Earth? That it laid out the cornerstone of human government upon the precepts of Christianity?’ Regarding the officially recognized federal holidays of Thanksgiving and Fast Day, John Adams urged the citizens to ‘acknowledge before God the manifold sins and transgressions with which we are justly chargeable as individuals and as a nation; beseeching him at the same time, of his infinite grace, through the Redeemer of the World, (that would be Jesus) freely to remit all our offenses, and to incline us, by his holy spirit, to that sincere repentance and reformation which may afford us reason to hope for his inestimable favor and heavenly benediction.’ A real, blasphemous heretic … right?
“Mr. Sowers also mentions Benjamin Franklin amongst those who would ‘roast in the fires of hell’ for their atheistic views. That’s funny, because even Benjamin Franklin, known as perhaps the least religious framer, proposed that the Constitutional Convention begin every day with a prayer, and as the oldest delegate, at age 81, Franklin insisted that ‘the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth – that God governs in the Affairs of Men.’
“Franklin also postulated to French delegates, ‘Bad examples to youth are more rare in America, which must be comfortable consideration to parents. To this may be truly added, that serious religion, under its various denominations, is not only tolerated, but respected and practiced. Atheism is unknown there; infidelity (a disbelief in the Scriptures and in Christianity) rare and secret; so that persons may live to a great age in that country, without having their piety shocked by meeting with either an atheist or an infidel.’ According to Ben Franklin, it would appear that atheists were in very short supply in 18th-century America.
“The settlers of the New World, in fact, were not atheists, they were Christians who desperately sought freedom OF worship, not freedom FROM worship! A case might possibly be made for a couple of the many framers of the Constitution perhaps being deists (deists DO believe in God), but there is not so much as a scintilla of evidence for even one of them being atheistic. (Sorry, Mr. Sowers – you had no kindred souls in the founding of this nation.) To now claim that this nation was founded on anything other than Christian principles and ideals is utterly preposterous.”
Both articles in their entirety may be found at hialtidude.blogspot.com/.
– Dan Wilvers is a pastor at Sierra Community Church.