October 10, 2007

Were they Christians?

Our friends on the Authoritarian Right are up to their old tricks. Proclamations such as "The U.S. is, and always has been, a Christian Nation!" are once more being tossed about.

What about the four great Americans pictured here? Were they adherents of the Christian faith?

The answer is... one of them was a true Christian- and a very reasonable Christian, at that.

Amid cries of "@!*# America-hating liberal liar!", we'll begin with George Washington:

"Sir, Washington was a Deist."-- (The Reverend Doctor James Abercrombie, rector of the church Washington had attended with his wife, to The Reverend Bird Wilson, an Episcopal minister in Albany, New York, upon Wilson's having inquired of Abercrombie regarding Washington's religious beliefs.)

"I have diligently perused every line that Washington ever gave to the public, and I do not find one expression in which he pledges, himself as a believer in Christianity. I think anyone who will candidly do as I have done, will come to the conclusion that he was a Deist and nothing more."-- (The Reverend Bird Wilson, an Episcopal minister in Albany, New York, in an interview with Mr. Robert Dale Owen written on November 13, 1831, which was publlshed in New York two weeks later)... Quoted from Franklin Steiner, The Religious Beliefs of Our Presidents, pp. 27.

How about Thomas Jefferson? Hoo boy...

"Ridicule is the only weapon which can be used against unintelligible propositions. Ideas must be distinct before reason can act upon them; and no man ever had a distinct idea of the trinity. It is the mere Abracadabra of the mountebanks calling themselves the priests of Jesus."-- (Thomas Jefferson, letter to Francis Adrian Van der Kemp July 30, 1816, denouncing the doctrine of the Trinity and suggesting it to be so riddled in falsehood that only an authoritarian figure could decipher its meaning and, with a firm grip on people's spiritual and mental freedoms, thus convince the people of its truthfulness)

"The day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus, by the Supreme Being as his father, in the womb of a virgin, will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerva in the brain of Jupiter."-- (Thomas Jefferson, letter to John Adams, April 11, 1823)

What about Honest Abe? Well...

"My earlier views of the unsoundness of the Christian scheme of salvation and the human origin of the scriptures, have become clearer and stronger with advancing years and I see no reason for thinking I shall ever change them."-- (Abraham Lincoln, to Judge J S Wakefield, after Willie Lincoln's death (Willie died in 1862), quoted by Joseph Lewis in "Lincoln the Freethinker")

"Mr. Lincoln's maxim and philosophy were: 'What is to be, will be, and no prayers of ours can arrest the decree.' He never joined any Church. He was a religious man always, I think, but was not a technical Christian."-- (Mary Todd Lincoln, in William Herndon's "Religion of Lincoln", quoted from Franklin Steiner, The Religious Beliefs of Our Presidents, p. 118)

Of the "Big 4", only Teddy Roosevelt can be classified as a practicing Christian. His affiliations were 'Dutch Reformed', and later in life, Episcopalian. Here's what Teddy had to say:

"I hold that in this country there must be complete severance of Church and State; that public moneys shall not be used for the purpose of advancing any particular creed; and therefore that the public schools shall be nonsectarian and no public moneys appropriated for sectarian schools."-- (Theodore Roosevelt, address, Carnegie Hall, October 12, 1915, from Albert J Menendez and Edd Doerr, "The Great Quotations on Religious Freedom")

"To discriminate against a thoroughly upright citizen because he belongs to some particular church, or because, like Abraham Lincoln, he has not avowed his allegiance to any church, is an outrage against that liberty of conscience which is one of the foundations of American life."-- (Theodore Roosevelt, letter to J C Martin, November 9, 1908, from Albert J Menendez and Edd Doerr, "The Great Quotations on Religious Freedom")

Note the reference to Abraham Lincoln in the second quote!



MarkT said...

In all fairness, I must add that both Washington's and Jefferson's religious affiliations are listed as Episcopalian, according to www.adherents.com, a believer-oriented website... I myself was baptized in a Hungarian Orthodox Christian church- does this count me as a Christian, though I'm an Atheist?

Maudie said...

No Mark, it doesn't count you as a Christian. I believe it is only the Catholic church dogma that dictates that once baptized, albeit as an infant during which time period you cannot decide this for your own self, you are forever not just Christian, oh no-once baptized in the Catholic church you are forever, inherently, Catholic. Even if you declare yourself an atheist, a protestant, a Jew, a Muslim thereafter, too friggin' bad, you were baptized as an infant in the Catholic church, an incident over which you had no choice, but no matter, with that sacrament, according to the church, you are forever really Catholic no matter what you say. Hehehehehe.