10 April 2009


This post is part of a nationwide
event taking place April 10-12, 2009

Visit the link above to visit posts from other bloggers.

The Godless Constitution:
The Case Against Religious Correctness
Isaac Kramnick and R. Laurence Moore (1996)

Excerpts (in green) from Chapter One: 
Is America A Christian Nation?

“Since before the founding of the United States, European colonists in North America were arguing about the role of religion in public and political life.... The nations’ founders, both in writing the Constitution and in defending it in the ratification debates, sought to separate the operations of government from any claims that human beings can know and follow divine direction in reaching policy decisions...”

“While many at the birth of America advocated a Christian politics, the principal architects of our national government envisioned a godless Constitution and a godless politics. One would never know this, however, by listening to the
Christian right today, which has an utterly different take on the American past... The rhetoric of the Christian right repeatedly calls for a return to America’s lost Christianhood, as shaped by the founding fathers.”

“America’s original founding as a Christian state is central to the
Christian right’s conspiratorial theory of American history. The Dallas Baptist minister who delivered the benediction at the Republican National Convention in 1984 insists ‘that there is no such thing as separation of church and state. It is merely the figment of the imagination of infidels.’ The founder and president of the religious right’s Rutherford Institute writes that ‘it’s of little surprise then that... the entire Constitution was written to promote a Christian order’... James Dobson [Focus on the Family] distributes... a set of history lesson that seeks to show that ‘the concept of a secular state was virtually non-existent in 1776, as well as in 1787, when the Constitution was written, and no less so when the Bill of Rights was adopted’...”

“This reading of the minds of the men who wrote the godless Constitution is wrong.”

“The principal framers of the American political system wanted no religious parties in national politics. They crafted a constitutional order that intended to make a person’s religious convictions, or his lack of religious convictions, irrelevant in judging the value of his political opinion or in assessing his qualifications to hold political office.... So successful were the drafters of the Constitution in defining government in secular terms that one of the most powerful criticisms of the Constitution when ratified and for succeeding decades was that it was indifferent to Christianity and God. It was denounced by many as a godless document, which is precisely what it is.”

Excerpts (in green) from Chapter Two:
The Godless Constitution

“’The Constitution was designed to perpetrate a Christian order,’ the Christian right’s Focus on the Family informs us. That’s not what happened in 1787. God and Christianity are nowhere to be found in the American Constitution... The U.S. Constitution, drafted in 1787 and ratified in 1788, is a godless document. It’s utter neglect of religion was no oversight...”

“While passionately debated in the new nation, the ‘no religious test’ [for public office] clause elicited... little discussion at the Philadelphia Constitutional Convention...”

It should be noted than Catholics and Jews fought in the Revolutionary War, yet they were among the religious groups, along with Quakers (because of their pacifist and anti-salvery stances) many wanted to exclude from holding office in the new nation. Some worried that if a Catholic were allowed to become president, that the Pope could be elected. The following passage seems so antiquated, biased, and vindictive, that we should all be glad religious tests were not added to our Constitution:

“An anticonstitutional article written for the New York Daily Advertiser ... January [1788] and widely distributed within days in Connecticut, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts papers pulled no punches about the social repercussions of Article 6 No religious tests admitted to national lawmaking: ‘1st. Quakers, who will make blacks saucy, and at the same time deprive us of the means of defense --- 2dly. Mahometans, who ridicule the doctrine of the Trinity ---3dly. Deists, abominable wretches ---4th. Negroes, the seed of Cain ---5thly. Beggars, who when set on horseback will ride to the devil ---6thly. Jews etc. etc.’ Not quite finished with the last, the newspaper writer feared that since the Constitution stupidly gave command of the whole militia to the president, ‘should he hereafter be a Jew, our dear posterity may be ordered to rebuild Jerusalem.”

“In Federalist No.10 [The Federalist Papers written by James Madison, Alexander Hamilton and John Jay, 1787-1788] Madison argues that zealous pursuit of religious opinions, far from leading men to ‘cooperate for their common good,’ causes them to hate each other and disposes them ‘to vex and oppress each other.’

“When Benjamin Franklin, who presided over the Constitutional Convention, urged the delegates to open their sessions with prayers, a request cited often today by the religious right, the delegates... voted to adjourn for the day rather than discuss Franklin’s suggestion. The matter was never brought up again.”

“The political convictions of the men who struggled to ratify a godless Constitution were not products of personal godlessness... Many of the men... stayed aloof from dogmatic forms of Christian faith, but most of them believed in a God...”

“...While the idea of a godless constitution clearly incorporated certain secular ideals, important and forceful justifications for such a secular document lay in religious thought. No one in American experience has cared more about religion than Roger Williams. And virtually no one in American experience has fashioned a stronger argument for a godless politics....”

The next few chapters go into detail of Roger Williams' thoughts on government and the Founding Fathers reasons for writing our secular Constitution.

This book was extremely informative and easy to read. I recommend it highly.

While I read the 1996 version, The Godless Constitution: The Case Against Religious Correctness, the updated version of the book is The Godless Constitution: A Moral Defense of the Secular State.

Find my other two posts for the 2009 Blog Against Theocracy:

You may also find this earlier post interesting: God in the White House


Nicki said...

Great Post! I'm gonna have to get my hands on those books! :)

two crows said...

the first Europeans to land here did incorporate "God" [actually, intolerance] into their government.

that's why the Salem witch trials occurred long after the European versions had died out.
it's also why Roger Williams, banished from Massachusetts Colony, founded Providence, Rhode Island. the religious tolerance practiced there drew people from all the other colonies who were fleeing religious persecution.

our forefathers had studied history and were well aware of what mixing religion and government both in Europe and in this country had brought about. and that is why they wrote a 'godless document.'

I, for one, am grateful to them. now let's see if it can survive.

Dr. Dan said...

Those claiming this IS a "Christian" Nation ...... are NOT Christians anyway ...... These "rapture" Prophets for PROFIT are ANTI-Christ DEATH CULTISTS. God/Jesus would have you in this LIFE to learn "soul lessons", to increase your consciousness to the point of Redemption. Hagee and his Ilk REJECT the LIFE God gave you, and dangle a "shortcut" in front of people, just as SATAN dangled Temptation in front of Jesus. Do not follow the ANTI-Christ lies of FALSE prophets. Their "shortcut" of cheating God's lessons does NOT lead to Heaven, any more than cheating on school work teaches you the subject.

C Woods said...

Mmmmm??? According to Dr. Dan, those claiming to be Christians are not Christians and God/Jesus want to teach us "soul lessons" so we can be redeemed. What exactly are those lessons? What if we don't need or want to be redeemed? And who is Dr. Dan anyway? Clicking on his name gets no information on him whatsoever.

C Woods said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
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