September 21, 2010

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September 19, 2010

Essentials of Christianity Part 2

I now would like to look more closely at the doctrines and beliefs which the bible itself claims as necessary to affirm in order for one to be a true Christian. Surprisingly I have found very few which are deemed necessary by the authors themselves. Monotheism, the deity of Jesus of Nazareth, salvation by grace alone, and the gospel. Non-essential doctrines and beliefs do not serve to undermine any necessary doctrine and there is no command to adhere to them. Freedom in these areas is recognized by the Apostle Paul in Romans chapter 14, along with a brief overview of some non-essential doctrines which were common in the formational years of the Christian church. Examples of some non-essential doctrines include: inerrancy of the bible, methods of baptism (full emersion or sprinkling of water), frequency of communion, and length of creation days. Beliefs concerning these subjects does not exclude one from Christianity.

Monotheism is the belief there is only one God, is the uncreated creator of-and separate from-the universe (Genesis 2:7, Psalm 33:6; 96:5; 115:15, Isaiah 43:10; 44:6, 8; 45:5, 14, 18, 21, 22, 24; 46:9; 47:8). This view stands in stark contrast to polytheism, which teaches the existence of many gods, a view common to many eastern religions. The bible acknowledges the perceived existence of multiple gods, but that they are false (1 Corinthians 8:5-6; Deuteronomy 4:28; 2 Kings 19:17-18; Psalm 97:7; Isaiah 37:19; 42:17; Jeremiah 14:22; 16:20; 18:15; Daniel 5:23; Zechariah 10:2). Similar to polytheism is henotheism, and differs in that while there are believed to be multiple gods, only one deserves worship and adoration. Pantheism suggests there is no distinction between the Creator and the universe. It tends to equate God and the universe and is contrary to the biblical teaching that they are separate. Similar to pantheism is panentheism which is the belief that the universe is a part of God, but not completely God. Thus in Exodus 20:3-6, the command to direct worship to YHWH Himself and no other. Anywhere the bible speaks of the existence of gods, it affirms only YHWH as the only real deity, and all others as false and powerless. For this reason monotheism is a necessery beliefs for the Christian.

Second, the deity of Jesus of Nazareth is spoken of through out the New Testament (NT), and alluded to in the Old Testament (OT). That Jesus is God, is central to what it means to be a Christian. Christians since the first century have worshipped Him as God, having taken a human nature to come in order to reconcile fallen man to Himself. The idea that it would be God Himself who would come is written in the OT and is not strictly a Christian idea. Psalm 49:7-9 reads: “No man can by any means redeem his brother or give to God a ransom for him--For the redemption of his soul is costly, and he should cease trying forever-- That he should live on eternally, that he should not undergo decay” and states explicitly that your redemption nor someone else's can be redeemed by a mere man. It is Jesus that gives everlasting life, John 3:36 - “He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him”, John 4:13-14 - “Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again; but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.”. John 10:27-28 - “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish”. See also Romans 5:21; 6:23; 1 Timothy 1:16; Titus 3:6-7.

The OT and NT both teach the only savior is God Himself, Isaiah 43:11 - “I, even I, am the LORD, And there is no savior besides Me”. Isaiah 44:6 - “Thus says the LORD, the King of Israel and his Redeemer”. Luke 1:47-“And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior”. 1 Timothy 4:10 - “For it is for this we labor and strive, because we have fixed our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of believers”. Since the Advent, Jesus is also referred to as the only savior. Luke 2:11 - “for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord”, Philippians 3:20 - “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ”, 2 Timothy 1:10 - “but now has been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel”. See also, Titus 1:3-4; 2:10, 13; 3:4-7; 2 Peter 1:1, 11; 2:20; 3:18.

In many passages Jesus is called God both directly and indirectly. Paul writes in Titus 2:13-14 -“looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession”, 2 Peter 1:1 – “Simon Peter, a bond-servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours, by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ”. Indirectly, by application of OT verses referring to God are then in the NT applied to Jesus. Isaiah 45:22-23 – “Turn to Me and be saved, all the ends of the earth; For I am God, and there is no other. I have sworn by Myself, the word has gone forth from My mouth in righteousness and will not turn back, that to Me every knee will bow, every tongue will swear allegiance”, compared with the passage in Philippians 2:10-11 – “so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord”. Application of the title Savior has been covered in sections above and is significant. In the OT, God Himself claims to be the only Savior and the NT writers and followers of Jesus knew that. It is expressed by their continual use of “God our Savior” in their writings, but they also use Jesus name interchangeably as being the savior, even within the same verses. The language used indicated they have not abandoned their belief in only one God, and only one savior, it seems as though they recognize Jesus and God are the same.

The subject of the deity of Jesus is quite an extensive endeavor. Neither time nor space will allow an exhaustive apologetic for Jesus’ deity. For a quite thorough and readable treatment of the doctrine of the deity of Jesus, I suggest the book “Putting Jesus in His Place” by Bowman and Komoszewski.

Following Christ’s deity is the necessity of His resurrection. There is a reason that Jesus needed to be resurrected, physically in the same body. First, sin is destructive in nature. It is why living things die. The whole purpose for Jesus’ punishment and dying in the first place was that it was done in our stead. In order for that substutionary atonement to be effective, Jesus needed to be sinless. If He was not free from sin the suffering on the cross would have been for Himself and not for others. His being raised was in essence, defeat of the perils of the consequence which sin delivers. It is full trust in Jesus that He is God, crucified, and raised from the dead which delivers us from the punishment which we deserve for transgressions against God. Therefore belief that Jesus’ resurrection is a factual event in history is crucial. For Paul said in 1 Corinthians 15:13-19 – “But if there is no resurrection of the dead, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain. Moreover we are even found to be false witnesses of God, because we testified against God that He raised Christ, whom He did not raise, if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied”. Basically our faith, if it is worth anything, must rest in the actual resurrection of Jesus. Without this fact being true, our faith is wholly in vain and of no value.

With Jesus’ resurrection comes opportunity for man to be saved from the just sentence we all rightly deserve for our transgression of God’s law. But the sixty-four dollar question is, how? Is it something we earn, what must we do to be saved from the wrath God declares is due to all who break His law? It is natural for a person to think salvation is something which must be earned, after all, nothing in life is free, right? Additionally, it almost seems right to us, that we make it better. How many of us have wronged someone whom we love only to ask them “what can I do to make it right?” This urge to somehow right the wrong ourselves is innate, but is this what God has required of us? The bible is clear about our means to the salvation Christ has provided: we are not, indeed cannot be saved by anything we do ourselves. Ephesians 2:8-9 – “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works”. Works is a biblical term roughly meaning obedience to the law, which is in essence doing good. It is by the grace of God, through our faith that it was Jesus who bore our punishment, and that He did it completely, and that it is not anything we can do for ourselves. Galatians 2:21 – “I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly”, hence, if salvation was something we could do ourselves Jesus is irrelevant. It could not be more explicit than in Romans 4:5 – “But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness”. See also, Galatians 3:21, and Romans chapter 4.

The final indispensable affirmed doctrine is the gospel. The gospel proper is not the same thing as gospel books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. All four accounts contain the gospel, but they themselves are not the gospel. The gospel is defined by Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:1-8 – “Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep; then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles; and last of all, as to one untimely born, He appeared to me also”. It is this series of events which is the gospel, and is recorded by the four evangelists. Paul goes further saying in Galatians 1:8-9, NIV – “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!” Paul makes it unambiguous, the gospel is very specific, and it is not to be distorted.

As we have seen affirmation of certain beliefs and doctrines are non-negotiable to Christianity according its authoritative religious text, while others are not. The main thing to glean from this piece is no one is arguing that one cannot believe anything they want. This is not an argument for the truth of Christianity.  Believe what you will. Christianity and the doctrines and beliefs which define it, are found within the bible. Though many people will give many different answers to the question, “what must a Christian believe in order to be a Christian?”.  Christians do not define Christianity, the bible does. If one is intent on claiming the bible as their chief religious text you must consider it for what it is. This holds true for any other religious system. Muslims are not free to alter the Qur’an which dictates what it means to be a Muslim, according to their preferences. When you abandon the contents of the bible relating necessary beliefs, you forgo your true association with Christianity, and have in all practicality, invented a religion of your own.

Related Article: Essentials of Christianity Part 1

Essentials of Christianity Part 1

What is Christianity? It is one of those subjects that mean many things to many people. First and foremost, Christianity proper is a collection of theological doctrines and beliefs, which claim to teach the truth about God, man, sin, salvation, and the afterlife. These theological doctrines and beliefs are contained within the bible, which Christianity affirms as its authoritative source of trustworthy information on these and other subjects. Making the case for the inerrancy, divine inspiration, early dating, or authorship of the bible is beyond the scope of this treatment. What I want to focus on is the passages which encompass those doctrines and beliefs the scriptures themselves claim are necessary beliefs.

Clarification of what is essential and non-essential is very important. There are sects within the community which claim the name of Christianity who elevate principles to the level of necessary which are not, or deny the truth or significance of doctrines which must be affirmed. There is room for divergence on non-essential doctrines; this is testified to in Romans chapter 14, and helps to account for the many denominations within Christianity. An essential doctrine of belief is one which, if denied, excludes one from being a true Christian. Essential beliefs are said to be required of the believer by the bible, not by a particular church, theologian, or blog author. The essential doctrines and beliefs which will be covered are not essential because I believe they are, but that the bible uses ‘must believe this’ type language when the topics are discussed.

There seem also to be doctrines which are secondarily in nature essential. By which I mean there is no explicitly expressed necessity to accept as true, but the denial of which seem to be in contradiction of the teaching of the bible, and are not associated with a consequence. For example, denial of the virgin birth of Christ. There is no explicit language requiring the belief of the virgin birth, nonetheless denial of it undermines the incarnation; that Jesus is God in flesh, additionally undermining (John 8:24).

Non-essential doctrines and beliefs serve to undermine no essential doctrine; their denial comes with no consequence, and no command to adhere to them. Freedom in these areas is acknowledged by the Apostle Paul in Romans chapter 14, along with a brief and incomplete list of non-essential doctrines which were common in the early formation of the Christian church. Other examples of non-essential doctrines include: inerrancy of the bible, methods of baptism, and frequency of communion.

Briefly, there are five doctrines which require affirmation in order to be a Christian. They are: monotheism, the deity of Jesus of Nazareth, the physical resurrection of Jesus, salvation by grace alone, and finally, the gospel. These areas will be investigated in part two of this article. I would like to do justice to the subjects themselves to provide as much useful information possible.

Related Article: Essentials of Christianity Part 2

September 15, 2010

Natural Blindness

Building on  previous article about the beliefs of atheists, I would like to discuss one of the more compelling reasons to reject its "lack of belief" in God.  I believe the naturalist (one who believes nature and the physical universe is all there is, devoid of anything immaterial or supernatural) has been hoisted by his own petard in his embrace of naturalistic evolution.  By naturalistic evolution (NE), I mean macro-evolution, generally speaking the idea of common ancestry, the unguided process of organisms naturally selecting for beneficial mutations and genetic drift producing new species over the course of millions of years.  Is there refuge in this position to allow the atheist a justified denial of God?  Is the atheist rationally justified in holding to NE, how can he know it is true?

The point which topples their shelter is that NE is a mindless  process lacking any guidence whatsoever, which selects for survival and reproduction.  It is posited that the mutations beneficial to surviving and reproducing are kept present in the gene pool, while those mutations which either have no benefit or are harmful are not passed along.  The position comes down to the raw mechanics of the process, there is no guidance.

So my question is, what reason does the atheist have to believe NE is true?  Essentially on the NE view, the nervous system of an organism, in order to survive and pass the beneficial mutations and positive genetic drift, must succeed in at least four necessary behaviors for life: feeding, fleeing, fighting, and reproducing. The principle chore of the nervous system is to get the body where it needs to be so that the organism may survive. Improvements in sensory observation and reaction produce an evolutionary advantage: behaviors or reactions are advantageous so long as it is geared to the organism's way of life, and enhances the organism's chances of survival. Truth in interpretation of a given situation is not the motivating factor on NE, rather the reaction which produces the beneficial behavior is what is the chief end of the organism.

So what does this mean?  This means, according to NE your brain and mind, your reasoning abilities, are not the result of design to seek and discover truth, but rather is the result of producing behaviors conducive to surviving and reproducing.  Since our reasoning abilities were not formed in order to discover truth, what reason to we have to believe our reasoning abilities can discover truth?  The naturalist will respond, organisms routinely wrong in their "thinking" will likely die off before reproducing, and organisms correct in their thinking will invariably continue to reproduce.

It is not necessary, however, that true beliefs cause correct behavior.  In fact as far as raw probabilities are concerned (naturalists ought to have no problem with probabilities), there is a vastly greater number of false beliefs which will produce correct behaviors whereby making it much more highly probable a false belief producing correct behavior will be passed. Take an analogy from Christian philosopher Alvin Plantinga.  Suppose there is a hominid named Joe, one behavior necessary to his survival is avoiding tigers.  There is any number of ways to achieve this necessary behavior: fleeing, climbing a steep rock, if tigers have an aversion to water he could jump in a lake (I do not think tigers hate water, but for the sake of argument), or crawl into a hole too small for the tiger to get him, etc.  So Joe's behavior of avoiding tigers does not need to come from a true belief in order to behave in a way to avoid the tiger and ensure survival and reproduction.  But he could believe petting tigers is a good thing, but falsely believes that the best way to pet a tiger is to run away from it.  Joe might like the thought of being eaten, but believes the tiger which is chasing him is not hungry so he runs as fast as he can to find a more hungry tiger.  Maybe Joe thinks the tiger is a hallucination, but also likes to keep in shape and decides that every time he has a tiger hallucination he will run a mile as fast as he can.  You can go on for ever with examples of false beliefs which create correct behavior.

This is a good reason to doubt the truth finding abilities of our noetic faculties on NE.  In a purely naturalistic world, every phenomenon, thought, and behavior is mechanical determined, and based solely on physical reactions to the physical surroundings.  There is only the determinism of physical laws.  The only reason you think what you do is biochemistry, chemicals and electromagnetic energy in your physical brain interacting.  Remember on NE, beliefs must be a physical process, mind and brain are identical on the naturalistic view, so beliefs are, by necessity of the view itself, mechanical and purely reactionary.  Therefore on NE the atheist's belief of the truth of NE is not because he has reasoned through evidence and arguments, but only as a result of brain synapses firing in such a way to produce the belief NE is true.  The naturalist's own belief the theory is true serves to undercut any reason for him to think it is true, It is a self defeating belief.  Basically, if you believe NE is true, you must also believe you have little reason to believe it is true.

September 14, 2010

Not At All Lacking

Lately I have spent a bit of time in discussion with some atheists.  When discussing the topic of atheism and its claim, I find some atheists to be disingenuous in their belief, well disingenuous in their discussing it.  Some atheists have fallen back on a rhetorical easy chair by maneuvering their claim from "I believe there is no God" to, "I merely lack belief in a God", thus alleviating them from having to defend a position, that since they make no claim, they have no burden of proof nor a position to defend.  But is it true that this kind of atheist has no position to defend?  Are they really making no claims?

One must credit the atheist for cleverly attempting to alleviate themselves from defending a negative position.  It is nearly, if not actually impossible to prove a negative.  Making a claim which requires the proof of a negative puts their assertion in the unique position of being impossible to defend given the nature of the definition of God.  Namely attempting to prove an immaterial, supernatural being whose existence is not measurable with the tools of empirical science does not exist, by using the very tools incapable of producing an accurate result.  The atheist now punts to what he claims is some form of neutrality.

Unfortunately by switching from a positive claim "I believe there is no God" to "I lack belief" does not actually give us any real information other than the atheist's state of mind.  The new claim only tells us about the atheist, not about the state of affairs of the real world.  It is just another form of relativism, we are only finding out what the atheist thinks, not about what the world is actually like, just a personal opinion.  While making the innocuous claim that they simply lack the belief, they will have no trouble providing many reasons why God does not exist.  People who lack belief in subjects have no opinion either way.  For example, if I do not know which English soccer team is the best, It can be said I lack belief, I have no information on the leagues, teams, or players.  The atheists are not in this position.  They think theists-usually Christians-are wrong, that is a position, it is a claim.  Claims require defense.

The atheist, once in the discussion has no refuge in his claim of non-belief.  Since every claim has only three possibilities with respect to how people can acknowledge it.  So for example, "God Exists" you can either affirm the truth of the claim-"God does exist", you can deny the truth of the claim- "God does not exist", or you neither affirm or deny the claim- "I don't know".  The atheist certainly does not affirm the claim, and he does not claim to not know, that's agnosticism.  The only option remaining is denial of the truth of the claim, and now they have taken a position.

Do not be taken in by this rhetoric.  By making this 'lack' claim, the atheist believes it allows him to sit back and do all the hurling of questions, comments, and challenges at the theist's claims, and they will for as long as you indulge it. If they wish to maintain their 'lack' position however, they must remain silent.  Entering the discussion or debate with an opinion opens them to investigation into their conclusions, they must now answer questions, comments, and challenges to their opinions.  They know this to be true, which is why they shifted their actual claim, to the seeming non-claim. 

September 13, 2010

Parents Sue to Admit Unvaccinated Son

A New York family is suing a Catholic school who refused to allow their son to enroll in the school without the state required vaccinations. But apparently there is a "conscience clause" stating in part "children whose parent, parents, or guardian hold genuine and sincere religious beliefs which are contrary to the practices herein required, and no certificate shall be required as a prerequisite to such children being admitted or received into school or attending school,".

The family is claiming "[W]e are all created in God's image. Therefore, we must not defile our blood and our bodies with diseases and other impure substances. As the divine Architect, God designed our bodies to have immune systems that must not be defiled by vaccines. Immunizations are a violation of God's supreme authority, and therefore, unholy. Since immunizations are unholy they violate my religious beliefs." also, that accepting vaccinations show a "lack of faith in God, and His perfectly designed immune system,"

I think the reasoning here is flawed on a few levels. First, I agree God designed our immune systems perfectly. Unfortunately, after the perfect creation, the sin which ensued at the fall of man has tarnished our bodies. Assuming they claim some form of Christianity, they should acknowledge the fall and it's destructive effects. Obviously our immune systems are no longer perfect. After all God also created our eyes, but I need to wear glasses, some are permanently bound to wheelchairs, and numerous other medical deficiencies. What, in this family's opinion, is so special about the immune system? Have they never caught a cold? Have they ever gotten a headache? I hope they never used Excedrine or some other pain killer lest they be hypocrites.

Second, since God created man, our ingenuity comes from God. God, through man, has advanced medical science to the point where we need not suffer and die from easily curable disease and sickness. We are a part of creation and our abilities are a testament to God. So I do not see participating in preventive medicine is showing a lack of faith.

Third, this reminds me of a barely funny joke about a flood which was on it's way through this town. The fire dept. knocked on this man's door telling him he needs to evacuate and they will get him to safety. "God will save me from the flood, I'm not leaving!" and he went to the attic. Then a man in a boat made his way to the house nearly swallowed by the water offering to rescue him from the attic and certain danger. "No, God will save me from the flood, I'm not leaving!" and sent the boat away. Next a rescue helicopter came attempting to rescue the man from his now fully consumed house off the roof, again the man refused claiming God would save him. Needless to say, the man drowned. When standing before God, the maned opined, "God I prayed to you to save me but you never answered my prayers, why not??". God replied, "I sent the fire dept., a boat, a helicopter...".

I realize there are legitimate concerns people have for abstaining from vaccinations.  There have been many vaccines in the past which have cause severe health problems.  There are children who suffer ill effects regularly from vaccines, so there are reasonable objections to vaccinations.  However, according to the article on, my perception is that the family's objection appears theological.  

This sadly similar to the Jehovah's Witnesses policy of refusing blood transfusions based on a terrible misunderstanding of a biblical command to not consume blood. Many Jehovah's Witnesses and their children have needlessly died due to this practice. What is worse, their policy on refusal has changed multiple times over the history of the Watchtower organization.  There is nothing evil or unfaithful about taking medications and vaccinations for protection against disease.  In a fallen world we ought to find gratitude towards God for making us with the abilities we have, that He has not left us on our own.

September 12, 2010

Do You Believe...Really?

Every once in a while I come across a survey or study which piques my interest.  I am particularly fond of surveys on religious beliefs in general, so naturally I was drawn in by a study conducted by Pew Research Center entitled, "Religion Among the Mellennials".  A rather in depth study focusing on religious affiliation (if any), beliefs on the bible or relevant Holy Writ, prayer, church attendance, etc.  There was one category in particular which caught my attention, "Obtaining Eternal Life, Interpreting Religious Teachings", since it is core to any positive religious belief.  Though not everyone will agree it is core, I cannot help but to think it is.

With the infiltration of postmodernism, relativism, and religious pluralism into a majority of our society's worldview, has come with it the sacrifice of not only what it means for something to be true, but also the need for investigation as to whether something is true, or can be true.  "True/truth" has come to be used synonymously with "belief".  True for me but not necessarily for you.  This statement misunderstands what it means for something to be true, for real.  This is most predominant when it comes to religious beliefs, since after all, "who knows?" right?  It seems as though there is the assumption that religious claims are not claims which either need investigation, nor can be investigated.  It's almost as if it is from the start, even by those who hold the religious belief, that it's a fairy tale.  And I do not mean that pejoratively.

Political correctness is so ingrained in our thinking, that from the start, we filter our beliefs with the idea that our beliefs have an obligation to not offend.  There is virtually no room for disagreement, since believing-or worse, telling-someone you think they are wrong, is itself wrong.  But why does this idea that someone is wrong a bad thing?  People are wrong all the time about all kinds of things, why is religious belief exempt from this possible wrongness?

I believe this sometimes very vocal exemption comes from the presumption that there is no way to test religious claims for truth.  As if the most important factor of a religious belief is how it makes you feel.  I believe that no matter what your religious beliefs, they are highly significant.  The area of religion guides what you believe about ultimate things: God, the afterlife, Heaven, hell, etc.  In my opinion, since it is possible all of those things exist, it should be more important to hold accurate beliefs in these areas.  I understand not everyone holds that accuracy is most important, or even somewhat important, but let me explain why I believe it is.

I will be working with the assumption that God does exist, since if God does not, it really does not matter.  So given God exists, it is highly unlikely, if not impossible that our opinions of who He is and what He is like actually make Him so, any more than just my believing parents are British royalty make that so.  As though millions of people have their own personal god who possesses all the characteristics the believer attributes to the deity, and this is a perfectly acceptable process for religious belief nowadays.  I really do not see why people do not have a problem with this...unless you do not truly believe your God is real.

Here is where I will lose the rest of the people.  If people believed the God they worshipped was in fact true, I do not think they would so readily abandon their own belief that He is true when they encounter someone else who thinks their God is true.  For the most part when two or more people get together to discuss religious topics, they are all usually willing to grant eachother's beliefs are correct, or that they are each correct.

I believe the problem to be far too many people look inward for what God is, rather than upward.  I do not mean to the heavens, but look outside themselves.  If people create the God they worship from their own ideas, instead of seeking to discover God, they will end up with a list of attributes they want God to fulfill, rather than the attributes He does fulfill.  In the end this procedure is what is responsible for religious subjectivity.  It becomes not an argument about God so much as a discussion of ones "picture" of God, and it is in this sense that "true for me, but not necessarily for you" seems naturally to be true.

If there is a God, and I believe there is, then He is as specific in His attributes and character as you and I.  If your name is Andy and you have brown hair, blue eyes, are five feet six inches tall,  and work at a bank; but when I described you to someone else as having red hair, green eyes, six feet two inches tall, and own a flower shop, and your name is Mary, it would be obvious to anyone who knows you that either I do not really know Andy, or I am describing someone else.  If God is real, then in the same way Andy is who he is based on true attributes of him, God is who He is based on attributes to Him which are true also.

I think it is important to make every attempt to discover who God is.  I make every effort to not fluff Him up to my perceived ideal, though everyone is guilty of it to a degree.  In the end I if God is real, and He expects certain things from us, then it is more important to be correct in your thinking about God than it is to be comforted in your thinking.  C.S. Lewis puts it succinctly:
If you look for truth, you may find comfort in the end: if you look for comfort you will not get either truth or comfort-only soft soap and wishful thinking to begin with, in the end, despair.

Related article: Do Differences Matter?

September 8, 2010

Fanning the Flames

The small church in Florida, the Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, pastored by Rev. Terry Jones has created a fire storm (pun intended) of controversy surrounding the recent decision to burn copies of the Qur'an on the anniversary of the World Trade Center attacks on September 11, 2001. I do not think the uproar is for whether or not Rev. Jones has the right, but is it right.

I think there are a few things to be said for this planned protest. First, this is a terrible witness for the cause of Christianity. With the way the media and already skeptical critics of Christianity portray the religion, to them this church is representative of Christians as a whole. Whether this is a true representation of Christians and Christianity is irrelevant. With the microscope on Christians to paint them as bigoted and narrow minded at every opportunity, this only makes the perception worse.

Second, I actually do believe this will serve as a learning experience for the world. Remember how Muslims reacted over the Danish cartoonist who drew a comic of Mohammad? The comic was met with much violence around the world. So we can only assume this act of Qur'an burnings will be met with the same violence. Unfortunately, following all the violence, will be national apologies and prostration of the United States to the Muslim world, and somehow after all the killings and bombings by Muslims, they will be viewed as the victims in this whole debacle.

As much as there is to learn about Islam's violent reactions to real or perceived insults, through this protest I do not think the aftermath and body count is worth it. This pastor ought to know better and have the where-with-all to protest in a more appropriate venue.

September 7, 2010

Pay Up!

Politicians, when campaigning, routinely promise to make the wealthy pay their "fair share" when it comes to taxes.  This assumes at least two things, 1) that the wealthy do not already pay their "fair share", and 2) someone else is paying more than their justified burden.  This concept is politically charged, re-affirming to people who believe they pay too much in taxes.  Unfortunately, it fails considerably by asking a few simple questions.  With the tax cuts implemented by former President George W. Bush set to expire this year, this rhetoric is all the more powerful.  Is the middle class and poor picking up the slack in the tax burden the wealthy in this country are skirting?

The first question, "who are the rich?", is often not directly asked of the one making the claim, and when asked, is often evaded.  Since there is no official definition, the "rich" is defined by the audience to whom the politician is speaking.  Who exactly are the rich?  $100,000 per year, $200,000?  

The next question I have never heard asked, "what is their fair share?".  If it is so obvious that the "rich" are not paying their "fair share" there should be an amount that is considered fair.  What is the amount?  Apparently, whatever the rich are paying, it is not their fair share according to those making the claim.

So who actually pays taxes?  According to the IRS, its the wealthy.  Those tax payers earning $113k and more a year pay 71% of all taxes paid. For the tax year 2007:
  • Top 1%, $410,096+ paid 40.42% of all taxes
  • Top 5%, $160,041+ paid 60.63% of all taxes
  • Top 10%, $113,018+ paid 71.22% of all taxes
  • Top 25%, $66,532+ paid 86.59% of all taxes
  • Top 50%, $32,879+ paid 97.11% of all taxes
  • Bottom 50%  < $32,879  paid 2.89% of all taxes(1)
Ten percent of the people who earn money pay 71% of the burden.  Sure they pay the bulk, but the Bush tax cuts favored the rich, didn't they?  While the average family in America whose income was $10 million or more received a half-million-dollar tax cut, the middle class received less than $100 off their tax bill. On its face it looks like most tax cuts went to the super wealthy.

However there was more investing, hiring by businesses rose, and a much stronger stock market. When compared with the amount of taxes paid under the old system to those paid after the Bush tax cuts were implemented, the wealthy are now actually paying a higher proportion of taxes. IRS data showed an increase of more than $100 billion in taxes paid by the wealthy by 2005 alone. The number of tax filers who claimed income of more than $1 million rose from about 180,000 in 2003 to more than 300,000 in 2005. The total taxes paid by millionaire households increased by approximately 80 percent in two years, from $132 billion to $236 billion.

Image credit: chart illustrations by MacNeill & MacIntosh

The dirty secret is lower taxes produces more revenue to the government in the form of taxes collected.  Lower capital gains tax means more people invest more money more often.  For example, if it cost $15 per $100 earned in the stock market, as opposed to $30 per $100, which scenario is likely to encourage investing?  There is more money to be made at a lower tax cost which encourages more investing, which equates to more taxes by volume received by the government.

While the taxes paid by the middle class might be felt more heavily on their budget, they are not the primary tax payers.  The fact remains the wealthiest Americans pay the most taxes, certainly more than what I would consider their "fair share".  Not because I am among the wealthy, but because of the massive disproportion of burden between the wealthy and middle class, which make up really all the tax payers, the least wealthy Americans pay virtually no federal income tax at all.  Now you may think the rich ought to pay more, which is an opinion many hold, but by no means are they not paying their "fair share".

Another misconception is further developed by this "fair share" rhetoric, when politicians claim to make plans to tax corporations at a higher rate.  Unfortunately this idea is very deceptive.  Corporations do not pay income taxes, the consumer does.  It is a hidden tax on the people.  Income taxes are an expense to corporations.  Much like the electric bill, property taxes and income taxes are built into the product or service consumer price.  If the tax rate goes up, the cost for the product or service goes up.  For example, if I own a large profitable company producing one million widgets per year, and factoring in all expenses: utilities, labor, insurance, and taxes etc. those costs are built into the product.  Say the actual cost of producing a widget is $12.65.  The cost the consumer will pay will might be $22.95.  If my company's taxes rise by a half million dollars per year, that amounts to a 50 cent increase in cost per widget.  Do you think my company will simply absorb the half million dollar loss in revenue caused by the tax increase, or will the cost of the widget to the consumer rise?  The consumer will see an increase in the cost of the product which in effect pays the corporation's tax increase.

Do not be drawn in by silver tongued politicians who promise to stick it to the other guy, the other guy is usually you, it's just not immediately obvious.  I will end this commentary with a popularly circulated analogous short article about taxes, and has circulated the Internet for years, it has been attributed to various professors and economists. Although its original authorship remains a matter of speculation, says it was first printed in a letter to the editor in The Chicago Tribune.

Suppose that every day, 10 men go out for beer and the bill for all 10 comes to $100. If they paid their bill the way we pay our taxes, it would go something like this:

The first four men (the poorest) would pay nothing.
The fifth would pay $1.
The sixth would pay $3.
The seventh would pay $7.
The eighth would pay $12.
The ninth would pay $18.
The tenth man (the richest) would pay $59.

So, that's what they decided to do.  The 10 men drank in the bar every day and seemed quite happy with the arrangement, until one day, the owner threw them a curve. "Since you are all such good customers," he said, "I'm going to reduce the cost of your daily beer by $20."  Drinks for the ten now cost just $80.

The group still wanted to pay their bill the way we pay our taxes so the first four men were unaffected. They would still drink for free. But what about the other six men - the paying customers? How could they divide the $20 windfall so that everyone would get his "fair share?"

They realized that $20 divided by six is $3.33. But if they subtracted that from everybody's share, then the fifth man and the sixth man would each end up being paid to drink his beer. So, the bar owner suggested that it would be fair to reduce each man's bill by roughly the same amount, and he proceeded to work out the amounts each should pay.

And so:

The fifth man, like the first four, now paid nothing (100 percent savings).
The sixth now paid $2 instead of $3 (33 percent savings).
The seventh now pay $5 instead of $7 (28 percent savings).
The eighth now paid $9 instead of $12 (25 percent savings).
The ninth now paid $14 instead of $18 (22 percent savings).
The tenth now paid $49 instead of $59 (16 percent savings).

Each of the six was better off than before. And the first four continued to drink for free. But once outside the restaurant, the men began to compare their savings.

"I only got a dollar out of the $20," declared the sixth man. He pointed to the tenth man, "but he got $10!"

"'Yeah, that's right," exclaimed the fifth man. "I only saved a dollar, too. It's unfair that he got 10 times more than I!"

"That's true!" shouted the seventh man. "Why should he get $10 back when I got only two? The wealthy get all the breaks!".

"Wait a minute," yelled the first four men in unison. "We didn't get anything at all. The system exploits the poor!"

The nine men surrounded the tenth and beat him up.  The next night the tenth man didn't show up for drinks, so the nine sat down and had beers without him. But when it came time to pay the bill, they discovered something important. They didn't have enough money between all of them for even half of the bill!

And that, ladies and gentlemen, journalists and college professors, is how our tax system works. The people who pay the highest taxes get the most benefit from a tax reduction. Tax them too much, attack them for being wealthy, and they just may not show up anymore. In fact, they might start drinking overseas where the atmosphere is somewhat friendlier.

For those who understand, no explanation is needed. For those who do not understand, no explanation is possible.


September 2, 2010

Finders Keepers

It is a widely believed notion that the Founding Fathers of America were mainly Atheists, Agnostics, and Deists.  So widely believed that the idea is taught in most major universities.  This "fact" about the Founders usually makes it's way to the discourse when the phrase "Christian Nation" makes it's way to public discussion.  But is this "fact" true, were the vast majority of the Founders Atheists, Agnostics, and Deists?  What information are proponents of a "secular founding" using to come to their conclusion?  And how could one actually know the religious nature of the founding era and of the Founders themselves?  Fortunately for us, the Founders were prolific writers, both in private and public arenas.

Critics say when the Founders wrote the Constitution, they intentionally included: "no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States." (Article 6, section 3).  And that nowhere in the Constitution does it ever mention religion, except excluding uses, the terms "Christianity, Bible, Jesus Christ,or God" even once.

Of the three major foundational documents of the United States of America are the Declaration of Independence (July 1776), the Articles of Confederation (drafted 1777, ratified 1781) and the Constitution of the United States of America (1789), there are a total of 143 signatures on these documents, representing 118 different signers. (Some individuals signed more than one document.)

It is important to define who and what makes one a Founding Father. There were 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence, 48 signers of the Articles of Confederation, and the 55 delegates who participated in the Constitutional Convention of 1787 (though not all signed) are regarded as Founding Fathers by historians, also those in significant Military positions as well as a few others considered pivotal to the formation of the States. 

Citing the U.S. Constitution as prohibiting religious tests and mentioning  Christianity, Bible, Jesus Christ,or  God" opponents of a Christian foundation attempting to conclude that the founders in no way intended Christian theism to influence or be the overriding factor in the formation of America.  Well, this is and isn't true.  As the independent states came together under the heading of one banner, the United States, they had specific intentions for the federal government.  We see the Bill of Rights is a list of negative rights, what cannot be done by the Federal Government, using terms like shall not, and cannot in reference to the Federal Government.  The reason for this was the desire for the States to preserve the right to govern themselves and let the Federal Government handle foreign affairs.  There was no need to inject religion and specifically Christianity into the Constitution since it was not a religious document.  Religion was to be considered a local issue.  Whether there were or weren't specific religions or tests were to be for the states to decide.  Looking at the original State's Constitutions confirms this.

ART. 22. Every person who shall be chosen a member of either house, or appointed to any office or place of trust, before taking his seat, or entering upon the execution of his office, shall take the following oath, or affirmation, if conscientiously scrupulous of taking an oath, to wit:  " I, A B. will bear true allegiance to the Delaware State, submit to its constitution and laws, and do no act wittingly whereby the freedom thereof may be prejudiced."

And also make and subscribe the following declaration, to wit: " I, A B. do profess faith in God the Father, and in Jesus Christ His only Son, and in the Holy Ghost, one God, blessed for evermore; and I do acknowledge the holy scriptures of the Old and New Testament to be given by divine inspiration."  - Constitution of Delaware; September 21, 1776 (1) (emphasis added)

ART. VI. The representatives shall be chosen out of the residents in each county, who shall have resided at least twelve months in this State, and three months in the county where they shall be elected; except the freeholders of the counties of Glynn and Camden, who are in a state of alarm, and who shall have the liberty of choosing one member each, as specified in the articles of this constitution, in any other county, until they have residents sufficient to qualify them for more; and they shall be of the Protestant religion, and of the age of twenty-one years, and shall be possessed in their own right of two hundred and fifty acres of land, or some property to the amount of two hundred and fifty pounds. - Constitution of Georgia; February 5, 1777 (2) (emphasis added)

XXXIII. That, as it is the duty of every man to worship God in such manner as he thinks most acceptable to him; all persons, professing the Christian religion, are equally entitled to protection in their religious liberty; wherefore no person ought by any law to be molested in his person or estate on account of his religious persuasion or profession, or for his religious practice; unless, under colour of religion, any man shall disturb the good order, peace or safety of the State, or shall infringe the laws of morality, or injure others, in their natural, civil, or religious rights; nor ought any person to be compelled to frequent or maintain, or contribute, unless on contract, to maintain any particular place of worship, or any particular ministry; yet the Legislature may, in their discretion, lay a general and equal tax for the support of the Christian religion; leaving to each individual the power of appointing the payment over of the money, collected from him, to the support of any particular place of worship or minister, or for the benefit of the poor of his own denomination, or the poor in general of any particular county. (emphasis added).

In Article 33 of the Constitution of Maryland we see the State did not allow compulsion to go to church or give money to a particular church, unless obliged by contract to do so.  But the State could tax the citizens for the specific purpose of supporting the Christian religion.  This is quite explicit approval of Christianity, that the state would write into law specific support for a particular religion.  The Constitution goes on to say:

XXXV. That no other test or qualification ought to be required, on admission to any office of trust or profit, than such oath of support and fidelity to this State, and such oath of office, as shall be directed by this Convention or the Legislature of this State, and a declaration of a belief in the Christian religion. - Constitution of Maryland, November 11, 1776(3), (emphasis added)

XXXII.(5) That no person, who shall deny the being of God or the truth of the Protestant religion, or the divine authority either of the Old or New Testaments, or who shall hold religious principles incompatible with the freedom and safety of the State, shall be capable of holding any office or place of trust or profit in the civil department within this State. - Constitution of North Carolina, December 18, 1776(4)

SECT. 10 ...And each member, before he takes his seat, shall make and subscribe the following declaration, viz:  I do believe in one God, the creator and governor of the universe, the rewarder of the good and the punisher of the wicked. And I do acknowledge the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament to be given by Divine inspiration.

And no further or other religious test shall ever hereafter be required of any civil officer or magistrate in this State. - Constitution of Pennsylvania - September 28, 1776(5)

Section IX ...And each member, before he takes his seat, shall make and subscribe the following declaration, viz. " I ____ do believe in one God, the Creator and Governor of the Diverse, the rewarder of the good and punisher of the wicked. And I do acknowledge the scriptures of the old and new testament to be given by divine inspiration, and own and profess the protestant religion." - Constitution of Vermont - July 8, 1777(6)

It is painfully obvious that it was not the over all intention for the Founders of America to reject religion and Christianity from government, since nearly all the first State Constitutions required an affirmation of not only religious belief in God, but specifically Christianity.  The omition in the Federal Constitution was by design, to allow the individual states the right to govern themselves without Federal interferance.  As Thomas Jefferson wrote:
I consider the government of the United States [the federal government] as interdicted by the Constitution from intermeddling with religious institutions, their doctrines, discipline, or exercises. This results not only from the provision that no law shall be made respecting the establishment or free exercise of religion [the First Amendment], but from that also which reserves to the States the powers not delegated to the United States [the Tenth Amendment]. Certainly, no power to prescribe any religious exercise or to assume authority in any religious discipline has been delegated to the General [federal] Government. It must then rest with the States
If we go back even further to the original charters, the official governing documents of the settlers, we see laid out their intentions upon arrival.  What do the founding documents say in regards to the religious intentions of those who first settled here?

...whereby Our said People Inhabitants there, may be so religiously, peaceably and civilly governed, as their good Life and orderly Conversation may win and invite the Natives of the Country to the Knowledge and Obedience of the only true GOD, and He Saviour of Mankind, and the Christian Faith. - Charter of Connecticut - 1662 (7)

BECAUSE no People can be truly happy, though under the greatest Enjoyment of Civil Liberties, if abridged of the Freedom of their Consciences, as to their Religious Profession and Worship: And Almighty God being the only Lord of Conscience, Father of Lights and Spirits; and the Author as well as Object of all divine Knowledge, Faith and Worship, who only doth enlighten the Minds, and persuade and convince the Understandings of People, I do hereby grant and declare, That no Person or Persons, inhabiting In this Province or Territories, who shall confess and acknowledge One almighty God, the Creator, Upholder and Ruler of the World; and professes him or themselves obliged to live quietly under the Civil Government, shall be in any Case molested or prejudiced, in his or their Person or Estate, because of his or their conscientious Persuasion or Practice, nor be compelled to frequent or maintain any religious Worship, Place or Ministry, contrary to his or their Mind, or to do or suffer any other Act or Thing, contrary to their religious Persuasion. AND that all Persons who also profess to believe in Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the World, shall be capable (notwithstanding their other Persuasions and Practices in Point of Conscience and Religion) to serve this Government in any Capacity, both legislatively and executively, he or they solemnly promising, when lawfully required, Allegiance to the King as Sovereign, and Fidelity to the Proprietary and Governpr, and taking the Attests as now established by the Law made at Newcastle, in the Year One Thousand and Seven Hundred, entituled, An Act directing the Attests of several Officers and Ministers, as now amended and confirmed this present Assembly. - Charter of Delaware - 1701(8)

XXII. And if, peradventure, hereafter it may happen, that any Doubts or Questions should arise concerning the true Sense and Meaning of any Word, Clause, or Sentence, contained in this our present Charter, We will charge and command, That Interpretation to be applied always, and in all Things, and in all Courts and Judicatories whatsoever, to obtain which shall be judged to be the more beneficial, profitable, and favorable to the aforesaid now Baron of Baltimore, his Heirs and Assigns: Provided always, that no Interpretation thereof be made, whereby God's holy and true Christian Religion, or the Allegiance due to Us, our Heirs and Successors, may in any wise suffer by Change, Prejudice, or Diminution - The Charter of Maryland : 1632(9)

...We according to our princely Inclination, favouring much their worthy Disposition, in Hope thereby to advance the in Largement of Christian Religion, to the Glory of God Almighty,...- The Charter of New England : 1620(10)

will give the best and greatest security to sovereignetye, and will lay in the hearts of men the strongest obligations to true loyaltye: Now know bee, that wee beinge willinge to encourage the hopefull undertakeinge of oure sayd lovall and loveinge subjects, and to secure them in the free exercise and enjovment of all theire civill and religious rights, appertaining to them, as our loveing subjects; and to preserve unto them that libertye, in the true Christian ffaith and worshipp of God, - Charter of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations - July 15, 1663(11).  Note: early english was much different than modern english we know now and the spellings here in are correct spellings at the time it was written.

We, greatly commending, and graciously accepting of, their Desires for the Furtherance of so noble a Work, which may, by the Providence of Almighty God, hereafter tend to the Glory of his Divine Majesty, in propagating of Christian Religion to such People, as yet live in Darkness and miserable Ignorance of the true Knowledge and Worship of God, and may in time bring the Infidels and Savages, living in those parts, to human Civility, and to a settled and quiet Government: DO, by these our Letters Patents, graciously accept of, and agree to, their humble and well-intended Desires. - The First Charter of Virginia; April 10, 1606(12)

"In the name of God, Amen. We, whose names are underwritten, the Loyal Subjects of our dread Sovereign Lord, King James, by the Grace of God, of England, France and Ireland, King, Defender of the Faith, &. Having undertaken for the Glory of God, and Advancement of the Christian Faith, and the Honour of our King and Country, a voyage to plant the first colony in the northern parts of Virginia; do by these presents, solemnly and mutually in the Presence of God and one of another..." Mayflower Compact 1620(13)

I believe the misrepresentation of the intent and wording of the Constitution is intentional.  Not so much for the average denier of the Founders Christianity since they are usually parroting what they have been taught by college professors and popular authors.  It is these professors and authors who know how to research this information, and as part of their duty in writing and teaching history, have an obligation to include all the information, not just that which supports their agenda.  These documents are all readily available online with simple search terms such as: "original state constitutions".  Most people are comfortable repeating what they heard somewhere from someone who appeared authoritative, and have little motivation to investigate.  After all when you think you are correct, how much more investigating do you do?

The Treaty of Tripoli is generally the the last resort for the proponent of a Christian-less Nation.  The treaty was negotiated during the "Powers of Barbary Conflict".  The Barbary Conflict continued through the three presidencies of Washington, Jefferson, and Adams.  The Muslim Barbary Powers of Tripoli, Morocco, Algiers, and Tunis were warring against what they considered to be the "Christian" nations of England, Denmark, France, Spain, and the United States. In 1801, the nation of Tripoli declared war on the United States, initiating America's first official war as an independent nation.  During the conflict, the Barbary Powers regularly attacked the defenseless U.S. merchant ships. The Barbary Powers were capturing and enslaving "Christian" crew members, and their cargo, in retaliation for what had been done to them by Christians of centuries prior (Crusades and the expulsion of Muslims from Granada, for example).  Attempting to secure a release of captured American crew members and a guarantee of unhindered passage in the Mediterranean region, President Washington dispatched ships to negotiate treaties with the Barbary nations.  The American envoys negotiated a number of treaties with the Muslim Barbary nations for the protection of U.S. commercial ships passing through the region. Unfortunately, the terms of the treaty were usually unfavorable to America, requiring the payment of hundreds of thousands of dollars in "tribute" (a warship to Tripoli, a frigate to Algiers, $525,000 in ransom paid for captured American crew members from Algiers) to the Muslim nations. The 1797 treaty with Tripoli was one of many treaties in which the countries would officially recognize the religion of the other attempting to prevent further possibility of a Holy War between Muslims and Christians.  The oft quoted Article 11 reads in part, "the government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion...".  On its face this seems to be an open and shut case.  Unless you keep reading for the context, the entire Article reads:
As the government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion,-as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion or tranquility of Musselmen,-and as the said States never have entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mehomitan nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.
Reading the Article in its full text reveals that America was intending to differentiate itself from other nations which held an inherent hatred toward Muslims.  It assured the Muslims that the United States was not a Christian nation like the nations of previous centuries which sought out war with the Muslim nations, and would not provoke a religious war against them.  Additionally, This Treaty is written in the context of the Federal Government, and as such in this historical and legal way, to declare this country is not in any way a Christian nation is correct.  In that the Federal Government was not Christian in the same way Muslim governments are Muslim. 

Next advocates for the Atheist, Agnostic, Deist Founders continue by citing some Founding Fathers with personal quotations made throughout their lives.  There is nothing wrong with quoting someone with their own words, after all who better to know what a person believes than the person himself?  Unfortunately, only the few actual Atheist, Agnostic, and Deist founders are quoted.  Yes, some were, but they could be counted on two hands.  To get the overall consensus of the religious beliefs of the Founders, one must not be sparse in their citation, after all there were 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence, and 40 who signed the U.S. Constitution, 39 Delegates and the Secretary.  However the Founders quoted is usually confined to, James Madison, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Paine (who was not a Founding Father), and Ethan Allen.  So what do the rest of the Founding Fathers have to say?

I anticipate nothing but suffering to the human race while the present systems of paganism, deism, and atheism prevail in the world. BENJAMIN RUSH, SIGNER OF THE DECLARATION(14)

You have . . . received a public education, the purpose whereof hath been to qualify you the better to serve your Creator and your country. . . . Your first great duties, you are sensible, are those you owe to Heaven, to your Creator and Redeemer. Let these be ever present to your minds, and exemplified in your lives and conduct. WILLIAM SAMUEL JOHNSON, SIGNER OF THE CONSTITUTION(15)

Religion is the only solid basis of good morals; therefore education should teach the precepts of religion and the duties of man towards God.  GOUVERNEUR MORRIS, PENMAN AND SIGNER OF THE CONSTITUTION(16)

[T]he only foundation for a useful education in a republic is to be laid in religion. Without this there can be no virtue, and without virtue there can be no liberty, and liberty is the object and life of all republican governments. Without religion, I believe that learning does real mischief to the morals and principles of mankind.  BENJAMIN RUSH, SIGNER OF THE DECLARATION(17)

In my view, the Christian religion is the most important and one of the first things in which all children, under a free government, ought to be instructed. . . . No truth is more evident to my mind than that the Christian religion must be the basis of any government intended to secure the rights and privileges of a free people. NOAH WEBSTER(18)

[The] liberty to worship our Creator in the way we think most
agreeable to His will [is] a liberty deemed in other countries
incompatible with good government and yet proved by our experience
to be its best support. THOMAS JEFFERSON(19)

I do not believe that the Constitution was the offspring of
inspiration, but I am as perfectly satisfied that the Union of the
States in its form and adoption is as much the work of a Divine
Providence as any of the miracles recorded in the Old and New

The great enemy of the salvation of man, in my opinion, never
invented a more effectual means of extirpating [extinguishing]
Christianity from the world than by persuading mankind that it was
improper to read the Bible at schools. [T]he Bible, when not read
in schools, is seldom read in any subsequent period of life. . . . [It]
should be read in our schools in preference to all other books from
its containing the greatest portion of that kind of knowledge which
is calculated to produce private and public temporal happiness.

[Why] should not the Bible regain the place it once held as a school
book? Its morals are pure, its examples captivating and noble. The
reverence for the Sacred Book that is thus early impressed lasts
long; and probably if not impressed in infancy, never takes firm
hold of the mind. FISHER AMES,

Suppose a nation in some distant region should take the Bible for
their only law book and every member should regulate his conduct by
the precepts there exhibited. . . . What a Eutopia, what a Paradise
would this region be. I have examined all [religions] . . . and the
result is that the Bible is the best Book in the world. It contains more
of my little philosophy than all the libraries I have seen. JOHN ADAMS(23)

The Bible is the best of all books, for it is the word of God and teaches
us the way to be happy in this world and in the next. Continue therefore
to read it and to regulate your life by its precepts. JOHN JAY,

Bibles are strong entrenchments. Where they abound, men cannot

I have always considered Christianity as the strong ground of
republicanism. . . . It is only necessary for republicanism to ally
itself to the Christian religion to overturn all the corrupted political
and religious institutions in the world. BENJAMIN RUSH, SIGNER OF THE DECLARATION(26)

However gradual may be the growth of Christian knowledge and
moral reformation, yet unless it be begun, unless the seeds are
planted, there can be no tree of knowledge and, of course, no fruit.
The attempt to Christianize the heathen world and to produce
peace on earth and goodwill towards men is humane, Christian,

History will also afford frequent opportunities of showing the
necessity of a public religion . . . and the excellency of the Christian
religion above all others, ancient or modern. BENJAMIN FRANKLIN(28)

[T]o the free and universal reading of the Bible in that age, men
were much indebted for right views of civil liberty. The Bible is . . .
a book which teaches man his own individual responsibility, his own
dignity, and his equality with his fellow man. DANIEL WEBSTER(29)

[T]he Christian religion is superior to every other. . . . But there is
not only an excellence in the Christian morals, but a manifest
superiority in them to those which are derived from any other

[T]he Christian religion, in its purity, is the basis, or rather the source of all genuine freedom in government. . . . and I am persuaded that no civil government of a republican form can exist and be durable in which the principles of that religion have not a controlling influence. NOAH WEBSTER(31)

[T]he Holy Scriptures. . . . can alone secure to society, order and
peace, and to our courts of justice and constitutions of government,
purity, stability, and usefulness. In vain, without the Bible, we increase
penal laws and draw entrenchments [protections] around our

[T]he rights essential to happiness. . . . We claim them from a
higher source—from the King of kings and Lord of all the earth.

Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It
is wholly inadequate to the government of any other. JOHN ADAMS(34)

From the day of the Declaration, the people of the North American
Union and of its constituent states were associated bodies of civilized
men and Christians. . . . They were bound by the laws of God, which
they all, and by the laws of the Gospel, which they nearly all,
acknowledged as the rules of their conduct. The Declaration of
Independence cast off all the shackles of this dependency. The United
States of America were no longer Colonies. They were an
independent nation of Christians. JOHN QUINCY ADAMS(35)

The promulgation of the great doctrines of religion, the being,
and attributes, and providence of one Almighty God; the
responsibility to Him for all our actions, founded upon moral
accountability; a future state of rewards and punishments; the
cultivation of all the personal, social, and benevolent virtues;—
these never can be a matter of indifference in any well-ordered
community. It is indeed difficult to conceive how any civilized

And, at all events, it is impossible for those who
believe in the truth of Christianity as a Divine revelation, to doubt
that it is the especial duty of government to foster and encourage it
among all the citizens and subjects. It yet remains a problem to
be solved in human affairs whether any free government can be
permanent where the public worship of God and the support of
religion constitute no part of the policy or duty of the state in any

The real object of the [First A]mendment was not to countenance,
much less to advance Mahometanism, or Judaism, or infidelity by
prostrating Christianity; but to exclude all rivalry among Christian
sects and to prevent any national ecclesiastical establishment which
should give to a hierarchy [a denominational council] the exclusive
patronage of the national government JOSEPH STORY, U. S. SUPREME COURT JUSTICE;

Below is a list of private affiliations the Founders held.

JOHN QUINCY ADAMS: Vice-President of the American Bible Society; member of the Massachusetts Bible Society.

ABRAHAM BALDWIN (SIGNER OF THE CONSTITUTION): Chaplain in the American Revolution for two years.

JOEL BARLOW (DIPLOMAT UNDER WASHINGTON AND ADAMS): Chaplain in the American Revolution for three years.

JOSEPH BLOOMFIELD (GOVERNOR OF NEW JERSEY): Member of the New Jersey Bible Society.

Founder and first President of the American Bible Society; President of the New Jersey Bible Society; member of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions; member of the Massachusetts Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge.

JAMES BOWDOIN (GOVERNOR OF MASSACHUSETTS): Member of the Society for Propagating the Gospel Among the Indians and Others.


JAMES BROWN (U. S. SENATOR; DIPLOMAT): Original Officer of the American Bible Society.

JAMES BURRILL, JR. (CHIEF-JUSTICE OF RHODE ISLAND SUPREME COURT; U. S. SENATOR): President of the Providence Auxiliary Bible Society.



JOHN DAVENPORT (REVOLUTIONARY OFFICER; U. S. CONGRESS): Member of the Missionary Society of Connecticut.

SAMUEL DEXTER (SECRETARY OF WAR UNDER ADAMS; U. S. CONGRESSMAN; U. S. SENATOR): Society for Propagating the Gospel Among the Indians and Others.

JONAS GALUSHA (GOVERNOR OF VERMONT): Original Officer of the American Bible Society.



WILLIAM GRAY (LT. GOVERNOR OF MASSACHUSETTS; U. S. SENATOR): Original Officer of the American Bible Society.

FELIX GRUNDY (U. S. ATTORNEY GENERAL; U. S. SENATOR; U. S. CONGRESSMAN): Original Officer of the American Bible Society.

ALEXANDER HAMILTON (SIGNER OF THE CONSTITUTION): Proposed formation of the Christian Constitutional Society to spread Christian government to other nations.


JOHN JAY (ORIGINAL CHIEF-JUSTICE OF THE U. S. SUPREME COURT): President of the American Bible Society; member of American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions.

WILLIAM JONES (GOVERNOR OF RHODE ISLAND): Original Officer of the American Bible Society.

FRANCIS SCOTT KEY (ATTORNEY; AUTHOR OF “THE STAR-SPANGLED BANNER”): Manager and Vice-President of the American Sunday School Union.

RUFUS KING (SIGNER OF THE CONSTITUTION): Selected as manager of the American Bible Society.

ANDREW KIRKPATRICK (CHIEF-JUSTICE OF NEW JERSEY SUPREME COURT): Vice-President of the New Jersey Bible Society; Vice-President of the American Bible Society.

MARQUIS DE LAFAYETTE (REVOLUTIONARY GENERAL): Member of the American Sunday School Union.

JOHN LANGDON (SIGNER OF THE CONSTITUTION): Vice-President of the American Bible Society.

BENJAMIN LINCOLN (REVOLUTIONARY GENERAL; LT. GOVERNOR OF MASSACHUSETTS): Member of the Society for the Propagating of the Gospel among the Indians and Others.

JOHN LOWELL (REVOLUTIONARY OFFICER; MEMBER OF THE CONTINENTAL CONGRESS): Member of the Society for the Propagating of the Gospel among the Indians and Others.

GEORGE MADISON (GOVERNOR OF KENTUCKY): Original Officer of the American Bible Society.

JOHN MARSHALL (CHIEF-JUSTICE OF THE U. S. SUPREME COURT; SECRETARY OF STATE; REVOLUTIONARY GENERAL): Vice-President of the American Bible Society; officer in the American Sunday School Union.

JAMES MCHENRY (SIGNER OF THE CONSTITUTION): President of the Baltimore Bible Society.

DAVID LAWRENCE MORRIL (GOVERNOR OF NEW HAMPSHIRE; U. S. SENATOR): Vice-President of the American Bible Society; Manager in the American Sunday School Union.

JOSEPH NOURSE (REVOLUTIONARY OFFICER; U. S. TREASURY): Original Officer of the American Bible Society.


ALBION PARRIS (GOVERNOR OF MAINE): Manager of the American Sunday School Union.

President of the Society for Propagating the Gospel Among the Indians; President of the Massachusetts Bible Society; a member of the American Board of Foreign Missions; Vice-President of the American Bible Society; President of the American Society for Educating Pious Youth for the Gospel Ministry.

CHARLES COTESWORTH PINCKNEY (SIGNER OF THE CONSTITUTION): President of the Charleston Bible Society;  Vice-President of the American Bible Society.



BENJAMIN RUSH (SIGNER OF THE DECLARATION): Founder and manager of the Philadelphia Bible Society.


JOHN COTTON SMITH (GOVERNOR OF CONNECTICUT; U. S. CONGRESSMAN): President of the Litchfield County Foreign Missionary Society; first President of the Connecticut Bible Society; President of the American Bible Society; President of the American Board of Foreign Missions.


JAMES SULLIVAN (GOVERNOR OF MASSACHUSETTS; U. S. CONGRESSMAN): Member of the Society for Propagating the Gospel Among the Indians and Others.

INCREASE SUMNER (GOVERNOR OF MASSACHUSETTS): Member of the Society for Propagating the Gospel Among the Indians and Others.


SMITH THOMPSON (U. S. SUPREME COURT; SECRETARY OF NAVY): Vice-President of the American Bible Society.

DANIEL TOMPKINS (GOVERNOR OF NEW YORK; VICE-PRESIDENT OF THE U. S.): Vice-President of the American Bible Society.


ROBERT TROUP (FEDERAL JUDGE; SECRETARY OF WAR): Vice-President of the American Bible Society.

PETER VROOM (GOVERNOR OF NEW JERSEY; U. S. CONGRESSMAN): Vice-President of the American Bible Society; member of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions.

BUSHROD WASHINGTON (U. S. SUPREME COURT JUSTICE): Vice-President of the American Bible Society; Vice-President of the American Sunday School Union.

WILLIAM WIRT ( U. S. ATTORNEY-GENERAL UNDER TWO PRESIDENTS): Manager of the American Sunday School Union; Vice-President of the American Bible Society.

THOMAS WORTHINGTON (GOVERNOR OF OHIO; U. S. SENATOR): Original Officer of the American Bible Society.

After seeing a list like this it is no wonder the advocates for a Christian-less founding would be so sparse in their selection of quotation.  The list above of the positions held in private affairs by the Founding Fathers helps shed light on their Christian beliefs.  Bible Societies were responsible for printing and distributing bibles, a pretty unusual affiliation for a atheist. 

Just among the delegates to the Constitutional Convention were 28 Episcopalians, 8 Presbyterians, 7 Congregationalists, 2 Lutherans, 2 Dutch Reformed, 2 Methodists, 2 Roman Catholics, 1 unknown, and only 3 deists, Franklin, Williamson, and Wilson.  How do we know this?  The people of the time of the founding era kept records, everything was documented.  However, unlike today, one did not simply belong to a church like we do today where you come and go as your personal tastes direct.  In the founding era, you were required to take a sworn oath to believe and uphold the doctrines and theology of the church to which you belonged.

Unfortunately even quotes attributed to Jefferson and Adams are taken out of context, either that or explicit statements such as:
The general principles on which the fathers achieved independence were. . . . the general principles of Christianity. . . . I will avow that I then believed, and now believe, that those general principles of Christianity are as eternal and immutable as the existence and attributes of God; and that those principles of liberty are as unalterable as human nature. (John Adams, Works, Vol. X, pp. 45-46, to Thomas Jefferson on June 28, 1813)
means Adams was simply revising the current state of affairs of the nation, and had no idea what was going on around him.

Far much more can be said and quoted in support of the Founding Fathers and the Christian influence and foundation of America, but neither time or space allows. There will always be those nay sayers who care not what the actual representative beliefs of the foundation are, and will always fall back on the few out-of-context and misrepresented phrases and quotes.

  14. Rush, Letters, Vol. II, p. 799, to Noah Webster on July 20, 1798
  15. Edwards Beardsley, Life and Times of William Samuel Johnson (Boston: Houghton, Mifflin and Company, 1886), pp. 141-142
  16. Jared Sparks, The Life of Governeur Morris (Boston: Gray and Bowen, 1832), Vol. III, p. 483, from his “Notes on the Form of a Constitution for France.”
  17. Benjamin Rush, Essays, Literary, Moral and Philosophical (Philadelphia: Thomas and Samuel F. Bradford, 1798), p. 8, “On the Mode of Education Proper in a Republic.”; Benjamin Rush, Letters of Benjamin Rush, L. H. Butterfield, editor (Princeton, New Jersey: American Philosophical Society, 1951), Vol. I, p. 294, to John Armstrong on March 19,1783; see also James Henry Morgan, Dickinson College: The History of One Hundred and Fifty Years 1783-1933 (Carlisle, PA: Dickinson College, 1933), p. 11
  18. Noah Webster, A Collection of Papers on Political, Literary, and Moral Subjects (New York: Webster and Clark, 1843), p. 291, from his “Reply to a Letter of David McClure on the Subject of the Proper Course of Study in the Girard College, Philadelphia. New Haven, October 25, 1836.”
  19. Jefferson, Writings (1904), Vol. XVI, p. 291, to Captain John Thomas on November 18, 1801
  20. Benjamin Rush, Letters of Benjamin Rush, L. H. Butterfield, editor (Princeton, New Jersey: American Philosophical Society, 1951), Vol. I, p. 475, to Elias Boudinot on July 9, 1788
  21. Rush, Letters, Vol. 1, p. 521, to Jeremy Belknap on July 13, 1789; Benjamin Rush, Essays, pp. 94, 100, "A Defence of the Use of the Bible as a School Book."
  22. Fisher Ames, Works of Fisher Ames (Boston: T. B. Wait & Co., 1809), pp. 134-135
  23. John Adams, Works, Vol. II, pp. 6-7, diary entry for February 22, 1756.
    John Adams, Works, Vol. X, p. 85, to Thomas Jefferson on December 25, 1813.
  24. John Jay, John Jay: The Winning of the Peace. Unpublished Papers 1780-1784, Richard B. Morris, editor (New York: Harper & Row Publishers, 1980), Vol. II, p. 709, to Peter Augustus Jay on April 8, 1784
  25. Bernard C. Steiner, One Hundred and Ten Years of Bible Society Work in Maryland (Baltimore: Maryland Bible Society, 1921), p. 14
  26. Rush, Letters, Vol. II, pp. 820-821, to Thomas Jefferson on August 22, 1800
  27. Jared Sparks, Lives of William Pinkney, William Ellery, and Cotton Mather (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1860), from The Library of American Biography, Vol. VI, pp. 138-139
  28. Benjamin Franklin, Proposals Relating to the Education of Youth in Pennsylvaina (Philadelphia, 1749), p. 22
  29. Daniel Webster, Address Delivered at Bunker Hill, June 17, 1843, on the Completion of the Monument (Boston: T. R. Marvin, 1843), p. 31; see also W. P. Strickland, History of theAmerican Bible Society from its Organization to the Present Time (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1849), p. 18
  30. Witherspoon, Works (1815), Vol. VIII, pp. 33, 38, “On the Truth of the Christian Religion,” Lecture IV
  31. K. Alan Snyder, Defining Noah Webster: Mind and Morals in the Early Republic (New York: University Press of America, 1990), p. 253, to James Madison on October 16, 1829
  32. Steiner, One Hundred and Ten Years of Bible Society Work in Maryland (Baltimore: Maryland Bible Society, 1921), p. 14
  33. John Dickinson, The Political Writings of John Dickinson (Wilmington: Bonsal and Niles, 1801), Vol. I, p. 111
  34. John Adams, Works, Vol. IX, p. 229, to the Officers of the First Brigade of the Third Division of the Militia of Massachusetts on October 11, 1798
  35. John Quincy Adams, An Address Delivered at the Request of the Committee of Arrangements for the Celebrating the Anniversary of Independence at the City of Washington on the Fourth of July 1821 upon the Occasion of Reading The Declaration of Independence (Cambridge: Hilliard and Metcalf, 1821), p. 28
  36. Story, Familiar Exposition, p. 260, §442
  37. Joseph Story, Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States (Boston: Hillard, Gray, and Company, 1833), Vol. III, pp. 722-723, § 1865
    Story, Commentaries, Vol. III, p. 727, § 1869
  38. Story, Commentaries, Vol. III, p. 728, §1871