I’ve heard much about the Founders not being Christian and that they wanted to ensure that Christianity would have no place in government that it set me to study and further examination. It is true the Thomas Paine turned from the biblical foundation and published what was called “The Age of Reason” which was widely rejected by the majority of the Founding Fathers. Let me give you just a brief synopsis of how they responded.
First, I want to copy Benjamin Franklin’s letter to Mr. Paine regarding Paine’s concept or argument against a providential God. Mr. Franklin’s letter is as follows:
TO THOMAS PAINE. [Date uncertain.]
I have read your manuscript with some attention. By the argument it contains against a particular Providence, though you allow a general Providence, you strike at the foundations of all religion. For without the belief of a Providence, that takes cognizance of, guards, and guides, and may favor particular persons, there is no motive to worship a Deity, to fear his displeasure, or to pray for his protection. I will not enter into any discussion of your principles, though you seem to desire it. At present, I shall only give you my opinion, that, though your reasonings are subtle and may prevail with some readers, you will not succeed so as to change the general sentiments of mankind on that subject, and the consequence of printing this piece will be, a great deal of odium drawn upon yourself, mischief to you, and no benefit to others. He that spits against the wind, spits in his own face.
But, were you to succeed, do you imagine any good would be done by it? You may find it easy to live a virtuous life, without the assistance afforded by religion; you having a clear perception of the advantages of virtue, and the disadvantages of vice, and possessing the strength of resolution sufficient to enable you to resist common temptations. But think how great a portion of mankind consists of weak and ignorant men and women, and of inexperienced, inconsiderate youth of both sexes, who have need of the motives of religion to restrain them from vice, to support their virtue, and retain them in the practice of it till it becomes habitual, which is the great point for its security. And perhaps you are indebted to her originally, that is, to your religious education, for the habits of virtue upon which you now justly value yourself. You might easily display your excellent talents of reasoning upon a less hazardous subject, and thereby obtain a rank with our most distinguished authors. For among us it is not necessary, as among the Hottentots, that a youth, to be raised into the company of men, should prove his manhood by beating his mother.
I would advise you, therefore, not to attempt unchaining the tiger, but to burn this piece before it is seen by any other person; whereby you will save yourself a great deal of mortification by the enemies it may raise against you, and perhaps a good deal of regret and repentance. If men are so wicked with religion, what would they be if without it? I intend this letter itself as a proof of my friendship, and therefore add no professions to it, but subscribe simply yours,
After that encounter, Mr. Paine published his “Age of Reason” and that publication so infuriated many of the Founding Fathers that their response was quick and severe. John Adams responded: “The Christian religion, is above all the religions that ever prevailed or existed in ancient or modern times, the religion of wisdom, virtue, equity, and humanity, let the Blackguard [scoundrel, rogue] Paine say what he will.” Samuel Adams wrote a scathing response to Mr. Paine saying: “When I heard you had turned your mind to a defense of infidelity, I felt myself much astonished and more grieved that you had attempted a measure so injurious to the feelings and so repugnant to the true interest of so great a part of the citizens of the United States.”
Benjamin Rush wrote to John Dickinson that Paine’s “Age of Reason” was “absurd and impious.” Charles Carroll characterized Paine’s work as “blasphemous writings against the Christian religion.” John Witherspoon called Paine, “ignorant of human nature as well as an enemy of the Christian faith.” Elias Boudinot, President of Congress went so far as to publish “Age of Revelation” a full-length rebuttal of Paine’s work. Patrick Henry also wrote a refutation of Paine’s work which he described as “the puny efforts of Paine.”
It did not stop there for William Paterson, a signer of the Constitution and a Justice on the U.S. Supreme Court said upon learning that some American’s tended to buy into Paine’s argument shouted out, “Infatuated Americans, why renounce your country, your religion, and your God?” Zephaniah Swift who wrote America’s first law book wrote regarding Thomas Paine, “He has the impudence and effrontery [shameless boldness] to address the citizens of the United States of America a paltry performance which is intended to shake their faith in the religion of their fathers.”
John Jay, an author of the Federalist Papers and the original Chief-Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, was comforted by the fact that Christianity would prevail despite Paine’s attack and said, “I have long been of the opinion that the evidence of the truth of Christianity requires only to be carefully examined to produce conviction in candid minds.”
Thomas Paine’s views caused such a reaction and rejection and the public opposition so great that he spent his last years in New York as “an outcast” in “social ostracism” and was buried in a farm field because no American cemetery would accept his remains.
Why do I post this? Simply to ask, how could men of such devotion to the Christian faith be assumed to desire that God have no part in the government of this great land? Even though they were devoted to Christianity they also had an intense desire to protect the right of every citizen to have Freedom of Religion. There is no mention of “Separation of Church and State” in the Constitution. That is an interpretation of man. Instead what they desired was to ensure that the Federal Government would NEVER create a national religion and give it favoritism over any other religion.
The Founders consistently and continually encouraged prayer in public places, the teaching of the Bible as well as the Constitution in the public schools. We would do well to return to their foundation in modern-day America. We have expelled God from all public institutions and yet expect Him to grant favor and grace to this nation. The founders knew the importance of the Bible in our laws and lives and regardless of your faith, we should desire to see a return to the foundational principles of the Founders and restore the inalienable right of Freedom of Religion as well as all our other freedoms that have been gradually eroded and some eliminated completely.
The most recent election in 2020 was a referendum on God as much as it was animus against Donald Trump by the haters. It was a reflection of our condition as a people, a church, and a nation. Where it leads is to be determined but I do not believe that we are heading in the right direction if we follow the toxicity of liberalism. I want to see America restored to the Exceptionalism that I grew up under and caused this country to become the greatest country in the world, in my opinion.
God bless you and God bless America and may we return to Him quickly and rediscover our moral and spiritual moorings before this Republic is lost forever!