Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Religion and the Founding Fathers

The National Archives publishes a quarterly newsletter called Annotation. In the March, 2002 issue there was an interesting article called Religion and the Founding Fathers. It gives some insight into the importance of religion in early America. As you read it, keep in mind how many voices today tell us that there was no significant influence of religion in our history.

"RELIGION has always been important in America. During the colonial and Revolutionary eras, religion permeated the lives of Americans. Blue laws kept the Sabbath holy and consumption laws limited the actions of everyone. Christianity was one of the few links that bound American society together from Maine to Georgia. The Bible, in addition to being the divine word of God that would guide people through life's journey to the next world, served as a textbook for history, a source book for morals, a primer for mothers to teach their children how to read, and a window through which to view and understand human nature. With the high death rate, especially among infants, childbearing women, and seafarers. Americans stoically resigned themselves to the will of God. Because religion and morality were seen as necessary components of stable society, colonial and Revolutionary government supported religion. Clergymen were among the most influential members of the community and many of them actively participated in government."

Also interesting is the appearance in this article of the metaphor "separation of church and state," which has been used in the last 60 years to mean that religion should stay far away from government. But look at the second sentence below, which amplifies the first.

"The American Revolution led to a significant separation between church and state. Increasingly, religion was thought to be a matter of personal opinion that should not be dictated by government."

As I have demonstrated several times, the founders would have taken the "separation" metaphor to mean that religion is protected from government, not the other way around.
Read the entire issue here.

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