The Instigator
Oxymoron
Pro (for)
Tied
0 Points
The Contender
NinjaHobbit14
Con (against)
Tied
0 Points

The United States is a Christian Nation

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Post Voting Period
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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 1/9/2014 Category: Politics
Updated: 2 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 626 times Debate No: 43674
Debate Rounds (5)
Comments (4)
Votes (0)

 

Oxymoron

Pro

I did this debate awhile back, but I was completely disappointed at how my opponent handled the topic. Con assumed a very passive stance and basically just threw out a set of possibilities as proofs. It is for this reason that I want Con to build up an argument contra the topic as well as rebutting my own. I will build up an argument for the topic and rebut Con's. In this manner, the burden of proof is shared.

Definitions:
The term "United States" ought to be viewed as the umbrella term referring to the federal government, the state government, and founding documents.

Thesis:

The United States federal government, state governments, and founding documents were heavily influenced by Christianity and its basic tenets and is thus a Christian Nation.

As Pro, I will defend the resolution by making it clear that the Founders and important founding documents support the idea of the United States being molded by Christianity. As Justice Brewer once said, America was “of all the nations in the world . . . most justly called a Christian nation” because Christianity “has so largely shaped and molded it.”


First round is for acceptance and laying out the basic thesis of your arguments, as I did above.

No new information may be presented in the last round.
NinjaHobbit14

Con

I accept. I also negate the resolution that the United States is a Christin nation.

*Thesis*
The United States is not a Christian nation because of the melting pot of America and the influences of other cultures and ethnic groups, such as on-Christian calendar holidays, the U.S.A's refusal to choose a religion on a national basis, and the establishment of the 1st Amendment, which gives Americans the freedom of religion.

I would also like to bring up the law of the separation of church and state and Thomas Jefferson writing to the Danbury Baptists, saying "I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should "make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof," thus building a wall of separation between Church & State." I will refer to this as needed and provide a works cited page at the bottom of my debate as needed.
Debate Round No. 1
Oxymoron

Pro

The Declaration of Our Independence
As the well-known, but ever powerful preamble goes: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

The Declaration of Independence, the birth certificate of our nation, clearly invokes a Creator. What kind of Creator? A single, omnipotent One that is intimately endowing us with powerful, unalienable rights. Thus, the Declaration invokes a religion that is both monotheistic and concerned in the well-fare of Creation. That's not Deistic, that's not secular, that smacks of Christianity.

One might say Jefferson's use of "Creator" is vague and does not necessarily invoke the Christian God; however, In A Summary View of The Rights of British America, Jefferson states that the encroachments of the British Crown were encroachments "upon those rights which God and the laws have given equally and independently to all." And that "the God who gave us life gave us liberty at the same time; the [British] hand of force may destroy, but cannot disjoin them."

In addition, in his Bill for Establishing Religious Freedom, Jefferson states the primary reason for establishing religious freedom is the fact "that Almighty God hath created the mind free, and manifested His supreme will that free it shall remain..." And that a departure of religious freedom would be a departure "from the plan of the holy author of our religion..." [1]

Phrases like "Almighty God" are uniquely Christian, corroborating even more that the Declaration invokes Christian influence. And what did he mean by "the plan of the holy author of our religion,"? Jefferson was a Christian, as shown below, and the majority of Colonial America was Christian, or atleast claimed to be. So what else could he be talking about besides the Christian religion? [2]

To Jefferson, God is the source of our inalienable rights. He is the giver of Life and Liberty. One cannot stay in line with traditional literary criticism, and yet deny that the Creator in Rights of British America, Bill for Establishing Religious Freedom, and the Declaration of Independence is uniquely Christian.

Thomas Jefferson And The No True Scotsman:

The doctrines of Jesus are simple, and tend all to the happiness of man. [3]

The practice of morality being necessary for the well being of society, He [God] has taken care to impress its precepts so indelibly on our hearts that they shall not be effaced by the subtleties of our brain. We all agree in the obligation of the moral principles of Jesus and nowhere will they be found delivered in greater purity than in His discourses. [4]

I am a Christian in the only sense in which He wished anyone to be: sincerely attached to His doctrines in preference to all others [3]

I am a real Christian – that is to say, a disciple of the doctrines of Jesus Christ. [3]

The last quote is the one I want to focus on. Thomas Jefferson is a self-described Christian. To say that he isn't a Christian because he didn't believe in certain doctrines (like the Virgin Birth), is arbitrary and smacks of a No True Scotsman fallacy. The Revisionists need to stop trying to proselytizing him into a Deist and leave the old dead dude alone. Nevertheless, Jefferson's belief in Christ is corraborative evidence for my previous argument on the Christian influence on the preamble to the Declaration.

John Quincy Adams supports my view: "In the chain of human events, the birthday of the nation is indissolubly linked with the birthday of the Savior. The Declaration of Independence laid the cornerstone of human government upon the first precepts of Christianity." [6]

John Adams Affirms the Influence of Christianity in America

In a letter to Thomas Jefferson, John Adams wrote, “The general Principles, on which the Fathers Atchieved Independence, were the only Principles in which that beautiful Assembly of young Gentlemen could Unite, and these Principles only could be intended by them in their Address, or by me in my Answer. And what were these general Principles? I answer, the general Principles of Christianity, in which all those Sects were united: And the general Principles of English and American Liberty, in which all those young Men United, and which had United all Parties in America, in Majorities sufficient to assert and maintain her Independence” [5]

In other words:

"The [general Principles of Christianity, of English, and American Liberty], on which the Fathers Atchieved Independence, were the only Principles in which that beautiful Assembly of young Gentlemen could Unite..."

In conclusion, Adams affirms that Independence was built on the general principles of Christianity, the English, and American Liberty. As shown above, The Declaration of Independence supports this view and, conversely, this Adam's quote supports the view that the Declaration is built upon the general principles of Christianity, English tradition, and American Liberty. In fact Jefferson directly called these general principles "in which God has united us all." [8]

The Duty of Nations

George Washington, acting as President of the United States, proclaimed, "WHEREAS it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favour;" [7]

Washington, setting a presidential precedent, says that it is the duty of nations to acknowledge the providence and benefits of the Almighty God and plead for His protection and favor. Since Washington was acting as President of the United States when he made this proclamation, his affirmation of the importance of the “Almighty God” affects the general American philosophy of government.


Sources:

[1] http://avalon.law.yale.edu...
[2] http://www.monticello.org...
[3] The Writings of Thomas Jefferson,
[4] Memoir, Correspondence, and Miscellanies from the Papers of Thomas Jefferson
[5] http://www.constitution.org...
[6] Town of Newburyport at Their Request on the Sixty-First Anniversary of the Declaration
[7] The Annals of America
[8] http://www.earlyamerica.com...;
NinjaHobbit14

Con

I will go over my opponent's case and if I have space, I will follow with my own.

While it is true that most of colonial America were Christians and so therefore many key elements of America's past, such as the Declaration of Independence, my opponent fails to take into consideration the fact that there are 3 main monotheistic religions with a "God." He or she has mentioned that Jefferson's use of the word "Creator" is vague, but gives an equally vague counterexample to this, because my opponent fails to take into consideration the possibility that Jefferson, as a Christian, might view the encroachments of the British crown with a Christian opinion or bias, for lack of a better term, therefore his Christian opinions might only reflect himself and not the nation as a whole. The counterexample also is vague because "God" itself is a vague term because multiple religions believe in a God.

In my opponent's second example in his or her first contention, my opponent states that since the "Bill for Establishing Religious Freedom" contains "uniquely Christian" words, therefore the United States is Christian. I could also argue that when Jefferson states "from the plan of the holy author of our religion," my opponent defines "our" as the nation as a whole, but never stops to think about what else "our" could be referring to or who "our" is. "Our" could be referring to a each person as an individual, and therefore any American of any religion, but my opponent has merely assumed that the word refers to the U.S. as a whole and not each U.S. citizen. Jefferson, like many forefathers when writing documents, leaves his statement open for interpretation from the individual.

In the last example of my opponent's third contention, it is stated that "One cannot stay in line with traditional literary criticism, and yet deny that the Creator in Rights of British America, Bill for Establishing Religious Freedom, and the Declaration of Independence is uniquely Christian." While I agree that Jefferson believed that God provided us with our rights, this alone does not mean that the United States as a whole is a Christian religion. Jefferson's writings may have been influenced by his religion, but this does not mean that the United States is a Christian nation. One man's (Jefferson's) opinion on Christianity and the United States does not make the United States a Christian religion. The elements that do make a religion the religion of a country will be addressed in my contentions.

My opponent talks about Jefferson being a "self described Christian." He states that since Jefferson is a Christian, the preamble of the Declaration of Independence must be Christian, and therefore the U.S. is Christian. Tell me this: if I were of a certain religion, let's say Christianity for simplicity, and I wrote an article in a newspaper where the topic of my article was not Christianity, yet I use "uniquely Christian" words such as "Almighty God," would that make my article Christian? No. Perhaps it would contain Christian references, but it would not be a "Christian" article. it certainly would not make the newspaper "Christian," and it would most certainly not make the town that reads the newspaper Christian. This relates to my opponent's claims because he states that since Jefferson is Christian, the preamble must be Christian, so the entire Declaration of Independence is Christian, so therefore the U.S. is Christian. John Quincy Adams' view on the correlation of human government and Christianity does not also guarantee that the U.S. is Christian.

In my opponent's third contention, he states that Jefferson affirms the influence of Christianity on America. Let me ask this: was Jefferson around at the time of the Revolutionary War? Yes. Was he around in the early 1800s? Yes, up until 1826. [1] Therefore he was not around in the late 1800s up until the present, which means he never saw the effects that mass immigration from Asia and Europe, had on the U.S. Jefferson was never around to witness the Jewish immigrants passing through Ellis Island in an attempt to escape an oppressive government. Over 2.5 million Jews immigrated to the U.S. from 1821 to 1924. [2] Jefferson, facing his final days, never saw the full mass immigration that we saw and continue to see today, and he never got to experience the melting pot. His opinions reflect life at his own time, not how it has developed and changed over the centuries.

In my opponent's last contention, he covers the phrase "Almighty God" again, something that I previously addressed. I will now begin with my own contentions.

Contention I: The Melting Pot

The period from 1820 to 1924 is known for the mass immigration to America from Europe and Asia. Large scale Chinese immigration began around the time of the California Gold Rush, where labor was needed. [3] Jews also migrated to America seeking religious freedoms. [4] These newcomers brought not only their culture, but their religion as well, believing that the 1st Amendment and the "Separation of Church and State" as written by Thomas Jefferson [5], guaranteed that the United States is not a nation of one single religion but a nation of religious freedom and a variety of different religions. This leads into my second contention.

One could argue that the majority of the people in the United States are Christian, and people define their country, don't they? I would like to elaborate on the fact that there is indeed a difference between a Christian nation and a nation with Christians. A Christian nation would have openly stated that their religion is officially Christianity, something which Jefferson was opposed of, writing:

'"I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should "make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof . . ."' [5]

This quote not only shows that the legislature is forbidden from choosing a national religion, but the people of the United States are opposed to having their country defined by a single religion, like Christianity. Therefore, the religion of the United States cannot be Christian, because no religion has been chosen, nor will a religion ever be chosen. Doing so would be a violation of the Separation of Church and State.

The freedom of religion is a simple concept, which states that all Americans are free to choose their religion as they wish. Not all Americans choose the same religion, or even a religion at all, which goes against the pro because this mix of religions and the lack of a required religion shows that the United States is truly a "mixed" religion, not a Christian one.

[1] http://www.monticello.org...
[2] http://www.loc.gov...
[3] http://library.thinkquest.org...
[4] http://www.loc.gov...
[5] http://www.loc.gov...
Debate Round No. 2
Oxymoron

Pro

The Purpose of My Round Two Argument

As Pro, my purpose in this debate is to establish the historicity of Christian influence on the United States' federal government, state government, and important founding documents. Notice that I'm not arguing for a Theocracy, or the loss of the First Amendment, or anything like that; rather, I am arguing that Christianity has had a powerful influence on the molding, shaping of this country.

In round two, I established that Christianity moulded the moulders. That is to say, that Christianity influenced and defined the motivations and the foundation on which integral Fouding Fathers built our nation upon. The Founding Fathers saw the basic tenets of Christianity as inspiration for the great nation we see today. Thomas Jefferson, some call him the Father of the Nation, some call him the Father of Religious Freedom, said that religious freedom stems from the Hand of God, the Almighty; that our precious rights we Americans cherish so much are personally endowed by the Creator. John Adams stated that it was the general principles of Christianity that brought our Nation together, "on which the Fathers achieved Independence". Washington, acting as president, even went as far as saying that it is the "Duty of Nations" to thank the Christian God for His blessings and providence.

In Defense of...

In the first paragraph of Con's response he seems to concede three things:

1. Jefferson is a Christian.
2. Jefferson is writing integral founding documents with a "Christian bias".
3. And that Jefferson believed God provided us with our rights.

If Jefferson were writing integral founding documents with a Christian bias (documents like the Declaration of Independence, Bill for Religious Freedom, A Summary View of the Rights of British America), then by definition these documents are being influenced by Christianity -- which is what I'm arguing for! If Jeferson believed that God provided us with our rights, then we may reasonably deduce that the "Creator" in the Declaration, written in Jefferson's Christian bias, is the same as God. Since The Declaration of Independence is the quintessential American Founding document and is the foundation of American government philosophy, from this alone the United States may be considered a Christian Nation.

Con might say that "God" is vague -- that it might refer to one of the three main monotheistic "Gods". However, why would Jefferson, a Christian, reference Allah as God and the source of our rights? Or Yahweh?

Did he reference all three at the same time? That too doesn't make sense since the three are logically exclusive, hence the distinguishment from eachother. In addition, Jefferson's Bill for Religious Freedom says, "from the plan of the holy author of our religion..." Why are "Holy author" and "religion" singular? If he wanted to be inclusive of the other monotheistic religions, shouldn't it be "Holy authors of our religions", or atleast "holy author of our religions"? But again, even if it was "holy author of our religions" that denotes a single source, author, of the three monotheistic religions. Something Christianity, Judiasm, and Islam would contest.

Jefferson wasn't very inclusive in his writings. Though he fought for religious freedom, he wasn't afraid of recognizing the heavy influence Christianity had on foundational American philosophy (I refer you to the writings of Locke).

Con might also say that these beliefs of Jefferson's were merely personal biases, nothing that represented the nation as a whole back then. Two major problems with that:

1. Why would Jefferson make his personal biases the basis for documents that represented huge groups of people (in the case of the Declaration of Independence, an entire nation)?

2. Why would people accept documents, supposedly littered with Jefferson's personal Christian biases, and sign onto the documents if the documents didn't truly represent them? As in the case of the Declaration of Independence, fifty-six members of the Continental Congress, all willing to fight tooth an nail for something that did not full represent them and their constituency, put quill to parchment.

The Declaration Paralleled with a News Article?

Con contends documents that contain uniquely Christian language (1) aren't necessarily "Christian" documents, (2) don't make the legal body the documents represent "Christian" (3), and it doesn't make the nation as a whole "Christian".

Con's attempted parallel of foundational documents, like the Declaration, and a news article fails on multiple accounts:

1. The whole, "if a news article contains Christian words, does it make it Christian?" thing is a war of words. I'm not arguing if documents, like the Declaration, are "Christian" enough. Rather, I'm looking for Christian influence. As I said in the opening round, America is most justly called a Christian nation because Christianity has so largely moulded its foundation.

2. Con contends that a news article that contains "Christian" language doesn't make the newspaper "Christian". He's right, but he's dead wrong if he tries to apply this to the Declaration of Independence -- or any important founding document for that matter. A news article is to a newspaper as the Declaration is to the Continental Congress. A "Christian" article doesn't make a newspaper "Christian" because the newspaper publisher doesn't necessarly uphold the beliefs of its many authors. It might simply find these opinions caustic, quaint, or popular. What if, however, that newspaper signed at the bottom of the article: "And for the support of this Article, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor." That article is to the newspaper as the Declaration is to the Continental Congress. Point taken?

3. The town that reads a Christian article doesn't necessarily make that town "Christian". Did this town rally behind this "Christian article" and fight another nation? Did they bind themselves to that article in spilt blood and the forge of brotherhood? Didn't think so. The Colonists did this. They rallied behind the Declaration of Independence, and died for it. It represents them more than anything in the world -- it's what defined their generation and generations to come. A news article cannot possibly parralel that.

On Con's Argument

"[Jefferson's] opinions reflect life at his own time, not how it has developed and changed over the centuries."

No. Jefferson, Washington, Adams, Madison, Wilson, and all the rest of the Founders, don't take back-seat to the "melting pot". We, The United States of America, were forged in blood and brotherhood; our foundation, our philosophy, our principles, it's not something that simply "changes". Through our mistakes in the past, we adapt to the future: and the greatest mistake a nation can make is to forget itself and lose its identity. Jefferson's opinions, ideas, passions on government, human nature, and Christianity, may seem old-fashioned, but it's our identity and it represents the foundation for American government philosophy.

"... the 1st Amendment and the "Separation of Church and State" as written by Thomas Jefferson, guaranteed that the United States is not a nation of one single religion but a nation of religious freedom and a variety of different religions."

First, Thomas Jefferson didn't write the first amendment, Madison did. And I agree that the first amendment and the "Separation of Church and State" (just a interpretation of the first amendment, not an actual law) guarentees, atleast on a Federal level, religious freedom; however, my argument doesn't really have to do with the existence of religious freedom. We're looking at the influence of Christianity -- how Christianity moulded America. It's fine and dandy that religious freedom exists, I support that, but until you elaborate on how this affects the Christian influence on the foundation of the United States, it has little to no weight on the discussion.

"A Christian nation would have openly stated that their religion is officially Christianity, something which Jefferson was opposed of ..."

The United States, on the Federal level, cannot announce an official religion. Can the United States, on the Federal level, be influence by Christianity? Yes. Can states make Christianity an official religion? Yes, they have and arguably still can. However, "official religions" don't have to do with what I'm arguing about -- as I've said many, many, many times before.


The Irony is...

So Con brought up the doctrine of "Separation of Church and State", directly quoting Jefferson. Thomas Jefferson, Con, and I all agree the first amendment is a great thing, but Con is going a step farther and saying that the first amendment negates the influence of Christianity on America. The irony is somehow lost on him. Thomas Jefferson, a man who's opinion Con holds in esteem, actually cited the source of religious freedom as from the Almighty God:

"Well aware that Almighty God hath created the mind free; that all attempts to influence it by temporal punishments or burdens, or by civil incapacitations, tend only to beget habits of hypocrisy and meanness, and are a departure from the plan of the Holy Author of our religion, who being Lord both of body and mind, yet chose not to propagate it by coercions on either, as was in his Almighty power to do; that the impious presumption of legislators and rulers, civil as well as ecclesiastical, who, being themselves but fallible and uninspired men, have assumed dominion over the faith of others, setting up their own opinions and modes of thinking as the only true and infallible, and as such endeavoring to impose them on others..."

So the doctrine that he cites to negate Christian influence is in fact saturated in Christian influence.



Sources will be posted in comments.



NinjaHobbit14

Con

NinjaHobbit14 forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 3
Oxymoron

Pro

Disappointed that my opponent can't post his argument/forfeited.

It was a good run, was interested in how he would respond.
NinjaHobbit14

Con

NinjaHobbit14 forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 4
NinjaHobbit14

Con

NinjaHobbit14 forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 5
4 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 4 records.
Posted by Oxymoron 2 years ago
Oxymoron
The Treaty of Tripoli is a weak document to bring up for this debate for a couple of reasons.

1) The Treaty of Tripoli is a, well, a treaty and therefore uses language, in the name of co-operation, that's not entirely reflective of the actual beliefs of either nation.

2) I could simply bring up the Treaty of Paris which is opened with the line, "In the name of the most holy and undivided Trinity." Last I checked, a secular country doesn't do business in the name of the most holy undivided Trinity. One could say that this is there for a secular purpose: to expedite the treaty process. But if this is true, then why couldn't that premise be applied to the Treaty of Tripoli as well? Wasn't Adams using this infamous line as a catalyst for calming the nerves of the Islamic fanatics calling for a religious war?

3) The term "Christian nation" is utterly vague. Did Adams mean a nation with an official religion on the federal level? Did he mean a Christian majority in government? The populace? State government? We'll never know. Therefore the Treaty of Tripoli cannot stand without corroborative textual evidence supporting your interpretation of the term "Christian nation".
Posted by bladerunner060 2 years ago
bladerunner060
As per the treaty of Tripoli, the US is explicitly not a Christian nation. I find the manner this resolution was presented a bit problematic, and am not voting on it yet because of that...there's a vast gulf between "a nation influenced by Christian thinking" and "a Christian nation".
Posted by gdogthekoopa 2 years ago
gdogthekoopa
I wanna watch this
Posted by Kumquatodor 2 years ago
Kumquatodor
Me, please?
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