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The Contender
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The United States is not a Christian nation.

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 10/30/2009 Category: Politics
Updated: 7 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,357 times Debate No: 9885
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (3)
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I contend that the United States is not and was never intended to be a Christian nation, nor was it founded upon Christian principles.


The framework upon which I will be operating is that of transcendental morality. Morality is not a subjective judgment of personal preference; rather, it is an overarching theory of truth that applies to everyone, a la Kant's categorical imperative. Thus it is the proactive burden for my side of this debate to prove that Christianity and the transcendental moral codes of nations such as the US are inherently intertwined; moreover, it is the proactive burden for the negative to prove that transcendental moral codes are independent of Christianity.

In response to your contention, I will make two of my own:

First, I contend that the United States was founded upon Christian principles.

This is historically and empirically true. It is hard to believe that "one nation, under GOD" was arbitrarily thrown into the Declaration of Independence to appease Christian citizens of the US. Rather, this statement signifies something important about the nature of American democracy; that is, America is under the divine rule of God himself (notice the capitalization of God-this means that this is the Christian, capital G God) and thus his laws will naturally follow from Democratic leadership.

Moreover, I will grant that many of the founding fathers were Deists, but Deists still recognize a) God and b) the transcendental morality that stems from that God. Even if it is granted that all of the founding fathers weren't necessarily Christian but Deist, the argument can be ignored. Christian morals and Deist morals have much in common, seeing as they both stem from the same source.

My second argument takes a bit of a presuppositional approach. Even if the affirmative of this resolution wins that the founding fathers did not intend or plan for the US to be a Christian nation, it would end up being Christian regardless of that fact; this is so because of transcendental morality. Because the Christian God is the only explanation for transcendental morality, any attempt to construct social laws is an inherent affirmation of Christian moral codes.

As the late Christian apologist Greg Bahnsen once spoke in a debate against Gordon Stein, an atheist;

"The laws of logic are not conventional or sociological. I would say the laws of logic have a transcendental necessity about them. They are universal; they are invariant, and they are not material in nature. And if they are not that, then I'd like to know, in an atheist universe, how it is possible to have laws in the first place. And secondly, how it is possible to justify those laws?"

Christianity can only fully explain law. Law is an ethereal, transcendental concept; this sense of right and wrong is inherent within human nature. Law is not arbitrarily defined into existence through a fiedist framework; rather, we derive law from an innate, intangible sense of right and wrong. In other words, there are universal principles that humankind recognizes independent of their own personal thoughts. Late Christian apologist C.S. Lewis elaborates,

"EVERY ONE HAS HEARD people quarreling. Sometimes it sounds funny and sometimes it sounds merely unpleasant; but however it sounds, I believe we can learn something very important from listening to the kinds of things they say. They say things like this: "How'd you like it if anyone did the same to you?"--‘That's my seat, I was there first"--"Leave him alone, he isn't doing you any harm"--"Why should you shove in first?"--"Give me a bit of your orange, I gave you a bit of mine"--"Come on, you promised." People say things like that every day, educated people as well as uneducated, and children as well as grown-ups.

Now what interests me about all these remarks is that the man who makes them is not merely saying that the other man's behavior does not happen to please him. He is appealing to some kind of standard of behavior which he expects the other man to know about. And the other man very seldom replies: "To hell with your standard." Nearly always he tries to make out that what he has been doing does not really go against the standard, or that if it does there is some special excuse. He pretends there is some special reason in this particular case why the person who took the seat first should not keep it, or that things were quite different when he was given the bit of orange, or that some thing has turned up which lets him off keeping his promise. It looks, in fact, very much as if both parties had in mind some kind of Law or Rule of fair play or decent behavior or morality or whatever you like to call it, about which they really agreed. And they have. If they had not, they might, of course, fight like animals, but they could not quarrel in the human sense of the word. Quarreling means trying to show that the other man is in the wrong. And there would be no sense in trying to do that unless you and he had some sort of agreement as to what Right and Wrong are; just as there would be no sense in saying that a footballer had committed a foul unless there was some agreement about the rules of football."

Insofar as standards of morality are independent from human opinion and societal consensus, morality is thus transcendental.

This brings me to the final stage of my argument. If morality is transcendental, this means that morality and law are not merely agreed upon by a group of legislators. Everyone recognizes that brutally murdering someone is wrong; when this is done, people are not stating their opinion; they are appealing to a sense of innate right and wrong.

As such, any society that upholds law is, whether it wants to do so or not, following Christian principles. Only God can account for transcendental morality. Since morality cannot merely stem from agreement, there must be an intangible, ethereal, transcendental source and only the God of Christianity can explain it. Things like stealing, murder, lusting, and many of the major crimes that society regards as bad all stem from God's moral commands in the Bible. From a transcendental God comes transcendental principles. Greg Bahnsen 2 furthers,

"As invariant, they don't fit into what most materialists would tell us about the constantly changing nature of the world. And so, you see, we have a real problem on our hands. Dr. Stein wants to use the laws of logic tonight. I maintain that by so doing he's borrowing my world view. For you see, in the theistic world view the laws of logic makes sense, because in the theistic world view there can be abstract, universal, invariant entities such as the laws of logic. Within the theistic world view you cannot contradict yourself, because to do so you're engaging in the nature of lying, and that's contrary to the character of God as we perceive it. And so, the laws of logic are something Dr. Stein is going to have to explain as an atheist or else relinquish using them.

The transcendental argument for the existence of God, then, which Dr. Stein has yet to touch, and which I don't believe he can surmount, is that without the existence of God it is impossible to prove anything. And that's because in the atheistic world you cannot justify, you cannot account for, laws in general: the laws of thought in particular, laws of nature, cannot account for human life, from the fact that it's more than electrochemical complexes
in depth, and the fact that it's more than an accident. That is to say, in the atheist conception of the world, there's really no reason to debate; because in the end, as Dr. Stein has said, all these laws are conventional. All these laws are not really law-like in their nature, they're just, well, if you're an atheist and materialist, you'd have to say they're just something that happens inside the brain."

Thus it is clear that whether or not the founding fathers WANTED or INTENDED the US to be Christian, when they made value judgments like "oppression is bad" and "we need laws," they are being inherently Christian. Thus the vote should be negativ
Debate Round No. 1


I will organize my thoughts my numbering them as I read the first argument of Volk23, herein referred to simply as 'Con'. After rebutalling each of his arguments, I will then in turn expound on my own and offer evidence to support my claim in a manner which is clear, concise, and (most importantly) irrefutable. I will direct my appeals not to Volk23, but to you, the reader - it is your vote whose influence I seek.


1) My opponent first begins by stating it is 'categorically and empirically true' that the United States was founded upon Christian principles, backing his statement up with the claim that 'one nation, under God' could not be arbitrarily placed in the Declaration of Independence. While I agree, I also contend my opponent clearly does not understand what he's talking about. In fact, 'One Nation, Under God' does not appear in the Declaration of Independence at all, as much as Con would like to believe. Anywhere. The first mention of 'One Nation, Under God' was in 1954, when it was added to the Pledge of Allegiance under the Eisenhower administration after intensive lobbying by Christian clergy.
This rather ignorant claim by Con certainly dispels any assumptions he makes in the first paragraph (he goes so far as to claim this signifies the divine rule of God himself, but as the claim he's making is based entirely on the bogus idea that 'under God' appears in the Declaration of Independence, we can safely dispel it until he can cite a source that isn't made up on the spot).

2) I will agree with the concept that many of the founding fathers were Deists, rather than Christians (Thomas Jefferson comes to mind immediately, Hamilton and Adams almost certainly were as well), I take issue with much of the rest of his statements, which continue to pervade throughout the rest of his writing, so I would like to take this opportunity to address it.

First, I will contest that Deist principles are in no way similar to their Theist counterparts, as Con would like to believe. Deists, unlike Christians, believe (or believed, as Deism is all but extinct) that the universe was created by a Supreme being that left them alone. Unlike Christianity, which has their God making strict moral judgements on right and wrong, the Deist god does not interfere with human life. Indeed, the concept of an afterlife is rather vague.

My opponent digresses (and in fact spends the majority of his argument) using a tactic called the 'transcendentality of morality', a doctrine proposed by Immanuel Kant, a philosopher he mentioned early in his writing. It is a fairly well-known theory arguing for the existence of a supreme Deity which Con has adapted for this argument. The argument goes as such: Moral facts ('rights and wrongs') exist, and they transcend all boundaries of society - murder, of course, is illegal in the entire civilized world. The best explanation for such phenomena, writes Kant, is religion.
My opponent uses this argument to make several unsupported presuppositions, which I will detail on shortly. However, what's important to take away as you read my opponent's writing is this:
A) My opponent fails to recognize the potential validity of other religions. Transcendentality of Morality is an interesting concept, but nowhere does it point to Christianity in particular, as my opponent continually references. In fact, the best that you can narrow it down to would be the general idea of a deity - this provides no more support to the idea that the United States is a Christian nation than if I were to say the United States is an Islamic nation or a Jewish nation.
B) My opponent consistently confuses 'morality' with 'religion'. This becomes increasingly apparent by the end of his argument, and I will detail it further there. His arguments have devolved into 'Because morals exist universally, a God must be responsible. This God is the Christian God.'. He offers no support for why this God must be the Christian God, and seems to not even try - he readily accepts that many of the founding fathers were Deists and reject the notion of the Christian God.

3) My opponent states "Things like stealing, murder, lusting, and many of the major crimes that society regards as bad all stem from God's moral commands in the Bible. From a transcendental God comes transcendental principles." I could not disagree more. Stealing and murder are regarded as bad in the eyes of society not because God said so, but rather because the are universally unpleasant things. Nobody likes being the victim of theft and very few could say they would enjoy being the victim of an afternoon murder, therefore, society deems these illegal not because they happen to be in the Bible, but because society wouldn't like such things to happen to them regardless of which Holy book they appear in.
Furthermore, this is a poor argument by my opponent to make a case for Christianity - such commandments of morality appear in almost every Religion and it's simply ignorant to assume that such a thing is based on ignorance.

My opponent spends much of his time to argue that the United States is a nation that contains morals. I do not argue that point, nor did I ever attempt to argue that. My opponent then tries to presuppose that because Americans have morals, we are inherently being Christian. I will refute this to the bitter end.

===Further Arguments===
If you had any doubt in the strength of my argument before, I urge you to reconsider with a few brief pieces I have yet to touch on; a 'knock-out' blow to my opponent, if you will.
Let's go back to what my opponent said to begin with; he contended that the United States was founded upon Christian principles, stating it is, again, 'historically and empirically true'. Let us ignore that my opponent then was delusional enough to believe the Declaration of Independence contained 'Under God' (which it doesn't) to support his argument and instead look for real historical documents that cite the contrary.
Early on in the history of the United States a conflict developed between a group of pirate nations and the US Navy (the remnants of which, for the keen, can be found in the Marine Hymn in the verse 'To the Shores of Tripoli'). The dispute was settled in 1797 with a treaty called the Treaty of Tripoli, under the Presidency of George Washington. This treaty is quite remarkable for several reasons; One, it was authored under the presidency of George Washington; two, it was read in it's entirety aloud before the entire United States Senate, where it was unanimously approved; three, President John Adams (by the time it was signed Washington had since left office) signed it; four, well, maybe you should take a look closer...

Article 11 of the Treaty of Tripoli, 1797
"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 tranquillity, of Mussulmen; and, as the said States never entered into any war, or act of hostility against any Mahometan 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."

My opponent then goes so far as to say that when the founding fathers decided 'oppression is bad' and 'we need laws' (as Con, ever eloquent, phrases it); such decisions were 'inherently Christian'. I appeal to you, voters, to reject such ridiculous notions. The hope to be free from oppression and the hope for laws is a moral issue, yes. However, it has absolutely no bearing at all on the status of the United States as a Christian nation, which we can decisively say it is not.


First, I will defend my case....

1) I confused the Declaration of Independence with the Pledge; that is my fault (how I did, I don't know). However, my argument still retains, as the concept is not refuted....if we are "under God," we are then under his laws. He does point out my error in mixing the DOI with the Pledge, however he does not refute the idea of the fact that "under God" obviously means we are under his codes.

2) Deists still believe that moral codes stem from God. Yes, God obviously doesn't play a part in the world per Deist beliefs, but morals still stem from God as he created EVERYTHING.

3) Christianity is the only religion that can explain objective morality for several reasons:
a) Islam is similar to Christianity; however, lawmaking per their doctrine is completely arbitrary. The Christian God is the embodiment of Goodness; thus, his laws are naturally good because they stem from the embodiment of the Good. The God of Islam is not like so; he merely arbitrarily decides what is good and what is not; he is thus a fiediest and defines arbitrary morality into existence. Islam is about blind devotion; Christianity is about finding a personal relationship with God and his objective rules he applies to us.
b) Judaism lacks one thing that makes Christian morality more complete: the Cross. Since the Jews negate the existence of Christ, they fail to account for many of the transcendental rules that Christ stated during his time on Earth; namely, the Sermon on the Mount.
c) Also extend my weighing mechanism of transcendental morality on his argument where he claims that I confuse "morality" with "religion." My weighing mechanism specifically states that morality that the US upholds and Christianity are naturally intertwined; he is merely stating this is false. Seeing as I have disproven other theistic theories with regard to their capability to uphold transcendental morality, this argument is still legitimate.

4) You can extend my weighing mechanism of transcendental morality on his number 3 argument against my case. When he says that murder, stealing, etc are regarded as "universally bad" he is making a VALUE JUDGMENT. Values are transcendental concepts that are not material; they must come from a transcendental source. When my opponent makes claims like "X is universally bad" or "X claim is based upon ignorance," he is making value judgments that he feels should apply to all people. However, operating under an atheistic framework (a necessary supposition for his side in this debate) he has no reason to have objective morality because objective morality cannot stem from just random accidents of nature. He states that concepts of murder are "universally bad," but what I am saying is that the reason that they are as such is because God has implanted within humans a concept of transcendental morality. Since he cannot account for any source of objective morality, this is a clear reason to vote for my arguments in this debate. Any of my arguments he calls "ludicrous" or "ignorant" can be entirely ignored as those are objective judgments of value that of which he cannot give any meaningful justification for. In fact, when he makes value judgments about my case, he is operating under my framework; he has to use my own purview to prove it wrong. This turns his entire position on him. Look to my Bahnsen analysis, which can be extended, for further clarification. Moreover, my Lewis analysis can be extended....when he says things like "his arguments are ludicrous," and "we can decisively say X argument is true," he is appealing to a universal standard of argumentation and logic that I am supposed to know about. He is not arguing that my standard is bad; rather, he is arguing that I am not upholding some universal standard that I and everyone else are supposed to know about. Objective standards, however, must come from an objective source: God.

5) One last point here, to clarify my second argument. My argument here is that even if it is proved that the US factually was not designed to be a Christian nation, my argument is that it is operating under Christian principles whether it wants to or not due to its claims of objective morality and justice.

Onto his new point....
1) I already clarified my mistake with the DOI; but, again, the essence of that argument is still retained.
2) I would argue here that the Treaty of Tripoli is talking about conceptions of seperating Church and State; i.e. the US was not meant to be a theocratic Christian nation. The Treaty has little issue with religion other than that religion and the state should not be married, lest we suffer issues that the Europeans did so many years ago. We are debating about principles...i.e, principles of justice, law, government, etc. We are not debating if the US was meant to be a theocracy led by the Church, which is clearly what the Treaty is discussing.
3) You can extend my second argument again...even if the US claimed it wasn't operating under Christian principles, when it upholds things like objective standards, objective morality, and objective law, it is using inherently Christian concepts; not Islamic concepts; not Judaism concepts (although make this note: Christianity and Judaism have a great deal in common, seeing as they use the same Old Testament...however, Jews ignore Christ's sacrifice on the Cross so they lose out on many of the transcendental rules of Christianity); nor atheistic concepts.

So, thus far, you're voting Pro for several reasons..

A) The PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE (my bad...) states that we are a nation "Under God." This means we are under His Divine principles.
B) The Treaty example he posed was talking more about church and state than the ethical principles on which the US is founded, which is what we are debating....
C) My second argument, the primary argument, is extended. Seeing as Christianity is the only source of transcendental morality, you are clearly voting pro in this debate. All of my opponent's value judgments must stem from a transcendental source; that source is clearly the Christian God.
Debate Round No. 2


Droste forfeited this round.


Pretty opponent forfeited his round, so obviously all of my points are extended. The main voters here are clear: they are,

1) The US was founded on principles that are Christian; the idea that we are a nation "Under God" is clear evidence for that. Even if you don't buy that argument and claim that the US was founded upon Deist principles, I've already proven they are extremely similar so you're voting con here. Extend my argument against his Tripoli example in that I show you that the treaty was talking about avoiding a theocratic government, not avoiding Christian principles, which is the whole point of this debate.

2) Insofar as he cannot uphold my weighing mechanism of transcendental morality, you're voting con as well. I've clearly proven that when he uses value judgments like "good," "ridiculous," etc, he's operating under my case's worldview; thus he is directly turning his contention against himself. Even if you don't buy my first voter which says the US was founded upon Christian principles, and you're believing his argument that the Founding Fathers wanted nothing to do with divine principles (which I've already disproven) you're looking to my argument that proves that because the US upholds things like transcendental justice and morality, those are inherently Christian. Whether it wants to be or not, the US was founded and is operating under Christian maxims.

Thus I urge a vote for the con in this debate.
Debate Round No. 3
3 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 3 records.
Posted by Chrysippus 7 years ago
@Droste: Ok, so that is your contention; fine. Now, how about defining your terms? (hint: is a good place to park...) Maybe throw in a compelling argument or two? You only have three rounds, and you give up an entire round by such a short first post.
Posted by Xer 7 years ago
The resolution isn't clear.
Posted by ReganFan 7 years ago
Very tempting I must say.
No votes have been placed for this debate.