The Instigator
Pro (for)
3 Points
The Contender
Con (against)
0 Points

The United States of America is a secular nation not founded upon the Christian religion

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 9/18/2014 Category: Politics
Updated: 2 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,185 times Debate No: 61946
Debate Rounds (5)
Comments (15)
Votes (1)




This is an open debate that anyone may accept. i will attempt to prove that the United States was not founded upon any religion, Christian or otherwise. Con will bear the burden of showing that the country was founded upon Christianity.

Christianity- the Judeo-Christian religion centered around Jesus and His divinity.

Founded upon: that the founding fathers set the country up based on Christian values and ethics. Note: Con only has to prove that the country was based on the ideals of Christianity, not that they set it up as the official religion of the country.

United States of America: What the country consists of in this sense is the government and laws the founders set up originally. Not laws or changes implemented since then. Since nations take a few years to get set up, anything occurring or written up to the year 1800 will be accepted.

Rules are as follows:

R1 acceptance

R2 opening arguments. There will be no rebuttals in this round

R3 rebuttals and continuing arguments

R4 same as above

R5 closing arguments. There will be no rebuttals in this round

I look forward to a fair and respectful debate


I accept - good luck and have fun!
Debate Round No. 1


Same to you. I'll start things off simply, with a few quotes and examples, and go from there. First off, the establishment clause of the Constitution. "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;". (1) Now what this means is that the government cannot make any law that favors one religion over another or over no religion. I would think that if they were basing the new government on Christianity, they would allow Christianity to be favored in their laws. The next example is from article 11 of the Treaty of Tripoli, written in 1796 by Joel Barlow and signed by John Adams. "As the government of the United States is in no way based on the Christian religion...". (2) Pretty self explanatory. There is also the fact that there is no mention of God or Jesus in the Constitution. I would offer quotes from the founders on this subject, but it would technically fall under the appeal to authority fallacy. I therefore ask my opponent if founders' opinions can be accepted in this debate, seeing as how they created the system of government based on what they thought best. Obviously, if Con accepts these terms they would also be allowed to use founders' opinions as well. I will leave it there for now, to see what Con has to offer. I will have more arguments in the next round.

1. Article 1 of the United States Constitution.


A few notes before I begin:

This can be an emotional topic. People on both sides tend to say their position is not only true but that the country is "better" or "worse" off as a result. I, as Con, am simply stating facts. My position is not that things would be better if we returned to the "good old days." I am not arguing whether it's "good" or "bad" that America's founding was heavily influenced by Christianity - I am simply arguing that it was.

As my opponent said, nations take a few years to set up. Similarly, they also take a few years to arise. America began forming long before 1776 or 1787, and it was not just done in the 13 British colonies. As such, I will be using evidence from before 1776, I hope this is agreeable.

I agree to using the founding fathers' opinions as evidence. Nations are not founded by inanimate objects, they are founded by people. Thus, to discover what a country was founded on we must examine the people who did it. However, each founding father obviously had different opinions and beliefs. Some were extremely devout Christians, some were Agnostics or even perhaps Atheists. Therefore, any argument citing a founder must consider that person's level of influence and the degree to which their worldview likely shaped their actions. I do not consider this an appeal to authority fallacy as long as it is a direct quote from a founding father (as opposed to citing analysis by a contemporary historian).

Ok, let's begin.

The level of influence religion has over a nation exists on a spectrum. At the extreme ends of this spectrum are theocracy and the secular state. America is certainly not a theocracy. There is no religious council or state religion that directly runs the government. At the same time however, America is not a secular state like China or the USSR. There are no laws against the existence or private practice of religion. That means the USA falls somewhere in the middle. I write this to show that America is not at either extreme. It was not officially founded as a secular nation or a Christian nation. I simply need to prove, under the definition of "founded upon" that we are using, that Christianity was more influential than any other worldview or religion in early America.

America's founding did not begin in 1776. The only thing the Declaration of Independence did was re-classify an already established territory and culture as a politically independent entity. In order to find out what that culture was, we must look much earlier to discover the values, ethics, and beliefs that ultimately influenced the founding fathers.

Almost every British colony that formed early America was either directly or indirectly founded due to the Christian religion. Jamestown, Virginia (1607), the first successful English colony, was motivated in part due to the desire to spread Christianity to the native Indians. The settlers marked their landing by erecting a wooden cross on the site, and placed a priority on constructing a new church as one of their first buildings [1].

Massachusetts (1620) was completely motivated by and created for Christianity. The Puritan ethics of these early Pilgrims rapidly expanded and dominated the entire region for generations, ultimately paving the way for other groups such as the Quakers and Mennonites to establish communities as well [2].

Maryland was founded in 1632 specifically as a safe haven for persecuted Catholics. Rhode Island was founded as a refuge for minority Christian sects. New Jersey and Pennsylvania were founded almost exclusively as Quaker communities. The list goes on and on.

But America was not just confined to the 13 British Colonies. Other areas that were destined to become U.S. territories prior to 1800 also began as exclusively Christian. The modern day Midwest, Great Lakes region, Florida, and the Southwest were all settled and explored by Catholic Priests. Many modern American cities in these regions began as Catholic missions. I know this is post-1800, but as an example of how powerful this Catholic influence was, counties are still called "Parishes" in the state of Louisiana today.

The point here is that British America got its start heavily influenced by Christianity. The reasons why colonists came, the reasons why they expanded, and the values they based their communities on were almost exclusively Christian. Were there other motives and values involved? Of course. But when it comes to religious worldviews, there was very little deviation. There were no Muslim, Buddhist, or Hindu American colonies. Undoubtedly there were some Agnostic/Atheist/Humanist settlers, but there were no colonies founded exclusively on those worldviews in the same way that colonies exclusively formed based on the Puritan, Quaker, or Catholic faith. Since no other religions or worldviews were as dominant in early America, it is undeniable that America began forming heavily influenced by Christianity.

Let's fast forward to the time of the American Constitution. It is clear that Christianity played a huge role in influencing the men who founded the nation. Entire books have been written about the devout Christian faiths many of the founders practiced. It would take me way too long to explain them in any detail here. I'll just give examples from George Washington as a starting point:

George Washington was sworn in as president on the Bible (a practice almost every president since has followed). He could have picked the Koran, or a Hindu Sutra, or Rousseau's "Of the Social Contract," or no book at all. But he chose the Bible. Immediately before his inauguration, Congress actually passed a binding resolution that: "after the oath shall have been administered to the President, he, attended by the Vice President and members of the Senate and House of Representatives, shall proceed to St. Paul's Chapel, to hear divine service." [3] Congress actually mandated a Christian church service for every member of the legislative and executive branch following Washington's inauguration to mark the the first official day of the American government.

In Washington's Inaugural Address, the first official statement given in the history of the American Presidency, Washington dedicated two entire paragraphs to discussing God. He actually emphasized the point - that as his "first official Act" as president, he deliberately wished to express his "fervent supplications" to God. He concludes by returning once again to the subject of God, declaring that America would not have been possible without God's divine blessing [4].

So in conclusion, was America founded as an officially established Christian nation? No. Were laws made to specifically mirror the Bible? No. But my opponent said in Round 1 that I do not need to prove Christianity was established in any official capacity. In Pro's own words, all I have to do is "prove that the country was based on the ideals of Christianity." Given the evidence, this is undeniable. From the Pilgrims at Plymouth to the Priests in the interior, Christianity dominated North America the second Europeans began to arrive. Native Americans were not converted to Islam or Buddhism or Humanism, they were converted to Christianity. The worldviews of George Washington and the other founding fathers were significantly shaped by Judeo-Christian traditions, as I showed in the above paragraphs.

As such, I submit that the evidence points overwhelmingly to the fact that America was founded by men who were heavily influenced by the ideals and ideas of Christianity.

Looking forward to Round 3.

[1] Catherine Deane, "Jamestown," Arcadia Publishing, Charleston, 2012
[2] Nathaniel Philbrick, "Mayflower," Penguin Books, NY, 2006
Debate Round No. 2


First off, I'd like to clarify something. I think just about everyone would agree that some of the founders were inspired by their religion. That is not what this debate is concerning. There is a difference between drawing inspiration from something and basing your creation on it. What I am claiming, and what I will prove throughout the the debate, is that when they were setting up the new government they had learned from their previous home that their faith should be kept separate from the government they were creating. Some of the founders wanted them intertwined, sure, but after deliberation and voting it was decided that separation of the two was the best option. That a secular government was best for all peoples involved. You can have a government that is based on the ideals of Christianity if you simply believe those ideals are the key to a moral society without making it the official religion. The government they established was neither, I just wanted to establish that the two are not the same. Con needs to show sufficient evidence that the first is true. With that out of the way, on with the show!

In accordance with what Con said about considering the level of influence of the founders we quote, I would like to posit that few had more influence than the authors of the Constitution, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, John Adams, and Thomas Paine. (1) Of these, all but John Adams believed in a secular government.

" As you say of yourself, I too am an Epicurean. I consider the genuine (not the imputed) doctrines of Epicurus as containing everything rational in moral philosophy which Greek and Roman leave to us." "In every country and every age, the priest had been hostile to Liberty. (sic) He is always in alliance with the despot, abetting his abuses in return for protection to his own." "Millions of innocent men, women and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined and imprisoned; yet we have not advanced one inch towards uniformity." "I never submitted the whole system of my opinions to the creed of any party of men whatever in religion, in philosophy, in politics, or in anything else where I was capable of thinking for myself. Such an addiction is the last degradation of a free and moral agent." "They [the clergy] believe that any portion of power confided to me, will be exerted in opposition to their schemes. And they believe rightly; for I have sworn upon the altar of god, eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man. But this is all they have to fear from me: and enough, too, in their opinion" "Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legislative powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, 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 and State." "The whole history of these books [the Gospels] is so defective and doubtful that it seems vain to attempt minute inquiry into it: and such tricks have been played with their text, and with the texts of other books relating to them, that we have a right, from that cause, to entertain much doubt what parts of them are genuine. In the New Testament there is internal evidence that parts of it have proceeded from an extraordinary man; and that other parts are of the fabric of very inferior minds. It is as easy to separate those parts, as to pick out diamonds from dunghills." "Christianity neither is, nor ever was a part of the common law." "Ridicule is the only weapon which can be used against unintelligible propositions. Ideas must be distinct before reason can act upon them; and no man ever had a distinct idea of the trinity. It is the mere Abracadabra of the mountebanks calling themselves the priests of Jesus." "To talk of immaterial existences is to talk of nothings. To say that the human soul, angels, god, are immaterial, is to say they are nothings, or that there is no god, no angels, no soul. I cannot reason otherwise: but I believe I am supported in my creed of materialism by Locke, Tracy, and Stewart. At what age of the Christian church this heresy of immaterialism, this masked atheism, crept in, I do not know. But heresy it certainly is." (2) -Thomas Jefferson

"All national institutions of churches, whether Jewish, Christian or Turkish, appear to me no other than human inventions, set up to terrify and enslave mankind, and monopolize power and profit." "The whole religious complexion of the modern world is due to the absence from Jerusalem of a lunatic asylum." "It is not a God, just and good, but a devil, under the name of God, that the Bible describes." "Any system of religion that has anything in it that shocks the mind of a child, cannot be true." "There are matters in the Bible, said to be done by the express commandment of God, that are shocking to humanity and to every idea we have of moral justice." "That God cannot lie, is no advantage to your argument, because it is no proof that priests can not, or that the Bible does not." "Is it not a species of blasphemy to call the New Testament revealed religion, when we see in it such contradictions and absurdities." "My mind is my own church." "My country is the world, and my religion is to do good." (3) - Thomas Paine

"The purpose of separation of church and state is to keep forever from these shores the ceaseless strife that has soaked the soil of Europe with blood for centuries." "Religious bondage shackles and debilitates the mind and unfits it for every noble enterprise, every expanded prospect." "And I have no doubt that every new example will succeed, as every past one has done, in showing that religion and Government will both exist in greater purity, the less they are mixed together." "The number, the industry, and the morality of the priesthood, and the devotion of the people have been manifestly increased by the total separation of the church from the state." "Religion flourishes in greater purity, without than with the aid of Government." (4) - James Madison

Some of these quotes are about their beliefs, some simply their thoughts on religion, and some are about their opinions on mixing government and religion, but I believe all are applicable. Some are admittedly credited after 1800, but just as Con's Louisiana argument served only as an example of the church's power and authority within the accepted time frame and not as an argument on it's own, so too do the quotes serve only as examples of the founders' opinions. I wanted to present more than quotes this round, but I didn't expect them to take up this much space. I will save the rest for round 4.

* I used the Epicurean quote by Jefferson because the Epicurean argument known as the problem of evil is one of the oldest and best known arguments against a god like in Christianity. One that is simultaneously omnipotent and benevolent. (5) The argument itself can be countered fairly easily as the website I referenced does, but that doesn't matter. I'm not arguing for Epicurus, only that Jefferson believed him.



I thank Pro for their response.

Pro did not offer direct rebuttals to any of my arguments from Round 2, so we must assume they are accepted as valid.

Pro gives a long list of quotes. Unfortunately, these are not arguments because my opponent gave no analysis or explanation of them. Just listing a bunch of quotes (which are invariably pieced together from different places and taken out of context) provides raw information, but it does not form an argument by itself.

Next, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, John Adams, and Thomas Paine were definitely NOT the authors of the Constitution. Influential? Perhaps. Authors? No. Thomas Jefferson was not even at the Constitutional Convention (he was in France), nor did he sign the document [1]. Thomas Paine was nowhere near the Constitutional Convention (he was in England), nor did he sign it [2]. John Adams was not there either - he was ambassador to Great Britain at the time [3]. James Madison was there, but he was only one out of 55 delegates. As such, Pro's argument citing these men as the "authors" of the Constitution is incorrect.

John Rutledge, Edmund Randolph, Oliver Ellsworth, James Wilson, and Nathaniel Gorham actually drafted the Constitution [4]. In fact, since we are quoting the men who actually wrote it - Nathaniel Gorham believed that government officials should take the following oath of office: "I, __________, do declare, that I believe the Christian religion, and have a firm persuasion of its truth." That was not merely a private personal opinion either - he actually wrote it into the Massachusetts State Constitution [5]. That is pretty strong evidence that Christianity played a large role in many of these men's thinking and opinions of government.

But, I don't want this to turn into a contest of who can find the best founding father quote. For every secular quote my opponent finds, I can find an equal number of Christian themed ones. This will get us nowhere. No one person wrote the Constitution - there were 55 delegates who all contributed. It is speculative at best to claim one delegate definitely had more influence than another. (Note: This is not an attempt to avoid using founder quotes. If my opponent wishes to continue swapping quotes, I promise I have plenty of my own lined up and ready).

Looking at the bigger picture, it's hard to claim that the Constitution definitively marks the foundation of America at all. America did not magically appear the moment the signers' ink dried. Just like setting up a country is a process, so too is founding one. The real question here is what began that process, what motivated it, and what influenced it? If we find the answers to those questions, we find what America was founded on.

I also want to note that Pro's rules from Round 1 do not require me to prove America was founded EXCLUSIVELY on Christianity. America was certainly founded on a long list of things. If I can prove Christianity was on that list, then I win.

There's no doubt that Christianity was on that list.

Pro says that inspiration is different from basing a creation on something. I submit the two concepts are much more similar than they are different. Ask any musician or inventor what they "based" their creation on, and they will likely respond how they were "inspired" by something. Pro will need to explain why these two concepts are significantly different. Inspiration, motivation, and personal worldview all factor into the foundation of anything. Pro cannot realistically separate these concepts from each other.

I will wrap it up by summarizing my arguments so far and see where my opponent takes this.

1. America's founding did not begin with the Constitution. It began the moment colonists arrived in 1607.

2. Many, even most, colonists were motivated to come to America because of Christianity. Almost every colony, as well as the interior territories destined to become states, were established because of Christianity (at least in part). With this in mind, it's no stretch to say America's foundation included a heavy dose of Christianity.

3. Christianity's influence is all over the Constitutional period. Symbols of Christianity were deliberately chosen to mark the new government's beginning. Washington could have sworn his oath on any book or no book at all, but he chose a Bible. Congress mandated a Christian church service for the whole government following the inauguration. Washington invoked God in two entire paragraphs during his inaugural speech. The list goes on and on.

4. Yes, the Constitution enforces the Separation of Church and State. But that doesn't automatically exclude Christianity from the list of founding principles. Citing the First Amendment simply means Christianity was not officially recognized, which I have no burden to disprove.

Looking forward to the next round.

Debate Round No. 3


First off, I didn't offer any rebuttals because it was my quote round and I ran out of characters. I will offer them here. Con claims that the reason the settlers came were almost exclusively Christian. This is simply not true. The settlers came for a variety of reasons, religion just being one of many. Others included property, wealth, and general freedom. (1) As to the authors of the Constitution, my source claimed who I mentioned and Con's source claimed who he did. It is for this reason that I say the main thing that matters with that document is the finished product, as we will never actually know who did what in terms of making it. In that finished document, however, the secular nature of it is undeniable. The only time religion is mentioned is to limit it's association with government or give people freedom to choose which they wanted without persecution. Con said a lot about the settlers, most of which I agree with, but the country is defined in my opener as the government and laws that the founders set up. The people, while important, come and go and change their minds very quickly. The laws and government are much more permanent, which is why I say they are what forms the actual nation. Con is correct that the settlers were mostly Christian, but that is one of the main reasons the founders, when they established an official government, made it secular. They saw what was happening in the colonies due to religious rule and they wanted to avoid that. People who were not Christian were being persecuted, tortured, and even killed. Catholics and Protestants were constantly at war. (2) So while I agree with Con's assessment of the religious views of the colonies, I disagree with his premise that it's evidence that we are based in Christianity. It is, in fact, a primary reason the founders knew that basing a nation on religion would never work and that secularism was the best way to achieve success. A more specific example is a quote by George Lincoln Burr. "More than once it has been said, too, that the Salem witchcraft was the rock on which the theocracy shattered." (3) It is true that Nathaniel Gorham wanted a religious pledge, but that was rejected and didn't make it through. That should serve as evidence of the collective mindset. As to Con's burden, he has to prove more than Christianity was "on that list". In order to say we were founded on Christianity, he has to prove that Christianity was the main thing on that list. That is what a country is considered to be founded on, the main thing on such a list. Personally, I say that is freedom, but that is just an opinion and not my burden in this debate. The reason I say the concepts of "founded upon" and "inspired by" are different comes down to definitions. Inspiration is defined as something that makes someone want to do something or that gives someone an idea about what to do or create : a force or influence that inspires someone. (4) Therefore, what gives you the idea for a creation is a far different concept from what you base the creation on. Con has offered no rebuttal to my strongest evidence, the Treaty of Tripoli. Not only does it specifically say that we were not founded on Christianity, but the Constitution establishes it as official law. "This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding." (sic) (5) As to the founding father's repeated mentioning of God, that in itself doesn't really prove Christianity. Nearly every religion professes belief in a "creator God". There is one thing specifically that separates Christianity from all these other religions. That is Jesus. References to Jesus are not in any of the founding documents. Even George Washington, the main person people who think we were founded on Christianity look to, hardly ever mentioned Jesus' name. The belief that Jesus was the son of God is integral to Christianity. This belief is surprisingly absent from early American life. In fact, there is much evidence that Washington, as well as Jefferson, thought Jesus to be a mythical figure as opposed to a historical one. (6) My final argument of the round centers around one of the founding fathers that we haven't mentioned, Ben Franklin. Not only was he one of the most influential founding fathers, but he was also the only one who's signature was on all of our founding documents. (7) One of the strongest pieces of evidence that he was not a Christian is the widely held belief that he was a member of the hellfire club. This was a club that was very secretive, but there is ample evidence that this club centered around sin and debauchery. Drugs, orgies, pretty much anything that you wanted to do, regardless of social conventions or taboos. In other words, a club that no self respecting Christian would join. (7) There are also many quotes and much more evidence that Franklin was not only a non-Christian, but also opposed to it. In conclusion, I believe I have made it very clear that we were founded more on secularism as opposed to Christianity.

5. Article 6 of the U.S. Constitution


Pro is attempting to shift the goalposts here. I have read and re-read the Round 1 rules. Nowhere is it specified that I must demonstrate Christianity as the exclusive or even dominant founding principle. I simply must show that it was one. It is overly simplistic to say there's only one thing the nation was founded on. There are certainly many things and Christianity was undoubtedly one of them.

Pro asks me to show laws reflecting Christianity. Very well, let's take a look at the individual states. The 1780 Massachusetts Constitution says in Article II: "It is the right as well as the duty of all men in society, publicly and at stated seasons, to worship the Supreme Being, the great Creator and Preserver of the universe." In Article III, it gives the Massachusetts legislature power to allocate state funds "for the support and maintenance of public Protestant teachers of piety, religion, and morality [1]."

Article 33 of the Maryland Constitution says: "the Legislature may, in their discretion, lay a general and equal tax for the support of the Christian religion." The state government could actually tax its citizens to directly support the Christian church (no other religions or philosophies are mentioned, only Christianity) [2].

Section 10 of the Pennsylvania Constitution mandated that state representatives take the following oath: "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 [3]."

I don't think I need to keep going. This is pretty obvious evidence that America, even at the state government level, was heavily influenced by Christianity. These are facts - the state governments actually wrote these things on paper and signed them. I fail to see how Pro's position can possibly counter such evidence.

I still submit that Pro's differentiation between "influence" and "based on" is merely semantic. The similarities between the two concepts are much stronger than the differences. Even so, it's pretty clear early American state laws heavily favored and were based on Christianity (see above).

Treaty of Tripoli - If Pro thinks this is their strongest piece of evidence, then they are mistaken. People love to use this one out of context. In Round 2 Pro only gives part of the quote. Let's look at the whole thing: "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 [sic], of [Muslims]; and, as the said States never entered into any war, or act of hostility against any [Muslim] 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."

First off, the treaty was originally written and signed in Arabic. The above mentioned clause IS NOT FOUND ANYWHERE in the original Arabic treaty - it was added in a later (and very inaccurate) English translation [4]. In fact, the original Arabic treaty sounds MUCH different - check it out here:

But let's pretend the religion clause was in the original treaty. Look at the language after the first semicolon - all it means is that America is not a theocracy and harbors no Christian based animosity toward Islam. They had to say this in order to get the Muslim authorities in Tripoli to sign it.

Settlers - of course they came for a variety of reasons, no argument there. But it is undeniable Christianity was an extremely powerful motivation for many of them. Entire colonies began solely in the name of Christianity: Massachusetts, Maryland, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, etc... Christianity may not have been the main motive for everyone, and I don't have to prove that it was. But it certainly had enough influence to earn a spot on the founding principles list.

Authors of the Constitution - Pro tries to deflect this one, but I'm calling them on it - they used a bad source. This is not a simple matter of conflicting sources. Read the signature block of the Constitution. You will not find the names of Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Paine, or John Adams. Pro's source was not just conflicting, it was inaccurate (as was their argument).

Pro continues to try and point to the "finished product" (the Constitution), as evidence. It's undeniable the Constitution is "secular" in the sense that the First Amendment prohibits establishing an official religion. But using that fact is irrelevant to this debate. Let me explain.

By citing the Constitution, my opponent is showing that Christianity was not officially established in the U.S. But, Pro said I do not need to show that Christianity was established in any official way (see Round 1). So that means my burden is to identify Christianity's UNOFFICIAL influence in early America. Therefore, it's irrelevant to continue reminding us that the Constitution prohibits official religion because I don't have to argue otherwise.

Secular State - Pro keeps claiming America was founded as a secular state. This is not true. A secular state prohibits organized religion altogether (think China or USSR). Secularism exists on a spectrum. A completely secular state does not allow its president to swear in on a Bible, pray at official ceremonies, attend mandatory Christian church services, and tax state citizens to support the Protestant church. While certainly not a theocracy, America was also not a strictly secular state.

George Washington and Thomas Jefferson rarely mentioning Jesus - this is true, some of the founders preferred more ambiguous language when describing their beliefs. But they did not avoid Jesus altogether. Washington once told a group of Indian chiefs they would do well to follow "the religion of Jesus Christ [5]." Jefferson, although probably a Deist, still said that the teachings of Jesus were "the most sublime and benevolent code of morals which has ever been offered to man [6]." However, no one can say for sure what these men believed. At the end of the day they've been dead for over 200 years and cannot speak for themselves. Given the evidence however (swearing on Christian scripture, going to Christian churches, giving Christian prayers, etc...), it seems most likely that Washington and other key founders tended toward Christianity.

My opponent has failed to make a convincing case that Christianity does not belong on the list of America's founding principles. Pro has also discredited a large portion of their argument by using bad sources. This is seen in citing the incorrect authors of the Constitution, and their "strongest" evidence from the Treaty of Tripoli that actually doesn't appear in the original document.

Once again, I do not need to show that Christianity was the "main thing." If we present the list of all ideas that influenced the nation's founding, and Christianity is somewhere on that list, then I have successfully made my case.

Looking forward to the closing arguments.

[5] Steven Waldman, "Founding Faith," Random House, New York, 2008.
Debate Round No. 4


For my final argument I will review the primary arguments up to now and see where they stand.

The Constitution. It is the primary founding document of our country, yet it never mentions God, Jesus or religion in any way except to limit their influence or allow us free exercise of them. Con keeps saying that all it does is forbid an official establishment of religion, but it does much more than that. It says that there can be no law respecting an establishment of religion. (1) That means it cannot hold one religion in higher regard than another one. That is something you would not see if they wanted Christianity held in higher esteem than any other religion.

Founders. Some were religious, some were not, however we do know that they rarely mentioned Jesus. Belief in His divinity and salvation are the defining aspects of Christianity, as most religions have a creator God of some sort. As Con said, we will never know what was actually in their heads, but what can be said by looking at the government they created is that they understood the dangers of combing government and religion.

State vs federal. Con has shown ample evidence that some state governments were based on Christianity, however this debate is on the federal government as a whole. One look at issues such as marijuana, gun control, and minimum wage will show you that state and federal governments are vastly different. He as shown very little evidence supporting his view that the federal government is based on Christianity.

Treaty of Tripoli. This is self explanatory. It states in very plain wording that the government is not based on Christianity. Con claims this is invalidated due to an earlier version, but I disagree. You'd be hard pressed to find a writer who says that their first draft holds more precedence than their final one. The point is, the final version, the one that John Adams signed, added that for a reason. If that reason was just to pacify Muslims, they could have very easily said something else. They said what they said because it was what they believed.

Secularism. Con seems to think that if a country is secular, then they prohibit religious belief. This is only true on the far end of the secular spectrum he mentioned. He gives China as an example of a secular country, yet China has Buddhists, Confucianists, Taoists, and Christians. (2) In the interest of full disclosure, the following is a paste, not my words: A secular state is a concept of secularism, whereby a state or country purports to be officially neutral in matters of religion, supporting neither religion nor irreligion. A secular state also claims to treat all its citizens equally regardless of religion, and claims to avoid preferential treatment for a citizen from a particular religion/nonreligion over other religions/nonreligion. Secular states do not have a state religion (established religion) or equivalent, although the absence of a state religion does not necessarily mean that a state is fully secular; however, a true secular state should steadfastly maintain national governance without influence from religious factions; i.e. Separation of church and state (3) Sounds like America to me. It does say that just because a country doesn't have an official religion doesn't automatically make it secular, but that's where my other arguments come in.

It is for the reasons mentioned above that I feel I have shown conclusively that America was not founded on Christianity. Also, Con would do well to read my second round argument again before discrediting the entire argument. My wording was "In accordance with what Con said about considering the level of influence of the founders we quote, I would like to posit that few had more influence than the authors of the Constitution, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, John Adams, and Thomas Paine." Even if they were not the direct authors, I stand by the argument on it's own, as "authors of the Constitution" was only a title, not what gave them the influence. The main focus of the argument stays the same, even if I had just said "i would like to posit that few had more influence than Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, John Adams, and Thomas Paine." That remains true. As to bad sources, I used Make of that what you will.

1. Establishment clause of the United States Constitution


My opponent gave several rebuttals in Round 5. Unfortunately, no final rebuttals are allowed. The rules clearly state, and I quote, "R5 closing arguments. There will be no rebuttals in this round." As such, I ask that Pro be penalized for conduct.

I will simply end with closing arguments.

1. I don't need to show that America was founded exclusively or even mainly on Christianity. I wrote earlier that I was going to show Christianity was more influential than any other worldview in early America, and I believe I did. But that's just a bonus - it was not my actual burden for this debate. Nowhere is it specified that I must prove Christianity was the dominant founding principle. All I need to do is prove that it was one.

2. I have always conceded that the Constitution uses secular language. Unfortunately for Pro, this fact is irrelevant. All it means is that Christianity was not recognized in any official way, and I have no burden to demonstrate otherwise. Besides, the Constitution is not the only thing the nation was founded on. One must consider all of early American history, from Jamestown on.

3. Early America is filled with obvious evidence that Christianity heavily, even dominantly, influenced the nation's founding. Entire colonies were founded on Christianity. State Constitutions blatantly favored, and even enforced, public support of the Christian church. The first official days of the national government involved swearing in on Christian scripture and attending mandatory Christian church services. When we consider all this, is it really accurate to say that America was founded as a totally secular state? This is pretty undeniable evidence that my opponent has failed to counter.

4. The evidence my opponent presented was largely flawed. Pro relies heavily on the Constitution which is only a small portion of America's founding and, as previously stated, largely irrelevant to the debate. Pro also relies on a relatively obscure document - the Treaty of Tripoli. It's well known that the cited clause was not even in the original treaty. Even if it was, all it means is that America does not officially recognize Christianity, which once again I don't have to dispute. Finally, Pro used an unreliable source to cite incorrect authors of the Constitution. This must cause us to question the credibility of their entire argument.

In conclusion, there is undeniable evidence - both conceptually and in official documentation - that Christianity greatly influenced early America. When examining a list of America's founding principles, Christianity is undoubtedly included.

I'd like to thank my opponent for a great debate. This is a fascinating historical period to study. I had fun and I hope my opponent did too.
Debate Round No. 5
15 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by bookwyrm 2 years ago
Unfortunately sendgejuri is correct about the conduct. I did not intend to use rebuttals in round 5, but upon reading it I realize I did. I also ask that conduct votes go to Con.
Posted by bookwyrm 2 years ago
No problem :)
Posted by sengejuri 2 years ago
Ok, thanks for clearing that up. I'm still not going to argue that American laws are based directly on the Bible, because that's obviously not true. But I think I can still make a pretty strong case for Christianity's indirect influence on them, and Christianity's direct influence over the early founding of the country. I think I have enough clarification to continue :)
Posted by bookwyrm 2 years ago
You are correct that you need to prove that the country was based on the ideals of Christianity and nothing more. The point I was making was that there is a difference in something being inspired or influenced by Christian ideals/ philosophy/tradition and something being based on it. You can be inspired by a thing, but not base what you are making on that thing. The people that think the country was based on Christianity understand that it's not the "official" religion of the country, but still have the position that our government and laws were based on it. What Christians thinks is morally wrong should be reflected in our laws. Your arguments and evidence were still valid in this respect, I wasn't disqualifying them, just saying you'd need more than just inspiration to prove your point. I sincerely hope this is clear enough and that you can continue with the debate under these parameters, because I am enjoying it thus far.
Posted by sengejuri 2 years ago
@bookwyrm - I was going to put this in my argument but perhaps it would save time to work this out in the comments - it seems like I am misinterpreting the position you want me to take.

I will briefly summarize my understanding of my position, and I would ask you to correct me if I have misinterpreted anything.

Going back to the definitions presented, I understood I had to prove that the country was based on Christian tradition/ideals/philosophy. As you stated, I do not need to show that Christianity was established in any official or overt way (see Round 1 definitions). I interpret this to mean that my position is correct if I can show Christianity played a dominant (if unofficial) role in influencing the nation"s founding. It takes much more than a Constitution to found a nation, which is why I am focusing on a broader scope.

If this is a correct interpretation of the premise, then it seems like we are going down different roads. You say your claim is that the founders believed "their faith should be kept separate from the government they were creating." I completely agree " that fact is non-debatable. That is simply affirming the existence of the First Amendment and the Separation of Church and State principle. But the opposite of Separation of Church and State is Unity of Church and State, aka: theocracy. No one would claim America is a theocracy, so if this is the claim you wish me to defend then I apologize " I cannot do it.

My understanding of my position, once again, is to show that Christianity heavily influenced the culture and thinking of early America, which means the nation was unofficially based on its way of thinking more than any other religion or worldview. Please correct me if I"m wrong.
Posted by sengejuri 2 years ago
no worries
Posted by bookwyrm 2 years ago
I have a correction. In my sources I cited Article 1 of the Constitution, but I meant to say !st amendment. Apologies to the readers and my opponent
Posted by bookwyrm 2 years ago
no problem :)
Posted by Snuphalem 2 years ago
Very sorry. I will not proceed any further.

And yes cheyenne please accept the debate unless of course you just realized how wrong you are.
Posted by bookwyrm 2 years ago
I respectfully ask the same thing of you, Snuphalem. Some of what you said are arguments I might use in the debate and I'd rather the voters not think I got them from the comment section. Appreciate it :)
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by Ameliamk1 2 years ago
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Total points awarded:30 
Reasons for voting decision: Con's downfall is the wording of the proposition. It asks not what America was influenced by, or what its creators thought, or even focused their laws on, but whether the US is secular and not found upon Christianity. By the very definition of secular, the US fits, and the country, while influenced, was not grounded in the Christian religion, a distinction Pro made quite well and Con seemed to miss. Regardless, a very good job by both.