The Instigator
rimshot515
Pro (for)
Winning
13 Points
The Contender
Hunton711
Con (against)
Losing
0 Points

The United States of America's Constitution is not based on Christianity

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Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 2 votes the winner is...
rimshot515
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 7/22/2009 Category: Politics
Updated: 5 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 3,480 times Debate No: 9015
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (24)
Votes (2)

 

rimshot515

Pro

I would like to thank the audience and my opponent, whoever that may be, for their participation.

My opponent will be making the attempt to prove that America's Constitution is based on the Christian religion, and I will attempt to refute those arguments, making the burden of proof rest on him/her. For this reason, I will allow the opponent to make the first arguments.

I look forward to an interesting debate.
Hunton711

Con

The question of whether or not the Founding Fathers were truly Christian and whether or not they truly intended for Christianity to be a major influence in American society is one that is easily answered by truly exploring the full compass of documents, articles, speeches, letters and biographies from our Founding Fathers and the many institutions surrounding them and upon which they had a direct impact.
Their writings, biographical comments, documents of Congress, the Supreme Court and dozens of others sources point to the simple fact that these were Christian men with strong Christian faith that set out to establish a new government and new nation based on their own personal convictions and the knowledge of the world's great societies as well. They painstakingly examined themselves, their own intentions and wills as well as numerous historical examples of the great empires and civilizations of the world to flesh out the best method they could in creating America.
It is both misleading and disingenuous to use the comments and speeches of these men that were directed at the religious tyranny they had experienced in England as a method to prove they were non-religious, anti-religious or at the very least, not intending to incorporate faith into the process. They were all to well acquainted with what could be done and what could be abused by an infusion of one all-powerful monarch and a corrupt Papacy more concerned with power and money than the virtues faith. And they spoke vehemently against those abuses and corruption of religion as they used that knowledge and experience to forge a Christian nation that could not fall into those traps.
You simply can't take out of context a remark by one of these great men and apply it to their future intentions. Just because they had experienced first hand the deplorable misuse of religion in society did not AT ALL mean that they were abandoning their religious principles altogether, but more so, they were anxious to create a society based on their faith virtues administered properly.
The first and foremost step in that goal was to avoid the powers and abuses of a Monarchy. The Founding Fathers understood that checks and balances were needed within the governing powers to avoid the abuses of the English Kings. That in itself would avoid any chance of the single-minded establishment of a state religion with which dissenters could be persecuted.
Secondly, they were explicit in their intentions that Christianity not be used in exclusion of other faiths or people of no faith but more so to the inclusion of all faiths and beliefs. But never was their intention to exclude Christianity at all. And that fact is supported through literally thousands of documents and writings which clearly expose their true intentions.
Before I get into the Founding Fathers themselves and entreat them individually, I want to share some Congressional documents that begin to lay the foundation for this exciting topic. The following is an excerpt of a report by a Mr. Badger of the Senate Judiciary Committee as part of a Congressional investigation for the Congress of the United States of America, January 19th, 1853. It reads...
"The [First Amendment] clause speaks of "an establishment of religion". What is meant by that expression? It referred, without doubt, to that establishment which existed in the mother-country...endowment at the public expense, peculiar privileges to its members or disadvantages or penalties upon those who should reject its doctrines or belong to other communions, --such law would be a "law respecting an establishment of religion..."
"They intended, by this amendment, to prohibit an "establishment of religion" such as the English Church presented, or any thing like it. But they had no fear or jealousy of religion itself, nor did they wish to see us an irreligious people..."
"They did not intend to spread over all the public authorities and the whole public action of the nation the dead and revolting spectacle of atheistic apathy. Not so had the battles of the Revolution been fought and the deliberations of the Revolutionary Congress been conducted."
Keep in mind that this was a Congressional investigation conducted by the Senate Judiciary, not some pontificating politician ranting on from the floor of the Senate. This was an official report and was recorded into record of the Senate in 1853 without contradiction or dissent. The report concludes with this comment...
"We are a Christian people...not because the law demands it, not to gain exclusive benefits or to avoid legal disabilities, but from choice and education; and in a land thus universally Christian, what is to be expected, what desired, but that we shall pay due regard to Christianity".
A little over a year later, in March of 1854, the Congress of the United States of America received a report of Mr. Meacham of the House Committee on the Judiciary addressing this same issue. In the Judiciary's report, they clearly define what the "Establishment of religion" really is. Their clear and detailed explanation totally dispels some of the spurious and loosely applied usage of the term we see today. So many want to define the establishment clause for their own personal desires, but the fact is that there is plenty of testimony as to the true meaning and application of the Establishment clause. Here's their report.
"What is an establishment of religion? It must have a creed, defining what a man must believe; it must have rites and ordinances which believers must observe; it must have ministers of defined qualifications to teach the doctrines and administer the rites; it must have tests for the submissive and penalties for the non-conformist. There never was an established religion without all these..."
"Down to the Revolution, every colony did sustain religion in some form. It was deemed peculiarly proper that the religion of liberty should be upheld by a free people. Had the people, during the Revolution had a suspicion of any attempt to war against Christianity, that Revolution would have been strangled in its cradle."
So Christianity was held dearly not only by the Founding Fathers and the leaders but by the citizens themselves. The same people who risked their lives and fought for the cause of freedom held dearly to their Christianity. Listen to the wisdom and revealing comments in this next passage.
"At the time of the adopting of the Constitution and the amendments, the universal sentiment was that Christianity should be encouraged, not any one sect [denomination]. Any attempt to level and discard all religion would have been viewed with universal indignation. The object was not to substitute Judaism, Mohammedanism, or infidelity, but to prevent rivalry among the [Christian] sects to the exclusion of others."
Listen to the profound conclusion to their investigation of the intent of the Founding Fathers. It's quite revealing to see how far we've come in our attitudes in this country toward our Christian heritage.
"It [Christianity] must be consider
Debate Round No. 1
rimshot515

Pro

Thank you Hunton711 for joining in the debate.

In the first 4 paragraphs you make several vague claims to the Christian nature of the Founding Fathers, saying that there are several documents supporting that belief. You have cited none, and given the judges no reason to believe your claims. In fact, several of the founding fathers were deists, as deism was a growing trend in the time period leading up to the revolution. [1]
Here is a list of them:
Thomas Jefferson - "I have recently been examining all the known superstitions of the world, and do not find in our particular superstition (Christianity) one redeeming feature. They are all alike founded on fables and mythology." [2]

Benjamin Franklin - "Some books against Deism fell into my hands. . . It happened that they wrought an effect on my quite contrary to what was intended by them; for the arguments of the Deists, which were quoted to be refuted, appeared to me much stronger than the refutations; in short, I soon became a thorough Deist." [2]

James Madison - "Religious bondage shackles and debilitates the mind and unfits it for every noble enterprise." [2]

John Adams - "This would be the best of all possible worlds, if there were no religion in it." [2]

Thomas Paine - "I do not believe in the creed professed by the Jewish Church, by the Roman Church, by the Greek Church, by the Turkish Church, by the Protestant Church, nor by any Church that I know of. My own mind is my own Church. Each of those churches accuse the other of unbelief; and for my own part, I disbelieve them all." [2]

George Washington - Historian Barry Schwartz writes: "George Washington's practice of Christianity was limited and superficial because he was not himself a Christian... He repeatedly declined the church's sacraments. Never did he take communion, and when his wife, Martha, did, he waited for her outside the sanctuary... Even on his deathbed, Washington asked for no ritual, uttered no prayer to Christ, and expressed no wish to be attended by His representative." [2]

James Wilson [4]
Alexander Hamilton [1]
Cornelius Harnett [1]
Gouverneur Morris [1]
Hugh Williamson [1]
Ethan Allen [1]

As you can easily see, these quotes from our founding fathers were not simply fighting against the tyranny of one religion, rather against all.

And yet again, when you discuss the creation of checks and balances, you "cite" "literally thousands of documents and writings which clearly expose their true intentions." Thousands, you say? If that were true, then why would you choose to use a document that was made years after most of the men had died?
That document you cite is mostly correct when it states that "We are a Christian people." Why? Because Christianity was truly widespread during that time and deism was on the decline. [1] Besides, 2 Great Awakenings had occurred by then, making anyone who viewed America as not a Christian nation like the "evil liberals" who do today. However, there is an even better document that more accurately describes the views on Christian establishment, which was actually signed by the second president of the United States, a founding father named John Adams, and was unanimously passed by congress.
And that document was the Treaty of Tripoli. Written in 1796, article 11 specifically states "the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion." [3]
But perhaps, due to it being dug in the treaty, the voters didn't know about that part? Nope, it was read aloud from beginning to end, so all could hear it.

Now let's get back to the focus of the debate, which is that of the Constitution. I have already established that the key members in writing the Constitution were Deists and not Christian, who disliked organized religion, thus giving no defendable reason as to why they would base the Constitution on the Christian bible and/or faith.
Furthermore, there is absolutely no mention whatsoever to any deity or religious icon or belief whatsoever in the Constitution. [5]
In fact, the only mention of religion in the Constitution, other than the 1st Amendment (which was added later under the Bill of Rights), is in article VI, section 3 and says "The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States." [6]
Therefore, there is no textual or authorial evidence to support the claim that the Constitution was based on Christianity.

I look forward to your response.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org...
[2] http://freethought.mbdojo.com...
[3] http://www.stephenjaygould.org...
[4] http://www.noguyinthesky.com...
[5] http://www.thenation.com...
[6] http://en.wikipedia.org...
Hunton711

Con

You have made many valid points but I see no evidence behind those speaches that that you included in your argument. I do still believe that it was founded upon Christianity because God is stated numerous times in our beloved country's many historical articles... If you will... "One nation under God" is clearly recognized as a phrase pertaining to America being built upon Christianity. I look forward to your response.
Debate Round No. 2
rimshot515

Pro

Thank you Hunton711 for the response.

You have stated: "I see no evidence behind those speaches [sic] that that you included in your argument."
That is why I cited a specific source. I shall post it again: http://freethought.mbdojo.com...

You continue to say, "I do still believe that it was founded upon Christianity because God is stated numerous times in our beloved country's many historical articles..."
Yes, the word god is indeed stated in several historical articles. Deism is the belief in a god that simply made the universe and now stays out of everything. The word god is ambiguous when it comes to religion because Christianity is not the only religion that believes in a god. In fact, the word god is defined as "the one Supreme Being, the creator and ruler of the universe." [7] Nowhere is Christianity mentioned in that definition. Several examples include Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, and the hundreds of primitive religions that came beforehand. [8]
Now if Jesus Christ were mentioned, that might grant some merit to your case, however, due to the fact that you have failed to cite a single article that agrees with your statement from around the time the country was founded, your case has no merit thus far. Until you cite a valid article specifically saying the Constitution was based on Christianity, there is absolutely no reason for the voters to vote con.

Finally, you say, "'One nation under God' is clearly recognized as a phrase pertaining to America being built upon Christianity."
That is simply incorrect. Not only can you cross apply my previous arguments about the ambiguity of the word "god," but the words "under god" were not added to the pledge of allegiance until 1954. [9] The reason why those words were added was because America was engaged in the cold war and was locked in an "us-them" mentality, looking for something to solidify the separation of the two. Communist Russia was atheist, so John Dulles (then Secretary of State) said we should fight them do to that fact and supported the adding of the words "under god" as a political measure against those "godless communists." [10]

I would like to extend the following unaddressed (so I safely can say they are conceded) arguments:
The Treaty of Tripoli and its statement of America not being founded on Christianity
The argument stating the complete lack of reference to god or any other religious figure in the Constitution.
The fact that the founding fathers mentioned were deists.

Thank you again for the response and I look forward to your next arguments.

[7] http://dictionary.reference.com...
[8] http://www.leaderu.org...
[9] http://en.wikipedia.org...
[10] http://slate.msn.com...
Hunton711

Con

I have nothing more to say.
You have opened me up to a more clearer view of your side of the debate.
I still am not sure what to believe but thank you for making MANY good, valid points!
Congrats!
You win.
Debate Round No. 3
rimshot515

Pro

I am glad that I was able to do that, and I believe that is the true purpose of debate.
You are very welcome. And thank you for debating with me. It was a very good first debate, I believe, for both of us.
Thank you!
Hunton711

Con

Your very welcome!
Debate Round No. 4
24 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by csc2296 1 year ago
csc2296
@Rimshot515:
Your sources are very unreliable.
wikipedia.com- is very unreliable based on the fact that people can edit the information.
freethought.com- I found to be very biased, and the information was very unreliable.
noguyinthesky.com- Is from blogspot which has very opinionated information.
thenation.com- Is a one sided news magazine and it is proved the some magazines are unreliable for information.

Your most reliable source was:
stephenjaygould.org- Because it came from a political document site.

You both made very good arguments but you needed better sources of information.
Posted by rimshot515 4 years ago
rimshot515
Interesting. What is your reasoning for that position?
Posted by Mr_smith 4 years ago
Mr_smith
I agree with Pro's argument, although I must say that on a personal note, I am totally opposed to objectevism.
Posted by rimshot515 5 years ago
rimshot515
Well, historians aren't sure whether or not Washington was a deist, but there are some hints that he was in his actions that I quoted.
With James Madison, I'd have to do more research to clarify on that point.

No problem. True, but that was one part on the site that wasn't backed up so I didn't use it.
It probably isn't a true statement, but really doesn't affect my argument.

Alright, thanks!
Posted by heart_of_the_matter 5 years ago
heart_of_the_matter
I also gave PRO sources and spelling and grammar (Con cut off a quote in Rd. 1)
Posted by heart_of_the_matter 5 years ago
heart_of_the_matter
In Round 2 you seem to want to make a list of "Deists"...but then you put people on the list like George Washington...but it seems obvious that He wasn't a deist...also I wouldn't necessarily concede that the others were either...for example: James Madison attended St. John's Episcopal Church while he was President....

I do accept your statement though and thank you for the clarification...I would point out though that also your source you cited in Rd.2 (#2 source) does in fact make the claim that MOST of the founders were deists....I am just trying to counter that commonly held misconception....as I don't believe that it is a true statement.

and though I still don't agree with your position I will still vote for you making the better arguments!
Posted by rimshot515 5 years ago
rimshot515
That's true, which is why I said the key writers, not the majority.
Posted by heart_of_the_matter 5 years ago
heart_of_the_matter
thank you both for the debate, I admit I would have liked to have seen more arguments from con though. One point I want to raise is that most of the founding fathers were NOT "deists"....Deism (like correctly stated by PRO) is the belief in a God who is impersonal and does not intervene...Most of the Founders believed in a God who DID intervene in the affairs of men, thus making them not "Deists".
Posted by untitled_entity 5 years ago
untitled_entity
agree with wjm - block text = ew.
Posted by wjmelements 5 years ago
wjmelements
CON's opening case comes from here. http://www.examiner.com...
2 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Vote Placed by heart_of_the_matter 5 years ago
heart_of_the_matter
rimshot515Hunton711Tied
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Total points awarded:60 
Vote Placed by studentathletechristian8 5 years ago
studentathletechristian8
rimshot515Hunton711Tied
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Total points awarded:70