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The Contender
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The United States was founded on Christianity

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Post Voting Period
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after 2 votes the winner is...
It's a Tie!
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 7/7/2012 Category: Politics
Updated: 5 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 2,966 times Debate No: 24618
Debate Rounds (5)
Comments (7)
Votes (2)




The subject of this debate shall be 'The United States was founded on Christianity'. The burden of proof is equally shared between Pro and I.

Rules of the Debate
- No ad hominem attacks.
- Dropped points are considered concessions
- Sources for major points should be provided

The first round is for acceptance. Good luck!


I thank my opponent for creating the debate. I also hope that I will not disappoint my opponent and in the process of debating--in perhaps what could be called my first real debate in a while--uphold a solid case.

I will like to add some clarifications and definitions since my opponent did my provide them.

Christianity: The religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. Christiansbelieve that Jesus Christ is the Messiah, sent by God. They believe that Jesus, by dying and rising from the dead, made up for the sin of Adam, and thus redeemed the world, allowing all who believe in him to enter heaven. Christians rely on the Bible as the inspired word of God. [1]

Found: vt. to setup or establish on a firm basis or for enduring existence [2]

The definition of the United States is largely self-explanatory.

The debate will be very interesting indeed especially in the borders between history and religion here, that often mesh in analysis.

I oppose the resolution but will argue of the factors that influenced the formation of the United States. I hope I won't disappoint my opponent.:)

And lastly--and patently, I accept the debate.

[1] from the Cultural definition provided by The American Heritage, , Third Edition
[2] extracted from

Debate Round No. 1


I would like to thank my opponent for accepting my debate challenge. I was excited that somebody was willing to argue in favor of this idea. I don't mean to sound arrogant, but part of my excitement comes from the fact that I feel the issue has been resolved already. However, the most evil thing I could do is close myself off to opposing arguments and objections to my beliefs. Now, we move onto the debate this issue, once which has been subject to a large amount of debate.

Before I make my case, I wish to note one minor thing on Pro's definition. The resurrection of Jesus Christ made up for the sins of Eve, not Adam. After all, Eve is the one who ate the forbidden fruit. Other than that, I am willing to accept his definition.

=Opening Statement =

In this debate, I would like to postulate and defend two major contentions in regards to the resolution. This debate will be decided by my opponent's ability to refute my contentions, and put forward his own. My two contentions are as follows:

(1) The Treaty of Tripoli of 1796 is evidence that the United States of America was not founded on Christianity.

(2) The intellectual force behind the American Revolution was Thomas Paine, a Deist and well-known anti-theist.

=Contention #1=

Before I go further into the Treaty of Tripoli of 1796, it is important to talk about the political climate of this fledgling republic. Particularly, the state of the Founding Fathers. It should be noted that the Founding Fathers were still alive at this time. John Adams was President, Thomas Jefferson was Vice-President, Alexander Hamilton was Secretary of the Treasury, and George Washington had just left after two terms as President himself. Therefore, the conclusion can be reached that the Founding Fathers were alive, well, and active at the time this treaty was signed.

Now that we have established the story behind the Treaty of Tripoli of 1796, we now turn to the actual text of the treaty. I turn to Article 11 of this treaty, which states the following :

'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, of Mussulmen [Muslims],—and as the said States never entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mahometan [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.'

The text of this treaty clearly states that the United States of America was in no way founded on Christian values. According to Frank Lambert, Professor of History at Purdue University, the assurances in Article 11 were "intended to allay the fears of the Muslim state by insisting that religion would not govern how the treaty was interpreted and enforced. John Adams and the Senate made clear that the pact was between two sovereign states, not between two religious powers." Lambert writes,

"By their actions, the Founding Fathers made clear that their primary concern was religious freedom, not the advancement of a state religion. Individuals, not the government, would define religious faith and practice in the United States. Thus the Founders ensured that in no official sense would America be a Christian Republic. Ten years after the Constitutional Convention ended its work, the country assured the world that the United States was a secular state, and that its negotiations would adhere to the rule of law, not the dictates of the Christian faith. The assurances were contained in the Treaty of Tripoli of 1797 and were intended to allay the fears of the Muslim state by insisting that religion would not govern how the treaty was interpreted and enforced. John Adams and the Senate made clear that the pact was between two sovereign states, not between two religious powers'

In conclusion, a treaty was signed in the year 1796 that denied the idea the United States of America was a Christian nation. In order to argue that the United States was a Christian nation, my opponent must contend that the Senate unanimously approved of a treaty without endorsing Article 11.


=Possible Objections to Contention #1=

(Note: In the Possible Objections part, I am not trying to refute straw men. I am only presenting potential counter-arguments, not acting as if my opponent had made them.)

My opponent may cite the fact that the Arabic version of the treaty did not include Article 11. However, the English version did. The English text of the treaty was the one proposed to the Senate and read aloud before the Senate floor, before being approved unanimously. The English version was the one President Adams signed, declaring 'Now be it known, That I John Adams, President of the United States of America, having seen and considered the said Treaty do, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, accept, ratify, and confirm the same, and every clause and article thereof. And to the End that the said Treaty may be observed, and performed with good Faith on the part of the United States, I have ordered the premises to be made public; And I do hereby enjoin and require all persons bearing office civil or military within the United States, and all other citizens or inhabitants thereof, faithfully to observe and fulfill the said Treaty and every clause and article thereof.'

=Contention #2=

Thomas Paine was the author of Common Sense, a book that argued the case for why the colonies should be independent from Great Britain. The book was popular because it was written in a way that the average person could understand, and was read aloud in public places. The book was so popular that it was estimated to have sold half a million copied in the first year alone. The impact of the book is best captured by British statesman George Trevlyan when he wrote, 'would be difficult to name any human composition which has had an effect at once so instant, so extended and so lasting [...] It was pirated, parodied and imitated, and translated into the language of every country where the new republic had well-wishers. It worked nothing short of miracles and turned Tories into Whigs'

We can also establish that Thomas Paine was a Deist and an anti-theist. His book, titled 'The Age of Reason', was a full out attack on the Christian religion. It is obvious that this man, such a large influence in the revolution, was not a Christian.

Isaac Kramnick, "Introduction," in Thomas Paine, Common Sense (New York: Penguin, 1986), 8
Foot, Kramnick (1987). p 10.

=Possible Objections=

My opponent may argue that there were Bible verses in the book used as arguments, which may have indicated he believed in some parts of it. However, this ties into his desire to make the book understandable to the average person.


I feel that these two contentions, if they stand by the end of the debate, prove that the United States of America is not a Christian nation, and was not founded on Christianity. If my opponent wishes to win this debate, he must satisfactorily refute my two contentions, and put his own contentions in place.

I wish to thank my opponent for the time and effort he will be putting into this debate. I hope this will be an educating and fulfilling debate, both to us and the audience.



Thank you, Con.

The resolution itself does not posit any sense of area of influence, so therefore areas of the "identity", definition, etc. of "the United States"; I can use historical interpretation or refer, in generalized manners, to areas of the United States--"foundations" as being influenced by Christianity.


My Case

--->The core beliefs, and values of American democracy, which is tied to its formation, include life, liberty, which is cast in different variants but include personal, civic, political freedoms, etc, the pursuit of happiness that is placed so to not infringe upon others, and others--a common good, equality, diversity, and so forth [3] . These values have at least remained our ideal values despite changes in everyday life, trends of behavior, onsets, etc. (For reference when discussing values)

-->It is well known that America is described as an experiment in Enlightenment ideals and some of the underlying institutions and values can be tied to Enlightenment thinking. Examples include parallels that are as general as skepticism, reason, liberty, and modernization [the subscribing to absolute moral, political, (etc) authority], the extension of such shared beliefs and values to politics and to the individual man, etc [4].

We know that the American Enlightenment is responsible for, in the context of the growing colonial resistance to British control and imposition, stirring the revolutionary spirit and advocacy of overhaul, especially in line with theories on the government's function in relation to the people. Such Enlightenment ideas however can be viewed in a somewhat religious light: the very placement of such ideals, including reason, defined as a supposed new force that permits new conclusion, may seem contradictory, especially in its rejection of Christianity, but can easily be placed in a framework, that, in allowing the operation of "secular" thinking, especially in regards to the incidence of the enthronement of the Goddess of Reason at the Notre Dame [5].

Religion in the colonies, and prior to the union and independence of the colonies was predominantly Christianity, and to be specific--Protestantism, with its branches Puritanism in New England and Anglicism in the farther south; even with changes, as induced by the Great Awakening, the hold of Christianity--especially Anglicism did not waiver too greatly [6]. Thus, the framework for secular operations in America can be be Christianity.;)

On the matter, however, there is also one more point: there is actually a somewhat ironic similarity between Enlightenment ideals and religion, particularly Christianity. Despite possessing skepticism, the Enlightenment thought also posited an objective morality, perhaps through the very common will, the fact that nature can be designed to the point that it can be used as a model and studied with reason, and so forth [5]. Such are, actually, only the basic views of the Enlightenment, with the emphasis of reason, nature, etc that permeated America; the similarity also points to a Christian basis that can easily point to a more involved link with America's founding.

And finally, on deism. Con mentioned deism though his subject--Thomas Paine displayed a patent disregard for Christianity--but he did take account of Christian Deism, which subjugates both deist principles, which can be summed up as belief in the existence of a God on the evidence of reason and nature only, but to principles where the ethics of Jesus' teachings are acknowledged...but his divine status not, incorporating a part of Christianity [7].

A major proponent of it--Thomas Jefferson--at least incorporated such, though in basics, in the Declaration, which is also important in outlining the basic principles of America's democracy. Its relevance can be stated, especially since it is responsible for setting the colonies to be unified as the US**. For example, in declaring of "Nature's God"--the Creator, Jefferson is able to extend that, in a legal precedent, that the creation of mankind by god can be tied to equality by all before God. And after all, equality is a...chief value.:)

**It is also a very powerful basis of today's values and has defined our national identity, especially with its statement on human rights and America's chief beliefs.

Note that again, I can point to the development of institutions--values, beliefs, etc, roughly up to the declaration of independence, based on what area--as well as extent. No conditions were specified from me not showing an indirect, though arguably powerful influence, of Christianity.;)

1. The Treaty of Tripoli of 1796 is evidence that the United States of America was not founded on Christianity.

-Counter: The treaty's statement can be viewed more in terms of declaring religion not to be the very source of enmity or the pretext that shall, in the words of the treaty, procure "an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries".

-->The statement can be viewed, in terms of the events prior, as less of a more moral statement in regards to the hold of religion but rather a diplomatic tool in order to ensure harmony between the two factions:Prior to the treaty, incursions upon the American coast and attacks of merchant ships were being increasingly procured by the Barbary pirates.

-->The significance of such incursions, targeted against Christian seaman traversing the seas lies in that the Barbary were extending their previous focus Christian empires: Italy, Spain, England, etc in their raids of the coastline and ships, with the main intention of capturing Christian slaves for the trading trends in North Africa and the Middle East. Thus the reason to imply the absence of a Christian base in an attempt to secure safety within the sea. [1,2]

-->A compelling urgency at least lied behind the treaty: the damage done to the economy (in particular, such attacks obviously disrupted trade patterns, induced a spike in insurance rates, and also deterred foreign merchants from shipping to American bottoms. As one of the first challenges after the period of the two wars,, the issue not only permeated economic factors--the disruption of foreign trade, a spike in insurance rates, etc, but posed questions of security--how to manage the threat with a depleted naval supply (due to the previous War)--as well as the ability of the political unit arranged formerly to meet up to the challenge [2]. This at least explains the recourse to negotiation rather than outright war or build-up to a military conflict.

2.I concede that Thomas Paine did not explicitly show Christian faith but rather a form of deism; the evidence, in particular his statements of his disbelief.

However,my opponent has not shown yet how he can be tied to the founding of the US or how his beliefs and statements set the bar for underlying institutions and values of the US.




3. " CORE VALUES OF AMERICAN CONSTITUTIONAL DEMOCRACY"; Source: CIVITAS: A Framework for Civic Education, a collaborative project of the Center for Civic Education and the Council for the Advancement of Citizenship, National Council for the Social Studies Bulletin No. 86, 1991. You can obtain a copy of “Civitas” by calling 1-800-350-4223






Debate Round No. 2



I have to give credit where it is due. My opponent provided an argument that I thought was unique and very well-sourced, especially when he doesn't even agree with the resolution. That being said, I do not believe his arguments refute my two contentions.

=Refutation of Argument One=

I do not disagree with the first points of my argument. Particularly, the ones that talk about the role Enlightenment values have in our democracy, and the fact that we an experiment in those values. However, I feel that when my opponent tries to make a connection between Christianity and the Enlightenment, the history disagrees.

First, I wish to define what I consider Enlightenment to be. I believe the best quote comes from Dorinda Outram, Professor of History at Rochester University, when she says, 'Enlightenment was a desire for human affairs to be guided by rationality rather than by faith, superstition, or revelation; a belief in the power of human reason to change society and liberate the individual from the restraints of custom or arbitrary authority; all backed up by a world view increasingly validated by science rather than by religion or tradition.' [1] This definition completely destroys the contention that religion had anything to do with Enlightenment.

Christianity could not have influenced Enlightenment. The principles that led to the underlying foundation of the US government (at least in theory) stemmed from the Enlightenment, which was anti-fundamentalist and emphasized secular governance by laws, not by men who claimed to derive authority from god. At the time, Christian Churches were using their power and teachings to enforce the feudalistic/monarchy-based social order, while the Enlightenment was questioning these orders. For this reason, I cannot understand why Christianity would have an influence on Enlightenment values.

I would also like to address the similarity between Christianity and Enlightenment values that Pro points out. Pro points out that both feel there are objective meanings of morality, logic, rationality, and reason. However, this does not at all prove his case. Islam believes these are things are objective. Atheists believe these things are objective. By this logic, the United States must be a Christian, Muslim, and atheist nation!

We must consider for a moment the idea that the colonies were a good basis for secular values. If this contention is true, then it is a great detriment to my position. However, I bring forward several facts about the colonies that disprove this idea.

The colonies were not a good basis for secularism in the United States because they had religious law and state churches. In the year 1702, every single colony had some form of state church.[2] The majority of colonies had Test Acts for state offices, which required that person to swear that they believed in a certain religious faith.[3] These two facts alone stand against the idea the colonies were a framework for secularism, when the cast is the opposite. The states continued to defy secularism until the 14th amendment was ratified. [4]

Considering his attacks on the story of Jesus Christ and the Bible, I see no reason why Thomas Paine would be a Christian Deist. This is something Pro must provide evidence for, not I.


=Defense of Contention One=

< The conflict the treaty mentions will not arise because, as the article states, the United States is not founded on Christianity. Therefore, it is impossible for it to have a way with a Muslim state on the grounds of religion. He is correct in stating that the treaty rebukes religion as a cause for war, but does not not address the point that religion is not a cause for war because the United States has no official religion.

In 1786, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams met with the ambassador from Tripoli in London. They asked why American merchant ships were being attacked without provocation. The ambassador explained that Muslim pirates considered Americans to be infidels and they believed they simply had the right to plunder American ships.

An infidel is one without faith. Therefore, the purpose of the treaty was to establish that the United States government was nuetral on religion, and did not believe or disbelieve in Islam. As a result of that, a war between the two based off the religion of the Barbary States could not be possible.

< The treaty serves as both a moral statement and a diplomatic tool. The moral statement is that the United States was not founded on Christianity, and the diplomatic tool is that there cannot be a conflict between the two parties based on religion.

< The rest of the argument is in regards to the severity and importance of ending the Barbary Wars, which have no bearing on the text of the treaty. I do not feel that the purpose of the treaty was to separate the United States from the crusades, because a simple lesson in history would have accomplished that goal. Furthermore, by dissociating themselves from European Christians and stating they were not founded on Christianity, doesn't that suggest something to you?

< The text of the document is clear. 'The United States was in no sense founded on the Christian religion'. Despite what events were taking place at the time, the text is still there. Since the Supremacy Clause states that the treaties we enter are the absolute law of the land, then the US must have been religiously nuetral. [1]


=Defending Contention Two=

My opponent says I did not elaborate on the role Thomas Paine played in the revolution. The only argument I wish to make in pointing out Thomas Paine is that the man who mobilized popular opinion in favor of independence, and condensed the arguments for the common man to read and understand, was not a Christian. If his book was not published, we can argue that the revolution would have been much weaker--if occurring at all.

=Additional Third Contention+

The United States of America cannot be founded on Christianity, because its founding document separates church and state.

'Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.' [1]

The Supreme Court supports my argument when they ruled in Everson v. Board of Education that:

"The 'establishment of religion' clause of the First Amendment means at least this: Neither a state nor the Federal Government can set up a church. Neither can pass laws which aid one religion, aid all religions or prefer one religion over another. Neither can force nor influence a person to go to or to remain away from church against his will or force him to profess a belief or disbelief in any religion. No person can be punished for entertaining or professing religious beliefs or disbeliefs, for church attendance or non-attendance. No tax in any amount, large or small, can be levied to support any religious activities or institutions, whatever they may be called, or whatever form they may adopt to teach or practice religion. Neither a state nor the Federal Government can, openly or secretly, participate in the affairs of any religious organizations or groups and vice versa. In the words of Jefferson, the clause against establishment of religion by law was intended to erect 'a wall of separation between Church and State.'" [2]



I feel that I have satisfactorily refuted my opponents argument, defended my two contentions, and added a third contention to the debate.



Incomplete Argument/Defense of Case________________________________________________
I thank my opponent for his rebuttal and for continuining the debate.:)

Defense of Case.
-->Con defined the Enlightenment well. I would however, note that while I do concede that there was some secular aspect, especially in the subjection of the divine to underlying principles, I will question if the Enlightenment was purely a "secular" or even unitary movement.

In fact, my opponent's presentation of such ideals, and supposition that they are the principle ("This definition...Enlightenment") is a bit flawed: it gives "rise to the misleading impression that there was a coherent movement, project, school or thought which developed these ideas explicitly" and could be characterized only by them. In fact, as a period of intellectual discovery and exploration, the Enlightenment can rarely be subject to generalization, for not only were views of thinkers grouped alike different but many oscillated in their belief during their life [1].

Secondly, it rests on a dichotomy between "faith" and "reason" that can be proved false, as reason can easily be extended to defend faith and destroy it. Rationalism, an obvious mark of the Enlightenment, can be seen in previous Christian thought, with St. Thomas Aquinas providing, in attempt to show that reason was the very source of knowledge, discussed the transparency of cerain truths--the natural world as it opens to God [3].

Con's definition, especially challenged by emerging historical opinion of the conducive nature of the Enlightenment in terms of the plurality of positions and religion [2], can be simplified to only a study of human nature, the essence of the Enlightenment. An analysis of human nature can easily be extended to the other subjects of Enlightenment thinking: religion, an adoraton for education, discovery of the study of mind, study of laws, etc and so forth, especially in conjunction with the natural world that was emerging as a topic of focus in Enlightenment thinking; in no way, would religion not play a role, despite Con's assertion [1].

I will respond to Con's arguments on the similarity of values in the next round in fuller detail, as well as potential influences of Christianity on the Enlightenment.:)

-->Con's discuson of the colonies' failure as a "good basis for secularism" is not a refutation of the fact that a period of intellectuality, the "American Enlightenment" where values of liberty, democracy, republicanism, equality, and so forth emerged in emphasis and culminated in the Declaration and Constitution [4].

Conditions that may have stifled the adoption of secularism did not prevent the adoption of such values with the growing resistance to colonial rule.

-->I might not have made myself clear but I only mentioned Thomas Paine in reference as a case of deism, but not as Christian deism."

Unfortunately, at least for the progress of this debate, my opponent and I have decided to have this debate at a tie; I chose the wrong position and am straining myself (not in the literal sense of the world) to tie the arguably secular and modern world of the Enlightenment to Christianity.

That, and the difficulty of arguing about the matter and so forth, makes the debate worthy of at least being stopped.

It's only a bit unfortunate though since the debate, after shifting gears to "Is the Enlightenment influenced by Christianity, got more interesting, at least for me.:P

But remember votes, CON AND I have agreed to have this debate tied. I am offerring the incomplete argument as a special look for voters for what would have been my impending rebuttal.;)

Debate Round No. 3


Tied debate...



For future references, I would like to point out a few flaws in my case: the failure to provide direct evidence without similarities between Christian and Enlightenment thought, the failure to at least perhaps provide the basis as to whether the American Enlightenment can be considered a parallel to European Enlightenment (since the discussion focused on the latter), and so forth.

I would also like to point out that Con didn't, at least at the point of this debate, note that influence=/=actual foundation based on the trickle or path of the influence, but if he did, I'd have a bit of a tough time to respond to that.:)
Debate Round No. 4


Tied debate...


Well there you have it, folks.:) Sorry to see the debate end rather disappointly.
Debate Round No. 5
7 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 7 records.
Posted by Man-is-good 5 years ago
Chelicerae, since this debate got more into the realms of the influence of Christianity on Enlightenment thinking, we can always proceed from there in another debate...after your break.:)
Posted by wiploc 5 years ago
: I'm not sure I understand what you're saying. "everything that has a cause" can only refer to things within the universe.

Obviously untrue. "Everything" doesn't just refer to some things.
Or maybe you don't think the universe is a thing? The alternative is that it is nothing.

: To conclude from "everything (within the universe) has a cause" that the universe itself must have a
: cause, commits the fallacy of composition- verbatim in fact.

Correct. But to go from "Everything (not just within the universe, but actually everything) has a cause, to "Therefore, the universe has a cause," is not committing any fallacy at all.

: Assuming that since something that is true of part of the whole (1- "everything that has a beginning has
: a cause") then it must be true of the whole itself (2, 3- "The universe has a beginning..therefore the
: universe has a cause" is fallacious.

Yes, we get it. Do you get that they claim not to be doing that?

: The term "everything" can only apply to things within the universe, unless proponents wish to assert
: that things outside are universe must too be caused?

If you're going to use "universe" to refer to only part of what exists, you ought to warn people in advance.

Proponents of the first cause argument will say that _begun_ things in the partaverse need causes, and _begun_ things in the restoftheverse also need causes. They will likewise say that _unbegun_ things do not need causes regardless of whether they are in the partaverse or the restoftheverse.

: I apologize for "rewording" the syllogism- I was attempting to clarify, not change the argument- but
: even with the wording as it is, it is invalid. The Law of Cause and effect only (and can only) apply to
: things within the universe.

Weird. Why do you say that? What possible justification can you offer or the claim that if things-that-exist are divided into "universe" and "the rest of existence" that nothing in the rest-of-existence
Posted by FourTrouble 5 years ago
I'm still interested in debating this, if Chelicerae wants to.
Posted by Chelicerae 5 years ago
Pro and I are agreeing to make this a tie.
Posted by Man-is-good 5 years ago
Thank god I finished that argument, especially since I was on a side I didn't necessarily agree with.
Posted by Maikuru 5 years ago
FourTrouble, I don't think you're allowed to be away from your soldier accountability debate. I'll take care of this one. Get going.
Posted by FourTrouble 5 years ago
The United States is fundamentally protestant - so I'd agree with Pro on this one.
2 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Vote Placed by RoyLatham 5 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: The debaters want it left a tie, so I shall do so. Washington, Adams, Jefferson, and Maison were all Deists who did not believe in the divinity of Christ. However, they all explicitly subscribed to christian philosophical values. Hence there s a semantic issue with the resolution. Democracy is not a Christian value, however.
Vote Placed by sensibletheism909 5 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: The issue with debating this is that one really needs to nail down what one means by the claim "the U.S. was founded on Christianity." This claim could mean a multitude of things, because this was not clarified adequately the debate went all over the place.