Examining the Origins of America’s ‘Founding Faith’

Was America meant to be a Christian nation?


Author Steven Waldman attempts to answer this and other questions related to America’s religious history in his new book, Founding Faith: Providence, Politics, and the Birth of Religious Freedom in America.

Waldman sets the record straight on several issues that have been debated fiercely by those engaged in what he calls the “custody battle” over the American founding. Seventeenth-century America, he rightly argues, was not founded as a bastion of religious freedom, but as a place where religious establishments prevailed. Scholars will already know this, but it is still nice to see such a clean and direct hit on the Whiggish interpretations of the British colonies promoted by many of the so-called Christian America writers. Waldman also makes it clear that most of the Founders were not deists, especially if we define a “deist” as a person who rejects the idea that God acts in human history. Nearly all the Founders believed in providence. I am sure that Susan Jacoby and others and still others may have something to say about this, but Waldman is correct here.

It is now common for those on the right and the left to try to prove that America is or isn’t a Christian nation based on the religious beliefs of the Founders. Waldman reminds us of the logical problems with this argument. Just because one of the Founders was a Christian—or even an evangelical Christian—doesn’t mean that he was an opponent of the separation of church and state. The opposite is also true. Just because one of the Founders did not believe all the tenets of orthodox Christianity does not always mean that he rejected the idea that Christianity was good for the republic. This argument seems obvious, but it is often missing from the popular religious histories of the founding era.

Published in: on March 14, 2008 at 7:46 pm  Leave a Comment  

Rapture Ready

Max Blumenthal

On July 16, I attended Christians United for Israel’s annual Washington-Israel Summit. Founded by San Antonio-based megachurch pastor John Hagee, CUFI has added the grassroots muscle of the Christian right to the already potent Israel lobby.

Published in: on July 30, 2007 at 10:29 pm  Leave a Comment  

From Torture to Plaintiff: a Pilgrim’s Progress in China

May 31, 2007
Op-Ed Columnist


Every evening in a little village near this coastal city, peasants gather in a private home and do something that used to be dangerous. They pray.

Published in: on May 30, 2007 at 11:53 pm  Leave a Comment  

Americans United Issues Statement On The Death Of Jerry Falwell

Moral Majority Founder Was ‘Face And Voice Of The Religious Right,’ Says AU’s Lynn

“Americans United extends its condolences to members of Dr. Falwell’s family, the congregants of Thomas Road Baptist Church and the students and staff of Liberty University.”

Allow me to second that.

Published in: on May 15, 2007 at 3:11 pm  Comments (2)  

The Religious Right Re-Crucify Jesus

The glorious paradox at the center of Christianity, which presents a God incarnate in an individual who identified with the marginalized and despised, and was tortured to death as a political subversive, ensures that diversity and critical reconstruction are integral aspects of the Christian tradition.

~Ruth Mantin

Published in: on May 15, 2007 at 12:56 pm  Leave a Comment  

For God’s Sake

April 13, 2007
Op-Ed Columnist

In 1981, Gary North, a leader of the Christian Reconstructionist movement — the openly theocratic wing of the Christian right — suggested that the movement could achieve power by stealth. “Christians must begin to organize politically within the present party structure,” he wrote, “and they must begin to infiltrate the existing institutional order.” (more…)

Published in: on April 12, 2007 at 10:34 pm  Comments (3)  

An Easter Sermon

April 7, 2007
Guest Columnist

Jesus knew viral marketing. (more…)

Published in: on April 7, 2007 at 12:57 am  Comments (1)  

Religion Without Truth

March 31, 2007
Guest Columnist
Religion Without Truth

In 1992, at a conference of Republican governors, Kirk Fordice of Mississippi referred to America as a “Christian nation.” One of his colleagues rose to say that what Governor Fordice no doubt meant is that America is a Judeo-Christian nation. If I meant that, Fordice replied, I would have said it. (more…)

Published in: on March 31, 2007 at 10:52 am  Leave a Comment  

The Religious Right’s New Bugbear

Last Sunday, Pastor John Hagee, the founder of Christians United for Israel, received a rousing reception at the opening dinner plenary of the annual American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) conference.

Published in: on March 15, 2007 at 10:46 pm  Leave a Comment  

He Befriended a Serial Killer, and Opened the Door to God

March 11, 2007
This Land


The big wall clock tells the minister he has less than an hour before tonight’s Bible class down at the church. No time for supper.

Published in: on March 11, 2007 at 11:34 pm  Comments (1)  

The Theocratic Agenda Is Heading for a Statehouse Near You

Well-coordinated “faith-based” initiatives and anti-evolution lobbying in state capitols from New Jersey to Colorado signal a stealth national strategy by Religious Right organizations.

Published in: on March 10, 2007 at 11:43 pm  Leave a Comment  

Farrakhan blames religions for war

The leader of the Nation of Islam movement in the US has blamed religious discord among Christians, Muslims and those of other faiths for causing global conflicts.

Published in: on February 27, 2007 at 11:55 pm  Leave a Comment  

Chris Hedges: The Christian Right’s War on America

Robert Scheer and James Harris speak with Chris Hedges, the veteran journalist and author of the new book “American Fascists,” about the threat of the radical Christian movement, how getting it right on Iraq ended his relationship with The New York Times and more.

Published in: on February 7, 2007 at 2:33 am  Leave a Comment  

The New Crusaders

The radical traditionalist Catholics, who reject the teachings of the modern papacy, may form America’s largest group of anti-Semites.

by Heidi Beirich

Published in: on January 28, 2007 at 12:47 am  Leave a Comment  

Be Your Own King

Behind all the Kumbaya-ism in this federal holiday is a prophetic preacher who talked not just about race, but about war and poverty

Published in: on January 15, 2007 at 10:54 pm  Leave a Comment  

Not Yet The Majority But No Longer Silent

There are many more atheists and agnostics in the country than is generally recognized. For instance, we atheists and agnostics are as numerous as Southern Baptists, and we are also the fastest growing category–-faster even than the Mormons and the evangelicals.

Published in: on January 1, 2007 at 12:25 am  Leave a Comment  

What would Jesus do? Which Jesus?

Different books generate disparate views of peace

By Ira Chernus

Published in: on December 28, 2006 at 12:59 am  Leave a Comment  

A Tale for Slavery’s Children

E.J. Dionne

“African Americans read their own collective experience into the agony and exaltation of Jesus. The story of the Christ child, blessed by God yet born in the shadow of poverty and violence, was their story. Jesus’ humble birth in antiquity signified the humble origins of African peoples in modernity. In his impoverished entry into the world, Jesus turned the tables on earthly valuations. Fulfilling the promise of the oracle that celebrates his advent in a stable, the hills of the privileged and the valleys of the humble are inverted, marking the beginning of a new era.”

— Allen Dwight Callahan, The Talking Book: African Americans and the Bible”

Published in: on December 25, 2006 at 1:14 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Peaceful Crusader

Amid all the useless bloodshed of the Crusades, there is one story that suggests an extended clash of civilizations between Islam and the West was not preordained. It concerns the early 13th-century friar Francis of Assisi, who joined the Fifth Crusade not as a warrior but as a peacemaker.

Published in: on December 25, 2006 at 12:44 pm  Leave a Comment  

‘Christian’ Game Leaves Behind A Pile of Corpses

Left Behind: Eternal Forces

Published in: on December 24, 2006 at 3:33 am  Comments (1)  

“One Punk Under God: The Prodigal Son”

Jim and Tammy Faye’s son in the family biz

Published in: on December 16, 2006 at 1:22 pm  Comments (9)  

Would Jesus shop at Wal-Mart?

Preacher enlisted for union-backed TV spot calling policies un-Christian

Published in: on December 15, 2006 at 2:12 pm  Comments (1)