My Take: Why the U.S. is not a Christian nation
July 4th, 2011
10:33 AM ET

My Take: Why the U.S. is not a Christian nation

By Kenneth C. Davis, Special to CNN

Editor's note: Kenneth C. Davis is the author of "Don't Know Much About History: Anniversary Edition" (HarperCollins). He posts regularly at his blog at http://www.dontknowmuch.com/.

(CNN) - As America celebrates its birthday on July 4, the timeless words of Thomas Jefferson will surely be invoked to remind us of our founding ideals - that "All men are created equal" and are "endowed by their Creator" with the right to "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." These phrases, a cherished part of our history, have rightly been called "American Scripture."

But Jefferson penned another phrase, arguably his most famous after those from the Declaration of Independence. These far more contentious words - "a wall of separation between church and state" - lie at the heart of the ongoing debate between those who see America as a "Christian Nation" and those who see it as a secular republic, a debate that is hotter than a Washington Fourth of July.

It is true these words do not appear in any early national document. What may be Jefferson's second most-quoted phrase is found instead in a letter he sent to a Baptist association in Danbury, Connecticut.

Read the full story here why Davis says America is not a Christian nation.
- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Belief • Bible • Christianity • Church and state • United States

soundoff (86 Responses)
  1. JWGirl

    55 reasons Jehovah’s Witnesses will never be reformed
    by Frank J. Toth

    1. Teaching that true Christianity is an organization instead of a way of life
    2. Claiming salvation is dependent upon belonging to the JW denomination
    3. Claiming that the organization speaks for and is controlled by Jehovah, thereby equating the organization with God himself

    4. Centralizing authority in an organization instead of letting Christ be the head of each Christian
    5. Claiming that the “faithful and discreet slave” is the “anointed class” rather than each individual Christian who shows himself or herself to be responsible and obedient to Christ
    6. Teaching that the early Christians were led by a governing body

    7. Teaching that Jesus appointed the “anointed remnant” as his true church in 1919
    8. Viewing the so-called “anointed” class (actually, the governing body) as God’s channel and prophet
    9. Placing WT literature above the Bible

    10. Frequently taking Bible texts out of context in order to build support for the organization’s man-made teachings and procedures

    11. Teaching that Jesus returned in 1914 and is “invisibly present” since then
    12. Teaching that Jerusalem was destroyed in 607 BCE when no historical records confirm this and the actual date is believed by nearly all historians to be 587 BCE

    13. Falsifying the fact that Charles Russell predicted for 1914 the end of the world, not Christ’s return
    14. Lying about a so-called “increase” in earthquakes, warfare, famines, persecution, etc., since 1914
    15. Contradictorily condemning military organizations and frowning upon JWs who choose alternative service in lieu of military service while the headquarters organization at the same time owns stock in a military product organization (REGI)

    16. Taking a conflicting stand with regard to the United Nations, claiming that it is the “wild beast” of Revelation that leads all nations in a fight against God and Christ at Armageddon, but signing on as an NGO member and publishing articles that present the UN in a favorable light
    17. Teaching that it’s wrong to celebrate birthdays and all holidays
    18. Teaching that Abraham and the faithful men and women of old are not among the holy ones who will rule with Christ in his Kingdom
    19. Interpreting Jewish restoration prophecies as fulfilled in “the anointed remnant”

    20. Teaching that the Scriptures are directly addressed only to “the remnant of anointed ones”
    21. Teaching that only the “anointed” must be born again
    22. Teaching that the “great crowd” are not begotten or anointed by the Holy Spirit

    23. Teaching that the “great crowd” are God’s grandchildren and not his sons and daughters
    24. Teaching that the “great crowd” are not members of the bride of Christ
    25. Teaching that Jesus is not the mediator between God and the “great crowd” of Revelation chapter 7

    26. Teaching that the resurrection of the “anointed” precedes the resurrection of the “other sheep” and that it has already begun
    27. Teaching that only “anointed” JWs will receive immortality in the resurrection
    28. Inviting only the “anointed” to partake at the memorial

    29. Claiming that spiritual food comes from the “anointed” class whereas nearly all the writers of WT publications are members of the “other sheep” class

    30. Creating a climate of fear by authoritarianism
    31. Controlling what individual JWs may read of Bible-related publications that are not produced by the WT Society
    32. Arrogantly pretending that the JW organization maintains higher standards than any other religion and proclaiming publicly that all other churches are members of Babylon the Great

    33. Forbidding attendance and participation at other churches
    34. Class distinctions such as “governing body,” “anointed remnant” and “great crowd of other sheep”
    35. Class distinctions such as publishers, auxiliary pioneers, regular pioneers, special pioneers, circuit overseers, district overseers, Bethelites, Governing Body, etc.

    36. Prohibiting women from serving in any meaningful role in the congregation while expecting them to do the bulk of the work in “field service”
    37. Constantly prodding the membership by means of literature, meetings and conventions to do ever more and more in the service of the organization, promoting an atmosphere where many feel their best is never good enough

    38. Setting dates for Armageddon and thereby urging the membership to abandon normal living, this often resulting in the ruination of health and family life, as well as creating employment and financial hardships

    39. Teachings that lead the members to believe righteousness and salvation can be earned by devoted and loyal support of the organization’s slavish programs
    40. Keeping meeting attendance and field service records as a gauge of an individual’s spirituality
    41. Organizationally requiring no blood transfusions instead of letting it be a matter of conscience, thereby cruelly informing all members that they will be shunned by the organization if they accept a transfusion that might restore health following a life-threatening accident or illness

    42. Allowing their own infants and children to die instead of allowing doctors to give them necessary blood transfusions
    43. Teaching that the “congregation” of Matthew 18:17 is the body of elders
    44. Holding heresy trials and disciplinary hearings in secrecy from the rest of the congregation
    45. Withholding information that would be helpful to persons who have been accused of wrongdoing

    46. Conducting heresy trials of members who have doubts or who think differently upon the Scriptures
    47. Defining apostasy as against the organization instead of against God
    48. Being quick to disfellowship instead of making efforts to restore persons who have done something wrong

    49. Unnecessarily and abusively shunning members even for minor infractions such as smoking or not complying with the whimsical directives of elders, thereby causing personal and family turmoil that often results in immense guilt, shame, fear, depression, bitterness, hatred, murder and suicide
    50. Prohibiting fellowship with disassociated persons who show no inclination toward causing dissension

    51. Showing favoritism by advising innocent victims to “leave it to Jehovah” instead of the elders taking decisive action to deal with some members who have been accused of harmful wrongdoing.
    52. Ignoring or minimizing clear evidence of child molestation and other abuses simply because only one witness is available to testify against the member accused of such serious wrongdoing
    53. Covering over and hiding damaging facts about the JW organization

    54. In many cases, neglecting the care of their own sick and elderly members who no longer have the strength and energy to attend all the meetings and to be regular in “field service” as they did for most of their lives
    55. Blatantly lying to the public by declaring to news media that members may leave the organization at any time, of their own free will and without any repercussions from the organization

    July 7, 2011 at 5:35 am |
  2. John


    July 7, 2011 at 1:36 am |
    • .....

      Don't bother viewing this garbage, click the report abuse link to get rid of this troll.

      July 7, 2011 at 6:46 pm |
  3. Joe from CT, not Lieberman

    On the other comments page, one of the last commentators made mention of the early settlers looking for freedom to worship the way they pleased, and cited Jamestown as an example. He also said that Davis needed to restudy his history. Unfortunately this commentator missed the class in History. Jamestown was founded as a commercial speculation by the supporters of King James. The original "gentlemen explorers" were all members in good standing of the Church of England, and only members of that Church were allowed to vote in their assembly (eventually the Virginia House of Burgess).

    Plimoth (the proper 17th century spelling of the colony) on the other hand was founded by a different religious group. These folks now referred to as Pilgrims had been known at the time as Separatists. They wanted a complete break from the way the aforementioned CoE held services, and wanted everyone else to worship their way (something even their contemporaries, the Puritans, didn't agree with). They, too, were a financially backed group of families that were expected to turn a profit for their corporation back in England. When they arrived at the coast of Cape Cod (they were trying to reach Virginia Colony but the weather was against them) the men wrote and signed the "Mayflower Compact" agreeing to their terms of government. However, unlike Jamestown, the folks in Plimoth required everyone to follow Separatist teachings.

    So the goal was not necessarily for everyone to have the freedom to worship, but rather for the ability for each colony to force their religious beliefs on anyone else who came to that colony. Not exactly the freedom to worship that pseudo-historians claim has existed since the beginning of our history!

    July 6, 2011 at 3:15 pm |
  4. Bob Bruhns

    Read what Jefferson wrote. You will find that he wrote about several Christain sects, one of which he considered very controlling, and not at all good.

    The separation of Church and State that Jefferson wanted was about preventing this or that crazy sect from running the country according to their cultish beliefs. Faith, of course, is quite a different matter.

    July 6, 2011 at 3:12 pm |
  5. Reality

    The bible – one of the great con jobs of all time;–

    To wit:

    Jesus was a bit "touched". According to the "book", he spoke to Satan, changed water into wine, raised Lazarus from the dead etc. In today's world, said Jesus would be declared legally insane.

    Or did P, M, M, L and J simply make him into a first century magic-man via their epistles and gospels of semi-fiction?

    Most contemporary NT experts after thorough analyses of all the scriptures go with the latter magic-man conclusion with J's gospels being mostly fiction.

    Obviously, today's followers of the "book", are also a bit on the odd side believing in all the Christian mumbo jumbo about bodies resurrecting, and exorcisms, and miracles, and "magic-man atonement, and infallible, old, European, white men, and 24/7 body/blood sacrifices followed by consumption of said sacrifices.

    See also:

    : http://query.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=F20E1EFE35540C7A8CDDAA0894DA404482

    The New Torah For Modern Minds And "Con-Free"!!


    July 6, 2011 at 9:26 am |
    • Dina

      I think you need help and their will come a day when you will need our Lord Jesus Christ and he may not be their to anwser your prayers and your cries. God Bless you!!!! you will need him everyday we need him everyday !!

      July 6, 2011 at 4:32 pm |
  6. Chris

    I'm not sure why any of you feel this is important to debate. Belief, religious or otherwise, is a personal
    thing, a struggle which can "mature" or "wisen" over time. Previous generations have tried to pass on their beliefs to us
    and yet they have always changed them to suit themselves in some degree over time. As we do. In the struggle to
    define ouselves and our place, new evidence appears every day, through science and observation of the wonders in
    this world....and to some the wonders imply a God...in others just the opposite. I am of the belief that you strive to always
    do the right thing to the best of your imperfect ability. I am appalled by the rampant intolerance toward one another that
    supposedly peaceful religions have....murder can never be right....realize that. Christianity is not the issue...

    July 6, 2011 at 9:12 am |
  7. ckelley

    I simply cannot believe that, in this day and age, so many people are still so lazy, arrogant and, frankly, stupid as to believe that everything that happens is thanks to (or the fault of) the Christian God. Christianity is the second-youngest major religion on the planet – the only one younger is Islam. So what makes you think you're right? The Bible was written, in the best-case and most likely scenario, as a book that used stories to teach people (or terrify them into) moral behavior. At worst, they're pure and simple fairy tales. Thinking it's a literal account of things that actually happened is, quite honestly, incredibly dumb. Science may not be able to disprove the theory of a Creator, but it can and has proved that the world did not begin with a naked teenage girl accepting a magic apple from a talking snake. The US is NOT a Christian nation and I, for one, am incredibly grateful for that.

    July 6, 2011 at 7:10 am |
  8. Odessa

    USA is too immoral to be called Christian but she was indeed created by Christians. As science cannot deny the existence of the Creator God, history cannot deny the Christian heritage of America. Americans don't read the Bible or study the British history – the reason they think a big bang created America.

    July 6, 2011 at 12:33 am |
    • Free

      We also have a slave-owning heritage, and a indian-killing heritage, and a keep-the-vote-from-women heritage, ...

      July 6, 2011 at 1:02 am |
    • Odessa

      @Free, slave-owing is universal norm on this planet. The Christian British and Christian Americans alone abolished it for the entire world. Many Indians died of natural causes such as diseases. The English was the most gentlemly among all races and tribes. Migrants always fought against natives everywhere for survival for all time. If you are barbaric and stupid and oppress women and children, foreigners come and enslave you – it's natural. Women were most treated well in American society. Elsewhere, women were/are slaves to men. Voting rights is nothing; we only hoped men won't bind our feet to torture us or kill us after husband's death.

      July 6, 2011 at 1:14 am |
    • Odessa

      @Free: Seriously, secular Americans' ignorance is beyond hope. What do you learn at schools other than blaspheming God and bashing Christianity? Why don't you move away from USA to make those Indians happy? Chinese will be glad to take over the land. You owe them so much anyway.

      July 6, 2011 at 1:18 am |
    • Free

      "Many Indians died of natural causes such as diseases."
      And sometimes diseases were brought to them unnaturally. Try a Google search for "Siege of Fort Pitt" and "Blankets with smallpox."

      Honestly, where did you learn your history?

      July 6, 2011 at 2:37 am |
    • Odessa

      Free, we face whatever comes to our life. We are all migrants and natives, open to foreign objects. I learned history in several countries in a few languages. I think non-Americans know the US history better than secular Americans. We don't have prejudice against Christianity like Westerners do, though Christianity was persecuted like hell in Asia.

      July 6, 2011 at 5:25 am |
    • Free

      "I think non-Americans know the US history better than secular Americans."
      Why just secular Americans? I suppose that you subscribe to the whole "God has a special plan for America" line that televangelists use to sell cheap books to senior citizens for high prices? That's not history; that's mythology.

      "We don't have prejudice against Christianity like Westerners do, though Christianity was persecuted like hell in Asia."
      So, if not the Western world or Asia, where did you come from that is such a haven for Christians?

      July 6, 2011 at 12:32 pm |
  9. Topkatt

    Republicans cannot be Christians. They have become Mammonites.....

    July 5, 2011 at 9:36 pm |
  10. Bill Fitzgerald

    That has little to do with the fact that George Washington, a prayerful man, and his rag tag army defeated the most powerful army on earth at the time. He did it with divine help. And when the time was right, God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ descended and appeared to a boy of fourteen years. And The Church of Jesus Christ is once again upon the earth as Peter prophesied it would be restored. And Paul spoke of the dispensation of the fullness of times, which is now.

    July 5, 2011 at 8:45 pm |
    • Free

      And since we've become the most powerful military force on the planet how many smaller nations have had God's help in defeating us?

      July 6, 2011 at 12:54 am |
    • Seer

      If God was on our side as we defeated a controlling, overbearing, greedy nation in the quest for economic and spiritual freedom, then by your calculations, the oppressed Muslim peoples of the Middle East should have God's help on their side with defeating us, since we are doing about the same things to them that Britain did to us in the 1700s:
      – Economic colonization and imperialism
      – Righteous religiously-justified superiority and marginalization
      – Military control and manipulation
      – Maintaining a vast differential in wealth and power

      In other words, if God is on the side of the underdog, and we're now the Overdog – much worse than Britain was in the 1700's by the way – then God's out to get us.

      Or maybe, just maybe, people innately know that freedom is their birthright, and that equality is their natural state. And anyone who gets in the way of that will be defeated eventually. That is actually what our Founders wrote, since they were not "Christians" by your definition of the word, in particular since they were totally *sick* of Christianity as it was practiced by the Church of England, having had nothing but abuse at its hands.

      My conclusion is that if you use religion to justify oppression, eventually religion will come out the loser as oppression is defeated. Keep religion out of politics, and religion is safe.

      July 15, 2011 at 11:12 am |
    • Alyssa

      The American troops would have been eviscerated by the British if not for the French intervention.

      July 25, 2011 at 12:19 pm |
  11. Bob Bruhns

    In 1797, the US Congress – at the time consisting of many of the Founding Fathers themselves, under the second US President, John Adams – ratified the 'Treaty of Peace and Friendship between the United States of America and the Bey and Subjects of Tripoli of Barbary', and President Adams signed it, and personally called for the observance of its every artcle and clause.

    Article 11 of this treaty contains the statement "As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion" – and I think this settles the issue: while the Founders were certainly people of faith, this nation was to be secular.

    July 5, 2011 at 3:37 pm |
  12. Rev. Rick

    Okay, if America is a Christian nation, why do we have a Muslim president? (Okay, that was a cheap shot. I do not believe Obama is Muslim). It seems clear that while many of our founding fathers were primarily from Christian denominations, their only reference to God appears to be the mention of a "Creator", but not Jesus Christ. From that perspective, perhaps we should consider ourselves to be Jewish, or even Hindu? It seems certain that the founding fathers knew the dangers of promoting one faith above another and for that reason did not establish a national religion. And for more than 200 years, no subsequent president or legislative body has ammended the consti-tution to allow us (US) to create a national religion - so far. While I do not deny that we are primarily a nation of Christians (by majority), we are not a Christian nation. Even the beliefs among Christians are so diverse that it would be difficult to try and agree on what would consti-tute true "Christianity" as national religion. For that I am thankful.

    July 5, 2011 at 11:58 am |
    • Ron

      @ Rev. Rick,

      "we are primarily a nation of Christians (by majority), we are not a Christian nation."


      July 5, 2011 at 3:35 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.