Beta

Slashdot: News for Nerds

×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

John Adams not a Christian?

ffreeloader (1105115) writes | more than 3 years ago

User Journal 6

I recently watched a History Channel program called Ancient Aliens in which it was alleged, without any proof, that John Adams thought Christianity was "dangerous" to government and education. As a rebuttal to such an assertion I post the following proclamation made by John Adams in 1798 during his term as President. Anyone can verify the authenticity of this quotation taken from an Ebook titled "A Compilation of the Messages and Papers of the Presidents Section 2 (of 4) of Volume 1: John A

I recently watched a History Channel program called Ancient Aliens in which it was alleged, without any proof, that John Adams thought Christianity was "dangerous" to government and education. As a rebuttal to such an assertion I post the following proclamation made by John Adams in 1798 during his term as President. Anyone can verify the authenticity of this quotation taken from an Ebook titled "A Compilation of the Messages and Papers of the Presidents Section 2 (of 4) of Volume 1: John Adams" as published in the Gutenberg Project.

PROCLAMATIONS.
BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.
A PROCLAMATION.

As the safety and prosperity of nations ultimately and essentially depend on the protection and the blessing of Almighty God, and the national acknowledgment of this truth is not only an indispensable duty which the people owe to Him, but a duty whose natural influence is favorable to the promotion of that morality and piety without which social happiness can not exist nor the blessings of a free government be enjoyed; and as this duty, at all times incumbent, is so especially in seasons of difficulty or of danger, when existing or threatening calamities, the just judgments of God against prevalent iniquity, are a loud call to repentance and reformation; and as the United States of America are at present placed in a hazardous and afflictive situation by the unfriendly disposition, conduct, and demands of a foreign power, evinced by repeated refusals to receive our messengers of reconciliation and peace, by depredations on our commerce, and the infliction of injuries on very many of our fellow-citizens while engaged in their lawful business on the seasâ"under these considerations it has appeared to me that the duty of imploring the mercy and benediction of Heaven on our country demands at this time a special attention from its inhabitants.

I have therefore thought fit to recommend, and I do hereby recommend, that Wednesday, the 9th day of May next, be observed throughout the United States as a day of solemn humiliation, fasting, and prayer; that the citizens of these States, abstaining on that day from their customary worldly occupations, offer their devout addresses to the Father of Mercies agreeably to those forms or methods which they have severally adopted as the most suitable and becoming; that all religious congregations do, with the deepest humility, acknowledge before God the manifold sins and transgressions with which we are justly chargeable as individuals and as a nation, beseeching Him at the same time, of His infinite grace, through the Redeemer of the World, freely to remit all our offenses, and to incline us by His Holy Spirit to that sincere repentance and reformation which may afford us reason to hope for his inestimable favor and heavenly benediction; that it be made the subject of particular and earnest supplication that our country may be protected from all the dangers which threaten it; that our civil and religious privileges may be preserved inviolate and perpetuated to the latest generations; that our public councils and magistrates may be especially enlightened and directed at this critical period; that the American people may be united in those bonds of amity and mutual confidence and inspired with that vigor and fortitude by which they have in times past been so highly distinguished and by which they have obtained such invaluable advantages; that the health of the inhabitants of our land may be preserved, and their agriculture, commerce, fisheries, arts, and manufactures be blessed and prospered; that the principles of genuine piety and sound morality may influence the minds and govern the lives of every description of our citizens, and that the blessings of peace, freedom, and pure religion may be speedily extended to all the nations of the earth.

And finally, I recommend that on the said day the duties of humiliation and prayer be accompanied by fervent thanksgiving to the Bestower of Every Good Gift, not only for His having hitherto protected and preserved the people of these United States in the independent enjoyment of their religious and civil freedom, but also for having prospered them in a wonderful progress of population, and for conferring on them many and great favors conducive to the happiness and prosperity of a nation.

[SEAL.]

Given under my hand and the seal of the United States of America, at Philadelphia, this 23d day of March, A.D. 1798, and of the Independence of the said States the twenty-second.

JOHN ADAMS.

cancel ×

6 comments

Answer to the wrong question (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33051724)

Being against Establishment and being against religion are two different things.

Recommending a national day of prayer is not establishing a religion. There are plenty of quotes available from John Adams regarding his anti-establishment views. My particular favorite is

The question before the human race is, whether the God of nature shall govern the world by his own laws, or whether priests and kings shall rule it by fictitious miracles?

from a letter to Thomas Jefferson. If we had founded our country to be ruled by an established religion, he expected that our leadership would rapidly fill with false prophets and frauds.

In terms of his anti-religion quotes, they're almost always out-of-context comments regarding the sects of Christianity he had rejected and/or opposed (he ditched the family's Calvinist roots to become a Unitarian). They also show his understanding of what freedom of religion was supposed to mean:

I do not like the reappearance of the Jesuits.... Shall we not have regular swarms of them here, in as many disguises as only a king of the gipsies can assume, dressed as printers, publishers, writers and schoolmasters? If ever there was a body of men who merited damnation on earth and in Hell, it is this society of Loyola's. Nevertheless, we are compelled by our system of religious toleration to offer them an asylum.

Keep in mind the following:
1) When the founding fathers created America, many had come from a country where the king had utterly crushed one religion and created a new one just so he could have a divorce. Oh, and so that everyone in the kingdom would tithe to him instead of the pope.
2) The Muslims had already been killing each other for centuries because some of them believed in the wrong number of prophets.
3) Baptists and Quakers were, at that very moment, being run out of Massachusetts and Virginia by colonial laws making it illegal to preach the wrong religion.

The founding fathers knew exactly what they were doing when they created a secular government that would be open to all religions and ruled by none of them.

Re:Answer to the wrong question (1)

ffreeloader (1105115) | more than 3 years ago | (#33052750)

You miss the entire point of John Adam's proclamation. Whether by agenda or ignorance, I don't know.

Adams pointed to the Christian God as the solution to the problems our nation faced, and morality and piety, Christian morality and piety, as the only source of real social happiness and ability to enjoy the liberty our form of government gave us.

He also called for a national day of prayer and fasting dedicated to asking the Christian God to forgive us of our sins. This is most definitely Christian thought that comes directly from the Old Testament, even without his reference to the "Redeemer", very classic reference to Jesus. Adams also referred to the Holy Spirit, another classic Christian tenet.

Oh, by the way, when Adams was president there were no colonial laws. There were both State and Federal governments, but no colonies existed any more. Your ignorance/confusion is astounding for someone so bent on thinking they can teach others.

Oh, and the reason Adams so despised the Jesuits is because the agreement between the philosophies of Socialism, Catholicism, and the Monarchy form of government, in which the individual owns nothing, but is in servitude to either the church or the state. That is why there was so much opposition to anything Catholic in the US for a long, long time. It wasn't until later generations forgot/lost-sight-of the roots of their freedoms that Catholicism became more acceptable here in the US.

The American Revolution was based on Protestant theology as it is Protestant thought that says man is responsible only to God, and that it is God who grants us our liberties and freedoms. This idea is central to both the Declaration of Independence and our Constitution. Protestant preachers were the leaders in sparking the love of liberty and the independence of thought so integral to American thought so trying to separate religion, Protestant Christian religion, from the founding of our country is ridiculous. And it's from the Protestants who first settled New England that we get our form of government. de Toqueville made this very plain in his book, Democracy in America, in which he traces the roots of the American political system.

Your attempt to say the founders of our country had nothing to do with religion just because they made sure that civil government would never be dictated to by a religion gives them very little credit. These were wise men who understood that the foundation of any successful society is based on the morality taught in religion, and only religious freedom can make this possible as reasonable men can read the same book and come to different conclusions, thus leading to religious differences. You'll find this true in every vein of human thought for no where will you find 100% agreement on everything. In science, law, politics, philosophy, etc... you will find disagreement on some basic ideas among intelligent people who have studied deeply into their fields of knowledge.

Re:Answer to the wrong question (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33070536)

"Avarice and ambition will break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution is made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other."

I never claimed that Adams "had nothing to do with religion". Adams made it very clear, though, that while he expected We The People to be religious, he expected the people's government to stay the hell out of it, and, as I pointed out with the criminalization of the "wrong religions" in two colonies, had intimate experience with why that's a good idea.

None of what you have posted has shown anything that refutes the claim that Adams was against having religion in government.

From your other response:

to recommend to all the others the general principles, institutions, or systems of education of the Roman Catholics, or those of the Quakers, or those of the Presbyterians, or those of the Methodists, or those of the Moravians, or those of the Universalists, or those of the Philosophers? No.

Adams did not intend for any ONE sect to establish American institutions. Not Catholic, not Protestant, but...

the general principles of Christianity, in which all those sects were united, and the general principles of English and American liberty

Those principles of American liberty managed to unite

Roman Catholics, English Episcopalians, Scotch and American Presbyterians, Methodists, Moravians, Anabaptists, German Lutherans, German Calvinists, Universalists, Arians, Priestleyans, Socinians, Independents, Congregationalists, Horse Protestants, and House Protestants, Deists and Atheists, and Protestants “qui ne croyent rien.”

all of whom were "educated in the general principles of Christianity, and the general principles of English and American liberty".

So sure, Adams says the government was founded on general Christian (not specifically protestant) and separately, general American principles. That still doesn't mean that he intended for the government to be religious.

Who knows, maybe if we started giving Baptists the lash again, the Southern Baptist Voting Bloc would quickly disabuse the government of the notion that it should have a say in the religious practices of its citizens. In today's environment though, it's certain that we'd be starting with the Muslims and the Catholic Latinos.

Re:Answer to the wrong question (1)

ffreeloader (1105115) | more than 3 years ago | (#33073264)

I see. You're mischaracterizing my position. Nice try.

My original post was refuting the idea that John Adams was against Christianity, and that the founding principles of our government were not Christian principles. He confirms that Christian principles were exactly the foundation on which our country were built in his letters to Jefferson.

If an entity, such as a government, is based on the principles of Christianity it is a foolish argument which tries to say that government is divorced from Christianity. Christianity becomes part and parcel of it, for both the government and the religion share the same principles. Those principles tie them together with an unbreakable bond. That point is unarguable.

Socialism is based on secular principles that deny God and His authority, and is therefore a purely secular, anti-God, government. That means it is fundamentally opposed to Christian principles, and our historical form of government here in the US.

That a government is intentionally Christian-based by its founders that does not mean it is the established religion of the state, and in fact, if it is based on truly Christian principles, will allow freedom of worship to those who are not Christian, for you will never find Christ condemning anyone for their choice of religion, only their desire to oppress others. Christ did say those who believed in other forms of religion didn't understand what they were worshiping, but He never said they should be oppressed and told His disciples that they were partaking of the spirit(fundamental ideas) of the devil when they wanted to take those people to task who opposed Christ.

The above was clearly understood by our founders, and proves that they were, indeed, truly Christian men who understood that Christianity was the basis of real liberty and successful government. That means they would never find Christianity objectionable in education or in governing.

Re:Answer to the wrong question (1)

ffreeloader (1105115) | more than 3 years ago | (#33074842)

I just realized I had not responded to your assertions of Baptists being persecuted under colonial law.

First, according to Baptists themselves the last serious persecution of Baptists in the New World was in March of 1680 and was enforced only 1 time, on March 8, 1680, and was never enforced again. The Baptist church was open the very next Sunday, and every Sunday afterwards. What that has to do with the US I don't know, as it was done under English government and English administration. It preceded the US Constitution by more than 100 years.

For reference see: http://www.reformedreader.org/history/vedder/ch19.htm [reformedreader.org] .

As that was almost 100 years before the Revolution and the writing of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence I fail to see the relevance. Were the Puritans, as they were the ones persecuting the Baptists, the first colonizers of the New World or the founders of the US? Without a doubt they fit the first category and not the second.

Re:Answer to the wrong question (1)

ffreeloader (1105115) | more than 3 years ago | (#33058374)

I will here give you more proof of John Adams' views on religion(Christianity) and its influence exerted in the founding of our country. The quote is taken, in its entirety, from http://oll.libertyfund.org/?option=com_staticxt&staticfile=show.php%3Ftitle=2127&chapter=193514&layout=html&Itemid=27 [libertyfund.org] so you can see I have changed nothing. To read the quote from there you must scroll down to the bottom of the page as the first part of the page is an index to John Adam's letters written during a certain period of time.

TO THOMAS JEFFERSON.

Quincy, 28 June, 1813.

It is very true that the denunciations of the priesthood are fulminated against every advocate for a complete freedom of religion. Comminations, I believe, would be plenteously pronounced by even the most liberal of them, against atheism, deism,—against every man who disbelieved or doubted the resurrection of Jesus, or the miracles of the New Testament. Priestley himself would denounce the man who should deny the Apocalypse, or the prophecies of Daniel. Priestley and Lindsey have both denounced as idolaters and blasphemers all the Trinitarians and even the Arians. Poor weak man! when will thy perfection arrive? Thy perfectibility I shall not deny, for a greater character than Priestley or Godwin has said, “Be ye perfect,” &c. For my part, I cannot “deal damnation round the land” on all I judge the foes of God or man. But I did not intend to say a word on this subject in this letter. As much of it as you please, hereafter; but let me now return to politics.

With some difficulty I have hunted up or down the “address of the young men of the city of Philadelphia, the district of Southwark, and the northern liberties,” and the answer.

The addressers say, “actuated by the same principles on which our forefathers achieved their independence, the recent attempts of a foreign power to derogate from the rights and dignity of our country, awaken our liveliest sensibility and our strongest indignation.” Huzza, my brave boys! Could Thomas Jefferson or John Adams hear these words with insensibility and without emotion? These boys afterwards add, “we regard our liberty and independence as the richest portion given us by our ancestors.” And who were these ancestors? Among them were Thomas Jefferson and John Adams; and I very coolly believe that no two men among these ancestors did more towards it than those two. Could either hear this like a statue? If, one hundred years hence, your letters and mine should see the light, I hope the reader will hunt up this address, and read it all, and remember that we were then engaged, or on the point of engaging, in a war with France. I shall not repeat the answer till we come to the paragraph upon which you criticized to Dr. Priestley, though every word of it is true; and I now rejoice to see it recorded, though I had wholly forgotten it.

The paragraph is, “Science and morals are the great pillars on which this country has been raised to its present population, opulence, and prosperity; and these alone can advance, support, and preserve it. Without wishing to damp the ardor of curiosity, or influence the freedom of inquiry, I will hazard a prediction, that after the most industrious and impartial researches, the longest liver of you all will find no principles, institutions, or systems of education more fit, in general, to be transmitted to your posterity than those you have received from your ancestors.”1

Now, compare the paragraph in the answer with the paragraph in the address, as both are quoted above, and see if we can find the extent and the limits of the meaning of both.

Who composed that army of fine young fellows that was then before my eyes? There were among them Roman Catholics, English Episcopalians, Scotch and American Presbyterians, Methodists, Moravians, Anabaptists, German Lutherans, German Calvinists, Universalists, Arians, Priestleyans, Socinians, Independents, Congregationalists, Horse Protestants, and House Protestants,2 Deists and Atheists, and Protestants “qui ne croyent rien.” Very few, however, of several of these species; nevertheless, all educated in the general principles of Christianity, and the general principles of English and American liberty.

Could my answer be understood by any candid reader or hearer, to recommend to all the others the general principles, institutions, or systems of education of the Roman Catholics, or those of the Quakers, or those of the Presbyterians, or those of the Methodists, or those of the Moravians, or those of the Universalists, or those of the Philosophers? No. The general principles on which the fathers achieved independence, were the only principles in which that beautiful assembly of young men could unite, and these principles only could be intended by them in their address, or by me in my answer. And what were these general principles? I answer, the general principles of Christianity, in which all those sects were united, and the general principles of English and American liberty, in which all those young men united, and which had united all parties in America, in majorities sufficient to assert and maintain her independence. Now I will avow, that I then believed and now believe that those general principles of Christianity are as eternal and immutable as the existence and attributes of God; and that those principles of liberty are as unalterable as human nature and our terrestrial, mundane system. I could, therefore safely say, consistently with all my then and present information, that I believed they would never make discoveries in contradiction to these general principles. In favor of these general principles, in philosophy, religion, and government, I could fill sheets of quotations from Frederic of Prussia, from Hume, Gibbon, Bolingbroke, Rousseau, and Voltaire, as well as Newton and Locke; not to mention thousands of divines and philosophers of inferior fame.

I might have flattered myself that my sentiments were sufficiently known to have protected me against suspicions of narrow thoughts, contracted sentiments, bigoted, enthusiastic, or superstitious principles, civil, political, philosophical, or ecclesiastical. The first sentence of the preface to my Defence of the Constitution, vol. i., printed in 1787, is in these words: “The arts and sciences, in general, during the three or four last centuries, have had a regular course of progressive improvement. The inventions in mechanic arts, the discoveries in natural philosophy, navigation, and commerce, and the advancement of civilization and humanity, have occasioned changes in the condition of the world, and the human character, which would have astonished the most refined nations of antiquity,” &c. I will quote no farther, but request you to read again that whole page, and then say whether the writer of it could be suspected of recommending to youth “to look backward instead of forward,” for instruction and improvement. This letter is already too long. In my next, I shall consider “the terrorism of the day.”

[1 ] For the whole of the answer, of which this is a part, see vol. ix. p. 188.

[2 ] All the later letters of Mr. Adams are much marred in the copying. Unless these words refer to Messrs. Horne and Howes, two of the disputants with Dr. Priestley in England, the editor cannot explain them.

Check for New Comments
Slashdot Account

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?

Don't worry, we never post anything without your permission.

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>
Create a Slashdot Account

Loading...