Nothing secular about the founding of this nation
Contrary to what you learned at college, America from its inception has been a religious country, and was designed to be one.
As the greatest foreign observer of America, the Frenchman Alexis de Tocqueville, noted in his “Democracy in America,” “Not until I went into the churches of America and heard her pulpits flame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her genius and power.” Or, as the great British historian Paul Johnson has just written: “In [George] Washington’s eyes, at least, America was in no sense a secular state,” and “the American Revolution was in essence the political and military expression of a religious movement.”
In fact, the Founders regarded America as a Second Israel, in Abraham Lincoln’s words, the “Almost Chosen” People. This self-identification was so deep that Thomas Jefferson, today often described as not even a Christian, wanted the seal of the United States to depict the Jews leaving Egypt at the splitting of the sea. Just as the Jews left Egypt, Americans left Europe.
There has been a concerted, and successful, attempt over the last generations to depict America as always having been a secular country and many of its Founders as deists, a term misleadingly defined as irreli- gious people who believed in an impersonal god.
It is also argued that the values that animated the founding of America were the values of the secular Enlightenment, not those of the Bible — even for most of the Founders who were religious Christians.
This new version of American history reminds me of the old Soviet dissident joke: “In the Soviet Union, the future is known; it’s the past that is always changing.”
Once almost universally acknowledged to be founded by religious men whose values were grounded in the Jewish and Christian Scriptures, the average college graduate is now ignorant of the religious bases of this society, and certain that it was founded to be, and has always been, a secular society that happens to have many indi- vidual Christians living in it.
That explains the attempts by activists to erase whatever public vestiges of religiosity remain — any cross on a county or city seal, the replacement of “Merry Christmas” with “Happy Holidays,” the Supreme Court’s rulings against school prayer even of the most non-denominational type, etc.
This country was founded overwhelmingly by men and women steeped in the Bible. Their moral values emanated from the Bible, and they regarded liberty as possible only if understood as given by God. That is why the Liberty Bell’s inscription is from the Old Testament, and why Mr. Jefferson, the allegedly non-religious deist, wrote (as carved into the Jefferson Memorial): “God who gave us life gave us liberty. Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are the gift of God?”
The evidence is overwhelming that the Founders were religious people who wanted a religious country that enshrined liberty for all its citizens, including those of different religions and those of no faith. But our educational institutions, especially the universities, are populated almost exclusively by secular individuals and books who seek to cast America’s past and present in their image.
Are we a Judeo-Christian country with liberty for people of every, and of no, faith? Or are we a secular country that happens to have within it a large number of individuals who hold Judeo-Christian values?
If you are undecided which side to fight for, perhaps this will help: Western Europe has already become a secular society with secular values. If you think Western Europe is a better place than America and that it has a robust future, you should be working to remove Judeo-Christian influence from American life. On the other hand, if you look at Europe and see a continent adrift, with no identity and no strong values beyond economic equality and possessing little capacity to identify evil, let alone a will to fight it, then you need to start fighting against the secularization of America.
Or, if you think that the university, the most secular American institution, is largely a place where wisdom, character and a discerning ability to distinguish between right and wrong prevail, you should be working to remove JudeoChristian values from American life. But if you believe that the university is largely a place of moral foolishness, then you need to start worrying about the secularization of America.
If America abandons its Judeo-Christian values basis and the central role of the Jewish and Christian Bibles, its founders’ guiding text, we are all in big trouble, including, most especially, America’s nonChristians. Just ask the Jews of secular Europe.
Dennis Prager is a nationally syndicated columnist.