While I was in America, a witness, who happened to be called at the assizes of the county of Chester (state of New York), declared that he did not believe in the existence of God or in the immortality of the soul. The judge refused to admit his evidence, on the ground that the witness had destroyed beforehand all the confidence of the court in what he was about to say. The newspapers related the fact without any farther comment. The Americans combine the notions of Christianity and of liberty so intimately in their minds, that it is impossible to make them conceive the one without the other; and with them this conviction does not spring from that barren traditionary faith which seems to vegetate in the soul rather than to live.
– Alexis de Tocqueville, “American Institutions and Their Influence,” 1851
One of the repetitive themes that developed in “The Irrational Atheist” over the course of its writing is the profound historical unreliability of atheists. Atheists, particularly the aggressive variety, tend to repeat the same talking points over and over with such assurance that the average historically illiterate individual, regardless of his religious faith, has a tendency to accept them at face value. But this is foolish, as historical arguments presented by atheists almost invariably rely upon taking one small piece of historical evidence and twisting it beyond all recognition while simultaneously ignoring the larger part of the historical record.
For example, it is often said that John Adams, the second president and one of the Founding Fathers, declared that America is not a Christian nation. This statement is cited as proof that America was never a Christian nation. However, as it happens, he did no such thing. In the “Treaty of Peace and Friendship between the United States of America and the Bey and Subjects of Tripoli of Barbary,” more commonly known as the Treaty of Tripoli, the following clause appeared in the text:
“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, – and as the said States never entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mahometan 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.”
To the careless reader, this would appear to support the atheist position. But the argument that America was never a Christian nation relies upon a common atheist trick, in this case, the substitution of the word “nation” for “government.” What is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion? Is it “the United States of America”? Is it “the American people”? No, it is “the Government of the United States of America.”
But the historical debate is not, nor has it ever been, if the federal government was a Christian government. Obviously it was not. Indeed, many, if not most, Christians today tend to regard Washington, D.C., as being far more reflective of Satan than of the Lord Jesus Christ. But the fact is that a government is not a nation. This should be obvious, as the government of the United States of America presently consists of 4.5 million employees and elected officials, whereas the U.S. nation is comprised of around 312 million people, less however many millions of non-citizen immigrants are presently resident within its borders.
The Oxford English dictionary defines a nation as “a large body of people united by common descent, history, culture, or language, inhabiting a particular state or territory.” Since the overwhelming majority of the body of American people were Christians in 1776 and 1851, and since 76 percent of Americans still identify themselves as Christians, it is perfectly clear that America was a Christian nation at the time of its founding and remains a Christian nation today.
There is no room for honest debate on the subject. The United States of America is a Christian nation with a secular government. From its inception, it has been a Christian nation with a secular government. And, as de Tocqueville correctly noted, its liberty is directly linked to its Christianity. The main reason American liberties have been systematically reduced since 1851 is because the influence of Christianity throughout the nation has declined. How can freedom possibly be said to come from the U.S. secular government when most of the constitutional protections devised by the Founding Fathers were erected to guard against that very government?
American liberties historically stem from the Christianity of the nation, not the peculiar formation of its secular government. This is why focusing only on the political issues that involve the secular government will never suffice to restore America’s lost liberties, because a nation that does not remain Christian will not, and cannot, hope to remain free for long. To save the government, one must first save the nation.