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au contraire, mon frere

What the Founders Fathers Really Thought About Religion.


I am weary of hearing Rick “Google me” Santorum, Michele “Google-my-husband” Bachmann and their ilk co-opting the words and intentions of the great Americans who conceived and created this nation. Most of the founders --and certainly our first half dozen Presidents--were not devout at all. On the contrary, they were men of enlightenment and science. Here is a small sampling of what they had to say about religion:

"I had hoped that liberal and enlightened thought would have reconciled the Christians so that their religious fights would not endanger the peace of society." "We have abundant reason to rejoice that in this land, the light of truth and reason has triumphed over the power of bigotry and superstition, and that every person may worship god according to the dictates of his own heart."

- George Washington

This would be the best of all possible worlds, if there were no religion in it. Consider the calamities that engine of grief has produced!

- John Adams

"Whenever we read the obscene stories, the voluptuous debaucheries, the cruel and torturous executions, the unrelenting vindictiveness, with which more than half the Bible is filled, it would be more consistent that we called it the word of a demon, than the word of God. It is a history of wickedness, that has served to corrupt and brutalize mankind."

- Thomas Paine (The Age of Reason, 1794-1795.)

"Lighthouses are more useful than churches."

- Benjamin Franklin

I do not believe in the creed professed by the Jewish church, by the Roman church, by the Greek church, by the Turkish church, by the Protestant church, nor by any church that I know of... Each of those churches accuse the other of unbelief; and for my own part, I disbelieve them all."

- Thomas Paine (The Age of Reason, 1794-1795)

"During almost fifteen centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial. What have been its fruits? More or less in all places, pride and indolence in the Clergy, ignorance and servility in the laity; in both, superstition, bigotry and persecution."

James Madison (Memorial and Remonstrance against Religious Assessments, 1785.)

"Is uniformity attainable? Millions of innocent men, women, and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined, imprisoned; yet we have not advanced one inch towards uniformity. What has been the effect of coercion? To make one half the world fools and the other half hypocrites. To support roguery and error all over the earth."

Thomas Jefferson (Notes on Virginia, 1782)

"Where do we find a precept in the Bible for Creeds, Confessions, Doctrines and Oaths, and whole carloads of other trumpery that we find religion encumbered with in these days?"

- John Adams

"The civil rights of none shall be abridged on account of religious belief or worship, nor shall any national religion be established, nor shall the full and equal rights of conscience be in any manner, or on any pretence, infringed.''

- James Madison (Original wording of the First Amendment; Annals of Congress , June 8, 1789)

"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 Musselmen; and as the said States never have entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mehomitan 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."

- President John Adams (Treaty of Tripoli, 1797)

"As to religion, I hold it to be the indispensable duty of government to protect all conscientious protesters thereof, and I know of no other business government has to do therewith."

- Thomas Paine (Common Sense, 1776)

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