Was America founded on Christian principles?

In part. A subset of Christian Protestantism believed in the value of individual conscience. Someone either became a Christian as an individual or did not become one under this belief. It was not necessary therefore for everyone to have the same religion for a person to tolerate another.

This is the kind of belief that guided William Penn and Roger Williams to found colonies (Pennsylvania and Connecticut) that did not require allegiance to a state church. Note that this is a very important point, ignored by the two other commentators on this question as of my time of writing. Religious toleration was a RELIGIOUS conviction in American history, not a secular one. Both Penn and Williams were very devout Christians in their own sects--but they pioneered the idea in the English Colonies that freedom of conscience was acceptable and good. NOTE that these two colonies were also the only ones who purchased their land from local Native Americans, as opposed to simply taking it. Of course not all religious people in America shared the convictions that Penn and Williams had. The Puritans in Massachusetts were infamously intolerant--but so were European Churches as a general whole. IN fact, religious toleration was pioneered in what would become the USA--and it was Christians who led the way in such thinking.

America became a homeland for vast numbers of persecuted religious minorities in Europe. This was true of Pennsylvania in particular, which picked up the Amish, Mennonites, and other Anabaptists (Shakers, Dunkers, etc.). But the English Colonies also provided a home from persecution for Catholic minorities in Protestant countries, for Huguenots persecuted in Catholic France, eventually for Jews and for many other religions. All this religious toleration in America originated in Christian thought--and led to the USA being a land of much stronger religious convictions that the European nations who persecuted those religious minorities who fled to America. Their most devout citizens, the ones unwilling to change under persecution, came here and became a part of the fabric of American life.

However, there were a number of Enlightenment philosophers who also supported the right of individual freedoms and were very important in the thought process of America's founders. It can be sometimes hard to trace where Christian thought ends and so-called secular thought begins in America. Even people we know were not specifically Christian in their thought like Thomas Jefferson made references to God in writing that far exceed what we would consider normal today. It was Jefferson who referenced God as giving human beings "inalienable rights" in the Declaration of Independence. Clearly the concept of God was important to almost all of America's Founding Fathers--even if that's not what exclusively guided them.

America went through something called The Great Awakening prior to the American Revolution (a major Christian religious revival) and in general most Americans were FAR MORE CHRISTIAN in their personal habits of worship than most people today. However, the concept of religious tolerance was very important to the Founding Fathers and they did not specifically intend the United States to be a Christian nation. The basic structure of the constitution is in fact more influenced by ancient writings on the Roman Republic than it is by the Bible.

However, many many laws in the early United States were very much influenced by Christian religious influence on English Common law. This mostly operated at the local level. It was, for example, extremely common for it to be illegal for a business to be open on Sunday. Why? Because this was seen as the Christian Sabbath. Did any of the Founding Fathers object to such laws? In general, no--they considered Christian-influenced laws and thought to be so normal they hardly recognized the degree to which they were Christian. (This is of course also true in the laws they accepted in regard to many other things, including marriage, which was thoroughly influenced by Christian notions, which has only recently been redefined by the Supreme Court.)

At the Federal level the primary contribution of Christian tradition to the US Constitution is found in the 1st Amendment. The lack of establishment of a state church was very much on the mind of American religious minorities (almost all of whom were Christians at the time)--they were the ones who ensured this amendment was there. Not secularists. What they meant by the amendment was different at the time that how has been subsequently interpreted. There is no real doubt about that in full historical context, but some people still debate the matter.

Overall, America was partially founded on Christian principles. Christianity was much more important in the thinking of the Founding Fathers than it is to most Americans now--even though they never specifically intended to create "a Christian Nation."


No. America was founded on ancient Socratic philosophies described in Plato's The Repbulic.


The "Puritans" were not pure because they were hyper-religious.  They believed in "pure" religion, but for a sub-group, "The Separating Puritans" the purity they talked about also included having government free of religion, and religion free of government. 

John Lothropp (an ancestor of mine, and of many other people) was a prominent minister in New England in the 1630s, who had been imprisoned in England for fighting against government involvement in religion, and his ideas of separation of church and state were shared by many of his contemporaries.  Lothropp has also been called, "The Father of Presidents" because about a half dozen US Presidents, as well as many governors, senators, and other politicians are descended from him.  Lothropp's ideas of the importance of separation of church and state eventually became the mainstream view of most Americans, so when the United States was formed, though it was started by Christians, it was specifically set up as a religion-neutral country.  Probably most of the citizens considered it to be a Christian country, "of course," but it was never officially religious.  However, separation of church and state didn't just mean that there was no official state religion, but it also mean that the government was not supposed to have ANY input into religious affairs and beliefs. 

So, I would contend that the United States WAS set up as a Christian country, because Christianity was the predominant religion of almost everyone in the culture.  As such, their Christian views could not help but influence government.  However, cultural Christianity and codified, government involvement with Christianity are two very different things.

Rewriting history is a dirty job, but somebody's gotta do it.

The United States was not intended to be a religious theocracy, but We The People did codify in our founding documents that a Judaeo-Christian God-Creator endowed inalienable rights to people, not the government. Government was instituted to protect the rights the God Creator gave to the people. "To secure these rights governments are instituted among men."

This is the very backbone of American civil society and rights.

It absolutely says this is "the very foundation" the whole part about a God Creator giving multiple inalienable rights to people government cannot take away.

That's what makes Americans free, God. Rights are not given by a politburo, not from a parliament, not from a Congressinal body, but from God the Creator.

Government doesn't give us these liberties. The God Creator issued them to us, so no Government can legitimately take them away.


If we consider the pre-Independence, Colonial period, Christian principles and values seem to be more relevant. One argument is that the original 13 colonies belonged to the British Empire, whose king presided over an imperial church, and therefore, British citizens residing in those colonies lived under Christian rule.

However, attempts to link Christianity to the Constitution of 1787 seem to become disputable.

With my limited understanding of American history, I do want to share one key instance from the early early days -

John Smith (c. January 1580 – 21 June 1631), was an English soldier, explorer, and author. He was considered to have played an important part in the establishment of Jamestown, the first permanent English settlement in North America.


Absolutely not. It was founded on philosophical principles of liberty and the rights of citizens vis a vis their government -- rights that the Founders believed were inherently theirs as Britons. They were suspicious of the political influence of established religions, as many of the Founders were not associated with the Anglican Church, as they understood the restrictions on people's liberties when membership in an established church is required to enjoy the full benefits of society. They felt so strongly about it that they enshrined freedom from religious domination in the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof...." This gives you the right to practice whichever religious faith you choose, but to do so in a private, non official sphere.

One can argue that Christian principles, whatever they may be, are evident in the Revolutionary and Constitutional rhetoric of the Founders, but if so it is incidental. They are not the guiding principles. You will see far more of the influence of men like John Locke in the thinking of the Founders than of Jesus of Nazareth.


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