Little Known American Spiritual History
Even though the founding fathers of the United States of America did their best to create and ensure freedom, equality and democracy, they were still British-Americans and they were influenced by European traditions. In fact, the U.S. Government has its roots in European Empires, particularly the British Empire and the earlier Roman Empire, and that is particularly evident in its legal and economic systems.
After all, when a significant dispute arose early on between Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson about economics, Hamilton won because he touted the existing British-American system. Hamilton liked it because it was built around corporate and private capitalism, while Jefferson advocated for a more equitable and democratic economic system. But Hamilton prevailed because his views appealed more to the relative few who had become wealthy and powerful due to the economic traditions that had been carried over from Europe. Consequently, corporate and private capital wealth remained the ruling factor and the essential source of power, as it was in Europe.
Fortunately, though, when it came to democratic political ideals, Jefferson's views appealed to more people, because even the wealthy and powerful few Americans wanted to be free of monarchy as they had known it. That's why the seed of Jeffersonian democracy was planted in America. Even though the European economic model was carried over and continued, America at least became more democratic in its leadership. And, while Jefferson played a key role in that, he was able to do so because most of the founding fathers of the United States of America were also pluralistic and democratic in their political ideals.
What many Americans do not know, however, is that the founding fathers were especially pluralistic and democratic in their views on religion. They did their best to establish religious equality, freedom of religion, and freedom from religious bigotry, and to ensure that there was a separation of church and state.
The writings of Jefferson, Madison, Adams and Franklin were particularly adamant about that. For example, Jefferson wrote: "I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, thus building a wall of separation between church and State."
The writings of the founding fathers also show they were very wary and disapproving of religious superstition, bigotry, intolerance, hypocrisy, aggression, imposition, and persecution. They were very critical of certain conservative "fundamentalist" Christian sects in that regard.
Indeed, Jefferson wrote: "The returning good sense of our country threatens [the fundamentalist clergy] and they believe that any portion of power confided to me will be exerted in opposition to their schemes. And they believe rightly; for I have sworn upon the altar of God, eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man. But this is all they have to fear from me, and enough too in their opinion, and this is the cause of their printing lying pamphlets against me. . ."
Jefferson incurred the wrath of the "Christian Right" in his day because he did not hide his disdain for them. He dared to echo the feelings of many of his fellow educated men of faith, as when he wrote: "Whenever preachers, instead of a lesson in religion, put [their congregations] off with a discourse on the construction of government, or the characters or conduct of those administering it, it is a breach of contract."
Clearly, Jefferson felt that preachers should not use their pulpit as a partisan political soap box, especially when their personal beliefs and opinions were presented as divine truth. Jefferson stood up to their political grandstanding cloaked in religion, and he exposed their "tyrannical" aggression and imposition. And they hated him for it.
Benjamin Franklin, a founding father and a genius, felt the same way. He became a Deist after educating himself and turning away from his rigid and oppressive Calvinist Protestant Christian upbringing. Deism, which was popular among many educated men of faith at the time, is the belief in the existence of God on the evidence of reason and nature, with rejection of superstition.
To give you an example of how Franklin felt, in an essay on "Toleration" he stated: "If we look back into history for the character of the present sects in Christianity, we shall find few that have not in their turns been persecutors, and complainers of persecution. The primitive Christians thought persecution extremely wrong in the Pagans, but practiced it on one another. The first Protestants of the Church of England blamed persecution in the Romish church, but practiced it upon the Puritans. (The Puritans) found it wrong in the Bishops (of the Church of England), but fell into the same practice themselves in New England (in America)."
Most of the founding fathers, especially Thomas Jefferson, understood that the "New Testament" Christian Bible had been compromised, whether by the original authors so long after the death of Jesus, or by later translators and interpreters. In 1820 Thomas Jefferson wrote: "Among the sayings and discourses imputed to Jesus by his biographers, I find many passages of fine imagination, correct morality, and of the most lovely benevolence; and others again of so much ignorance, so much absurdity, so much untruth, charlatanism, and imposture, as to pronounce it impossible that such contradictions should have proceeded from the same being."
That shows how understanding, honest and realistic Jefferson was, and he said such things because he had the best interests of the people at heart.
That's why Abraham Lincoln later said: "The principles of Jefferson are the axioms (fundamental principles) of a free society."