Atheism Unknown in America

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Poor Richard Almanack 1739

Poor Richard Almanack 1739

American Minute from William J. Federer

On APRIL 17, 1790, the son of a poor candle-maker died.

The 15th of 17 children, he apprenticed as a printer and published a popular almanac.

He retired at age 42, then taught himself five languages, invented the rocking chair, bifocal glasses and the lighting rod, which earned him degrees from Harvard and Yale.

He helped found the University of Pennsylvania, a hospital, America’s first postal system and fire department.

He became the governor of Pennsylvania, signed the Declaration of Independence and called for prayer at the Constitutional Convention.

He was president of America’s first anti-slavery society.

His name was Ben Franklin.

When France and Spain raided American colonies, Ben Franklin proposed a General Fast, which was published in the Pennsylvania Gazette, December 12, 1747:

“We have…thought fit…to appoint…a Day of Fasting & Prayer, exhorting all, both Ministers & People…to join with one accord in the most humble & fervent supplications that Almighty God would mercifully interpose and still the rage of war among the nations & put a stop to the effusion of Christian blood.”

In his Poor Richard’s Almanac, May 1757, Ben Franklin wrote:

“Work as if you were to live 100 years; pray as if you were to die tomorrow.”

In a pamphlet for Europeans titled Information to Those Who Would Remove to America, 1754, Benjamin Franklin wrote:

“Atheism is unknown there; Infidelity rare and secret; so that persons may live to a great age in that country without having their piety shocked by meeting with either an Atheist or an Infidel.

“And the Divine Being seems…pleased to favor the whole country.”


  1. Bob Ellis says:

    Although Franklin was one of the least religious fo the founders and did at one time call himself a deist, it is abundantly clear that he did not believe the key tenets of deism or live his life according to deism. Further, he also called himself a Christian.

    Regardless of the cause of atheism, it remains only a small segment within American life (more than 80% of Americans still call themselves Christians), and as Franklin stated, at the time of our founding, it was virtually unknown in America. Thus we can confidently state, along with the mountains of other evidence, that America was indeed founded by Christians on Christian principles.

  2. Bob Ellis says:

    No, I do not make a leap. I state a demonstrable fact: America was founded by Christians on Christian principles.

    The truth is, we DO see Christian principles in the founding documents of our country. Frankly, one has to be blind, stupid or a liar to claim to not see them in the Declaration of Independence. They are more subtle in the U.S. Constitution, yet the foundation of this document and the system of government it establishes are unmistakable to someone who is informed about both Christianity and government. For example, the Christian recognition that humanity is fallen and predisposed toward sinful behavior is at the heart of the Constitution’s limits on government, checks and balances, and divisions of responsibility. The founders knew that human beings who have power tend to misuse that power because of our sin nature, and set up “roadblocks” based on that understanding to preserve freedom.

    For more information, I suggest you read these articles:

    It might (or might not) interest you to know that Enlightenment thought actually owes its foundation to the Christian worldview. To be sure, like anything, Enlightenment thinking can and did get off course. The same “Enlightenment thinking” that produced a Christian nation like the United States also produced the bloody secularist French Revolution. Sadly, many took Enlightenment concepts to illegitimate ends, arrogantly elevating human intellectual capacity to an idolatrous level of godhood. And as I have illustrated before today in another thread, elevating human understanding to godhood (i.e. atheism) usually results in bloodshed and barbarism when its tenets are taken to their natural and practical conclusion.

    The founders rightly understood that theocracy is a bad way to go, and they had plenty of examples from Europe where there were state-run churches and church-run states. When one organization controls both the reins of power and the voice of conscience, oppression usually follows because, due to that same fallen sin-nature, it’s too easy for humans to silence or “re-think” conscience’s voice of morality so that it is more “in sync” with where the power wants to go. Therefore, they wisely established with the First Amendment that there would be no theocracy in America, no church-run state and no state-run church.

    They did not, however, believe for a split-second, that government should (or even could) be separated from faith, especially the Christian faith. The very fact that they established our system of government and subsequent laws on Christian principles makes this obvious, and their multitudinous statements affirming this truth only serve to remove any doubt whatsoever:

    I have lived, Sir, a long time and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth — that God governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without his aid? We have been assured, Sir, in the sacred writings that “except the Lord build they labor in vain that build it.”…I therefore beg leave to move — that henceforth prayers imploring the assistance of Heaven, and its blessings on our deliberations, be held in this Assembly every morning before we proceed to business, and that one or more of the Clergy of this City be requested to officiate in that service. – Benjamin Franklin, at the convention to establish the US Constitution

    Whoever is an avowed enemy of God, I scruple not to call him an enemy to his country…God grant that in America true religion and civil liberty may be inseparable and that the unjust attempts to destroy one may in the issue tend to the support and establishment of both. – John Witherspoon, signer of the Declaration

    The general principles on which the fathers achieved independence were…the general principles of Christianity. – John Adams

    Human law must rest its authority ultimately upon the authority of that law which is divine. – James Wilson, signer of the Constitution, U.S. Supreme Court Judge

    Men, in a word, must necessarily be controlled either by a power within them or by a power without them; either by the Word of God or by the strong arm of man; either by the Bible or by the bayonet. – Robert Winthrop, Speaker of the U.S. House

    Without morals a republic cannot subsist any length of time; they therefore who are decrying the Christian religion whose morality is so sublime and pure…are undermining the solid foundation of morals, the best security for the duration of free governments. – Charles Carroll, signer of the Declaration of Independence

    It should therefore be among the first objects of those who wish well to the national prosperity to encourage and support the principles of religion and morality. – Abraham Baldwin, signer of the Constitution

    The law…dictated by God Himself is, of course, superior in obligation to any other. It is binding over all the globe, in all countries, and at all times. No human laws are of any validity if contrary to this. – Alexander Hamilton, signer of the Constitution

    Religion and morality…are necessary to good government, good order and good laws, for “when the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice” – William Paterson, signer of the Constitution, U.S. Supreme Court Justice

    The Holy Scriptures…can alone secure to society, order and peace, and to our courts of justice and constitutions of government, purity, stability, and usefulness. In vain, without the Bible, we increase penal laws and draw entrenchments around our institutions. Bibles are strong entrenchments. Where they abound, men cannot pursue wicked courses. – James McHenry, signer of the Constitution, Secretary of War

    Can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are of the gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with his wrath? Indeed I tremble for my country when reflect that God is just: that his justice cannot sleep for ever… -Thomas Jefferson

    It yet remains a problem to be solved in human affairs whether any free government can be permanent where the public worship of God and the support of religion constitute no part of the policy or duty of the state in any assignable shape. – Joseph Story, U.S. Supreme Court Judge, Father of American Jurisprudence

    Let it never be forgotten that there can be no genuine freedom where there is no morality, and no sound morality where there is no religion…Hesitate not a moment to believe that the man who labors to destroy these two great pillars of human happiness…is neither a good patriot nor a good man. – Jeremiah Smith, Revolutionary soldier, judge, U.S. Congressman, Governor of New Hampshire

    It is religion and morality alone which can establish the principles upon which freedom can securely stand. Religion and virtue are the only foundations…of republicanism and of all free governments. – John Adams

    If we pass beyond these matters to a view of American life, as expressed by its laws, its business, its customs, and its society, we find every where a clear recognition of the same truth. Among other matters, note the following: the form of oath universally prevailing, concluding with an appeal to the Almighty; the custom of opening sessions of all deliberative bodies and most conventions with prayer; the prefatory words of all wills, “In the name of God, amen;” the laws respecting the observance of the Sabbath, with the general cessation of all secular business, and the closing of courts, legislatures, and other similar public assemblies on that day; the churches and church organizations which abound in every city, town, and hamlet; the multitude of charitable organizations existing every where under Christian auspices; the gigantic missionary associations, with general support, and aiming to establish Christian missions in every quarter of the globe. These, and many other matters which might be noticed, add a volume of unofficial declarations to the mass of organic utterances that this is a Christian nation. – the conclusion of the U.S. Supreme Court in 1892

    We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other. – John Adams

    No country on earth ever had it more in its power to attain these blessings than United America. Wondrously strange, then, and much to be regretted indeed it would be, were we to neglect the means and to depart from the road which Providence has pointed us to so plainly; I cannot believe it will ever come to pass. – George Washington (how deeply sad that we have betrayed Washington’s confidence)

    WHEREAS it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favour… – President George Washington’s Thanksgiving Proclamation

    The propitious smiles of Heaven can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right which Heaven itself has ordained. – George Washington’s Inaugural Address

    Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, Religion and Morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of Patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of Men and Citizens. … [R]eason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.” – President George Washington’s Farwell Address

    And these are but a handful of the many statements made by the founders which make overwhelmingly clear that they intended for and desperately hoped America always would have Christian values as the foundation of our nation.

    If you have any genuine interest in how America successfully established a non-theocratic government that was based on the Christian religion, I suggest you read Alexis de Tocqueville’s “Democracy in America.” There are certainly many other sources which can assist in understanding this, but this work written by an outsider (a Frenchman) in the early 1800s which observed the phenomenon in some great detail is invaluable in understanding the Christian character of America.

    I have numerous articles on these subjects here and here which, for an objective mind, should remove any doubt whatsoever that America was indeed founded by Christians on Christian principles.

  3. Bob Ellis says:

    So quoting the men who founded our country and established its government is “not really helpful here.” Well, you’re right, I suppose, if you want to craft a fantasy that is contradicted by what they have said and done.

    For those of us who live in the real world, however, the statements and actions of the founders (their criticisms of some Christian institutions, just as I have occasionally done, not withstanding) are invaluable in gleaning the nature and intent of our nation’s founding.

    I should also point out that it is pure conjecture on your part that some of these quotes are “of a deistic persuasion,” especially since almost none of the founders actually were deists, despite the lies of the revisionists. Deism posits that God created the universe and then went on a permanent vacation, having no part at all in his creation. The founders very clearly and very plainly believed in a God who could and often would intervene upon request–this means they were NOT deists.

    The Greeks recognized the need for “checks and balances,” but I should also point out, if you want to play a game of “who got there first,” that the recognition of the human sin nature predates even the Greek civilization. Further, it was the Bible which was the most quoted source of wisdom by the founders, not Greek philosophy and theology. Read their writings and citations if you don’t believe me.

    The definition you cited is an adequate description of the Enlightenment, but it doesn’t in the slightest change the truth of what I said about the Enlightenment and its origins. If you will recall, the founder of the Protestant movement opposed many of those same things…all the while, still one of the most dedicated of Christians you will ever find.

    Part of Enlightenment thinking was indeed a departure from not religious thought but, as you stated, superstitious thought. Superstitious thought is not even remotely confined to the church; in fact, the geocentric mindset of the Middle Ages was a secular idea, not a Christian teaching (the church made the mistake of adopting a flawed secular idea, just as many do evolution today).

    Even after 3,000 years, not a single one of the Bible’s historical or scientific claims have been disproven or found to be in error. If Christians (not to mention non-Christians) would stick with the source of such an unbroken record of reliability, they would be much better off than in listening to the flights of fancy and fairy tales of human beings who have difficulty telling the real world from wishful thinking.