I recently watched a documentary on Amazon Prime called The Hidden Faith of the Founding Fathers. In it, Christian Pinto, a strongly anti-Catholic Evangelical Christian, examines the faith of some of the most famous of our Founding Fathers: George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and notable philosophers such as Thomas Paine, Voltaire, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau. His contention is that the Founders, far from being Christian, were in fact quite adversarial to established Christian doctrine.
Let me preface this by saying that I am a cradle Catholic and while I recognize other branches of Christianity as fully capable of devotion, I do not take kindly to people knocking the Catholic Church or insinuating that somehow Catholics are not Christian; that I am certainly not a conspiracy theorist, but I recognize the possibility of conspiracies; and that as an historian, I hold anything discussing matters of history to a high degree of skepticism. Now that that lengthy disclaimer is out of the way, Pinto’s documentary at times goes way overboard on the conspiracy bits, but his overall thesis holds water.
I know from having extensively studied American history, particularly that of the Revolution, that many of the Founders were not overly religious at all. Jefferson was extremely critical of Christian doctrine; Franklin was a known deist; Washington rarely mentioned God, and when he did, he referred to Him as “Providence.” As for Rousseau and Voltaire, they were extremely anti-Christian. On his deathbed, when Voltaire was being given last rights and was asked to reject Satan, he is said to have replied, “Now, now, this is no time to go making enemies.” Thomas Paine, author of Common Sense and The Crisis, later went on to be a Jacobin radical in the French Revolution and was a proto-Communist. So fuck Thomas Paine. I can personally attest to the fact that many of the Founders were at best lukewarm on Christianity and many were openly hostile to established Church doctrine. It is also widely known that many of the Founders were Freemasons. That’s not conspiracy talk at all. If Disney’s National Treasure saying so doesn’t do it for you, the House of Representatives said so in 2007.
Freemasonry is the subject of all kinds of conspiracy talk, some of it realistic, lots of it just plain nutty. Is it an evil cabal bent on world domination? Probably not. Are lots of well-connected people Freemasons, and do they help each other get ahead? Absolutely. I cannot get into details on it, but I have personally witnessed it. One thing for sure is that Freemasonry is open to pretty much anyone as long as they believe in a god, any god, and are rather ambiguous about who or what that god is. He gets into some nutty bullshit about the Catholic Church’s involvement in American independence, but ignoring that aspect, the rest of what he says is really nothing that Americans have debated for years regarding the role of faith in our Founding or subsequent generations of America. Nothing I have said here so far or refer to in his documentary is all that peculiar or controversial, and after doing some research, I confirmed a great deal of what Pinto states in Hidden Faith.
Here’s the controversial part. Pinto comes to the conclusion that the Founders, at least the most influential of them, were not only not Christian, but hostile to Christianity. They in no way meant to establish the United States as a Christian nation. The inclusion of total religious freedom in the First Amendment and the later declaration that we were “not, in any sense, founded upon the Christian religion” as stated in the Treaty of Tripoli in 1796 was meant to prevent Christian theology from serving as the law of the land, despite the fact that many of the original colonists were devout Christians who came here to worship freely. If this is the case, and I personally believe that it is, what does it say for the future of our country?
The Founders were brilliant, educated men, deep thinkers who took great pains to protect the liberties they had labored so intensely to protect. That being said, it seems improbable that they ever believed that the country would ever be anything other than Anglo-Saxon. Ben Franklin railed against German immigrants because they weren’t white enough. Fucking Germans, not white enough! John Jay praised the fact that we were one people, speaking one language, united by a common faith. The idea of freedom of religion was probably just in theory, or perhaps as a protection for the substantial number of Catholics who were at once reviled by other Americans and had fought in disproportionate numbers in the Revolution. One can easily (and rightly) get the impression that our founding elites were largely of the same mindset of our current ones – you are free to believe whatever you want, as long as they got their way. They never intended for religious plurality beyond different denominations of Christians, much in the same way that our current elites believed that no immigrants would ever prefer any values other than American. But this is not the issue. The issue is what this implies for the Right.
If America is not a Christian nation, if the Founders never intended it to be, then so-called Conservatives have nothing left to conserve. They failed to protect any Christian institutions or the practice of it in anything but narrow means. This would be the death-knell for their claims on America’s past and future. For the rest of us, those who actually plan on winning the culture wars, it means that by pushing for Christian values and Christian primacy in the United States, we are not trying to restore something lost but instill something new. This has tremendous implications for our cause, as it means we actually have something around which to rally. Perhaps, here, ends the Old Secular Order.