Was America built on the basis of Christianity?


I ask this question because I see the phrase “In God we trust” on US money.
And how has Christianity affect America? (from politics to life)
Thank you very much.

1 Like


It depends how you look at it. It was not founded on Christian principles, but had a more positivist and Liberal basis. The society would therefore reflect whatever the population valued at any given time. However, given that the population was generally Christian, political and societal values generally reflected that (especially of the Protestant variety). But, as we see in our time, as the population becomes less Christian, so do the societal and political values.



I’d say yes… and no. Yes, in respect that several of the Founding Fathers were at least nominally Christian, no in that a number of them were also Deists, or were drifting that way. Overall, I’d say Enlightenment principals are founded in Christian traditions and the Christian ethos, but at least in part some Enlightenment thinkers rejected some pretty fundamental aspects of Christianity.



This would be my response as well.

Many of the prominent founding fathers were not explicitly Christian, they were deists heavily influenced by a predominately-Christian society. There are certainly explicitly-Christian ideas in the foundational concepts of American society, and most post-colonization Americans have historically been some form of Christian.

I would say that the founding documents were heavily influenced by Christian principles, and the society that built up around them was also Christian in principle for the first hundred and fifty years or so.



No, the United States was built by the Founding Fathers in a way where the State does not dictate to the Church and the Church does not dictate the State.

They did not institute a State Religion, not Christianity, as they were from a wide range of religious and philosophical backgrounds. Deism was the most common thread.



I’d say Locke was the common thread. Not only were the devastations of the Thirty Years War still relatively recent history in the 18th century, so was the egregious nature of the Test Act and other means by which religious minorities in Britain were persecuted still very much a reality. The Founding Fathers were intent on creating a state that was relatively blind to religious beliefs, allowing each person the right to their own conscience in such matters. It was that view of religion which certainly raised the ire of religious conservatives in Europe at the time, and lead to the claims of a heresy of Americanism by Leo XIII in the late 19th century, in particular as it pertained to similar growing sentiments in France.



No, America was founded on Enlightenment philosophical ideas.



For a long time before “In God We Trust” became the national motto it was unofficially “E Pluribus Unum” (“Out of many, one”) In the 1950s it was changed, largely due to the Cold War, as a way to distinguish itself from the Soviet Union.



The Pledge of Allegiance had one nation “under God” added, also. It didn’t used to be there.



The USA was majorly settled by many different Christian groups from Europe seeking freedom to worship and freedom from oppression. The Founding Fathers were mostly not all that religious, but there were some very visionary people like William Penn who promoted freedom of worship and tried to avoid the religious conflicts that plagued Europe.

Also, when you are having to settle in a large isolated land and have very little support structure and often hostility from the natives, you’d be turning to God in a big way and many settlers did.



This reminds me of a paper I read (scholarship) about the early Americans and religion. Many were very pious and escaping horrible discrimination or were hoping to set up the Kingdom of God in the new world OR they were just looking for adventure or to rise above horrible poverty and didn’t care about religion at all! There were very few in between.
I’m trying to remember the percentages but it was close to 50/50. That surprised me as I always thought the large majority were of the pious type. America was very diverse from the get go!



If anything, Masonism was the religion of the founding fathers.



Not really. The Masons do not take a position on who or what God is. They only require that you believe in God to be a mason. More like Deism.



That is a whole nother thread :slight_smile:

1 Like


During Colonial times, up to 1776 on the East Coast, Anglicanism would have been the religion.

In French and Spanish Louisiana, much larger than the state is now, Catholicism was the law. In Spanish East and West Florida (which encompassed about half of the gulf coast), Catholicism was the law. In fact, the Americans in the early 1800’s attacked Spanish Forts near Baton Rouge (Baton Rouge was not part of French Territory) to take possession of West Florida from the Spanish because the Spanish Colonials did not give power to non-catholics. The Americans were successful against the Spanish with treaties being signed after the offensives.

1 Like


That’s our mythology, but the Puritans, to whom we typically credit his, came to form the theocracy that they weren’t allowed in Europe . . .

1 Like


The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania was explicitly founded on the basis of religious freedom by William Penn, a Quaker.

But as stated above…it’s complicated :smirk:



One among many different Christian religions. Before independence, about half of the 13 colonies had established churches that were given special privileges and were funded by taxes.

  1. Massachusetts – Congregational churches (Puritans)
  2. Connecticut – Congregational churches (Puritans)
  3. New Hampshire – Congregational churches (Puritans)
  4. New York – Anglican
  5. Maryland – Anglican
  6. North Carolina – Anglican
  7. South Carolina – Anglican

Other colonies were founded by and for specific groups (Pennsylvania was founded as a refuge for Quakers) but never had established religions and allowed religious freedom for most Christian churches. And scattered throughout the colonies would have been dissenting churches, such as Baptists and Presbyterians.

The establishment clause of the Constitution only applied to the Federal Government originally. State governments were always considered free to establish state churches, and in fact several continued to do so into the 1800s.



We can’t say that America was singularly built on the basis of Christianity, but it has certainly been an influence on the culture.

In Democracy in America, Alexis de Tocqueville described the importance of Christianity to 1830s American society. Unlike in Europe, where liberal democracy was often placed at odds with Christianity Tocqueville noted that in the US religion supported democracy:

Upon my arrival in the United States the religious aspect of the country was the first thing that struck my attention; and the longer I stayed there, the more I perceived the great political consequences resulting from this new state of things.

In France I had almost always seen the spirit of religion and the spirit of freedom marching in opposite directions. But in America I found they were intimately united and that they reigned in common over the same country.

Religion in America…must be regarded as the foremost of the political institutions of that country; for if it does not impart a taste for freedom, it facilitates the use of it. Indeed, it is in this same point of view that the inhabitants of the United States themselves look upon religious belief.

I do not know whether all Americans have a sincere faith in their religion – for who can search the human heart? But I am certain that they hold it to be indispensable to the maintenance of republican institutions. This opinion is not peculiar to a class of citizens or a party, but it belongs to the whole nation and to every rank of society.

In the United States, the sovereign authority is religious…there is no country in the world where the Christian religion retains a greater influence over the souls of men than in America, and there can be no greater proof of its utility and of its conformity to human nature than that its influence is powerfully felt over the most enlightened and free nation of the earth.

In the United States, the influence of religion is not confined to the manners, but it extends to the intelligence of the people…

Christianity, therefore, reigns without obstacle, by universal consent…

I sought for the key to the greatness and genius of America in her harbors…; in her fertile fields and boundless forests; in her rich mines and vast world commerce; in her public school system and institutions of learning. I sought for it in her democratic Congress and in her matchless Constitution.

Not until I went into the churches of America and heard her pulpits flame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her genius and power.

America is great because America is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.

The safeguard of morality is religion, and morality is the best security of law as well as the surest pledge of freedom.

The Americans combine the notions of Christianity and of liberty so intimately in their minds, that it is impossible to make them conceive the one without the other

Christianity is the companion of liberty in all its conflicts – the cradle of its infancy, and the divine source of its claims.



I believe you are mostly, if not totally, correct. Thanks for correcting me.

There is nothing in the 7 articles of the Constitution’s main body which reflects Christianity. It just delineates powers amongst different parties. There is mention of a Creator in The Declaration of Independence, but that document is only a preamble.

Could you add your knowledge with respect to the Articles of Confederation?

1 Like

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.