America is Not a Christian Nation



it's great to welcome back to the program today Andrew Seidel who's a civil rights and constitutional attorney with the Freedom From Religion Foundation where he serves as the director of strategic response works to keep state and church separate his new book is the founding myth why Christian nationalism is unamerican Andrew so great to have you back on thank you for having me on it really is a pleasure I appreciate it David so we recently did a story which was called something like the founding fathers were progressive and you should be too and with without getting into the sort of politics of it there is this idea which was part of that story that we did our best to debunk which is the idea that because all of the founding fathers were Christian that there is either some explicit or implicit reasoning behind saying the United States is fundamentally a Christian nation now before we get to part two of that the first question we have to ask is where the founding fathers actually Christian what we found is that while they were mostly deists they were not actually mostly Christian as is often described but my question to you is does that even really matter in figuring out whether the United States should have this sort of motto or umbrella term of being a Christian nation is the is the religion of the founding fathers even relevant to that my contention is that it is not and this is the argument that I try to make in the founding myth it's a really interesting conversation and it's fascinating to delve into the beliefs of the founders but when you're talking about well is this actually a Christian nation it doesn't matter so if it let's say let's just agree for a second for the sake of argument that all the founders were these Bible believing Jesus rose from the dead Christians you would still then have to connect those beliefs to the founding of the United States and just because somebody is religious their religion doesn't claim ownership over every other idea that their mind generates you know for instance blue jeans were invented by two Jewish guys but we don't go around calling them Jewish blue jeans they're just blue jeans well you some of the YouTube comments I get before you say nobody's doing that but yeah I don't think we shouldn't be doing that yeah and we don't think we can judge everything by the YouTube comments because they do yes yeah nikka generates quick down there sorry everybody the larger point I think is you would still have to connect it to the founding and you can't do that and when you look at what the founders talked about and believed and actually wrote in to the founding documents they really did believe in the separation of state and church they were trying to keep religion out of government and government out of religion and those were kind of that was kind of one of the big ideas that was unique to America it was the first time that that had been put into practice and it was I mean it's the it's the American invention then probably our biggest contribution to political science and we ought to be proud of that fact as Americans proud of the separation of state and church I ended proud of its progressive leanings I think as well so if if indeed the original founders were did not have this belief of sort of Christian nationalism as the basis for the United States of America and now there is a wing of the American political sphere that does have that belief at some point something made that belief start among a certain wing of the American political sphere where did that start where did it come from where did this idea this talking point that became very prevalent in certain political circles start from if not with the actual founders that and that's a fascinating question so Christian national Christian nationalism is really this idea that the United States not only was founded as a Judea as a Christian nation but it was founded on judeo-christian principles yeah and put that Dakota to that is that it needs to return to those principles so really and that is the that's the driving motivating force for Christian nationalists they're trying to get this returned this the and it's it's Golden Age thinking really accept that the problem for them is that we never were founded as a Christian nation so you saw it really ride the rise of Christian nationalism began with sort of the rise of the moral majority and it wouldn't it didn't really get that name Christian nationalism until the mid 2000s and it was always sort of this impotent little sideshow on the fringes of conservative politics on the fringes of conservative religion but that all changed with the 2016 election because Donald Trump rode a wave of Christian nationalism into the highest office in the land I mean he is not president in spite of his Christian nationalist leanings and rhetoric but because of that Christian nationalist rhetoric yeah and that gets us to making this distinction which is an important one between someone between Christianity so to speak and Christian nationalism because I think as many have obviously pointed out if you compare Donald Trump's philosophy and the way he's lived his life to the sort of Christian Bible you see a lot of contradictions there you see a lot of problems but ultimately most evangelical Christians did vote for Donald Trump and it seems to me Andrew and correct me if I'm wrong wrong that underlying it is that even though Donald Trump may not have personally lived his life as a Christian the nationalistic undertones of Donald Trump's campaign are in line with this broader idea of Christian nationalism that seems to be kind of separate from one identifying as a Baptist or or or as an evangelical for example know that and that's absolutely right and it's really important that people understand that the number one predictor of whether or not somebody would vote for Donald Trump in the 2016 election was not political party and it was not their religion I wasn't even whether or not they were racist socioeconomic status none of that the number one predictor was whether or not somebody believed that the United States was a Christian nation so Christian nationalism was the best indicator of whether or not somebody was would have been a Donald Trump voter in the 2016 election that data is pretty ironclad now Andrew Whitehead out of the University of Clemson has done a number of studies on this it's it's very clear so Trump wasn't tapping into even the Republican Party or even into the evangelical movement there's just happens to be a huge overlap between those two and Christian nationalism that was really what he was tapping into to win this election what about that's a little more amorphous idea of the you you alluded to it already judeo-christian values which is we can we can slice and dice the exact religions of the founders we can talk about separation of church and state in some kind of formal or legal sense but it's undeniable some will say that the sort of the mental moral infrastructure of the United States was based on the judeo-christian and really – that means Christian because there were almost no Jews who were part of this group mostly Christian people Christian Christian insight in terms of the values again not in terms of necessarily identifying as Baptist or whatever the case may be who said we want to leave England and settle the new world in order to have full religious freedom how do we take on that argument which is a little bit more nebulous and blurry and and that's exactly what I try to do in the founding myth and it is more nebulous and blurry and that's why it's the fallback position if you can push back on were not founded as a Christian nation the next argument you always get is well I really meant we were founded on judeo-christian principles and that's really what the founding myth pushes back on and so what I did was I actually compared the judeo-christian principles from the Bible I looked at every one of the Ten Commandments and then I compared those to the founding principles the United States to those elements of political science and political philosophy that the founders used to actually build this country and I what I discovered was not just that judeo-christian principles didn't influence the founding but that they're fundamentally opposed to the founding of the United States what give like a one or two examples of that if you can I mean the best example would be let's just focus on the first of the first commandment right the first commandment is I am the Lord your God you shall have no other gods before me it runs completely counter to one of our founding principles religious liberty you can worship no God you can worship a hundred gods you get to have free religious liberty in this in this country and if you were to follow the Ten Commandments you only get to worship that biblical God and that's it so there's this fundamental conflict so it's not only that we weren't founded on judeo-christian values or principles but it's a good thing we weren't otherwise we wouldn't have the values and the freedoms that we so cherish today so if we decided to cherry-pick only the areas in which maybe there does seem to be significant overlap between the sort of founding values in Christianity just as a thought experiment for a second we then get to the problem of sort of correlation and causation and I've actually heard a number of of thinkers point out that just because most of the individuals who made big advancements in for example stone tools metal tools maybe it's a better example were adherents to a certain religion that doesn't really give us any causal case for the religion being a factor it may just be that at the time there was a sort of default to a particular religious belief so to speak a lot of the values that do seem to overlap between the founders of the US and Christianity are values that existed much more than 5,000 years ago in human societies anyway some of the question is are they really even Christian values and that's a really excellent point and it is one that I do make in the founding myth in a couple different places one thing that we often hear is well the United States is it was founded on the Golden Rule and I think that's a hard argument to make actually but I just assume for the sake of argument in the book that that is true but then the liquid next question is well is the golden rule really a Christian principle and my argument is that it's not this is a universal human principle that every successful society we know of has developed on its own I mean a 2 3 4 year-old child can understand the idea of reciprocal morality it's it's really not a difficult concept and to allow Christian Christianity or even Christian nationalism to claim it as its own is is to me a form of arrogance that that I don't think we should allow to stand can you talk a little bit about slogans like In God We Trust on money or one nation under God or the addition of a reference to God in the Pledge of Allegiance and the role that those slogans have in perpetuating these ideas of the United States as a Christian nation I mean they have a huge role in perpetuating that myth and the role is deliberate so you know one thing that I think maybe our site is pretty good at when it comes to pushing back on those those mottos is pointing out that none of those are from the founding generation but then we tend to leave it at that and in the founding myth I really wanted to go beyond that I so I explore how these phrases entered our vernacular and it turns out that they were deliberately put there during times of national fear and strife when you had a few very few a handful in each case Christians Christian nationalists we would call them today trying to use their public office to promote their personal religion so you know you have this happening during the height of the Civil War when the country is literally tearing itself apart and people aren't paying attention to what's being inscribed on the coinage and yet it's basically three guys responsible for getting it on there at that point the same thing was happening in the 1950s where we ended up with the National Day of Prayer and under God in the pledge that it was this time of national fear and so it's not just that they're taking advantage of a country that's scared and fearful but they're also wiping out unifying sentiments with religion which tends to be really divisive you know and so our original de facto motto was a pluribus unum from one people or from one from many people one nation from many states one country and they wiped that out within god we trust' and the same thing happened with the Pledge of Allegiance it used to read one nation individual indivisible which is this beautiful sentiment and then they're literally dividing the indivisible with God so it's not just they're taking advantage of times of fear and strife and then they're wiping out unifying sentiments to promote their personal religion this seems way bigger to me than partisan politics in the sense that okay I mean there are candidates whose philosophy is more of a departure from the sort of thinking that gets you to Christian nationalism so there are differences I'm not pretending that Trump and Biden and Bernie are all sort of like the same on this but but in a sense this is a much bigger cultural thing this relates to the courts and the Supreme Court in ways that that kind of transcend many decades so how does something like this change in a country when who we elect is only like a small piece of it you're absolutely right and right now it's infecting all kinds of policy immigration policy we saw it in the Muslim ban Education Policy Betsy DeVos is essentially trying to dismantle public education all of those are on the back of Christian nationalism foreign-policy we're seeing and you are right that courts judges and not just Trump judges are deciding cases based on some of the myths and the lies that I try to expose in my book but you're also right to say that it's bigger because at its most basic level what this is is an attempt to redefine what it is to be an American they are trying to say that to be an American you have to be a Christian and to be a Christian is to be an American and once they've redefined the American identity like that they're going to redefine all of our laws accordingly and to me that is one of the central reasons why I say that Christian nationalism is unamerican it's not just that those judeo-christian principles often are directly opposed to our founding values it's that this entire movement is meant to redefine what it is to be an American in an unamerican way we've been talking a lot about the content of Andrew sidles new book the founding myth why Christian nationalism is unamerican but there's much more great stuff in it Andrew always great to talk to you and I really appreciate your time David thank you so much it's always a pleasure

41 comments

  1. Considering the first 4 of the 10 commandments contradict the 1st amendment, as alluded to by Mr. Seidel, that's proof that the US was not founded on Judeo-Christian values. But then again, you could argue that the US was founded with slavery and taking land that belonged to someone else and murdering them, those fit in the J-C 'values'. So they've got that going for them.

  2. No their not Christians but they go around acting like God! Trying to force feed their corrupt sense of righteousness and morality on the rest of the world . Yet if they were to take a good long look inwards they would see what the rest of the world sees? Terrorists that have taken advantage of the American public, for their own self interests all under the American flag and in the name of God? I just hope there is one so all of you that have twisted the system knowing it was wrong have to answer in one way or another?

  3. american is not a christian nation and never will be. the native people had a belief system in place all ready tell the crazy christian showed up christianity is a religion of abuse. the only true religion in america is the native peoples way.

  4. The U.S. is not a Christian nation! No kidding!,I get that everytime I turn on the tv and see what they are broadcasting now! I get that everytime I turn on a social platform on internet and read the comments laced with hate,vulgarity,and "ego"!!!

  5. When the new President takes the oath of office, he places his hand on ? …….. And our money says In God we trust. lol

  6. I always knew something was off when evangelicals were gaining steam since the 80s, Trump isn't even a Christian but it goes to show they don't care about facts as long as the evangelicals get what they want: Total religious control of this country. It's literally Sharia law, but instead of Muslims it's Christians. It's hard to talk to people because they drank the kool-aid, my facebook feed of family and friends reads more like a cult parroting right wing memes.

    Christians always rubbed off me as low-life opportunists when a crisis is involved. They come of as genuinely caring but awfully flaky when you look to them for help (Joel Olsteen, and other pastors that got rich off the poor and un-educated). It's also attractive to bad people who misconstrue Christ's teachings as a means to judge others yet never atone for their misdeeds in life and the people they hurt along the way. Also said religion worship their savior by slapping Christian decorations all over TWO historically known pegan holidays.

    Evil is too strong of a word to describe, it's more of lack of self-awareness and responsibility and the Bible is the perfect enabler for that kind of reckless behavior. There was a time where even the Republican party was well respected before evangelical bigots started infiltrating their ranks during the civil rights movement leaving the old world Democrats an empty husk for a while.

    Between the flat earthers, anti-vaxxers, climate change deniers, and full on Trumpers I feel this country is beyond fucked. We're not the leading nation in anything but lies and tacky hollywood movies now.

  7. The reason people say America is a Christian nation is because the majority of the electorate and members of the government are Christian. It has always been that way. That being said, the Bible states that in ALL, not some, of the WAYS ACKNOWLEDGE HIM(GOD). The left is always running psychs with these strawman deceptive terms. There is no such thing as a Christian nationalist.

  8. But unfortunately, Christian extremists are successfully forcing their beliefs into laws imposed on women across the country.

    Yours is one of the most thoughtful of the left video shows, and I eagerly look forward to your reaction to the wave of anti-abortion laws sweeping the US.

  9. I don't know how many times I heard in the 80s and 90s "Everyone can tell we are a Christian nation by looking at our money." (In God We Trust) What was interresting is that view was never juxaposed with their view that the eye and pyramid was not Christian and even seen as satanic. Either one point or the other were pointed out separately. So IGWT means Christian nation but an eye and pyramid and other symbols never means we are a satanic nation. Yeah ok.

  10. Only an idiot thinks we're a Christian nation. There's a difference between most of the people being Christian and the government being Christian.

    If we were truly a Christian nation then Christianity would be the default religion, we'd be ruled by a council of priests, we'd have mandatory calls to prayer and we'd have blasphemy laws which say you can't say anything bad about Jesus. In other words, we'd be Saudi Arabia except Christian.

    Tell that to somebody who insists we're a Christian nation and watch their heads explode.

  11. Unfortunately, now days, it seems is not the only the written words, or the constitution that seems to count; rather the behaviors and the rewriting of new laws. It looks rather like the irrational xstian behaving SAPIENS are dictating to the rest of us what behaviors they want to force on the rest of us.

  12. The Roman empire was founded by polytheists. Obviously, it should have reverted to those founding beliefs instead of making Christianity the state religion.

  13. This Evangelical Prayer-Coin Grift Is What the Age of Trump Is All About 
    https://www.esquire.com/news-politics/a27478606/jim-bakker-pray-coin-president-donald-trump-45/

  14. The founding fathers did not get "divisive" with God: to them "God" IS the Unifying Principle that works eternally toward It's desired End. Now flip it: the "Unifying Principle"……is God. This goofus has a very limited understanding of religion. Not his forte. He took a weekend jaunt into the field and now he thinks he knows what is buried underneath it. Dave's is a little better, but he is usually pretty respectful while pointing out the stuff that he perceives as destructive. Perhaps that is because he can pretty much only see the destructive, degenerated part. Also known as "Exoteric Religion".

  15. There is no "God inspired" government described in the New Testament. Our government is a republic. All you can take away from the bible is that God's government is a monarchy, and therefore no voting.

  16. The most dangerous belief is the belief in government. Anyone who wants government doesn’t believe in the natural rights of individuals.

  17. The fact that trump became president because of evangelical rhetoric tells you all you need to know about both trump and evangelicals….

  18. I'm a proud pagan. To all Christian nationalist who say the constitution is based on the bible, I ask which part of the bible was the first amendment, freedom of religion (OR lack of religion) based on?

  19. The term Judeo Christian is also a myth which was created roughly at the same time as the creation of Israel.

  20. I'm glad he brought up "one nation indivisible" which was actually the key phrase in the Pledge. The purpose of the Pledge was to ensure that people were loyal to the country not just their state. As a teacher I encounter the Pledge on a daily basis and I remain silent during the "under God" portion.

  21. i was a hippie the reason i left the liberal agenda was finding the lord lol the liberal media really hates god and i dont like trump lol where do u go

  22. It was founded upon the principle of a Divine Creator… "that all men are endowed, by their Creator with certain inalienable rights"…now within this paradigm…Christianity is included…but its not limited to "just" Christianity…this is an infinite universe…as the man said in the video…most of the Founding Fathers were Deist, and I'd add to that Master Masons

  23. Democrats won’t be satisfied until Americans are getting raped and beheaded by Muslims in the streets.

  24. "Even your average 3 year old understands the concept of reciprocal morality."… Beautifully stated retort to the "Golden Rule is a Christian concept".
    ETA: I will be stealing and actively using this.

  25. Conservative Evangelicalism is a very new religion, it was founded in the 1900s by a committee funded by oil oligarchs. It's no coincidence you see high levels of this religion in oil states and oil provinces of Canada. The solution is not ridiculing this group, it's getting a PhD in nuclear physics, designing and building new nuclear reactors and electric vehicles, and getting the world out of the grip of the oil industry.

  26. Brilliantly done by both gentlemen! The principle of logic and the world of thinkers are thankful to you.

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