Principle #4 – Without Religion the Government of a Free People Cannot be Maintained.
We, especially those of us in America, have failed to understand the importance of religion in our country and the tremendous emphasis that our Founding Fathers put on it. They realized the importance of religion to help build the nation that they envisioned.
The congress that approved and passed the Constitution in 1787 also passed what is known as the Northwest Ordinance that emphasized the necessity of teaching religion and morality in the schools. The three most important subjects to be covered were first: religion that emphasized man’s relationship to God and his fellowman, secondly: morality as a standard of behavior and discerning between what is right and wrong, and thirdly: knowledge relating to any field of human experience such as history, geography, science, etc.
When I see what is happening in our schools today I see how far we have been moving from this 4th principle. Our Founding Fathers, like George Washington, recognized that without religion morality cannot be maintained.
A problem that the Founding Fathers had was to make sure that no one denomination with their religious tenets and creeds be emphasized above others. It was Benjamin Franklin who came up with the five fundamentals of ‘all sound religion’ that could be taught in public schools.
“The ‘Fundamental Points’ to Be Taught in the Schools:
- There exists a Creator Who made all things, and mankind should recognize and worship Him.
- The Creator has revealed a moral code of behavior for happy living which distinguishes right from wrong.
- The Creator holds mankind responsible for the way they treat each other.
- All mankind live beyond this life.
- In the next life mankind are judged for their conduct in this one.”
Reading through some of the writings of the Founding Fathers one can see that these five things are often mentioned. One paramount issue in these five things is the basis for teaching what I call the “Biblical Worldview.” A worldview is very important because it is through a worldview that one screens everything that comes his or her way. It is through this worldview that decisions of life are made. If the worldview is wrong or off base so will be the decisions that one makes. Here in the West, especially in America, we used to have a Biblical Worldview but now it is more secular and we see the result of this today in our abortions, divorces, broken homes, fatherless kids, etc.
Reading through some of the writings of the Founding Fathers one sees the importance that they laid on religion in the life of the Republic.
Samuel Adams said: “The religion of America is the religion of all mankind.”
John Adams called these tenets the “general principles” on which the American civilization had been founded.”
Thomas Jefferson called these basic beliefs the principles “in which God has united us all.”
It was during this period of time that those promoting atheism and amorality gained control in France and turned the French Revolution into a blood bath and this was something that our Founding Fathers did not want and they saw religion as the way to avoid this.
Alexis de Tocqueville discovered the importance of religion in America when he visited in 1831 and was very impressed with what he saw, and he recognized that what made America great was her religion that taught right and wrong. At the time it was popular in Europe to teach that religion and liberty were enemies of one another. Like de Tocqueville pointed out: “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.”
Another aspect that de Tocqueville saw was “the flaming pulpits” of the churches preaching righteousness as well as the clergy to maintain the “separation of church and state” keeping the state out of religion, but not religion out of the state. He also saw how the clergy had influence on the morals and customs of public life that helped develop the laws and the moral climate of the country.
It was different in Europe where the clergy had political power. To me it brings out the difference between power and influence. The clergy in Europe had power but no influence, yet in the early days of the formation of the American Republic the clergy had influence. What de Tocqueville recognized was that religion in America was what kept families together, and above all it kept individualism under control where instead of just caring for oneself people cared for one another. De Tocqueville recognized that without caring for one another it is easy to rely upon government (welfare) and in the process lose our liberty.
Right now in America we are faced with the danger of losing our religious freedom.