web site hit counter The Founding Myth: Why Christian Nationalism Is Un-American - Ebooks PDF Online
Hot Best Seller

The Founding Myth: Why Christian Nationalism Is Un-American

Availability: Ready to download

Do “In God We Trust,” the Declaration of Independence, and other historical “evidence” prove that America was founded on Judeo-Christian principles? Are the Ten Commandments the basis for American law? A constitutional attorney dives into the debate about religion’s role in America’s founding.   In today’s contentious political climate, understanding religion’s role in Ame Do “In God We Trust,” the Declaration of Independence, and other historical “evidence” prove that America was founded on Judeo-Christian principles? Are the Ten Commandments the basis for American law? A constitutional attorney dives into the debate about religion’s role in America’s founding.   In today’s contentious political climate, understanding religion’s role in American government is more important than ever. Christian nationalists assert that our nation was founded on Judeo-Christian principles, and advocate an agenda based on this popular historical claim. But is this belief true? The Founding Myth answers the question once and for all. Andrew L. Seidel, a constitutional attorney at the Freedom from Religion Foundation, builds his case point by point, comparing the Ten Commandments to the Constitution and contrasting biblical doctrine with America’s founding philosophy, showing that the Bible contradicts the Declaration of Independence’s central tenets. Thoroughly researched, this persuasively argued and fascinating book proves that America was not built on the Bible and that Christian nationalism is, in fact, un-American.


Compare

Do “In God We Trust,” the Declaration of Independence, and other historical “evidence” prove that America was founded on Judeo-Christian principles? Are the Ten Commandments the basis for American law? A constitutional attorney dives into the debate about religion’s role in America’s founding.   In today’s contentious political climate, understanding religion’s role in Ame Do “In God We Trust,” the Declaration of Independence, and other historical “evidence” prove that America was founded on Judeo-Christian principles? Are the Ten Commandments the basis for American law? A constitutional attorney dives into the debate about religion’s role in America’s founding.   In today’s contentious political climate, understanding religion’s role in American government is more important than ever. Christian nationalists assert that our nation was founded on Judeo-Christian principles, and advocate an agenda based on this popular historical claim. But is this belief true? The Founding Myth answers the question once and for all. Andrew L. Seidel, a constitutional attorney at the Freedom from Religion Foundation, builds his case point by point, comparing the Ten Commandments to the Constitution and contrasting biblical doctrine with America’s founding philosophy, showing that the Bible contradicts the Declaration of Independence’s central tenets. Thoroughly researched, this persuasively argued and fascinating book proves that America was not built on the Bible and that Christian nationalism is, in fact, un-American.

30 review for The Founding Myth: Why Christian Nationalism Is Un-American

  1. 4 out of 5

    Daniel S.

    The publication of The Founding Myth could not have come at a better time. As I write this review, three states - Georgia, Ohio, and Alabama - have just passed laws effectively banning abortion. Two more states - Texas and Missouri - are poised to follow suit. Predictably, these bills have been passed along strictly religious lines in states where Christian Nationalists continue to hold enormous influence. The Founding Myth exposes the oft-repeated lie that "America was founded on Judeo-Christian The publication of The Founding Myth could not have come at a better time. As I write this review, three states - Georgia, Ohio, and Alabama - have just passed laws effectively banning abortion. Two more states - Texas and Missouri - are poised to follow suit. Predictably, these bills have been passed along strictly religious lines in states where Christian Nationalists continue to hold enormous influence. The Founding Myth exposes the oft-repeated lie that "America was founded on Judeo-Christian principles." The Founders knew what a nation formed on Christian principles would look like, because many of the colonies had experimented with that approach. In every such experiment, the descent into tyranny and wanton abuse of power was quick and devastating. The Founders specifically rejected the idea of writing religion into our country's founding documents. The Constitution and Bill of Rights mention religion only three times: (1) to ban the use of religious tests for office, (2) to prohibit government from establishing religion, and (3) to guarantee to each citizen the right to worship (or not worship) as he or she chooses. If the Founders had intended to forge the nation on Judeo-Christian principles, one would expect the Constitution to reflect the principles enunciated in the Ten Commandments. But as Andrew L. Seidel - author of The Founding Myth - points out, the Ten Commandments are directly contradicted by the Constitution. Whereas the Ten Commandments require belief in the Judeo-Christian deity, the Constitution explicitly prohibits compulsory worship. Whereas the Ten Commandments prohibit displays of art ("graven images") and blasphemy (using the Lord's name in vain), the Bill of Rights guarantees freedom of expression and freedom of thought. The list goes on. Christian Nationalists often proclaim that we are "one nation under God" and that the Nation's motto - "in God we trust" - is proof of our "Christian heritage." But the Founding Myth reveals both of these phrases to be modern inventions that were inserted into the national dialogue well after the deaths of the Founders, by a handful of zealots exploiting national fears and apprehensions during times of great national strife (the Civil War and the "Red Scare"). The Founding Myth is prescient and important. It could not have come at a better time for our country. We are beset on all sides by constitutional threats from a president who owes his election to Christian Nationalists. Now more than ever, we must return to the secular origins that truly make our country great.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Ryan Boissonneault

    Was America founded as a Christian nation? As we’ll see, the answer is so obvious and the argument so lopsided that it’s a wonder the counter-argument is ever made at all. But unfortunately, Christian nationalism, which should be a politically impotent fringe movement, is in fact a powerful force that not only got Donald Trump elected but that has, with surprising success, redefined what it means to be an American. That something as specious as Christian nationalism has and continues to influence Was America founded as a Christian nation? As we’ll see, the answer is so obvious and the argument so lopsided that it’s a wonder the counter-argument is ever made at all. But unfortunately, Christian nationalism, which should be a politically impotent fringe movement, is in fact a powerful force that not only got Donald Trump elected but that has, with surprising success, redefined what it means to be an American. That something as specious as Christian nationalism has and continues to influence public policy is the reason The Founding Myth, written by constitutional attorney Andrew Seidel, is so important. Ten years in the making, this phenomenal and deftly argued book comes at the perfect time, laying to rest the claim that America is in any way founded on Christianity. As Seidel notes, Christian nationalists argue either one of two positions that differ in subtle ways: 1) that the country was founded as a Christian nation, or 2) that the country was founded on Judeo-Christian principles. The first argument, that the country was founded as a Christian nation, has largely been abandoned because it is so easily and obviously refuted. As Seidel writes: “The claim [that America was founded as a Christian nation] is demonstrably false as revealed by any number of documents from the time, including America’s godless Constitution, Madison’s Memorial, or the Treaty of Tripoli, which was negotiated under President George Washington and signed by President John Adams with the unanimous consent of the US Senate in 1797, and which says that ‘the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion.’” The language could not be clearer. Unlike the colonial constitutions that pre-dated the Revolution, which did include the terms “god,” “Jesus,” and “Christian,” the US Constitution does not mention god once. For the sake of comparison, here’s the text from the beginning of the Mayflower Compact: “In the name of God, Amen. We whose names are under-written, the loyal subjects of our dread sovereign Lord, King James, by the grace of God, of Great Britain, France, and Ireland King, Defender of the Faith, etc. Having undertaken, for the glory of God, and advancement of the Christian faith, and honor of our King and Country, a voyage to plant the first colony in the northern parts of Virginia, do by these presents solemnly and mutually, in the presence of God…” We find similar language in other colonial constitutions, which were not shy about expressing their reliance on the Christian faith. These pre-American British colonies were founded on the Christian faith, and it would therefore not have been surprising for the US Constitution to include similar language. In fact, many people explicitly stated their disapproval that god had been left out, which was surprising and without precedent. The US Constitution is the first example of a secular constitution, and the only logical explanation for the absence of god in a document that was endlessly debated was that the omission was intentional. The Constitution doesn’t mention Jesus, Christianity, god, or the creator, and in fact only mentions religion twice, and only in a restrictive sense: 1. Article VI, Clause 3: “…but no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.” 2. The First Amendment: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” Clearly, the Constitution is not establishing a theocracy; it’s establishing a secular government free from religion so that the people can be free to practice any religion or no religion at all. The founders knew that freedom from the dictates of an ancient tribal code is every bit as important as the freedom to practice any particular variety of it, so long as it does not harm others or supercede the “supreme law of the land,” the Constitution. This is so obvious to anyone who has read the Constitution (and compared it to contemporary constitutions of the time) that most Christian nationalists have retired the “founded as a Christian nation” argument entirely. But they have unfortunately not given up so easily. The next line of argument offers the more subtle point that the founders were deeply religious and that Judeo-Christian principles influenced their political decisions, the founding documents, and our constitutional and political identity. This is also false, but in less obvious ways. What makes The Founding Myth unique is that, unlike similar books, the idea of Judeo-Christian influence is thoroughly critiqued and conclusively refuted. The first part of the book discusses the “interesting but irrelevant” personal religious beliefs of the founders. It’s not necessary to spend much time on this, because as Seidel notes, the founders went out of their way to stress the irrelevance of personal religious beliefs in public discourse and the importance of “the wall of separation” between church and state. Although many of the founders, including Thomas Jefferson, were Deists, not Christians, this point is tangential to the argument, as is the fact that Jefferson created his own “Jefferson Bible” by taking a razor and cutting out all references to miracles and supernatural events from the New Testament. Jefferson, who wrote the Declaration of Independence, famously said: “Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should "make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof," thus building a wall of separation between Church & State.” The Declaration does contain the phrase “The Laws of nature and of Nature’s God,” but this is exactly what you would expect from a Deist; a Christian intent on establishing a Christian nation would not hesitate for a moment to include the words “Jesus” and “Christianity,” as we saw in the Mayflower Compact. James Madison, the principal writer of the Constitution, said, “The purpose of separation of church and state is to keep forever from these shores the ceaseless strife that has soaked the soil of Europe with blood for centuries.” Again, this is all very clear. The father of the Declaration and the father of the Constitution were both adamantly in favor of the separation of church and state because they knew their history too well, and understood the dangers of mixing religion with government and in justifying public policy on the basis of the subjective interpretation of “god’s word.” (Which is the ultimate form of relativism, as you can make the Bible say whatever you want.) The Christian nationalist, pushed farther and farther to the margins, has one final argument to offer. Despite all of this, they claim, the country, while not founded as a Christian nation, and despite Jefferson’s and Madison’s insistence on the separation of church and state, was founded on Judeo-Christian principles. This, as well, is ludicrous. In parts two and three of the book, Seidel embarks on an extensive analysis comparing the principles of the Declaration and Constitution with those of the Bible. This, in my opinion, is the best part of the book, and will equip the reader with a plethora of new arguments to defend against the Christian nationalist myth. Seidel specifically analyzes, in the third part of the book, each of the Ten Commandments to show how they stand in direct opposition to our constitutional identity. When Christian nationalists speak of Judeo-Christian principles, we often don’t know exactly what they’re talking about, but by their own admission, we know that the Ten Commandments top the list. So using this as a basic representation of Judeo-Christian principles is more than fair. As for the founding principles of the US, it’s obvious that the most important document in this regard would be the Constitution. It follows then that the best test of whether or not the country was founded on Judeo-Christian principles is to compare the Ten Commandments with the Constitution. And this is exactly what Seidel does. What we find is that not only are the Ten Commandments not consistent with the Constitution, in most cases they represent ideals that are the exact opposite. We need only look to the very first commandment to see how. The first commandment reads: “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; you shall have no other gods before me.” Compare this to the First Amendment: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” If you had been tasked at the founding with writing a law most opposed to the First Amendment, you might have come up with something similar to the first commandment. Whereas the Constitution protects free thought, speech, press, and religion, the first commandment demands the worship of a specific god within a specific religion. As Seidel wrote of the First Amendment: “The first two clauses protect your right to think for yourself about life’s most important questions; the third, fourth, and fifth protect your right to speak and even publish those thoughts without fear of censure, and to gather with others to discuss them; the sixth protects your right to ask the government to listen to those ideas. Of the six clauses, the first two are arguably the most important, for without the ability to think freely about life’s questions, little would be added to the discourse protected by the other rights.” Additionally, the Constitution grants power to the people (“We the people”), and Article VI states that “This Constitution....shall be the supreme Law of the Land.” Conversely, the Ten Commandments grant ultimate power to god, which stands in direct opposition to Article VI. The Constitution also allows for amendments, while the Ten Commandments are literally set in stone. Seidel goes on to show how every commandment stands in direct opposition to the principles of the Constitution. Without reviewing all of them, a few more examples are instructive. The second commandment states that “you shall not make yourself an idol….You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the to the third and the fourth generation of those who reject me…” Contrast this with a quote by John Adams: “We are to look upon it as more beneficial, that many guilty persons should escape unpunished, than one innocent person should suffer.” And so you have guilt by association, found all throughout the Bible, versus the presumption of innocence, the right to a trial by jury, and the prohibition against cruel and unusual punishments found in the Constitution. These two sets of guiding principles could not be more different. And then you have the third commandment that prohibits using the lord’s name in vain, which explicitly violates the freedom of speech. The commandment against murder, you might think, would seem to be more consistent with American law, but it turns out to be more complicated if you do a little research. To begin with, American law applies universally to all citizens. The biblical commandment to not kill someone applies only if that someone happens to be a believer. That’s the only logical explanation for why the Israelites went on a killing spree against infidels after being handed the Ten Commandments! The same goes for the biblical prohibitions against stealing and lying; they apply only to the tribe, and run counter to the universality of law and human rights found in the Constitution, which was influenced by the Enlightenment, not the Bible. You might ask, what about the Golden Rule found in the New Testament? If the Ten Commandments are un-American, maybe we simply need to look to Christianity alone. Not so. Christianity has the habit of stealing other people’s ideas and stamping them as its own, but don’t be fooled by its claim on the Golden Rule, which is found in several other religious and philosophical systems that pre-date Christianity. Seidel provides 13 examples in chapter 7 from ancient Greece, Egypt, China, and India, and from Buddhism, Daoism, Confucianism, Zoroastrianism, and Greek philosophy. For example, Plato said, “We ought not to retaliate or render evil for evil to anyone, whatever evil we may have suffered from him.” Other ancient moral systems, for example Stoicism, also encouraged this same peaceful and tolerant disposition, without feeling the need to condemn non-believers to hell or require their adherents to abandon reason. Consider John 15:6, where Jesus says, “If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.” As Seidel explains, a careful reading of the New Testament, as with the Old Testament, reveals a set of tribal proclamations that really only apply to believers. A good example is when Jesus refused to help a woman’s sick child until she supplicated herself to him and professed her faith. And consider this quote from the prince of peace, found in Matthew 10:34-39: “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person's enemies will be those of his own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” Judeo-Christian principles are therefore built on blind obedience and submission to authority, with ultimate power granted to god, and reliance on a sacred text that can never be altered. The US, on the other hand, was founded on the principles of reasoned debate, with ultimate power granted to the people, based on a text that was meant to evolve and which includes the ability to propose amendments, as found in Article V. Further, the order of the Ten Commandments betrays its ultimate goal—the establishment of a totalitarian dictatorship. As Seidel wrote: “Judeo-Christianity’s attempt to keep the information loop closed is evident in the demands the biblical god makes in the Ten Commandments: no other gods before me, do not disrespect even my name, stop work for a full day to worship me, heed your parents because they will tell you to worship me, killing is acceptable if the victim is not someone who worships me, and finally, a decree to suppress certain thoughts.” This tribal dictatorship is best described, in the words of Christopher Hitchens, as a “celestial North Korea.” Ironically, the strongest Christian nationalist arguments for Judeo-Christian influence are the ones never made. The parts of our history we are most ashamed of—slavery, homophobia, and the subjugation of women—are found all throughout the Bible. The tenth commandment tells us not to covet our neighbor’s slaves, thus implicitly condoning the practice; Leviticus 20:13 reads, “If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them”; and Corinthians 14:34-35 reads “Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience as also saith the law. And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.” Based on all of this, I think it’s safe to say that America was not only not founded as a Christian nation, and not influenced by Judeo-Christian principles, but that Judeo-Christian principles are entirely un-American. The arguments set forth in the book are indisputable, and what I’ve covered here in this review doesn’t even scratch the surface of what Seidel has provided. So what do we do about the inescapable conclusion that Judeo-Christian principles are un-American? We should start by recognizing that the phrases “In God We Trust,” “One nation under God,” and “God Bless America” are also un-American (and were incorporated more than 100 years after the founding). And if this is so, then we should not just sit quietly by and passively accept this “experiment on our liberties,” as James Madison would call it. It is on every one of us to ensure that the wall of separation between church and state is not breached. As Seidel wrote: “As the myths debunked in this book are professed with more desperation, we must be prepared to refute them factually and vocally. This book provides the first half of that recipe. You are responsible for the rest. Outspoken resistance is, as Madison might say, the ‘first duty of citizens.’” ---- To report a State/Church violation, contact the Freedom From Religion Foundation. ---- Further Reading For more information on the secular foundation and history of the United States, check out Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism by Susan Jacoby. Christopher Hitchens’ God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything shows how religious thinking distorts our knowledge of history, morality, and science, and blinds us to our common humanity. The God Argument: The Case against Religion and for Humanism by A.C. Grayling exposes the weaknesses in the arguments for religion and religious belief and argues for an alternative system of humanism. The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined by Steven Pinker examines the history of violence and why it has declined, including the religious causes of violence and the secular and rational forces of peace. Finally, in A Manual for Creating Atheists, Peter Boghossian shows how to respectfully and reasonably talk people out of their faith.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Book

    The Founding Myth: Why Christian Nationalism Is Un-American by Andrew Seidel “The Founding Myth” exposes the myth that America was founded on Christian principles and it is an effective assault on the Christian nationalist identity. Constitutional and civic rights attorney at the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), Andrew Seidel, takes the reader on a hard-hitting tour de force as he meticulously dismantles the concept of a Christian nation. This important 354-page book includes twenty-six c The Founding Myth: Why Christian Nationalism Is Un-American by Andrew Seidel “The Founding Myth” exposes the myth that America was founded on Christian principles and it is an effective assault on the Christian nationalist identity. Constitutional and civic rights attorney at the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), Andrew Seidel, takes the reader on a hard-hitting tour de force as he meticulously dismantles the concept of a Christian nation. This important 354-page book includes twenty-six chapters broken out by the following four parts: I. The Founders, Independence, and the Colonies, II. United States v. The Bible, III. The Ten Commandments v. The Constitution, and IV. American Verbiage. Positives: 1. A well-researched, well-organized written book. 2. The fascinating topic of debunking the Christian nation myth. “The purpose of this book is simple, if lofty: to utterly destroy the myths that underlie this un-American political ideology.” 3. Reference quality material, a very useful debate tool. 4. Does a wonderful job of keeping the material accessible and defining key terms and concepts. ““Judeo-” is a sop, a fig leaf, tossed about to avoid controversy and complaint. It is simply a morsel of inclusion offered to soften the edge of an exclusionary, Christian movement.” 5. The recurring theme of how religion is divisive. “History had proven to the framers of the US Constitution that religion is divisive. They separated religion from government to avoid the mistakes of past regimes.” 6. Exposes Project Blitz. “Project Blitz encapsulates the problem Christian nationalism poses. First, it seeks to alter our history, values, and national identity. Then it codifies Christian privilege in the law, favoring Christians above others. Finally, it legally disfavors the nonreligious, non-Christians, and minorities such as the LGBTQ community, by, for instance, permitting discrimination against them in places of public accommodation or in employment.” 7. Discusses the founders’ intention. “Two facts illustrate the founders’ intentions to build this wall. First, our Constitution is deliberately godless. There are no references to gods, goddesses, or divine intervention. The omission was not an oversight. Supernatural power was rejected in favor of the natural power contained in the first three words: “We the People.”” 8. Discusses the source of morality. “Religion gets its morality from us, not the other way around.” 9. Provocative statements throughout. “In other words, what most religions label absolute morality is simply their personal morality given divine sanction.” 10. A debunk fest. “The Golden Rule is not a Judeo-Christian principle. It is a universal human principle.” 11. Compelling arguments. “The founding documents of the United States revere and protect freedom above all else. The bible worships and demands the opposite: obedience, submission, and servility.” “Blind obedience to and fear of an omnipotent being is tyranny, not freedom. At its core, Judeo-Christianity’s insistence on obedience and fear conflicts with America’s essential value.” 12. Christianity in conflict with our founding principles. “The entire Christian religion is based on a singular claim that violates the principle of personal responsibility so critical to our systems: that Jesus died for your sins.” 13. Discusses the foundation of our godless Constitution. “Our Constitution is the product of human thought and perseverance, not faith.” “Reason and experiment dispel error; faith propagates it.” 14. Dissects the Ten Commandments and how they conflict with the Constitution. Take the third commandment. Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain. “Blasphemy laws and religious restrictions on speech are un-American. This commandment stands opposed to all that makes our country great.” 15. Biblical passages that are incompatible with the Constitution or common sense. “Jesus himself lays down the most vile and controlling sexual law by making it impossible to obey the adultery commandment: “But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”” 16. Discusses how capitalism is prohibited by the tenth commandment. “The particular thought the tenth commandment prohibits—covetousness—is itself a problem for the Christian nationalist. Even Americans with no historical or legal training should recognize that coveting is the basis of American capitalism and our consumer society. Both would fail without the desire to get what we don’t have. Coveting created America.” 17. The distinction between a moral code and a religious one. “The alleged moral and ethical superiority of the Ten Commandments is important to the Christian Nation myth and, like the myth, is inaccurate. The Ten Commandments are not a moral code; they are a religious code. That distinction, often lost, is crucial. A moral code is a set of principles that help us analyze and reach moral solutions in the innumerable dilemmas life presents. A religious code is a set of rules based on divine authority—its only “morality” is to obey, to follow.” 18. Great quotes. ““It is much easier to alarm people than to inform them.” — William R. Davie, delegate to the Constitutional Convention, in a letter to James Iredell, during the run-up to North Carolina’s ratifying convention, 1788” 19. The evil of slavery. “Slavery is sanctified and permitted in the bible. Jesus even discusses the proper force with which to beat one’s slaves in Luke 12:45–49, a passage the Southern states often used to justify slavery.” 20. Discusses the divisive motto. “The presidential tradition of troubling deaf heaven with bootless cries by closing presidential remarks with the phrase “God bless America” dates to Nixon and is rooted in one of the worst scandals to mar the presidency. Nixon used religion to distract Americans from Watergate.” 21. Links to footnotes. Negatives: 1. No visual supplementary material. 2. No formal bibliography. 3. Having to wait so long for such an excellent book. In summary, this is an important and reference quality book. We needed this book and Andrew Seidel provides a truly patriotic resource to fight back Christian nationalists that will stop at nothing to turn our country into a theocracy. A wonderful resource, I can’t tout this book enough. Get it, a high recommendation! Further recommendations: “Why the Religious Right Is Wrong about Separation of Church and State” by Robert Boston, “Nonbeliever Nation” by David Niose, “Atheists Can’t Be Republicans” by Cj Werleman, “The Dark Side of Christian History” by Helen Ellerbe, “Atheism for Dummies” by Dale McGowan, “Birth Control, Insurance Coverage, & the Religious Right” by A.F. Alexander, “50 popular beliefs that people think are true” by Guy P. Harrison, “Godless” by Dan Barker, “Freethinkers” by Susan Jacoby, “Republican Gomorrah” by Max Blumenthal, “American Fascists” by Chris Hedges, “Doubt” by Jennifer Michael Hecht, “Society Without God” by Phil Zuckerman, and “Why are you Atheists so Angry?” by Greta Christina.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Paige

    Seidel contends America was not founded on Judeo-Christian principles, but he misses the full picture. As an atheist who so fervently believes this to be true, Seidel often speaks in absolutes and omits counterarguments which makes his thesis less persuasive. He further fails to clearly define Judeo-Christian principles, so the reader is left to create their own version. Broadly, being a person raised Catholic who later turned atheist, my interpretation is they are a collection of moral and reli Seidel contends America was not founded on Judeo-Christian principles, but he misses the full picture. As an atheist who so fervently believes this to be true, Seidel often speaks in absolutes and omits counterarguments which makes his thesis less persuasive. He further fails to clearly define Judeo-Christian principles, so the reader is left to create their own version. Broadly, being a person raised Catholic who later turned atheist, my interpretation is they are a collection of moral and religious principles largely stemming from the Bible (both Old and New Testaments) and Western civilization that champion specific qualities of right and wrong, faith, and obedience such as the Ten Commandments and the Golden Rule. On a much less positive note-and what people often don’t like to talk about-is the principles also include the moral backwardness of the Bible, which was largely patriarchal, sexist, elitist, authoritarian, homophobic, xenophobic, genocidal, and murderous. Slavery was rampant and accepted, women were viewed as property and raped at will, and a person could be stoned to death for minor infractions. With that in mind, Seidel is correct that the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution explicitly prohibits an establishment of religion and laws restricting the free exercise of religion. The First Amendment states “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” Seidel is also correct that the founders he mentions-mainly Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, Benjamin Franklin, and George Washington-were influenced and applied the political ideas of Enlightenment thinkers such as Rousseau, Montesquieu, and Locke to the Constitution. This is where the separation of church and state, government by the people, and rights of life and liberty came from. That said, this does not mean Judeo-Christian principles did not influence America’s founding. Seidel thinks that because there are no references to god in the Constitution, religious influence is absent. This is shortsighted. The founders may have applied Enlightenment principles to the Constitution, but these were only directed to elite white men. “We the People” did not mean everyone in America in 1789. Quite to the contrary, much like the Bible, African-Americans were used as a burgeoning business for white slave-owners, women were viewed as property and had no rights, and Native Americans, despite living in America first, were murdered in xenophobic and discriminatory fashion. All this is assumed in the original Constitution and Bill of Rights. African Americans were not released from slavery until 1865 and could not vote until 1870, women did not get the right to vote until 1920, and Native Americans have never received true justice. Further, Seidel omits any discussion of the Tenth Amendment, which leaves all power not espoused in the Constitution and federal level, directly to the states. The states passed all kinds of religiously influenced laws such as those prohibiting homosexuality and instituting Sunday sales laws. While many colonists had fled religious persecution in England, they still were quite religious and this had influence on their laws. White men from the elite class like Thomas Jefferson and John Adams were likely the minority in their deist viewpoints. Seidel believes that “[o]ur country’s government and laws are distinct from its society and culture. It is the difference between our constitutional (or legal) identity and our popular (or social, or cultural) identity.” I do not believe this to be true. Ultimately, while the Constitution is one of the most famous documents regarding the creation of America, its literal text is only one part of America’s founding. The political and moral viewpoints of its founders, and the individuals living in states in the late 1770s, influenced how federal and state laws were drafted and applied, along with what they omitted. All this was part of America’s founding.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Kem White

    Seidel succeeds with this book. He thoroughly and convincingly explains why Christian Nationalism is un-American. You come away from this book understanding why revisionist Christianist history is so pernicious to the founding principles of this country, eager to fight religion's incursions into our secular lives and government, and then... Nothing. No suggestions for how or where to proceed. No ideas for the next steps we're to take. Just a concluding paragraph where Seidel tells you that it wa Seidel succeeds with this book. He thoroughly and convincingly explains why Christian Nationalism is un-American. You come away from this book understanding why revisionist Christianist history is so pernicious to the founding principles of this country, eager to fight religion's incursions into our secular lives and government, and then... Nothing. No suggestions for how or where to proceed. No ideas for the next steps we're to take. Just a concluding paragraph where Seidel tells you that it was only his intent to lead you to the water. Practice "outspoken resistance" is the only guidance we're given. I would have liked a chapter with some specifics. Ideas for what I can do to counter Franklin Graham, David Barton, and Project Blitz. Pointers to websites that let me get involved. Addresses for grassroots organizations. But no. "You are responsible for the rest," is the all the guidance we're given. I found this to be a weak ending to an otherwise excellent book documenting an existential threat to this country's founding ideals. Recommended for those who want an America where "the separation of church and state is absolute."

  6. 5 out of 5

    Brad

    This is an incredibly informative, tirelessly researched, and worryingly prescient book that you need to read. Mr. Seidel goes claim by claim, dismantling the oft-repeated argument that America was founded on Judeo-Christian principals. Whats more, he somehow managed to craft a book this densely packed with citation into something incredibly tightly written, well paced, and absolutely accessable to anyone. A boring or dry textbook this is not.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Kendra

    What a fantastic book! Well written, an amazing and well articulated amount of info, and an intense, enjoyable read, too. In the quest for Christian Nationalism, the hypocrisy of CN's stand out. I appreciated the breakdown of the 10 Commandments vs the Constitution/Bill of Rights, etc., and how they fundamentally cannot work together. This will be an excellent multi-read, reference book. What a fantastic book! Well written, an amazing and well articulated amount of info, and an intense, enjoyable read, too. In the quest for Christian Nationalism, the hypocrisy of CN's stand out. I appreciated the breakdown of the 10 Commandments vs the Constitution/Bill of Rights, etc., and how they fundamentally cannot work together. This will be an excellent multi-read, reference book.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Sylvia

    Very interesting book about the backgrounds of the founding of the US and how over the time the ideals of the Founding Fathers withered and seems to be forgotten. It would be a good thing if students in the US would read this book and realize that the US is founded on a strict separation of church and state.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Marianne Wason

    I read much of The Founding Myth before I needed to return it to the owner. The clickbait title is the weakest aspect of the book (why do publishers do this?) -- it labels the book as yet another partisan rant, a polemic of rage. But it's not. Seidel states clearly in his introduction that he means to demonstrate, with evidence, that the long-held positions that America is a "Christian nation," and more recently, that America was "founded on Judeo-Christian principles," are historically incorrec I read much of The Founding Myth before I needed to return it to the owner. The clickbait title is the weakest aspect of the book (why do publishers do this?) -- it labels the book as yet another partisan rant, a polemic of rage. But it's not. Seidel states clearly in his introduction that he means to demonstrate, with evidence, that the long-held positions that America is a "Christian nation," and more recently, that America was "founded on Judeo-Christian principles," are historically incorrect, and that the nation's constitutional principles are very different and sometimes opposed to what are called Judeo-Christian principles (hence the unfortunate title). He is clear about his perspective as a staff attorney with the Freedom from Religion Foundation, and perhaps his book just preaches to the choir of those who support the separation of church and state (regardless of their religious belief or lack of it). Much has been written on the Founders' faith or lack of it, and the debate will go on. Seidel ventures into new ground in this debate (at least for nonscholarly readers) and presents a thorough well-written perspective.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Scott Holstad

    An important, well written book, logical and factually accurate. My only problem is it's so ... "lawyer-speak," I mean uber dry! I would have given another star if Seidel had simply handed it over to a good, veteran co-author who could have injected a little prose, a little life into it. I mean I've published academic papers and white papers, and your average reader would have said about those works what I just wrote about this book. But the difference is those papers were not intended for gener An important, well written book, logical and factually accurate. My only problem is it's so ... "lawyer-speak," I mean uber dry! I would have given another star if Seidel had simply handed it over to a good, veteran co-author who could have injected a little prose, a little life into it. I mean I've published academic papers and white papers, and your average reader would have said about those works what I just wrote about this book. But the difference is those papers were not intended for general readers but for niche target audiences. That's what this book feels like, but I was under the assumption that this book is intended for wide, general audiences, and I just don't think it'll appeal to your average reader, even for some more specific target audience. The only readers I see this book appealing to are Constitutional lawyers and scholars, a few historians, a number of atheists (preaching to the choir) and possibly a few intellectually curious Christians... But great topic, superb research and arguments to support his thesis. I do hope more people than I anticipate will read it.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Jake

    Amen to this book. So we all know deep down that the founders of the USA were original thinkers and were pretty radical for their time, deeply influenced by enlightenment values. But, yet we here more and more, every day that this is a Christian nation and that the Declaration of Independence and Constitution were founded on Christian values and we need to meld god and government to get back to where we came from. Seidel, who is an accomplished lawyer, destroys this claim. (I'll take a break for Amen to this book. So we all know deep down that the founders of the USA were original thinkers and were pretty radical for their time, deeply influenced by enlightenment values. But, yet we here more and more, every day that this is a Christian nation and that the Declaration of Independence and Constitution were founded on Christian values and we need to meld god and government to get back to where we came from. Seidel, who is an accomplished lawyer, destroys this claim. (I'll take a break for those of you who are already offended to say that having a government without state religion actually strengthens religion, as the author says, so say a little prayer and read this book). Now, we all know we've got these true believers like Mike Pence and total phonies like Donald Trump who wave religion around the state, in the first case to save us, and in the second to get votes. But aside from getting people to stop thinking and vote for you, what are they accomplishing aside from making their political religion an absolute joke to the rest of us? Seidel argues that they are accomplishing the dismantling of a vital part of our founding (and making their religion a joke). I could quote 50 or 60 lines from our founders, who despite their flaws, actually read books and had moral and intelligent reasons for the wall of separation, but I'll just quote the motto from from first coin made by the USA which was designed by Benjamin Franklin (not "In God We Trust)… Mind Your Own Business! Hey, you might even end up with a religion that can stand on its own merits in the process. Total win/win. Amen. God Bless America! (first uttered at the close of a presidential speech by Nixon in his famous Watergate speech). Good stuff, don't let my belligerence stop you from reading it.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Gendou

    This is a highly engaging read! It's a difficult subject, but the argumentation is diamond clear and diamond strong. It's also a very, very important book. Especially at this challenging time in US history. Christian nationalism is an important lens through which to see the recent capitol riot, for example. Everyone who cares about US politics should read this book so they can successfully argue against this dangerous mythological historical narrative. In summary, the founding fathers in the found This is a highly engaging read! It's a difficult subject, but the argumentation is diamond clear and diamond strong. It's also a very, very important book. Especially at this challenging time in US history. Christian nationalism is an important lens through which to see the recent capitol riot, for example. Everyone who cares about US politics should read this book so they can successfully argue against this dangerous mythological historical narrative. In summary, the founding fathers in the founding documents put up explicit separation between government and religion. Christian morals didn't inspire our form of government. On the contrary, the values evident in our government directly contradict biblical values. The term "Judeo-Christian" is meaningless and gives a false sense of inclusion.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Jay Dougherty

    An excellent, well written book that will be the standard bearer for its topic for years to come. Extremely well researched and great use of footnotes and citations.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Linkpead

    Have you ever found yourself arguing that the United States as a political entity is a Christian nation or is founded upon biblical or Judeo-Christian principles? I suggest you evaluate the arguments and evidence in this book to see if your beliefs or presumptions hold up, or if they are simply a product of religious overreach that has been unfortunately layered in and reinforced in error over the history of this nation. Many of the most influential founding fathers well understood the danger of Have you ever found yourself arguing that the United States as a political entity is a Christian nation or is founded upon biblical or Judeo-Christian principles? I suggest you evaluate the arguments and evidence in this book to see if your beliefs or presumptions hold up, or if they are simply a product of religious overreach that has been unfortunately layered in and reinforced in error over the history of this nation. Many of the most influential founding fathers well understood the danger of bastardizing government with religion and vice versa. Not only based on the problems evidenced in Europe but also in the authoritarianism and intolerance exhibited in religiously founded colonies. The Constitution derives its authority from the consent of the governed. We the People... It was not the product of divine inspiration, but a rational experiment in political science. Superior to the ten commandments, the Bill of Rights establish principles that foster a pluralistic society with religious diversity. They grant the freedom to believe and speak freely and to protect against actions that would deny these rights. The Constitution was not under girded or based upon the Christian religion. The establishment clause shows the authors of the Constitution took explicit care to not entangle the government with any religion. "Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should "make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof," thus building a wall of separation between Church & State. Adhering to this expression of the supreme will of the nation in behalf of the rights of conscience, I shall see with sincere satisfaction the progress of those sentiments which tend to restore to man all his natural rights, convinced he has no natural right in opposition to his social duties." Thomas Jefferson

  15. 4 out of 5

    Charles Wagner

    The wall between church and state Andrew Seidel is currently the Director of Strategic Response at the Freedom from Religion Foundation. This means a great deal to me because my ancestors, beginning in the 1730s, fled religious persecution in Germany and then the Netherlands and others still fled the United States to Canada. There are currently only five copies of this title in the Indiana Evergreen comprised of about 117 libraries. So, it’s impact will not be very powerful. The founders of our The wall between church and state Andrew Seidel is currently the Director of Strategic Response at the Freedom from Religion Foundation. This means a great deal to me because my ancestors, beginning in the 1730s, fled religious persecution in Germany and then the Netherlands and others still fled the United States to Canada. There are currently only five copies of this title in the Indiana Evergreen comprised of about 117 libraries. So, it’s impact will not be very powerful. The founders of our nation separated religion and government because of the mistakes of past regimes. However, the current governor of Indiana told me that the founders of our constitution meant this to be a Christian nation. Myths are often more powerful than correct history. Actually, the U.S. was briefly one nation under god... during the witch trials slaughters. But, our 45th President was elected because of Christian nationalism, and popularity gained using fear and hate. Religious leaders have attempted to equate Christianity with being an American. To be an American is to be a Christian, according to them. (And, I am sure there is a litmus test to prove what a real Christian is.) A few have even said, out loud, that, if you are not Christian, you should go back where you came from... I came from Elkhart County and my ancestors came to the U.S. before #45’s did. The author argues that religion is not necessary for a society to succeed and the less religion the better the society really is. However, the founders may have believed religion was necessary to keep the common citizens in line. The founding fathers’ documents protect freedom while the bible demands obedience, submission and servility. (p. 123) Unfortunately the reality of the First Amendment is not taught in public schools and vilified in parochial schools. Modern scary people in no particular order: Donald Trump, Franklin Graham, James Dobson, Jerry Falwell, Jr., David Barton, Mike Huckabee, Bill O’Reilly, Ann Coulter

  16. 5 out of 5

    Krystina Schuler

    This is a must read for everyone and ought to be included in all ninth grade US history classes with an apology from the publishers of the elementary school versions we're fed as kids for the spin they put on colonial America and revolutionary America's past. Seidel does an excellent job laying out the actual basis for the founding of America, using primary source material whenever possible, and why the idea of a US government resting on any sort of Jewish or Christian foundation is absurd. Devo This is a must read for everyone and ought to be included in all ninth grade US history classes with an apology from the publishers of the elementary school versions we're fed as kids for the spin they put on colonial America and revolutionary America's past. Seidel does an excellent job laying out the actual basis for the founding of America, using primary source material whenever possible, and why the idea of a US government resting on any sort of Jewish or Christian foundation is absurd. Devout religious folks will likely scoff at this book and put it in their did not finish pile of books, and Nones already accept the arguments put forth. It's those moderate and liberal religious people who should devour this book and see it as the warning it is - that failing to maintain a separation of church and state if bad for everyone! If there ever was a case to be made, in clear, straightforward terms, for the continued and strengthened separation of church and state this is it.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Matthew Christopher

    I have to say that I agree with a majority of this book. This is not now, now has it ever been, a "Christian nation." However, the gratuitous attacks on Christianity as a whole seemed completely unnecessary to the book's central argument, and also appeared to be mean-spirited attempts at evangelizing atheism. Additionally, Seidel appears to believe that fundamentalism evangelicals are representative of all Christian beliefs. This is extremely sloppy and the straight up dismissiveness of even the I have to say that I agree with a majority of this book. This is not now, now has it ever been, a "Christian nation." However, the gratuitous attacks on Christianity as a whole seemed completely unnecessary to the book's central argument, and also appeared to be mean-spirited attempts at evangelizing atheism. Additionally, Seidel appears to believe that fundamentalism evangelicals are representative of all Christian beliefs. This is extremely sloppy and the straight up dismissiveness of even the concept of progressive Christianity is downright insulting. These issues bumped an otherwise five star book down to a three star rating. In the end, the central argument is well researched and well argued, but be aware that the author goes off the rails in an unnecessary attempt to score "points" against Christian faith.

  18. 5 out of 5

    John Barry

    Fantastic read. Andrew Seidel (constitutional attorney) compares and contrasts the examples of Christian Nationalist examples that our nation was founded on Christian belief systems with the writings of the founding fathers, as well as the final US Constitution. Very well researched and written. He takes great care to contrast full biblical versus with full quotes from our founding fathers. And as another reader said, this could not have come at a better time with the lines perpetually blurred b Fantastic read. Andrew Seidel (constitutional attorney) compares and contrasts the examples of Christian Nationalist examples that our nation was founded on Christian belief systems with the writings of the founding fathers, as well as the final US Constitution. Very well researched and written. He takes great care to contrast full biblical versus with full quotes from our founding fathers. And as another reader said, this could not have come at a better time with the lines perpetually blurred between church and state. A must read!!

  19. 5 out of 5

    Todd Martin

    Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of the speech, or of the press; or the right of the people to peaceably assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. - First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution (adopted December 15, 1791) You may have encountered the claim that America is a ‘Christian Nation’ or its somewhat weaker corollary, that it was founded on ‘Judeo-Christian Principl Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of the speech, or of the press; or the right of the people to peaceably assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. - First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution (adopted December 15, 1791) You may have encountered the claim that America is a ‘Christian Nation’ or its somewhat weaker corollary, that it was founded on ‘Judeo-Christian Principles’. This is little more than wishful thinking on the part of theocrats and those who yearn to re-write history, codify Christian privilege into the law and to discriminate against the nonreligious, non-Christians, and minorities such as the LGBTQ community. The U.S. constitution is a deliberately godless document and derives its authority from ‘We the People’, not some supernatural power. Its only reference to religion is exclusionary in order to ensure it is not granted special privileges. In Thomas Jefferson’s memorable words, the founder’s intention was to “build a wall of separation between Church and State”. That should be enough to convince any rational person, but Christian Nationalists are nothing if not persistent (and irrational). Thus they grasp at any religious utterance the founders may have ever made to bolster their claim. This is where Andrew Seidel, a constitutional and civil rights attorney at the Freedom from Religion Foundation comes in. He has taken it upon himself to refute each and every of these arguments in The Founding Myth: Why Christian Nationalism Is Un-American. The book goes into great detail in this regard (perhaps more detail than anyone other than a constitutional scholar would care to know), so I’ll just summarize two key points. First it is not accurate to say that, because the founders were Christians, that the U.S. was therefore founded on Judeo-Christian principles. Not only is this inaccurate, the founders were deists who believed in a creator, but not a personal god who intervenes in the world, but the logic is faulty. The founders were also slaveholders, but no one who reads the Constitution could conclude that the U.S. was founded on principles of slavery. The founders, were in fact, many things, most importantly they were political historians. The government they created was based on ideas borrowed from history … democracy from the ancient Greeks, separation of powers from French philosopher Montesquieu, etc. Religious documents such as the bible were entirely ignored. This brings us to the second main point of the book, that the U.S. could not have been founded upon Judeo-Christian principles because these principles are entirely at odds with the Constitution. As Seidel writes, “The founding documents of the United States revere and protect freedom above all else. The bible worships and demands the opposite: obedience, submission, and servility.” As proof, one need look no further than the 10 Commandments. Seidel goes through each in turn, but the first is sufficient for our purposes: I am Yahweh your God, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourselves an idol, nor any image of anything that is in the heavens above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: you shall not bow yourself down to them, nor serve them, for I, Yahweh your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and on the fourth generation of those who hate me, and showing loving kindness to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments. — Exodus 20:2-6 The First Amendment specifically rejects this commandment (in grants citizens free exercise of religion), and our system of justice rejects the idea that children (or grandchildren, or great grandchildren, or great great grandchildren) can be punished for their ancestor’s misdeeds. Not to put too fine a point on it, but Judeo-Christian principles are nothing if not barbaric, which is why people never quote the full text of the first commandment on the monuments they seek to install outside courtrooms. Its precepts are, quite simply, unconstitutional. There’s another danger that comes with mixing religion and politics, one that the founders all too well recognized at the time. James Madison wrote in a letter in 1812 that State and Church “will both exist in greater purity, the less they are mixed together”. He understood that religion is tainted through contact with politics. Of course, that’s exactly the outcome we are seeing today. Public perception of religion is increasingly negative as it seeks to inject itself into the political process and people are leaving every major organized religion in droves. Young people are the least religious demographic of all, which means that this trend will extend long into the future. Seeking to benefit themselves in the short term, religions, through their involvement in politics, are sowing the seeds of their own destruction. That’s what comes from a lack of understanding of history. As to the book, it contains quite a bit of good information, though it’s presented rather dryly. I wouldn’t exactly characterize it as a ‘page-turner’.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Ron

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. This book is a must read for freethinkers. This well researched work clearly demonstrates this nation was built on secular ideals and not religion.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Dan Bouchelle

    While this book presents itself as a refutation of Christian nationalism, it is really a Christopher Hitchens like attack on Christianity itself as evil. While the author makes a strong case against the claim that America was created by its founders to be a Christian nation, he does so with such contempt and animas for those with whom he disagrees that it puts the ethics and accuracy of his work into question. He cherry picks examples of bad religion and mixes them with out of context interpreta While this book presents itself as a refutation of Christian nationalism, it is really a Christopher Hitchens like attack on Christianity itself as evil. While the author makes a strong case against the claim that America was created by its founders to be a Christian nation, he does so with such contempt and animas for those with whom he disagrees that it puts the ethics and accuracy of his work into question. He cherry picks examples of bad religion and mixes them with out of context interpretations of Bible passages that virtually no confessing Christian or Jew would accept. While it is frustrating to read such an work, it is good for Christians to see how we can come across to non-believers and be reminded how much damage syncretism with nationalism do to the cause of Christ. This is also a good reminder of how Muslims, Buddhists, and other non-Christians likely feel when Christians treat their views and scriptures to the same uncharitable interpretations in polemical apologetics rooted in arrogance and contempt.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Oliver Hunt

    The first third of the book is informative and interesting, showing how the founding fathers weren’t building a specifically Christian nation, but were more likely theists, deists, atheists, and agnostics themselves. There’s lot of good information, thorough research, and compelling arguments made to prove that point, and I think it’s well written. 5 stars. Then.... The rest of the book is an attempt to bash Christianity, and then try to loosely tie it to how un-Christian the Constitution and Bi The first third of the book is informative and interesting, showing how the founding fathers weren’t building a specifically Christian nation, but were more likely theists, deists, atheists, and agnostics themselves. There’s lot of good information, thorough research, and compelling arguments made to prove that point, and I think it’s well written. 5 stars. Then.... The rest of the book is an attempt to bash Christianity, and then try to loosely tie it to how un-Christian the Constitution and Bill of Rights are. “Jesus mentions hell... well that doesn’t sound very representative of a law against cruel and unusual punishment does it? Therefor, not Christian.” Or how about, “Original sin? And Grace? Well that doesn’t sound like the justice system we established does it? Therefore, not Christian.” I agree with the argument presented that the founders were not likely Christian or specifically looking to build a Christian nation. But after chapter 6, the rest of the book presents a mockery of faith and of “the bible” (not capitalized). It attempts ridiculous connections of nonsense on par with “God destroyed the canaanites? Wow that doesn’t sound like what our founders wanted at all!” or “God commanded Abraham to offer his son as sacrifice. No way Thomas Jefferson would have done the same!” Or “though shall not covet is definitely not something in our judicial code”, as if those prove his point. The first 3rd of the book proves his point. The rest is just trying to pull commands from the Bible, show that we don’t have those pieces in our law, and thus, QED, not Christian. It seems unnecessarily pedantic to use the fact that we don’t have a law against boiling a goat in its mother’s milk as proof that we weren’t founded as Judeo-Christian country.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Daniel Parker

    Phenomenal, well-researched book that gives the facts on the founding of America and the separation of church and state. Not for the faint of heart as it gets into detail on the effort to create certain myths and beliefs that we assume to be true. An excellent read for this time when fear and anxiety are strong and the attempt to undo what the founding fathers created are great.

  24. 4 out of 5

    David Todd

    Good book. The US was not founded on Judeo-Christian principles.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer Eckert

    Really well-written and researched. Very informative.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Greg

    Boy, do I ever have mixed feelings about this book! While I totally agree with his major argument – that those who claim that the United States was founded to be a “Christian nation” are flat-out wrong – I take strong issue with the often quite offensive way in which he goes further than just proving his thesis by attacking not only Christianity but all religion as sources of grave evil and as a refuge for the ignorant. The central argument with which I agree Seidel defines Christian nationalists a Boy, do I ever have mixed feelings about this book! While I totally agree with his major argument – that those who claim that the United States was founded to be a “Christian nation” are flat-out wrong – I take strong issue with the often quite offensive way in which he goes further than just proving his thesis by attacking not only Christianity but all religion as sources of grave evil and as a refuge for the ignorant. The central argument with which I agree Seidel defines Christian nationalists as “historical revisionists bent on ‘restoring’ America to the Judeo-Christian principles on which they wish it was founded. They believe that secular America is a myth, and under the guise of restoration they seek to press religion into every crevice of government. They not only think it appropriate for the government to favor one religion over others, but also believe America was designed to favor Christianity. To them, America is a Christian nation founded on Christian principles, and promoting that belief is a religious duty.” I agree that there are such people, that they are quite numerous, and that their leadership has been fixed on gaining more state recognition, funding, and power over the last 50 years. This is manifested in many diverse ways, including their successful efforts to insert “originalist” justices on the Supreme, appellate, and district courts, their drive to impose their beliefs about abortion on the entire nation, their push to get federal and state funding for private (including religious) schools, and their work to insert – or remove – certain subjects from school curricula (as, for but one example, the teaching of creationism as being equally valid as evolution). Many of these groups are evangelical, but they are also joined by a sizable number of Catholics who are spurred on by an increasingly conservative American hierarchy. Among the most active and vocal are politicians, evangelical pastors, and lay ministers. As a Jesus follower from the Roman Catholic tradition, not only do I resist any form of “Christian nationalism,” but I am struck at how little – if any – of their language and efforts are directed toward encouraging believers to speak and behave towards others as Jesus did and taught. Jesus taught that if we are to really transform our world we need first to transform ourselves. This vital message is almost totally missing from the language and efforts of today’s most visible self-named “Christians.” As a historian and a student of the Constitution and of the Revolutionary period I support the facts of history and written documents that prove that while many of the Founders were themselves Christians (or Deists, monotheists) they did not want to have any religion involved in the governing of the new nation. Their refusal was based not only on their understanding of history – in which religion repeatedly played a central role in bloody struggles between and within nations in the past – but also on their own experience as Americans in recalling colonial history, in which early colonies often favored one type of Christianity over others. They made this explicit in the First Amendment to the Constitution as we read in its first clause: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof....” No law means no law. Not only did the Founders NOT open the sessions of the Constitutional Convention with prayers, but when it was proposed that there should be a “chaplain” for the Congress it was voted down overwhelmingly. Some caveats and nuances 1) The Founders The Founders were neither “irreligious” or “against” religion, but they did not wear their faith “on their sleeves,” if you will, like so many self-proclaimed “Christians” do today. Many of them were apparently devout members of their various Reform (Protestant) sects and also believed that their new republic could not survive long if its citizens lost their moral fiber. And, as Tocqueville observed in the early 1830s, many believed that religious principles were a key ingredient in contributing to – and maintaining – such a virtuous citizenry. But in their day, very much unlike our own, the central thrust of the message they received from their respective pulpits had to do with personal behavior, not diatribes about government or government policies. And this was the element that the Founders believed important in the formation of good citizens: faithful adherence to the “common decencies” as taught in Christianity, such as the sanctity of marriage, the importance of honor and honesty, and the necessity and dignity of hard work. All of this was vital if Americans were to resist the temptation to excessive individualism. Alexis de Tocqueville, in his fascinating observations of the young republic published in the 1830s, stressed his own conviction that the influence of religion (meaning Christianity) had a vital role off-setting excessive individualism since its moral precepts stressed the importance of caring for others. However, as he had warned in volume one, if religious bodies began to intrude on specific matters of the state – by, for instance, instructing their congregations on whom to vote for – they would lose their broader positive interest on the broader society even as they perhaps gained a tighter hold on their congregants. Should this latter occur, this all-important brake on excessive individualism would be severely weakened. (It appears to me that this fear has been realized in our own time, and the ethical rot that is so widespread among officeholders today is but one consequence.) 2) Today’s more conservative Christians But not all of conservative Christians are Christian nationalists, by any means. I believe that there are a larger number of Americans who, while not being as extreme as Christian nationalists, nonetheless do believe that America is fundamentally a religious nation, and that the reference to “In God We Trust” on our coinage and the insertion of “under God” into the Pledge of Allegiance are most appropriate. In today’s red-hot cultural wars, these folks do not see themselves as imposing their beliefs on anyone but, rather, on pushing back against secular values that they not only do not share, but in many cases abhor. I believe that both “left” and “right” have gravely erred by insisting that this or that group of people is “all this” or “none of that.” As tribal as we can be, we remain individuals, and our views of life and of others is heavily influenced by our own experiences and by those close to us. In this matter and in all others, the struggle is not simply between the “woke,” informed, and progressive “against” those who are ignorant, misinformed, and very conservative! Rather, the current struggle is the result of so many people – as groups and as individuals – feeling left out, misunderstood, dissed, or regarded with contempt. The dreadful part of the book It is extremely unfortunate that Seidel not only broadly condemns “religion,” but treats it as something that always leads to disagreement or worse. Most of the greatest people I have known have been people of faith, albeit more of the putting into practice Jesus’ teachings than loudly proclaiming any doctrines. Their faith gave them a quiet, humble centeredness that linked them to the rest of us. They were people who inspired me to “do better, be better,” because their lived example was so inspiring. My twelve years in elective office also repeatedly brought me into contact with folks decidedly less educated or knowledgeable than others who, nonetheless, exhibited a quiet decency that was nourished from their own faith beliefs, many of which I either did not share or with which I took with a considerable measure of salt. And there is little doubt that the Black experience in America, as horrific as it has been for centuries, would have been immeasurably worse without the Black Church. It is simply not balanced, let alone fair, to write a jeremiad (no pun intended) against religion without pointing out the many ways it has contributed to individual and collective advances. Lastly, while Seidel does liberally sprinkle his argument with citations from the Bible (both testaments), he offers some truly awful (for us today) passages largely out of context. This is important because at least some of these are included precisely to warn against their reoccurrence or to illustrate that such-and-such is not what the Holy One wished. The authors of the biblical books were quite aware that their story was an ongoing one in which individuals, and the people as a whole, learned some lessons (although, just like us, not always sufficiently taking them to heart so as to change behavior). From my point of view, the result of all this is a book perfectly designed not to appeal to, nor be read by, those who most need to learn its warning against Christian nationalism. The average person – so often diminished when referenced – is someone who deserves to be respected and, therefore, one who deserves an honest, measured presentation. This book does not do that. Several times throughout the book the author proudly mentions that he is an “atheist.” Well, bully! But, from my point of view, it takes even more pride and arrogance to proclaim that no Creator can possibly exist than to believe that such a one does. Agnostics are honest, for their confessed doubt does not lead them to assert what they cannot possibly know. Atheists, no more than theists, can know anything about the existence or non-existence of “God,” YHWH, Allah, or any of the other names given to that which is. I am no more likely to be persuaded by the arguments of an arrogant atheist than I am by an arrogant true believer. How I wish this had been less of a tirade and more of a reasoned argument! The book would have much shorter, and much more readable, had it been.

  27. 5 out of 5

    David

    Well researched and eminently accessible. Regrettable that it won’t find a larger audience, particularly among those making constitutional law.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Chuy Ruiz

    Definitely learned quite a bit. Very informative and illuminating. The main "flaw" with this book that I see is that it is not a general audience book, because I doubt a religious person can get through it and that's a shame, because they're the ones in most need of this knowledge. The rigorous examination of religious texts and comparing their ideas with those of the founding documents and historical evidence isn't something a fervent believer in the US being a Christian nation would probably c Definitely learned quite a bit. Very informative and illuminating. The main "flaw" with this book that I see is that it is not a general audience book, because I doubt a religious person can get through it and that's a shame, because they're the ones in most need of this knowledge. The rigorous examination of religious texts and comparing their ideas with those of the founding documents and historical evidence isn't something a fervent believer in the US being a Christian nation would probably care to read.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Anne

    I'm in the process of reading this for the second time. It's carefully researched, thorough, and written in an accessible manner. I keep it handy for responding to those who don't know US history or its laws. I'm in the process of reading this for the second time. It's carefully researched, thorough, and written in an accessible manner. I keep it handy for responding to those who don't know US history or its laws.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Jeff Rader

    I don’t ever truly hate a book, but I have to say that this was awful. I am not a Christian Nationalist. I do not think that Christianity was part of the basis of our founding. But the author does not attack Christian nationalists, he attacks Christians. He spends about half of the book misunderstanding God and the overall message of the Bible. His style of argumentation is indicative of what is wrong with our public discourse. It’s ironic that he alluded to how the founders held out the importa I don’t ever truly hate a book, but I have to say that this was awful. I am not a Christian Nationalist. I do not think that Christianity was part of the basis of our founding. But the author does not attack Christian nationalists, he attacks Christians. He spends about half of the book misunderstanding God and the overall message of the Bible. His style of argumentation is indicative of what is wrong with our public discourse. It’s ironic that he alluded to how the founders held out the importance of religion for the general public while holding their own beliefs that religion was irrational. That is precisely his stance. To him all religion is awful and responsible for every social injustice facing us in the past or now. His argument is not just any religion but solely Christianity. I understand his desire to point out flaws in the idea that you have to be a good Christian to be an American. I agree. Being an American and being a Christian are and should always be distinct. But he doesn’t need to slander and point out every poor example of someone who hypocritically claimed to be a Christian. There are plenty of Christian sources he could’ve used that would agree, but instead he lumps every denomination and form of Christianity as agreeing with Christian nationalists. This book does nothing to bring people together. It does exactly what the author accuses his opponents of doing. He is using his lack of religion to justify and ridicule any that do not agree with him.

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...
We use cookies to give you the best online experience. By using our website you agree to our use of cookies in accordance with our cookie policy.