While many people today would argue that secularism is necessary in a free society, the fact is America was founded on Judeo-Christian principles which the Founders saw as essential to maintaining civil society.
Joshua Charles, author of Liberty’s Secrets, explains in PragerU’s latest video that the Founders understood that a society can only remain free if its people embrace moral values based in the belief in a higher power which work to keep individuals in check.
“The Founders knew that the absolute enemy of freedom was — ironically — freedom that was absolute and unrestrained,” said Charles. “And where was this restraint going to come from? Their answer was religion, which for them — because of when and where they lived — was some variety of Christianity.”
Here are some quotes that Charles cites from some of the prominent Founders:
“Let Divines, and Philosophers, Statesmen and Patriots unite,” Samuel Adams wrote, “[in] instructing [citizens] in the Art of self-government … in short, of leading them in the Study, and Practice of the exalted Virtues of the Christian system.” The Christian system to which Adams refers is composed of Judeo-Christian values — the values rooted in the Old and New Testaments, both of which were referred to by the Founders with equal conviction and frequency.
Jefferson — yes, the very same Thomas Jefferson who is so often portrayed as anti-religious – confirmed this sentiment in his Notes on the State of Virginia, when he asked: “[C]an the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are of the gift of God? [And] that they are not to be violated but with his wrath?”
James Madison likewise affirmed the essential connection between religion and morality: “The belief in a God All Powerful, wise, and good is … essential to the moral order of the world and to the happiness of man. …”
John Adams, Charles notes, stated, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”
Another quote from Adams will certainly cause atheists’ heads to spin: “Science, liberty, and religion … have an inseparable union. Without their joint influence no society can be great, flourishing, or happy.”
For an example of a society that was not founded in religious values, look no further than the anarchy of the French Revolution, as Alexander Hamilton noted that the movement became bloody and tyrannical precisely because it was a godless movement.
George Washington even argued in his farewell address that one cannot identify as a patriot while attempting to separate religion from a free society, and it’s easy to see why — the uniqueness of America then is that it was founded on the idea of a free, moral society that is held in check by religion rather than the government.
“The Founders did not demand that anyone believe in any particular religion or even in God — quite the contrary,” Charles concluded. “But while they understood the value of a secular government, they feared a secular society — one without religion. So should we.”
The full video can be seen below: