This country was founded by Americans on American soil. This country was founded by men who revered George Washington and Thomas Jefferson and this country was founded as a Christian nation. There's just one problem. This country was not the United States of America. It was the Confederate States of America.
And I ain't just a'whistling Dixie.
As a writer who specializes in subjects of interest to atheists, I often come across claims, usually from the Religious Right, that the United States was founded as a Christian nation. I've addressed and refuted these claims often. You can find some of these essays in the suggested reading list below this article. Today though, I'm taking a different tack. I'm trying to find out what a Christian nation in America would look like. It turns out I didn't have to look far. The Confederacy is a good example.
There are actually a lot of similarities between how the US and Confederate governments treated religion. Both presidents issued proclamations declaring days of thanksgiving (in fact, Confederate President Jefferson Davis beat Lincoln to the punch by establishing a day for it a year earlier than the US did). Both sides also proclaimed days of fasting, humiliation and prayer as well; but the real difference between them was in their constitutions. The Confederate Constitution recognized God. The US Constitution didn't.
Take a look at the preambles to both:
USA: We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
CSA: We, the people of the Confederate States, each state acting in its sovereign and independent character, in order to form a permanent federal government, establish justice, insure domestic tranquillity, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity—invoking the favor and guidance of Almighty God—do ordain and establish this constitution for the Confederate States of America.
These preambles make it quite clear where both governments derive their authority. There's no mention of God in the preamble or anywhere else in the US Constitution. Authority is derived solely from the will of the people. Not so for the Confederacy. Their people felt the need for invoking divine providence before putting pen to paper... and exalted it in their founding document. In fact, the Confederate government further recognized it in their national motto, Deo Vindice ("With God as our defender").
What more could a "Christian Nation" supporter ask for? It was certainly celebrated by the Southern clergy of the day. Historian John Fea says they were "absolutely giddy" over the insertion of the Almighty into the Confederate Constitution, calling it "a truly Christian patriot's prayer" and deriding the "perilous atheism" of the U.S. Constitution. From this, Fea writes, "it was not much of a leap for Southern clergy and politicians to affirm that the citizens of the Confederacy were the new chosen people of God."
Perhaps today's Religious Right have just been mistaken about which American country was founded as a Christian nation and transfer their affections to something more like the Confederacy. I've heard a lot about things like "states rights" and "nullification" from both groups. Maybe they could get together on the slavery issue too. After all, they can find plenty of support for it in the Bible as well.