Posted on 25 December 2007.
Were US Founding Fathers Muslim? Deism, Unitarianism and Islam
FOUNDING FATHERS OF THE USA WERE DEISTS OR MUSLIMS
“I do not find in orthodox Christianity one redeeming feature.” Thomas Jefferson
“I have recently been examining all the known superstitions of the world, and do not find in our particular superstition (Christianity) one redeeming feature. They are all alike founded on fables and mythology.” Thomas Jefferson
I believe in one God, and no more; and I hope for happiness beyond this life.
I believe the equality of man, and I believe that religious duties consist in doing justice, loving mercy, and endeavoring to make our fellow-creatures happy.
Thomas Paine, Age of Reason
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Thomas Jefferson: The truth is, that the greatest enemies of the doctrine of Jesus are those, calling themselves the expositors of them, who have perverted them to the structure of a system of fancy absolutely incomprehensible, and without any foundation in his genuine words. And the day will come, when the mystical generation of Jesus, by the Supreme Being as his father, in the womb of a virgin, will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerva in the brain of Jupiter.
“Say nothing of my religion. It is known to my god and myself alone.”
– Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to John Adams, 11 January 1817, in Lester Cappon, ed. The Adams-Jefferson Letters, (1959) p. 506, quoted from Jeremy Koselak, “The Exaltation of a Reasonable Deity: Thomas Jefferson’s Critique of Christianity“
I am of a sect by myself, as far as I know.
– Thomas Jefferson, letter to Ezra Stiles Ely (June 25, 1819), quoted from Dickinson W Adams, ed, The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, Second Series (Princeton University Press, 1983; note that attributions saying “Ezra Stiles, president of Yale University (June 25, 1819)” are incorrect, as that Ezra Stiles died in 1795) ††
Christianity neither is, nor ever was, a part of the common law.
– Thomas Jefferson, letter to Dr. Thomas Cooper, February 10, 1814, responding to the claim that Chritianity was part of the Common Law of England, as the United States Constitution defaults to the Common Law regarding matters that it does not address. This argument is still used today by “Christian Nation” revisionists who do not admit to having read Thomas Jefferson’s thorough research of this matter.
… [A] short time elapsed after the death of the great reformer of the Jewish religion, before his principles were departed from by those who professed to be his special servants, and perverted into an engine for enslaving mankind, and aggrandising their oppressors in Church and State; that the purest system of morals ever before preached to man, has been adulterated and sophisticated by artificial constructions, into a mere contrivance to filch wealth and power to themselves; that rational men not being able to swallow their impious heresies, in order to force them down their throats, they raise the hue and cry of infidelity, while themselves are the greatest obstacles to the advancement of the real doctrines of Jesus, and do in fact constitute the real Anti-Christ.
– Thomas Jefferson, to Samuel Kercheval, 1810 (see Positive Atheism‘s Historical section)
Benjamin Franklin wrote “. . . Some books against Deism fell into my hands. . . It happened that they wrought an effect on me quite contrary to what was intended by them; for the arguments of the Deists, which were quoted to be refuted, appeared to me much stronger than the refutations; in short, I soon became a thorough Deist.”
In 1782, directly rejecting Christian dogma, he wrote “I cannot conceive otherwise than that He, the Infinite Father, expects or requires no worship or praise from us, but that He is even infinitely above it.” Note the next one: “I wish it (Christianity) were more productive of good works … I mean real good works … not holy-day keeping, sermon-hearing … or making long prayers, filled with flatteries and compliments despised by wise men, and much less capable of pleasing the Deity.” Burn! How about another burn: “Lighthouses are more helpful than churches.”
June 19, 2002 by Dr. James Kennedy, posted at Worldnet Daily
Dr. Kennedy: “Thomas Jefferson, as we all know, was a skeptic, a man so hostile to Christianity that he scissored from his Bible all references to miracles. He was, as the Freedom From Religion Foundation tells us, “a Deist, opposed to orthodox Christianity and the supernatural.”
THE JEFFERSON BIBLE IS WHAT ISLAM TEACHES
The Jefferson Bible begins with an account of Jesus’s birth without references to angels, genealogy, or prophecy. Miracles, references to the Trinity and the divinity of Jesus, and Jesus’ resurrection are also absent from the Jefferson Bible. The work ends with the words: “Now, in the place where he was crucified, there was a garden; and in the garden a new sepulchre, wherein was never man yet laid. There laid they Jesus. And rolled a great stone to the door of the sepulchre, and departed.” These words correspond to the ending of John 19 in the Bible http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jefferson_Bible
The Jefferson Bible, or The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth as it is formally titled, was an attempt by Thomas Jefferson to glean the teachings of Jesus from the Christian Gospels. Jefferson wished to extract the doctrine of Jesus by removing sections of the New Testament containing supernatural aspects as well as perceived misinterpretations he believed had been added by the Four Evangelists. In essence, Thomas Jefferson did not believe in Jesus’ divinity, the Trinity, the resurrection, miracles, or any other supernatural aspect described in the Bible. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jefferson_Bible
From a PBS website (http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/
Jefferson was convinced that the authentic words of Jesus written in the New Testament had been contaminated. Early Christians, overly eager to make their religion appealing to the pagans, had obscured the words of Jesus with the philosophy of the ancient Greeks and the teachings of Plato. These “Platonists” had thoroughly muddled Jesus’ original message. Jefferson assured his friend and rival, John Adams, that the authentic words of Jesus were still there.
With the confidence and optimistic energy characteristic of the Enlightenment, Jefferson proceeded to dig out the diamonds. Candles burning late at night, his quill pen scratching “too hastily” as he later admitted, Jefferson composed a short monograph titled The Philosophy of Jesus of Nazareth. The subtitle explains that the work is “extracted from the account of his life and the doctrines as given by Matthew, Mark, Luke & John.” In it, Jefferson presented what he understood was the true message of Jesus.
Jefferson set aside his New Testament research, returning to it again in the summer of 1820. This time, he completed a more ambitious work, The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth Extracted Textually from the Gospels in Greek, Latin, French and English. The text of the New Testament appears in four parallel columns in four languages. Jefferson omitted the words that he thought were inauthentic and retained those he believed were original. The resulting work is commonly known as the “Jefferson Bible.”
From: R.P. Nettelhorst, “Notes on the Founding Fathers and the Separation of Church and State”, posted on Quartz Hill School of Theology website (http://www.theology.edu/journal/volume2/ushistor.htm; viewed 30 November 2005):
Thomas Jefferson created his own version of the gospels; he was uncomfortable with any reference to miracles, so with two copies of the New Testament, he cut and pasted them together, excising all references to miracles, from turning water to wine, to the resurrection.
There has certainly never been a shortage of boldness in the history of biblical scholarship during the past two centuries, but for sheer audacity Thomas Jefferson’s two redactions of the Gospels stand out even in that company. It is still a bit overwhelming to contemplate the sangfroid exhibited by the third president of the United States as, razor in hand, he sat editing the Gospels during February 1804, on (as he himself says) “2. or 3. nights only at Washington, after getting thro’ the evening task of reading the letters and papers of the day.” He was apparently quite sure that he could tell what was genuine and what was not in the transmitted text of the New Testament… (Thomas Jefferson. The Jefferson Bible; Jefferson and his Contemporaries, an afterward by Jaroslav Pelikan, Boston: Beacon Press, 1989, p. 149.).
Editions of the Jefferson Bible in print
The Jefferson Bible: The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth (2006) Dover Publications paperback: ISBN 0-486-44921-1
The Jefferson Bible, (2006) Applewood Books hardcover: ISBN 1-55709-184-6
The Jefferson Bible, introduction by Cyrus Adler, (2005) Digireads.com paperback: ISBN 1-4209-2492-3
The Jefferson Bible, introduction by Percival Everett, (2004) Akashic Books paperback: ISBN 1-888451-62-9
The Jefferson Bible, (2001) Beacon Press hardcover: ISBN 0-8070-7714-3
The Jefferson Bible, introduction by M.A. Sotelo, (2004) Promotional Sales Books, LLC paperback
Jefferson’s “Bible:” The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth, introduction by Judd W. Patton, (1997) American Book Distributors paperback: ISBN 0-929205-02-2
ISLAM AND DEISM
“English and American Deism, Unitarian Christianity, and Socinian Christianity emerged as heretics of the Protestant Reformation. All applied various degree of reason to the Bible producing faiths that combined reason with a Jesus centered ethical outlook. (Not Paul centered as in Protestants, Catholics, and Eastern Orthodox.) All rejected the Trinity, Original Sin, the Elect, Nicene Creed, predestination, and other church manufactured dogma. Like the Anabaptists they all advocated separation of church and state which is well within Christian traditions. All advocated religious tolerance.
Rational Islam and rational Judaism when embracing reason and religious tolerance are in many ways similar to Deism. The various Unitarian and Deist groups because they reject the Trinity are sometimes accused of being Muslims (Turks) or Jews. While there is an indirect Muslim influence, we reject many of the cultural aspects of Islam in regards to religious freedom, separation of religion and state, and placing blind revelation over reason. It’s time to end the confusion on these related, but different groups. There is no theological reason why any of these groups would be enemies. Mix in other elements, it’s often religion that is used to cover-up unrelated conflicts.
Deism is not this disinterested creator that made the world and went away. I define true Deism as the use of reason over revelation. While Deism evolved from Christianity in opposition to its violence and intolerance, it never sought to destroy it or any other faith. Once exported to France and stripped of its theistic roots, it would become just as violent. Deism is not a church or religion and has no clergy or organization, but often a submerged component”. http://www.sullivan-county.com/id2/index.htm
In fascinating article from The Nation entitled In God’s Country (11/6/2006) secular fundamentalists lamented,
…the nine in ten Americans who have said they’ve never doubted the existence of God. Or the eight in ten who believe the Lord works miracles. Or the same number who are certain they will be called to answer for their sins on Judgment Day. Or the tens of millions who attend church every week–more, in a typical seven-day span, than those who turn out for all sporting events combined…the idea that urbanization, scientific progress and rising living standards would gradually transform America into a secular society has long appealed to journalists and intellectuals. Talk about blind faith.. http://www.sullivan-county.com/news/ffnc/.
Secular arrogance in believing that anyone who believes in God is somehow a backward, country bumpkin is a big part of their elitist mentality. As the article continues,
…most of the Founders were Deists and Unitarians who rejected doctrines like the Incarnation. Thomas Jefferson dismissed the Trinity as “incomprehensible jargon.” He and other Founders made no mention of God in the Constitution, and took pains not to establish an official church on US soil. And yet, as various scholars have noted, disestablishment grew out of respect, not disdain, for religion, which, James Madison observed, “flourishes in greater purity without [rather] than with the aid of government.” He was right…falling church membership stirred much excited talk about the so-called “death of God.” Somebody forgot to inform the American people, an overwhelming majority of whom told pollsters they were believers… http://www.sullivan-county.com/news/ffnc/
Treaty of Tripoly
“As the government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion, – as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion or tranquility of Musselmen, – and as the said States never have entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mahomitan nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.”
In June 1797, the Senate unanimously ratified this treaty, which President John Adams immediately signed into law. While this was brought up by Daniel Pipes to illustrate we are not at war with Islam, but Islamo-fascism, Morris uses this as “proof” we are not a “Christian nation.” http://www.sullivan-county.com/news/ffnc/
Sir Isaac Newton, Jefferson, Adam, Franklin and others used Unitarian ideas and are today called “Deists”. The founding fathers of America were Deists whose ideas very similar to those expounded by the Arians, Unitarians and Islam. John Locke (influenced by Ibn Tufail), James Madison and Benjamin Franklin (friends of the most famous Unitarian Joseph Priestly), Thomas Jefferson (who also owned a coy of the Quran), Isaac Newton (who wrote extensively in defense of “Arianism” “A Historical Account of Two Notable Corruptions of Scripture“), Milton were all Unitarians in some form or another.
These Deists had ideas about Jesus which were FAR from the dogma and their ideas were very close to those that we have in the Islamic faith. Jefferson actually wrote a Bible free of “dogma“. The USA is truly a conglomeration of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, and those expounding a clash of civilizations are simply hate mongers. John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin were too enlightened to be bogged down in dogma. They gave us our glorious constitution, and Jefferson even gave us a Bible. Using these documents there is a lot of hope ecumenical harmony in the USA which will surely reverberate back to South Asia and the Middle East.The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon) said:
Concentrating on the commonalities between the Abrahamic FaithsThe Arian influences on Islam, the Muslim influences on Martin Luther, Locke and Jefferson
I have tried to define Islam in Christian and non-religious terms. Michael Baigent, Elaine Pagels, The Gnostic Bible and the Naag Hamdi texts not withstanding, there is historical precedence in understand the message of Muhammad in the Christian context. This commonality will help us understand the message and therefore Islam and Muslims. UNDERSTANDING the genesis of the religion will help us understand each other and this will help us gain understanding of world events. Once we have understood Muhammad in the Christian context, then it is much easier to understand Jesus in the Muslim context. The founding fathers of America, the American Deists have already done that in many ways.
The hordes are not coming. They have always been here. There is nothing to fear from Muslims who are like Unitarians or like Jefferson or Madison.Muslim tradition uses Peace be Upon Him (PBUH) every time we mention the name of Muhammad, Jesus, Moses, Abraham or any of the other Biblical/Quranic prophets. I have left this out to make it more palatable to non-Muslim audiences
REJECTING DOGMA IN THE SPIRIT OF ECUMENICAL HARMONY: Dogma creates problems If we move away from dogma we find the power of ecumenical harmony. Based on my research on the Church’s adherence to “infallibility” and “inerrancy“, we can surely find common ground in our beliefs.
Muslims beliefs are similar to the Christian beliefs as researched by Pagels and discussed in the Da Vinci Code (Naag Hamdi Texts and the Lost Gnostic Bibles). In the broad spectrum of today’s Christianity, Islam is closest to the Unitarians, the flag bearers of Arianism. We are also close to the Presbyterians, Episcopalians, and other liberal churches who are willing to work with Muslims. The Pope has declared that Islam is an Abrahamic faith and that belief in Islam qualifies a soul to enter heaven, a thought described by Moses Maimonides in his Epistle to the Yemenites in the 12th century. There is a book that is a must read for all Da Vinci Code fans, and those who are interested in real history. Michael BaIgent of “Holy Blood and Holy Grail” fame, in his latest fact based historical book “The Jesus Papers“, traces the roots of the violent Jewish (Sakari, Pharisee, and Zedoc) insurgency against the Romans and links the insurgency to Judas (Mathew 2:22, 2:23), and also to Jesus Christ. Schoenfeld’s “Passover plot” also discusses this insurgency against the Roman occupiers of Judea (later reamed Palestina) and how the Jewish Sakari used to use their daggers for assassinations.
An overwhelming body of evidence ties Jesus to the insurgency in Judea, and this may have been the main reason to put him to death. The Roman backlash ended up with the Jews fleeing to Masaada and them committing mass suicide. As a result of the Jewish insurgency, in and around 70 AD, Jewish Jerusalem was totally destroyed by the Romans and renamed Aelia de Capitolina. It was the Romans that would display the bodies of their enemies along Roman roads. Titus used Jews for entertainment.After the destruction of the 2nd temple around 70 AD, the despised Roman emperor, Herrod killed thousands of Jews and displayed their bodies for everyone to see. The reverberations of this type of morbid activity live to this day. The conflict between the Jews and Romans has left its mark on history and some of our Middle Eastern problems still ooze of those historical events. Around 130 AD, the Jewish zealot leader and Jewish insurgent leader Shimon bin Cockba was captured by the Romans. His body was displayed as a trophy. The Roman emperor Hedrian, after destroying Judea, renamed it Palestina. The creativity of the jailers were used to try every human trick in the book to try to get useless and insignificant information about the zealot movement out of poor and innocent Jews.
Titus used his Jewish prisoners for routine torture and perverse tactics, like throwing live Jews in front of animals. Martin Luther, the Protestant reformation and the Jewish reformation came centuries later, and achieved the same type of reformation in destroying the unyielding/tyrannical power of the Pope/Rabbi/Vatican. The Luther reformation was aimed at those who remained with the Church
ARIANISM IN MODERN TIMES: Today Arianism survives in the works of John Locke, Isaac Newton, Milton Ben Franklin, and Thomas Jefferson. Archbishop Dimitri of the Orthodox Church in America has identified Islam as the largest descendant of Arianism today. There is similarity in Islam’s teaching that Jesus was a great prophet, but very distinct from God, although Islam sees Jesus as a human messenger of God without the divine properties that Arianism attributes to the Christ.
Islam sees itself as a continuation of the Jewish and Christian traditions and reveres many of the same prophets.Non-Trinitarians claim the roots of their position go back further than those of their counterpart trinitarians. Some ancient sects, such as the Ebionites, said that Jesus was not a “Son of God” but rather an ordinary man who was a prophet, a view of Jesus shared by Islam. The doctrine of the Godhead, as mentioned by Jefferson according to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is similar to Arianism
JOHN LOCKE and MILTON INFLUENCE JEFFERSON ON UNITARIANISM & DIEISM:
Thomas Jefferson was in touch with John Locke and heavily influenced by John Locke. In fact when Thomas Jefferson wrote the “Jefferson Bible” he mentions that he has been in touch with all major philosophers of religion in Europe. In 1700 Locke resigned from the Board of Trade and devoted himself to Biblical studies and religious meditation. He had carefully studied the Gospels in preparing his “Reasonableness of Christianity.” In researching the Epistles of St Paul, he applied the spirit of the Essay and the ordinary rules of critical interpretation to a literature which he venerated as infallible. The work was published two years after. A tract on Miracles, written in 1702, also appeared posthumously. John Locke’s “The Reasonableness of Christianity” is described by Samuel Bold.
Subscription controversy-the doctrinal dispute aroused by the spread of Arianism. Under the commonwealth, Socinianism (represented by Paul Best and John Biddle), Sabellianism (by John Fry), Arianism (by John Knowles, Thomas Collier and Paul Hobson) and universalism (by Richard Coppin, John Reeve and Ludowicke Muggleton), had been alike banned and persecuted. The intolerant attitude of both presbyterians and independents was continued after the restoration; and to this was now added the rigour of the re-established English church. To Richard Baxter, not less than to John Owen or to Stillingfleet, the Socinians were on a par with Mohammedans, Turks, atheists and papists.
But, in spite of persecution, the discrete strands of varying anti-Trinitarian thought remained unbroken. Gilbert Clerke of Northamptonshire, a mathematician and, in a sense, a teacher of Whiston, Noval of Tydd St. Giles near Wisbech, Thomas Firmin (Sabellian), William Penn, Stephen Nye (Sabellian), William Freke (Arian), John Smith, the philomath, of St. Augustine’s, London (Socinian), Henry Hedworth, the disciple of Biddle, and William Manning, minister of Peasenhall (1630-1711) (independent), form a direct and unbroken, though irregular, chain of anti-Trinitarian thought, extending from the commonwealth days to those of toleration-not to mention the more covert but still demonstrable anti-Trinitarianism of Milton and Locke. With the passing of the Toleration act of 1689, the leaven of this long train of anti-Trinitarian thought made itself strongly felt. It first appeared in the bosom of the church of England itself, in the so-called Socinian controversy. In 1690, Arthur Bury, a latitudinarian divine, was deprived of the rectorship of Lincoln college, Oxford, for publishing his Naked Gospel. The proceedings gave rise to a stream of pamphlet literature on both sides. In the same year, 1690, John Wallis, Savilian professor of mathematics at Oxford, was involved in a controversy with a succession of …anonymous Arian and Socinian writers (among them William Jones) by the publication of his Doctrine of the Blessed Trinity briefly Explained. Simultaneously, Sherlock’s Vindication of the Holy and ever Blessed Trinity, although directed against the same group of writers, called forth another outburst of pamphleteering from quite another quarter, South leading the attack with his Animadversions upon Dr. Sherlock’s Vindication. The first portion of the anti-Trinitarian literature produced in this triangular contest is collected in The Faith of one God Who is only the Father (1691). In the ranks of dissent, the same controversy manifested itself in the disputes which wrecked the independent and presbyterian “happy union” and, contemporaneously, it appeared in the baptist body.
BAPTIST MATTHEW CAFFYN UPHELD UNITARIANISM: In 1693, Matthew Caffyn, baptist minister at Horsham, Sussex, was for a second time accused before the “Baptist General Assembly” of denying Christ’s divinity; and, when the assembly refused to vote his expulsion, a secession took place, and the rival “Baptist General Association” was formed. In the same year, the anti-Trinitarians published a Second collection of tracts proving the God, and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the only true God (1693). The tenth, and last, tract in this volume was a reply to South’s Animadversions on Sherlock’s Vindication.
PRESBYTERIAN JOHN HOWE DEFENDS UNITARIANISM:: In the following year (1694), the presbyterian John Howe entered the field with his Calm and sober Inquiry directed against the above tract, and, to make the fight triangular, Sherlock replied to South and Howe together in A Defence of Dr. Sherlock’s notion of a Trinity in Unity. The anti-Trinitarians’ Third collection of Tracts, which followed immediately, was a reply at once to Howe, on the one hand, and to Sherlock, on the other.
SOCINIAN CONTROVERSY: JOHN SMITH, LOCKE AND NEWTON DEFENDED UNITARIANISM:This first Trinitarian or so-called Socinian controversy, practically, came to an end in 1708. It received its deathblow, in 1698, by the act for the more effectual suppression of blasphemy and profaneness, which remained on the statute book till 1813. With the exception of John Smith’s Designed End to the Socinian Controversy (1695), the whole of the anti-Trinitarian contributions to it had been anonymous (both Locke and Sir Isaac Newton are supposed to have contributed under the cover of this anonymity); and, with the exception of Howe, no representatives of the professed dissenting denominations had joined in the fray. It is therefore to be regarded, primarily, as a church of England controversy, in which the churchmen had weakened the Trinitarian cause by a triangular and virtually conflicting defence: Sherlock versus South versus Tillotson and Burnet, and all four versus the enemy. The agitation which the controversy produced among the dissenters was mainly reflex, and is apparent more in their domestic quarrels, noted above, than in their published literature. But, disproportionately small as was the dissenting share of the combatants in mere point of literature, the intellectual ferment which ensued in following years showed itself more in the bosom of dissent than in the life and thought of the church of England.
PRESBYTERIAN THOMAS EMLYN SELF DESCRIBED UNITARIAN English Presbyterian minister and writer who first publicly adopted the name Unitarian todesignate a liberal, rational approach to God as a single person (as opposed to Christianbelief in the Trinity). He was was tried at Dublin, in 1693, for publishing his”Humble Inquiry into the Scripture account of Jesus Christ“, an Arian response to Sherlock’s “Doctrine of the Trinity.”
MUHAMMAD’S MESSAGE RESONATES WITH THE DISENCHANTED CHRISTIAN ARIANS: With the Arian Goths in decline, the land was hungry for the purest form of monotheism. He was taking Arabia and the world back to monotheism. He pointed out the excesses of the synagogue just like Jesus had done 600 years earlier. Muhammad also tried to reform the established church just like Martin Luther did a thousand years later. Muhammad was extremely successful because the pagans and the progeny of Arians accepted the new monotheist message. Islam spread like wildfire.
Quran [5:82] ..And you will find that the closest people in friendship to the believers are those who say, “We are Christian.” This is because they have priests and monks among them, and they are not arrogant. [7:159] Among the followers of Moses there are those who guide in accordance with the truth, and the truth renders them righteous.
[5:46] Subsequent to them, we sent Jesus, the son of Mary, confirming the previous scripture, the Torah. We gave him the Gospel, containing guidance and light, and confirming the previous scriptures, the Torah, and augmenting its guidance and light, and to enlighten the righteous.
[5:47] The people of the Gospel shall rule in accordance with GOD’s revelations therein. Those who do not rule in accordance with GOD’s revelations are the wicked.
[2:62 & 5:69] Surely, those who believe, those who are Jewish, the Christians, and the converts; anyone who (1) believes in GOD, and (2) believes in the Last Day, and (3) leads a righteous life, will receive their recompense from their Lord. They have nothing to fear, nor will they grieve.
CHRISTIANITY AT THE TIME OF MUHAMMAD: The “Christianity” and “Judaism” that existed at the time of Muhamamad was pre-reform Catholicism and Pre-Orthodox type of Judaism. It was very different than the Christianity and Judaism that exists today. The Christianity was probably based on the he scriptures called Diatesseron and the Catholic Epistles or Peshitta.
Since the Qur’ân talks about a Gospel, it would suggest Diatesseron more than Peshitta. Muslims consider the Quran to the 3rd and Final Testament and also think of the Torah and the Bible as Holy Books The Diatesseron was one of the earliest (AD 165) compilations of the Christian Bible. Tation’s Diatesseron is based on the Arabic version, itself a translation from the lost Syriac.Bible. It was complied iIn the second century, well before the `canonical’ gospels took their present form, Tatian took the four gospels (now included in Emperor Constantine’s approved Bible) and one or more Gnostic and Judaic one harmonized account of the life of Christ, the Diatessaron.
Tatian eliminated duplicated passages, deleted or reconciled contradicting verses, and harmonized parallels. Tatian’s Diatessaron became the standard gospel among the Syriac-speaking Christians of Syria and Mesopotamia up till the fifth century. Its text spread from China to England, and may be Iceland, and became one of the oldest witnesses to the gospels. Most Middle Eastern churches consider this the original Old Testament.
Arabic Translation: Two manuscripts of an Arabic translation of the Diatessaron exist (the Borgian and Vatican MSS). This translation is (in super- and sub-scriptions to the Borgian MS) said to be a translation made by Abu’l Faraj Abdulla ibn-at-Tayyib (d.1043) from a Syriac version of Tatian’s Diatessaron into Arabic. The Syriac exemplar on which he depended was written by Isa ibn Ali al Motatabbib (d. 873) who was a pupil of Honain ibn Ishak. In other words we are at least one translation (maybe two) away from the original Diatessaron, and several copyings
The principal Syriac translation of the Old Testament was carried out by Jews or Jewish Christians during the first two centuries AD. These are known as the Peshitta.By the beginning of the 5th century, or slightly earlier, the Syrian Church’s version of the Bible, the Peshitta (‘simple’ translation) was formed. For the New Testament it represented an accommodation of the Syrian canon with that of the Greeks. It contains 22 books – all of the present New Testament except: II Peter, II John, III John, Jude, Revelation of John. For the eastern part of the Syrian Church this constituted the closing of the canon, for after the Council of Ephesus (431 CE) the East Syrians separated themselves as the Nestorians.
The Peshitta, lightly revised and with missing books added, is the standard Syriac Bible for churches in the Syriac tradition: the Syriac Orthodox Church. Most Middle Eastern churches consider this the original Old Testament..The Quran is the word of God. The Hadith is the sayings of the prophet, so the Hadith is similar to the Bible. Christian Arab Kingdoms of the Ghassanids and Muntherits became the powers controlling the Arab Peninsula from Syria as far south as Yemen and Oman, and from Iraq as far south as the Arab Sea. The other Christians near Muhammad were the Nabatians.
The Nabateans were settled in northern Arabia and by the 6th century BC, they moved to what is now Jordan where they formed their state and kingdom. Petra, their capital, was a trading center between Arabia and the Mediterranean Sea.
ARIANISM WITHIN THE FOLD OF ISLAM INFLUENCED LUTHER’S PROTESTANT REFORMATION AND THE RENAISSANCE: Historically, Arianism was a majority opinion among Christians, but this began to change when Emperor Constantine intervened on behalf of and Trinitarians. However Emperor Constantine in order to preserve the empire wanted to combine existing trinatirian concepts within Rome and married them to Christian beliefs. Arius, a Libyan by descent, was brought up at Antioch, a center of Christian learning. He became the Bishop of Nicomedia, took part (306) and was made presbyter of the church called “Baucalis,” at Alexandria. He opposed the Sabellians, who were committed to a view of the Trinity which denied all real distinctions in the Supreme.. The Council of Nicea in 325 headed by Emperor Constantine adopted the Nicean concept of Trinity, Arias was exiled and his promulgation “anethmized“.
Emperor Constantine reversed his opinion about the Arian and his “heresy”. He recalled Arian and his supporting bishops three years later (in 328). At the same time, Arius was recalled from exile.
Constantine’s sister and Eusebius worked on the emperor to obtain reinstatement for Arius, and they would have succeeded, if Arius hadn’t suddenly died – by poisoning, Arianism regained momentum and survived until the reigns of Roman emperors Gratian and Theodosius, at which time, St. Ambrose set to work stamping it out. However that was not the end Arianism.
Arianism survived until 381AD in the Western Roman Empire and then thrived in the Easter Roman empire and other areas until the 7th century. After that Arianism went underground. Evangelists sent to the Germanic peoples converted the Goths to Arianism. When the Germanic people entered the Roman empire they entered it as Arians and used this form of Christianity to differentiate themselves from the Romans. The Germanic peoples were Arians. Arianism did not die even then.
The flag of Arianism laws carried by “The Brethren of the Common Life“, who were a medieval lay group dedicated to Bible study and education. They were persecuted, fled their native homelands and were scattered all over Europe. They are by many account held responsible for the renaissance.
ISLAM’S INFLUENCE ON MARTIN LUTHER: Martin Luther’s schooling included the Latin school at Mansfeld, a year at a school in Magdeburg (run by the Brethren at Eisenach). In his 15th year, Luther made valued older friends and was influenced by Arian ideas. Luther’s ideas led to the Christian reformation. Here are some of the positive things said by Martin Luther about Muhammad and Islam:
From this book, accordingly, we see that the religion of the Turks or Muhammad is far more splendid in ceremonies-and, I might almost say, in customs-thanours, even including that of the religious or all the clerics. The modesty and simplic-ity of their food, clothing, dwellings, and everything else, as well as the fasts, pray-ers, and common gatherings of the people that this book reveals are nowhere seenamong us-or rather it is impossible for our people to be persuaded to them. Fur-thermore, which of our monks, …Martin Luther
In 1532 facing the threat of the Turkish invasion, the Emperor agreed to a truce with the Protestants in the Religious Peace of Nürnberg. Facing the Turkish invasion Luthers’s ideas changed. Bernard Shaw also had a lot of good things to say about Islam.
…the ‘Bull’ of Pope Innocent III causing the massacre of 20,000 men, women and children (Albigenses) in France and the nailing of Martin Luther’s 95 questions on the Church door in Germany, it stretches a long period in between. The European society passed through a massive reform during this time. The reform movement of Peter Waldo of France, John Wycliffe of England, Jan Hus of Bohemia (Czech), Girolamo Savonarola of Italy, Michael Servetus of Spain, Ulrich Zwingli of Switzerland, William Tyndale of England and hundred others must have influenced Bernard Shaw to lean heavily towards the fairness of early Islam – the Islam that Pophet Muhammad once preached.
SULAIMAN THE TURKISH CALIPH SUPPORTED THE CHRISTIAN REFORMATION
In addition to Suleriman, Charles was threatened by the pope, the king of France, and even some of his own princes! Suleriman, in opposing Charles V, helped the Protestants militarily and financially. God thus used the Moslem nation to provide opportunity for the Reformation to grow in Germany and in the rest of Europe.
RUMI INFLUENCED THE EUROPEAN RENAISSANCE, LUTHER & BEETHOVEN ETC.
Rumis influences: For Mevlana, a human being is made up of REASON ( knowledge, thought, conscience, maturity), LOVE ( emotions, poetry, music) and SPIRIT ( life, motion, whirling). It is very unlikely to find the three clamped to each other in theory and meaning in such a way in any other system. As a result, this approach created an ecolé, namely “Mevlana’s Whirling Dervishes”, and it has had great influence on people for centuries. Desiderius Erasmus Roterodamus, one of the humanists of Renaissance in 16th century, Martin Luther and Sebastian Frank, who translated some of Mevlana’s poems, Rambrandt(artist-17th century), Beethoven (composer-18th century), Frederick Ruckert, Joseph von Hammer, Johann Volfgang von Goethe(writers- 19th century) , Prof R. Nicholson and Prof Arbery of Cambridge University(20th century) and Heins Meinke (poet), Prof Helmuth Ritter and Anne Marie Schimmel of Bonn University (orientalists- 20th century) are some who were influenced by Mevlana’s philosophy.
ISLAM AS “HETRODOX CHRISTIANITY”:
John of Demascus actually calls Islam Hetrodox Christianity. John of Damascus is called the first apologetic of Islam and a detractor.
According the Wikipedia “John of Damascus (Latin: Iohannes Damascenus or Johannes Damascenus also known as John Damascene, Chrysorrhoas, “streaming with gold”-i.e., “the golden speaker”) (c. 676 – December 5, 749) was a Melkite monk and presbyter. He was born and raised in Damascus but died (in all probability) at the monastery of Mar Saba, southeast of Jerusalem.”.In his book the “Heresies of Ishamail” he pretty much defines Islam in the light of Arianism and what he defines as Nestorianism. Nestorius (c.386-c.451) was a pupil of Theodore of Mopsuestia in Antioch and later became the Patriarch of Constantinople. He preached against the use of the title Mother of God (Theotokos) for the Virgin Mary and would only call her Mother of Christ (Christotokos).
John of Damascus in today’s light would not be considered an apologetic of Islam. I would consider him a proponent of Islam since he ties Islam to a kind of a Gnostic Gospel. He called all gospels divinely inspired. It is fascinating to see the link between Islam and Christianity. If we read Arianism and Nestorianism, and Unitarianism in conjunction with what the Archbishop of Canterbury says, it paints a picture of immense interaction between Islam and a much closer relationship than generally accepted.Fletcher in his book “The Cross and the Crescent” lists a lot of commonalities between Islam and Christianity and informs us the Syriac Christian Churches felt liberated when the Muslim took over the Holy lands. In all Muslims lands taken over by Muslims from Christians, the number of churches built went up phenomenally. The Syriac and Coptic Christians were closer to “Unitarians” and the heterodox Christian doctrine of Nestorianism. From a Christian perspective These were all the “heresies” that eventually got purged by Emperor Constantine and got included into Islam
“On the Day of Resurrection I will intercede and say,
‘O my Lord! Admit into Paradise (even) those who have faith equal to a mustard seed in their hearts.’” Sahih Al-Bukhari, Volume 9, Hadith 600
MUHAMMAD IN THE CHRISTIAN CONTEXT:
Islam is “Hetrodox Christianity“…John Damascus
The status of Muhammad has to be understood in the context of Christian Dogma and Christian beliefs of “inerrancy“, “infallibility” “inspiration” and the liberal interpretation of the Gospels. The discussion of the status of Jesus Christ has always been a topic of discussion between Christians. In many ways the discussions of Jesus Christ and the theological differences between Islam and Christianity are essentially a discussion about the so called heresies of Arias and Eusebius of Caesarea that germinated in the city of Antioch. This has been prolifically elucidated by Thomas Jefferson in his “Jeffersen Bible“. Many churches have taken a liberal approach to the interpretation of the Bible and consider it inspired or infallible.
MUHAMMAD THE REFORMER: Muhammad was a reformer in a sea of paganism. His message was the purest form of monotheism that exists in the three Abrahamic religions. He had married a Christian woman by the name of Khadija. When Muhammad got his message from God he was referred to Khadija’s unlce Waqaba who was a Monophysite Christian. Waqaba informed Muhammad that the voices he was hearing was from God and there is prophecy in the Bible about someone like Muhammad. Some critics claim that Muhammad was influenced by a Nestorian monk Bahira (George or Sergius) who met the boy Mohammed at Bostra in Syria and claimed to recognize in him the sign of a prophet.
A woman would throw garbage from the rooftop on the Prophet Muhammad every day in Mecca. One day when he noticed that no garbage was being thrown on him, he inquired about her, and discovered that she was sick. He prayed for her and gave her solace and comfort. She was so impressed, that she gave up her pagan rituals and converted to Islam.
During one of his trips, the people threw stones at him so much so that he was all bloodied. Upon his rescue by his supporters, he prohibited them from any action and requested God to forgiven them
An older Christian woman Khatija hired the young Mohamed for trade.She was so impressed by his integrity in conducting her business affairs so honestly and profitably that that she asked him to marry her. He remained faithful to her ’till her death. She was his companion, advisor, partners in life and one of the first converts to Islam.
While praying, his nephews Hasan and Husain would climb on his back. He would never scold them or admonish them, instead he prolonged his prayer in while prostrating.
Muhammad was known by the pagans of Arabia as “ameen” the honest one, “sadiq” the truthful one, long before he received revelation and even afterwards. He was offered, money and kingship to give up his message of “one God”, but he refused and continued to preach the message of Abraham. These are the stories I grew up with. This is my image of my prophet. This is the image all Muslims think of when we think of our prophet.
CRITICISM OF MUHAMMAD:
His popularity in the world of Islam and elsewhere has attracted a barrage of criticism on his personality, his message and his life. Heretic Christian monk, false prophet, warrior, womanizer, and cruel are some of the major themes of criticism rained on this man whose popularity has continued to grow around the globe. Obviously his message is resonating with humans and his criticism is not being heard. He never proclaimed that he was starting a new religion. He always insisted that this was the original faith of Abraham and vociferously proclaimed one God, the God of Abraham, the god of Jesus and the God of Noah. E remained faithful to the love of his life Khadija for more than 20 years ‘till his death. He married slves to liberate them and old widows to provide them comfort in dieing. Most of his marriages were at the end of his life, not during the youthful years. He took the advice of Khatija nad Ayesha and considered them partners in his life and in Islam. Like King David, Muhammad could have chosen to become king of Arabia. Instead he established covenants with the Christians and and his “Mishaq e Medina” was a constitution that established an ummah of Jews and Muslims. Arabia had about 50,000 people of which only about 20,000 or less were able bodied men who could wage war. A smaller subset of this number actually formed the army that within 50 years of the death of Muhammad brought Morocco to Indonesia. Obviously it was not the sword that brought this vast area under the sway of the color green….it was the message of Muhammad, a message of love, affection, compassion and one of equality and justice. Islam was not spread by the sword. The largest Muslim populations in the world in Indonesia, Bangladesh, Pakistan and India constitute more than 80% of the Muslims. None of these populations are Arab and none of these people were ever conquered by Arab armies.
Today, Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world, the fastest growing religion in Europe, and the fastest growing religion in America. 4 out 5 Western coverts are women. This phenomenon has to understood in terms of sociology not pulpit propaganda.
We can either demonize the other religion or work on building common ground. As Westernized Muslims, we can and should discuss the infallibilities of Muhammad the man. Muhammad was fortunate enough to be born in one of the power centers of an affluent Arabia which owed its prosperity to becoming the hub of trade and commerce. Affluent and powerful, he did not have to take on the entire Arabian peninsula and preach monotheism and a civl code of justice. He did not have to upset the equilibrium.
He was part o f the establishment and his tribe was all powerful. He like Abraham chose to eliminate idol worship and clear the Kaaba of all idols. He was a man and not a God. My research of his entire life shows me a MAN OF COMPASSION, INCLUSIVELY and MAGNANIMITY. This opinion is based on his entire life and teachings. I have so many stories that it would take volumes of paper to print. This image of Muhammad is also my core belief and my personal relationship with Muhammad the MAN. Muhammad’s life spans many decades. The religion was not based around his personality, but around the prophets of the Bible. He even called it “Deen e Ibrahimi” or the religion of Abraham. A cult would have died out in a year or so. It has now been 1400 years and the religion is growing. There must be something in the religion and the message.
Muhammad and Islam have faced defamation from the first day the declaration of the “shahadah” (submission to the will of God) was made. Muhammad’s entire life has been defined by many authors. The definitive works on the life of the prophet were written centuries ago and new ideas are but summaries of the books: These were Ibn Ishaq’s Sirat e Rasul Allah and Ibn Khatir’s Siratul nabi.
A new PBS documentary on Muhammad created by Alexander Kronemer who regularly writes on the interfaith site belief.com came out a couple of years ago. It should be available in the library and on PBS. It is based upon Karen Armstrong’s book titled “Muhammad.” She thinks of it as a gift to Muslims. She however needs to update her book on in light of the latest research on Banyu Quaraza. Karen Armstrong and Martin Lings are a few of the current authors that talk about Muhammad. I read Karen’s book ten years ago when it first came out.
*Peace Be upon Him (PBUH). I have deliberately not used this to make it easier for Non-Muslim leaders. SWW.May God forgive me if I have transgressed and may God show me the right way.
The Reasonableness of Christianity as delivered in the Scriptures. 1695. French trans. 1740; Dutch trans. 1729; German trans. 1733.A Vindication of The Reasonableness of Christianity, … from Mr. Edwards’s Reflections. 1695.A Second Vindication of the Reasonableness of Christianity. 1697.A Letter to the Right Reverend Edward Ld. Bishop of Worcester, concerning Some Passages relating to Mr. Locke’s Essay of Humane Understanding: in a late Discourse of his Lordship’s in Vindication of the Trinity. 1697. Mr. Locke’s Reply to the Right Reverend the Lord Bishop of Worcester’s Answer to his Letter. 1697.Mr. Locke’s Reply to the Right Reverend the Lord Bishop of Worcester’s Answer to his Second Letter. 1699.A Paraphrase and Notes on the Epistle of St. Paul to the Galatians, etc. 1705.Posthumous Works. 1706. “Conversation between a Saracen and a Christian” John Damascus ”Concerning Heresy” (peri aipeseon) – The last chapter of this part (Chapter 100) deals with the Heresy of the Ishmaelites. Differently from the previous ‘chapters’ on other heresies which are usually only a few lines long, this chapter occupies a few pages in his work. It is one of the first Christian polemical writings against Islam, and the first one written by a Greek Orthodox/Melkite. John Damascus Medieval Christian Perceptions of Islam;
A Book of Essays by JOHN TOLAN on 5 pages Anglo-Saxon Perceptions of the Islamic World (Cambridge Studies in Anglo-Saxon England) by Katharine Scarfe Beckett on page 41, Back Matter (1), and Back Matter (2) Saracens by John V. Tolan in Back Matter (1), Back Matter (2), and Back Matter (3) Popular Dictionary of Hinduism by Avril Powell on page 30, and page 32 John of Damascus on Islam: The ‘Heresy of the Ishmaelites’ (Hardcover) by D.J. Sahas Misquoting Jesus :
The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why by Bart D. Ehrman Lost Scriptures :
Books that Did Not Make It into the New Testament by Bart D. Ehrman When Jesus Became God: The Struggle to Define Christianity during the
Last Days of Rome by Richard E. Rubenstein God Against the Gods : The History of the War Between Monotheism and Polytheism by Jonathan Kirsch Whose Bible Is It?
A History of the Scriptures Through the Ages by Jaroslav Pelikan An Humble Inquiry into the Scripture Account of Jesus Christ (1702)
Thomas Emlyn American Gospel: God, the Founding Fathers, and the Making of a Nation (Hardcover) by Jon Meacham (Author)
The Founding Fathers Were Not Christians
by Steven Morris, in Free Inquiry, Fall, 1995
“The Christian right is trying to rewrite the history of the United States as part of its campaign to force its religion on others. They try to depict the founding fathers as pious Christians who wanted the United States to be a Christian nation, with laws that favored Christians and Christianity.
This is patently untrue. The early presidents and patriots were generally Deists or Unitarians, believing in some form of impersonal Providence but rejecting the divinity of Jesus and the absurdities of the Old and New testaments.
Thomas Paine was a pamphleteer whose manifestos encouraged the faltering spirits of the country and aided materially in winning the war of Independence:
I do not believe in the creed professed by the Jewish church, by the Roman church, by the Greek church, by the Turkish church, by the Protestant church, nor by any church that I know of…Each of those churches accuse the other of unbelief; and for my own part, I disbelieve them all.”
The Age of Reason by Thomas Paine, pp. 8,9 (Republished 1984, Prometheus Books, Buffalo, NY)
George Washington, the first president of the United States, never declared himself a Christian according to contemporary reports or in any of his voluminous correspondence. Washington Championed the cause of freedom from religious intolerance and compulsion. When John Murray (a universalist who denied the existence of hell) was invited to become an army chaplain, the other chaplains petitioned Washington for his dismissal. Instead, Washington gave him the appointment. On his deathbed, Washington uttered no words of a religious nature and did not call for a clergyman to be in attendance.
George Washington and Religion by Paul F. Boller Jr., pp. 16, 87, 88, 108, 113, 121, 127 (1963, Southern Methodist University Press, Dallas, TX)
John Adams, the country’s second president, was drawn to the study of law but faced pressure from his father to become a clergyman. He wrote that he found among the lawyers ‘noble and gallant achievements” but among the clergy, the “pretended sanctity of some absolute dunces”. Late in life he wrote: “Twenty times in the course of my late reading, have I been upon the point of breaking out, “This would be the best of all possible worlds, if there were no religion in it!”
It was during Adam’s administration that the Senate ratified the Treaty of Peace and Friendship, which states in Article XI that “the government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion.”
The Character of John Adams by Peter Shaw, pp. 17 (1976, North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill, NC) Quoting a letter by JA to Charles Cushing Oct 19, 1756, and John Adams, A Biography in his Own Words, edited by James Peabody, p. 403 (1973, Newsweek, New York NY) Quoting letter by JA to Jefferson April 19, 1817, and in reference to the treaty, Thomas Jefferson, Passionate Pilgrim by Alf Mapp Jr., pp. 311 (1991, Madison Books, Lanham, MD) quoting letter by TJ to Dr. Benjamin Waterhouse, June, 1814.
Thomas Jefferson, third president and author of the Declaration of Independence, said:”I trust that there is not a young man now living in the United States who will not die a Unitarian.” He referred to the Revelation of St. John as “the ravings of a maniac” and wrote:
The Christian priesthood, finding the doctrines of Christ leveled to every understanding and too plain to need explanation, saw, in the mysticisms of Plato, materials with which they might build up an artificial system which might, from its indistinctness, admit everlasting controversy, give employment for their order, and introduce it to profit, power, and pre-eminence. The doctrines which flowed fromem) was a a href=”http://www.amazon.com/gp/reader/0521829402/ref=sib_ab_dp_pg/104-3038607-0285517?ie=UTF8 the lips of Jesus himself are within the comprehension of a child; but thousands of volumes have not yet explained the Platonisms engrafted on them: and for this obvious reason that nonsense can never be explained.”
Thomas Jefferson, an Intimate History by Fawn M. Brodie, p. 453 (1974, W.W) Norton and Co. Inc. New York, NY) Quoting a letter by TJ to Alexander Smyth Jan 17, 1825, and Thomas Jefferson, Passionate Pilgrim by Alf Mapp Jr., pp. 246 (1991, Madison Books, Lanham, MD) quoting letter by TJ to John Adams, July 5, 1814.
James Madison, fourth president and father of the Constitution, was not religious in any conventional sense. “Religious bondage shackles and debilitates the mind and unfits it for every noble enterprise.”
“During almost fifteen centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial. What have been its fruits? More or less in all places, pride and indolence in the Clergy, ignorance and servility in the laity, in both, superstition, bigotry and persecution.”
The Madisons by Virginia Moore, P. 43 (1979, McGraw-Hill Co. New York, NY) quoting a letter by JM to William Bradford April 1, 1774, and James Madison, A Biography in his Own Words, edited by Joseph Gardner, p. 93, (1974, Newsweek, New York, NY) Quoting Memorial and Remonstrance against Religious Assessments by JM, June 1785.
Ethan Allen, whose capture of Fort Ticonderoga while commanding the Green Mountain Boys helped inspire Congress and the country to pursue the War of Independence, said, “That Jesus Christ was not God is evidence from his own words.” In the same book, Allen noted that he was generally “denominated a Deist, the reality of which I never disputed, being conscious that I am no Christian.” When Allen married Fanny Buchanan, he stopped his own wedding ceremony when the judge asked him if he promised “to live with Fanny Buchanan agreeable to the laws of God.” Allen refused to answer until the judge agreed that the God referred to was the God of Nature, and the laws those “written in the great book of nature.”
Religion of the American Enlightenment by G. Adolph Koch, p. 40 (1968, Thomas Crowell Co., New York, NY.) quoting preface and p. 352 of Reason, the Only Oracle of Man and A Sense of History compiled by American Heritage Press Inc., p. 103 (1985, American Heritage Press, Inc., New York, NY.)
Benjamin Franklin, delegate to the Continental Congress and the Constitutional Convention, said:
As to Jesus of Nazareth, my Opinion of whom you particularly desire, I think the System of Morals and his Religion…has received various corrupting Changes, and I have, with most of the present dissenters in England, some doubts as to his Divinity; tho’ it is a question I do not dogmatize upon, having never studied it, and think it needless to busy myself with it now, when I expect soon an opportunity of knowing the Truth with less trouble.” He died a month later, and historians consider him, like so many great Americans of his time, to be a Deist, not a Christian.
Benjamin Franklin, A Biography in his Own Words, edited by Thomas Fleming, p. 404, (1972, Newsweek, New York, NY) quoting letter by BF to Exra Stiles March 9, 1970.
The Founding Fathers Were Not Christians
By Steven Morris, Ph.D.
The Christian Right is trying to rewrite the history of the United States, as part of their campaign to force their religion on others who ask merely to be left alone. According to this Orwellian revision, the Founding Fathers of this country were pious Christians who wanted the United States to be a Christian nation, with laws that favored Christians and Christianity.
Not true! The early presidents and patriots were generally Deists or Unitarians, believing in some form of impersonal Providence but rejecting the divinity of Jesus and the absurdities of the Old and New Testaments.
Thomas Paine, pamphleteer whose manifestoes encouraged the faltering spirits of the country and aided materially in winning the War of Independence: “I do not believe in the creed professed by the Jewish church, by the Roman church, by the Greek church, by the Turkish church, by the Protestant church, nor by any church that I know of . . . Each of those churches accuse the other of unbelief; and for my own part, I disbelieve them all.” 
George Washington, first president: He seems to have had the characteristic unconcern of the 18th century Deist for the forms and creeds of institutional religion. Although he often referred to Providence as an impersonal force, remote and abstract, he never declared himself to be a Christian according to contemporary reports or in any of his voluminous correspondence. Washington championed the cause of freedom from religious intolerance and compulsion. When John Murray (a Universalist who denied the existence of Hell) was invited to become an army chaplain, the other chaplains petitioned for his dismissal. Instead, Washington gave him the appointment. On his deathbed, Washington uttered no words of a religious nature and did not call for a clergyman to be in attendance. 
John Adams, second president: Drawn to the study of law but facing pressure from his father to become a clergyman, he wrote that he found among the lawyers “a noble air and gallant achievements” but among the clergy, the “pretended sanctity of some absolute dunces.”  Late in life, he wrote, “As I understand the Christian religion, it was, and is, a revelation. But how has it happened that millions of fables, tales, legends have been blended with both Jewish and Christian revelation that have made them the most bloody religion that ever existed?” 
It was during Adams’ presidency that the Senate ratified the Treaty of Peace and Friendship, which states in Article XI that “the Government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion.” This treaty with Tripoli was written and concluded by Joel Barlow during Washington’s administration. 
Thomas Jefferson, third president and author of the Declaration of Independence: “I trust that there is not a young man now living in the United States who will not die an Unitarian.”  He referred to the Revelation of St. John as “the ravings of a maniac”  and wrote, “The Christian priesthood, finding the doctrines of Christ levelled to every understanding and too plain to need explanation, saw, in the mysticisms of Plato, materials with which they might build up an artificial system which might, from its indistinctness, admit everlasting controversy, give employment for their order, and introduce it to profit, power and preeminence. The doctrines which flowed from the lips of Jesus himself are within the comprehension of a child; but thousands of volumes have not yet explained the Platonisms engrafted on them: and for this obvious reason that nonsense can never be explained.” 
James Madison, fourth president and Father of the Constitution: Madison was not religious in any conventional sense. “Religious bondage shackles and debilitates the mind and unfits it for every noble enterprise.”  “During almost fifteen centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial. What have been its fruits? More or less in all places, pride and indolence in the Clergy, ignorance and servility in the laity; in both, superstition, bigotry and persecution.” 
Ethan Allen, whose capture of Fort Ticonderoga while commanding the Green Mountain boys helped inspire Congress and the country to pursue the War of Independence: “That Jesus Christ was not God is evident from his own words.” In the same book, Allen noted that he was generally “denominated a Deist, the reality of which I never disputed, being conscious I am no Christian.”  When Allen married Fanny Buchanan, he stopped his own wedding ceremony when the Judge asked him if he promised “to live with Fanny Buchanan agreeable to the laws of God.” Allen refused to answer until the Judge agreed that the God referred to was the God of Nature, and the laws those “written in the great book of Nature.” 
Benjamin Franklin, delegate to the Continental Congress and the Constitutional Convention: “As to Jesus of Nazareth, my Opinion of whom you particularly desire, I think the System of Morals and his Religion . . . has received various corrupting Changes, and I have, with most of the present Dissenters in England, some Doubts as to his Divinity; tho’ it is a question I do not dogmatize upon, having never studied it, and think it needless to busy myself with it now, when I expect soon an Opportunity of knowing the Truth with less Trouble.”  He died a month later, and historians consider him, like so many great Americans of his time, as a Deist, not a Christian.
Steven Morris received his Bachelor’s Degree in astronomy from the University of Toronto and his Ph.D from the University of Calgary. He held a research position at UCLA for two years working on a seismology project, which included spending one year at the South Pole running a seismometer. He has taught at the University of Puerto Rico and now teaches physics and physical science at Los Angeles Harbor College. He has published several astronomy research papers and is an active member of the Los Angeles-based Atheists United.This article originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times.
- The Age of Reason by Thomas Paine, p. 8, 9 (republished 1984, Prometheus Books, Buffalo NY)
- George Washington and Religion by Paul F. Boller Jr., p. 16, 87, 88, 108, 113, 121, 127 (1963, Southern Methodist University Press, Dallas TX)
- The Character of John Adams by Peter Shaw, p. 17 (1976, North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill NC) quoting letter by J.A. to Charles Cushing Oct. 19, 1756
- The Great Quotations, ed. by George Seldes, (Citadel Press) quoting letter by J.A. to F.A. Van der Kamp Dec. 27, 1816
- Thomas Jefferson, Passionate Pilgrim by Alf Mapp Jr., p. 311 (1991, Madison Books, Lanham MD) quoting letter by T.J. to Dr. Benjamin Waterhouse June 26, 1811
- Thomas Jefferson, An Intimate History by Fawn M. Brodie, p. 453 (1974, W. W. Norton & Co. Inc., New York NY) quoting letter by T.J. to Alexander Smyth Jan. 17, 1825
- Thomas Jefferson, Passionate Pilgrim by Alf Mapp Jr., p. 246, quoting letter by T.J. to John Adams July 5, 1814
- The Madisons by Virginia Moore, p. 43 (1979, McGraw-Hill Co., New York NY) quoting letter by J.M. to William Bradford April 1, 1774
- James Madison, A Biography in His Own Words, p. 93 quoting Memorial and Remonstrance against Religious Assessments by J.M. June 1785.
- Religion of the American Enlightenment by G. Adolf Koch, p. 40 (1968, Thomas Crowell Co., New York NY) quoting preface and p. 352 of Reason, the Only Oracle of Man by Ethan Allen 1784
- Sense of History compiled by American Heritage Press Inc., p. 103 (1985, American Heritage Press Inc., New York NY)
- Benjamin Franklin, A Biography in His Own Words, edited by Thomas Fleming, p. 404 (1972, Newsweek, New York NY) quoting letter by B.F. to Ezra Stiles March 9, 1790
In 1796, U.S. Vowed Friendliness With Islam
by Daniel Pipes
New York Sun
November 7, 2006
Has the United States ever engaged in a crusade against Islam? No, never. And, what’s more, one of the country’s earliest diplomatic documents rejects this very idea.
Exactly 210 years ago this week, toward the end of George Washington’s second presidential administration, a document was signed with the first of two Barbary Pirate states. Awkwardly titled the “Treaty of Peace and Friendship, signed at Tripoli November 4, 1796 (3 Ramada I, A. H. 1211), and at Algiers January 3, 1797 (4 Rajab, A. H. 1211),” it contains an extraordinary statement of peaceful intent toward Islam.
The agreement’s 11th article (out of twelve) reads: As the government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion, – as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion or tranquility of Musselmen, – and as the said States never have entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mahomitan nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.”
In June 1797, the Senate unanimously ratified this treaty, which President John Adams immediately signed into law, making it an authoritative expression of American policy.
In 2006, as voices increasingly present the “war on terror” as tantamount to a war on Islam or Muslims, it bears notice that several of the Founding Fathers publicly declared they had no enmity “against the laws, religion or tranquility” of Muslims. This antique treaty implicitly supports my argument that the United States is not fighting Islam the religion but radical Islam, a totalitarian ideology that did not even exist in 1796.
Beyond shaping relations with Muslims, the statement that “the government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion” has for 210 years been used as a proof text by those who argue that, in the words of a 1995 article by Steven Morris, “The Founding Fathers Were Not Christians.”
But a curious story lies behind the remarkable 11th article. The official text of the signed treaty was in Arabic, not English; the English wording quoted above was provided by the famed diplomat who negotiated it, Joel Barlow (1754-1812), then the American consul-general in Algiers. The U.S. government has always treated his translation as its official text, reprinting it countless times.
Additional notes on Jefferson
Note that Thomas Jefferson, one of the nation’s most popular and respected presidents, is claimed by many groups.
Jefferson was born into an Anglican family and was raised as an Aglican. He would later be considered an Episcopalian, after the Episcopal Church was officially founded as a separate province within Anglicanism in 1789 (after the Revolution and independence from England).
Later in his adult life Jefferson did not consider himself an Episcopalian, or a member of any other specific denomination. Later in life Jefferson held many clearly Christian, Deist, and Unitarian beliefs, but was not a member of any congregation or denomination. Today, many Unitarians sincerely believe that Jefferson should be “counted as” a Unitarian, just as many Christians point to Jefferson as a Christian, and many of the small number of Americans who identify themselves as Deists believe Jefferson should be classified a Deist.
Jefferson was never a member of the Unitarian denomination nor was he ever active in a Unitarian congregation. However, he did once write that he would have liked to be a member of a Unitarian church, but he was not because there were no Unitarian churches in Virginia. It is not unreasonable to identify Jefferson as a Unitarian (with the caveat that, technically speaking, he was not actually one). However, it is a mistake to extrapolate from Jefferson’s stated admiration for Unitarianism the notion that he was somehow “un-Christian” or “non-Christian.” It is true that contemporary Unitarian-Universalists now classify their denomination as a distinct religion not confined as a subset of Christianity (although a large proportion of individual Unitarian-Universalists do indeed identify themselves as Christians). However, in Jefferson’s day, Unitarianism was considerably different from its present form, and there was no concept that it was a non-Christian religion. Unitarianism in Jefferson’s time was regarded as one liberal Protestant denomination among many other Protestant denominations extant in America. Virtually nobody thought of Jefferson as a non-Christian (or even non-Protestant) president.
By some of the more narrowly-conceived definitions of the word “Christian” which are in use today, particularly among Evangelicals since the 1940s, it is entirely possible that Jefferson’s beliefs would mark him as a “non-Christian.” Defining Jefferson as a non-Christian must be done purely on contemporary theological grounds, because he was clearly a Christian with regards to his ethics, conduct, upbringing, and culture. Furthermore, to define Jefferson as a “non-Christian” requires using definitions retroactively to classify Jefferson counter to his own self-concept and the commonly understood meanings of words during his own time.
Adherents of other religious groups, including atheists and agnostics, also point to various writings of Jefferson which are in harmony with their positions. The difficulty in classifying Jefferson using a single word for religious affiliation does not stem from a lack of information, but rather a wealth of writing — which can be interpreted differently depending on a person’s perspective. Jefferson left a considerable amount of writing on political and philosophical issues, as well as writing about religion, including the “Jefferson Bible.”
In a practical sense, classifying Jefferson as a “Deist” with regards to religious affiliation is misleading and meaningless. Jefferson was never affiliated with any organized Deist movement. This is a word that describes a theological position more than an actual religious affiliation, and as such it is of limited use from a sociological perspective. If one defines the term “Deist” broadly enough, then the writing of nearly every U.S. president or prominent historical figure could be used to classify them as a “Deist,” so classifying people as such without at least some evidence of nominal self-identification is not very useful.
Although Jefferson’s specific denominational and congregational ties were limited in his adulthood and his ever-evolving theological beliefs were distinctively his own, he was without a doubt a Protestant. One should keep in mind that despite his later self-stated non-affiliation with any specific denomination, he was raised as an Episcopalian, attended Episcopalian services many times as an adult and as President, and he expressed a clear affinity for Unitarianism. However these denominations may be classified now, during Jefferson’s lifetime, the Episcopal Church and the Unitarian Church were both considered to be Protestant denominations. Ref. http://www.adherents.com/people/pj/Thomas_Jefferson.html