Andrew Sullivan posts this on his blog, from the Harper's Index, and questions it:
"Number of America's nine "Founding Fathers" who denied the divinity of Jesus: 7"
Now, I am not sure what methodology was used to determine that there were only nine Founding Fathers. I am sure there are lots of decedents of Edward Rutledge, Caesar Rodney, William H. Lee, John Hancock and others who would be offended by the notion that these men
aren't considered to be in the same tier as Jefferson, Adams, Madison and, of course, Washington, Franklin and Hamilton. So this "nine" number -- I am not comfortable with that.
But the "divinity of Jesus" -- that's a key phrase. And at the time of this nation's founding, many men, including many of the Founding Fathers, were Deists. And Deists did believe that Jesus was a great teacher, but that he was not divine. Deism advocated natural religion and natural law, and took a "clockmaker" approach to the creation of the world and the universe -- that god put all into motion, thenstepped back.
The constitution does not mention any diety. It does not say, "We the People, under God, in order to form ..."
The Declaration of Independence refers to "nature's god" -- that would be Deism. Indeed, the idea that legitimate government is had only by the consent of the governed, flies in the face of the Divine right ofthe Christian monarchs to rule.
I do not have a definitive list of Founding Fathers and their religious beliefs. But I can tell you there is plenty of evidence that Washington, Jefferson and Madison were all Deists. And John
Adams, a Unitarian, didn't believe in hell.
John Adams also signed the Treaty of Tripoli in 1797, which passed unanimously in the U.S. Senate, which contains a very interesting statement at Article 11:
Art. 11. 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 tranquillity, of Mussulmen [Muslims]; and, as the said States never entered into any
war, or act of hostility against any Mahometan 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."
Now, I can imagine why they'd make such an affirmative statement -- the U.S. wanted to be clear that they were not going to set forth on any European type crusades against these Muslims. So they state it affirmatively: we are not a Christian nation, we are not going to have
differences with you on religious grounds because there is no official religion in the U.S.
Not so radical, really.