The Founding Fathers - Atheists and Freethinkers

Several of the Founding Fathers of the United States were Freethinkers, even Atheists. I've collected a small sampling of quotes from them. When faced with the tired argument that America was founded as a christian nation, this is a primer on refuting that lie.

Benjamin Franklin

(1706-1790) American public official, writer, scientist, and printer who played a major part in the American Revolution

  • I have found Christian dogma unintelligible. Early in life I absented myself from Christian assemblies.

  • They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.

  • The way to see by faith is to shut the eye of reason: The Morning Daylight appears plainer when you put out your Candle.

  • Lighthouses are more helpful than churches.

John Adams
(1735-1826) Second President of the United States

  • I almost shudder at the thought of alluding to the most fatal example of the abuses of grief which the history of mankind has preserved -- the Cross. Consider what calamities that engine of grief has produced!

  • What havoc has been made of books through every century of the Christian era? Where are fifty gospels condemned as spurious by the bull of Pope Gelasius? Where are forty wagon-loads of Hebrew manuscripts burned in France, by order of another pope, because of suspected heresy? Remember the Index Expurgato-rius, the Inquisition, the stake, the axe, the halter, and the guillotine; and, oh! horrible, the rack! This is as bad, if not worse, than a slow fire. Nor should the Lion's Mouth be forgotten. Have you considered that system of holy lies and pious frauds that has raged and triumphed for 1,500 years.

Thomas Jefferson
(1743-1826) The third President of the United States

  • Christianity neither is, nor ever was, a part of the common law.

  • The clergy, by getting themselves established by law and ingrafted into the machine of government, have been a very formidable engine against the civil and religious rights of man.

  • History, I believe, furnishes no example of a priest-ridden people maintaining a free civil government. This marks the lowest grade of ignorance of which their civil as well as religious leaders will always avail themselves for their own purposes.

  • In every country and in every age, the priest has been hostile to liberty. He is always in alliance with the despot, abetting his abuses in return for protection to his own. It is easier to acquire wealth and power by this combination than by deserving them, and to effect this, they have perverted the purest religion ever preached to man into mystery and jargon, unintelligible to all mankind, and therefore the safer engine for their purposes.

  • 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.

James Madison

(1751-1836) The fourth President of the United States

  • The civil government ... functions with complete success ... by the total separation of the Church from the State.

  • Religious bondage shackles and debilitates the mind and unfits it for every noble enterprise, every expanded prospect.

  • What influence, in fact, have ecclesiastical establishments had on society? In some instances they have been seen to erect a spiritual tyranny on the ruins of the civil authority; in many instances they have been seen upholding the thrones of political tyranny; in no instance have they been the guardians of the liberties of the people. Rulers who wish to subvert the public liberty may have found an established clergy convenient allies.

  • 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.

Abraham Lincoln

(1809-1865) Sixteenth president of the United States

  • My earlier views of the unsoundness of the Christian scheme of salvation and the human origin of the scriptures, have become clearer and stronger with advancing years and I see no reason for thinking I shall ever change them.

  • The Bible is not my book nor Christianity my profession.

  • Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes his aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God's assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men's faces, but let us judge not that we be not judged.



Quotes borrowed from various sources, but namely Positive Atheism. Please go there for many more quotes.


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