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Four Times the Declaration of Independence Mentions God, and Why It Matters

Many historians call the Founding Fathers "deists," and many of them were not true Christians -- after all, Thomas Jefferson tore all the miracles out of the Gospels! But judging by the Declaration of Independence, our Founders were more religious than many think: our founding document mentions God no less than four times.

This is not to say America was founded as an explicitly Christian nation -- the federal government has never had an established religion. But the Jewish and Christian understandings of God deeply influenced the founding generation, and that influence radiates from the Declaration of Independence.

Here are the four times the Declaration mentions the deity:

1. The Laws of Nature and Nature's God...

The very opening of the Declaration features a reference to God (emphasis added):

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

This reference to God has been cited as an example of deism, but it actually is doing something more than tying nature to God. Deism states that a Creator God made the world and gave humans the capacity to reason but left them to run on their own (it also rejects scripture as twisted and a bad source of truth and morality). He does not engage in human events, and there is (and was) debate on whether He is the source of morality.

This document explicitly states that the God revealed in nature is also the giver of a moral law between peoples -- a law which states that the American colonies ought to be free and independent states. This is, arguably, going farther than deism by giving God the ultimate moral authority. The Declaration of Independence only has force because it appeals to the Natural Law and the law of the one who made nature itself -- making the deity the clear source of morality.

Next Page: How did we get our rights to "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness"?