I’m glad we’re in agreement when it comes to pointing out the Founding Father’s immense skepticism of religion. Many Americans seem to have this idea that because the Founders guaranteed the religious freedoms of U.S citizens that they saw some public value in god worship. Imagine how much more people would believe that if they knew that religious freedom was the first right promised by the Constitution. Just because the Founders weren’t Communists or despots, and didn’t call for the abolition of all religious belief, doesn’t mean that they admired scripture.
The Founders admired those imperfect earthly creatures – human beings. Not just human beings, but those who shared in their fascination and skepticism of the world. The words of Voltaire, John Locke, and William Shakespeare were more valuable to the Founders than those of any prophet or priest.
The secularism of the Founding Fathers is in stark conflict with the common argument that not only were the Founders mostly Christian, but that the United States is a “Christian nation.” While a similar argument could be made on the basis of Christianity being the majority religion in the United States, the “Christian nation” argument is never based on statistics. It is an unsubstantiated belief that the Founder’s preordained America to be a bastion for Judeo-Christian principles. But, as we both know, the United States was meant to be secular, while religion – all religion – was granted a special place, tucked away in the private lives of citizens.
This is just one argument that misrepresents the Founding Fathers. Not only are they portrayed as godly men, but the Founders themselves are regularly held up as god-like beings. They are often seen as the infallible patriotic creators of the United States, as if they would be more at home in the Pantheon than Independence Hall. Not to mention, it’s not only the common citizenry that holds these enhanced views of the Founders. Politicians fall into the same trap of praising, almost worshipping, the Founding Fathers – George Washington in particular.
After all, Washington is emblazoned upon the rotunda of the Capitol Building in Constantino Brumid’s The Apotheosis of Washington. There Washington sits along with the Gods of Olympus, as he rises into the heavens to become a god himself. He is not only portrayed as a deity, but as royal and majestic. The same goes for Horatio Greenough’s George Washington. Although the Founders themselves said that all men were created equal, I guess Washington was the exception to that rule.
The deification of American political leaders is not only reserved for the Founding Fathers; Abraham Lincoln has received a similar treatment. Any American can visit his shrine, The Lincoln Memorial, in Washington D.C. The monument designates itself as a shrine with the inscription: “In this temple, as in the hearts of the people for whom he saved the union, the memory of Abraham Lincoln is enshrined forever.”
I may be mistaken, but I thought the United States was inherently in opposition to this sort of affection for aristocratic majesty.
In death, a subset of American political figures has achieved the status of demigod. This most likely results from the deistic qualities given to them, such as Lincoln and Washington’s shared, alleged, inability to ever tell a lie. This promotes the idea that these men were not bound by the habits and quirks of humanity, but were morally superior and more divinely constructed. I do not wish for these exceptional men to be forgotten, but instead to be recognized for what they truly were. Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Lincoln, and all of the rest that are forever held within the patriotic pulse of America and its people, were simply men with the extraordinary constitution and willpower to accomplish impactful deeds despite possessing the fundamental handicaps of being human beings.