One of the most enduring themes in United States history is that of its religious founding. This narrative is pervasive in school textbooks, political lore, and the popular consciousness. It is central to the way in which many Americans perceive the historical legacy of their nation. It is also largely a myth-one that this book sets out to unravel. Steven K. Green explores the historical record that supports the popular belief about the nation's religious origins. His aim is not to take part in the irresolvable debate over whether the Founders were devout Christians or atheistic deists, or whether the people of the founding generation believed chiefly in divine providence and the role of religion in public life or in separation of church and state. Rather, he seeks to explain how the ideas of America's religious founding and its status as a Christian nation became a leading narrative about the nation's collective identity. Moreover, Green takes seriously the notion that America's religious founding is a myth not merely in the colloquial sense, but also in a deeper sense, as a shared story that shapes the way we define ourselves and gives meaning to our history.
Steven K. Green is Director of the Willamette Center for Religion, Law, and Democracy, and the Fred H. Paulus Professor of Law and Affiliated Professor of History at Willamette University.
Preface ; Introduction: The Christian Nation Debate, Methodological Fallacies, and the Role of Myths ; Chapter 1: A Haven for Religious Freedom ; Chapter 2: A Model for Christian and Civil Government ; Chapter 3: The Revolutionary and Constitutional Impulse ; Chapter 4: A Government of Men ; Chapter 5: The Birth of a Myth ; Conclusion ; Index