A common belief among historians is that the Founding Fathers were Deists. The Deist, contemporarily understood, essentially admits the existence of God, but claims that God is disinterested in the affairs of His creation and leaves it to fend for itself, damn the consequences. Like any philosophy, Deism takes many forms and exists in various degrees, so drawing absolute margins of personal religious beliefs by examining the documents of long-dead historical figures is a questionable exercise. A quote used by Steven Morris (Free Inquiry, 1995) and commonly passed around by secular humanists is this excerpt from a letter written by James Madison and addressed to William Bradford:
Religious bondage shackles and debilitates the mind and unfits it for every noble enterprise…
Scathing stuff to a Christian, right? Here’s another Madison quote, this time addressed to the Virginia General Assembly in 1885:
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Who does not see that the same authority which can establish Christianity in exclusion of all other religions may establish, with the same ease, any particular sect of Christians in exclusion of all other sects? That the same authority which can force a citizen to contribute threepence only of his property for the support of any one establishment may force him to conform to any other establishment in all cases whatsoever?