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Happy 4th: 16 American Leaders You Might Be Surprised You Agree With

Updated: Sep 5

Happy Independence Day, American Heathens! To celebrate your nation’s Independence, I thought I would put together a little surprise for you Yanks. While many of us around the world can tend to be critical of your U.S.A., one thing is undeniable: your secular constitution is the envy of freethinkers everywhere. I know you struggle to keep church and state separate, and I know it’s frustrating to see the religious right become more and more vocal in your part of the world. In that light, I’d like to remind you, you’ve never been alone. There have been many powerful American minds who agree with you.


Without further adieu, here are 16 of them and a little bonus at the end:


1. Woodrow Wilson


Of course, like every other man of intelligence and education, I do believe in organic evolution. It surprises me that at this late date such questions should be raised – Woodrow Wilson


2. William Howard Taft


I do not believe in the divinity of Christ, and there are many other of the postulates of the orthodox creed to which I cannot subscribe. – William Howard Taft


3. Ulysses S. Grant


Leave the matter of religion to the family altar, the church, and the private school, supported entirely by private contributions. Keep the church and state forever separate. – Ulysses S. Grant


4. Thomas Jefferson


Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, than that of blindfolded fear. – Thomas jefferson


5. Theodore Roosevelt


To discriminate against a thoroughly upright citizen because he belongs to some particular Church, or because, like Abraham Lincoln, he has not avowed his allegiance to any Church, is an outrage against the liberty of conscience which is one of the foundations of American life. – Theodore Roosevelt


6. John Adams


The United States of America have exhibited, perhaps, the first example of governments erected on the simple principles of nature; and if men are now sufficiently enlightened to disabuse themselves of artifice, imposture, hypocrisy, and superstition, they will consider this event as an era in their history. Although the detail of the formation of the American governments is at present little known or regarded either in Europe or in America, it may hereafter become an object of curiosity. It will never be pretended that any persons employed in that service had interviews with the gods, or were in any degree under the influence of Heaven, more than those at work upon ships or houses, or laboring in merchandise or agriculture; it will forever be acknowledged that these governments were contrived merely by the use of reason and the senses. – John Adams


7. JFK


Whatever one’s religion in his private life may be, for the officeholder, nothing takes precedence over his oath to uphold the Constitution and all its parts — including the First Amendment and the strict separation of church and state. – JFK


8. James Monroe


While we assert for ourselves a freedom to embrace, to profess, and to observe, the Religion which we believe to be of divine origin, we cannot deny an equal freedom to them whose minds have not yielded to the evidence which has convinced us. – James Monroe


9. James K. Polk


Thank God, under our Constitution, there was no connection between church and state. – James K. Polk


10. James Buchanan


I have seldom met an intelligent person whose views were not narrowed and distorted by religion. – James Buchanan


11. James A. Garfield


The divorce between Church and State ought to be absolute. It ought to be so absolute that no Church property anywhere, in any state or in the nation, should be exempt from equal taxation; for if you exempt the property of any church organization, to that extent you impose a tax upon the whole community. – James A. Garfield


12. George Washington


We have abundant reason to rejoice that in this Land the light of truth and reason has triumphed over the power of bigotry and superstition … In this enlightened Age and in this Land of equal liberty it is our boast, that a man’s religious tenets will not forfeit the protection of the Laws, nor deprive him of the right of attaining and holding the highest Offices that are known in the United States. – George Washington


13. Benjamin Franklin


Were I a Roman Catholic, perhaps I should on this occasion vow to build a chapel to some saint, but as I am not, if I were to vow at all, it should be to build a light-house.


14. Abraham Lincoln


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. – Abraham Lincoln


15. James Madison


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. – James Madison


16. Jimmy Carter


The truth is that male religious leaders have had – and still have – an option to interpret holy teachings either to exalt or subjugate women. They have, for their own selfish ends, overwhelmingly chosen the latter. Their continuing choice provides the foundation or justification for much of the pervasive persecution and abuse of women throughout the world. – Jimmy Carter


And a bonus from the Treaty of Tripoli:


The Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion…


Have a safe and happy Independence Day, Americans! Mommy loves you!


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