Reagan and others pushed the idea that we’re a Christian nation chosen by divine providence. That’s not the case…
One of the more popular and enduring accounts of America’s past is that of its religious founding. Belief that the British-American colonies were settled largely by religiously devout people in search of spiritual freedom, that the United States government was founded in part on religious principles, that the Founders intended to create a “Christian nation,” and that America is a specially chosen nation whose success has been directed by divine providence has resonated in the national psyche for generations. Versions of this account have existed since the founding era and have persisted through times of national distress, trial, and triumph. They represent a leading theme in our nation’s historical narrative, frequently intertwined with expressions of patriotism and American exceptionalism.
Opinion polls indicate that many Americans hold vague, if not explicit, ideas about the nation’s religious foundings. According to a 2008 study by the First Amendment Center, over 50 percent of Americans believe that the U.S Constitution created a Christian nation, notwithstanding its express prohibitions on religious establishments and religious tests for public office holding. A similar study conducted by the Pew Forum on Religion in Public Life revealed even higher numbers, noting that “Americans overwhelmingly consider the U.S. a Christian nation: Two-in-three (67%) characterize the nation this way.” Other studies indicate that a majority of Americans believe that the nation’s political life should be based on “Judeo-Christian principles,” if the nation’s founding principles are not already.