Charles Hodge, Princeton, 1871, On the Role of Religion in America

[The following has been slightly abbreviated from the original. This statement by Hodge represents a fairly typical late 19th century view of the idea of separation of church and state based in the reformation idea of no state church or denomination and the state passing no laws, what so ever concerning religion, and that meant in no way relegating it.]

“When Protestant Christians came to this country they possessed and subdued the land. They worshipped God, and His Son Jesus Christ as the Savior of the World, and acknowledged the Scriptures to be the rule of their faith and practice. They introduced their religion into their families, their schools, and their colleges. They abstained from all ordinary business on the Lord’s Day, and devoted it to religion.

They built churches, erected school houses, and taught their children to read the Bible and to receive and obey it as the word of God. They formed themselves as Christians into municipal and state organizations. They acknowledged God in their legislative assemblies. They prescribed oaths to be taken in his name. They closed their courts, their places of business, their legislatures, and all places under the public control, on the Lord’s Day. They declared Christianity to be part of the common law of the land.

In the process of time thousands of others have come among us, who are neither protestant or Christian…All are welcome; all are admitted to equal rights  and privileges. All are allowed to acquire property and to vote in every election, made eligible for all offices, and invested with equal influence in all public affairs.

All are allowed to worship as they please, or not to worship at all, if they see fit. No man is molested for his religion or for his want of religion. No man is required to profess any form of faith, or to join any religious association. More than this cannot be reasonably demanded. More however, is demanded. The infidel demands that the government should be conducted on the principle that Christianity is false. The atheist demands that it should be conducted on the assumption that there is no God, and the positivist on the principal that men are not free agents. The sufficient answer to all this is that it cannot possibly be done.”

Charles Hodge, Sytematic Theology, 1871

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About notmanynoble

woodcutter from Washington State
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