Duh-ee, Washington Was
A Pious Christian, You Liar!

Patrick Keeley

From: “Patrick Keeley”
To: “Positive Atheism”
Sent: January 23, 2002
Subject: George Washington a Christian (duh!)

You are lying. Your website is a lie. There is so much evidence to prove you wrong, it is hardly worth discussing. However, every man is worth a zillion dollars because each is created by a God so powerful, that God provides a “manual” for his creatures to read. By the way, that manual is the best selling book of all time, the very same book George Washington opened, laid his hand upon and swore to his God to uphold the office of the USA. Do you argue this?

Patrick Keeley

  

From: “Positive Atheism Magazine”
To: “Patrick Keeley”
Subject: Re: George Washington a Christian (duh!)
Date: January 22, 2002

“I know that Gouverneur Morris, who claimed to be in his secrets, and believed himself to be so, has often told me that General Washington believed no more in that system [Christianity] than he did.”
    — Thomas Jefferson, in his private journal, February, 1800, quoted from Jefferson’s Works, vol iv, p 572 (“Gouverneur Morris was the principal drafter of the Constitution of the United States

“Sir, Washington was a Deist.”
    — The Reverend Doctor James Abercrombie, rector of the church Washington had attended with his wife
 

“He had no religious feeling himself, but thought religion was a good thing for other people — especially for the common people. Any one who understands American life will recognize the modern captain-of-industry attitude in this point of view.... He said nothing about religion — nothing very definite — and was willing to let people think whatever they pleased.”
    — historian W E Woodward
 

“I think any one who will candidly do as I have done, will come to the conclusion that he was a Deist and nothing more.”
    The responsibility is his, and so is the
    opportunity.”
       — Bertrand Russell (1872-1970),
             ”Is There a God?” (1952)

“The legitimate powers of government extend
    to such acts only as are injurious to others.”
       — Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826)
             ”Statute for Religious Freedom”

“They that can give up essential liberty to obtain
    a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty
    nor safety.”
    — Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790)
             ”Historical Review of Pennsylvania”

    — The Reverend Doctor Bird Wilson
 

“Use no reproachful language against anyone, neither curses nor revilings.”
    — attributed, by pious Christians, to George Washington, who, according to pious Christians, copied this from a French Etiquette book as a child, although this is disputed by some historians as fable à la Reverend Weems
 

“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.”
    — General Washington, in a letter to the United Baptist Chamber of Virginia, May, 1789
 

“Before he enter on the Execution of his Office, he shall take the following Oath or Affirmation: — ‘I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.’”
    — United States Constitution, Article II, Section 1, the Oath of Office of the President of the United States (as it ever was and as it is to this day)

Mr Keeley, talk is very, very cheap, I see. It’s one thing for you to jump up and down and call me a liar, but you have not lifted a finger toward showing that your one-word accusation is true.

Meanwhile, I have posted over 13,000 words to bolster my case, including quotations from the likes of Thomas Jefferson and people who knew him, as well as quotations from the Rev Dr Abercrombie, who was the pastor of Mrs Washington. This is only about one-sixth of what I have available for posting just on the subject of Washington’s lack of Christian piety. But alas, I must spend a great deal of my time defending myself against the slander and false accusations that disciples of Christ hurl against me day after day.

Besides, nobody swore on a Bible to take the office of President until at least the middle of the nineteenth century. Washington began the tradition of ceremoniously placing his hand on one, but it takes a lot of work to make anything more of that. Some historical accounts say that Washington afterwards kissed a Bible, which would have been most uncharacteristic of Washington, according to what else we know about him (that is indisputable); none but recently written, after-the-fact, extremist anti-American Christian revisionism (such as your letter to Positive Atheism) say that he swore on one.

Cliff Walker
“Positive Atheism” Magazine
Six years of service to
    people with no reason to believe
PO Box 16811
Portland, OR 97292
www.PositiveAtheism.org

“My conclusion is that there is no reason to
    believe any of the dogmas of traditional
    theology and, further, that there is no
    reason to wish that they were true. Man,
    in so far as he is not subject to natural
    forces, is free to work out his own destiny.

  

From: “Patrick Keeley”
To: “Positive Atheism”
Sent: January 23, 2002
Subject: Okay, explain the Bible on his inauguration

Cliff,

I love you. You are a creation of my God (my opinion, so you cant argue). I called you a liar and my proof was the use of the Bible on his inauguration.

This was the most momentous day of a 45 year career in service to his country. He was setting a precedent that day. They went and got a Bible, Washington opened it to a specific page (because he knew the Bible very well), he put his hand on it and told his Christian God he would uphold the honor and be true to the people of the brand new USA. This was expected and in perfect alignment with thousands of other things he did during those 45 years, including paying “tithes” to his church, ordering his men not to swear, ordering his men to go to church every sunday, his letters to the Governors upon his resigning of Commander in Chief, I have thousands of items of proof and I know how you twisted several of your “posts”. But I wish to debate just one issue, the Bible event on his inauguration.... Please explain.

Your Humble and Obedient Servant,

Patrick Keeley

  

From: “Positive Atheism Magazine”
To: “Patrick Keeley”
Subject: Re: Okay, explain the Bible on his inauguration.
Date: January 23, 2002

No reliable reports have any President placing his hand on a Bible before the middle of the nineteenth centuryv

(Yawn!)

What? That I said that some reports say that he is said to have kissed a Bible after the ceremony? but that absolutely no reliable reports have any President placing his hand on a Bible before the middle of the nineteenth century? Your Washington is a completely different man than the George Washington whose words I spent so many dozens of hours enjoying.

Again: You may jump up and down all you want. Perhaps some of the more naïve and bigoted Christians will believe you simply because you are the Christian and I am the atheist (and perhaps having Christian followers such as these is something to be coveted amongst Christian propagandists, I couldn’t say. Nevertheless, I have thoroughly documented my case, and you have not lifted a finger toward showing anything to the contrary, except to say, “There is so much evidence to prove you wrong, it is hardly worth discussing.”

I would hope that if there is that much “evidence” so freely available that you’d have coughed up at least a hairball-sized dollop of it by now. But you haven’t done anything of the sort. Thus, against even my two quotations, President Jefferson and Rev Dr Abercrombie, your case is found wanting. I have posted much more than that, and have, unposted, several times as much as I have posted. However, without a bunch of naïve followers, duly intimidated to post fire-insurance premiums to my benefit, I as yet lack the resources to convert these to e-text, and they remain on my bookshelf.

They include, though, the full account of General Washington’s personal secretary, describing, in detail, the day of his death, what he said and what were his concerns (mainly, that he not be buried until he had been dead three days, that the mistake not be made that he be buried alive, which was not an uncommon mistake in those days). Conspicuously missing from the secretary’s report is a description of any religious concerns on the part of the General.

The only evidence I’ve seen that Washington was a Christian of any variety is here: this is where we learn that on the day of his death the General twice engaged in the Dark Ages mediæval practice of “bleeding.” The practice of bleeding replaced all existing medical practice during those times. Both scientific medicine and what today would be called alternative medicine were strictly banned by the Church for centuries. The only physical (non-prayer) practice allowed for centuries was “bleeding.”

Therefore, my Exhibit A showing that he was not a Christian of the type and in the sense that you appear to advocate (an evangelical-like Christian) is that the General strongly supported education, particularly science education. Science education has never been popular amongst Christians, who, at times and unto this day, have flat-out opposed science and science education.

In addition, I have the account of the two men who visited the General’s family for dinner and noted that the father, General Washington, did not conduct a prayer before the meal, as most fathers were wont to do in those days. There are many others, such as accounts from close family members stating that they never saw him pray, accounts that he stood rather than knelt during the prayers at Church (back in the days when you must kneel for the prayer if you wish to be considered as engaged in the act of prayer).

The problem with studying the General’s religiosity is that in all trustworthy accounts he is seen to be very private about his views. The only clues we have fall into two categories: (1) documents where the General uses language such as, “Now I make it my earnest prayer that God would have you and the State over which you preside” (from the circular letter to the Governors, which Washington did not actually write); (2) accounts that his habit was to duck out of Church just before Communion was served, accounts from close relatives indicating that they never saw him pray, etc. Now, if Nellie Custis, Martha Washington’s granddaughter from a previous marriage, says “I never witnessed his private devotions,” how can we trust a painting that was created many years later of Washington kneeling in prayer by his horse? If he was that private before his own family, how could there be so many “accounts” from members of the public that they saw him in prayer or engaged in Communion, etc?

This is confounded by the fact that Washington (as with many upper-class people of that day and for several generations following) felt that religion was crucial to keep the masses in line. However, such upper-class people tended not to think of religion as necessary for themselves. So as not to appear hypocritical in the public eye, such men would simply pretend to be religious, using the language of a religious person, or remain silent and secretive about their actual views, or, as was probably the case with Washington, both.

Thus, having studied almost all the known accounts of Washington’s alleged religiosity, and arguments from both sides, one thing has become very clear to me: those accounts that portray him as secretive about his true religious views all seem to square not only with one another but with all the facts that are widely undisputed; those accounts that allege this or that act of religiosity stink so reekingly of opportunism (in my opinion) as to cast embarrassment upon any who would take them seriously.

  

Why do only Christians claim Washington’s Christian piety? Why do only some Christians claim his piety? those, it seems, who try to “prove” the validity of their religion by such overwhelmingly convincing arguments as pointing out that many famous people, including Thomas Paine and Thomas Jefferson, were once pious Christians just like themselves (The Name-Dropping Method of Evangelical Christian Apologetics)? Why do the historians sing a much different tune? Why did Jefferson sing a much different tune? Why did Rev Dr Abercrombie sing a much different tune? Why did his personal secretary sing a much different tune?

Why does your report of Washington’s knowledge of the Bible and his piety contradict all verifiable and virtually unassailable reports about his religiosity? Why does your report square ONLY with reports, along the lines of Rev Weems’s Life and others, reports that have been thoroughly discredited?

Who would you believe when it comes to historical matters? Would you believe a Christian preacher who also goes around making other highly disputable claims, such as the claim that America was founded as a Christian nation? Or would you believe a tenured historian?

And why would it even matter if Washington had been a pious Christian? Whose business would that have been, anyway? Were it not for this practice of The Name-Dropping Method of Evangelical Christian Apologetics, the religiosity of Franklin, Washington, Adams, Madison, Monroe, Adams, and Jackson would be of no interest to anybody (although the religious beliefs of Paine and Jefferson are, in my opinion, some of the most fascinating studies in which an atheist can engage).

The only thing that matters to me about it is that it’s so easy for someone trained in historical method to establish that Washington was not a pious Christian at all, but that the tales of his piety are desperate attempts on the part of Christian Evangelists apparently using the above-mentioned “Name-Dropping Method.” Evangelical Christian history revisionists keep insisting to the public that he was, and my interest is only in seeing the truth of the matter known and widely popularized.

I realize you gotta save face since you’ve committed yourself, having called me every form of liar, and all that, but why tarnish your credibility, yea, your very soul* (if you will), over something as meaningless as George Washington’s religious views? I realize that other Christians have done this and that almost all Christians think it’s just a matter of prayer to be forgiven for uttering falsehood in the name of the Lord, but is this worth getting funny with the very essence of who you are?

  

Cliff Walker
Positive Atheism Magazine
Six years of service to
     people with no reason to believe

I wish that even one Christian writing to us would consider this: is pitching the sect to which you belong important enough to risk tarnishing your own moral standing!? **

  

  

  

Notes: **Spoken as metaphor for a person’s essence or identity, there’s no evidence for the existence of a literal, removable “soul” in the Christian sense, a “soul” that can survive the death of the body and all that! I just didn’t want anybody claiming that I said that there is such thing as the Christian soul (or that the modern genre of “Contemporary Christian” music has any soul) or anything along those lines.

**Added during the reformatting of 2006.

  

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