One of the frequent attacks against Christianity by atheists comes from a rewriting of early American History.  The allegation is that the United States of America was not founded on theism or Christianity, as Mr. Fields powerfully articulates.  Rather, it is alleged that the founders were deists and they used the concept of "the separation of church and state" to keep the US government from becoming Christian.  One of the frequent evidences they cite is the treaty with Tripoli in 1797 supposedly written by George Washington.1  You may read this treaty for yourself at Wikipedia.2  Under Article 11 we find the following paragraph:

As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquillity, of Musselmen; and, as the said States never entered into any war, or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties, that no pretext, arrising from religious opinions, shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.

There are certain things that should be noted about this treaty.
  1. The North African Muslim states comprising the Barbary Coast (Tripoli, Algiers, Morocco and Tunis) controlled the seas and were at war with any nation which had not negotiated a treaty with them that entitled them to large sums of money.
  2. The British had protected the colonies against the Barbary Pirates up to the Revolution for Independence, and during the Revolution the French provided that protection.  However, the new Republic had to find some way to protect themselves from the Barbary Pirates after they gained their independence.  This was complicated by the fact that they had no navy with which to accomplish this protection.  The Barbary Pirates captured 2 U.S. ships, and held as ransom or sold into slavery all the Americans.  They made it a policy to sell Christians into slavery unless they converted to Islam.
  3. Various treaties were made with these countries, but they proved to be ineffective as the Barbary Pirates would start their war again on the Republic, holding hostages for ransom or selling them into slavery.  Whatever huge sum they were paid before for a treaty, they wanted more to establish a new treaty.
  4. There is no evidence that President George Washington wrote this treaty.  Rather, David Humphreys was appointed during Washington's presidency and commissioned to establish a treaty with the nations of the Barbary Coast.  The original treaty was composed in Arabic, and translated by Colsul-General Barlow before its unanimous ratification on June 10, 1897.  It was ratified by the fifth congress during the presidency of John Adams.
  5. Of great interest is that no copy of the Arabic treaty has article 11 in it.  How it made it into the English version of the treaty is unknown.2

Therefore, it is clear that the copy of the treaty with Tripoli that was ratified by the 5th Congress was an faulty document.  It is also clear that the Congress was desperate to establish any treaty with the Barbary Coast that might secure the safety of Americans who had to travel the high seas.  However, they were to learn that no amount of money could buy their safety from the Barbary Pirates, and only naval force defeated the Barbary Pirates and secured peace on the high seas.  It is undoubtedly this scenario that induced the 5th Congress to ratify a document with such an anti-Christian statement.

To justify this conclusion, I must at least outline the massive evidence for the defense that America was indeed a Christian nation, and was considered as such by the vast majority of its founders and its citizens.  This has been admirably demonstrated by Dr. Dave Miller in his recent publication, The Silencing of God: The Dismantling of America's Heritage.3  Dr. Miller both quotes and shows original documents that refer to God or Christ in the following Political documents:

  1. The Declaration of Independence
  2. The Federal Constitution
  3. Original State Constitutions
  4. Current State Constitution Preambles
  5. Presidential Inaugural Addresses
  6. Presidential Oath of Office
  7. Presidential Speeches
  8. Speeches and Quotes by Founders
  9. The Pledge of Allegiance
  10. National Songs

Dr. Miller also shows pictorial evidence of the public expressions of God in the Judiciary, including the State Supreme Courts and the U.S. Supreme Court.  He then shows similar expressions of God in our Currency, National Symbols, and National Architecture, including the U.S. Supreme Court, the Library of Congress, the U.S. Capitol, as well as miscellaneous buildings, and memorials.  He continues to show through both quotes and pictorial proofs the public expressions of God in education, including the New England Primer, the Blue-Back Speller, McGuffey's Readers, and universities.  Then Dr. Miller shows documentation of several miscellaneous manifestations of God in public life, including the Pony Express, Motel Bibles, Blue Laws, highway crosses, city names and cemeteries.  This constitutes voluminous proof that the United States of America was considered a Christian nation from the time of its founders.  Although it has been purged from the history books used in schools for the last 50 years, that act of subterfuge does not change actual history.

Atheists also love to reference the exceptions as if they characterized those times.  This is frequently found in their love to reference Thomas Paine who wrote The Age of Reason, which was a rejection of Christianity.  However, the atheists apparently don't want people to know how Paine's contemporaries viewed him--they soundly rejected Paine's book.4  In addition, Atheists love to reference Thomas Jefferson, claiming he was a deist or an atheist.  The evidence does seem to be contradictory regarding Jefferson, with some of his sayings indicating he was an atheist as previously cited in IsThereAGod.html , and others indicating he was a believer.5,6

Then how do we account for the verbiage of Article 11 of the Treaty of Tripoli?  After all, the 5th Congress ratified it unanimously.  Yet neither President John Adams nor the 5th Congress composed the English version.  Rather, it was presented as a done deal, as having been ratified by Tripoli and the money they demanded already had been paid in part with U.S. funds.  Simply put, the issue was urgent, and agreement had already made and signed by their enemies.  What choice did they have?  The fact that Article 11 never existed in any Arabic version means both the President Adams and the 5th Congress were duped.

Don't you just hate that when it happens?

However, this doesn't change the fact that America saw itself as a Christian nation, and so did the Barbary Pirates.

Another view of this Treaty is available as well.7

  3. Miller, D. The Silencing of God: The Dismantling of America's Heritage. Apologetics Press, Inc., Montgomery, Alabama, © 2008. (available in both DVD and Book formats)
  5. Water, Mark.  Encyclopedia of World Religions, Cults and the Occult, First Edition. John Hunt Publishing Ltd, © 2006, Electronic Edition STEP Files © 2006, QuickVerse.