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#868714 - 06/23/03 05:14 PM The Founding Fathers Weren't Christian
Ariel Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/07/03
Posts: 3028
Loc: NE
I just posted this link embedded in an esoteric talk with Renauda (mostly) about Christian heresies. Then I thunk about it and decided it might make for some interesting discussion among a wider audience.

So, comments all you red-blooded, hairy-chest-thumpin' Right-Wing Christian Scriptural and Constitutional Fundamentalists?

The Founding Fathers Weren\'t Christian

By the way, read my posts and check out the links on Mithraism in Jolly's "To Hell With the Rich!" Thread (whatever) if you REALLY dare to have your most cherished beliefs challenged. Next December 25th, be sure to wish each other a "Merry Mithrasday"! Good thing for me, there's no cyber-witch burning, huh? :p Of course in Europe now, I might have to post links to Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson to reply...
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If this is coffee, bring me tea. If this is tea, bring me coffee.
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#868715 - 06/23/03 05:28 PM Re: The Founding Fathers Weren't Christian
Kreisler Offline


Registered: 11/27/02
Posts: 13763
Loc: Iowa City, IA
*looks around for a 10-foot pole*
_________________________
"If we continually try to force a child to do what he is afraid to do, he will become more timid, and will use his brains and energy, not to explore the unknown, but to find ways to avoid the pressures we put on him." (John Holt)

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#868716 - 06/23/03 05:55 PM Re: The Founding Fathers Weren't Christian
Jolly Offline
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Registered: 06/20/01
Posts: 14048
Loc: Louisiana
Twelve of the thirteen colonies original constitutions speak of God.

The most indelible thought of Valley Forge, is the sight of Washington praying alone in the snow.

As Franklin said, "He who shall introduce into the public affairs the principles of a primitive Christianity, will change the face of the world." Or perhaps this one, "Except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain who build it", uttered at the 1787 Consitutional Convention.

Or maybe, "The religion which has introduced civil liberty is the religion of Christ, and His Apostles" - Noah Webster

"The Bible is worth all other books which have ever been printed" - Patrick Henry

"The reason that Christianity is the best friend of Government is because Christianity is the only religion that changes the heart." - Thomas Jefferson

"If we make religion our business, God will make it our blessedness." - John Adams

"The highest story of the American Revolution is this: it connected in one dissoluble bond the principles of civil government with the principles of Christianity." - President John Adams

"Providence has given to our people the choice of their rulers. And it is the duty, as well as the privilege and interest, of a Christian nation to select and prefer Christians for their rulers." - Chief Justice John Jay

"The Bible is the Rock on which this Republic rests." - Andrew Jackson

I'd go on, but y'all wouldn't believe it anyway. Some folks can see truth easily, others have to be hit between the eyes with a 2x4, and still others will deny truth forever, if it doesn't fit their pre-concieved notions. I could post another page of quotes, but I figure your mind is already closed.

It would be just as silly to say that Israel was not a Jewish state.

David Burton posted a much better essay on this board, on this very topic, than I could ever write. I suggest all find it and read it - it is well worth it.
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#868717 - 06/23/03 06:25 PM Re: The Founding Fathers Weren't Christian
Ariel Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/07/03
Posts: 3028
Loc: NE
Jolly,

Religious or "spiritual" is one thing, Christian is another - especially as it's so narrowly defined by many (all caps) CHRISTIANS today - ie. those who have truly achieved Grace (and thence Salvation) by Faith and Scriptural literalism.

To be "culturally Christian" - yes, that's how it all started here (but the demographics are changing). In terms of the private beliefs of these intensely individualistic, creative, free-thinking men...seems to me, it doesn't jibe.

And a hundred out-of-context quotes from a handy "Refute a Non-Believer" reference guide, don't change that...
_________________________
If this is coffee, bring me tea. If this is tea, bring me coffee.
~Abraham Lincoln~

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#868718 - 06/23/03 06:27 PM Re: The Founding Fathers Weren't Christian
Nina Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/13/01
Posts: 6467
Loc: Phoenix, AZ
Here's my proposal on this...

Why doesn't the Congress introduce a bill that would essentially say that America IS a Christian nation, established, maintained, etc.?

Let it come to a vote. Do you think it would pass? If not, why not? If so, why?

Nina

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#868719 - 06/23/03 06:48 PM Re: The Founding Fathers Weren't Christian
shantinik Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/23/01
Posts: 4271
Loc: Olympia, WA
Actually, there is one good source on this argument. The U.S. Constitution -- the first Constitution in the history of the world to leave God out of it. (and the only reference to religion is a negative one.)

The founding fathers knew precisely what they were doing it. They talked about it at length. And when they submitted it to the would-be states, the states discussed it (after all, as Jolly correctly points out, virtually all their early charters DID have God or Jesus in them.) One of the "founding fathers" Patrick Henry, urged rejection of the Constitution explicitly on the grounds that God and Jesus were left out.

But there was absolutely overwhelming consensus, in every state, with not a single exception, to ratify the Constitution put together by the Founding Fathers which left God and Jesus out of it.

But, wait, if that wasn't enough, there were members of the Constitutional Convention still concerned that the government might enjoin a particular form of worship or belief, specifically Christianity, the only belief system in colonial America that they had to fear. So the first, the very first words of the very first Amendment to the Constitution:

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion".

The ONLY religion with enough sway in America to be of concern to them was Christianity, (and hence the only one they had cause to address), and they took explicit steps to ensure that it did not become enshrined in American government. Again, adopted by overwhelming consensus, and ratified by the states.

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#868720 - 06/23/03 06:52 PM Re: The Founding Fathers Weren't Christian
Palindrome Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/22/01
Posts: 3914
Loc: Chicago, IL USA
Nina,

It would have to be a Constitutional amendment.
_________________________
There is no end of learning. -Robert Schumann Rules for Young Musicians

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#868721 - 06/23/03 07:28 PM Re: The Founding Fathers Weren't Christian
shantinik Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/23/01
Posts: 4271
Loc: Olympia, WA
Probably have to repeal the 1st Amendment, too. ;\)

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#868722 - 06/23/03 08:43 PM Re: The Founding Fathers Weren't Christian
Renauda Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/16/02
Posts: 5066
In early May this very question was raised in the thread I described above. I tend toward the view that while some of the founding fathers may have had some serious reservations about organized religion they were were still fundamentally Christian. Certainly all would have in one way or another been heavily influenced cy Calvinism and the Church England. And as someone pointed in the other thread Freemasonry may have also played a role. In fact I suspect that it was because of latter's- and the Roman Catholic Church for that matter- association with the Absolutist monarchism that references in the Constitution were deliberately left out. A brief look at the context of the times seems to lend credence to this notion. This from my post on May 9:

"The Enlightenment was an era of reaction against organized religion. It also witnessed the Agricultural Revolution and the early development of the Industrial Revolution particularly after 1760 when Watt patented the steam engine. It is also considered the Age of Reason giving rise to rationalists such Descartes and Kant. It also brought idealist and empirciist philosophers such as Berkely, Locke, Hume and Diderot. For the first time also atheism was openly discussed by the philospher Bayle. These Philosophers and many in the intelligentsia of the times embraced deism of Rousseau and pantheism of Spinoza rather than embracing established religious dogmas. Beethoven, a product of the Enlightenment, had little use for any organized religion but remained a highly spiritual person all his life. Following Hobbes in the 17th Century, Voltaire and Rousseau both wrote extensively on the issue of a social contract between ruler and ruled. If there were any principles among such people it was the principles of republicanism and constitutionalism. I would argue that both owe more to Hellenistic antiquity than to either the Old or New Testaments. Even the legal system can be traced to Platonic and Aristotlean ethics- although English Common Law and Christian tradition also play a significant role in the process of law. Historically it also gave rise to the political aspirations of the bourgeoisie, or middle class- it was after all they who owned the means of production. Hence the American War of Independence and the French Revolution. Both sought to overthrow the old semi-feudal absolutist system and replace it with a representative form of government that took into account the needs of the growing propertied middle class.

Perhaps it was actually the principles of a social contract between government and the people that was the prime mover behind the nation's founding...."

I therefore do not want to dismiss entirely the position of Jolly. I will put my money that in one way or another Calvinism had a pretty great influence on the emergence of republicanism. Even if we look at Rousseau the writer of the republican tract The Social Contract, we find that in his early years he spent a considerable amount of time in Calvinist Geneva as a young apprentice.
_________________________
"The older the fiddle, the sweeter the music"~ Augustus McCrae

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#868723 - 06/23/03 10:03 PM Re: The Founding Fathers Weren't Christian
Nina Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/13/01
Posts: 6467
Loc: Phoenix, AZ
 Quote:
Originally posted by Palindrome:
Nina,

It would have to be a Constitutional amendment.[/b]
Details, details! You're right, of course.

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#868724 - 06/23/03 10:07 PM Re: The Founding Fathers Weren't Christian
shantinik Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/23/01
Posts: 4271
Loc: Olympia, WA
Well, they WERE Christian, in the main. They (as a whole) rejected the Trinity, the Resurrection, the miracles, the special divinity of Jesus. Many of them rejected original sin and the remission of sin. We know this because they wrote (some of them copiously) to that effect. Jefferson, the Christian, even wrote his own Bible -- taking all of these out. So they were Christians (but would likely find counterparts only among modern day Quakers, or a few Christian Unitarians.)

The only one who would be welcomed in a modern evangelical church would be Patrick Henry and, since he opposed the Constitution, one might be hardpressed to call him a "Founding Father".

Religious discourse in America changed markedly after the two religious revivals of 1805 and 1820.

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#868725 - 06/23/03 10:12 PM Re: The Founding Fathers Weren't Christian
Renauda Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/16/02
Posts: 5066
 Quote:
Originally posted by shantinik:
They (as a whole) rejected the Trinity, the Resurrection, the miracles, the special divinity of Jesus. Many of them rejected original sin and the remission of sin. We know this because they wrote (some of them copiously) to that effect. Jefferson, the Christian, even wrote his own Bible -- taking all of these out. So they were Christians (but would likely find counterparts only among modern day Quakers, or a few Christian Unitarians....

[/b]
or Christian Scientists. ;\)
_________________________
"The older the fiddle, the sweeter the music"~ Augustus McCrae

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#868726 - 06/23/03 10:24 PM Re: The Founding Fathers Weren't Christian
Lazy Pianist Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/09/03
Posts: 973
I don't really care of they were Christian or not, or if they were, what type. Nor do I think it was relevant then nor relevant today.

The United States of America, that country established on the American Constitution, is NOT a Christian country. True enough, it grew out of European political thought of the day which was heavily influenced by 1600 years of Christian thought. And true enough, the Founding Fathers undoubtedly had ideas that grew out of the same place.

BUT....

They wrote a Constitution and added a Bill of Rights which not only did not mention God, in general, but certainly made no reference to any specific religious belief. Indeed, the Bill of Rights specifically prohibited the government from establishing any specific religion as the "state" religion and denies any religion the right to impose itself on the country.

It seems just as silly to me to argue that Christianity did not influence the political thought of the day that brought about this country as it is to argue the Judaism did not influence Christian thought. Clearly in both cases, the influences are clear.

But simply because both influences are clear does not make Christianity simply Judaism with a twist any more than it makes the United States a Christian country.
_________________________
WMD = W[/b]ords of M[/b]ass D[/b]istortion
----------------------
Seek those who seek the truth.
Avoid those who have found it.

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#868727 - 06/23/03 10:33 PM Re: The Founding Fathers Weren't Christian
Renauda Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/16/02
Posts: 5066
LP:

Point taken. If anything the founding fathers believed in the total separation of church and state in keeping with prevalent views of social and political thought of the times. Indeed they would have viewed mixing religion with affairs of state as Absolutist thinking. I have no problem with that....but as Shantinik indicated something changed first in 1805 and then again in 1820.
_________________________
"The older the fiddle, the sweeter the music"~ Augustus McCrae

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#868728 - 06/23/03 10:48 PM Re: The Founding Fathers Weren't Christian
Jolly Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/20/01
Posts: 14048
Loc: Louisiana
The Founding Fathers did not believe in total seperation of chuch and state, as evidenced in some of their letters of the time.

They believed in freedom of religion, they believed there should be no state church, but they did not believe in freedom from religion.

As for latter day interpretation of the Constitution most will point to the 1892 ruling - which I'm sure Shant knows by heart (this is familiar ground).
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#868729 - 06/23/03 10:52 PM Re: The Founding Fathers Weren't Christian
Jolly Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/20/01
Posts: 14048
Loc: Louisiana
Furthermore, in a more practical vein, considering this is a case of too many piano nuts with too much time on their hands:

Quit thinking like pointy-headed intellectuals, and get out and talk to a few ordinary folks. Ask them what they think, without coercion.

I think a majority would easily agree that America is essentially a Christian country, even those who aren't Christian.

Perception is reality.
_________________________
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#868730 - 06/23/03 10:55 PM Re: The Founding Fathers Weren't Christian
gryphon Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/09/01
Posts: 11678
Loc: Okemos, MI
 Quote:
Originally posted by Jolly:
they did not believe in freedom from religion.[/b]
Neither does our current government. They pray before sessions of Congress. Heck, even West Point makes their cadets go to Christian chapel.
_________________________
"If we lose freedom here, there's no place to escape to."
MSU - the university of Michigan!
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#868731 - 06/23/03 10:57 PM Re: The Founding Fathers Weren't Christian
Ariel Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/07/03
Posts: 3028
Loc: NE
They DO????
_________________________
If this is coffee, bring me tea. If this is tea, bring me coffee.
~Abraham Lincoln~

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#868732 - 06/23/03 11:00 PM Re: The Founding Fathers Weren't Christian
Jolly Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/20/01
Posts: 14048
Loc: Louisiana
Pretty much mandatory.
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#868733 - 06/23/03 11:01 PM Re: The Founding Fathers Weren't Christian
Tony Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/24/02
Posts: 151
Loc: Houston
Dear Jolly,

If what you say is true, "perception is reality," then Steinway is the piano against which all others are measured.

You rail about situational ethics or whatever it is you call non-concrete thinking, and then you say something like this!!!!!!!!

I'm amazed even you would say something this incongruent.

With amusement,
Tony

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#868734 - 06/23/03 11:04 PM Re: The Founding Fathers Weren't Christian
gryphon Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/09/01
Posts: 11678
Loc: Okemos, MI
You know about Congress, so I assume you're asking about West Point. Yeah, they do, from the very first Sunday you're there. I know someone who was a cadet. Play with M16s and tanks on Saturday, go to church on Sunday. What a country! \:D

_________________________
"If we lose freedom here, there's no place to escape to."
MSU - the university of Michigan!
Wheels

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#868735 - 06/23/03 11:05 PM Re: The Founding Fathers Weren't Christian
Lazy Pianist Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/09/03
Posts: 973
 Quote:
Originally posted by Jolly:

They believed in freedom of religion, they believed there should be no state church, but they did not believe in freedom from religion. [/b]
I suspect if you asked them if they would like to have seen the Papists of their time trying to impose Catholicism on the United States as it had in much of Europe, or the Church of England trying to impose itself on the United States as it had in England, they would have been very supportive of the notion of freedom FROM [/b] religion.
_________________________
WMD = W[/b]ords of M[/b]ass D[/b]istortion
----------------------
Seek those who seek the truth.
Avoid those who have found it.

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#868736 - 06/23/03 11:08 PM Re: The Founding Fathers Weren't Christian
Kreisler Offline


Registered: 11/27/02
Posts: 13763
Loc: Iowa City, IA
Yep, I'm going with Jolly on this one.

It's freedom OF, not FROM religion, and though the US is not "Christian Country", it is a country whose population is more Christian than anything else. (Judaism, Deism, and atheism probably being distant second place contenders, and Islam and Hindu behind them.)

I think the founding fathers wanted to be absolutely 100% sure that two things did not happen: That our nation's laws come from the people and not from God, and that none of our citizens be punished, persecuted, or denied any of the protections of the government because of their beliefs.

But the US is a country of rather deep Christian roots. The majority of our population always has been and currently is Christian (though that may change in the future) and the character of our nation reflects the values (if not the beliefs themselves) of those who built and continue to build this country.

 Quote:
Originally posted by Jolly:
Furthermore, in a more practical vein, considering this is a case of too many piano nuts with too much time on their hands:

Quit thinking like pointy-headed intellectuals, and get out and talk to a few ordinary folks. Ask them what they think, without coercion.

I think a majority would easily agree that America is essentially a Christian country, even those who aren't Christian.

Perception is reality.[/b]
_________________________
"If we continually try to force a child to do what he is afraid to do, he will become more timid, and will use his brains and energy, not to explore the unknown, but to find ways to avoid the pressures we put on him." (John Holt)

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#868737 - 06/23/03 11:21 PM Re: The Founding Fathers Weren't Christian
Ariel Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/07/03
Posts: 3028
Loc: NE
gryphon,

It's only a matter of time until some Hindu or Shintu upstart military genius challenges THAT one in Court!

(G-d, I wish I could manipulate pictures like that - it's the ultimate "bon-mot"! But don't even think about trying to teach me to be nice, my eyes will just glaze over. I'll get my son to explain when he has a chance - or do it for me. Did you know that when clicking on "properties" for your picture, it says: "LibertyM16"!)

Ariel
_________________________
If this is coffee, bring me tea. If this is tea, bring me coffee.
~Abraham Lincoln~

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#868738 - 06/23/03 11:24 PM Re: The Founding Fathers Weren't Christian
Jolly Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/20/01
Posts: 14048
Loc: Louisiana
Dear Tony,

It takes so little to amuse you, glad you find enjoyment in the truth.

The fact remains that by either measure, original intent, or perception, the result is still the same.

Now you can argue about the exact meaning of Christian Country, but the average person would look at you like you were crazy.

You're not crazy, are you Tony? ;\)
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#868739 - 06/23/03 11:25 PM Re: The Founding Fathers Weren't Christian
Nina Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/13/01
Posts: 6467
Loc: Phoenix, AZ
OK all you history types, my brain has coughed up the following recollection from my high-school history: John Jay did not sign the Declaration of Independence, in fact he resigned from the Continental Congress to avoid having to sign it!

1) Is my memory faulty (quite possible)
2) If accurate, does anyone remember why he didn't want to sign it?

Curiously,
Nina

PS: The reason I made my proposal earlier is that I truly believe that any politician who supports an amendment to declare the US a "Christian country" is signing his/her own political death warrant. While not stated as such in the Constitution, I think freedom of religion is so deeply-rooted in the American psyche that it is almost without question.

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#868740 - 06/23/03 11:29 PM Re: The Founding Fathers Weren't Christian
Renauda Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/16/02
Posts: 5066
 Quote:
Originally posted by gryphon:

Heck, even West Point makes their cadets go to Christian chapel.[/QB]
Does that include even non Christians? Or is it an ecumenical type of service- with Priests, Rabbis, Mullahs etc. present- if Sundays are set aside for devotions for all denominations and religions?
_________________________
"The older the fiddle, the sweeter the music"~ Augustus McCrae

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#868741 - 06/23/03 11:30 PM Re: The Founding Fathers Weren't Christian
Jolly Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/20/01
Posts: 14048
Loc: Louisiana
If Chapel at West Point is anything like the one I attended every week in college, I don't think you have a lot to fear, Ariel.

The chaplains know they are presenting a service to people of more than one religion, and the message will be pretty universal, and uplifting.

I usually sat next to one of my friends who was a practicing muslim, and he managed to survive four years of it, so it must not be anything like spontaneous combustion.

And since all of these young men may one day find themselves in harm's way, a little preachin' never hurt anybody.

There are no atheists in a fox hole.
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Over 1,000,000 posts where pianists discuss everything. And nothing.

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#868742 - 06/23/03 11:37 PM Re: The Founding Fathers Weren't Christian
Renauda Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/16/02
Posts: 5066
 Quote:
Originally posted by Ariel:
They DO????[/b]


"Now Ariel, if da Priest there gives you one 'dem white cookies- don't take it!"
_________________________
"The older the fiddle, the sweeter the music"~ Augustus McCrae

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#868743 - 06/23/03 11:46 PM Re: The Founding Fathers Weren't Christian
Ariel Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/07/03
Posts: 3028
Loc: NE
Nina,

Who is John Jay? \:o

Jolly,

How do you define "Christian"? Remember earlier on in this thread, I distinguished between culturally Christian and "true believers".

Don't forget, we're supposedly addressing the affiliation of the "Founding Fathers", rather than Constitutional issues and so on. Didn't we recently spend - oh, about seven pages in this forum, dealing with the question of "Is the US a Christian Country?"

When it comes to personal religious affiliation, I tend to think the most expert people to speak about that are the individuals themselves, and these "Founding Fathers" have been pretty articulate in that regard.

Now, if you can identify somebody as religiously Christian, much less "saved", who does not believe in the divinity of Christ, nor in the Resurrection, nor in the Virgin Birth etc...seems to me you're engaging in some powerful rationalizations. Or self-contradiction. Or both. I might even qualify! Or your average Muslim.

Oh, and about the business of Chapel - There's a humongous difference between an "ecumencial" even inspirational Service, and a specifically Christian one, which what gryphon said they had at West Point.

For example, I attended a girls' boarding school with mandatory morning Chapel, and however distasteful (they inspected our uniforms as we entered to check for code infringements!), it was most certainly not Christian.

But let's return to the question of your definition of a Christian, Jolly - ball's in your Court.

And then back to the Founding Fathers!

Ariel
_________________________
If this is coffee, bring me tea. If this is tea, bring me coffee.
~Abraham Lincoln~

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