For those who wonder in amazement at just how America has strayed so far from the Constitution, the turning point in American history came in 1859 with the publication of Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species which sought to remove God as the Creator.
Darwin’s book was intended to provide an alternative explanation to the formation and development of creation that completely eliminated God, and which would serve as a counterpoint to the accepted Biblical teaching that God created the heavens and the earth. The key to this point lies in the fact that Darwin used the word “origin” instead of the word “development” when titling his book. He sought not to explain how species developed to their present state, but to explain the origin of their creation in a scientific manner that completely eliminated the possibility that God was responsible for His Creation. Furthermore, if God didn’t create the world, then it could easily be argued that God didn’t exist at all. This hypothesis fit nicely with the prevailing thinking of the day which posited that science could provide rational explanations for everything and that this rational thinking would lead learned men away from the superstitions of religion toward a more enlightened era.
This revolution in scientific thinking had its first profound effect on American history with the ascension of Charles William Eliot to the presidency of Harvard University in 1869. Eliot was a devout believer of Darwin’s evolution theory and sought to propagate its teaching throughout Harvard. Eliot was responsible for changing Harvard’s original motto from Veritas Christo et Ecclesiae (Truth in Christ and the Church) to Veritas (Truth). In 1870, Eliot appointed Christopher Columbus Langdell as the Dean of Harvard Law School over the objections of the law school faculty who complained that Langdell was unqualified to hold the position. The one qualification Langdell held that ultimately qualified him in Eliot’s estimation was the fact that he was also a devout follower of Darwin’s evolution theory.
Langdell set about to immediately place his stamp on the Harvard Law School by introducing the case method as the primary means of instruction in the law. Prior to this, students were taught the law according to the methods developed by William Blackstone who believed that “Upon these two foundations, the law of nature and the law of revelation, depend all human laws; that is to say, no human laws should be suffered to contradict these.” Blackstone’s method of legal study involved concentration on foundational principles of the law as opposed to the case method which saw the law as evolving with the times. In other words, the law could evolve under the case method while it had to remain true to foundational principles under Blackstone’s method.
The significance of this change in legal education can be most clearly seen in the rise of Legal Positivism which claims that the state is the ultimate authority for creating, interpreting, and enforcing the law, and that all legal truth is based on the decision of the state. Before accepting the reasonableness of these ideas, remember that the Founding Fathers believed that natural laws emanated from God which they articulated in phrases such as “…We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights…” along with “…and to assume among the powers of the earth the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitles them…” in our foundational documents. Natural Law handed down by God was the prevailing thinking prior to being replaced by the purely scientific and evolving case method that pushed God out of the picture.
H.W. Titus, in his book God, Man, and Law: The Biblical Principles, commented “Langdell did not merely introduce a new method of teaching law, he introduced a new faith concerning law. He believed that man, led by the ablest scholars and judges, could discover and determine the laws governing human affairs. Because he believed that man did not need the aid of God and of the Holy Scripture…” In contrast, the Founding Fathers had a devout belief that America’s foundation rested upon religion and morality. George Washington, in his Farewell Address, stated “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports…In vain would that men claim the tribute of patriotism who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of men and citizens…” Alexis de Tocqueville observed that “The Americans combine the notions of Christianity and liberty so intimately in their minds that it is impossible to make them conceive one without the other.”
America was founded upon the Christian religion and morality. During the colonial era, the second best-selling book in America behind the Bible was the New England Primer from which children learned to read with teachings of Scripture. Our educational system was subverted by John Dewey, known as the Architect of Modern Education who believed “…faith in the prayer-hearing God is an unproved and outmoded faith. There is no God and there is no soul. Hence, there are no needs for the props of traditional religion. With dogma and creed excluded, then immutable truth is also dead and buried. There is no room for fixed, natural law or moral absolutes.” These ideas were so revolutionary for the times that in 1892 the National Education Association stated “…if the study of the Bible is to be excluded from all state schools; if the inculcation of the principles of Christianity is to have no place in the daily program; if the worship of God is to form no part of the general exercises of these public elementary schools; then the good of the state would be better served by restoring all schools to church control.” I don’t imagine that they still profess this belief.
In the colonial era, all sectors of American society were aligned with the belief that religion and morality were essential to the success of America. The introduction of Darwin’s book offered an alternative explanation of existence that eliminated God and was immediately heralded by those who believed in science and reason over what they considered to be the unlearned superstition of religion and faith in God. After all, they were progressive men of science with new ideas that would propel America forward and allow her to assume her rightful place in the world. But, they forgot the lessons of the Bible where those who assumed they knew more than God were repeatedly humbled by His power and majesty.
Focus on the Family’s Truth Project does an excellent job of explaining this evolution of America away from religion towards secularism in a profound and illuminating way. America has turned away from God, religion, and morality as the basis of its legitimacy and laws to the detriment of its people. Americans today are more concerned at what they can get out of the government than what they can do to help their country. We are consumed with self-satisfaction and give nary a thought to self-sacrifice except in times of dire emergency precipitated by natural catastrophes. Even then, many resort to looting and stealing in an orgy of self-concern in what they view as fortuitous fate. America will never regain its solid foundation of religion and morality based on Christianity until we rid ourselves of the secularism which has engulfed our country and which stands in such sharp contrast to the ideas prevalent at America’s founding.