RD Extra: Debate – “Is the US Government Founded on the Christian Religion?” Ed Brayton vs. Dr. Tim Schmig

brayton_v_schmigThis RD Extra features a debate between Ed Brayton and Dr. Tim Schmig. The debate took place on November 12, 2014 at CFI Michigan in Grand Rapids.

Ed Brayton is the founder and owner of the Freethought Blogs Network and the voice behind the popular blog Dispatches from the Culture Wars. He is the co-founder and past president of Michigan Citizens for Science and the recipient of the Friend of Darwin Award from the National Center for Science Education and has appeared on The Rachel Maddow Show, The Thom Hartmann Show, and C-SPAN. Ed is also a current member of CFI Advisory Board. Brayton argued for the resolution “That the government of the United States is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion.”

Arguing against that resolution is Dr. Tim Schmig, the Executive Director for the Michigan Association of Christian Schools. Tim Schmig has taught High School History, Social Studies, Government and Economics for 5 years in two different Christian Schools. He holds a Doctorate of Literature in Ministry from Maranatha Baptist Bible College.Tim spends much time in Washington D.C. and Lansing meeting with elected officials and has earned respect and garnered influence on both sides of the political aisle.

Reasonable Doubts would like to thank Ed Brayton and CFI Michigan for letting us share this debate, as well as a special thanks to Mike Slomka for helping capture the audio. Reasonable Doubts will be back with another regular format episode on December 15th.

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  1. cddb says

    LOL @ Schmig during the Q&A section. Good to know he’s spreading the (contradictory) gospel of Reagan in addition to the jesus hooey…

  2. Curt Cameron says

    Schmig’s entire argument seemed to be just that many people in the culture when our country was founded were Christian, therefore Christianity had some influence on it. That’s not much of a point towards defeating the resolution. Ed hammered the point home time and again with actual facts.

    This was a very lopsided affair.

  3. Michael Darby says

    It was indeed very lopsided. Would Schmig argue that any legislation passed by elected officials who happen to be Christian is founded of Christianity? Is tax policy Christian-based? What about technical regulation?

    If he doesn’t assert this (which seems obvious), then he needs to demonstrate why the Constitution in particular is inspired by the Bible with specific references. The President having Sunday off doesn’t cut it.

  4. Curt Cameron says

    I’m one who prefers audio versions of these things, but some may be interested in the video. The debate is up on YouTube, and you can see the slides during the debate:


    By the way, how do you get your picture beside your name on your comments? I don’t see that option in the Profile page.

  5. Ron Crossland says

    Just as Christian influence was in the air at the time, so were the influences of secular and non-thesist thinking. So when a Christian supports a document that doesn’t reference the Bible, but explicitly references Enlightenment ideals, is that Christian acting on Biblical or extra-Biblical influences?

    Schmig simply asserts that because some of the early supporters and even framers were Christian, then that influence carried the weight. These Christians were also moved and persuaded by ideas from non-Biblical sources – indeed in some cases supportive of argumentation against Biblical doctrine as it was understood at the time.

    The argument that Christianity or Enlightenment was in the air is not persuasive enough an argument for either side. What is persuasive is tracing all the documents back to sources – as if they were annotated. Brayton and Schmig both attempted this sort of analysis, with Brayton’s being better, but both could have done better.

    Schmig has the additional task of explaining why Christians would endorse Constitutional ideas that were at the time and continue to be explicitly anti-Christian, as Christianity was believed and practiced during that time. I refer to Article I, sections 5, 6, and 7 – ArticleIII section 3, and Article 7.

  6. Geraard Spergen says

    I really enjoyed that debate and gained some new perspective – thank you Reasonable Doubts. But like others of the same subject, I think they’ve approached it from entirely the wrong angle and both sides used motivated reasoning and confirmation bias to come to their conclusions.

    I propose the following procedure.
    1. Define the fundamental principles of Christianity, and then look for them in the Constitution and other founding documents. (salvation’s got to be No. 1, right?)
    2. Define the principles of the US government, and then look for them in the documents of Christianity (to the extent that they are not also principles of other religions and secular philosophy. (freedom, self-governance, justice, pursuit of happiness… NT where?)

  7. xxxxxx says

    Dr. Schmig’s argument seems to be that The US Government is founded on Christian principles because the people who wrote the founding documents were largely Christian and from a Christian culture.

    By that logic, then, he must consider himself Jewish and all of Christianity to a mere sect of Judaism. Thus, by the communitive property, the US Government is founded on Jewish principles. Sorry, Ed, you were wrong too.

  8. barry21 says

    I don’t understand how this is even a topic for debate. If Christianity is absent from the nation’s founding documents and subsequent law, it is not a Christian nation. If the framers were so incompetent that forgot to mention that the US has a Christian government, they must have been very lucky to create such ingenious founding documents.

  9. Jason Goemaat says

    In the closing remarks Schmig talks about going to the library of congress and quotes a religious verse, part of which says “to not read into something that is not there.” And he says he tries to do that. When asked what part of the constitution best espouses Christian principles, the only example he can come up with is checks and balances because the bible says humans are sinful so it would be required. That is absurd. That is nearly the definition of reading into something that is not there. So the Constitution is based on the Christian principle that people are sinful? I hope he has the decency to at least feel a little embarrassed by this farce.

  10. says

    I for one really really liked this debate, though schmig lost and his arguments weren’t that great

    give him credit for actually engaging in a debate, providing sources,not being a jackass, and actually conceding points when he was shown wrong, i mean how rare is that in debates? seriously, it almost never happens, i like this guy even though he lost

    this was an actual debate, both sides were polite and honest, and i didnt see any of the dishonest tactics i usually see in debates

    this was a pleasure to listen to, i guess maybe im just jaded by all the other “atheist vs christian” type debates where its just presuppositional apologetics tactics and gish gallops or just outright lies, even in debates on this topic

    why cant all the debates be like this one >.> actual interesting debates

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