Why does our form of government only work when the people are religious and have strong morals?

Posted by on Friday, February 22, 2013 | 5 comments

Why does our form of government only work when the people are religious and have strong morals?

John Adams once made this profound statement:

Image from whitehouse.gov

Image from whitehouse.gov

“Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people.  It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” 1


Why does our form of government only work when the people are religious and have strong morals?

Can’t we all just live however we want?  “It’s a free country” after all (as we all stated so eloquently in our elementary school days upon being reprimanded by a parent for some miscreant behavior).  What does my personal character and behavior have anything to do with functionality of our Constitutional government?

I like to think of it this way:

Imagine the United States of America as a giant pyramid.  We’ll start at the bottom and work up:

1)      When our nation was founded, GOD & RELIGION were its foundation.  Judeo/Christian principles prevailed as the backbone of our nation…socially and even politically.  This belief in God permeated every aspect of society.  And with the First Amendment protecting the freedom of religion, American religious sentiment thrived.


2)      This God centered society naturally led to an American people who had strong VALUES & VIRTUES.  They were honest and descent.  They were industrious.  They worked hard and took responsibility for themselves.  They were also generous in helping those less fortunate, thus following the “Golden Rule.”


3)      Therefore, because Americans prided themselves in these values, the PEOPLE GOVERNED THEMSELVES.  They were not looking to government or anyone else for a hand-out.  There was no sense of “entitlement.”  They took care of themselves and their own in a spirit of self-sufficiency, independence, and compassion.  Societal controls were at a minimum because the people knew how to control themselves.


4)      So, what was the government’s role in their lives?  Simple.  They established a LIMITED GOVERNMENT TO PROTECT THEIR RIGHTS.  That’s it. That was its sole purpose.  Government played a small role, relatively speaking.  It wasn’t involved in every aspect of their lives.  It wasn’t in the business of “redistributing wealth” in order to “take care” of everyone.  Government wasn’t the bloated, oppressive, unsustainable, multi-tentacled monstrosity that it is today.  It was the proverbial “cherry on top”, instituted for the purpose of protecting our God given rights.

Thomas Jefferson explained the role of government best when he stated:

“[A] wise and frugal Government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, which shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earnedThis is the sum of good government…”  2

Viola!  A nation that is stable and sound.

Illustration of a Stable nation from What Would the Founding Father's Think book by David Bowman

Illustration of a Stable nation from What Would the Founding Father’s Think book by David Bowman

A little too simplistic?  Perhaps.

But the principle is this:

Because our Constitution is entirely built around the concepts of liberty and self-government, we as Americans need to know how to responsibly handle liberty and self-government if we are to survive as a Republic.  And how do we responsibly handle liberty and self-government?  Be “a moral & religious people”…and the rest falls into place.

I love hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month  February, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book What Would the Founding Father’s Think  in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. What do you win?

I will pick a winner once a month and you can pick one copy in eBook or Print.


David Bowman

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1         – The Works of John Adams, ed. Charles Francis Adams (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1850-56), 9:228-9

2         – First Inaugural Address, 1801






  1. Dave,

    Thank you so much for calling it a Republic. It seems that people just use Democracy as if it were interchangeable with Republic, it is not and the two types of governments are very different. I really appreciate the simplicity of this break down. So many people think that the government has to be complex and incredibly difficult, it’s not. The Federal government should be one of the easiest forms on Earth, as it is by design. They are simply around to protect the nation as a whole, foreign relations, provide a place for representation of all states equally and as you said, protect our rights. Which the rights provided in the Constitution were meant to be basic human rights that everyone should be entitled to.

    The sad state of affairs we’ve come to is because people sought out ways to get around laws and to rip them apart through legal loop holes. So the lawyers have taken over and sure, they make a killing, but they are killing the country we love for a dollar that is quickly diminishing. The thing is, more laws does not equal more protection or security. Instead, we need less laws, more accountability and in all realities, less technicalities, more intent of the law. Back to step 1, backbone.

  2. That is wonderfully simple. While it might not sum up every little problem that can present itself, this is the solution to the bulk of society’s problems. I think the people need to remember why this government was really created and what our role needs to be.

  3. It really is just that simple. People don’t understand…
    I would make one small correction, however…
    It isn’t necessarily Judeo-Christian beliefs, but a simple and reliable belief in, as Benjamin Franklin called it, the “American Religion”:
    1) That there is one God who made all things.
    2) That He governs the World by his Providence.
    3) That He ought to be worshipped by Adoration, Prayer and Thanksgiving, but that the most acceptable Service of God is doing good to Man.
    4) That the Soul is immortal.
    5) And that God will certainly reward Virtue and punish Vice either here or hereafter.

    This applies to Christians, Jews, Muslims, Deists, etc., and if people are, simply, “RELIGIOUS”, we would all benefit.

  4. Hi David!
    This is a great explanation of the purpose of the constitution. I wish that we had more people that believed this way. I hope that your book does the trick! I have all four volumes of your Who’s Your Hero series as well as your Plan of Happiness book. FANTASTIC!! Thanks so much for all that you do! My kids LOVE it!

  5. What can I say, except you and your family are amazing. I would love to read your book; What Would the Founding Fathers Think?.
    Donna Davidson

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