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ragingloli's avatar

What is the reason for the almost religious worship that is bestowed upon the founders in the US?

Asked by ragingloli (35188 points ) January 4th, 2010

I do not even know the names of the people who wrote the German Constitution, because let us face it, they just did their job and were not infallible, so I would not take their opinions at face value.
Yet, a lot of times when the US founders are brought up, people do just that, take their words at face value, assume they are absolutely true and no questions asked, almost as if the founders were some group of gods or supernatural beings whose opinions are inherently infallible.
Why do you think that is?

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14 Answers

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

People take a lot of things literally that were not meant to be taken literally – people use a lot of fall-backs – it makes things easier for them.

Harp's avatar

They were revolutionary heroes, which tends to breed a certain cult of personality. Think of the French revolutionary heroes, Mao, Lenin, Castro, etc. They were all lionized as liberators from oppression. The American Founding Fathers had that going for them, plus, unlike the others, they also managed to formulate a government that actually worked pretty well. That gave their estime a longevity that other revolutionaries haven’t enjoyed.

JLeslie's avatar

I know very little about the constitution of other countries. In America we are taught or led to believe that ours is unique. I knew one person, a religious man, who argued the American constitution was divinely inspired. As you know I am an atheist, so I would not go that far, but we are convinced that because of our constitution we are assured representation in our government and established a system of checks and balances. Freedom from the King and dictatorships. Not only our constitution, but other documents like the Declaration of Independence, even the poem on the Statue of Liberty, are seen as very important, and those who wrote them as inspired.

America is a country of immigrants for the most part, and so most of us take very seriously the idea of being created equal, religious freedom, separation of church and state, and we are led to believe that we were one of the first countries to come up with such a notion. Many of use knew personally our relatives who left desperate situations in their previous countries, who are grateful for the opportunity America provided, or are immigrants ourselves.

Moreover, I would say we are constantly told there is no better country, and no similar country through media, teachers, and others (I would say that this was more true years ago). Also, we frequently refer to the constitution to evaluate whether a law should be law. So, I guess since we tend to feel grateful for the country we live in, we also treasure the documents and rules of law that provide us with the life we have in America, and therefore also revere the people who wrote the intitial documents establishing our country.

As a disclaimer I would like to say that my worst subject in school was history, not far behind was government, although I have become much more interested in these topics as I got older. But, I was raised that America is a paradise. I am 2nd generation American on one side and 3rd on the other, and married to someone who is an immigrant himself. Being Jewish definitely had a big influence on this. Feeling safe in a country, having equal rights, knowing people who had come from all over the world, many different races, religions, ethnic backgrounds all living together, all citizens. America has not always lived up to its ideals of the constitution and other intentions of our founders, but we strive for it.

marinelife's avatar

I do not think the founders of this country are treated as “almost religious” icons. I challenge the premise of your question. The Constitution of the United States serves as a model for other documents even as it was created upon a foundation of other documents and premises.

The German “basic law” (it was not called a constitution when it was drafted in 1949) was done under the aegis of the three occupying powers. It was viewed at the time as a temporary measure pending a drafting of a constitution upon reunification, which as we know did not happen.

dpworkin's avatar

You have already gotten some pretty good answers, let me just add that we also retain a record of their reasoning and their arguments during the formulation of the document, which open a rather interesting window on the thought-processes of the founders. You may be interested to read the Federalist Papers, as an example.

aprilsimnel's avatar

By who? The DAR? There are millions of people in this country, descended from people who lived in the time of the “Founding Fathers”, who recognize that these were just men with their own biases and goals, and these men formulated the Constitution in the way that benefited themselves. It took 5 years of a civil war and 100 years of struggle to make these same rights available to women, Native American and various other non-white peoples living here, a struggle that is ongoing.

See, inherent in your question is the presumption that all USisans believe the same things, when what you’re speaking of is more within the realm of a certain group of white people who are terrified of losing the leg up they’ve had for 450 years. Please don’t paint all of us with that brush. My Native and African ancestors would roll in their graves if they thought I and their descendants worshipped these guys.

JLeslie's avatar

@ragingloli DAR is Daughters of The American Revolution, in case you don’t know.

Along with what @aprilsimnel said, there are people in our country, usually people who I would consider part of the religious right, who are confused and think America was founded as a Christian Country and that our constitution is like a document from God. Is that who you are referring to? These are the whackos in our country not to be confused with most of us who realize it was a document written by men who wanted to preserve religious freedom and freedom from dictatorships as I mentioned above. The thing is these men could have written something different, could have created another country that did not really give power to the people. The beauty is they seemed to not be seeking power, but humble, and wanting to protect the greater good.

@aprilsimnel I have a question, today, as an American, do you feel proud to be an American? Are you happy to live here?

lucillelucillelucille's avatar

@pdworkin -That’s it! I will have to read that book…I have had it for a loooong time,but have never read it-now I just have to find it :)

dpworkin's avatar

You might also really enjoy reading deTocqueville.

aprilsimnel's avatar

@JLeslie, I don’t feel “proud” in the sense you might be implying. Where I was born is a chance of birth. I would feel better about being an American if, whenever I was back in the area I was raised in, I wasn’t always asked, “What are you?” And when I say “I’m an American,” the reply is “No, no, what are you, really?” Apparently, such people (and there are a ton of them) want another answer, when the answer is American. I was born in Buffalo. I was raised in Wisconsin. My ancestry on my mother’ side stretches back to the beginnings of this country and earlier, while my paternal side most likely was in the masses of people who went through Ellis Island, but since I’m not 100% white, that is not good enough for these other Americans. And it pisses me off. When I am in Europe or the Caribbean or anywhere else, if I say I’m an American, then that’s enough. Why it seems like my own people can’t feel the same is a mystery to me.

CyanoticWasp's avatar

Probably because none of us knew them personally.

JLeslie's avatar

@aprilsimnel I cannot know the intention of the people who ask you what are you, but where I grew up we all knew what each other is. It was not to judge them or make assumptions, it was because we were proud of our heritage or interested in where people are from and their history. I think if you ask an Italian American, “what are you?” they proudly say, “I’m Italian”, or “my family is Italian” they do not take the question as a negative. My husband in America is Mexican, and in Mexico he is Israeli, Spanish and French. I just think being offended by that question does yourself a disservice and possibly misinterprets the intent of the person asking. It is odd to me that there are people who don’t appreciate the diversity in America and try to bury it or ignore it. I don’t mean I think negatively of it, just I think if you reframe how you think about it, it might be freeing for you.

aprilsimnel's avatar

Nope. I wish it was interest. I understand what you mean, but the questions were not asked in that spirit. I know the difference.

mattbrowne's avatar

Well, in Germany there’s some reverence for Konrad Adenauer as well, the first Chancellor after the third reich. The founders in the US created a democracy which has lasted for over 200 years. No other country can top this. Germany just got 60 years not counting the chaotic years after the first world war.

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