James Madison repeated Mason’s definition of religion--“duty . . . to our Creator”--in Memorial and Remonstrance,” 1785, and added his own thought:
The imposition of Christianity carried forward and the first Congress hired a minister and assigned chaplains to the military. Thomas Jefferson collaborated in these actions while maintaining that a person’s religion had no impact on his civic neighborliness but clarified his self-contradiction in 1800: “I Have Sworn Upon the Altar of God eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man." I doubt neither Jefferson’s sincerity nor the expressed contradiction, but would rather commend simplicity: “I oppose tyranny against thought,” or better. Some people select poetry to stand the test of time regardless of verity.
Jefferson was the poetic author of the Declaration of Independence (1776), with phrases some Christians include in claims to Christian founding. However, the references to higher power are deistic. Perhaps the committee of five who approved the document did not mind the deist influence and liked avoiding reference to the King’s Christian God; they invoked “Nature and Nature’s God” and “Creator” and other deist terms. Colonial soldiers would need a sense that their God exceeded the God of the world's leading empire, so perhaps Jefferson was writing the tacit war claim, "Our god will beat your god."
Jefferson’s poetic “all men are created equal . . . with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness,” is even more controversial. I discuss that below. The Continental Congress (1774) was mistaken when it did not castigate England for imposing slavery on the colonies. However, the Declaration of Independence succeeded, because it led to the organization of this country for domestic justice and global esteem, faulty as it was, twelve years later.
Citizens who refuse to face the need for civic terms in civic governance are responsible for the doors they close and their losses, as demonstrated by America's current state of domestic dysfunction. After 227 years of neglect, it is time for Christians, all believers, and non-believers to consider, “What would it take for me to consider myself of ‘We the People of the United States’ as defined in the preamble?"