Our nation's founding fathers made the separation of church and state one of the pillars of this republic, but that doesn't mean they weren't religious.
On the contrary.
They profoundly believed in God, and through their writings made repeated references to their faith and America's unique place among nations based on that faith. Among those individuals was Thomas Paine who, in his pamphlet "Common Sense," wrote, "The cause of America is the cause of all mankind." He would tell his fellow citizens confronting the imperial rule of England, "Of more worth is one honest man to society, and in the sight of God, than all the crowned ruffians that ever lived."
America's first president also embraced his religion. In his farewell address, George Washington reminded his audience, "Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, Religion and morality are indispensable supports."
This embrace of faith is not unique to our national leaders of the 1700s. Historian Gary Scott Smith wrote that President Ronald Reagan "firmly believed and often declared that God intended America to be a beacon of hope, faith, freedom, and democracy — 'a city on the hill.'"
As we celebrate this holiday season it is crucial that we reflect on a nation whose motto, "In God we trust" reveals a foundation of morality, ethics and virtue. It does not matter which religion you embrace. These are basic founding principles of a nation that remains humanity's last best hope and whose citizens are bound together under these shared values. It is easy to lose sight of that fact amidst the political rancor and partisan divides that currently distract us.
Patrick Henry offered his fellow revolutionaries valuable insight when he told them, "I have but one lamp by which my feet are guided, and that is the lamp of experience. I know of no way of judging of the future but by the past."
By that measure, we should take comfort and find confidence in the future of our nation. We have been repeatedly tested -- by both domestic and global challenges -- but by the grace of God and the spirit of the American people, we have sustained our role as an exceptional country. Let us use this time of year to give thanks to our forefathers and find strength in our respective faiths to welcome in the new year.
Lawrence Kadish serves on the Board of Governors of Gatestone Institute.