"[W]e have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge, or gallantry, would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other."While many have taken Adams's words to mean he was endorsing an evangelical government and/or a "Christian nation," it's important that we not overreach or put words into his mouth. John Adams, in this letter, is not endorsing a particular Christian denomination nor is he advocating that the United States adopt the Bible as its legal structure in place of the Constitution. He's instead echoing the sentiments of his predecessor, George Washington, who stated that "religion and morality" are "indispensable supports to political prosperity."
Like Washington, Adams believed that morality and religion were inextricably intertwined. You can't have the former without the latter, and if you can find a latter system without the former, it is inherently flawed and should be set aside. A moral world view, underlined and shaped by religion, is essential to a healthy society, argued Adams. And the American Constitution was written with such a society in mind. Do we have such a society today?