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God Talk Puzzle:

Who wrote this? (The God Talk is especially in the last clause before the dash, but also in the clause before that.)

Kindly separated by nature and a wide ocean from the exterminating havoc of one quarter of the globe; too high-minded to endure the degradations of the others; possessing a chosen country, with room enough for our descendants to the thousandth and thousandth generation; entertaining a due sense of our equal right to the use of our own faculties, to the acquisitions of our own industry, to honor and confidence from our fellow-citizens, resulting not from birth, but from our actions and their sense of them; enlightened by a benign religion, professed, indeed, and practiced in various forms, yet all of them inculcating honesty, truth, temperance, gratitude, and the love of man; acknowledging and adoring an overruling Providence, which by all its dispensations proves that it delights in the happiness of man here and his greater happiness hereafter -- with all these blessings, what more is necessary to make us a happy and a prosperous people?

The answer is here.

steve lubet (mail):

[W]hat more is necessary to make us a happy and a prosperous people?


1. The abolition of slavery.
2. Universal suffrage.

Just to name a couple.
1.26.2007 2:06pm
Benjamin Davis (mail):
Clearly not written by a native american.
Best,
Ben
1.26.2007 2:17pm
Spartacus (www):
Last I checked, Jefferson was born in the AMerican Colonies, which pretty much makes him a native American.
1.26.2007 2:19pm
JB:
Can we avoid the pointless, hairsplitting semantic debate about what to call the descendants of the precolombian inhabitants of the Americas?

It's a big waste of time and an excuse not to address the point at hand.
1.26.2007 2:24pm
r78:
Interesting that you omitted the following sentence in which Jefferson, himself, answers his rhetorical question:

Still one thing more, fellow-citizens -- a wise and frugal Government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, 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 earned. This is the sum of good government, and this is necessary to close the circle of our felicities.

Hmm, he seems to be saying that even with the blessings of geography and heaven above we need Government to be happy.

So I guess God isn't enough without Government.
1.26.2007 2:28pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):
You are missing the main point of Professor Volokh's posting: the most prominently religiously unorthodox of the Framers (aside from Tom Paine) gives a speech that makes liberals wince today because of its religious assumptions.
1.26.2007 2:38pm
Thief (mail) (www):
r78: Not just any government - a limited, almost minarchist, Government. Certainly not the monstrosity of today.
1.26.2007 2:48pm
Orielbean (mail):
I think they wince because the "God" of today is a little more hands-on then He ever used to be. He could look down and frown or approve, but now I think he is writing legislature, case judgments, and signing statements, if what I hear from the mouths of His chosen is correct. I thought that the Founders were of the Watchmaker school of religion - he built the thing , wound it up, and let the gears do the rest without active meddlement. And I don't know too many atheists or agnostics that think people shouldn't practice honesty, truth, temperance, gratitude, and love of man[kind].
1.26.2007 2:49pm
MS (mail):
Who's wincing? Referring to God with a neuter pronoun would get you excommunicated from most Texas churches.
1.26.2007 2:49pm
yesno:
And other of his writings would make any person in America unelectable today, with their disrespect for Christian tradition and embrace of reason.
1.26.2007 2:52pm
Orielbean (mail):
Because whenever someone says liberal and religion together, they are blanketing that group with the assumption that they don't practice religion or are spiritual in any way...
1.26.2007 2:52pm
BGates (www):

Still one thing more, fellow-citizens - Government.

-from "r78's abridged version of the collected works of Thomas Jefferson".
Amazing how the truncated version completely preserves the meaning of the original.
1.26.2007 2:52pm
Steve:
You are missing the main point of Professor Volokh's posting: the most prominently religiously unorthodox of the Framers (aside from Tom Paine) gives a speech that makes liberals wince today because of its religious assumptions.

This liberal is hardly wincing. Jefferson's speech seems completely indistinguishable to me from the routine invocations of God and Providence that permeate our founding documents and, indeed, virtually everything the founders ever wrote. It's a far cry indeed from proclaiming that God sent George W. Bush to be our President.
1.26.2007 2:53pm
Jon Rowe (mail) (www):
I don't think it makes liberals wince, but perhaps atheistic materialists.

There is no question that key Founders often termed "deists" like Jefferson, Adams, and Franklin believed in an "overruling Providence," as Jefferson puts it.

They also wrote things (mainly private) that would make conservative Christians wince. Like that the doctrines which define Christianity's orthodoxy -- the Trinity, Incarnation, and Atonement -- weren't just errors but "corruptions" of Christianity.
1.26.2007 2:53pm
Jon Rowe (mail) (www):
I even winced a little when I read this one by Adams in James Hutson's book of quotations. He terms the Incarnation a "corruption" of Christianity and then notes that it has "stupified" the minds of Christians. I honestly wonder whether the Jefferson's enemies -- the Federalist clergy who supported Adams -- realized that Adams was as much of an "Infidel" as Jefferson.

"An incarnate God!!! An eternal, self-existent, omnipresent omniscient Author of this stupendous Universe, suffering on a Cross!!! My Soul starts with horror, at the Idea, and it has stupified the Christian World. It has been the Source of almost all of the Corruptions of Christianity."

John Adams to John Quincy Adams, March 28, 1816
1.26.2007 3:00pm
Perseus (mail):
The address was made in the aftermath of the brutal 1800 election campaign in which various Federalists accused Jefferson of being a man with "no Conscience, no Religion, no Charity." Jefferson engaged in such "God talk" partly because he thought that it would help to "restore harmony and social love," which he said was "almost the first object of my heart, and one to which I would sacrifice everything but principle." Although the address is Christian in tone (emphasizing caritas), Jefferson carefully chose to praise not Christianity, but religion in general.
1.26.2007 3:02pm
Orielbean (mail):
And another thing - whenever the old thinkers would explain their position on some hot topic, they would not simply post an opinion, say "God told me, and that is the only reason I need" and leave you hanging there. They would explain their reasoning behind the stance, and if they felt it was divinely inspired, then that is quite different indeed.

God talks to me and he said stop abortions != Here are reasons, using logic and examples that people with/without faith can comprehend and understand, of why abortion is bad. I am spiritual and feel that God has helped me throughout my life to gain inspiration and wisdom in these matters.

Even if the Big Guy helped you open the book and find the table of contents, I as the outsider can still objectively judge the evidence in the book and do not have to read your mind or soul to see if you have faith or if you have no idea why you feel/act a certain way. I have no problem with God the Librarian. I have all the problems with God the Imaginary Friend whose chair you can't sit in at the tea party, forcing you to stand.
1.26.2007 3:03pm
r78:

You are missing the main point of Professor Volokh's posting: the most prominently religiously unorthodox of the Framers (aside from Tom Paine) gives a speech that makes liberals wince today because of its religious assumptions.

Well I am not a liberal but I think that belief in God is as silly as believing in leprechauns and I did not wince.

Jefferson was just making pious sounds the way politicians do because it makes the religious simpletons happy.
1.26.2007 3:27pm
dearieme:
Jefferson was a spin doctor. He span.
1.26.2007 3:32pm
John (mail):
Is there any evidence one way or the other that Jefferson and the other founders believed all the religious stuff that permeates their writing and speeches? Or were they just saying the politically correct thing without believing it?

How might we tell?
1.26.2007 3:45pm
Bruce:
I guessed correctly, and I'm not sure why this is such a puzzle. The Declaration of Independence mentions "their Creator," "Nature's God," and "Divine Providence" as well.
1.26.2007 3:46pm
TomH (mail):
"enlightened by a benign religion, professed, indeed, and practiced in various forms, yet all of them inculcating honesty, truth, temperance, gratitude, and the love of man"

As a good Deist, he never mentions a church a prophet, a savior or a hierarchy, only a derivation of the Golden Rule and some corrolaries
1.26.2007 4:03pm
TomH (mail):
My overall impression is that Jefferson and similarly inclined founding fathers were not so much anti-spirituality, but anti-secular power. The thought of a temporal power structure flowing from a divine source was, and remains, repugnant. Not so much for its potential, but for its certain corruption.
1.26.2007 4:07pm
r78:

-from "r78's abridged version of the collected works of Thomas Jefferson".

Then you should direct your interpretive skills towards those who seem to believe that this is "God talk". Since Jefferson doesn't attribute the success of the country to "God" or "religion" but, instead, to "benign religion."

And then you can continue this theme by noting his description of religion as being "practiced in various forms" [heh, about what you would expect from that terrorist loving Jefferson who actually owned a copy of the Koran.] and that "inculcating honesty, truth, temperance, gratitude."

Which of those words, "honesty, truth, temperance, gratitude" would you use to describe James Dobson, Jerry Falwell, Ted Haggerty, and whatever other leaders of the Christianist right you care to name?
1.26.2007 4:10pm
Houston Lawyer:
And people wonder why the majority of the public dislikes athiests.
1.26.2007 4:11pm
Q the Enchanter (mail) (www):
Atheist materialist here, but the quotation doesn't make me wince. Not even roll my eyes. It's quaint. It was written over 200 years ago. And even back then Jefferson himself knew better than to take the idea of a personal god seriously.
1.26.2007 4:12pm
r78:
More God talk:

The fact that I left the Burgerbraukeller earlier than usual is a corroboration of Providence's intention to let me reach my goal.


Hitler describing why he survived the assassination attempt in 1939.
1.26.2007 4:14pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

Is there any evidence one way or the other that Jefferson and the other founders believed all the religious stuff that permeates their writing and speeches? Or were they just saying the politically correct thing without believing it?

How might we tell?
Take a look at their personal letters, where they presumably were a little less guarded. Jefferson's letters to Adams, for example, show him to be somewhat unorthodox in his view of Christianity, and later in life, so was Adams. Franklin's letters to Ezra Stiles in 1790 also shows that Franklin was, by the standards of the day, a pretty liberal Christian. None of them, however, would have accepted the ACLU's bizarre misreading of the establishment clause, as demonstrated by both Jefferson and Madison's attendance of church services in government buildings.

Even if all the public statements were intended strictly to appease the masses, it demonstrates that there were masses that needed to be appeased with respect to some sort of approximately orthodox Christianity. Of course, you could figure that out by looking at the religious tests for holding public office present most state constitutions of the time, and the 1780 Massachusetts Constitution that directed the legislature to pass mandatory church attendance laws.
1.26.2007 4:14pm
r78:

And people wonder why the majority of the public dislikes athiests.

I've never wondered that. It is perfectly predictable. The nutjobs out on the street really dislike anyone who suggest that the CIA has not, in fact, placed listening devices in their teeth. Its no different than that. If you tell a 4 year old that Santa Claus is imaginary - they will really dislike you, too.
1.26.2007 4:17pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

Hitler describing why he survived the assassination attempt in 1939.
I would guess for public consumption. Read Albert Speer's Inside the Third Reich. Hitler's contempt for Christianity (indeed, all religion) was quite strong. Hitler found Himmler's neo-paganism somewhat amusing and distasteful at the same time, largely because it was artificial.
1.26.2007 4:17pm
r78:
Cramer - I don't doubt that. Politicians routinely parrot whatever the masses want to hear. Jefferson's invocation of Providence in his speech is not a reliable indicator his true feelings about God and religion - as some posters pointed out above.
1.26.2007 4:22pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

I've never wondered that. It is perfectly predictable. The nutjobs out on the street really dislike anyone who suggest that the CIA has not, in fact, placed listening devices in their teeth. Its no different than that. If you tell a 4 year old that Santa Claus is imaginary - they will really dislike you, too.
Don't you find it even slightly interesting that the "nutjobs" who think the CIA has put listening devices in their teeth constitute about, oh, 1% of the population?

On the other hand, the belief in God (although with considerable disagreement about his nature, proper worship, and associated theology) has been the overwhelming majority of human populations for a very long time, including some of the greatest thinkers in the sciences, such as Isaac Newton, Leonardo da Vinci (at the end, had last rites by a priest), and Robert Boyle?

A majority isn't always right, but when comparing two ideas you find ridiculous, one held by a tiny minority, and one by a huge majority--doesn't it make you a little curious that you are in the tiny majority?
1.26.2007 4:22pm
Mahan Atma (mail):
How does the mention of "Providence" make one a Christian?

There are pretty big differences between Christianity and Deism you know...
1.26.2007 4:23pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

Cramer - I don't doubt that. Politicians routinely parrot whatever the masses want to hear. Jefferson's invocation of Providence in his speech is not a reliable indicator his true feelings about God and religion - as some posters pointed out above.
However, Jefferson's private letters reveal someone who, unorthodox as he was in his religious beliefs, seem to have some. What little unguarded remarks by Hitler that we have preserved suggest quite the opposite.
1.26.2007 4:24pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

And another thing - whenever the old thinkers would explain their position on some hot topic, they would not simply post an opinion, say "God told me, and that is the only reason I need" and leave you hanging there. They would explain their reasoning behind the stance, and if they felt it was divinely inspired, then that is quite different indeed.
And this is different from Christians promoting their point of view today in what way?
1.26.2007 4:26pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

How does the mention of "Providence" make one a Christian?

There are pretty big differences between Christianity and Deism you know...
There certainly are. But Jefferson's letters and writings reveal nothing that clearly identifies him as a Deist. I find it fascinating how so many people try to identify Washington as a Deist because he so seldom uses the word "God." Usually he substitutes "Providence." But this is hardly proof of Deism. Even today, some Orthodox Jews will only write "G-d" in English to avoid taking the Lord's name in vain. (Never mind that "God" is a title, not a name.)

I suppose next that you will tell me that Providence Island and Providence, Rhode Island were so named because the people involved were Deists. No, they were Puritans, and "Providence" was often used by Puritans to refer to God's mercy and providing for his people.
1.26.2007 4:30pm
Adeez (mail):
"On the other hand, the belief in God (although with considerable disagreement about his nature, proper worship, and associated theology) has been the overwhelming majority of human populations for a very long time, including some of the greatest thinkers in the sciences, such as Isaac Newton, Leonardo da Vinci (at the end, had last rites by a priest), and Robert Boyle?

As your post recognizes above in its parenthetical, talking about belief in God and theism/atheism is pointless w/o first defining "God." If it's what I deem the Santa Claus theory of God (you know: it's a man who happens to see you when you're sleeping and knows when you're awake), then everyone who opposes such nonsense would be an atheist, including DaVinci. If, on the other hand, "God" simply refers to transcendental reality/fabric of the multidimensional universe, then that would mean there are very few "pure" atheists.
1.26.2007 4:37pm
eddie (mail):
Interesting that the Professor felt the need to point out the "God talk". And is this the Providence some anthropomorphized person or more appropriately a rational awe at the totality of the universe?
1.26.2007 4:41pm
r78:

A majority isn't always right, but when comparing two ideas you find ridiculous, one held by a tiny minority, and one by a huge majority--doesn't it make you a little curious that you are in the tiny majority?

Re the numbers: the first poll that popped up that I could find was from 2003 and it stated:

This survey found that 79% of Americans believe there is a God, and that 66% are absolutely certain this is true. Only 9% do not believe in God, while a further 12% are not sure.

While most people (55%) attend a religious service a few times a year or more often, only a minority of the public (36%) attends a religious service once a month or more often, with about a quarter (26%) attending every week.

So the "tiny minority" is actually about 20 percent of the American population.

And, presumably the 26% who actually go church each week do so at least in part because the believe their religion requires it. Does that mean that the other 50% of the population who believe in God but don't regularly attend church are on their way to hellfire and damnation?

Anyway, there are any number of nutty beliefs that I don't ascribe to that have quite a following. Witness the popularity of Celine Dion and professional basketball.
1.26.2007 4:43pm
Orielbean (mail):
Cramer, I gave you the two different examples - one person says God told me to do this or think that way. The other person uses empirical evidence, qualifies the remark with at least a valid anecdote, or reasons &debates with other people, and says that God helped point them in the right direction.

For the first person, if I disagree, I have nothing to argue against, because I can't look at their reasoning or talk to their God directly to confirm or deny. I have to assume that belief = truth and can't work objectively.

With the second person, I can refute their evidence, point out ambiguities in the anecdote, and can reason against them - I don't need God in my head to continue a discussion on the same level playing field.

What part aren't you understanding here? They are two different POV's...
1.26.2007 4:48pm
Elliot Reed:
the belief in God (although with considerable disagreement about his nature, proper worship, and associated theology) has been the overwhelming majority of human populations for a very long time
Since when? Of about 6 billion people on Earth, about 3.5 billion Muslims and Christians. That's a lot of people - about 58% of the world's population - but not an "overwhelming majority." [1] The bulk of the remaining 2.5 billion is taken up by about a billion Hindus, 850 million adherents of Chinese folk religion, and something like 350 million Buddhists. Other religions are negligible. Say what you like about Hinduism, Buddhism, and Chinese folk religion, but they don't have anything much like the personal God of Christianity and Islam.

Granted, the overwhelming majority of people do believe in some form of the supernatural. We non-supernaturalists (which is a stronger claim than atheism) are a tiny minority, not even a rounding error. But that's not what you said.
1.26.2007 4:51pm
Perseus (mail):
In the passage quoted, Jefferson mentions an overruling Providence that becomes an impersonal it rather than the more traditional anthropological God/He. Some might interpret that particular choice of words as significant.
1.26.2007 5:19pm
Q the Enchanter (mail) (www):
"A majority isn't always right, but when comparing two ideas..., one held by a tiny minority, and one by a huge majority--doesn't it make you a little curious that you are in the tiny [minority]?"

More than a little--I am exceedingly curious.

But then even if I were in a large majority on the question of whether there existed of an invisible deity endowed with arbitrarily-high degrees of knowledge of and power over our cosmos and its inhabitants, I would still be curious, since I simply find it mindboggling that any significant proportion of an educated population could even take the question seriously, much less sincerely believe the inquired-after hypothesis.

(I don't mean to be insulting, but only to give a sense of the genuine incredulity that seizes me when I contemplate the phenomenon of contemporary religious belief. Of course I'm sure many fundamentalist Christians find my disbelief equally as confounding. So no offense intended or taken.)
1.26.2007 5:31pm
Richard Gould-Saltman (mail):
To borrow from Homer S., "I like my beer cold, my television loud, and my religion benign!"

Unfortunately, right now the Bahai, the Quakers, the 7th Day Adventists, and certain of the more esoteric schools of Buddhism seem to be among the few religions which have much benignity...
1.26.2007 5:36pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):
r78 writes:


So the "tiny minority" is actually about 20 percent of the American population.
Most surveys that I have seen show atheists to be about 5-10% of the population, with a somewhat larger fraction of agnostics.


And, presumably the 26% who actually go church each week do so at least in part because the believe their religion requires it. Does that mean that the other 50% of the population who believe in God but don't regularly attend church are on their way to hellfire and damnation?
No it means that there are a lot of people whose religious beliefs don't require them to attend church every week. I'm not sure which religions teach that; certainly no branch of Protestantism of which I am aware does so. They do encourage regular attendance, but it isn't up there with fundamental doctrines. My experience is that a lot of people with your fierce hostility towards Christianity have little idea what it teaches.

Anyway, there are any number of nutty beliefs that I don't ascribe to that have quite a following. Witness the popularity of Celine Dion and professional basketball.
That's hitting below the belt! I like Celine Dion!

I don't enjoy watching sports, but I can understand why some people do. It doesn't seem nutty to me.
1.26.2007 5:37pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

Cramer, I gave you the two different examples - one person says God told me to do this or think that way. The other person uses empirical evidence, qualifies the remark with at least a valid anecdote, or reasons &debates with other people, and says that God helped point them in the right direction.

For the first person, if I disagree, I have nothing to argue against, because I can't look at their reasoning or talk to their God directly to confirm or deny. I have to assume that belief = truth and can't work objectively.

With the second person, I can refute their evidence, point out ambiguities in the anecdote, and can reason against them - I don't need God in my head to continue a discussion on the same level playing field.

What part aren't you understanding here? They are two different POV's...
What I'm not understanding is why you think that the first position is one that is widely held. I don't think I've met more than a few people in my entire life that take that position. That's certainly not the way that prominent evangelicals such as James Dobson argue.
1.26.2007 5:39pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):


the belief in God (although with considerable disagreement about his nature, proper worship, and associated theology) has been the overwhelming majority of human populations for a very long time



Since when? Of about 6 billion people on Earth, about 3.5 billion Muslims and Christians. That's a lot of people - about 58% of the world's population - but not an "overwhelming majority." [1] The bulk of the remaining 2.5 billion is taken up by about a billion Hindus, 850 million adherents of Chinese folk religion, and something like 350 million Buddhists. Other religions are negligible. Say what you like about Hinduism, Buddhism, and Chinese folk religion, but they don't have anything much like the personal God of Christianity and Islam.
Buddhism is certainly not a "personal God" like Christianity, Islam, and Judaism. From what I know of Hinduism, it certainly has personal gods. Animist religions have gods that must be appeased. This is certainly a belief in gods, rather than the more abstract philosophizing of Buddhism.
1.26.2007 5:42pm
r78:

My experience is that a lot of people with your fierce hostility towards Christianity have little idea what it teaches.

"Fierce hostility"? Not really. I don't care much about it one way or the other and I only get hostile when religious beliefs are used to justify some inane law - like not being able to buy beer on Sunday or something.

There is probably some biological basis - people who are optimistic about the future and believe that there is "meaning" in life tend to survive better than those who don't so it's not surprising that such traits get passed along to offspring either through genes or upbringing.
1.26.2007 5:51pm
Fub:
Clayton E. Cramer wrote:
Franklin's letters to Ezra Stiles in 1790 also shows that Franklin was, by the standards of the day, a pretty liberal Christian.
Just to clarify, here is an excerpt from Franklin's letter of March 9, 1790, near the end of his life, to Exra Stiles:
As to Jesus of Nazareth, my opinion of whom you particularly desire, I think the system of morals and his his religion, as he left them to us, the best the world ever saw or is likely to see; but I apprehend it has received various corrupting changes, and I have, with most of the present dissenters in England, some doubts as to his divinity; though it is a question I do not dogmatize upon , having never studied it, and think it needless to busy myself with it now, when I expect soon an opportunity of knowing the truth will less trouble. I see no harm, however, in its being believed, if that belief has the good consequence, as it probably has, of making his doctrines more respected and better observed; especially as I do not perceive, that the Supreme takes it amiss, by distinguishing the unbelievers in his government of the world with any peculiar marks of his displeasure.
By the standards of today's fundamentalist Christians, at least those I've heard, "pretty liberal" is a major understatement.
1.26.2007 5:53pm
Jon Rowe (mail) (www):
Jefferson's letter to Adams, April 11 1823, is a pretty good indicator of what he believed because he does not couch his words and says something about Calvinism which would rile up a good portion of the population.


I can never join Calvin in addressing _his god._ He was indeed an Atheist, which I can never be; or rather his religion was Daemonism. If ever man worshipped a false god, he did. The being described in his 5. points is not the God whom you and I acknolege and adore, the Creator and benevolent governor of the world; but a daemon of malignant spirit. It would be more pardonable to believe in no god at all, than to blaspheme him by the atrocious attributes of Calvin.


There is lots more in the letter, but at the very least we can assume that Jefferson's God is a "Creator and benevolent governor of the world" and he believed Adams worshipped the same.

Given that he (and Adams and Franklin) denied the Trinity, Incarnation, and Atonement (and other lesser important doctrines in Christianity like eternal damnation and the plenary inspiration of Scripture) arguably it's improper to give him (them) the label "Christian," even if that's what they called themselves. Jefferson called himself a "Christian" btw, not a "deist." And a "unitarian." Adams actually calls himself a "liberal unitarian Christian."
1.26.2007 5:58pm
r78:

No it means that there are a lot of people whose religious beliefs don't require them to attend church every week. I'm not sure which religions teach that; certainly no branch of Protestantism of which I am aware does so.

That is sort of my point. I'd bet that if you ask the 25% of believers who regularly attend church whether their regular attendance springs from compliance with their religion, most would say yes. And that is regardless of whether they are Catholic or whatever branch of protestantism they ascribe to.

And this does not even begin to open up the can of worms of Catholic v. Protestant, Christian v. Jew and and those versus Hindu's etc
1.26.2007 5:59pm
Elliot Reed:
Buddhism is certainly not a "personal God" like Christianity, Islam, and Judaism. From what I know of Hinduism, it certainly has personal gods. Animist religions have gods that must be appeased. This is certainly a belief in gods, rather than the more abstract philosophizing of Buddhism.
Indeed. But you originally claimed that the "overwhelming majority" of people believe in "God," not in "some kind of god or gods."
1.26.2007 6:09pm
Jon Rowe (mail) (www):
Fub,

You also might have wanted to stress this part of Franklin's letter to Stiles:


I think the system of morals and his his religion, as he left them to us, the best the world ever saw or is likely to see; but I apprehend it has received various corrupting changes [my emphasis],


The term "corruptions of Christianity" has specific meaning in that era. It was coined by the British Whig Unitarian Joseph Priestly who was good friends with (arguably the spiritual mentor of) Jefferson, Adams, and Franklin. And Priestly specifically defines those corruptions as "a trinity of persons in the godhead, original sin, arbitrary predestination, atonement for the sins of men by the death of Christ, and … the doctrine of the plenary inspiration of the scriptures."
1.26.2007 6:12pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

Just to clarify, here is an excerpt from Franklin's letter of March 9, 1790, near the end of his life, to Exra Stiles:


As to Jesus of Nazareth, my opinion of whom you particularly desire, I think the system of morals and his his religion, as he left them to us, the best the world ever saw or is likely to see; but I apprehend it has received various corrupting changes, and I have, with most of the present dissenters in England, some doubts as to his divinity; though it is a question I do not dogmatize upon , having never studied it, and think it needless to busy myself with it now, when I expect soon an opportunity of knowing the truth will less trouble. I see no harm, however, in its being believed, if that belief has the good consequence, as it probably has, of making his doctrines more respected and better observed; especially as I do not perceive, that the Supreme takes it amiss, by distinguishing the unbelievers in his government of the world with any peculiar marks of his displeasure.



By the standards of today's fundamentalist Christians, at least those I've heard, "pretty liberal" is a major understatement.
But he would fit right into many mainline denominations today. By the way, he didn't deny Christ's divinity; he just didn't know for sure, and figured he was going to know for sure shortly anyway.
1.26.2007 6:21pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

That is sort of my point. I'd bet that if you ask the 25% of believers who regularly attend church whether their regular attendance springs from compliance with their religion, most would say yes. And that is regardless of whether they are Catholic or whatever branch of protestantism they ascribe to.
And what point is that?

By the way, "springs from compliance" isn't necessarily contrary to what I said. A lot of fundamentalist Protestants teach that while regular church attendance is not required for salvation, being part of a body of believers tends to prevent people from being led astray by delusion. This doesn't help if you find a church filled with others who share your delusion. (Pass the rattlesnakes, please.)
1.26.2007 6:24pm
Steve:
I just find it amazing that religious groups who have slaughtered one another through much of history, like the Protestants and the Catholics, are magically lumped together as kindred spirits in this argument for the purpose of smacking atheists upside the head.

I'm starting to wonder in what sense Christianity recognizes a "personal" God. If you have a relationship with your personal God, why should it matter to you in the least what someone else's relationship with their own version of God looks like?
1.26.2007 6:29pm
Virginia:
But he [Benjamin Franklin] would fit right into many mainline denominations today.

Actually, he'd probably be too conservative for a lot of them. Franklin said that Jesus' "system of morals and his religion, as he left them to us, the best the world ever saw or is likely to see," but most mainline churches find Jesus' teachings in need of updating to conform to the precepts of modern liberalism.
1.26.2007 6:52pm
Virginia:
And re: John Adams, while he certainly was unorthodox in that he denied the Trinity, he also took the Ten Commandments so seriously that he wouldn't travel on the Sabbath (McCullough). That puts him to the "right" of most evangelicals and many self-proclaimed fundamentalists today.
1.26.2007 6:57pm
r78:

And what point is that?

While not exactly resorting to the "Everyone else does it, so you should too" form of argument, you asked earlier whether I was curious about why I was in such a teensy, tiny minority.

I first pointed out that about 80% of people believe in God, so my being in the 20% of the American population that does not isn't as aberrant as you suggest. (I saw your post re different polls and I know there are different numbers on t# his but let's not quibble on that.)

So my next point was that of the 80% of believers in the US, only about 25% of Americans actually go to church regularly. So, looked at differently, I am among the 75% of Americans who do not go to church regularly. Not in the minority there.

I you were to ask that 25%, I'd bet that the vast majority believe that the regular attendance springs from compliance with their religion. In other words, they think that to believe in God, means that you go to church regularly because that is what your belief in God compels you to do - not just that you have some vague sense that there a God when a pollster rings you up.

So while you ask whether I am curious about being in this tiny minority, I think the equally interesting question is the vastly different ways that "believers" interpret their belief (what their God wants from them). In other words, if being in a minority of (non believers) implies one should reflect on whether being in that minority means that you are "wrong", then I would say that being a member of any one of the various religious should equally compel reflection because when disagregated their beliefs are actually quite dissimilar - and under the implication of your question - thus equally subject to questioning.
1.26.2007 7:00pm
Jon Rowe (mail) (www):
Franklin's entire letter to Stiles is worth a read. Franklin did seem to walk on egg shells a bit because Stiles as President of Yale was a fairly prominent orthodox Chrisitan.

Note when Franklin tells Stiles what believes, as opposed to what he doesn't believe:


Here is my Creed: I believe in one God, Creator of the Universe. That He governs it by his Providence. That he ought to be worshipped. That the most acceptable Service we can render to him, is doing Good to his other Children. That the Soul of Man is immortal, and will be treated with Justice in another Life respecting its Conduct in this. These I take to be the fundamental Principles of all sound Religion, and I regard them as you do, in whatever Sect I meet with them.


This and not the orthodox creeds is the essence of the key Founders religious beliefs. Surprisingly, Franklin, Adams, and Jefferson didn't just believe that all Christian sects could be united around this monotheism, but that all world religions in which they were familiar likewise believed in this.

No doubt due to the influence of Joseph Priestly, these Founders were remarkably agreed on these matters. For instance, here is Jefferson's letter to James Fishback where he says something similar:


Every religion consists of moral precepts, and of dogmas. In the first they all agree. All forbid us to murder, steal, plunder, bear false witness &ca. and these are the articles necessary for the preservation of order, justice, and happiness in society. In their particular dogmas all differ; no two professing the same. These respect vestments, ceremonies, physical opinions, and metaphysical speculations, totally unconnected with morality, and unimportant to the legitimate objects of society....We see good men in all religions, and as many in one as another. It is then a matter of principle with me to avoid disturbing the tranquility of others by the expression of any opinion on the [unimportant points] innocent questions on which we schismatize, and think it enough to hold fast to those moral precepts which are of the essence of Christianity, and of all other religions.


I've uncovered John Adams claiming that Hinduism and Pagan Greco-Romanism likewise contain the same teachings as "Christianity" because they teach that there is an overriding Providence which men ought to worship, and that we ought to do good to our fellow man.

Franklin was involved in the building of a Christian Church for the "people to worship," and claimed "the design in building not being to accommodate any particular sect, but the inhabitants in general; so that even if the Mufti of Constantinople were to send a missionary to preach Mohammedanism to us, he would find a pulpit at his service."

Franklin apparently didn't distinguish between the orthodoxy of his friend George Whitefield and the beliefs of the Mufti of Constantinople. To him, both ultimately taught what was true: That there is one God, "That He governs [the world] by his Providence. That he ought to be worshipped. That the most acceptable Service we can render to him, is doing Good to his other Children. That the Soul of Man is immortal, and will be treated with Justice in another Life respecting its Conduct in this."
1.26.2007 7:02pm
Paul Johnson (mail):
For some reason, this all reminds me of Gandhi's take on Christianity: "I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ."
1.26.2007 7:12pm
Adeez (mail):
As John Rowe points out, Franklin was indeed an enlightened soul. Those who understand spirituality and have studied religion know that they're essentially all the same. Ain't that ironic!

ALL religion emanated from shaminism. It's wrong to view Buddhism/Hinduism and the 3 major western religions as opposite ends of the spectrum. Unfortunately, the latter three have been so perverted that people in the modern world see them as so distinct. But in reality, these religions are mystical at their core. Indeed, "true" Judaism is Kabalism, while for Islam and Christianity it's Sufism and Gnosticism, respectively.

Religion is really about power and control, and that's why Protestants were more enlightened and closer to the Gnostics b/c they realized that they were being controlled and manipulated by a corrupt institution. That's why, then, while I don't think any religion is more correct than another, the Eastern ones are now closer to the Truth, simply b/c they've been less corrupted.
1.26.2007 7:23pm
Chris Bell (mail):
This article has some nice summaries of the effect of religious beliefs on today's politics.

What utterly enraging nonsense.
1.26.2007 7:23pm
Alan K. Henderson (mail) (www):
Clayton Cramer:
None of them, however, would have accepted the ACLU's bizarre misreading of the establishment clause, as demonstrated by both Jefferson and Madison's attendance of church services in government buildings.
There are several reasons for that, the argument over the meaning of "establish" being the most familiar. One that seems to get little attention is as follows. The ACLU camp argues that if the State must be neutral toward religion, it must be neutral toward God. The conclusion is invalid, regardless of the merits of the premise - God and religion are not synonymous. One is a person, the other is a philosophy regarding the relationship between humanity and that person.

The Declaration of Independence was certainly not neutral. It charged George III with violating a set of laws (grants of "separate and equal station" and "unalienable rights") set in place by God, the ultimate legal authority. It's not the Constitution, but it is our first national legal document, one that stipulated out the Founders' legal claim to secession.
1.26.2007 8:24pm
Fub:
Jon Rowe wrote:
The term "corruptions of Christianity" has specific meaning in that era. It was coined by the British Whig Unitarian Joseph Priestly ...
Excellent point! But accidentally inducing thread drift into the Priestly affair might lead to Armageddon, or some other disaster of Biblical proportions right here in River City.

Actually, some other commentators here also later discussed Priestly without such disastrous result, for which, thanks!
1.26.2007 8:53pm
Alan K. Henderson (mail) (www):
From the article linked by Chris Bell:
Many Christian fundamentalists feel that concern for the future of our planet is irrelevant, because it has no future. They believe we are living in the End Time, when the son of God will return, the righteous will enter heaven, and sinners will be condemned to eternal hellfire. They may also believe, along with millions of other Christian fundamentalists, that environmental destruction is not only to be disregarded but actually welcomed -- even hastened -- as a sign of the coming Apocalypse.
He's right about the utter nonsense. The idea that Earth is unimportant is in no way characteristic of the End Times crowd. (Is Grist characteristic of leftist prejudices toward the Religious Right?) Virtually all of them believe that the state of the planet matters as long as we're here - and we're still here. They're not those cartoonish (in more ways than one) villains from Captain Planet who knowingly and gleefully rape the Earth for personal gain.

They do tend to doubt the apocalyptic claims of radical environmentalists. With so many whackjobs like Paul Ehrlich blowing things out of proportion, it's no wonder. People would do more for the environment if they got the right story. Refer to the parable of the boy who cried "wolf."

You certainly can't blame the Tim LaHayes for any of the ten most polluted places on Earth. (Heck, you can't even blame Americans. Although tinfoil moonbats would find a way to blame our Cold War "aggression" for the munitions-related pollution at Norilsk.)
1.26.2007 8:57pm
Alan K. Henderson (mail) (www):
Oops, the munitions-related pollution was at Dzerzhinsk. Norilsk's pollution is caused by large-scale mining and smelting.
1.26.2007 9:03pm
Chris Bell (mail):
I am also a fan of Ann Coulter's "We should invade their country, kill their leaders, and convert them to Christianity."

I was/am sceptical of the author's point shown in the quote excerpted by Alan Henderson, but he does multiple quotes and sources in support, such as:

Many End-Timers believe that until Jesus' return, the Lord will provide. In America's Providential History, a popular reconstructionist high-school history textbook, authors Mark Beliles and Stephen McDowell tell us that: "The secular or socialist has a limited resource mentality and views the world as a pie ... that needs to be cut up so everyone can get a piece." However, "the Christian knows that the potential in God is unlimited and that there is no shortage of resources in God's Earth. The resources are waiting to be tapped."

Even if you disagree with that part, many of the quotes in the article are still jaw-dropping. Such as...


In 2002, DeLay visited pastor John Hagee's Cornerstone Church. Hagee preached a fiery message as simple as it was horrifying: "The war between America and Iraq is the gateway to the Apocalypse!" he said, urging his followers to support the war, perhaps in order to bring about the Second Coming. After Hagee finished, DeLay rose to second the motion. "Ladies and gentlemen," he said, "what has been spoken here tonight is the truth from God."


This book deals with this whole subject:
The Fundamentals of Extremism, Blaker
1.26.2007 9:46pm
athEIst:
Houston lawyer: The rule is "I" before "E" except after "C" with some exceptions. AthEIst is one of the exceptions.
1.27.2007 12:46am
Alan K. Henderson (mail) (www):
Chris,

The textbook may be correct about the "no shortages" claim. There's a lot of resources that haven't been tapped (particularly where economic freedom is stifled). The socialist view is poorly represented - socialists see wealth as finite (or less expandable than the capitalists envision), and insist that some umpire sit on the sidelines and decide how much people get. There is nothing in the excerpt that implies that one should be reckless regarding environmental quality when pursuing those resources.

Popular reconstructionist textbook? I thought reconstructionists were the fringe of the fringe. (Of course, I have only the author's word that it's reconstructionist.)

Hagee doesn't say a word about the environment, and I didn't address the legitimacy or popularity of End Times prophecy, so I'm not sure why you threw in that excerpt. I will say that the End Times prognostications from someone who makes false predictions about Israeli elections should be taken with a grain of salt:
The Christian Research Institute panned Hagee's 1996 book, Beginning of the End, not only for its premise that Yitzhak Rabin's assassination triggered prophetic events and set the prophetic clock ticking somehow but because he falsely predicted that Shimon Peres would succeed Rabin. The later elections brought Benyamin Netanyahu to power.
Personally I don't worry about the End Times much. As I blogged once before, Christians don't have two sets of orders, one for the rest of the time and one for the Two Minute Warning.
1.27.2007 1:40am
SP:
I am confused. You mean that Jefferson, quite probably a deist, gave a speech that had absolutely nothing to do with the utter and obvious correctness of atheism?
1.27.2007 2:30am
Just a Nut (mail):
Elliot Reed said:

The belief in God (although with considerable disagreement about his nature, proper worship, and associated theology) has been the overwhelming majority of human populations for a very long time
Since when? Of about 6 billion people on Earth, about 3.5 billion Muslims and Christians. That's a lot of people - about 58% of the world's population - but not an "overwhelming majority." [1] The bulk of the remaining 2.5 billion is taken up by about a billion Hindus, 850 million adherents of Chinese folk religion, and something like 350 million Buddhists. Other religions are negligible. Say what you like about Hinduism, Buddhism, and Chinese folk religion, but they don't have anything much like the personal God of Christianity and Islam


What almost all of the six billion have in common is a belief in magic of some sort. Replace 'God' by 'Magic' and you have all the bases covered. I like magic too and, deceptive or not, it is fun.

Jefferson was a Monophysite Christian, an old sect popular with peasants of Middle East before it was ground down by Rome and Constantinople. It treated Christ and God as one and inseparable to the extent they were needed for religious insight instead of the popular trinity and other ever more inventive creations to explain the senseless killing of a man.

But, then, there have been a lot of Christs and it seems will be for some time to come. Hopefully, all will continue to be generous enough to not only absolve the rest of guilt but to bear the burden of sins to come as well as they writh their way into oblivion. Remember the adage "a Christ a day keeps the devil away."
1.27.2007 6:34am
Jon Rowe (mail) (www):
"Monophysite Christian, an old sect popular with peasants of Middle East before it was ground down by Rome and Constantinople."

I've never heard that term "Monophysite" before. The terms the Founders used and the ones that are still descriptive today are "Socinians" -- unitarians who believe Jesus was a man, and "Arians" -- unitarians who believe Jesus was some kind of divine being created by but inferior to the God the Father. Jefferson called himself a "unitarian," and though I can't recall him terming himself one, his unitarianism seemed to be of the "Socinian" variety.
1.27.2007 10:46am
Toby:
Jefferson used Deism for an important pillar of his political thought, and penumbras of this pillar make me leery of those who try to attack it.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government,...


This is not mere piety. Many feel that rights can be granted by government, or by the constitution, or by the legislature, but Jefferson here claims that men have these rights from a superior power in advance of the formation of any government. This grants the legal standing and the moral imperative to overthrow any compact that destroys these rights.

The alternative theory is that there are no inherent rights that men have, rights are all mere social constructs, and there can be re-crafted in whatever way seems fashionable at the time.

Men who would govern others are of course attracted to this latter view. They like to disparage the fine words as "political pieties". But if the god-speak is political pieties, then the rights are just flowery talk. And if the rights are just flowery talk, they can be ignored. And if that Tyranny is resisted, then there is no legitimacy in fighting back.

However different Jefferson's views are from [pick your local church], the meat under these words is critical to his political thought.

"Religion is really about power and control," is a piety of the Atheist crowd. Usually, right after I here that phrase, it is followed by an assertion that I should hand power and control, untethered by any bounds, to the proessor of same.
1.27.2007 1:24pm
Jon Rowe (mail) (www):
It's interesting, the most prominent conservative critics of "judicial activism" are no friends to Jefferson's notion of God-given unalienable rights and the Declaration as a document of legal standing or otherwise an aid to Constitutional interpretation. I'm referring to Bork, Scalia, Lino Graglia and some others. They are, as "strict constructionists" also "legal positivists."

The following line from Lino Graglia comically exemplifies the scorn he has for the Declaration: "What it is, of course, is a document meant to justify revolution -- that is, illegal action. Having no human law to rely on -- being in defiance of authority -- revolutionaries necessarily come to rely on the law of God, who, happily, rarely issues a protest."
1.27.2007 2:25pm
Toby:
The question in this thread was not which modern judicial movement is most closely tied to natural law, but was Jeffersons real or a feigned piety.

I think the answer for the conservative critics of judicial activism should be, netural rights are freedoms from interference, not feedoms to get, right to pursuit of happiness, not right to happiness. You have a right to go fishing, there is no right that you will have fish at the end of the day.

THis rule seems to cut it right for limiting judicial expansiveness...
1.27.2007 3:14pm
Bill Poser (mail) (www):
This passage is not at all convincing as evidence that Jefferson was anything other than an atheist. "Providence" can mean all sorts of things, from the "god" of Deism to "the forces that govern a purely material world". Nor does the positive mention of religion imply acceptance of the beliefs associated with those religions. Really all Jefferson was saying was that in his time religion was on its good behavior rather than creating havoc as it all too often does.

What I find interesting is that such a weak piece of evidence is the best that proponents of Jefferson's religiosity can come up with.
1.27.2007 3:25pm
Richard Gould-Saltman:
You certainly can't blame the Tim LaHayes for any of the ten most polluted places on Earth. (Heck, you can't even blame Americans. ....)

Can't I? I love it when fanatics pitch easy ones.


#3, La Oroya, Peru. Smelting operations there since 1922. Peru conspicuously Catholic, not conspicuously Marxist, during much of the intervening time.

Smelting operations presently owned/operated by Doe Run Corp., Missouri-based. In trouble for dirty smelting operations in the U.S.. Doe Run is trying to get extension of deadlines for enforcement of lead standards from the Peruvian goverment. . .

I haven't actually yet found overlap between Doe Run directors and anyone in the Reagan/Bush/Bush Interior Departments, but I've only been looking for about two minutes...
1.27.2007 4:38pm
Jon Rowe (mail) (www):
Bill,

I'm the first person to point out that Jefferson wasn't a Christian in the traditional orthodox sense of the term. But he makes it pretty clear over and over again privately and publicly that he believes in God. See my above post. How would you respond to what he writes to Adams?
1.27.2007 5:01pm
r78:

This is not mere piety. Many feel that rights can be granted by government, or by the constitution, or by the legislature, but Jefferson here claims that men have these rights from a superior power in advance of the formation of any government. This grants the legal standing and the moral imperative to overthrow any compact that destroys these rights.


That proves a big pile of nothing. So rights spring from the "creator" eh? There seems to be quite a bit of conflict among the world's major religions about who or what that creator is and what he/she/it wants us to do.

Jefferson was expressing the commonplace political rhetoric of his time. But you might as well say that "rights" come from Leprechauns since you have just about as much discerning what rights the leprechauns have given us as you do determining what rights "God" has given us.

Remember the current moron in the White House claims that instead of talking to his father (the former president and CIA director) about whether he should invade Iraq, instead had a conversation with his heavenly father and - apparently - God gave his approval.

Any moron can proclaim that he is only doing what the Lord God above wants him to do. Does that make the actions legitimate.

Do you seiously think that such mumbo jumbo is a legitimate basis for government?
1.27.2007 5:03pm
Alan K. Henderson (mail) (www):
Remember the current moron in the White House claims that instead of talking to his father (the former president and CIA director) about whether he should invade Iraq, instead had a conversation with his heavenly father and - apparently - God gave his approval.
How do you know he didn't talk to both? Just because someone talks to God about certain situations doesn't mean thay they're not talking to humans about it as well.

After Saddam violated all those ceasefire agreements encoded as UN resolutions, the war approved by a previous Congress was on again, so getting approval from additional sources was a moot issue anyway.
1.27.2007 7:40pm
r78:

How do you know he didn't talk to both?

Because that is what he said. As they say, you can look it up.
1.28.2007 2:10am
Alan K. Henderson (mail) (www):
I could look it up if I had a link to a story about how Bush Jr. never got Iraq advice from Bush Sr.

Of course, Bush Sr. isn't the only one that one could go to for Iraq advice. (Frankly, I'd rather consult the current CIA director.)

If Dubya had said that God was the only one he discussed the matter with, that would be outrageous. God gave us human intelligence sources for a reason.
1.29.2007 4:55am
a knight (mail) (www):
The First Inaugural Address of the third US President, and author of The Declaration of Independence, is a primary text of American History. That this question could posed upon this forum as anything more than rhetorical prose, speaks poorly of the educational system in this country.

I am surprised that no one has mentioned contemporary comparisons to this era of our history. Jefferson's opposition to the Alien and Sedition Acts, and his years long residence in France had been abused as political cannon fodder against him. He had been insulted as both godless and affected by French influences. The issue of habeas corpus, and its universal applicability had been an underlying campaign issue. Jefferson clearly believed that habeas corpus was among the unalienable rights that humans were endowed with by THEIR Creator; a natural right. He also believed that immigration law was not a power of the Federal Government's but of the individual states'. (see The Kentucky Resolutions)

The segment quoted from this Address is not among the best known phrases from it. Those parts largely exist within the following excerpt:

"Equal and exact justice to all men, of whatever state or persuasion, religious or political; peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations, entangling alliances with none; the support of the State governments in all their rights, as the most competent administrations for our domestic concerns and the surest bulwarks against antirepublican tendencies; the preservation of the General Government in its whole constitutional vigor, as the sheet anchor of our peace at home and safety abroad; a jealous care of the right of election by the people -- a mild and safe corrective of abuses which are lopped by the sword of revolution where peaceable remedies are unprovided; absolute acquiescence in the decisions of the majority, the vital principle of republics, from which is no appeal but to force, the vital principle and immediate parent of despotism; a well-disciplined militia, our best reliance in peace and for the first moments of war till regulars may relieve them; the supremacy of the civil over the military authority; economy in the public expense, that labor may be lightly burthened; the honest payment of our debts and sacred preservation of the public faith; encouragement of agriculture, and of commerce as its handmaid; the diffusion of information and arraignment of all abuses at the bar of the public reason; freedom of religion; freedom of the press, and freedom of person under the protection of the habeas corpus, and trial by juries impartially selected. These principles form the bright constellation which has gone before us and guided our steps through an age of revolution and reformation. The wisdom of our sages and blood of our heroes have been devoted to their attainment. They should be the creed of our political faith, the text of civic instruction, the touchstone by which to try the services of those we trust; and should we wander from them in moments of error or of alarm, let us hasten to retrace our steps and to regain the road which alone leads to peace, liberty, and safety."


This sounds much like Conservatism's credo, before its ideology had been polluted in the center ring Under the Big Circus Tent of Republican Inclusiveness; when men like Barry Goldwater were actually listened to, instead of just being given a tip of the hat coincident with a wink of an eye in deferent props of vacuity given by the current crop of relativist Conservative Poseurs. Any persons who would publicly defend the theft of habeas corpus; the imprisonment of any human held as criminal actor under the Colour of Authority imparted by the American Flag without first receiving a fair trial and conviction in a courtroom that strictly adhered to American due process of law, does not believe that "extremism in defense of liberty is not vice". Nor do they believe that their "tolerance in the face of tyranny is no virtue".

Advancing Jefferson's church attendance as evidence of a Christian original intent in America's foundation is dishonest in light of his adamant Deist beliefs, and shows just how distorted this polarised argument has become in the USA. I for one, advocate a Jefferson test of religious practise's propriety in American society and for the primacy of Natural Rights, which can be derived from "Notes on Virginia":

"But our rulers can have no authority over such natural rights, only as we have submitted to them. The rights of conscience we never submitted, we could not submit. We are answerable for them to our God. The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods, or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg."

Thomas Jefferson, "Notes on Virginia",
Query XVII; The different religions received into that State?
quoted from, "The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, Definitive Edition,
Albert Ellery Bergh; Editor, Volume II; p 221, copyright 1905


Two rules under the Jefferson test:

1) A person has a right to practise their religion in America if it neither coerces its beliefs upon others, nor receives monies from the public treasury.

2) The government can only legitimately exercise authority over the Natural Rights which were explicitly given to it.

I have submitted none of my natural rights to the government, in the past or present, nor will I willingly submit them in the future. Decide amongst yourselves how far your knees bend in the face of this present tyranny. To claim that the government is only required to extend habeas corpus to US citizens is to miss the entire purpose of the US Constitution. This is a right possessed by ALL humans, and it is a hurdle the government must jump over before it can lawfully imprison any human. If it is instead a right predicated only by citizenry, it is a right given to the people by a magnanimous state. It would then be insecure, and at the mercy of any temporal whims that motivated politicians. I ground my belief that the detainees of Mr. Bush's War Upon Terrorism, at the moment they are stripped of their Geneva Conventions protections and held by the government as "unlawful combatants', are being held as criminal actors, and the Thirteenth Amendment, clause 1, to the US Constitution guides: "Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction." Once removed from a theatre of war's frontlines, these humans are being held in a place "subject to the jurisdiction" of the US government. I also claim that since this is related to a Natural Right, judicial precedence, legislative enactments and presidential fiats carry no legitimate authority. The people decide. Those of you who exercise influence upon America's system of laws should think long and hard about the effects acquiescence to this theft of human rights will have upon our country's future. All paths I can perceive moving forward from that point lead to the end of the American Dream.
1.29.2007 5:57am
a knight (mail) (www):
I am amused to discover, that even here, the moot debate regarding the religious beliefs of the Country's Founders is carried on.

There is no substance within the within the argument that since a significant majority of Early America's Political leaders' public religion was a sect of Christianity, this country's government was formed with a Christian bias. It is more amusing to contemplate the fallacious quicksand which this argument is grounded upon. There is NO Christian gestalt, it is an illusion. Should I become paranoid and begin to believe that underlying this cause is a papist agenda for ecumenicalism; a plot to tempt the faithful to their ruination by worshipping their ritualised perversion of Christianity? Fine then, let's return to Early American-styled Christianity; I choose the Massachusetts Bay Colony, so we can finally begin to mete out the proper justice to those black-souled anabaptists, who are disinclined to renounce their apostasy, and have been given the devil's gift of tongue, which they use to ably proselytise their heretical message, and lead others down their path to perdition. The only remedy to this dark stain upon our country is to lash them tightly to a wooden pole, and burn their evilness from them in an earthly fire of righteous cleansing.

After dealing with the anabaptist threat, we can embark upon a political purge, and cleanse the government of its evil representatives. Politicians are egregious hypocrites who claim to be Christians, but secretly worship a different, dark trinity. They bow before Engraven Images in their religious practise, The Hamilton, The Jefferson, and The Benjamin Franklin.

The Founder's reason for separating the Government from religion was in great measure a defense against the threat of Christian sectarianism, they understood the probable outcome if the schismaniacal ever rose to political power. The founders also had their analogs to the present-day TeleTubbyVangelist fatheads issuing fatwads of hate, and were well aware of the only contribution these preacher pretenders had made for the revolutionary war effort: the invention of reversible outer-wear one side dyed blue, the other side dyed red. Suitable for everyday wear, no matter which way the winds of war were blowing.

There is no Christian whole, it is a fraud. Come back and argue when the Christian Identity Movement shares the sacrament with a predominately black Southern Baptist parish from Mississippi.
1.30.2007 5:44am