[internetworkers] Marriage and religion
schampeo at hesketh.com
Fri Feb 6 15:34:58 EST 2004
on Fri, Feb 06, 2004 at 02:15:03PM -0500, Shea Tisdale wrote:
> Steven Champeon wrote:
> > on Fri, Feb 06, 2004 at 11:27:14AM -0500, Shea Tisdale wrote:
> > > Just some questions and thoughts on this. Your statement seems awfully
> > > broad. Is it equally appalling to you that the country was founded
> > under
> > > the Christian belief that all men are created equal with Creator endowed
> > > rights?
> > Um, that's not a Christian belief. That's Deist, if anything (the belief
> > in a Creator) and the idea of human equality is certainly not unique to
> > Christianity (Islam actually comes closer to this democratic equality than
> > Christianity, and the various Eastern religions, Buddhism, Taoism, etc. do
> > an even better job of it).
> It may be a deist belief or the belief of other religions, but it doesn't
> exclude it from also being a Christian belief.
True, but your statement made what appeared to be a claim of
exclusivity; my apologies if I misconstrued you. I merely pointed out
that equality and natural law aren't solely the property of Christian
theology. One might argue the exact opposite, in fact, but given that I
don't know your definition of "Christian" I won't engage in that debate
> I didn't say that the founding fathers were perfect. But at the time
> they wrote the Declaration and Constitution, the rights of the people
> and the limitations of the government expressed their in were a
> drastic improvement compared to any other place on Earth.
Agreed. (Well, except maybe Switzerland, who had been independent since
1291, had judicial review, no monarch, etc. - but they invoke God in the
Confederation Charter, so what the heck, let's give the US the honor).
And it was due to the efforts of relatively antagonistic folk like Locke
and others, who opposed the monarchy (sanctioned by claim to "divine
right") and hence questioned the veracity of the Christian religion of
the time, which ISTR buttressed the ideas of royalty, of class, of race,
et cetera, through references to hierarchies of angels and other such
nonsense. He also opposed the idea of state sanctioned religion, of
mandatory attendance in church, etc. Nobody is sure what religion (if
any) he professed, but it's clear that he believed it was a matter of
personal conscience and that what Christianity got right in terms of
principles were obvious rational principles regardless of their rooting
in some text or another.
"A sweet religion, indeed, that obliges men to dissemble, and tell
lies to both God and man, for the salvation of their souls! If the
magistrate thinks to save men thus, he seems to understand little of
the way of salvation; and if he does it not in order to save them,
why is he so solitious of the articles of faith as to enact them by a
He held to a skeptical view of the possibility of ever proving the truth
of "religious knowledge" and so sought to dissociate the good of religion
from the irrational bases others claimed for it.
> > Sorry, it just irks me when people ignore that this country was founded
> > by a group of highly educated men who, for the most part, were either
> > Deist, atheist, or otherwise rightly considered religion a scourge and
> > men's willingness to do battle over it a sad reflection of the ignorance
> > of the common. Read some Ben Franklin and Thomas Jefferson sometime.
> So in 1777 when the First Continental Congress called the Bible "the great
> political textbook of the patriots" and appropriated funds to import 20,000
> Bibles for the people, they were thinking of some Diest or atheist version I
> haven't heard of?
No, they were presumably acting on their belief in God /and/ attempting
to curry favor with the clerics who were largely Tory in sympathies (and
who had pulpits to preach from); with the more radical but relatively
unimportant Protestant groups who opposed any sort of hierarchy within
the church, but who largely tended to be the poor and landless and
indentured, being an exception, whereas the landed and powerful tended
towards religions which affirmed their right to lord it over everybody
else just like in the Mother Country and Europe.
> And before they signed the Declaration of Independence when the Continental
> Congress called for "a day of fasting and prayer within the colonies,
> beseeching God to give guidance and direction as to whether they should
> secede from England, which Eastern religion were they thinking of?
Well, given that they were mostly Masons, they were likely thinking of
the great monotheistic religions of the Levant, Christianity, Judaism,
and even Islam (which share a common history, writings, and ancestry,
as well as a large subset of common beliefs), which the masons taught
should all be respected because they all revered one God, no matter who
they preferred as a prophet (the Jews preferring to wait on Elijah,
but treating Jesus as one of many prophets; the Moslems obviously with
Mohammed, and you know the rest.)
Funny how they didn't call for a day of observance and prayer to Jesus.
> And as far as the founding fathers go, I think they were very intelligent
> individuals of conscience who, like many, wrote many things which can be
> construed any number of ways that someone might desire. So I'll offer some
> of their writings for consideration.
Well, with a start like that, who could argue? :)
> Patrick Henry: "It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this
> great nation was founded, not by religionists, but by Christians, not on
> religions, but on the Gospel of Jesus Christ! For this very reason peoples
> of other faiths have been afforded asylum, prosperity, and freedom of
> worship here."
He's wrong, on all counts. (Ask the Quakers why they had to leave
Massachussetts, for example, and why they could be put to death if they
returned after being banished, or why non-Christians couldn't even vote
in New Hampshire until 1877). But anyway.
His role in the founding of the country, thankfully, was limited to a
few bon mots and service to Virginia; he obviously had no problem with
monarchy - except when it was a bad monarch. He opposed the 1787
constitution and would have been just as happy with titles and gentry.
> John Adams: In a letter to Jefferson wrote, "The general principles on
> which the Fathers achieved independence, were . . . the general principles
> of Christianity."
The ellipses are relevant. The whole passage is here:
But you're right - Adams was a Christian, and believed that certain
principles he held dear were derived from Christianity. Of course, as he
was obviously ignorant of other religions (the study of religion being
something that would largely come only in the mid-1800s and after,
through the philological studies of the Grimms and a proto-nationalist
effort by Germany to "prove", linguistically, that they had to weld its
principalities into a single, German-speaking, nation, who derived their
history from the Greeks, rather than the Romans, etc. in contrast to the
other, earlier, nation-states like France and Italy.) It's not
surprising that he'd think that.
The Savages from whom many of these ideas of adequate and elected
representation, common suffrage, of women having rights under the law,
and so forth (read up on the League of the Iroquois some time) would be
surprised, I think. Ben Franklin was inspired by the League and
suggested in 1754 that the colonies should ally themselves to a common
cause like the League had;
> George Washington said, "It is impossible to rightly govern the world
> without God and the Bible."
Actually, no. He didn't. Or at least, nobody can find the quote in his
> Thomas Jefferson: "The reason that Christianity is the best friend of
> government is because Christianity is the only religion that changes the
> Jefferson is even quoted as having said, "I am a Christian, that is to say,
> a disciple of the doctrines of Jesus Christ."
> Jefferson was also uncomfortable with the concept of miracles and believed
> them to be made up, so he created his own version of the Bible where he
> excised all references to them. This book is known as The Jefferson Bible,
> The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth.
Excellent. I wonder what the fundies would think of that, given their
insistence on the literal truth of the Bible?
Anyway, I think I found the site you got these from:
If so, it's suspect - one of its claims is that the "In God We Trust" on
our coinage is proof of the Christianity of the founders; that phrase
didn't show up on money until 1864 or so.
The Pledge of Allegiance was written in 1892 by a Christian Socialist
named Francis Bellamy. The original version did not say "under God" -
that was also added in the 1950s, as a result of a crusade by the
Knights of Columbus, a Catholic fraternity, who were offended by the
officially godless Soviet Communists. Ironic that reactionary Cold
Warriors and a Socialist were both involved in the mottoing of the
country. The pastor who inspired Eisenhower and the others, in his own
"I came to a strange conclusion," he told them. The pledge lacked "the
characteristic and definitive factor in the American way of life," the
"fundamental concept" of the Founding Fathers that the country exists
because of God and through God.
"Indeed, apart from the mention of the phrase, 'the United States of
America,' this could be a pledge of any republic," he preached. "In
fact, I could hear little Muscovites repeat a similar pledge to their
hammer-and-sickle flag in Moscow with equal solemnity."
*laugh* Well, I'm sure that probably won us the Cold War, Pastor. Thanks.
This is a great story - there was a minister in PA who considered the
'a consequence of "our national shame in disowning God" by failing to
recognize Him on our coinage.'
> > And that's true regardless of how many times you read that nonsense that
> > Ashcroft spouts about how the Founders "had no King but Jesus". Bleah.
> > Wishful thinking is lovely, but let's not confuse it with the facts.
> Well since you mentioned the demon Ashcroft, I'll just quote the Bible
> itself. "You say you believe in God. Good. The demons also believe and
"Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also
believe, and tremble."
That's also worth reading in its context, which is arguing that faith
without good works is not sufficient to please God.
"18: But say may some one, Thou hast faith, and I have works, shew me
thy faith out of thy works, and I will shew thee out of my works my
"19: thou -- thou dost believe that God is one; thou dost well, and the
demons believe, and they shudder!"
Excepting Ashcroft, I don't put much stock in demons.
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