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Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Some Comments on the US Founders re Religon & the Constitution

I wasn’t going to write anything today. I’m a little moody. A little tired. This blog is more of a discipline than a catharsis, nowadays. To whom do I owe such a duty? No one. I get an average of no comments per week, which would be a gauge of active readership. There is a counter down at the bottom of the page, but for all I know those digits mark mostly pervs surfing for references to "sodomy" and "pubescent boys" -- terms that I have been known to use. The duty must be to myself.

But a couple days ago I must have been looking for some datum, and came across a blog that was making a point about how ignorant Americans are, and how religion has no place in government, per the Founding Fathers. Well, I can ignore that. Such an opinion is common, and means nothing to me. But the fellow then attempted to support his case with a number of quotes from the Framers and suchlike, stating how awful and stuff religion is. Hm. Now that's something of a red flag to me. Real evidence, that is -- misused, as I see it.

So I left a comment, thus:

"Yes, sir, cherry-picking our evidence is ever so clever a thing to do. And it makes us sound so RIGHT! Alas, complexity and anomalous data confound our complacencies. What ever shall we do, then? Ignore it? Very well, ignore it. Because fair-play interferes with our bigotries – I mean our wisdom.

"Something I just stole off some ignorant rightwing Bible-thumping website, after .03 seconds’ search..."
Then I pasted in a couple thousand words of quotes from the same men, which lauded religion and its role in government.

I just found in my junk mail a reply from the fellow -- his comment on my comment, slightly modified for clarity:

=====

"Sir,

"You seem not to be able to comprehend the differences between what the founders based the foundation of the United States upon, as a free and independent nation, and what they believed in their own personal life.

"I have nothing against worship and spirituality or whatever one wants to do in the private sphere.

"My issue is with when the zealots try to apply their own personal beliefs to everyone else. That dangerously can cross over from religious belief to over-zealousness to a theocracy.

"Go believe whatever you want to -- and I will do the same. That's what this country was founded upon, and why some people cannot respect that is beyond my comprehension..."


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Ah! Something to sink my teeth into! And without meaning to, and without giving any thought to it but that which came as my fingers moved, I wrote the following:

Well, let's examine the issue then. You open with the assertion that "Most Americans believe" something that is wrong [ie, the Constitution establishes Christianity]. A fair assessment. Most Americans seem to believe that 9/11 was a non-islamist plot. Most Americans believe that Oswald was a patsy. Most Americans believe in UFOs and Nessie. Or maybe most don't believe all of these things. But the fact that such statements are not laughable on their face says a lot about what most Americans, and most humans, believe: foolishness.

No serious person can believe that Christianity was written into the Constitution. Such would be the most easily of refuted propositions. The First Amendment is quite clear. "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof..." It's so simple. Why do so many people get it wrong? Well, most people are wrong about most things. We agree?

The fact is that government is to have no place whatsoever in religion. The disagreement is the role that religion is to have in government. As you will know, Jefferson had no part in the composition of the Constitution. He was in France at the time. So his assurance to the Danbury Baptists is second-best evidence. But he does carry weight in these matters, and so his phrase, 'a wall of separation between church and state', has meaning. The meaning has been lost and twisted by shoddy thinking. His letter was one of reassurance, to these religionists, that government would not interfere with religion. Religion has as much right as any institution, to affect government. The "wall" has a one-way door in it. It keeps government out. It does not limit religion.

This is elementary. That there is such confusion in the matter can cause no dismay. What are we to expect? Rationality? An honest dealing with the evidence? Laughable.

That Christianity is not explicit in the Constitution is clear. That this nation was founded on Christian principles should be almost as clear. I won't provide verse numbers ... just too much work. But Christian principles such as the rule of law, and the importance of freedom slash liberty, and the right of dissent, these are biblical precepts, absorbed into Western political thought and formulated by John Locke into a philosophy that more than any other shaped the thinking of the Founding Fathers.

That such obviously religious ordinances as sabbatarian laws, for example, were enacted and universally respected in the earliest days of the Republic, without any challenge as to constitutionality, should make it clear that the Framers were not only not against religion in government, but supported and upheld it. Such laws were not made by Congress -- that would have been unconstitutional. The same with sodomy laws, and bigamy. Such laws are non-religious in the sense that they were universal in our culture, but their roots are religious, and for our purposes, Christian.

As for my presumed inability to comprehend, it is a snide remark, perhaps warranted by my own tone. I apologize. I think I do comprehend. That you can come up with the odd ancient statement against religion is no proof of your case. To quote the Tripoli Treaty here is truly disingenuous, given the context and intent of that treaty.

As for zealots, they have the right to try to impose their will and their mores upon the culture. This is the sort of commerce that the free marketplace of ideas deals in. Ideas compete. Some prevail. In this federated republic, we have only to fear a rampant majority -- but we have a Constitution that has historically provided checks and balances, to offset such a problem. Andrew Jackson was correct. He was not bound by the opinion of the Supreme Court. His office was co-equal, and the oath of office -- sworn since Washington’s first inaugural on the Bible -- is to uphold the Constitution as the President understands it. Conscience is held hostage to no man, and to no court.

Franklin said, 'We have given you a republic -- if you can keep it.' Your fears of the religious right are unfounded. We can keep this republic. Which sect is the one that will take over? The Methodists? I'll stand with you to oppose them. See? No worries, mate.

Respect is a delicate thing. Some claim to respect life, as that of the condemned murderer, while demanding public funding for abortion. Talk about imposing a religious view. Again, the issue is complex, and simplistic, self-righteous and half thought-out intonations are not appropriate in a serious discussion. Hence my term, cherry-picking.

Best,

Jack H

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It's not a rigorous case. I leave many points undeveloped. As I said, I'm tired, and moody, and I'm posting this out of some misplaced sense of duty. But there it is. I guess that's all.


J

9 comments:

rp1 said...

I have only recently found your blog, and already find it to be one of my favorite places to stop. Posts like this one only serve to increase my desire to read more of your thoughts. Tire or not, you have much to say. Thanks.

As for this post, I havent much to add that wouldnt be nitpicking. Keep it up!

Jack H said...

Well thank you kindly. Now don't anyone feel pressured to comment, just because I pointed out what a selfish and inconsiderate pig you've already been, using me this way without so much as a thought about how I might feel, toiling here all alone in the limitless solitude of the grinding night, all hunched over, blurry-eyed from fatigue striving to come up with more and ever more fresh and scintillatingly brilliant ideas to amuse you and while away your idle hours while I grow weaker and more desperate in the endless agony of my poor tormented soul. I won't take it as sincere, and it will just make us all feel cheap.

J

Bipsy Quee said...

Have you ever considered that most of us seldom leave comments because you're a hard act to follow?

Anonymous said...

Yeah...I agree bipsy.

One comment though...I always get the fear of theocracy argument from non-Christians. I can't think that any of my fellow believers would want any such thing to happen here. I would certainly stand against such a thing.

And by the way... What's wrong with Methodists? Haha Just a rhetorical question, mind you.

Anonymous said...

JACK! Don't toy with us.

Andrea said...

You said it yourself - "the duty must be to myself". That's a fact.
At the end you said - "some misplaced sense of duty" - I can only suggest if you are questioning the duty to yourself, think again.
I have no idle hours Jack, as a matter of fact I wish my body didn't require sleep. But I do stop and read - to get out of my own brain, for enlightment, for entertainment. So you won't see me posting often - but - as we like to say at E3 - you are not alone.

Jack H said...

Okay, I'll take it as sincere just this once. I was kidding though, sort of. Every once in a while I get like this. Am I made of stone? I am but a man, a simple man, so frail, so vulnerable to the elements of this harsh, harsh world. Alas for me. Oh why Why WHY must I suffer so??? ... But I see that I'm doing it again.

BQ is right. My pieces are pretty much self-contained, and all most people can do is agree or disagree. "You're right again, Jack." Or, "You're a fool, Jack." It's been said.

I picked Methodists cuz they're the ones who got it right. The real One True Church -- and even they don't have the right to rule.

It is the superior person's right to toy with others. It has long been my secret conviction that I am the only real person there is, and everyone else is just puppets in my dreams. Seems like a really good theory. I'm also leaning toward Evolutionism, and the idea that jesse jackson is a Great Soul. Like me. If he’s one of the other Real People, I mean, and not just a perfect ideation of my Magnificent Brain.

:-)

J

akfox said...

Jack,
Christ founded his Church in 33 A.D., and He said that the gates of hell shall not prevail against It. By this we can surmise that It will be without end.
John Wesley started his church in the 18th Century. Did no one, not even the early Church fathers know what was true until then? Somehow I doubt it.
If Wesley was right, then Christ is wrong. Either you are a follower of Christ, or a follower of John Wesley.
Which will it be?

Jack H said...

A -- sometimes my tone isn't quite conveyed. I was just kidding about the One True Church. A jab at the Pope and his recent reminder re Roman Catholic doctrine. Alas, so many reformers -- not Wesley -- claim to have rediscovered something. Such a careless shepherd God must be, to lose so many sheep that strangers must find them.

J