May 14, 2010

Sarah Palin's Historical Challenge

The guy's a little harsher on former Gov. Palin than I would have been, and there's nothing particularly new here by way of source material. But I'd point you to look at the larger point rather than the snark:


The point is that America was not intended to be a "Christian nation" by the Founders and there is no historical record of any such intent.  Claims to the contrary are dangerous revisionism offered by those who would subvert our fundamental religious freedoms and they deserve to be called out for what they are.

My opinion on the question of the Founders' personal religion remains the same as it was last year. These men were politicians who made it a point to be appealing to the voters, they were intellectuals caught up in the intellectual trends of the day, they were well aware of their own falliability and shortcomings and never pretended to have all the answers whether in their day or for posterity, they were conscious of their role as pivotal historical figures who would be held up as role models for the future, and they wanted people in the future to be free and to make up their own minds about all manner of things, very particularly and specially including religion (to wit, witness the "marketplace of ideas" concept underlying the Virginia Statute Establishing Religious Freedom, a political achievement Thomas Jefferson believed more important than his service as President of the United States).

The Founders' personal religious beliefs and practices were a) inconsistent, as like many people they changed their minds about religious matters over the course of their lives; b) private, in that many of them took pains to remain publicly silent about what they believed; and c) irrelevant, because whether they were Christian, Deist, atheist, or something else does not give us evidence that Christianity (or deism, atheism, or something else) is true nor does it shed any light whatsoever on the purely secular government that they created when they drafted the original Constitution -- one whose only reference of any kind to religion was a categorical ban on religious tests for holding public office.

These men did not want to be called "Christians" and they would not have been pleased to have been claimed as icons by religious blocs.  No one gets to claim them -- not Christians, not atheists, not anyone.  The only label they would have wanted attached to them in the memories of later generations would have been "Americans."  They did not want to create a "Christian" nation; they wanted to create a free nation -- if the free citizens of America chose to be Christian, so be it, but what mattered to them was that Americans, both as individuals and as a people, were free to choose for themselves.


Hat tip to Liberal Values (via Below the Beltway).

4 comments:

zzi said...

Do you think he was thinking about football?

The election took place following the ratification of the United States Constitution in 1788. The polls opened on December 15, 1788, and closed on January 10, 1789.
A proclamation was issued by George Washington during his first year as President. It sets aside Thursday, November 26 as "A Day of Publick Thanksgiving and Prayer."

Signed by Washington on October 3, 1789 and entitled "General Thanksgiving," the decree appointed the day "to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God."

Transplanted Lawyer said...

So what?

Washington didn't say a word about Jesus or Jesus-worship.

zzi said...

From a so-called non-religious "deist" as carved into the Jefferson Memorial:

"God who gave us life gave us liberty. Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are the gift of God?"

Transplanted Lawyer said...

I can quote-mine Jefferson in support of my position, too:

"Christianity neither is, nor ever was a part of the common law."

"In every country and in every age, the priest has been hostile to liberty. He is always in alliance with the despot, abetting his abuses in return for protection to his own."

"Ridicule is the only weapon which can be used against unintelligible propositions. Ideas must be distinct before reason can act upon them; and no man ever had a distinct idea of the trinity. It is the mere Abracadabra of the mountebanks calling themselves the priests of Jesus."

"You say you are a Calvinist. I am not. I am of a sect by myself, as far as I know."

"Among the sayings and discourses imputed to him [Jesus] by his biographers, I find many passages of fine imagination, correct morality, and of the most lovely benevolence; and others again of so much ignorance, so much absurdity, so much untruth, charlatanism, and imposture, as to pronounce it impossible that such contradictions should have proceeded from the same being."

If you want to say Jefferson was religious, you're entitled to. But that doesn't make you right -- and even if you are right that he was "religious," that still doesn't mean he was "Christian."