February 25, 2005

DOES SHE EVEN KNOW A RECIPE ENDS WITH A CAKE? (via Glenn Dryfoos):

Our Godless Constitution (BROOKE ALLEN, February 21, 2005, The Nation)

It is hard to believe that George Bush has ever read the works of George Orwell, but he seems, somehow, to have grasped a few Orwellian precepts. The lesson the President has learned best--and certainly the one that has been the most useful to him--is the axiom that if you repeat a lie often enough, people will believe it. One of his Administration's current favorites is the whopper about America having been founded on Christian principles. Our nation was founded not on Christian principles but on Enlightenment ones. God only entered the picture as a very minor player, and Jesus Christ was conspicuously absent.

Our Constitution makes no mention whatever of God.


The author seems to know equally little about the Founders, the Constitution and religion (Puritans in the 1790s?). But the most obvious error is to read the Constitution in the abstract and to read only its technical provisions. It is merely a means; its ends stated in the too often ignored Preamble:
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquillity, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

All the Founders were trying to do was to set up institutions that would vindicate the principles of the Declaration:
When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

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, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.


For the Founders, as for most of us still, governments exist among men only n order to secure the gifts of the Creator and derive their legitimacy from the degree to which they succeed. As John Adams put it: "You have rights antecedent to all earthly governments; rights that cannot be repealed or restrained by human laws; rights derived from the Great Legislator of the Universe."

Posted by Orrin Judd at February 25, 2005 10:43 AM
Comments

The Declaration serves as the effective preamble to our first constitution (the Articles) and our current Constitution.

John C. Calhoun tried to read it out of American political thought for his reasons. Now, it's amusing to see "progressives" follow his lead (the capital P Progressives did the same thing as well).

Even more interesting to see some paleocon Southern followers of Calhoun agreeing with the Left on certain issues these days, eh?

Ideas have consequences.

Posted by: kevin whited at February 25, 2005 11:43 AM

The Declaration serves as the effective preamble to our first constitution (the Articles) and our current Constitution.

John C. Calhoun tried to read it out of American political thought for his reasons. Now, it's amusing to see "progressives" follow his lead (the capital P Progressives did the same thing as well).

Even more interesting to see some paleocon Southern followers of Calhoun agreeing with the Left on certain issues these days, eh?

Ideas have consequences.

Posted by: kevin whited at February 25, 2005 11:43 AM

The article seemed to make a pretty good case that supernatural basis for the Declaration and Constitution was Deist, not Christian.

Unless he invented the quotes from the Founding Fathers out of whole cloth.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at February 25, 2005 11:57 AM

Jeff-

The founding generation was Christian. The underpinnings are theistic. Aside from Jefferson, Paine and Franklin, self proclaimed and practicing 'deists' were almost non-existent. Jefferson's policies and legislative record acknowledge that his deism was not the national inclination. The clearest clue regarding the underpinnings of the American system was its reaction to the French Revolution. Jefferson and the more romantic wing of his party were enthralled by the revolution in France. The rest of the country was appalled. The Federalist leadership understood where it was heading while the republicans made fools of themselves. There was a fairly sharp contrast in opinion regarding the French and the 'deist' wing was in a tiny minority as the revolution unfolded. It seems likely that the reason our revoltion worked is that it was organized and fought mainly by Christians rather than deists.

Posted by: Tom C., Stamford,Ct. at February 25, 2005 12:51 PM

"Our Constitution makes no mention whatever of God"

Neither, apparently, does the Book of Esther, but it's still in the Bible.

Posted by: jdkelly at February 25, 2005 12:56 PM

oj-

I'm throwing a bone.

Posted by: Tom C., Stamford,Ct. at February 25, 2005 1:48 PM

the Founders are a filet

Posted by: oj at February 25, 2005 2:03 PM

Some years back we took the kids to Williamsburg. One of the sights was Bruton Parish Church:

[The]... men who would lead the fight for independence and for creating a new government worshiped at Bruton. George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Patrick Henry attended when the legislature was in session. As emotions and rhetoric heated during the years before the American Revolution, special services took place at Bruton. After the Stamp Act passed in 1765, burgesses expressed their distress in a service at Bruton. The closing of the port of Boston in 1774 touched off another protest when the burgesses marched in solemn procession to the church for a Day of Fasting, Humiliation, and Prayer.

Bunch of atheists, just like Richard Dawkins, they were.

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at February 25, 2005 3:32 PM

Messed up the URL. My appologies. Here it is:

Bruton Parish Church

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at February 25, 2005 6:14 PM

OJ's proofs seem to involve omitting all evidence to the contrary. While I do not know much about Franklin, Jefferson expressed much distaste over the rise of religious fervor and churches following the Revolution and rewrote the Bible to omit any miraculous acts. Likewise, I do not understand how one can read Paine's the Age of Reason and come away with the idea that he believed in the way OJ pretends he does.

The Founding Fathers were not militant deists or atheists in the since that the Jacobins were, but they were not fundamentalist Christians either.

Still the First Amendment was designed to protect religious people from the government and not the other way around. Too often atheist activists seem intent on establishing an explicitly atheistic state in the sense that they want government to attack the religious heritage and traditions of the majority.

Posted by: Chris Durnell at February 25, 2005 7:16 PM

The Founders were Christians in an overtly Christian society. However, they were from different sects at a time when people took sectarianism seriously. That is why they were circumspect in using religious language and that's why they designed the First Amendment to protect the right of the states to choose which church to establish, if any.

Posted by: David Cohen at February 26, 2005 1:01 AM

The question of Christian fundamentalism is not the issue. Why would visionary yet practical politicians wear their church affiliations on their sleeves when the overriding issue was to create a unified nation? To pretend that they were not aware of the dangers of militant sectarianism from which their ancestors fled and to equate that knowledge with the desire to impose official atheism is pure rationalization on the part os radical secualrists. The importance of religious based morality on which all the bible based sects agreed was accepted by all. One can quote mine for eternity and not find any real disagreement on that score.

Posted by: Tom C., Stamford, Ct. at February 26, 2005 10:50 AM
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