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Whose G-d Is Stronger?

Posted by Rick · January 25th, 2005 · 2 Comments

First, let me disappoint you. In order to know the answer to the question, you’ll have to read the whole article.

Over at Chepooka today, my friend provides a couple of disparate quotes from the Founders of the United States of America.

She notes the confusion that arises because sometimes these men sound so obviously like committed Christians, while at other times they say things like,

[T]he government of the United States is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion. — The Treaty of Tripoli, Article 11.

Were these men insane? Schizophrenic? Sociopathic? Unstable? Inconsistent?

The answer is actually pretty simple — and consistent…

I’ve written quite a bit about the idea of the United States being “a Christian nation.” I guess anyone interested could search my blog (from the main page search box) using terms like “Founders” or “Christian” or “Christianity” to find relevant articles.

As a law student interested in constitutional law, I’ve read and re-read numerous “founding documents” — articles, pamphlets and books written by the Founders and others of that time, often about what they thought they were doing.

The confusion — the mix of quotes from places like the Treaty of Tripoli and those who were more vocal about their reliance upon G-d — comes about because of (at least) two things:

  1. The Founders mostly had Christian backgrounds.

    Some of them were outright Christians. Others are more accurately described either as Deists or Humanistic Christians. But virtually none of them came from cultures that worshiped Buddha or Allah or any G-d other than the Christian G-d. Even if not all of them were themselves religiously observant, virtually all the Founders grew up in cultures where some form of Christianity was often a state-sponsored fact of life.

  2. These Founders, nevertheless, did not plan a theocratic form of government. The ideals they based the Republic on were drawn from sources like, well, “The Age of Enlightenment,” Wikipedia (last visited January 25, 2005).

    In building the new United States of America, the Founders worked to establish a form of government where religion did not — in fact could not — play a powerful governmental role.

Remember that America was originally settled by people who were running from something. Early on, the colonists were usually running from people who, having different religious beliefs, were insistent that those religious beliefs be followed by everyone — or else. Sound familiar?

At any rate, the Founders were cognizant of the evils that occur when government and religion mix. And they were nothing like the terroristic neo-Pharisees fighting to overthrow our government today. The Christians among them actually lived their beliefs. They understood that it was entirely possible for them to be Christians without government help. In fact, as some of their more vociferous words show, the idea of entwining religion and government was abhorrent to them. They wanted their government kept, as much as humanly possible, free of religious suasion in the Passage and Administration of the Laws. For those Founders who were actually Christian, being Christian was part of who they were, it was not necessary that it be part of what the government was. Their faith was strong enough to survive without governmental props. Their G-d lived even if courthouses failed to erect monuments to him.

On the other hand, they did not insist that all references to G-d by people in government were verboten. People have religious beliefs. Some of them — though almost never those who go by the label “Christian” — live those beliefs. And if you live your beliefs, then sometimes, even if your job is a government job, you’re going to express your beliefs while on the job.

For my part, I don’t “freak out” every time pretend-christians in government say religious things — and, let’s face it, folks, even Jesus said most of those who call themselves Christians were pretend-christians (see, e.g., Matthew 7:21-23). What would concern me is specifically what their religious comment was and how they said it.

Religious words and acts that were a spontaneous expression of faith by a government official would not bother me. But when those words or acts start to look like an entwinement of religion and government — as, for example, when folk want to start putting Bible verses on the walls of every courtroom or classroom in the United States, or when a President can barely open his mouth without sounding like a Crusader after the Infidels — then I become concerned.

It’s not that I’m anti-G-d or anti-Bible, either. Read my articles! I’m a frickin’ Jew, people, but Unspun™ contains more quotes from the Christian Bible than most blogs written by Christians!

As it was written long ago,

There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under heaven.

Ecclesiastes 3:1 (New International Version).

We don’t require Wal-Martians to quote Bible verses to us every time we make a purchase. (No true Christian would set foot in a Wal-Mart, anyway, but that’s another article.) No one is angry when they’re passed on the freeway by a truck that says “Shell Oil” in big letters, but contains not one word of scripture anywhere on its massive backside. When was the last time you saw a Cross on the wall of McDonald’s? Bet it didn’t even occur to you to be upset that they aren’t there, did it?

And I don’t know anyone who would be pleased if any church of Satan got as much play in governmental functions as Christianity does. Yet satanic churches flourish in America — and I’m not just referring to those attended by police chiefs, mayors and other governmental officials who successfully tear themselves from their mistresses once a week to attend mainstream satanic churches with their wives. I mean, actual, real churches that purport to deliberately worship Satan. If that’s not proof that a church can flourish without governmental support, I don’t know what is!

Or perhaps the neo-Pharisees intend us to believe that their G-d is not powerful enough for that?

Categories: Religion


2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Malnurtured Snay // Jan 25, 2005 at 1:33 pm

    I used to post on a board populated mostly by LEOs, and many of them tended to be varying degrees of conservatives. Anyway, many of them dismissed the Treaty of Tripoli as lies by the government to placate Muslims.

  • 2 Rick Horowitz // Jan 25, 2005 at 3:53 pm

    So you’re going to take the word of Lying Executive Officers over the Founders? 😉

    Seriously, though, were a treaty to be litigated in a court of law, they would not consider someone’s opinion that the language of a treaty was an intentional lie meant to placate the parties to the treaty. The words would count.

    Regardless of how the specifics of the Treaty of Tripoli might be viewed today, there are numerous other quotations one could take from the Founders indicative of their belief that the United States was founded upon Enlightenment principles. Some of those principles would be traceable to Christian philosophy; many would be traceable to other views inimical to Christianity (e.g., Greek and Roman law). In the end, our “unalienable rights” are unalienable by deities, as well as men. (This is even ignoring the fact that the latter exist, while the former do not.)

    As I mentioned in my article, folk may wish to perform a search for other articles I’ve written on this subject, which will be peppered with quotations indicating that the Founders were opposed to government endorsement of religion.

    On the other hand, people who are willing to ignore the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause are probably willing to ignore what the Founders had to say in discussions about the government they thought they were founding whenever it clashes with contemporary neo-Pharisaical desires.

    By the way, Snay, I don’t think you’re in that camp (unless you tell me otherwise); I mention it so that no die-hard neo-Pharisees take heart at the hearsay evidence you provide which is, in turn, based upon opinions of people who weren’t present at the drafting or signing of the Treaty of Tripoli.

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