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Author Topic: Michele Bachmann quits presidential race following poor showing in Iowa  (Read 5581 times)
Flick James
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« Reply #15 on: January 05, 2012, 04:51:49 PM »

ulthar, in response to your earlier post, you make a measured and fair response.

I’m not saying that the intent of the Founding Fathers is clear regarding the separation of church and state. I’m merely saying that I object to the ridiculous assumption by the funadmentalist religious right that they were founding a Christian nation, as if they were creating a nation to be the virtual instrument of God. Many among the religious right insist upon this, going so far as to suggest evidence in support of that claim that does not exist, or, in lack of evidence, simply saying “I just know they did.”

The Founding Fathers encompassed a complex set of personal beliefs, faiths, and degrees of faith.

Thomas Jefferson, arguably the most revered and respected of them, had complex opinions about religion. His support of religious freedom and tolerance can be seen in this quote:

“Where the preamble declares, that coercion is a departure from the plan of the holy author of our religion, an amendment was proposed by inserting "Jesus Christ," so that it would read "A departure from the plan of Jesus Christ, the holy author of our religion;" the insertion was rejected by the great majority, in proof that they meant to comprehend, within the mantle of its protection, the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Mohammedan, the Hindoo and Infidel of every denomination.” -Thomas Jefferson, Autobiography, in reference to the Virginia Act for Religious Freedom

He was in steadfast support of both the Establishment clause and the freedom of religion. And, sorry to differ with you, but Thomas Jefferson did indeed advocate the separation of church and state, going so far as to use those words in 1802:

“Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legislative powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should 'make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,' thus building a wall of separation between church and State.”-Thomas Jefferson, letter to Danbury Baptist Association, CT., Jan. 1, 1802

Thomas Jefferson was not a distinct deist, although many of his quotes can be interpreted to be influenced by the belief. For example:

"The whole history of these books [the Gospels] is so defective and doubtful that it seems vain to attempt minute enquiry into it: and such tricks have been played with their text, and with the texts of other books relating to them, that we have a right, from that cause, to entertain much doubt what parts of them are genuine. In the New Testament there is internal evidence that parts of it have proceeded from an extraordinary man; and that other parts are of the fabric of very inferior minds. It is as easy to separate those parts, as to pick out diamonds from dunghills."
-Thomas Jefferson, letter to John Adams, January 24, 1814

Benjamin Franklin teetered between deism and Christianity. Likewise, John Adams, while identifying himself as a Christian and espousing the benefits of regular church attendance, was also influenced philosophically by deism. George Washington was a vigorous supporter of religious tolerance, and made it a point to attend numerous services, including Presbyterian, Quaker, Congregational, and Catholic.
 
And then there’s Thomas Paine.

Paine was a steadfast deist until his death. Thomas Paine published Common Sense, a publication that incited the people to revolution against Britain. So influential was this work that even John Adams said: "Without the pen of the author of 'Common Sense,' the sword of Washington would have been raised in vain.” There can be absolutely no shred of doubt that he was in full support of the separation of church and state, and I defy anybody to find evidence to the contrary.
 
In return for his considerable contribution to the independence of America, Thomas Paine was reviled and alienated from America after the revolution by the religious foothold that was already taking hold of the government and driving out the deistic principles of the Enlightenment that inspired it. The final slap in the face came in the form of his obituary: "He had lived long, did some good and much harm." Only six people attended his funeral, two of which were black freedmen who attended simply to pay their respects to one of the earliest advocates of the abolition of slavery.

In summation of this rather long analysis of the religious intentions (or lack thereof) of our Forefathers, yes, it cannot be concluded what the Founding fathers intended for the spiritual direction of a new nation. The only thing that can be seen for sure is their general support of religious freedom. Aside from that, their beliefs, depending on the individual, ran from faith to near atheism.

All of this is simply in support of my claim that many on the religious right insist that there was a collective Christian agenda on the part of our Forefathers, with no evidence to support it, while there is plenty of evidence that a number of them as individuals were either subtlely or ourspokenly opposed to such an agenda.

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ulthar
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« Reply #16 on: January 05, 2012, 06:24:38 PM »


 lack of evidence, simply saying “I just know they did.”



Yes, the ever entertaining "I want it to be so, so it is" argument.   Fun to witness on all side of any debate.

Regarding the rest...we don't disagree.  I guess at most, we pick on the different sides for the same reason.

Thanks for the detailed post.

One this is for certain...the Founding of this nation was by some pretty big thinkers.  We need to follow their example - stand for SOMETHING and articulate the whats and whys of that...not hide behind dogma and wishful thinking.
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« Reply #17 on: January 05, 2012, 07:03:19 PM »

Quote
Paine was a steadfast deist until his death.

Most fascinating about the man is his, charitably speaking, strong dislike of organized religion in general and Christianity in particular.  It amuses me when he is talked about in glowing terms by people who would hate his guts today if they met him.
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Flick James
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« Reply #18 on: January 05, 2012, 07:19:44 PM »

Quote
Paine was a steadfast deist until his death.

Most fascinating about the man is his, charitably speaking, strong dislike of organized religion in general and Christianity in particular.  It amuses me when he is talked about in glowing terms by people who would hate his guts today if they met him.

A salient observation. Paine was a man who made plenty of inflammatory statements toward religion, and as you say, Christianity in particular. Keep in mind that the more inflammatory of these were usually by letter in response to Christians endeavoring to debate or convert him. He was constantly being challenged for his beliefs and enticing his response, and he was simply being as honest as he could be in his responses. Thomas Jefferson made some comments about religion and the Gospels that were quite inflammatory as well, just not to Paine's extent. Plus, Jefferson's contributions to the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, and his generally more diplomatic tone toward organized religion were such that his offenses to the Christian masses were more easily overlooked.
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« Reply #19 on: January 05, 2012, 08:50:14 PM »


I'd just like to point out again that there is no single "intent of the Founders" as they were all individuals with disparate individual beliefs.  Moreover, their intentions are only of historical interest.  We govern ourselves (although ironically, that was their intention). 


I agree, and I had hoped that my example of mentioning but three varying views (Paine, Jefferson and Washington) showed my agreement.

It's certainly inaccurate to speak of them as a homogeneous group, especially on issues of religion and federalism.

I guess my only "nitpick" in this type of discussion is the presumption that is too often made that Separation is some de facto, accepted notion that goes back to the Founders.  Like many things in law, social construction and historical analysis, it is simply not that clear cut.

It is just as 'incorrect' or 'improper' for one group to lay claim that Separation is the premise from the Founding forward as it is for the other group to claim Judeo-Christian governance was pre-ordained by the Founders.

The most accurate statement is of course that Separation is current case law as decided by the Supreme Court.

However, I argue that it is fair to continue that discussion (and potential action in the form of future voting habits and legislation) to challenge the very basis of the Supreme Court to assert that law.  Yes, current practice *IS* for the court to decide case law, but the court also has technically 'grabbed' Constitutional Review authorities not granted by the Constitution.

Given the 10th Amendment, the validity of the Court's ruling on Church and State merits discussion.

I'm in a hurry (have somewhere I need to be), so this is at least borderline incoherent...maybe I'll try to clarify later.  In the meantime,

Peace out, dudes.  It's always fun discussing this stuff with you guys.

Good points all (except that you really shouldn't cite the 10th Amendment for any proposition, but I believe I know where you're going with that).  Unfortunately, I skimmed your original post and missed the part where you cited the Founders differing religious beliefs (though not all scholars would consider Washington a Founder---deciding who counts as a "Founder" is another reason "Founder's intent" really isn't a fruitful avenue of discussion, at least in a legal sense).

And Flick is right in pointing out that the phrase "separation of Church and State" traces back to Jefferson, who was unquestionably a Founder.  That doesn't make it a part of Constitutional law, of course.  The Supreme Court has used the phrase "separation of church and state" as a metaphor, not a legal doctrine.
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« Reply #20 on: January 05, 2012, 09:11:52 PM »


And Flick is right in pointing out that the phrase "separation of Church and State" traces back to Jefferson, who was unquestionably a Founder.  That doesn't make it a part of Constitutional law, of course.  The Supreme Court has used the phrase "separation of church and state" as a metaphor, not a legal doctrine.



It's my understanding that Jefferson's use of that phrase stemmed from a very specific concern that one group of Baptists had regarding one specific denomination was to become the national religion.  Jefferson was responding to that by reiterating that the First Amendment prohibits such establishment.  Context is very important.

Transcripts of the 1789  Congressional Record show considerable debate on this topic over a period of several months.  There is some interesting reading there.  The debate begins near the beginning of June:

http://memory.loc.gov/cgi-bin/ampage?collId=llac&fileName=001/llac001.db&recNum=221
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« Reply #21 on: January 05, 2012, 09:29:03 PM »


And Flick is right in pointing out that the phrase "separation of Church and State" traces back to Jefferson, who was unquestionably a Founder.  That doesn't make it a part of Constitutional law, of course.  The Supreme Court has used the phrase "separation of church and state" as a metaphor, not a legal doctrine.



It's my understanding that Jefferson's use of that phrase stemmed from a very specific concern that one group of Baptists had regarding one specific denomination was to become the national religion.  Jefferson was responding to that by reiterating that the First Amendment prohibits such establishment.  Context is very important.

Transcripts of the 1789  Congressional Record show considerable debate on this topic over a period of several months.  There is some interesting reading there.  The debate begins near the beginning of June:

http://memory.loc.gov/cgi-bin/ampage?collId=llac&fileName=001/llac001.db&recNum=221


Yes, it's interesting---but, as a possible off-topic point of jurisprudence, the existence of such debates is one of the reasons courts never rely on legislative history to help interpret a statute unless their backs are up against a wall.  The final text they wrote is the best evidence of what everyone eventually agreed to.  It's interesting to see their reasoning laid out, but in a legal sense it's rarely considered relevant.  A Justice like Scalia would almost never look at legislative history, and Justice Thomas is even more strident in his refusal to look at it.
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Flick James
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« Reply #22 on: January 05, 2012, 09:29:17 PM »


And Flick is right in pointing out that the phrase "separation of Church and State" traces back to Jefferson, who was unquestionably a Founder.  That doesn't make it a part of Constitutional law, of course.  The Supreme Court has used the phrase "separation of church and state" as a metaphor, not a legal doctrine.



It's my understanding that Jefferson's use of that phrase stemmed from a very specific concern that one group of Baptists had regarding one specific denomination was to become the national religion.  Jefferson was responding to that by reiterating that the First Amendment prohibits such establishment.  Context is very important.

Transcripts of the 1789  Congressional Record show considerable debate on this topic over a period of several months.  There is some interesting reading there.  The debate begins near the beginning of June:

http://memory.loc.gov/cgi-bin/ampage?collId=llac&fileName=001/llac001.db&recNum=221


Yes, well, context is always important. However, "separation of church and state" is a difficult term to apply ANY context to. Regardless of the setting or context, it has a pretty explicit meaning. Additionally, when Jefferson asserted "I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should 'make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,' thus building a wall of separation between church and State," he was making a direct correlation between the Constitution and that separation. I think the context is pretty clear.

And yes, Rev is right, of course, that doesn't make it constitutional law. It demonstrates an intent on the part of one particular founder.
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« Reply #23 on: January 05, 2012, 09:41:53 PM »



Yes, it's interesting---but, as a possible off-topic point of jurisprudence, the existence of such debates is one of the reasons courts never rely on legislative history to help interpret a statute unless their backs are up against a wall.  The final text they wrote is the best evidence of what everyone eventually agreed to.  It's interesting to see their reasoning laid out, but in a legal sense it's rarely considered relevant.  A Justice like Scalia would almost never look at legislative history, and Justice Thomas is even more strident in his refusal to look at it.



Cool.

I meant interesting merely for us as mere mortals digging on the history of the discussion.

I would be rather disappointed in the Justices looking at legislative history too closely...the whole separation of powers rearing it's head. 

The discussion DOES show the mindset of the day, among those Congressman at least, long before the court got involved.
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« Reply #24 on: January 05, 2012, 10:18:23 PM »

One thing to remember in citing Jefferson is that he was NOT one of the men who wrote the Constitution, or contributed to the Bill of Rights.  He was in Paris during the 1787 Convention, and in fact was highly skeptical of many parts of the Constitution during the debate for ratification.  It was only through the intercession of his friend Madison that he became a lukewarm supporter of the proposed new government, and even during his stint as Secretary of State he questioned some parts of it, as in his famous exchange with George Washington over whether or not it was necessary to have a Senate at all.  Jefferson was undeniably brilliant, yet the more I study him and his life, the less I respect him.  He was downright devious and manipulative at times, publicly denouncing the partisan press which attacked George Washington's administration (of which he was a part) while privately funding some of the worst offenders.

As for Thomas Paine, it would be appropriate to remember that, as brilliant a propagandist as he was, he was a highly unstable personality who wound up alienating virtually everyone who tried to befriend and support him.  His savage attacks on George Washington were prompted by Washington's refusal to support the more radical stages of the French Revolution than by any religious motivation.

Our founders were a mixed bag in their personal beliefs.  Jefferson was a Deist and a Unitarian, Franklin flirted with Deism but near the end of his life believed in a persona, prayer-answering God.  Adams was a traditional Congregationalist Christian who drifted towards Unitarianism during some parts of his life.  Madison was more of a Deist in his youth and moved towards conventional Christianity in his old age.  Hamilton and Washington were both traditional Anglican Christians in their thinking.

I think it is safe to say that, while our founders held various and sometimes changing religious beliefs, they were overwhelmingly the products of a predominantly Protestant, Christian society and envisioned an America that would be essentially Christian in its fabric, while tolerating all other belief systems whose followers wished to come here.

Two very informative books are David Barton's ORIGINAL INTENT (I know a lot of lefties like to vilify Barton, but the fact is that he lets the founders' words speak for themselves, and has done enormous amounts of research.  The bibliography at the end of the this book is nearly 100 pages!) and also another text - and I've lost my copy, so I can't recall the author - entitled NEVER BEFORE IN HISTORY, which analyzes the influence of Christianity, and particularly the Reformation, on the Founding generation.  It was a very well-written, carefully researched, and non-dogmatic analysis.

The debate over the influence of Christianity on our founders goes on and on, and probably will continue to do so.  What I tell my college classes is that, taken as a group, they are neither the Bible-thumpers that many fundamentalists would have you believe, nor the freethinking Deists, atheists, and agnostics that modern academics seem to think.
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« Reply #25 on: January 05, 2012, 10:34:22 PM »

Quote
I think it is safe to say that, while our founders held various and sometimes changing religious beliefs, they were overwhelmingly the products of a predominantly Protestant, Christian society and envisioned an America that would be essentially Christian in its fabric, while tolerating all other belief systems whose followers wished to come here.

It is not safe to say this at all, Indy. In fact, it is just as safe to say that they were more a product of the Age of Enlightenment than the Protestant Reformation. The deistic elements of the Age of Enlightenment were a profound influence on the philosophy of the time and of the Revolutionists. I would love to see what historical evidence you could provide that would suggest that the founders were overwhelmingly Christian and envisioned a Christian nation.

Also, it is not surprising that the founders you would be most critical of happen to be critical of religion. Shocking.
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« Reply #26 on: January 06, 2012, 10:09:20 AM »


 a product of the Age of Enlightenment than the Protestant Reformation. The deistic elements of the Age of Enlightenment were a profound influence on the philosophy of the time and of the Revolutionists.


Do you find this to be a good thing?

Because I think the Age of Enlightenment is a bit of a misnomer....I think, with the benefit of hindsight, looking back at what we are now reaping from that philosophical movement, a better name would be "The Age of Smug Self Aggrandizement."

I hold modern academia and farce it represents as evidence for the lie that "enlightened thinking" has produced.  But maybe that's a conversation we should continue in private.
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« Reply #27 on: January 06, 2012, 10:48:09 AM »


 a product of the Age of Enlightenment than the Protestant Reformation. The deistic elements of the Age of Enlightenment were a profound influence on the philosophy of the time and of the Revolutionists.


Do you find this to be a good thing?

Because I think the Age of Enlightenment is a bit of a misnomer....I think, with the benefit of hindsight, looking back at what we are now reaping from that philosophical movement, a better name would be "The Age of Smug Self Aggrandizement."

I hold modern academia and farce it represents as evidence for the lie that "enlightened thinking" has produced.  But maybe that's a conversation we should continue in private.

Whatever you may think of the Enlightenment as a whole, one of it's greatest contribution to history is the theory of representative democracy and natural rights, and to my mind that has been an unquestionable boon to humanity.
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« Reply #28 on: January 06, 2012, 11:43:58 AM »


Whatever you may think of the Enlightenment as a whole, one of it's greatest contribution to history is the theory of representative democracy and natural rights, and to my mind that has been an unquestionable boon to humanity.


Different perspective:  Individuals provided those contributions not a philosophical movement.  True, they may have been influenced by that movement, but I doubt that people contemporary with grand movements like this act because of it, rather than help cause it.

It's like saying Kennedy wanted to send Americans to the moon because of the space race, whereas it is probably more correct to say that he helped cause the space race by announcing his goals...maybe that's a simplistic example.

My point is that those contemporary with the movement are products of FAR more diverse philosophies than JUST that movement.  It cannot be denied that religion in general and Christianity in particular were VERY large influences in 1770's America.

To this end, it is immaterial whether Franklin, Jefferson, Madison, Hamilton, Paine and others adopted Christian ideals as their own PERSONAL belief system; the influence of the belief system was present in their lives and in the culture in which they lived.  The enlightenment movement active in Europe at the time exerted an influence, but I doubt one can assign causality to contemporary thinking.

Further, I must say that I find this argument somewhat circular.  On the one hand, "Endowed by their Creator" and other very Christian thinking permeates the writing of the day yet the claim is made that the Enlightenment thinking prompted the promotion of natural rights...the same Enlightenment that has as its core the rejection of Christian notions of subservience to a higher power.

The term 'deist' was originally used as an antonym for atheist...more like we would use the term "theist" today.  When did the term take on its present connotation - before or after "The Enlightenment" gained critical mass in Europe?
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« Reply #29 on: January 06, 2012, 12:18:14 PM »

Okay, I'll be more than happy to continue any conversation in private. I will offer one more post here and be done on the forum, however. Indy says it's safe to say that the founders envisioned a Christian nation. I say it's not even remotely safe to say so. I'm not saying that it's safe to say that they intended a secular nation either. The truth is neither can be concluded. Both sides are guilty of some level of revisionist history.

However, the Enlightenment permeated the philosophy of the Revolutionist intelligentsia of the day. I don't know how anybody can reasonably deny that. If you feel that was a bad thing, then that's your prerogative. Some of the founding fathers were Christians, some were not. End of story. There is nothing but conjecture that suggests there was an effort toward a Christian nation. If it were, it would be in the constitution. But alas it is not. The term "Creator," as it appears in the Declaration of Independence, was put there by none other than the non-Christian Jefferson, a pretty obvious indicator of his deist leanings at the time.

I would conjecture that, had the Christians been in charge of the split from Britain it probably would never have happened. Rebellion is, according to the Bible, a sin akin to witchcraft. The Bible explicitly advises against rebellion against a monarchy in more than one instance. No. Rebellion against Britain had to be carried out by more "enligtened" minds. And so it was. If the Christians had been in charge, I would be willing to bet any amount of money that we WOULD have a national religion and a national church, just as many Eurpoean nations did during the Protestant Reformation. It is a good thing that our most prominent founders, the ones who got things done, were more of a deistic, Enlightenment-inspired mind. But the Christian revisionists would like everyone to think that the founders were all like John Jay.

The quote below does not establish anything according to Constitutional law regarding separation of church and state. However, I see no reason why it is not a good indicator of the early founders trying to steer the nation clear of being identified as a Christian nation. The Treaty of Tripoli, in response to piracy in the Mediterranean that was rampant in the 18th Century, signed by John Adams in 1797, included the following article:

"As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion,—as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquility, of Mussulmen,—and as the said States never entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries."

This is John Adams, who the last time I checked was one of the most prominent of the founders, making a specific denial of a Christian basis for the U.S. government by saying that it was not a nation foundedon the Christian religions in any sense.

Now, has the U.S. evolved into a Christian nation in some senses? Most certainly. And so be it. But I defy anyone who tries to revise history to portray the founders as setting out to creat a Christian nation. This is a myth. The fact that the predominant religion of the early Americas was Christian means that Christianity was a part of the fabric of the people, not argument of any kind there. What it DOES NOT mean, and IS NOT supported by any historical evidence or in the Constitution, is that the founding fathers intended a Christian nation. There is, in fact, direct evidence by many of the most prominent among them, of intents to steer clear of indentification of the U.S. as a Christian nation.

Keep in mind that at no point in this thread have I brought up the argument regarding separation of church and state. Ulthar brought that up.

I am providing direct quotation that supports my claim that the founders had no intent of a Christian nation. I haven't seen anybody provide anything to the contrary so far. I would love to see it.
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