FREEDOM OF RELIGION

460px-thomas_paine.jpgRight at the beginning of the American Revolutionary War, the Patriots made freedom of religion one of their goals. Consider this excerpt from Common Sense by Thomas Paine.

As to religion, I hold it to be the indispensible duty of all government, to protect all conscientious professors thereof, and I know of no other business which government hath to do therewith. Let a man throw aside that narrowness of soul, that selfishness of principle, which the niggards of all professions are so unwilling to part with, and he will be at once delivered of his fears on that head. Suspicion is the companion of mean souls, and the bane of all good society. For myself, I fully and conscientiously believe, that it is the will of the Almighty, that there should be diversity of religious opinions among us: It affords a larger field for our Christian kindness. Were we all of one way of thinking, our religious dispositions would want matter for probation; and on this liberal principle, I look on the various denominations among us, to be like children of the same family, differing only, in what is called, their Christian names.

12 thoughts on “FREEDOM OF RELIGION

  1. Who are the Christians going to elect; to protect the Constitution and Christianity? If a Neo-Conservative Republican or a Hate-America Democrat is elected, all is lost. When will they mobilize – after it too late?

    Support a candidate who keeps the 5th Commandment of the Christian God: “Thou Shalt Not Kill”; and if he is defeated then support another. Join forces with the Libertarians. Make posters and donate to swell the Christian-Libertarian Army. Give up your easy life for your God and your Country; or there will be nothing to leave to your children, and children’s children.

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  2. James – I think I understand your concern, and some urgency is required. Our country has been drifting for years towards religious antipathy and the belief that the secular state must control everything. If that is your concern, then I agree the situation is getting rather scary.

    Just a few questions.

    The Libertarians have their pluses. Little too dogmatic about some things, but I sympathize with most of what they say. However, their numbers are small. What is the advantage of working with them?

    What is a Neo-Conservative Republican? Who do you consider a Neo-Conservative Republican?

    When we elected Bill Clinton, did we not elect a Hate-America Democrat? Did the country fall apart? No. Why not?

    To be truly dangerous, does not a well-organized political party have to gain solid control over at least two branches of the Federal Government? How easy is that?

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  3. Any Republican who espouses expansive govenmental taxation and control, military intervention in the affairs of weaker nations, and discrimination against religion is a neo-conservative.

    With the exception of Ron Paul and Fred Thompson, all of the candidates are Neo-conservatives. On a website including the leading Neo-con Republican, I posted the comment:

    When did Giuliani’s Christian God give him the right to practice Human sacrifice, in the form of child-killing?

    When did Guiliani’s American Constitution give him the right to sacrifice American wealth and blood, in the interest of domestic and foreign lobbies?

    If neither Guiliani’s Christian God nor his American Constitution are sacred to him, how can he be trusted to honor his promises to his America People?

    Bill Clinton was impeached for perjury and obstructing justice; he was shown to have insideously committed at least 24 scandals, Whitewater through Pardongate; and an extraordinarily large number of mysterious violent deaths occurred among his staff: economic corruption and moral depravity were pervasive. America’s Constitutional Separation of Powers, helped by vigilant Congressional Republicans, limited his destructive powers.

    How much economic sacrifice of wealth and blood does it take before it is considered dangerous, depends largely on sensitivity and imagination. For Ron Paul Rebels that threashold was crossed a long time ago; the unnecessary interventionist war in Iraq was just the spark the started the Libertarian wildfire that is sweeping across America.

    On the problem of raising the support for Ron Paul, I made the following comment in the Washington Times:

    The belief that Ron Paul will become the candidate and win the election is wishful thinking, at this late date in the political struggle.

    Consider the problems and their solutions:

    Nearly half of the American People would never vote for him; because, either they never heard of him, or many of his goals seem radical and more ideological than practical. His supporters are mostly in the 30-49 age group, but only the well-informed minority of them. What about the 18-29 age group; and, the 50-90 age group?

    His American Reformation primarily includes ending America’s military intervention everywhere in the World, Constitutional government, less govenmental regulation, restored religious freedom, lower taxes, internet freedom, immigration law reforms, and deportation of all of the illegal immigrants.

    What about American energy independence, protection of natural environments, affordable college education , worker competitiveness, affordable medical care, fool-proof social security, compelling alternatives for mothers to stop killing their children, tax incentives for raising children, pervasive dangerous addictive drugs, defense against growing Chinese military power, and a vice-president who is wise and passionate enough to carry on his American Reformation.

    What is clearly needed is both more publicity and much greater poll gains per donation. A poll of 4%, just among the registered Republicans is not nearly enough for a Ron Paul victory. A national poll of over 60% is easily achievable with the full range of issues. The selective polls, taken among mostly Ron Paul supporters, create dangerous optimism.

    To solve these complex problems, Ron Paul certainly needs to immmediately start working with America’s scientific and engineering leaders. There is nothing that American can not do, by wisely re-deploying its existing human and economic resources.

    Ron Paul embodies the eternal revolutionary spirit of the American People; but without sufficiently adverse social and economic conditions, there may not be enough suffering and anger to get him elected.

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  4. Citizen Tom
    Any Republican who espouses expansive governmental taxation and control, military intervention in the affairs of weaker nations, and discrimination against religion is a neo-conservative.
    With the exception of Ron Paul and Fred Thompson, all of the candidates are Neo-conservatives. On a website including the leading Neo-con Republican, I posted the comment:
    When did Giuliani’s Christian God give him the right to practice Human sacrifice, in the form of child-killing?
    When did Giuliani’s American Constitution give him the right to sacrifice American wealth and blood, in the interest of domestic and foreign lobbies?
    If neither Giuliani’s Christian God nor his American Constitution is sacred to him, how can he be trusted to honor his promises to his America People?
    Bill Clinton was impeached for perjury and obstructing justice; he was shown to have insidiously committed at least 24 scandals, Whitewater through Pardon gate; and an extraordinarily large number of mysterious violent deaths occurred among his staff: economic corruption and moral depravity were pervasive. America’s Constitutional Separation of Powers, helped by vigilant Congressional Republicans, limited his destructive powers.
    How much economic sacrifice of wealth and blood does it take before it is considered dangerous, depends largely on sensitivity and imagination. For Ron Paul Rebels that threshold was crossed a long time ago; the unnecessary interventionist war in Iraq was just the spark the started the Libertarian wildfire that is sweeping across America.
    On the problem of raising the support for Ron Paul, I made the following comment in the Washington Times:
    The belief that Ron Paul will become the candidate and win the election is wishful thinking, at this late date in the political struggle.
    Consider the problems and their solutions:
    Nearly half of the American People would never vote for him; because, either they never heard of him, or many of his goals seem radical and more ideological than practical. His supporters are mostly in the 30-49 age group, but only the well-informed minority of them. What about the 18-29 age group; and, the 50-90 age group?
    His American Reformation primarily includes ending America’s military intervention everywhere in the World, Constitutional government, less governmental regulation, restored religious freedom, lower taxes, internet freedom, immigration law reforms, and deportation of all of the illegal immigrants.
    What about American energy independence, protection of natural environments, affordable college education , worker competitiveness, affordable medical care, fool-proof social security, compelling alternatives for mothers to stop killing their children, tax incentives for raising children, pervasive dangerous addictive drugs, defense against growing Chinese military power, and a vice-president who is wise and passionate enough to carry on his American Reformation.
    What are clearly needed are both more publicity and much greater poll gains per donation. A poll of 4%, just among the registered Republicans is not nearly enough for a Ron Paul victory. A national poll of over 60% is easily achievable with the full range of issues. The selective polls, taken among mostly Ron Paul supporters, create dangerous optimism.
    To solve these complex problems, Ron Paul certainly needs to immediately start working with America’s scientific and engineering leaders. There is nothing that American cannot do, by wisely re-deploying its existing human and economic resources.
    Ron Paul embodies the eternal revolutionary spirit of the American People; but without sufficiently adverse social and economic conditions, there may not be enough suffering and anger to get him elected.

    Like

  5. For the record, Tom Paine (like Thomas Jefferson) was not a Christian, but a Deist. Thomas Paine, that great populist propagandist for the Revolutionary War, was later in life widely ridiculed for his secular, anti-Christian beliefs, and Paine ultimately died abandoned by all his friends and supporters (with the sole exception of Jefferson). Obviously, to many of our Founding Fathers, “freedom of conscience” was a right reserved only to mean the freedom to chose between variations on the same Christian theme. As such, Christian historical revisionists have tried to bury Paine’s legacy many times over the centuries, but his works are so passionately American and so much a part of the lexicon of how Americans think of themselves that he has been impossible to erradicate. Therefore, ironically (if you know Paine’s history as a radical liberal) many Christian conservatives have decided to adopt Paine’s language as their own instead.

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  6. Tony – When I was in high school, I read the The Age of Reason by Thomas Paine. At the time, I found the document persuasive, and for many years I left the Christian faith. Like you, I also thought the reaction of the Founding Fathers to Thomas Paine’s The Age of Reason was disappointing. Their reaction does, however, show that the claim the Founding Fathers were deists is absurd.

    Anyway, I already have a post on the Age of Reason (see here).

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  7. Well, some of the Founding Fathers were Deists for sure, especially if one considers Jefferson, and even Paine. a “Founding Father” of a sort. Perhaps others were Deists as well, but the conventions of the time made it hard to come out as one. It’s difficult to know what was in each man’s heart, especially looking into the past more than 200 years.

    One thing is more certain, however. Many of the most influential Founding Fathers, like Madison, Jefferson, Adams and Washington, were very much anti-clerical and this in turn lead to a new kind of secularism in government. This secularism was probably a visceral reaction to the Catholic Inquistion and the various religious wars in Britain and Europe. It also perhaps springs from the fairly new Protestant concept that a person finds salvation through a one-on-one relationship with God with no need for a clerical intermediary. That elimination of the need of clerical intervention (through the sacraments, for example) created the ultimate freedom of conscience because it left only God to know or judge what was in a person’s heart.

    I agree that I don’t think that Deism or Athism may have been necessarily popular or prominant among the Founding Fathers, however, with the concept that such things were a matter of personal conscience, secularism definitely was prominant, at least among the most important Founding Fathers.

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  8. Tony – I wonder if you are using the term secularism without sufficient understanding. Based upon your own words, I do not believe you actually think the Founding Fathers were secularists. In any event, the Founding Fathers neither rejected all forms of religious faith and worship nor did they hold the view that public education and other matters of civil policy (education not then being regarded as a matter of civil policy) should be conducted without the introduction of a religious element. In fact, George Washington issued The First Thanksgiving Proclamation.

    I think the reason the Founding Fathers did not put the word “God” in the Constitution is twofold. First, the men who wrote the Constitution understood that what they were doing would not be God’s work. So they wanted it clearly understood by one and all that the Constitution was man’s work. Second, to uphold each person’s right to maintain their own religious beliefs, they wanted it clearly understood that government had no power over the People’s religious beliefs.

    What the Founding Fathers established was a secular state. They never intended to establish a secularist state. These two are very much different things.

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  9. I’m not sure that the Founding Fathers had either word back then, but I agree with your take on if I understand your semantics– some perhaps were “secularists” (meaning that they reject any form of religion, particularly organized ecclesiastic type), but evidensed by the Constitution itself, most of our Founding Fathers probably intended to found a “secularist” state (meaning that civil matters should be conducted without a religious element).

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  10. Tony, you are trying to have it both ways. If you agree with my take on the semantics, then why are you still suggesting that the Founding Fathers intended to found a secularist state?

    Look up the definition. A secularist advocates and supports secularism. While some people may want a secularist state, we do not yet have one. That is because the Founding Fathers established a secular government, not a secularist state. If the government they had founded had been a secularist government, the Founding Fathers would have set out to abolish religious practice. Clearly, that was never their intent.

    As Washington’s Thanksgiving Proclamation indicates, the Founding Fathers did not intend that civil matters be conducted without a religious element.

    Consider this quote.

    I have sworn upon the alter of God, eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man. — Thomas Jefferson

    What the Founding Fathers apparently intended is that the Federal Government would have no power to establish a state religion. That is a far cry from forcing religion out of the public square.

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  11. It’s kind of a silly semantic argument, but both the parenthetical definitions for “secularist” I gave above come from the Webster’s. I’m certainly not saying that all the “Founding Fathers” (a hard term to define in itself – were they the “Founders” of the Constitution?, the Bill of Rights?, the Declaration of Independence?, the state Ratifying Conventions’ attendees? or perhaps the ideological authors such as Jefferson, Adams, and Madison?) wanted to prohibit religion from all society (which would be my first paranthetical definition above), but the Constitution itself is the best evidence that the Founders did not want religion to be part of civil government (the second paranthetical definition above).

    Individual Founders may have had their individual opinions about the role of religion in government, but the blueprint for our government, the Constitution, quite deliberately only mentions religion twice — the First Amendment and the “No Religious Tests” Clause. In both cases, the Constitutional mention is to keep civil government out of the religion business, which is basically my second Websters definition of “secularist” quoted above. I completely agree that I don’t think that most of the Founders were anti-religious, as some have suggested (although many, such as Jefferson, Adams and Madison, were anti-clerical), but I do think that they created a Constitutional “Wall of Separation” between church and state, as Jefferson so famously wrote in hia Letter to the Danbury Babtists.

    I don’t really think that we disagree on the concept — just the semantics, but if you like that they created “secular state” better than “secularist state,” I think we get to the same place 250 years later. The Constitution is what it is and purposely so — a non-religious document.

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  12. Over the years some folks have made every possible effort to secularize public life. Much of this effort has focused on the public school system. And the advocates (the ACLU, for example) have justified their movement with silly semantic arguments. Thus the constitutional wall that protects religious belief from government power somehow got morphed into a separation between church and state.

    Look again at the first amendment. What does it say? How does First Amendment justify forcing people to abandon their religious beliefs in public square? When the public square knows no bounds, where do our public lives leave off? Where do our private lives begin?

    Is the education of children, for example, the private responsibly of parents or the public responsibility of government? Given the importance of teaching children the difference between right and wrong, isn’t the notion we should entirely secularize education absurd? If such a notion had been a precondition for the public school system, do you truly believe this system would now exist?

    Yes, in 250 years change does occurs. Unfortunately, much change is horribly ill considered, and sometimes change must be undone.

    Note that you may find this post relevant to our discussion.

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