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Re: Fundamentalism/Freedom

Aug 04, 1995 06:17 PM
by jrcecon

>>And incorporated in this freedom is the separation of church
and state, so that one religion does not try to impose itself
onto society through government influence.

>This idea of "separation" (which is not in the Constitution) is
misleading as the writers of the first amendment did not wish to
remove God from government, they only wanted to prevent
government from imposing one version of God on people.

"Tis a bit flawed to speak of the founders of the US as
possessing any sort of a group-mind ... they were very different
people, some of them quite devout, but most were "religious" in
much the same way as modern politicians are: religion being more
of a minor part of life that was seen as a necessary social
construct. Many of those signing the Constitution were rich,
powerful men who were advocating "independence" for business
purposes more than anything else, and in their personal lives had
very little use for religion.

>>The Rev. Franklin is incorrect in believing that this country
was founded on Christian beliefs.

>The U.S. *was* founded on the idea of two greatest commandments
and the Golden Rule, it was not founded on the idea that one
group's interpretation of the Bible is right. The founding
principles are best reflected in the words: We hold these truths
to be self-evident, that all men are created equal and that they
are endowed by their Creator (sic. God) with certain unalienable
rights -- and the role of government is only to protect such

I don't think the US was founded on any two or three principles
... in fact the stunning amount of disagreement among the
founders makes it a miracle that it was founded at all - they
certainly didn't all agree on anything like commandments or the
Golden Rule, in fact the largest battles were over distribution
of political and financial power, and God and the Commandments
barely entered the discussion. The final form of the original
documents is full of beautifully written words, but so are modern
political documents - its a quality of political documents, not
an expression of true intentions of the founders.

"We hold these truths to be self-evident ...."? Yes wonderful
words, but in the political realm "men" meant white men who owned
property. Poor men, and all women were not included. Blacks
were counted as (I think) "3/5's" of a person for the purposes of
counting population Jefferson and many of the other founders were
Deists - the "God as Watchmaker" philosophy that considered God
to have initiated creation and formed the basic laws of
existence, and then set the thing in motion and stepped back and
out of the picture. *Not* an entity to pray to. Religious duty
had to do with discovering those laws through the agency of human
reason, and attempting to harmonize one's life with them. In
fact if memory serves me, Jefferson didn't even believe in either
the virgin birth nor the resurrection of Jesus.

Anyway ... don't mean to go on and on, but I've recently heard
on the one side fundamentalists glorifying the founders as
paragons of Christian Virtue - as though the country was founded
by Baptist ministers, and on the other side people holding that
the founders were enlightened, tolerant humanists who believed in
freedom and egalitarianism for all people, and possessed of an
inclusive and gentile Christianity that wanted nothing other than
total personal individual freedom for all. Both speak of "the
founders" as though they were profound philosophers engaged in
learned discourse that reached such a completely unified
viewpoint that it is possible to say things like "the founders
thought this and that".

History, unfortunately, doesn't give either of those views much
credibility. Many, if not most of the founders were wild, bawdy
men living in wild and bawdy times. Many had great wealth, and
it was because the English throne was figuring out how to tax
more and more of that wealth that drove many to decide upon
revolution - as far as personal, political and religious freedom
went, colonists actually had more freedom than British subjects
living in England did. There was no unanimity about "principles"
between them before, during or after the Constitution was signed.
The US was founded by the upper class - both in wealth and
education - of the colonies, and chiefly to protect and expand
their interests. The constitution has fine words, but most of
the founders would have been appalled at the thought of women
voting, or the uneducated masses having any say in political
policies. George Washington was a Mason who thought secret
thoughts and helped found a nation on profound principles? Good
lord ... he drank like a fish, purposely married into money,
bribed voters with rum, had several affairs, and began a long and
honored tradition of padding expense accounts by billing the
Continental Congress for the most outrageous and hilareous things
as General in the Revolutionary war.

If there is any true and single picture of America, it is neither
a picture of a nation founded either on "occult principles" or on
"Christian virtues" - but rather a nation founded on the pursuit
of commerce and wealth, wanting *both* religion *and* politics to
stay the hell out of the way of commerce, and founded by men who
did have classical educations, but who could also drink any
modern politician under the table, were involved in so many and
varied sexual dalliances that they would be utterly unelectable
in today's conservative political atmosphere, who both threw and
attended parties every bit as strange and loud as any modern New
York heavy-metal bar, and who engaged freely in political
manipulations so bizarre and devious that half of them would be
under investigation by the FBI if they were alive today.

I do love this country, but superimposing current ideology of any
kind on the founders is nothing but distortion.

K-:) -JRC

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