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Jefferson was a long time supporter of religious freedom.  In his Notes on the State of Virginia (1785) he wrote:

“The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.”  Even earlier, in 1777, he had drafted a bill to establish religious freedom in Virginia. The key paragraph stated: “We the General Assembly of Virginia do enact that no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burdened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer, on account of his religious opinions or belief; but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish, enlarge, or affect their civil capacities.”

 During the election of 1800 candidates were to be Constitutionally free of having religious tests imposed upon them as a prequalification for public office.  The Framers believed that anything less constituted harassment and was of such a personal nature that it was not in the best interests of the country. Article VI, section 3, clearly stated that “No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.”

  There were many were not yet ready to concede that it was unlawful to put candidates running for public office under the scrutiny of litmus tests over matters of “faith.” Trashing a candidate’s particular set of beliefs or nonbeliefs in an effort to alter the outcome of the election, was freely used, by religious leaders sympathetic to the Federalist Party.

  Eugene Sheridan, in his introduction to Jefferson’s Extracts from the Gospels, noted.  

The Federalist Party and their ministerial allies arraigned Jefferson before the bar of public opinion as an unbeliever who was unworthy to serve as chief magistrate of a Christian nation.

  THe president of Yale University,Pastor Timothy Dwight, was a prime example of those detractors. During the campaign Dwight took advantage of his pulpit to rain fire and brimstone on Jefferson. He said,

Can serious and reflecting men look about them and doubt that, if Jefferson is elected, those morals which protect our lives from the knife of the assassin, which guard the chastity of our wives and daughters from seduction and violence, defend our property from plunder and devastation and shield our religion from contempt and profanation, will not be trampled upon? For what end? That our churches may become temples of reason, the Bible cast into a bonfire, and that we may see our wives and daughters the victims of legal prostitution?

   The Gazette of the United States, the main paper of the Federalist Party, urged voters to lay their hands on their hearts and ask themselves:
Shall I continue in allegiance to God, and a religious president, or impiously declare for Jefferson and no God!

   However Unitarian John Adams, the outgoing Federalist president, had once castigated the idea of Christ’s divinity as an “awful blasphemy.” Adams was raised a Congregationalist, but ultimately rejected many fundamental doctrines of conventional Christianity, such as the Trinity and the divinity of Jesus, becoming a Unitarian. In his youth, Adams' father urged him to become a minister, but Adams refused, considering the practice of law to be a more noble calling. Although he once referred to himself as a "church going animal," Adams' view of religion overall was rather ambivalent: He recognized the abuses, large and small, that religious belief lends itself to, but he also believed that religion could be a force for good in individual lives and in society at large. His extensive reading (especially in the classics), led him to believe that this view applied not only to Christianity, but to all religions.  Yet It was Jefferson who was accused of being an infidel unworthy of the office. For some, to vote for Jefferson was to sin against God and be forever lost! Using the “God” card, along with rumor and innuendo, was justified by the Federalists if it kept Jefferson out of office.

   As Jefferson historian Willard Randall puts it, no presidential campaign

has more brutally combined these tactics of rumor and innuendo, than the 1800 campaign, which left Jefferson stunned and the country deeply divided for years.

  Jefferson perceived in these tactics a critical threat to the Constitution. Partisan squabbles that led to the development of two rival political parties was one thing. But to let Puritans control elective outcomes through the use of religious tests and the use of the Federalist Party as its mouthpiece was another. It was not only a questionable violation of Article VI, section 3, of the Constitution, but it sanctioned a return to the Calvinist model of encouraging the clerical supervision of the the process for religious, cultural, and legislative purposes.

   In his first inaugural address President Thomas Jefferson reflected on the need for Americans to be vigilant in preserving freedom of religious and political expression.  Americans had gained little, he said, if, after


“having banished from our land that religious intolerance under which mankind so long bled and suffered . . . we countenance a political intolerance as despotic, as wicked, and capable of as bitter and bloody persecutions.” Then, speaking directly to the Federalists and their Puritan allies, he said: “If there be any among us who would wish to dissolve this Union or change its republican form, let them stand undisturbed as monuments of the safety with which error of opinion may be tolerated and where reason is left free to combat it.”

   For Jefferson, this was the best check against those who likely at some time in the nation’s history would interpret the new Constitution in a manner that favored their own religion at the expense of the people’s choice for religious pluralism and democracy.

  Jefferson’s religious growth, combined with his experience in establishing religious freedom in Virginia, seemed to make him more keenly aware that a  hostility continued to flourish against the idea of religious freedom, even among the ruling class.

  In a letter to Jefferson dated August 22, 1800, Dr. Benjamin Rush wrote that he had

“always considered Christianity as the strong ground of Republicanism.” He then suggested that it was “necessary for Republicanism to ally itself to the Christian religion [in order] to overturn all the corrupted political and religious institutions in the world.”

Appalled that his physician friend would equate Christianity with Republicanism and advocate an unholy alliance between church and state—with the motive of overthrowing religious and political institutions whose practices Dr. Rush disagreed with.  Jefferson responded by reminding him that such an alliance already existed in America and was working its ill effects on the Constitution and its citizens. Jefferson responded to Dr. Rush on Sept. 23, 1800.  Jefferson pointed out that the opposition he was receiving involved the joint efforts of Alexander Hamilton, the Federalist Party, and specific New England clerics who fostered a “very favorite hope of obtaining an establishment of a particular form of Christianity thro’ the U.S.”  This led to pamphlets accused Jefferson of being unfit to become President because he did not hold Christian beliefs.  Jefferson added, in the same letter,  
The clergy ... believe that any portion of power confided to me [as President] will be exerted in opposition to their schemes. And they believe rightly: for I have sworn upon the altar of God, eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man. But this is all they have to fear from me: and enough, too, in their opinion.

  Dumas Malone, a biographer of Jefferson, points out that
the long-lived conflict which the dominant clergy of that region waged against this apostle of religious freedom” continued because Jefferson refused to disclose his personal religious views in a manner that satisfied their insatiable appetite for religious and political power, and because he believed that his religious views were an entirely private matter.

  To many clerics, the idea that American citizens were free to worship or not worship, and to hold views in accordance with the dictates of their own consciences, remained unacceptable and bordered on blasphemy! So during the election of 1800 the Puritan ideals of the past rose up in seeming desperation to challenge the new egalitarian age of enlightenment, tolerance, and freedom of conscience. Here, the most sacred values of the past—faith, family, community, and the rule of law—were about to merge with secular and liberal notions of individualism. But not without a fight from a clergy used to authoritarian control.  

  In the new democratic republic, Jefferson understood that the Constitution had to be entrusted with the people and not just with theologians who might claim to speak on behalf of God. Indeed, America’s constitutional experiment was founded on “We the people,” and not on God’s expressed authority. This is the fundamental difference between the Puritan and Constitutional foundings. That is why the Constitution remains the fundamental obstacle to the past present and future success of the Religious Right.

  Strange how the current election season promises a similar situation between those promoting their entire country and those promoting their own unenlightened self interest.  Tocqueville carefully distinguished between the "self-interest properly understood" he found in America and "unenlightened self-interest". To begin with the negative, unenlightened self-interest comes closest to our common definition of selfishness. It is that which seeks advantage for the self at the expense of others. It is directed by brute instinct alone.   On the other hand, self-interest properly understood poses the rhetorical question of "whether it is not to the individual advantage of each to work for the good of all." This is not an instinctive attitude but a learned behavior, running (at least initially) counter to the instinct towards seeking self-advantage. Through exercise of this virtue, the individual agrees to connect his quest for self-advantage with the same instinct in others. Thus it is learned that "virtue is useful".  Education becomes a most necessary tool for the restraint of unenlightened self-interest.

  The following passage from Democracy in America sums up the attitude fostered by our Founding Fathers towards the concept of enlightened self-interest:


The Americans, on the contrary, are fond of explaining almost all the actions of their lives by the principle of interest rightly understood; they show with complacency how an enlightened regard for themselves constantly prompts them to assist each other, and inclines them willingly to sacrifice a portion of their time and property to the welfare of the state.  

  Such an attitude once made America great.  Enlightened self interest properly understood built us up and unenlightened self interest is now tearing us down.  The conservative "Christians" of 1800 were on the wrong side seeking political power against the expressed desire for religious freedom so clear in the Constitution and the Deistic attitude of our Founders.  Apparently Jesus was a magic super hero warrior figure to them guaranteed to hate whoever the clergy preached against, not a simple philosopher promoting universal love of all mankind.  I suppose that churches of 1800 were much like the endless number of TV preachers today.  They read in Paul's part of the New Testament, then zap back to an Old Testament reading, keeping fear at the forefront.  Never looking at or considering the actual words of Jesus.  Jefferson regarded the New Testament to be the product of both an inferior mind and a superior mind.  He described how he dealt with the New Testament in a letter to John Adams.


We must reduce our volume to the simple evangelists, select even from the very words of Jesus, paring off the amphiboligisms into which they have been led by forgetting often or not understanding what had fallen from him, by giving their own misconceptions as his dicta, and expressing unintelligibly for others what they had not understood themselves. There will be found remaining the most sublime and benevolent code of morals which has ever been offered to man. I have performed this operation for my own use, by cutting verse by verse out of the printed book, and arranging the matter which is evidently his, and which is as easily distinguishable as diamonds in a dunghill.
-- Thomas Jefferson, letter to John Adams, October 13, 1813

The Jefferson Bible

  Deists tend to respond well to the actual words of Jesus although rejecting Christian orthodoxy.  Many like Jefferson and Paine regard Jesus as a fellow Deist and rational thinker and tried to practice the Golden Rule.  What is clear to me is that our Founding Fathers knew and acted on the words of Jesus and would be in conflict with any believers attempting to destroy the Constitution as the tea party crazies are today.


Originally posted to J Edward on Fri Apr 22, 2011 at 05:01 PM PDT.

Also republished by Atheist in America, History for Kossacks, and Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

    •  One other piece of writing relevant to this (10+ / 0-)

      thread, and that is Jefferson's 1802 letter to the Danbury Baptist Association, who had written to him the previous October (you can read the text of their letter here).

      In 1998 the Library of Congress put Jefferson's hand written draft on display, after receiving the assistance of the FBI in being able to restore the original text before Jefferson edited it.  You can read about that here

      As to the text Jefferson actually sent, one phrase became an important part of this country's understanding, even as for some it is controversial, and that is the idea of the wall of separation between Church and State, first cited inReynolds v. United States, 98 U.S. 145,  later heavily relied upon in 1947  In v. Board of Education, 330 U.S. 1 (1947),  and again in 1948 in McCollum v. Board of Education, 333 U.S. 203.

      Here is the final text of the letter as sent by Jefferson:  

      To messers. Nehemiah Dodge, Ephraim Robbins, & Stephen S. Nelson, a committee of the Danbury Baptist association in the state of Connecticut.

      The affectionate sentiments of esteem and approbation which you are so good as to express towards me, on behalf of the Danbury Baptist association, give me the highest satisfaction. my duties dictate a faithful and zealous pursuit of the interests of my constituents, & in proportion as they are persuaded of my fidelity to those duties, the discharge of them becomes more and more pleasing.

      Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & 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 & State. Adhering to this expression of the supreme will of the nation in behalf of the rights of conscience, I shall see with sincere satisfaction the progress of those sentiments which tend to restore to man all his natural rights, convinced he has no natural right in opposition to his social duties.

      I reciprocate your kind prayers for the protection & blessing of the common father and creator of man, and tender you for yourselves & your religious association, assurances of my high respect & esteem.

      Th Jefferson
      Jan. 1. 1802.

      "what the best and wisest parent wants for his child is what we should want for all the children of the community" - John Dewey

      by teacherken on Sat Apr 23, 2011 at 12:57:19 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  A pregnant proposition: (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        walkshills, ER Doc, VTCC73

        Man "has no natural right in opposition to his social duties." I hadn't paid particular attention to that notion before, but it really sums up the domestication of raw Lockeanism.

        "It's called the American Dream because you have to be asleep to believe it." George Carlin

        by psnyder on Sat Apr 23, 2011 at 03:08:44 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  This is the second diary of yours where I have (0+ / 0-)

      found whole paragraphs lifted from other writers' works without attribution. In the first, I called it plagiarism. But seeing as how in both cases, it was a whole graph, I suspect the possibility of error or forgetting to blockquote. Especially considering, in this case, you blockquoted part of the cited paragraph, and failed to blockquote the other part. (see Appalled...)

      To this I would assume editing error and retract my use of the term plagiarism in the other diary.

      •  Thanks for understanding. These things take (0+ / 0-)

        several days to research and I tend to lose track.  Will be more careful in the future.  Sometimes I find a quote in a book and mention the original source not where I got it.  I suppose I should respect that also.

        Tea Parties are for little girls with imaginary friends.

        by J Edward on Sat Apr 23, 2011 at 03:36:23 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Righties Would Quickly Throw Jefferson (31+ / 0-)

    under the bus if it would suit their current crusade.  They are all about the founding fathers until they learn that the founding fathers held a very different world view in many ways than they do.  Amazing that Jefferson could be so much more enlightened without access to Google.  

  •  My Sole Diary Was of a Computerized Word Pattern (25+ / 0-)

    study of the 3 synoptic gospels drawn from overlapping sources. It was done from the oldest Greek texts known then (late 60's).

    The key allowing the comparison is that for some reason the sources and the writers both identified specific quotes with specific audiences at some 90% agreement rate. Nothing is said about this in scripture but it seems to have been important to those who brought us the material.

    Not surprisingly the study found are distinct patterns of ideas and word usage in the Jesus material that doesn't appear in the commentary, and vice versa. It found the writers disagreeing with Jesus at times, and interestingly it did not find the teacher's voice in any of the miracle tales.

    A nice cross-check on Jefferson and the many others who recognize something standout in the teachings, or most of them, from the rest of the material and the religions.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Fri Apr 22, 2011 at 05:24:35 PM PDT

  •  Your masterful diary spoke to (15+ / 0-)

    my sense of how Jefferson related to the very important subject of religious freedom and how the same issues from his time are front and center in ours.

  •  Excellent, important diary. (7+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    BYw, A Voice, Matt Z, SherwoodB, EdSF, zenox, VTCC73

    Thank you very much.

    Stonewall was a RIOT!

    by ExStr8 on Fri Apr 22, 2011 at 07:15:20 PM PDT

  •  This diary should be mass emailed to (7+ / 0-)

    David Barton.

    "Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity." --M. L. King "You can't fix stupid" --Ron White

    by zenbassoon on Fri Apr 22, 2011 at 07:17:17 PM PDT

  •  hahaha (0+ / 0-)

    i wrote a very similar diary a few years back, but mine was focused around ron paul.


    It's complicated. - Desperate Housewives

    by Cedwyn on Fri Apr 22, 2011 at 08:08:25 PM PDT

  •  about Article VI . . . (10+ / 0-)
    The Framers believed that anything less constituted harassment and was of such a personal nature that it was not in the best interests of the country.
    Some did, some didn't. The Constitution here only restricted the Federal Government. Some states (Maryland, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, Virginia) had freedom of religion. Others (most notably Massachusetts) had established churches. Article VI only forbad one church to capture the Federal government.

    At the time of the adoption of the Federal Constitution only eight of the thirteen states allowed Catholics to vote and only four allowed Jews to vote. The last state (Massachusetts) only disestablished its religion in the 1830s, and the First Amendment was only applied to the States by the Fourteenth Amendment. Remember, the First Amendment starts out "Congress shall make no law . . . " It doesn't place any restrictions on states.

    You have to remember this when arguing with Huckabee supporters, because the States' churches are a big part of their campaign for making Christianity the official religion.

  •  Rush deserves a little more explanation (5+ / 0-)

    This is from the Unitarian Universalist Historical Society:

    Rush's shift from Calvinism to universalism was profoundly influenced by the social changes of the Revolutionary era. He embraced republicanism as an essential part of Christianity. For him a world attuned to God would be one which encouraged people to choose virtue over vice. To create this world it would be necessary to improve the conditions under which all the people lived. At first he envisioned the new American republic as playing the leading role in this transformation. Disillusioned by politics, he concluded that the actualization of the this-worldly millennium was a religious task. Rush's universalism inspired his work as social reformer. "No particle of benevolence, no wish for the liberty of a slave or the reformation of a criminal will be lost," he wrote in 1787, "for they all flow from the Author of goodness, who implants no principles of action in man in vain."

    As a former UU who owns the Jefferson Extract, I agree with all counters to rightwing revisionism of our nation's founding.  It's clear from the Declaration of Independence alone, which cites Nature's God, that the founders sought to encourage a pluralistic society.  Jefferson wrote that he hoped that the "Hindoo" would find as much religious freedom here as any Christian.

    That being said, I think it paints an incomplete picture to leave out the fact that Rush felt that politics had not worked in fostering civic virtue, and that was his reason for promoting a Universalist Christianity.

    May I also add that not all Christians are buffoons, morons, hypocrites, idiots, irrationalists, and liars.  Nor are they all trying to convert unwilling non-Christians.  Nor are they all intolerant, bigoted, anti-LGBT, anti-abortion fanatics.  Some actually want a better world and help for all, like Rush did.  Some are Christian Universalists, since the Gospel can be read as supporting universal salvation.  Some try their best to follow the teachings of Christ, to judge not, and to leave hellfire and damnation decisions to Him.

    If you truly believe in religious freedom, then you should also support those Christians who do not fit a stereotyped intolerant zealot mold.  I hope your diary tomorrow can stay objective while maintaining at least a modicum of respect for your fellow Kossacks who are liberal Christians on their holiest day of the year.  

    Which side are you on?

    by wiseacre on Sat Apr 23, 2011 at 08:13:01 AM PDT

    •  I was raised United Prespyterian when mainstream (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      LynneK, esquimaux, Alumbrados, ER Doc

      Protestants were liberal.  A natural born Deist I considered this effort to be a defense of liberal Christianity since Deism only rejects all the supernatural aspects of Pauls overwriting of the actual intent of Jesus.  When asked about death he said, "Consider the lilies and sparrows of the field."  Enough of a Deistic attitude to convince me he was a fellow Deist.  I will however defend him against any irrational belief.

      Tea Parties are for little girls with imaginary friends.

      by J Edward on Sat Apr 23, 2011 at 09:13:01 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Fundies are famous for takin verses out of context (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        fayea, bwintx, LynneK, ER Doc

        Hermeneutics is a wonderful thing, and the NT has had quite a bit of textual editing, particularly since the 1870s.

        However, don't forget our perception is at the mercy of our five senses, augmented by technology.  Just because we don't understand how something works because we can't measure it, doesn't mean it isn't true.  Acupuncture works and has for thousands of years and western science still can't explain how.  Those who suggest that it's endorphins have never had real acupuncture which can be insanely painful.  I think it works by shorting or rerouting circuits in our nervous system.  But until the telemetry is invented that can identify and measure the mechanism, the West will deny it, even as major surgery with only acupuncture is performed right before their skeptical eyes.

        Which side are you on?

        by wiseacre on Sat Apr 23, 2011 at 09:26:04 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Agreed. I'm not sure how the diarist manages to (0+ / 0-)

      confidently declare Jefferson to be a deist. He wasn't affiliated with any deist movement so that's a pretty inappropriate claim.

      Also, yeah, it is kind of tacky to be attacking Christians in a way that lumps them all together during Holy Week. I can take it, but it's still tacky.

      •  Some of Jefferson's letters can support it, but (4+ / 0-)

        there's also a consistent claim that he had a deathbed conversion.  I haven't been able to find anything substantial on that, though.

        I don't mind people debating Christianity.  It's an opportunity to learn on all sides.  All I ask is that people not forget that some Christians aren't fundie haters.  Jesus warned us those people would show up claiming to know all about Him, and that we would know them by their fruits.  When their fruits are hate, it's pretty clear we're dealing with false prophets.  Yes, there are an awful lot of them out there.  He told us that would happen, too.

        Which side are you on?

        by wiseacre on Sat Apr 23, 2011 at 09:43:48 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  This diary is not about a debate on Christianity (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          esquimaux, Alumbrados, Philoguy
          I don't mind people debating Christianity

          Nobody is debating "Christianity" here, except you. The diary is rather a study of the founding fathers' (mostly Jefferson) attitudes towards religious freedom and the limitations of the controlling clergy and the biblical interpretations when it comes to such freedom.

          Jesus warned us those people would show up claiming to know all about Him, and that we would know them by their fruits.  When their fruits are hate, it's pretty clear we're dealing with false prophets.  Yes, there are an awful lot of them out there.  He told us that would happen, too.

          And if I am correct, you are preaching also?

          "Corruptio Optima Pessimi" (Corruption of the best is the worst)

          by zenox on Sat Apr 23, 2011 at 12:52:28 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Actually, I was just replying to someone (0+ / 0-)

            I originally was pointing out some additional information about Benjamin Rush and this started a thread.  I actually know something about this topic, and from several perspectives, including the Deist and UU one.

            No, you are not correct.  I was mentioning an authoritative way for people not familiar with the NT to counter haters calling themselves Christians.  If I had wanted to preach, I would have made a diary.

            Forgive me for thinking that a diary with a title "Christians v Jefferson" offered an opportunity to talk about Christianity.  

            Which side are you on?

            by wiseacre on Sat Apr 23, 2011 at 01:21:52 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

      •  I beg forgiveness as I do not keep track of the (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        LynneK, EdSF, VTCC73

        Christian calendar and was unaware of the timing.  Please note that those of us who like Jefferson are a "Church on one" most likely believe that Jefferson was demonstrating far more Christianity during this election than the Puritans.

        Tea Parties are for little girls with imaginary friends.

        by J Edward on Sat Apr 23, 2011 at 09:51:18 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Show me these brutal (8+ / 0-)

        "attacks" on Christians and Christianity you assert are in this diary.   What I read is solid scholarship.

        "Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will." ~Frederick Douglass

        by ActivistGuy on Sat Apr 23, 2011 at 10:27:07 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Attack = (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Steve84, Cedwyn

          pointing out when they make themselves look bad.  :)

          I'm finding a lot of things funny lately. But I don't think they are. -- Ripley

          by tytalus on Sat Apr 23, 2011 at 12:13:19 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Um (0+ / 0-)
            "Reason" is light which would expose their deceiving faces to all to see. Darkness is where they flourish.

            So I'm being told I'm deceptive and flourish in the darkness, and saying "but, but, wait a minute..." makes me look bad?

            Which side are you on?

            by wiseacre on Sat Apr 23, 2011 at 02:29:11 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  No (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Cassandra Waites

              My response was in reference to ActivistGuy, who was responding to samanthab, not you. They read the diary as an attack, perhaps because it's full of great examples of believers behaving badly.

              Although I find that quote about reason nice. Easily applies to the gods of the gaps, the disingenuous personal experience testimonies, and ineffable mysteries that substitute for plain reason and credible evidence.

              I'm finding a lot of things funny lately. But I don't think they are. -- Ripley

              by tytalus on Sat Apr 23, 2011 at 04:20:52 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

        •  I think samantha might have been referring to the (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          comments that don't distinguish between Christians, coupled with the timing tomorrow of the planned continuation of the diary on Easter.  I don't agree with Huckabee and Dalton at all, as I said, but if people write diaries or comments dissing all Christians on Easter, that could run the risk of offending liberal Christians here on DK.  The diarist responded forthrightly, so potential crisis averted.

          While it might be hard to imagine, some of us don't enjoy knowing that we are equated with Fred Phelps, that idiot Jones who went to Dearborn, etc.  But if we don't speak out about it, that is tacit agreement with them, isn't it? If we do speak out and try to distinguish them from us, we're accused of "preaching", or worse.  

          The diary itself has good information and I'm a big admirer of Jefferson, not only for his defense of religious freedom, but also for his attempts to make sure we were an egalitarian republic with an aristocracy of talent, doing away with primogeniture and entail, etc. His letters are wonderful and give a good idea of the debates and thought processes of the founders and the framers.

          Which side are you on?

          by wiseacre on Sat Apr 23, 2011 at 02:26:02 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  What was disrespectful in (0+ / 0-)

      this diary?  I think your second to last paragraph goes without saying.  I wish certain progressive believers would realize they aren't the target in these discussions.  Such responses only muddy the waters.

  •  Side note - when you describe the practice of (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    TV preachers today.  They read in Paul's part of the New Testament, then zap back to an Old Testament reading, keeping fear at the forefront.  Never looking at or considering the actual words of Jesus.  

    That is exactly the opposite of the practice of mainstream churches that use the common lectionary. Those readings start in the Hebrew scripture, follow that with an epistle (not always Paul's) and end with a gospel reading.

  •  Religious test (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    happymisanthropy, LynneK

    While the "religious test" clause of the Constitution applies only to governmental actions, I think that we can use that clause to suggest that the private use of such tests is intrinsically un-American. In other words, we remind the fundamentalist who rejects a candidate on religious grounds that their choice is antithetical to the spirit of the Constitution and therefore un-American. That might cut through one prejudice with another.

  •  You should be careful in lumping all founders (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    and framers together as having believed this or that--or in conflating founders with framers, for that matter. Otherwise, excellent diary, and the points you made can't be made often enough in this era of manufactured silliness.

    Especially seeing as the sorts of people most pushing a biblical form of religiosity upon the rest of us these days pretty much violate every moral rule in the bible except perhaps murder--and some even that.

    "Those who stand for nothing fall for anything...Mankind are forever destined to be the dupes of bold & cunning imposture" --Alexander Hamilton

    by kovie on Sat Apr 23, 2011 at 09:22:57 AM PDT

    •  Not all but (7+ / 0-)

      The book "Washington and Religion" by Paul F. Boller, includes a quote from a Presbyterian minister, Arthur B. Bradford, who was an associate of Ashbel Green another Presbyterian minister who had known George Washington personally. Bradford wrote that Green, "often said in my hearing, though very sorrowfully, of course, that while Washington was very deferential to religion and its ceremonies, like nearly all the founders of the Republic, he was not a Christian, but a Deist."

      Tea Parties are for little girls with imaginary friends.

      by J Edward on Sat Apr 23, 2011 at 10:06:49 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Re: (0+ / 0-)

      Not all of them certainly, but the most influential ones in coming up with the basic principles of the country and the drafting of the declaration of independence and the constitution certainly had deist leanings or were at least skeptical of mainstream Christianity and especially organized religion.

      Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, James Madison, John Adams, Thomas Paine. For the most part they had fairly unconventional beliefs that tended more towards personal spirituality than any kind of orthodoxy dictated from up high.

      •  Point being that it's not a good idea (0+ / 0-)

        to lump all the founders and framers in together in a sentence that begins "The founders believed..." with respect to any issue, because even when a majority of them did believe something, a minority--often a significant one--did not, which, as in any properly functioning democracy, complicates things. Plus, it makes for sloppy history, inventing the sorts of mushy consensuses that warm the hearts of DC pundits but vastly oversimplify what actually happened.

        I'm completely with the majority on this one myself, both in my views of religion itself and on how it should be separated from government for both their sakes. However, not everyone agrees with me--especially on the first point--and I have to acknowledge and respect that. Plus, we have to establish beyond a reasonable doubt that the majority of the framers not only personally intended, but legally intended for there to be no religious tests. I believe they did. But not all of them.

        "Those who stand for nothing fall for anything...Mankind are forever destined to be the dupes of bold & cunning imposture" --Alexander Hamilton

        by kovie on Sun Apr 24, 2011 at 12:13:26 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Interesting diary. (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Sarea, txcatlin, zenox, jlms qkw

    I think I just realized I'm probably a deist.

    (always thought of myself as an agnostic who thought "if there is a God, he doesn't give a fuck about what happens here.)

    Ideology is an excuse to ignore common sense.

    by Bush Bites on Sat Apr 23, 2011 at 09:51:14 AM PDT

    •  Learning has a liberal bias (9+ / 0-)

      Benjamin Franklin, as a young man in Philadelphia read some Christian books that were written in opposition to Deism. Franklin wrote in his autobiography: "Some books against Deism fell into my hands; they were said to be the substance of sermons preached at Boyle's Lectures. It happened that they wrought an effect on me quite contrary to what was intended by them; for the arguments of the Deists, which were quoted to be refuted, appeared to me much stronger than the refutations; in short, I soon became a thorough Deist."

      Tea Parties are for little girls with imaginary friends.

      by J Edward on Sat Apr 23, 2011 at 10:10:02 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  "That our churches may become temples of reason" (6+ / 0-)

    If only they could...

    AKA Big Tex *** If Barack Obama is the only adult in the room, then it must be his fault that the drapes are on fire and the cat's been shaved.

    by Maikeru Ronin on Sat Apr 23, 2011 at 10:26:17 AM PDT

  •  The Jefferson Hour (4+ / 0-)

    For those interested in Jefferson, The Jefferson Hour is a fantastic weekly show in which Humanities professor Clay Jenkinson goes in-character as Jefferson.  You can download past episodes.

  •  Excellent diary (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    In the end, it's not so important what Jefferson's personal religious beliefs were as it was that his championship of the newly minted constitutional principle that no religion was to be established here along with all of the protections that are afforded those who do not choose to live in a theocracy has prevailed to this day although perpetually under threat from narrow minded and power hungry authoritarians. Plus ca change...

  •  Suggestion (0+ / 0-)

    This is an important discussion, but you need to properly attribute your sources and not copy and paste whole paragraphs as though you had written them.  Plagiarism, even when it's unintended, doesn't look good.

    •  Partly guilty, but I tweek everything enough to (0+ / 0-)

      ease my conscience.  With rewriting I may end up closer to the original then intended.  Thanks for the commnent.

      Tea Parties are for little girls with imaginary friends.

      by J Edward on Sat Apr 23, 2011 at 12:50:21 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  awesome diary (0+ / 0-)

    every school aged child should have to read this diary, and every evangelical should read it too

  •  The story and the destiny of America (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Steve84, Cedwyn
    The clergy ... believe that any portion of power confided to me [as President] will be exerted in opposition to their schemes. And they believe rightly: for I have sworn upon the altar of God, eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man. But this is all they have to fear from me: and enough, too, in their opinion.

    I think this is the story and the destiny of America:

    "an eternal fight against every form of tyranny over the mind of men."

    That's all our true battles are about. And the tyrants fear nothing but that "sworn dedication."

    Jefferson believed in "freedom of conscience" since without it there can be no real faith in anything, including Christianity. Men have to be free to have faith in anything, for real. And by upholding "freedom of conscience," Jefferson was actually making sure that faith in God did survive, unbecknown to his enemies.

    The scheming tyrants fear that 'freedom of conscience' both in others and in themselves because they do not really have faith in anything. They pretend only.

    They are the deceived deceivers.

    "Corruptio Optima Pessimi" (Corruption of the best is the worst)

    by zenox on Sat Apr 23, 2011 at 12:28:35 PM PDT

  •  At the Jefferson Memorial -- A compendium (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Alumbrados, Cassandra Waites, VTCC73

    I was just at Jefferson's Memorial a couple of weeks ago. It was STILL bitterly cold, but I enjoyed the cherry blossoms and the Memorial was a kind of religious pilgrimage, if you will.

    In the gift shop I bought a book that I have nary cracked open titled, "The Separation of Church and State, Writings on a Fundamental Freedom by America's Founders" edited by Forresst Church.

    The Table of Contents read --

    In Defense of Religious Liberty by Patrick Henry

    The Rights of the Colonists by Samuel Adams

    Baptist Appeals for Religious Liberty by Isaac Backus

    Colonial Declaration of Rights: Virginia by George Mason

    Colonial Declaration of Rights: MA by John Adams

    Memorial of the Hanover Presbytery by Caleb Wallace

    Notes on the State of Virginia by Thomas Jefferson

    Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments by James Madison

    Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom by Thomas Jefferson

    The Landholder, No. 7 by Oliver Ellsworth

    The Rights of Conscience by John Leland

    Letters on Religious Laws by George Washington

    Farewell Address (selections) by George Washington

    Treaty of Tripoli, Article 11

    A Wall of Separation by Thomas Jefferson

    Some of these look like they may speak for the state keeping a hands-off policy on religious property, but still it is always a good idea to let all know what is fully at stake if the wall of separation between church and state should come tumbling down.

    Happy researching!

    What separates us, divides us, and diminishes the human spirit.

    by equern on Sat Apr 23, 2011 at 03:04:02 PM PDT

  •  Reposted to "Atheist in America" (0+ / 0-)

    This is an interesting bit of history, but we should also be aware that at Jefferson's time there were still states with established religions, meaning that the state governments could support them financially and favor them in other ways.

    This is the meaning of the first amendment establishment clause.  It does not say "Congress shall make no law establishing religion" but "concerning the establishment of religion.'  That means the federal government could not interfere with a state's right to do so.  

    The fourteenth Amendment changed this, and led to a long line of supreme court decisions that have continued to make this an open and still contentious point of law.  This Wikipedia article does a good job of describing it.
    Here's the link to my diaryabout the friendship of an atheist and a creationist.  

  •  Finally in this matter (0+ / 0-)

    A relevant article about progressivism & religion, not solely appropriate for Street Prophets. I strongly recommend that everyone read Kenneth C. Davis' History Books, The DKMA (Don't Know Much About) Series - I was introduced to his works through DKMA Bible, and since it is summer and pool and beachtime reading, if you are looking for a prolific author to follow, I cannot recommend any one any stronger, especially for the readers at Daily Kos.....God Bless and Happy Easter!

  •  I've Missed It Previously... (0+ / 0-)

    ...but Jefferson's letter to the Danbury Baptists includes another very pointed statement...

    "...the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions..."
    ...that underscores the significance of the phrase "...wall of separation between church & state."

    In its way, it's a more powerful statement of the fundamental truth, while also also implying that religious dogma is very much opinion, not some eternal truth.

  •  Treaty of Tripoli - 1796/1797 - John Adams (0+ / 0-)
    Art. 11. 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.

    Denying the intent of Art. 11 by way of errant translation reminds me of Bush/McCain's denial of Maliki's call for the USA to withdraw troops by way of errant Arabic translation unitl Der Spiegel made clear Maliki's intent.

  •  Rec'd and tip'd for Jeffersonian Bible alone, (0+ / 0-)

    but the rest was good too.

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