Saturday, June 22, 2013

The Founders Of The US, And Religion

As Alcoholics Anonymous has taught us, a basic first step toward handling a problem is acknowledging that that problem exists. As essential part of acknowledging the existence of a problem is recognizing the true nature and dimensions and severity of that problem. A lot of today's atheists are failing to acknowledge that a real church-state divide has not yet existed in many countries, including the US, despite the famous lip service paid to a supposed such divide in the Constitution.

(And please don't even get me started on those dopey smug Brit atheists trying to tell us how secular the UK is, God save their Queen, Dei Gratia Regina.)

Atheists today triumphantly quote antireligious passages from Thomas Jefferson, ignoring -- if they ever realized to begin with -- that 1) those passages come from private letters by Jefferson, and that publicly he was an Anglican vestryman in perfectly good standing who while President led weekly prayer meetings of members of Congress, in the Congress building, and 2) that Jefferson hardly spoke, privately or publicly, for all of the Founders, many of whom were wild-eyed Bible thumpers by any measure.

If Jefferson and other Founders had been anywhere near as boldly critical of religion in their public statements as Jefferson was in his private letters -- and possibly in a deliciously scandalous conversation or two in a Paris salon while he was Ambassador to France, conversation which traveled no more than a block or two during his lifetime -- now that would've been something. (Something which resembled the French Revolution much more closely than the American.)

But alas no, Jefferson and the other Founders were not atheist firebrands who would stand out sharply from the American political climate of today, they were careful not to offend the sensibilities of the pious and in that respect they would fit right in.

In short, the secular Golden Age of the early US, about which so many atheists rhapsodize these days, like many if not all Golden Ages, never really happened. Oh, if only.

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