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What Would George Washington Do?

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I've been reading and rereading an amazing document -- a purse-sized copy of the Constitution and The Declaration Of Independence that I got when Matt Welch very generously invited me to sit at the Reason magazine table at a recent Cato Institute function. (As Matt put it: "Free Minds, Free Markets, Free Lunch!") More about that soon. It inspired me to want to put up some quotes that should help dispel any notions that the United States was intended to be a Christian country, or that the founding fathers' intention of separation of church and state is a myth. I found these quotes at the anti-fundamentalist blog, Christian Imperialism Is Destroying Democracy. Blogger Danny McNeal explains the thinking behind the title:

What this blog is NOT is an attack on Christians in general. What it IS is an attack on the attempt of some Christians to codify their subjective morality into the laws which govern us all, the wanton blurring of the line separating church and state by the religious right, and the marginalization of LGBT Americans and non-Christians due to the religious right's agenda of imperialism, hatred, bigotry, and misogynism.

And now, those founding father quotes, plus one from Abe Lincoln:

"The government of the United States is in no sense founded on the Christian Religion." -George Washington, First Treaty of Tripoli, 1797

"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 the 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, writing to the Danbury Baptist Association on 1 January 1802

"Religion and government will both exist in greater purity, the less they are mixed together."
-James Madison

"A just government has no need for the clergy or the church. The fruits of Christianity are pride and indolence in the clergy; ignorance and servility in the laity; and, in both clergy and laity, superstition, bigotry, and persecution."
-James Madison

"The Doctrine of the divinity of Jesus is made a convenient cover for absurdity."
-John Adams

"I do not find in Christianity one redeeming feature."
-Thomas Jefferson

"The day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus, by the Supreme Being as his father, in the womb of a virgin, will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerva in the brain of Jupiter."
-Thomas Jefferson in a letter to John Adams

"The God of Christianity is a being of terrific character---cruel, vindictive, capricious, and unjust. The Christian God is a hocus-pocus phantasm of a God, like another Cerebus, with one body and three heads."
-Thomas Jefferson

"The Bible is not my book, nor Christianity my religion."
-Abraham Lincoln

"This would be the best of all possible worlds, if there were no religion in it!"
-John Adams

Smart guys, these founding fathers. Highly rational, even 200-plus years ago. How far backward we've gone. These days, more often than not, it seems modernity has been wasted on the primitive.

Posted by aalkon at September 26, 2004 10:55 PM

Comments

If the founding fathers were alive today they would likely have been humanists and seculars. It's only becasue they existed 200 years ago that they had to get into the religious garbage to begin with.
Separation of church and state? With that statement one elevates church to the same level of state, and it shouldn't be. it's like saying separation of state and werewolves. it doesn't belong on equal footing. Let's have state and the evisceration of the church as soon as the savage, simple-minded people can begin to stand on their own two legs a little bit.

Posted by: volkay at September 27, 2004 8:07 AM

Wait to post again? have you lost your mind?
Me....me wait to post again? that's like asking shakespeare to wait to write again. The audacity.
What another little pc move to give people time to cool down before posting again? Well I never cool down, because I'm not mad to begin with. Now I simply have to wait a little bit longer to correct the various idiot I happen to be trying to correct. In doing so the idiot in question must now wait a little longer for me to correct them. This is very cruel to the idiot, who must now wait an extra amount of time for my enlightening words. you're being very cruel to the idiots on this blog. mean goddess.

Posted by: volkay at September 27, 2004 8:14 AM

You're funny. Actually, my boyfriend installed an upgraded version of Moveable Type (the software behind this blog) and there are a few kinks to work out. I think if you post three times, in rapid succession (which you did -- I deleted the duplicate post), it might ask you to wait. I actually should put you and everybody else on a list of "approved posters." Anyway, this and other little kinks will be worked out soon. By the way, stuff like this is meant to control, not posters like you, but keep spammers out. FYI, on Thursday, when I had a crush deadline for Hustler, I got to Starbucks in NYC and discovered that someone had, in an hour, put up over 200 pieces of comments spam on my blog. Prior to this MT installation, each one had to be deleted, one by one, by hand. I cried.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at September 27, 2004 8:55 AM

The intent of the founding fathers was to avoid the situations in the U.K. that caused many of the new Americans to leave their homes and come to the 'new' world. Protestant or Catholic, Puritan or Quaker, all suffered religious persecution at the hands of a non-secular state.

My family, predominantly Catholic, came on some of the first boats to avoid prosecution for religious reasons as well as execution for supporting Cathoic monarchs like Bonny Prince Charlie.

Now we have a fundamentalist who is attempting to change the founding fathers vision. Where's Thomas Jefferson when we need him?

Posted by: Sheryl at September 28, 2004 10:46 AM

Last I checked, Bush is a Methodist, like Hilary Clinton (he's less a "fundamentalist" than Jimmy Carter is). And he hasn't decided that Methodism, with himself as the Head of the Church is the only legal religion in the county and that all others can be persecuted and their property seized. So,he isn't revising the founding fathers' vision. Let's have a sense of proportion, shall we?

Posted by: Rachel at September 30, 2004 2:04 PM