Friday, February 26, 2010

Three Misuses of the American Founding & Religion For Political Purposes

The culprits are Tim Pawlenty, governor of Minnesota, Dan Kennedy, assistant professor of journalism at Northeastern University, and David Limbaugh, writer, author, attorney, and brother of Rush.

First, at CPAC, Pawlenty declared:

"... God is in charge ... In the Declaration of Independence it says we are endowed by our creator with certain unalienable rights. It doesn't say we're endowed by Washington, DC, or endowed by the bureaucrats or endowed by state government. It's by our creator that we are given these rights."


Pawlenty misused because he is a conservative evangelical Christian and the God of the Declaration of Independence is arguably not that of evangelicals and doesn’t vindicate their ideal vision for society. That document doesn't mention Jesus Christ or quote verses and chapters of scripture. Its call to revolution is arguably in tension with Romans 13. And it's not clear that other central principles enunciated in the Declaration have anything to do with the Bible.

Further, this speech was given at CPAC. God is not a member of CPAC or the conservative movement. Apparently, Pawlenty doesn't realize God is a libertarian. :)

Next we have Dan Kennedy's article on Pawlenty speech featured in the British newspaper The Guardian.

After making a number of good points, Kennedy finishes his article by quoting James Madison and writes:

"While we assert for ourselves a freedom to embrace, to profess, and to observe, the religion which we believe to be of divine origin, we cannot deny an equal freedom to them whose minds have not yielded to the evidence which has convinced us," wrote James Madison.

In contrast to Madison, the Republicans propose a theocracy of believers. It is an assault not just on anyone who isn't one of them, but on the American idea, and on liberal democracies everywhere.


Kennedy's misuse is characterized by the phrase "overstating your case" or "hyperbole."

Finally, Limbaugh's misuse:

Kennedy responds that Pawlenty misrepresented the founders' "intent" because Jefferson, the "primary author" of the Declaration, deleted all references to Jesus' deity from his personal Bible.

Jefferson's Christianity may be subject to debate, but it is clear that he didn't view himself as expressing his own views in the Declaration; rather, "it was intended to be an expression of the American mind." (The American mind, it should be noted, was decidedly Christian.) Plus, a congressional committee led by the devout John Adams made more than 80 changes, deleting nearly 500 words and adding two references to a providential God. The Declaration was a corporate statement of Congress. Also, Jefferson was not present at the Constitutional Convention. So Kennedy's reference to Jefferson is at best misleading, as is his convenient omission of many other relevant facts – including that 52 of the 56 signers of the Declaration and 50 to 52 of the 55 signers of the Constitution were orthodox Trinitarian Christians.


First, Jefferson may well have believed the DOI an "expression of the American mind." But nothing suggests Jefferson believed in an "expression" that at all contradicted his personal political theological convictions. Jefferson -- that unitarian rationalist he -- thought such an "expression of the American mind" entirely compatible with his personal theology that rejected every single tenet of Christian orthodoxy, the infallibility of the Bible, eternal damnation, etc.

Jefferson so embraced the final version of the DOI that he lists his authorship of it as one of his three proudest accomplishments on his tombstone.

Second, Limbaugh falsely contrasts John Adams' "devout" nature with Jefferson's. In reality, the two possessed the same unitarian rationalistic creed that rejected orthodox Christian doctrine, the infallibility of the Bible, eternal damnation, etc.

Finally, Limbaugh passes phony statistics about the "orthodox" nature of the signers of the Declaration and signers [sic] of the Constitution.

The notion that 50-52 of the men who attended to Constitution Convention (only 39 singed!) were "orthodox Christians" is bunk. A scholar -- the late ME Bradford -- asserted this and he based it entirely on some kind of formal or nominal connection to a Christian Church that professed "orthodoxy."

The three of Bradford's "Deists" -- Ben Franklin, James Wilson, and Hugh Williamson -- likewise possessed the same formal/nominal connections to Christian churches with an orthodox creed. As did Jefferson, and J. Adams (who weren't at the CC). And Washington, Hamilton, G. Morris, James Madison and a plethora of other Founders who are not provably "orthodox Trinitarian Christians." (Hamilton, in fact had NO connection to a Church that professed orthodoxy during the Framing of the Constitution.)

The 52 of the 56 figure that relates to the Declaration of Independence results (likely) from a mistake some activist made, confusing Bradford's "52 out of 55," that was meant to discuss the US Constitution, with the signers of the Declaration of Independence.

The truth is, we know a handful of very important Founders (Jefferson, J. Adams, Franklin,) explicitly rejected orthodox Christian doctrines, a handful of important Founders (Washington, Madison, G. Morris, Wilson, Hamilton before the end of his life) were, after meticulous study, not provably orthodox Christians during the time in which they founded America; they went out of their way not to give rope to hang their good reputations with (which leads me to believe they were close to the heterodox rationalist camp than the orthodox camp). And a handful of second tier Founders (Jay, Henry, Witherspoon, Boudinot, Sherman) were provably orthodox Christians (but even they flirted with heterodoxy and rejected Sola Scriptura). There were a number of important second tier Founders like Paine, Allen and Palmer who were strict Deists.

And with the great many of other lesser Founders, we just don't know enough to be certain. Proving they had some kind of connection to an orthodox Church -- as Bradford did to prove the Founders' "orthodoxy" -- shows nothing more than they could have been as orthodox as Patrick Henry or heterodox as Thomas Jefferson.

35 comments:

Tom Van Dyke said...

The criticism of Limbaugh seems spot-on. And I suppose you're saying that Kennedy unfairly wrote that "the Republicans propose a theocracy of believers," which is a slander.

But I don't see your problem with Pawlenty.

"... God is in charge ... In the Declaration of Independence it says we are endowed by our creator with certain unalienable rights. It doesn't say we're endowed by Washington, DC, or endowed by the bureaucrats or endowed by state government. It's by our creator that we are given these rights."

This is an important point made by James Wilson in disagreeing with both Blackstone and Edmund Burke, that the American view is that rights are innate to man, and not granted by the government.

A point made explicitly by Jefferson in a more obscure quote I ran across recently:

"We do not claim these [rights] under the charters of kings or legislators, but under the King of kings."---Thomas Jefferson to John Manners, 1817.

Pawlbaugh said...

The whole debate is absurd. Some, at least, of America's founders believed that disease was caused by tiny demons flying in through your nose; they had no conception that such a thing as a periodic table of elements might exist; or that hereditary information was carried in tiny strings of molecules replicated in virtually every living cell, in which copying error could cause subtle changes magnified over hundreds of thousands of generations; or that some of those tiny pinpricks of light in the night sky were entire galaxies (or, indeed, that we ourselves occupy a "galaxy") and that their relative movement allows man to calculate the age of our Universe itself.... might as well look to the views of the ancient Greeks to determine whether the democratic ideals founded there and brought into our nation also require that we build shrines to Zeus.

Pawlbaugh said...

And, scientific valuation aside, America's founders had no conceptual way to know of future philosophical developments, such as panentheism, pandeism, and process theism, which would affect the views of all thinking theophiles.

Jonathan Rowe said...

Tom:

My main problem with Pawlenty was the politicized context in which he spoke.

Oprah said...

I like this post, but I take umbrage that Washington is dumped in the "important" and not the "very important" category ;-)

God, a libertarian? I thought he told Dubya to start the Wars?

I like your rejection of these people's misuse of the Founders. Words can be twisted to meet people's agendas.

Jonathan Rowe said...

Thanks for the close reading Oprah.

GW was indeed "very important" as were the others I listed there with him.

I was going to use "very important" to describe those founders. But as a writer working on his style, I decided to drop the qualifier "very" for the sake of brevity.

King of Ireland said...

Jon

I am still looking for your proof that Christian ideas are not laced throughout the Declaration. Especially suspect is your claim that inalienable rights is no where in the Bible. It looks like rights grounded in man being the workmanship and property of God made it into the foundational phrase of the document if Tom's quote is accurate about Jefferson.

King of Ireland said...

I think if the Jefferson quote is right we have found a smoking gun for what I was alluding to in my last post about Locke.

bpabbott said...

@Pawlenty+Limbaugh: Your knowledge is respectable. I suggest you contribute in a more constructive way.

We all have 20/20 hindsight. Criticizing the founders for their lack of 20/20 foresight is hardly fair, or appropriate.

However, I do think you're touching on an interesting subject. My understanding is that it was Jefferson who applied the principles of science to explain that the common cold was not the result of a cold climate, and it was Adams who favored a position that might be described as "disease was caused by tiny demons flying in through your nose".

My study of this aspect of the founding is not what I'd like it to be. Might you be able and willing to alleviate my ignorance?

Brian Tubbs said...

I don't think it's wrong for CPAC speakers to bring up the Founders to support their arguments. It's also fine for speakers at liberal organizations or libertarian organizations to do the same. I'm not sure I see your point, Jon, about the "politicized context." The Founders WERE politicians!

As for the Pawlenty quote itself, I don't see anything wrong with it. Now, perhaps there's more to his speech than what you quoted. But the quote itself - about our fundamental rights coming from God and not government - is not only fine, but is VERY much correct.

Daniel said...

Jon:"the God of the Declaration of Independence is arguably not that of evangelicals"

Just about anything is arguably true. But is there really reason to assert that Jefferson did not claim the same God as Edwards? He cut out large bits of the Bible, but it was the same Bible. He called himself Christian, which would imply that he was claiming the Christian God.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

"Sacred Fire" was mentioned in a question after a talk I went to about George Washington, and the speaker (who was not a professional historian) distanced himself from the thesis of "Sacred Fire".
Another question was asked bout "our religious founding", and again, the speaker rejected such an assumption.
Today the questions regarding diplomacy, nationalism, religion and ethnic identity seem to be complex ways of understand humans and the need for the world to remain as peaceful as possible.
The Washington Post had three opinions as to if religion would be beneficial in foreign policy efforts, and the three positions were presented.
Because religion cannot be addressed so often by rational discourse, because of the meanings of identity in religion, I think diplomacy is not done with religion at the forefront of rational discourse. Nationalism and ethinicity is a needed identifier, and religion can come along with "that package" to build bridges. So, the Founders were right in the separation of Church and State!

Jonathan Rowe said...

Daniel,

Re the "arguably" qualifer:

Yes, there is good reason to assert Jefferson's God was not Edwards' and it depends on one's ecumenicism or lack thereof.

This debate traces back to the Founding era.

Orthodox Christians are fond of arguing "Christians worship a Triune God," and making God's Triune Nature a central, non-negotiable aspect of Christianity/His nature.

In short, if you don't worship a Triune God, you don't worship the true God.

Jefferson did not worship a Triune God and nothing in the DOI suggests its God's Triune nature.

Now, not all evangelicals believe this. But enough of them do such that it makes my "arguably" have teeth.

I see some orthodox Christians extending their ecumenism to Jews but not Muslims.

But that strikes me as have your cake and eat it too sophistry.

All three religions claim to worship the God of Abraham and J. Adams believed they all worshipped the same God:

“It has pleased the Providence of the first Cause, the Universal Cause, that Abraham should give religion not only to Hebrews but to Christians and Mahomitans, the greatest part of the modern civilized world.”

– John Adams to M.M. Noah, July 31, 1818.

As I've noted before if the Indians "Great Spirit" -- who unlike Allah never claimed to be the God of Abraham -- gets to be the real God of the Universe too (as Washington, Jefferson and Madison suggested in their addresses to the Natives), then it's absurd to claim Allah as a false god, for America's Founding political theological purposes.

The ecumenicism of the DOI extends to Allah and the uncoverted Native's "Great Spirit."

If evangelicals are comfortable with that, then they should have no problem with the DOI's God/Jefferson's God being the same one they worship.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Daniel---and K of I---I agree with Jon Rowe here, that based on the full canon of Jefferson's writings, "King of kings" should not be read as Jesus Christ.

However, socio-historically speaking, I think it's a great mistake to read Jefferson's theology as typical of the Founding: As Jefferson himself says,

"I am a sect to myself, as far as I know"

Jonathan's mantra

In short, if you don't worship a Triune God, you don't worship the true God.

by his own admission, seems to be directed at evangelicals, particularly the ones most insistent that America was not only a Christian nation, but an orthodox Christian nation. David Limbaugh makes that very claim [and error] in the post,


"52 of the 56 signers of the Declaration and 50 to 52 of the 55 signers of the Constitution were orthodox Trinitarian Christians."

and Jon's quite right to point it out.

However, the problem is---and I have seen it recently elsewhere outside this blog---that those who are hostile to the idea of America's Christian origins exploit these minor doctrinal differences, and now even the general public is under the impression that the Founders were "deists." One quick google shows the "fact" that "the Founders were deists" blankets the internet easily as much as the claims like David Limbaugh's [via David Barton, I believe].

And even though Dr. Gregg Frazer maintains that his term "theistic rationalist" includes Protestantism, the term pops up in places like the Wiki, and the general reader will assume it excludes Protestantism.

The disinformation abounds; the truth is a casualty of the culture wars.

Washington, in his Farewell Address said,

With slight shades of difference, you have the same religion, manners, habits, and political principles.

Including Jefferson in the equation, the "sect to himself," loses that thread. Discovering what that "same religion" the Founders held is our task here. As we've seen, even the Unitarian Christians held that Jesus was "more than a man"

http://americancreation.blogspot.com/2010/02/who-were-unitarians.html

although not a divine part of the Trinity.

Some argue this means it's a new and different religion. But I argue, along with Washington, that it's more a "slight shade of difference."

King of Ireland said...

King of Kings is the God of the Bible. Jesus is beside the point when discussing rights theory grounded in man being the workmanship of God. Trinity or non trinity muddles the waters needlessly when we are talking about political theology.

Jonathan Rowe said...

Trinity or non trinity muddles the waters needlessly when we are talking about political theology.

Not necessarily needlessly. If the Trinity is CENTRAL to your personal theology -- that is non-negotiable -- it would have to be addressed.

If on the other hand the Trinity is not central to your personal theology, then yes, invocations of it are "needless" and quarrelsome.

Brian Tubbs said...

I agree with Jon that Thomas Jefferson was definitely NOT a Trinitarian Christian.

But Tom is absolutely right that, from a socio-political standpoint, Founders like Washington, Adams, and Jefferson considered differences between Unitarians, Jews, Protestants, Catholics to be not that significant. Note I say from a "socio-political" standpoint. Obviously, the differences are VERY significant in a religious context.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Brian, thx very much for a needed clarification of terms.

Since this is a history blog, I've used the term "socio-historical" in an attempt to present my ideas as "neutral."

I never claim God exists on this blog, as an objective [self-evident] reality. That would poison the well of good discussion into religion and the Founding. We assume some folks hereabouts do not assume He exists, and in doing so, keep the lines of productive discussion open. [And you know who you are. Ben.]

And you, Brian, even as an evangelical pastor, never base your arguments on the proposition that God exists. [Unlike many of the evangelicals who have trotted through here.]

You always play it straight, man.

Now then, Spinoza, a major thinker of the Enlightenment and the Founding era, as well as Leo Strauss [whom Jonathan Rowe & I have as a lingua franca, as well as occasionally our friend Pinky (Phil Johnson)]---both use the term the "theologico-political" problem.

But once our readers see "theologico-" not to mention "problem, they're out the door, and I don't blame them.

The Founders too. The reason the Constitution is "Godless" is because God and theology was the last thing they wanted to talk about. Once you get into God, you stop talking about everything else, and they had an Articles of Confederation to replace and a Constitution to write.

But as Ben & I have been discussing---and agreeing---the belief in a One and Providential God was not at issue at the Founding or the Drafting or the Ratifying. Just wasn't.



Even Jefferson and even Paine [not to mention Washington and Franklin] believed in a Providence whose Invisible Hand moved and governed the world. As fact.

This wasn't "theologico-"; it was social. The new American society and its politics---the Founding---down to the very last one of them, Jefferson or Washington or Franklin or Paine, believed that divine Providence was a reality, not just a theory.

The Founders' "socio-political" view was unmistakably that there is a God---of providence, and one Who endowed man with certain unalienable rights.

Not nobody on this blog has ever disagreed with that as far as I know. We got some heavy agreement happening around here on this blog, and ain't that somewhat miraculous in this 21st century internet age?

OK, OK, it's not a "miracle," but you know what I mean. God, I love this blog.

Because when I started contributing on this blog, I had no idea what the truth of the Founding was. I thought they were more or less all deists, whatever "deist" means. That's what I was taught. The truth turned out to be much more puzzling.

So, thx, everybody. The one thing I knew from the first is that we don't waste each other's time here on this blog. I should be concentrating on other things, I guess, but I learn something every day.

Cheers, peace & thx.

And to Brian---I think from now on, I'll use "socio-political" as the proper term for what we talk about here. Socio- is a lot more real than theologico-.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

All of us can agree whether believing in an intervening God or not, that the social aspect of man is applicable.

Man records AND interprets history. That is no doubt.

And there IS an objective and a subjective side to anything. And some wonder how objective any human can be.

Some humans want to "matter", as they are more socially inclined, or goal oriented. Others are more independent in their needs.

The question that would pertain to the two sides of personability is: Does one see their place in this world as "irrelavant", or do they resist an abuse of power. Both have to do with power, but one is from a subjective or personal perspective, while the other is not.

I got to thinking about this when doing a Facebook "test" on "what kind of thinker are you?". I was stumped on the question about irrelavancy and abuse of power, until I started to analyze it.

So, it is not a question about personability, as humans are all persons, but what makes for a person. And that is about choice and power.

Our Founders believed that self-governance was mandantory for a "representative Republic". And today, both parties would agree that self-governance is applicable to a "whole" or frutiful society. They just diagree about what constitutes "proper" self-governing.

Oprah said...

Tom wrote: "The Founders' "socio-political" view was unmistakably that there is a God---of providence, and one Who endowed man with certain unalienable rights."

I had never thought of it that way, that such a belief was simply a given, unquestioned (mostly), and I think it's safe to say with the lines between church, state and society more blurred than they are today (the established church shows that much) that seeing this "things" in a sociopolitical view, rather than a theological one is fair.

Thanks for the a-ha moment!

Angie Van De Merwe said...

The socio-political view is a "kinda" Marxian view of religion being the "opiate of the people". Or it could be a kind of theocratic State, which understands 'God' in a "scientific way'.

Both ways look at Christianity, as a "class" way that maintains social control, which I don't think the Founders really had in mind, did they? (Any help "out there" by those who know would really be appreciated).

I presume this because the Founders were revolutionaries. They were wanting everyone to be independent from the abuses of power that taxation brought without proper representation...How did the Founders really see themselves?

Tom Van Dyke said...

There's a distinction here between "religion" [doctrine, Jesus is or isn't God, etc.] and "church" [the pushy clergy trying to institute theocracy and their own dogma as legal truth] on one hand, and the universally-held belief [even by Paine, Jefferson and Franklin] in a One Providential God who via a natural law, endowed all men with unalienable rights.

The Hobbes-Blackstone-Burke [British] view was that men contracted with their government on the subject of rights, and Founder James Wilson put the difference quite clearly in his lectures on law.

Again, Jefferson, typical of the Founding attitude, the American mind:

"We do not claim these [rights] under the charters of kings or legislators, but under the King of kings."

That rights have a divine origin is why they're not simple a matter of negotiation with the government. They cannot be bartered away; they are unalienable.

So all this noise about Christianity = control or "class" warfare and oppression etc. is indeed Marxist nonsense that bears zero relation to America's actual history.

In the 21st century, we have the "Problem of God," but at the Founding, it wasn't a problem atall.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

The right of conscience was also Luther's "blessing" to humans.

But, Providence I have a hard time swallowing for many many reasons.

Tom Van Dyke said...

We mostly don't talk about our own religious convictions on this blog, Angie. It's a history blog.

King of Ireland said...

Jon stated:

"Not necessarily needlessly. If the Trinity is CENTRAL to your personal theology -- that is non-negotiable -- it would have to be addressed.

If on the other hand the Trinity is not central to your personal theology, then yes, invocations of it are "needless" and quarrelsome."

In the matters of salvation not in political theology. The latter is more germane to this topic. Though I have been personally impacted in my faith journey by your writings on rational Christianity, it simply was not discussed that much in a political context. And for good reason.

Jonathan Rowe said...

In the matters of salvation not in political theology.

But the two aren't necessarily separable. When Calvin had Servetus burned at the stake for denying the Trinity, that was an expression of orthodox Trinitarian political theology. It had a particular logic behind it that others like Rutherford defended.

The logic is Servetus' speech and expression of religion lead or could lead others to make soul damning heretical errors. Consequently executing him is justified to prevent more souls from being lost forever.

If on the other hand, the Trinity is superfluous or not really important to the Christian faith, then why should government care whether folks believe in it or not?

That's also a political-theological expression and is that of the American Founding.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Political theology, meaning, the "logos" politicized...that is Jesus life being epitomized as the "ideal" moral example...as in character...getting Christians "on board" to charitable works...social justice....civic responsibility, ETC.

Let's just leave theology out of it, because otherwise, we use God for our ends, whether that be Calvinists, who feared hell and heresy, OR, "salvation" through moral progress according to Marx. There should be no universalized "moral model"...

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Universalizing moral models, understands certain ideals that the individual must adhere to, which is a value...If the individual thinks that it is more important to protect individuality, because without it we do have certain agendas being forced upon others, without their consent. Propaganda is not what I call a "open, and free" society, which values individual liberty and justice.

Tom Van Dyke said...

If on the other hand, the Trinity is superfluous or not really important to the Christian faith, then why should government care whether folks believe in it or not?

The federal government did not. Some states did.

As for Calvin and Servetus, after some unpleasantness in the early days of colonial New England, the Founding left that behind.

But do see People v. Ruggles [New York, 1811]. Blasphemy was still a state crime.

http://press-pubs.uchicago.edu/founders/documents/amendI_religions62.html

Joe Winpisinger said...

Jon stated:

"But the two aren't necessarily separable. When Calvin had Servetus burned at the stake for denying the Trinity, that was an expression of orthodox Trinitarian political theology. It had a particular logic behind it that others like Rutherford defended."

Tom took the words from my mouth before I could write them,

"As for Calvin and Servetus, after some unpleasantness in the early days of colonial New England, the Founding left that behind."

The orthodox and non alike. That is the biggest point in all this and perhaps the biggest myth that needs to be corrected in the teaching of history in this nation. Barton's central thesis is correct that stuff is left out. The problem is that his cure is to leave things out the other way.

Jon,

I am starting to see your thesis more and more. I just think you give too much credit to the Enlightenment and short shift Rational Christianity at times. Especially by using Frazer's term "Theistic Rationalist". It leaves out the obvious biblical contributions to the last two centuries of discussions on rights and leads to yours and Ed Brayton's wrong conclusion:

The Bible does not teach about individual rights. Nothing could be further from the truth and Locke's Second Treatise lays out the case perfectly. This is the mind set, more or less, that made it into the founding. Even the staunch Calvinists excepted this in spite of what their mentor did to Serveticus.

cartwright said...

Re: Tom Van Dyke said,
"We do not claim these [rights] under the charters of kings or legislators, but under the King of kings."

That rights have a divine origin is why they're not simple a matter of negotiation with the government. They cannot be bartered away; they are unalienable.


Jefferson did make multiple comments along those lines. More here, Jefferson on Politics & Government: Inalienable Rights

But this belief in "god-given rights" is really immaterial to the practical matter of rights. "Rights" are irrelevant or meaningless apart from the context of a state or government. Outside of state-codified rights, rights have no practical existence. Jefferson can believe that "these liberties are of the gift of God" to the hilt, but that belief and two bucks will get him a cup of coffee at the legal rights shop.

What he is really saying is there are certain rights that he thinks should be rights. A humanist can come to the same opinion about what should be rights without appealing to a divine origin. And it is all just opinion. Jefferson and all the other natural law-ists make these appeals to God for lack of having anything clearly objective to back up their case. They want these rights to be rights, but don't want to admit that it's just opinion, so invent this divine origin (at least, in my opinion, they do).

cartwright said...

Re: Tom Van Dyke said,
But do see People v. Ruggles [New York, 1811]. Blasphemy was still a state crime.

http://press-pubs.uchicago.edu/founders/documents/amendI_religions62.html


It's not like this was a universal, common occurrence. Blasphemy wasn't a legislated crime in that case. Kent was appealing to common law. Blasphemy was rarely enforced. See The People v. Ruggles - candst.tripod.com

Tom Van Dyke said...

Cartwright, the next time you give any indication that you know what we discuss here, it'll be the first time. You cannot discuss ideas just by looking at the words, as if the history of ideas starts with every day's morning paper.

You clearly troll the internet trying to find the first thing you can argue to prove the other guy wrong. But you should be trolling it to find out what the other fellow's talking about, not to prove them wrong, but to rectify your own lack of understanding.

People v. Ruggles wasn't about blasphemy, it was about disturbing the peace, and you'd know that if you actually read it. But the underlying point was that the First Amendment at the Founding didn't make anti-blasphemy laws unconstitutional. You missed the whole idea in your hunger to argue instead of understand.

So get up to speed, man. You're obviously intelligent, but it's time to get in the game or get out.

cartwright said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
cartwright said...

Tom Van Dyke said,
Cartwright, the next time you give any indication that you know what we discuss here, it'll be the first time. You cannot discuss ideas just by looking at the words, as if the history of ideas starts with every day's morning paper.

You still have yet to show that I'm doing that though. You need to stop pretending your mere assertion qualifies as proof. I also see an inconsistency from you. My comments about trinitarian/non-trinitarians are much like Jon Rowe's (including that it depends on the individual), but I don't see a similar reaction from you.

You clearly troll the internet trying to find the first thing you can argue to prove the other guy wrong. But you should be trolling it to find out what the other fellow's talking about, not to prove them wrong, but to rectify your own lack of understanding.

And you clearly have delusions of omniscience. You also clearly prefer to engage in personal attacks rather than engaging the arguments, as is a typical copout for one whose arguments are lacking.

I would hope nobody is reading this blog to find out your personal opinions about another commenter. I would hope they are more interested in the discussion topics, not your personal issues.

But you would be right that I do enjoy dispelling misinformation, as follows:

TVD said,
People v. Ruggles wasn't about blasphemy,

If so, then that would contradict your, "But do see People v. Ruggles [New York, 1811]. Blasphemy was still a state crime." And more importantly it would contradict Kent,

Kent, Ch. J. delivered the opinion of the Court. The offence charged is, that the defendant below did "wickedly, maliciously, and blasphemously utter, in the presence and hearing of divers good and christian people, these false, feigned, scandalous, malicious, wicked and blasphemous words, to wit, "Jesus Christ was a bastard, and his mother must be a whore;" and the single question is, whether this be a public offence by the law of the land.

TVD said,
it was about disturbing the peace, and you'd know that if you actually read it.

From the above, the bigger question is whether you've read it.

TVD says,
But the underlying point was that the First Amendment at the Founding didn't make anti-blasphemy laws unconstitutional.

That's correct if you mean state anti-blasphemy laws. As pointed out in the link I provided, the case had nothing to do with the federal constitution. It was the state constitution in question. Ruggles was well before incorporation.

State laws were often quite theocratic at the founding, but you can see a definite trend away from theocratic to secularist government from well before the founding and continuing on after the founding. This is relevant to any argument that the characteristics of American government, law and society should forever remain static or frozen as to what existed in 1789, as some might imply.