Monday, April 19, 2010

Competing Traditions & Abstract Ideals that Trump Dominant Historical Practice

"A federal judge in Wisconsin declared Thursday that the US law authorizing a National Day of Prayer is unconstitutional," the Christian Science Monitor reports. Eugene Volokh discussed it here. And Joe Carter/First Things discussed it here.

Francis Beckwith commented there:

... What is interesting about Crabb’s opinion is that it treats anti-establishment as a highly abstract principle about which history has no bearing. It would be like interpreting the public park prohibition–”No vehicles allowed”–as including Big Wheels and baby carriages without any reference to common practice or the meaning understood by the city council that passed the ordinance.

Ahistorical jurisprudence is an oxymoron.


Well, I don't quite see it that way. And I don't see the Michael Newdow types as flying in from Mars and arguing principles that have nothing to do with the Founding. To the contrary, Newdow quotes the Founders (accurately and in the proper spirit) quite a bit.

Bear with me one bit for why.

I noted in the comments sometimes the broadly abstracted ideals of the Founding era must trump dominant historical practice.

If we interpret what the Founders SAID in their broad rhetoric through what they DID, in practice, one could rightly argue what America was all about is granting equal liberty rights to white propertied Protestant males.

That's what Barry Shain (paleoconservative) argues along with the anti-American Left.

It's impossible for the American Founding to take the moral high ground if America was all about privileging white propertied Protestant males. And the only way out of that dilemma is to abstract ideals from the Founding that sometimes trump dominant historical practice.

Professor Dale Coulter interestingly noted there was much anti-slavery rhetoric during the American Founding and that anti-slavery sentiment and practice was a viable competing tradition, along with pro-slavery sentiment and practice.

Therefore we use our reason and other supplementary principles to decide among competing historical traditions.

Likewise with religion, there were competing traditions during the American Founding. One tradition held only certain kinds of belief are entitled to full liberty and equality rights (I'm hesitant to say "Protestant only" because each state had its own varied way of deciding who got what rights). The other held religious rights applied universally to all citizens.

That brings us to what Michael Newdow argues: “Hey we atheists are citizens too, entitled to equal respect.”

And I agree with them in that regard. However, I just don’t agree that government words really harm them in such a tangible way that it necessarily rises to the level of an individual constitutional right to be free from hearing or seeing government messages that make them feel like unequal citizens.

But without question, much of Newdow's rhetoric resonates with much of what was said during the Founding era, especially James Madison whom Newdow often quotes.

And I'm glad to see Professor Coulter agreed, in principle, with the latter, broader more generous tradition of the American Founding that holds everyone's conscience, including that of the atheist deserves equal respect.

The harder questions are how to get there in a 1) constitutional and 2) policy sense (the two aren't always supposed to be the same).

Do we need a naked public square where the state is always silent on religious beliefs? Or perhaps a more open pluralistic public square where the state, in its public supplications, sometimes says things that you or I agree with, sometimes not.

I'm willing to endorse the latter position as long as its understood that if the pious Christians get the state chaplain microphone, sometimes the Hindus and the atheists get it too.

And I think that pluralism perfectly "fits" with the ideals of the American Founding.

32 comments:

Tom Van Dyke said...

"Abstracting" principles like liberty quickly brings those principles to meaninglessness, as is done in this case.

Applying liberty to Women and black folks---as was done constitutionally in the 14th, 15th and 19th amendments---is not the same as "abstracting" liberty so much as to redefine it. Two different concepts completely. The liberty extended to women and blacks was no different than the liberty of the Founding, the meaning of the concept of liberty was not changed or reinterpreted.

As for the "tradition" angle, no amendment ever would have passed if they could have possibly imagined that a hundred or two hundred years later, those amendments would be interpreted to demand abolishing core features of American tradition and culture. Only the "abstraction" of principles down to nonsense could argue that the Constitution does.

Not that that stops certain judges.

Jonathan Rowe said...

Well I for one don't think saying to the atheist that his conscience is entitled to equal respect is "nonsense."

Tom Van Dyke said...

This isn't about individual conscience. There is no coercion here for him to pray. And since you're slipping in your meta-argument about "abstract" principles, I thought I go to the heart of it. By the time you get done abstracting this "liberty" for Newdow, it's redefined into something the word or concept never meant.

The soundest constitutional argument I've heard was the one used by Jefferson and Andrew Jackson, that the Constitution doesn't empower the central government to issue proclamations of this sort. However, custom and practice is also part of common sense in law, if "common sense" has any standing left against modern "abstractionism."

Since Jefferson and Jackson's view didn't hold in custom and practice, [Madison being his pragmatic self, opposing in principle but issuing them in practice anyway], there's nothing definitive in that argument. Had President Obama issued such a proclamation after 200+ years of not issuing them, the argument would have bigger teeth.

Explicit Atheist said...

a public square where the state is always silent about religious beliefs is not exactly what this dispute about. What is being disputed is government endorsement and promotion of particular religious beliefs over competing religious beliefs. Government can certainly discuss religious beliefs without endorsing or promoting particular religious practices, as is the case here. Such government non-partisanship with respect to religion not only fits well with a pluralistic public square, it actually fits BETTER to a pluralistic public square than does the current context where government favors particular religious practices over competing beliefs.

Joe Winpisinger said...

I vote for a more pluralistic public square. I have always said that they should teach all religions in public school and let the kids make up there own minds. By all I mean the top 5 or so as far as members. I think part of this can be done even in a history class and most standards get into some but not enough for kids that are going to have interact with a more global world.

Explicit Atheist said...

People who vote for a more pluralistic square should favor government nuetrality. The National Day of Prayer Act, by mandating that presidents proclaim adoption and promotion of prayer on behalf of our government, is anti-pluralistic.

Lets be clear, however, that it isn't the role of government to promote a broader diversity of viewpoints on any question anymore than it is the role of government to promote less diversity of viewpoints on any question. On matters of personal conscience like whether there is a god, and what the traits of tbe god or the gods are, government's ethical obligation to its citizens is to adopt a stance of neutrality.

Tom Van Dyke said...

"Neutrality" is a cover for atheism, since the result is the same, no God. "Pluralism" is the Founding principle.

Explicit Atheist said...

The National Day of Prayer Act is an adoption of theism by government. It is all about promoting theism exclusively. It does not accommodate contradicting deism or atheism in any way, shape or form. This is an anti-pluralistic law.
I don't know how anyone can look at this law and say with a straight face that it promotes pluralism, that is like looking at a pond and saying it is a dry hole in the ground.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Where did you get the idea that atheism is pluralistic? It's nihilistic. You can't build an ethos on nothing.

bpabbott said...

Re: " Where did you get the idea that atheism is pluralistic?"

That wasn't the claim.

A day of prayer isn't entirely pluralistic. Even if it does include most, there are many religious views/perspectives it excludes.

If government doesn't actively engage itself in religion, then none are included and none are excluded. It is all left to the people. Which certainly doesn't qualify as pluralistic, but has the advantage of avoiding special religious entitlements for specific religious groups.

Explicit Atheist said...

There is no such thing as a partially pluralistic law anymore than there is such a thing as a partially pregnant woman. People here are using the term "pluralistic" as if it is a synonym for "majoritarian" but they are not synonyms. Laws that exclude people are anti-pluralistic, this is a majoritarian and anti-pluralistic law.

This law is not introducing any pluralism whatsover into the public square, what it does is *mandate* annual proclamations by presidents promoting prayer and as such it excludes those who don't pray and who believe there is no personal god and that prayer is talking to oneself. This is not an optional proclamation initiated by the president, like all of other proclamations, it is an annual proclamation MANDATED by Congress. That mandate is why the judge deemed it unconstitutional.

eli said...

The law would not exclude anyone from anything.

It might inconvenience an atheist president, but in my mind all presidents are morally suspect individuals, who routinely exclude foreigners from their lives, and us from our money and liberty. I am not bothered by the very unlikely possibility of there ever being an openly atheist president, who would feel annoyed (excluded?) by a law like this one.

OBTW, I am an agnostic most days, and if I were president I would happily go through the National Day of Prayer motions.

Explicit Atheist said...

All and any bill of rights violation can be deemed merely "inconvenient" to those who aren't effected. But understand the complete implication of this law. All government employees should be appalled by such a law because if we allow such a law then they can also be forced by Congress to proclaim for religious beliefs that they oppose. There is no legal principle that says its constitutional if the president is so obligated to proclaim for a religious practice by a law but its unconstitutional if any other government employee is similarly legally obligated. The president is simply one government employee among many as far as the bill of rights is concerned, it applies to the president as much or as little as to everyone else. No one can coherently argue that this law doesn't corrupt the constitution unless they refuse to acknowledge that the constitution doesn't permit the government to coerce partisan religious speech on ANYONE or EVERYONE.

Tom Van Dyke said...

"Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness..."

George Washington just called you unpatriotic.

Explicit Atheist said...

That quote from George Washington bigoted. Its not the case that all of the elected official in 1789 were free of all bigotry, which is why slavishly depending on what people said and did in 1789 is reactionary and wrong.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Heh. That's the best you got?

A pseudonymous charge of bigotry against one of the wisest men of his or any age in American history?

How low can you stoop? At least come up with an argument!

Had you skipped down a sentence or so, Washington says

"And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle."

He does not argue for the truth of religion here, only its social utility for the greater mass of men. For you to argue against that would reveal your true agenda, not the right of the individual conscience to be an atheist, but anti-theism disguised as "neutrality," which isn't pluralism atall, but intending the dismantling of the Founding ethos.

You're exposed, Mr. Explicit Atheist. Your agenda is personal, and not with the best interests of the country at heart.

bpabbott said...

Re: " George Washington just called you unpatriotic."

In spite of EA swallowing the bait, GW's words were not offered in the same context being presently discussed (at least I don't think so).

We may easily argue that a government who actively favors/promotes the religious notions of some, above those of others, is acting in a manner that is subversive to both morality and religion.

In matters of religious doctrine/theology there is good reason that the government should avoid picking sides.

I have no problem with the President proclaiming a day of prayer. Nor do I have a problem with the President ignoring it.

However, I do think it unfortunate that during the 1950's many overtly religious proclamations became part of our Nation's laws ("In God We Trust", "under God " added to the PoA, National Day of Prayer, etc.).

Is there not greater virtue in those who exercise the willful initiative to passionately participate ... as opposed who do so out of obedience?

Tom Van Dyke said...

In matters of religious doctrine/theology there is good reason that the government should avoid picking sides.

It's occurred to me that the genius of the Founding was separating the God of Providence [in this world] from the God of Soteriology [salvation, the next world], which dispenses with most dogma---Jesus divine, died for our sins, etc.].

It's a separation of church and state seen in a different light, I think [I hope], and a way of looking at the meaning of "religion" closer to what it meant to them.

And indeed, Ben, you leaning toward atheism yourself, seem to be fine with Washington's view.


I have no problem with the President proclaiming a day of prayer. Nor do I have a problem with the President ignoring it.


That's pretty much what we get from the Founding---Jefferson and Jackson ignoring such things, others going for it. I hate to see the 14th Amendment tortured to demand otherwise.

Explicit Atheist said...

Tom Van Dyke said...

"Heh. That's the best you got?

A pseudonymous charge of bigotry against one of the wisest men of his or any age in American history?

How low can you stoop? At least come up with an argument!"

George Washington's statement was, and still is, factaully false. Religion is not an indepensible support to political prosperity. Morality is, but religion is not. The problem here for you is that the evidence doesn't support George Washington's overgeneralization and any judge who quotes something said by anyone, no matter who, to support their decision is ethically obligated to cite a quote that is factually true. bpabbott's characterizaton that I "swallowed bait" is incorrect, I characterized the George Washington's quote and I stand by my characterization of that quote as well as the more general fact that not all elected officials then were free of bigotry. I don't see why that should be a controvsial statement, its a fact. I would go further and say its still true today that some elected officials are bigoted, particular with respect to atheism and atheists. Indeed, Tom Van Dyke's own post here was bigoted, and neither bpabbott nor eli seem to pay to attention to this problem. That is also unfortunate.

Explicit Atheist said...

Tom Van Dyke said...

"Where did you get the idea that atheism is pluralistic? It's nihilistic. You can't build an ethos on nothing."

You are confused. Atheism is no more nihilistic than theism, atheism is the belief that there are no gods. What is the relevance of that statement about nothing?

Tom Van Dyke said...

Atheism is no more nihilistic than theism

Sorry, I meant your brand of atheism, which is anti-theistic.

I'm quite familiar with classical philosophy in particular, and am quite willing to concede whatever may be "conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure."

Your charges of bigotry are not suitable for this forum. They are pique and they are nonsense, and are the last refuge of the scoundrel, and mean you have retreated from the battlefield of ideas and left a stinkbomb behind you.

Since Washington's wisdom has been proved for over 200 years, the burden of proof is on you to show where he's wrong. You have your epistemology backwards.

But a) you can't make a decent case, for the atheistic Soviet Union hurts your case, and b) modern post-Christian Europe is far too young to draw historical conclusions from.

But even if you could make your case, it has nothing to do with religion and the Founding except one pseudonymous commenter's opinion that his ethos is better than the Founders'.

Explicit Atheist said...

The questions regarding gods, like the questions of time and gravity and quantum chromodynamics, etc. are questions to be resolved by the overall weight of the available evidence. I am not so much anti-theistic as anti-faith when faith in something, anything, becomes an alternative to and substitute for weight of the evidence or a highest value. Now on my reckoning, the weight of the evidence is that all gods are fictions and there is no god. If the weight of the evidence went the other way, then I too would be a theist.

I strongly believe that everyone should take a weight of the overall evidence approach to all such questions of existence. Furthermore, I do think it is important to be competent in the process of identifying and weighing the evidence. So I consider it a substantial problem/failure when, for example, a Times magazine poll found that a majority of people say they will side with their central religious myths over the scientific evidence as understood by the consensus of experts regarding the weight of the evidence when there is a conflict.

There is bigotry against atheists and one way to overcome that bigotry is to argue for atheism. We are adults, and adults are responsible for making up their own minds, but that entails hearing all sides. Its not reasonable to insist that atheists must keep their atheism hidden, which is what your argument utlimately amounts to.

Now I know that theists have certain failings such an inability to imagine themselves or their neighbors being ethical absent beliefs in a personal god who has certain traits and punishes bad people in an afterlife and stuff like that. But there is no way that the civil rights of people who don't share those theistic views are therefore justified to be held hostage to the failings of those theists. Its not like if we didn't have a National Day of Prayer or a monotheistic national motto and pledge of allegiance that theists will suddenly lose their religion, as if their religious beliefs are so shallow that their beliefs disappear without the government telling them they should be theists. But if their religious beliefs are so shallow that they can't survive a lack of promotion by government then those beliefs lack merit in the first place.

Explicit Atheist said...

Tom Van Dyke said...

"Your charges of bigotry are not suitable for this forum. They are pique and they are nonsense, and are the last refuge of the scoundrel, and mean you have retreated from the battlefield of ideas and left a stinkbomb behind you."

I vote for theists. When half of the american public says they won't vote for a fictional atheist, who they know nothing about because they were told nothing else about this fictional person, for no other reason then that they are told that person is an atheist, then there is a bigotry problem. That is the case here. I am not going to shy away from calling the kettle black when the kettle is black.

"Since Washington's wisdom has been proved for over 200 years, the burden of proof is on you to show where he's wrong. You have your epistemology backwards."

No, your the one who has this very wrong with your appeal to George Washington as some kind of faultless and always perfectly ethical and good god. George Washington pulled the teeth out of the mouths of some of his slaves to make dentures with real teeth for himself.

"But a) you can't make a decent case, for the atheistic Soviet Union hurts your case, and b) modern post-Christian Europe is far too young to draw historical conclusions from."

Atheistic Soviet Union, like China today, had a one-party establishment of atheism. The irony here, is that in the 1950's our elected officials foolishly decided that they were going to distinguish our government from our enemy by establishing monotheism. That is upside down, inside out, backwards. The way we disinguish ourselves from dogmatic and opprossive one-party government is by not becoming anti-freethinking like them and misusing government to promote a particular government favored belief, regardless of whether it is the majority or minority belief at the time.

"But even if you could make your case, it has nothing to do with religion and the Founding except one pseudonymous commenter's opinion that his ethos is better than the Founders'.

I consider my view of the establishment clause to be a better match with the intent of Jefferson and Madison than your views. Furthermore, I think Jefferson and Madison were mostly correct in their views regarding the EC and that the EC principle is properly fulfilled only when the government adopts a stance of neutrality. Government has an equal protection before the law obligation to all of its citizens as a result of its powerful monopoly control over law adoption and enforcement. An adoption of a non-neutral stance on questions regarding religious practices and beliefs creates the appearance of a conflict of interest against that government obligation.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Your arguments are familiar. You are clearly not familiar with Washington's, although I blame our education system, not you personally.

As for your representation of Jefferson and Madison's views, tho partly correct, those two are hardly the last or only word---they lost a lot of these battles both during the Founding and especially in the post-Founding period, to men like John Marshall and Joseph Story.

http://candst.tripod.com/joestor3.htm

I think you'll enjoy that, as Jim Allison is an honest researcher and you'll agree with his conclusions far more than I do. Jim always brings his "A" game.

But the larger point that Ben opened lies closest to the truth: there is no definitive Founding, and that both sides of this culture war can find support there. However, it's quite provable that the baseline ethos of the Founding was indeed monotheism and specifically the God of Providence, and continuing that tradition is not in conflict with the Founding principles.

However, as Ben also points out, if we as a people choose to reject or subsume that ethos with what you're selling, that's in keeping with the Founding principles, too.

But I'm not going to buy that the Founding or the post-Everson 14th Amendment requires us to reject the monotheistic ethos of the Founding even in public.

However, if you can convince the American public that's how it should be, so be it. I think the Founding allows for each. But I do not think the nation---and more importantly, "society"---is obliged to reorder its mores, manners, customs and practices to accommodate you and your feelings as an "abused" atheist. To throw back an anti-theist trope, I distrust someone with that scornful "Flying Spaghetti Monster" thing on their car than anything creationist.

My larger argument is not on the law or discussions of "rights" or the 14th Amendment, but in not taking the stability of our or any society for granted. Political philosophy, if you will, and that's why you were quite unfair to GWash in going ad hom on him.

At the end of the day, his personal religion may have been closer to yours, for as he wrote to Lafayette

"Being no bigot myself to any mode or worship, I am disposed to indulge professors of Christianity…that road to Heaven, which to them shall seem the most direct plainest easiest and least liable to exception."

he doesn't exactly sound Christian here himself. His argument in he first quote on the political and social utility of religion was from "wisdom and experience."

So, EA, I hope you'll come to see this forum as more than just a place to lob hand grenades at each other over current issues in the culture wars. We like to think of it more as an oasis away from all that. The existence of God is not even argued here---this blog's concern is history and political philosophy. Mr. Abbott basically shares your cosmology [or lack of one] but our exchanges have become among the most incisive on this blog.


"Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are the gift of God?"---Jefferson

That is the question, and note he says "conviction," not "the fact" or "the truth." Even the D of I says "we hold" these truths to be self-evident, not that they are. This is the Founding ethos, a shared sense of values and convictions.

My meta-argument is that a society or a nation cannot survive without a shared sense of values and convictions: a "plural" way to arrive at that shared sense is the Founding way, but "neutrality" is too pale to cut it, as it can't "arrive" anywhere but at tolerance for its own sake, but tolerance itself is merely the first step towards a genuine pluralism.

bpabbott said...

Re: "It's occurred to me that the genius of the Founding was separating the God of Providence [in this world] from the God of Soteriology [salvation, the next world], which dispenses with most dogma---Jesus divine, died for our sins, etc.]"

I agree!

Once the self-proclaimed agents for God are out of the picture there is really no conflict to be found between individual professing various sectarian beliefs, or no belief at all.

I think the reason some, in the present, are so vocal in condemning government proclamations is that the media is eager to promote the view of many individuals of, questionable character, who claim to speak for God.

I'd really like to see the USSC adopt the postion that government supported doctrine/dogma should be struck down, but make it clear that non-sectarian worship, of Providence sort, may be supported.

If that were done, my personal objections to "under God", "In God We Trust", etc would become moot (because what is meant by "God" would be open to each individual to decide).

Tom Van Dyke said...

Aye, Ben. The one thing I learned in my 1.5 years at this blog is about the effect of "Protestantism" once the Reformation hit the Founding era.

After they dispensed with papism and the Magisterium, NO man could claim to speak for God. Not even the Puritans' John Calvin.

In the Founding era, and in Britain in the civil wars in the century before that, the gravest charge was to accuse anyone of being some sort of crypto-papist. Mostly, those troublemaking clergy of any stripe who claimed to understand the Bible better than you.

Sola scriptura, "the Bible alone," OK. But NO man is empowered to tell another what the Bible means without his assent.

Plus, those types were pushy politically, always trying to take over things.

Just like back in Europe. "Self-proclaimed agents for God"---and even worse, "ordained" by the machine, even if not of questionable character. They started persecutions and full-out wars. This is why there was a great opposition to the Church of England sending bishops to America to oversee the flock, even among Anglicans. Just the same ol' Caesaropapism, meet the new boss, same as the old boss.

"...non-sectarian worship, of Providence sort, may be supported."

That's all I've been getting at here, in a socio-political philosophy sense, and all Washington was saying. And Jefferson---"Mr. Separation" himself---as president, attended services held in the government buildings that were lent to various congregations during the construction of Washington D.C. It was the thing to do. Pluralism and all that.

And the more the merrier, no doubt inviting the unorthodox and slightly wack Swedenborgians in for their shot at the pulpit. The orthodox must have blanched, and I can't imagine that Jefferson didn't take a perverse pleasure in giving them their turn.

I think the reason some, in the present, are so vocal in condemning government proclamations is that the media is eager to promote the view of many individuals of, questionable character, who claim to speak for God.

Yeah. And I think the Texas School curriculum thing, if not the creationism-in-the-schools movement, and even Intelligent Design [which I hold not brief for, I'm fine and better with evolution] are the opposite side of the very same coin marked "In God We Trust."

Believe it or don't. Atheists don't, and some evangelicals like Rev. John McArthur and Dr. Gregg Frazer don't either, for their own theological reasons.

Some people aren't satified with half a loaf, y'know?

But the historical fact is that for all its history, America has trusted in God.

You know, more or less.

Explicit Atheist said...

You know, this really has nothing to do with anyone's character. This ethos and character stuff has nothing to do with the NDOP Act. The notion that ethics is tied to belief in a god is a myth, its not true, the evidence doesn't support that anymore than the evidence supports the notion that people become healthier or the weather becomes better or countries become wealthier or anything of that sort as a result of prayer. Health is a result of genetics, diet, exercise, environment, etc. earthquakes are a result of movement of plates, etc. countries wealth is a result of education, good laws and governing, etc.

There is no such thing as non-sectarian prayer. Prayer assumes a belief in a personal god. Everyone doesn't believe in a personal god. The logic that its bad if its christian because that excludes non-Christians but its good if its monotheistic or theistic is an indefensible, bigoted double standard. It is totally illogical.

In God we trust is nonsense, we don't trust in god. I am a citizen and we include me and other atheist citizens. We are not here to told that we don't exist. That is offensive. This is our government, and that includes all of us, including all of us atheists, deists, and polytheists.

Explicit Atheist said...

"Some people aren't satified with half a loaf, y'know?"

You better believe it, you got that right. Equal has a meaning, god has a meaning, and no obfuscation changes their meaning. We are not here to be tolerated. We are absolutely, unequivocally, completely, with no qualifications whatsoever, your equals before the law.

Tom Van Dyke said...

This ethos and character stuff has nothing to do with the NDOP Act

Law is a poor prism through which to view the human person. You had your chance to speak intelligently and you used it to shit all over me and George Washington.

Did you ever think I wrote what I wrote in hopes of convincing you of anything? To win a comments section debate?

Next time, if ever, you participate on this blog, pls bring some facts and arguments on religion and the Founding like Jim Allison's.

I gave you good faith replies above; if you can't intelligently engage GWash, I meself have zero chance with you. You have the floor. Elvis has left the building.

Live long and prosper, mate. Or whatever. But until you bring some "A" game, please piss off. This blog is not about hand grenades or street fights.

This thread is now the kiddie table, if you want to continue on. The adults will check back, just in case something intelligent is said, but mostly to make sure you haven't torn up the place.

Explicit Atheist said...

Tom Van Dyke said...

"Law is a poor prism through which to view the human person. You had your chance to speak intelligently and you used it to shit all over me and George Washington."

So since George Washington pulled teeth from the mouths of his slaves to make himself dentures with real teeth it is therefore good and proper for all of us today to also do that? If we today accuse George Washington of criminal behavior we are not speaking intelligently? Therefore, I "can't intelligently engage GWash"? You are full of shit. You lack integrity and ethic.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Sir, it's you who have no integrity, and no arguments either. So you call Washington a bigot, and spread false revisionist stories about his teeth

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/jefferson/video/lives.html

You bring nothing of value to this blog. You are excused.

Explicit Atheist said...

That link verifies what I said, and yet you call me a liar:

"The following year, in May of 1784, Washington paid several unnamed "Negroes," presumably Mount Vernon slaves, 122 shillings for nine teeth, slightly less than one-third the going rate advertised in the papers, "on acct. of the French Dentis [sic} Doctr. Lemay [sic]," almost certainly Le Moyer. Over the next four years, the dentist was a frequent and apparently favorite guest on the plantation. Whether the Mount Vernon slaves sold their teeth to the dentist for any patient who needed them or specifically for George Washington is unknown, although Washington's payment suggests that they were for his own use. Washington probably underwent the transplant procedure--"I confess I have been staggered in my belief in the efficacy of transplantion," he told Richard Varick, his friend and wartime clerk, in 1784--and thus it may well be that some of the human teeth implanted to improve his appearance, or used to to manufacture his dentures, came from his own slaves.

I make no apologies for characterizing the GW quote that you are fond of as being bigoted. The argument made in that quote is false. I have more expertise on this subject on the character of atheists than GW did because I am an atheist and he was not.