Friday, November 26, 2010

George Washington's religious pluralism

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

- George Washington (1732-1799), American Founding Father, Letter to the Marquis de Lafayette, Aug. 15, 1787, quoted in The Founders on Religion:  A Book of Quotations, edited by Jaqmes H. Hutson (Princeton:  2005), pg. 193.

[Cross-posted over at my own blog, Ordered Liberty.]

33 comments:

christian soldier said...

Enjoy your posts-

perhaps you could direct this to RS -
This is the first sentence from Washington's Thanksgiving Proclamation..
"Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God..."
In my readings of the various founders' own writings -I found that most were rather strong Christians and did mention God - --often
Carol-CS

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Christian soldier,
Since the Founders were all influenced by the Enlightenment, but had not come to the full realization of evolution, so of course they believed in "Providence" or "God". Their's was a Deistic view of the Divine. It was ordered Liberty, the basis of "law and order". It has been discussed here at American Creation many times, some carried Deism a step further to a "Providential God". But, not all were Trinitarian, and most were not supernaturalists.

Jonathan Rowe said...

CS,

I think it all depends on what you mean by "strong Christians." They certainly weren't Deists believing in the absentee landlord God of the philosophers. But the big names weren't "Christians" in the sense of believing Jesus 2nd Person in the Trinity who made an infinite atonement as an Incarnate God.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Jon,
The only reason anyone today would encourage a belief in an intervening Deity, is because they want to protect their own right to defining another's political reality, as "Ptovidence". Two realities then exist politically; the leader and the "servant"...those that are the "gods" and those that are the "submitted"; those that are the 'fittest" and those that are not.

Our govenment protects "order' but provides for liberty. This way provide for negotiating our differences as to our "realities". Therefore, there is no tyranny. Why 'create a God"?

Tom Van Dyke said...

Christian soldier,
Since the Founders were all influenced by the Enlightenment, but had not come to the full realization of evolution, so of course they believed in "Providence" or "God". Their's was a Deistic view of the Divine... But, not all were Trinitarian, and most were not supernaturalists.


Angie, that doesn't represent anything written at this blog, not even by Jon Rowe.

Jefferson was the only one who rejected supernaturalism, and even he made a reference to it, that the fall of slavery "may become probable by supernatural interference."

Every Founder mentioned Providence, but that's a term you'll find used by the Pilgrims, before the Enlightenment and John Locke was even published.

The only thing you're right about here, or may represent as a topic at this blog is that they were not all Trinitarians. That much is true.

Even after all this time, we still have people representing the Founders as Deists and the Founding credited to the Enlightenment. Disappointing.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Tom,
Since I have "happended" upont this blog, I have felt that I was "guided" (determined) to affirm religious or "revelation", instead of reason or science, as to my "commitment" of value. This was my resistance to your "natural rights", and "natural law" arguments. I don't believe anyone has a "divine right" against an individual in their pursuit of "truth" (with a little "t").

The Enlghtenment was an 18th century phiolosophical movement based on reason, and science. It was a movement about values, as much as anything else. And it underwrites the individual, instead of society as a value. I applaud this as an ulitmate.

I recognize that our diversity does undermine our unity, but I don't think that "god' is what will drive our unity, as religious convictions are so diverse and divisive. And they should be, as there is no way to verify the realm of the transcendent.

As to government, our nation values, if we are to remain free, individual conscience in regards to personal values, and commiment. These are important to uphold if we desire for the individual to attain and develop fully. Otherwise, we limit potential and diversity itself, by our own "social planning".

Tom Van Dyke said...

The fact is, Angie, that this is a history blog and you keep attributing 19th and 20th century ideas [if not your own ideas] to the Founding.

Neither is it ever argued here that anything about any religion is "true." We don't even say God exists, only that the Founders believed He does.

Our job is to get into their heads, not to put our words in their mouths.

And your own argument about the diversity of religious thought holds true of the Enlightenment itself.

http://www.newcriterion.com/articles.cfm/which-enlightenment-1288

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Thanks, Tom for the info.
This is what I strive for (little "t" truth), and educated mind, which cannot be led down a prim-rose path, planned "just for me", a sacrifice of life to "Church".

I have nothing against Methodism, or Wesleyanism per se, but that was not my understanding when I came to "faith". As my "faith" has become enlightened, by many diverse sources and subjects, it has led me to the skeptical place I am in, now. And I want to remain there, as that is a "safe" place, where I will not impinge and impose my "faith" views on another. We all must come to "our place" of understanding and evaluation about our life's commitments, as to value. That is what the little "t" truth is about.

I have nothing against the poor, but have no "leanings in that direction" as to "social justice". It reminds me of my cognitive dissonance, and incongruency, as to "faith" issues...

Faith is how one sees the world, as no one sees it wholly or absolutely. All "realities" are ways of understanding and viewing the reality of the world. So, faith cannot be grounded in absolutes. Faith has to be allowed liberty to flourish and maintain it congruence/coherency in an individual conscience/mind.

I have so much further to go, as far as my goals of understanding and educating myself. It is as if, education, itself, is a survival strategy. Propaganda is what is promoted when there is a limited view on subjects, and questions are not allowed, as "doctrine" or "dogma" is epitomized as "ultimate" and absolute. These dogmas and doctrine are as much about natural science, political philosophy, as church government.
Individuality, liberty, equality, and diversity are limited when these areas are defined by specified theories.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Sorry, NOT NATURAL SCIENCE BUT, SOCIAL science, political philosophy, as Church government.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

And my anger at myself for being so naive and simplistic as to faith issues, trusting and "ignorant" when it came to "the real world" of politics, which was another incongruency, as to "faith"...
I don't ever want to be "back there" again in the lower segment of naive faith, where one is diminished as to personal needs. As I recognized my lack of maturity, and my dependent personality and my lack of information, I was disgusted with myself and unfortunately, my disgust has come across in many places in regards to faith issues, because of my own self-loathing. (But, I also resisted and resented those that wanted to "put me in my place" of "trusting faith" again...as it was demeaning and de-moralizing tome) But, gratefully, I have come to understand that self-loathing is not helpful, and will hinder growth and progress. So, I repented of my nativete' and have come to defend my right to exist in my own right, not becuase of God's approval, or anyone else's but because "I am".

Tom Van Dyke said...

From the above link:

“It is a fundamental principle with us,” John Wesley argued, “that to renounce reason is to renounce religion, that religion and reason go hand in hand, and that all irrational religion is false religion.”

I know next to nothing of John Wesley, but he seems to have been a cool guy.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Tom,
The British Enlightenment focused on virtue....as does Aristotle, and thus the Catholic Church.
I have an aversion to virtue, not because of virtue itself, but, because it has to be defined. Which virtue? How much virtue? What is virtue to be given toward? Therefore, if anyone allows another to define or judge virtue, then they have given their life over to another to impose their understanding of virtue and virtue's "works". And virtue in John Wesley's case would be "faith working through love", which means the Church decides and determines what is of value to be virtuous...it is "perfection", "sanctification", ETC. that I have an aversion to...because it is Church dogma, or doctrine...it is mandating and determining love, instead of love coming from the individual's free choice as to value. It is spiritual formation that is deterministic and guided by those deemed more "spiritual" than another. (One has to believe this can be the case in the first place to submit to such an idea.)


The French focused on philosophy...which is the value of knowledge and education. John Wesley valued both scholarship and practical ministry. And the 'practical ministry" is determined by "elders"? Is this not too short from Islam's theocratic governance....

Tom Van Dyke said...

I have an aversion to virtue, not because of virtue itself, but, because it has to be defined.

Well, perhaps you need to do some working and thinking on it. "Virtue" takes up a lot of ground, and you cheat yourself lumping Aristotle's conception with a Christian fundamentalists'.

And after virtue, check out After Virtue.

[As for the French, they are having great trouble with their version of republican virtue, which removes all soul and content from education and knowledge.]

[Men Without Chests.]

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Yes, give me the simplistic teleos of the "Kingdom of God", which no theologian or Biblical scholar can agree on...that is real epistomological certainty. Every theological or bilbical construct doesn't leave any 'fact' to base one's life on, only emotive needs, which can be manipulated. Skepticism is the only avenue to faith.

I agree that community is an important value, but it is not the complete teleos, because the community is just as dependent on the individuals that are part of the community. Interdependence is an important value to underline, NOT dependence! Otherwise, we undermine community efficiency.

Community's responsible governance must be just as accountable to the individuals within the community as the the individuals to community, otherwise, we have tyranny. Respecting differences, honoring another individual's right to information, as a part of belonging to community is an important aspect to accountability, as it has to do with social contract.

An individual's mind forms and understands 'faith', which cannot be 'formed". It is an emotional need that is met by some aspect of understanding/coherency. This is a problem with our polititians today. There is no conscience toward those they govern. The tax -payer is viewed as a means to serve their interests. It doesn't seem to matter that the tax-payer might have a "life" (reality) apart from their political agenda.

"God" is useful to those that believe and those that don't but find a purpose to promote theological language to further certain ends. If the individual is not significant in his own right, then he is insignificant altogether, except for "God's ends", which diminishes the unique importance of individuality. I had thought that the shepherd who went looking for the lost sheep leaving the 99, was a "fact". But, I've learned that the learned, or those that adhere to "community values", don't care about the one, if their agenda is getting accomplished. The individual doesn't matter. (This 'was' the Gospel to me...I "mattered")...but systemic or wholistic understanding is more important to affirm in social terms, as these are political realities, not individual imaginations that need counselling help.

Nietzche claimed that 'God was dead' because the Church killed him. I agree that "faith" can be killed by the Church. Job would have agreed too. I am not sorry for this, at all. I am sorry and regret lost opportunities because of simplistic thinking and understanding.

The political world is the real world where real things happen to real people. There is no God out there that will do what we should do for ourselves, take personal responsiblity .

As for community, I can be a part only if I believe that I am a respected and valued equal member of such community/society. Voluntary association is an important value to any community that is "worth its salt". Marketing a community is an important value to underwrite the individual or corporation's locating and continuing to give back to and in the community.

Angie Van De Merwe said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mark in Spokane said...

Gee, I'm glad my little quotations from the Founders generate such fervent debate!

bpabbott said...

Re: "The Enlghtenment was an 18th century phiolosophical movement based on reason, and science."

I missed this when Angie posted yesterday. I see as a common misunderstanding. Perhaps I'm wrong, but I'll explain.

My view of the enlightenment was that it ultimately gave birth to modern science and economics, but that the motivation for the application of reason was the preservation of religion.

Meaning there are a greater number of examples of enlightened individuals applying reason to protect the Christian religion from corruptions than to fortify scientific progress from religious radicals.

Even this description misses the important point that science, economics, as well as any and all observed phenomena and/or experience were viewed through the lens of the divine. What changed during this period was that reason become the accepted standard for discovering the truth ... at the expense of arguments from authority.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Yes, Ben, I think the emergence of Protestantism figures in here strongly.

And of course, God was seen as a simple reality, so today's rigid separation of the sacred and the secular was not their worldview. Everything was sacred in its way.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Ben,
You said, "Meaning there are a greater number of examples of enlightened individuals applying reason to protect the Christian religion from corruptions than to fortify scientific progress from religious radicals."

Of course there would be more apologists, because "God" was a "given". It is not so anymore, with evolution and its effects on academic disciplines and the collapse of the sacred into the secular. There is no real reason to separate "god" from "humanity", or nature, is there? The debate becomes one of priority, which should be the first and formost focus of political policy....

And since science has brought about technological advances, which promote and produce money making adventures, then science is the subject that gets the funding. The Arts are a short second.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

AND, today it is imperative that religious radicals be "toned down", as to their commitment to TRUTH. Zeal is not wisdom, but idealistic, youthfulness.

Pinky said...

.
Yup, this IS a history blog.
.
But, it's difficult to hold down inquisitive minds like Angie presents to purely academic pursuits.
.
When a blog is begun, it makes sense to me that it is able to be unfolded in the way the participants desire. As long as it remains on the issue involved.
.
To take one statement out of context and to use that as though it establishes some great truth about any Founder's belief begs a variety of responses.
.
The point of this blog--stated or not--appears to have something to do with how history impinges on present day America.
.
Is Angie just to keep her thoughts to herself?
.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Most of us manage to keep the "if I were king" talk to a minimum. Otherwise the blog would just be a college late-night bull session.

Pinky said...

.
So, go to your room, get in bed, turn out the lights and go to sleep.
.
She isn't bothering anyone.
.
There's no rule that you must stay up for any bull sessions.
.

Tom Van Dyke said...

I don't mind if discussions veer off top. But they need to at least start on topic, or else it's hijacking. Knock yourself out. In this case, that the Founders were all deists and rejected the supernatural simply wasn't factual.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Tom,
It is hard to put ourselves completely within the context of the Founding Fathers, as theirs was not our environment. We have much more information that skews our perspective and makes our judgment without our even realizing it.

Therefore, I will argue that the Founders were radical in their frame of reference. They were revolutionary, as they were subverting the power or Great Britian and the Crown. Therefore, they were "anti-traditionalists".

Revolutions, reform movements and traditional factions have always given the political climate its urgency, passion, and conflict. This is the case all over the world, not just within our Republic.

I am sorry if I have made this blog a personal place to vent. But, then each person must grasp and grapple with his own sense of place, conviction and commitment. You all have just been privy to my struggle....

Tom Van Dyke said...

Therefore, I will argue that the Founders were radical in their frame of reference.

There's nothing you've written, Angie, to support this, but please go ahead. Almost everything to date on this blog has argued the opposite, that the colonists simply wanted their rights as Englishmen.

Neither was there a great upheaval at independence, the Articles, or the Constitution. Life went on, as it always had, everyday life being lived at the local and state levels.

One need only look at the French Revolution to see what "radical" really means. The entire society, from government to the church to the names of the days of the week were upturned.

Now, as to the venting, it does seem that this blog attracts a disproportionate number of folks who had bad experiences with Christian fundamentalism.

Yes, it can be very bad. But what can we say except, get over it.

The cries of Theocracy! amounted to nothing in the Dubya administration, and they have even less force now.

The Founders weren't fundies and neither is our government or society today in any danger of being taken over by them.

All this talk of them only gums up the works around here. If the fundies traumatized you, that's your cross to bear, and it's one you can set down anytime you like.

Poof. You have permission. You are free. Personally, I think a lot of people use their traumas as an excuse to stop thinking about the Important Things---life, death, afterlife, God, whathaveyou.

But all of these things are above the scope and pay grade of this blog.

Pinky said...

.
Poof. You have permission. You are free. Personally, I think a lot of people use their traumas as an excuse to stop thinking about the Important Things---life, death, afterlife, God, whathaveyou.
.
I had a good laugh on that one, Tom. I think you may have missed your calling.
.
By the way, have you ever heard of what is known as the Swing Vote in politics? What! Five percent is all that it takes?
.
As far as, The cries of Theocracy! amounted to nothing in the Dubya administration, and they have even less force now.
.
It seems to me it is Christian Fundamentalism. that keeps our society in such a precarious state.
.
But, everyone knows how I feel.
.
You were trying to be funny, right?
.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Yes, funny with the sting of truth.

;-)

When you and Angie hold your after-hours bull sessions, you completely talk past each other---she bagging on the Muslims, you making vague but ominous noises about the Republicans.

If you just manage to say something about the Founders in the first 5 or 10 comments, I'm happy. Then hijack away, to bong hits or Glenlivets, whatever greases the wheels.

As for the fundies, I guess everybody needs their whipping boy. College professors are mine.

And yes, Phil, I might have missed my calling. Jon Rowe was writing about Dr. John Sarno last night at his other blog, and it seemed to fit the obsession with the fundies as well.

Pinky said...

.
I am not well enough educated to provide any new information about the Founders and I know it.
.
I do ask questions from time to time. And, I test my opinions regarding what I'm learning.
.
I did think that Angie's point about the Founders being radical has merit. And, also, I think that it's up to people like you to flesh that out.
.

Tom Van Dyke said...

See Himmelfarb, linked @ Comment #7.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Tom.
We don't need to revolutionize our form of government, as it is a "human ideal", because it values the individual.

I agree that the initially there were some that wanted to maintain their connection with the Crown, but their rebellion came about when they did not feel represented.

Humans who value themselves, do resent being treated as irrelavant, or insignificant. So, our culture, as to religion is diverse, because it values the individual first and foremost, NOT religion and culture, first and foremost!

I find it disheartening to read that there are those who want to affirm culture when culture denies the human right to individual expression, choice and decision. Such culture really does not value life, but death.

Our culture allows for diversity when it comes to the human family and its expression of value to the individual children within it. Isn't this a distinct value to religious "forms" of family forming religious conformity?

Pinky said...

.
Angie is spot on with this statement: Humans who value themselves, do resent being treated as irrelevant, or insignificant. So our culture--as to religion--is diverse, because it values the individual first and foremost, NOT religion and culture, first and foremost!
.
This is such an important point, Angie. Thanks for putting it in words here.
.
The idea that the economy is more important than the individual is being heralded in the media and propounded by the dottering nabobs of reactionary conservatism.
.
I'm sick up to my nose with their bullshit.
.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Pinky,
Tom is right. We are speaking (or I am speaking) past one another...

Religion as culture, is what I am speaking about. You are suggesting that free market economy, or capitalism as the American culture...and you oppose this as the epitome of "right". I agree and disagree.

Culture, I had misguidingly assumed was formed by religious forms of the "ideal"...."God" as being the ideal...And the parents as the "God" image to the child. Religion usurping that familial place to "form" the child into an "ideal image", which can hinder the child's own personal choice, as to his goals/purposes/ideals and how he understands them.

What is true about the "ideals" of our government are the rights of the individual, in regards to their life. This is liberty, which is of utmost value and importance to the American "ideal". Therefore, no other entity, whether religious or political, has the right to determine the individual.

But, where you negate the free market, it is also the free market that supports individual value and human flouishing as to prosperity. The individual can become wealthy because he applies himself to certain areas of expertise. And his stewarding of his gifts are those that are valued by others, to bring society's economic/market benefit.