Saturday, January 1, 2011

WorldNetDaily Looks Forward to John Fea's Book

Fea's book, from the advanced look I got it, is going to be a great read. Here is Jim Fletcher.

In our country, publishers (and documentary producers) are able to produce material, led by conscience. We might disagree on various views, but we are free to produce, distribute and discuss those views.

A new book (one we'll review in the coming weeks) is John Fea's "Was America Founded as a Christian Nation? A Historical Introduction."

This subject settled in my mind recently as I saw a promotion of Fea's book from Publishers Weekly. It brought to mind the polar opposite views about our Founding Fathers that have filled bookshelves and DVD players for some time.

Personally, I am in the middle of my investigation into just what the Founding Fathers believed. The question first became fascinating to me more than a decade ago, during the events at Mount Vernon in 1999, the bicentennial of George Washington's death. Previously a guide had pointed to a spot along the banks of the Potomac, where in early December 1799, Washington had been marking trees to be cut. He fell ill shortly after and died before Christmas.

The subject of Washington's religious faith has been debated ever since. I found it interesting at Mount Vernon that of 100 or more titles about Washington in the gift shop, only one addressed his faith. The guides made no mention of it, and so I got an education into the extent of the sanitizing of such subjects from America's power centers today. The National Parks Service is not going to chip away at the wall of separation between church and state that … oh well, that's a subject for another day.

I did find it quite interesting that just outside the tomb of George and Martha Washington (moved to a spot closer to the house some decades after their deaths), stand stone pillars with Scripture chiseled into the stone. Some even speak of the resurrection, which I'd think would be a clue to Washington's real feelings about Christianity.

But then again, perhaps not.

41 comments:

Brad Hart said...

I cannot wait to read this book. I've enjoyed Fea's material for a long time and I'm sure his book won't disappoint. Being that he's a friend of the blog, we should consider doing several posts on his book.

Pinky said...

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I'll be reading the book.
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I'm thinking we are presently going through a time quite similar to that of the Founding Era.
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I hope we will be as successful as were our Founding Fathers.
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Pinky said...

To subscribe.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

According to M. Stanton Evans, Washington in his book, "The Theme is Freedom", states that Washington advised his troops to behave as is appropriate for a Christian soldier (pg.34). He quotes Washington's views on personal liberty and free government, "Of all the dispositions and habits, which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensible supports....The mere politician, equally with the pious man, ought to respect and to cherish them..Whatever may be conceded by minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.' Tis substansively true that virtue or morality is a necessary spring of popular government....Who that is a sincere friend to it can look with indifference to shake the foundations of the fabric?" (The Theme is Freedom, pg.34).

It seems the Founders did believe that God was undertaking the Revolutionary cause and it was because the individual liberty and limited government were based not on Aristotle or Plato, but on God.
This was the right of dissent and resistence to authoritarian government....Where would Strauss "fit into this thinking", as it seems he believed in an elite political class, didn't he?

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Of course, Evans is a conservative, and believes that today's "rule of law" has been undermined by procedures...Isn't this what happened in the recent case in Russia?

I just recently read where the conviction rate is in the 98 to 99% in Russia, because government has the power over individual rights/protections. Guilt imposed on the indivdual while the government is absolved or its moral obligations, because it is the implimentor of "the right", "the good", etc.

How do we believe that God is the Creator/Protector/Defender of the right of the indivdual when evolutionary thought is held? Survival of the fittest fits the authoritarian government that isn't limited...because of the power of the fittest....

Tom Van Dyke said...

It seems the Founders did believe that God was undertaking the Revolutionary cause and it was because the individual liberty and limited government were based not on Aristotle or Plato, but on God.

Or we could simply say, not God, but belief in God, or as Jefferson put it, "the conviction in the minds of men" that our rights come from God and cannot be violated without his wrath.


How do we believe that God is the Creator/Protector/Defender of the right of the indivdual when evolutionary thought is held?


heh heh. the question of our age---how to get people to behave responsibly if not charitably like Christians while pitching the Christianity part, the "conviction" Jefferson spoke of.

I meself, like Strauss, don't believe man has "evolved" a whit. One global catastrophe and we're back to the Heart of Darkness and Lord of the Flies.

Mad Max, anyway.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Charity must come from the character or "heart" of man. I don't think any of the Tea Partiers would be uncharitable, if left to their own choice, but these do resent being mandated to be charitable. I don't blame them. Oppression comes from the outside, but liberty of heart is what true charity is about. Government was not to regulate "charity". This is Evans concern with government oversight...and we see this happening today...little encroachments into the individual choices and liberty of life...

Angie Van De Merwe said...

In moral/human development, one does not do what is one's "duty" (law-abiding citizen) for fear of "God's judgement". This is the stage of a child, not maturity.

There is a stage where one wants to be accepted by one's social group, so one obeys the standards. And then there is the obligation to maintain the social order, for the sake of the social order. But, post-conventional moral development understands the dignity of every human. It is the basis of human rights.

And this was the basis of our Founding Fathers. They believed in the basic dignity of man, apart from government!!! The individual must come first....

Tom Van Dyke said...

post-conventional moral development

I reject there is such a thing.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

I was wondering what you would think of that....as self-interest is at a lower rung...so the science/relgion folks would be interested in how a human would develop against their survival instincts...etc. etc. And it undermines what the Founders would understand with the social contract, wouldn't it?

I was just coming back to question you about Post Conventional devleopment. Do you think that each person has a right to be treated with dignity in the process of "formation"....the Catholic Church does believe it is the Church's responsibility to "morally form" individuals and society..this is what "salvation" means...So, where is human choice, value and "right" in this regard? The parents are supposed to support their child's religious education in the Church...etc. etc. So, is indoctrination what society "stands by", while those that create "outside the box" are the inventors that prosper society?

Pinky said...

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"...post-conventional moral development..."
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?????
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I have never been exposed to this term until Angie's mention here.
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So, can I please get clued in regarding what it means in the way you are using it, Angie.
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Angie Van De Merwe said...

@Tom,
I believe service in the military comes the closest to "post-conventional" morality, as these men/women serve their country without question, to protect liberty and defend the country's security...

@Pinky,
Thomas Kohlburg and Carol Gilligan were Harvard researchers on human moral development. Kohlburg's research was based on reasoned morality, which Post Conventional morality is "Constitutional government", where the indivdiual has dignity in and of himself. Whereas, Carol Gilligan's "care model" was a more feminine approach. Her view modified Kohlburg's view by understanding a more personal model of "care". ..."self" is cared for equally as the other in post-conventional maturity...

Angie Van De Merwe said...

My question is can we really come to an objective "human rights" stance? Since Russia didn't respect the "human", Russia prosecuted without individual protections of innocence until proof of guilt. Evey beauracratic system discriminates in this way...these government undermine the personal.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

BTW, some have misundestood the female model at maturity, as being at a lower level morally, due to the differences in how the female develops...

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Question, Again! This is a history blog, but because humans identify with groups, the nation-state does qualify. Here goes;

Since there are many that are seeking to bring about a 'one world government", or a 'world order', how do they suggest that humans who do discriminate based on their identification factors will be "co-operative"?

America has allowed for the individual to freely associate with the things that he chooses to identify; religious, cultural, political, social...so, we are a diverse bunch when it comes to "identity". And American identity can tolerate such diversity because of its liberal stance toward difference. The liberty of free association gives Americans their sense of 'freedom'. This is why the Tea Partiers have risen up to "fight back" against government intrustions into their pocketbooks. But, it has alos revealed that we as a country don't have a commitment to the "union", doesn't it? We don't have a "social conscience", for the most part. Is this necessarily bad? I don't know.

Some have sought to unify through religious identity, but, we are not particularly Catholic.

Is the basic purpose of unification of the world, an economic one? and/or a "moral one? If one is Marxist where equality of outcome is the goal, then, I suppose we are headed for some turbulant waters. But, if the goal is equality of opportunity, then, how does one justify such endeavors amidst different regimes that are not particularly open to the 'free market"?

I prefer to "take care of my own" within borders of our own Sovereignty. But, Sovereignty today, is even questioned.

Pinky said...

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Interesting that you reference that Harvard movement, Angie, which is all about the development of the self.
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I'm curious about how you're meaning to associate that with American history.
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Angie Van De Merwe said...

Pinky,
This is my question..."self" is developed most freely in a free society, obviously. Some have sought to undermine "self's" autonomy, as these believe that one has to be identified by a specific culture.
American culture is as diverse as the people who are "American", because we are individuals, first and foremost.

So, the Christian Nation is/is not "true", as America is not specifically given to one creed, as to "the Church".

Pinky said...

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Here ya go, Angie:
http://www.uctv.tv/search-details.aspx?showID=16425
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Angie Van De Merwe said...

Pinky,
I don't know if there is a universal way that humans develop in regards to "faith", "intellect", and "morality", as these have been studied separately, but each area is developed within a particular person. This makes for the diverse ways of thinking and being in the world...

James Fowler's faith development, William Perry's intellectual development, and Kohlburg/Gilligan's moral development all are "ordered" and developed at different levels in different people...the combination possibilities boggles the mind...

Pinky said...

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It's an interesting area of thought to me, Angie.
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I've done some work in those areas and think I've mentioned that in other threads.
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But, I'm missing your point here. Maybe you could be more informative?
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Angie Van De Merwe said...

Pinky,
My point is that in a free society, like America's, the individual has all kinds of ways to "be in the world", that is, to offer "gifts" to society. So, uniformity, as to "faith", "intellectual commitments" or one's behavioral standards (other than law-abiding) will vastly differ from individual to individual.

Those that want to commit to "faith" find their place among the different denominations and their different opinions regarding "faith claims".

Those that want to commit to academice endeavors will also differ as to their commitment to a specified field of knowledge.

And all of "us" are called to "moral development", which could be in numerous fields; church, state, national think tanks, educational, etc., as "morality" is about how one views "life" in society.

I don't recall you revealing your experience/education concerning these areas of human development...

Tom Van Dyke said...

My point is that in a free society, like America's, the individual has all kinds of ways to "be in the world", that is, to offer "gifts" to society.

Ayn Rand would say we owe "society" nothing. Whether or not you agree, how do you tell a Randian otherwise? After all, everyone has their "diverse ways of thinking and being in the world..."

This is the conundrum.

That said, the diversity of religions [and non-religions] in America does accord each individual a sort of "place in the sun," although there's an additional conundrum of religious societies [or even non-religious societies like the Universal Universalists and the Rand Institute types] that they are "societies" themselves!

The only truly "free" person in the state of nature is the hermit.

Jason_Pappas said...

Of all the dispositions and habits, which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensible supports.....

The problem I have with generic quotes of this nature is that they could be expressed by anyone of any school of philosophy at the time of our founding with one minor exception. Plato and Cicero could have uttered that very statement. The only tradition that opposed such thinking was the materialist tradition of Democritus, Epicurus, and Hobbes. At the time of the founding this school of thought had little influence in history. Thus, generic statements about God, religion, honor, duty, and the like are almost universal.

The important questions are more substantial. What does one think God wants one to do? How does one seek honor? What moral obligations are there? The answers to these distinguish the various religions and philosophies. I’d rather see Washington’s thoughts on these matters before I decide which school of thought he rightfully follows.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Tom,
The "rule of law" guards us all, doesn't it? That means that no one can take away the right of individual liberty without consent.

One really CAN'T tell another what their "duty" is, except when it is legislated. Stanton Evans (The Theme is Freedom) does talk about those that believe in the 'social contract' such that they give up their right to the 'whole'. (Wasn't this Rousseau? and Hobbes "general will"?). This is what covenant types think...as one's duty to "God". And that makes for tyranny, doesn't it? Stanton Evans makes the point in "The Theme is Freedom" that the Founders were the conservative, because they believed that the law was above man, in limiting the power of those governing.

He also mentioned those that believe that the government has a duty to train, as to virtue. And this also is tyranny. He believes in libertarian principles that guard against such tyranny. This was why I asked you the question in regards to the Church and "formation"...etc.

I think it interesting that you chose Ayn Rand (individual) and Universalist Unitarian (humanity), as your illustrations.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

What concerns me is the push toward Statism, and Globalism. And this is where you EGOIST and Universalist correlate to our problems in America today.

Those that rule have not limited themselves, and seen themselves as public servants! Thus, they are EGOIST...

And those that have no virtue, as to self-governance, are greedy for gain and have led us into the deficit we now face, and possible slavery to nations who do not hold to the principles or values of our Republic!!! (and this is where the "human rights" movement may take us, for the greater good", etc.)

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Don't get me wrong, I am not anti-capitalistic...or anti- libertarian. (From what I understand)...But, the Founders did understand the principles and importance of "common law" and of self-governance. Those that lead us should not be charged with ethical violations.

Tom Van Dyke said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tom Van Dyke said...

Plato and Cicero could have uttered that very statement.

Well, that's interesting, because Athens puts Socrates to death for impiety towards the gods of the city. To touch on Strauss, he would say that "philosophy"-as-atheism has a duty not to destroy the city.

Washington comes to the same conclusion one sentence later in your cite:

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, these firmest props of the duties of men and citizens.

It's not patriotic to tear down those "pillars." One's freedom to believe this or that stops there. A traditional reading [and today's common interpretation] is that Athens was unjust to Socrates. But he was not punished for his beliefs [or non-beliefs]. Athens was acting in self-defense and Socrates' "crime" was being seditious of the fabric of Athenian society.

Regardless, the charge against Strauss of perpetuating the "noble lie" of religion is false---Strauss would say simply [I think, anyway] that the "philosopher" owes a duty to his host society not to destroy it.

The "philosopher" can believe or not believe what he wants---like a hermit if you will---but is not "free" to destroy the underpinnings of the very society that makes his life possible. To me that seems quite reasonable and, well, civilized.

_______________

One really CAN'T tell another what their "duty" is, except when it is legislated.

Well, this reduces the entire human equation---and political philosophy itself to law and legalism. But as John Adams noted, mere law isn't enough to hold each man in check---he must self-govern hisself responsibly.


Law is a poor prism to examine the human experience; at its very best, it approximates reality. As for the Founders' view of law and natural law, and the etc., again James Wilson:

"[H]ow shall we, in particular instances, learn the dictates of our duty, and make, with accuracy, the proper distinction between right and wrong; in other words, how shall we, in particular cases, discover the will of God? We discover it by our conscience, by our reason, and by the Holy Scriptures. The law of nature and the law of revelation are both divine: they flow, though in different channels, from the same adorable source. It is, indeed, preposterous to separate them from each other. The object of both is ― to discover the will of God ― and both are necessary for the accomplishment of that end."

"Duty," the natural law, and "the will of God" are all intertwined in this view. And Wilson is lecturing on law and legality here, to which [he says] all these things apply.

James Wilson, of course was a signer of the D of I, a Framer and Signer of the Constitution, and a Supreme Court Justice, and ranks pretty high in influence. I have not found anything in the Founding literature that takes a contrary viewpoint.

In 2010, most of that is considered BS, dead white man thinking, or the tyranny of "tradition." But that's another discussion.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Ayn Rand and the libertarian view about "free markets" underwrites our understanding of liberty. As "free markets" if government doesn't regulate them out of existence, do limit themselves. And individuals are free to choose where their money will be spent, or invested. Choice and risk are individual liberties about thier own private property. We don't want to let government intervene where private property is concerned, do we?

Angie Van De Merwe said...

But, government shold protect individuals in regards to theft, fraud, etc.

Jason_Pappas said...

I’m not clear, Tom, about what you are trying to say. Are you saying that Socrates was guilty of impiety and Plato was not sincere about religion?

My point is that up to the founding generation, all schools of philosophy (except Epicureanism) were seen as proclaiming a role for religion. A simple statement on the importance of religion for the ethnical underpinnings of society doesn’t reveal the speakers philosophical sympathies. That’s all.

As far as the philosopher’s duty to protect the foundations of a just order, I couldn’t agree more. Explicit nihilists were rare prior to the 19th century. Philosophical negligence may be a charge to consider but that’s beyond the scope of this blog.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

According to Stanton Evans book, The Theme is Freedom, he says that the Founding Fathers were not philosophers, but common lawyers. These represented "common interests".

Aristotle's hierarchal view in his "Politics" was not what the Founders understood in their "equality before law".

Plato's philosopher kings, also were not the specific understanding of the Founding Fathers. Even so, the philosopher kings would not be above the law, either, according to the Founders concern over limited government and individual liberty.

I don't think that the Founders thought we should serve a "living Constitution" where an activist judge reinterprets the Constitution to his own liking. Justice was not to be implemented for the protections of government interests, but for the sake of its citizens interests.

I believe Edmund Burke did try to defend the American Revolution before Parliament because he did believe that the Americans had a point about thier lack of representation.

Philosophy should not undercut the practical nature of the political realm, where real humans, their lives and livilhoods live and move as free moral agents.
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And it is because of moral agency that our Founders believed in liberty. Each individual was granted the dignity, and right of a "king", so to speak. But, the Founders also recognized humans and their propensity to err in regards to absolute power. Therefore, their concern was to bring a balance to and separation power among the three brances and limit power of the government over all.

Tom Van Dyke said...

I think we're agreeing completely, Jason, and I wasn't exactly clear. Dint know if anyone was interested in the rest.

I'm touching on Leo Strauss here, whom I don't like aligning meself with because he's a hot button in the culture wars. [The neo-con thing, which is a false charge, BTW.]

But we like Strauss around here, so I hit him now and then when he has a point of clarity, esp on political philosophy or the classics.

In this case, Plato's Socrates does not defend himself from the charge of impiety. Neither does he deny that his impiety is a threat to the good order of the city.

It is. Keep in mind that in Plato's "The Trial of Socrates," Socrates has the option of fleeing the city and his sentence. He does not [perhaps because he is too old to care], nor does he complain the sentence is unjust.

They ask him what his sentence should be, and he replies it should be free meals for life, like all the other heroes of the city. That's funny, but he's not really kidding, which is the irony of the thing.

Is Plato sincere about religion? Strauss would say no, because the philosophy is antithetical to religion because religion limits "free inquiry" with its presuppositions---God, revelation, etc.

Is Plato's Socrates sincere about religion? I don't think so. In fact, at the beginning of Republic, the rich old owner of the house, Cephalus, leaves to do sacrifice for his sins and prepare for death. Philosophy, the rest of Republic, is a young man's game.

Plato's Socrates is not the real Socrates, of course, he's a device for Plato. Is Plato sincere about religion? Certainly not religion as described by the Greek pantheon.

But yes, in the way that transcends empiricism, that perfection exists out there in the ether---"forms"---in a way that it doesn't exist on earth.

Platonist that he is, Strauss still rejects that "forms" stuff. Still, I meself find Strauss too empirical himself, content with worldly forms of near-perfection like "virtue." Me, I think Plato was closer to the "truth." But we don't discuss truth claims around here.

;-)

Thx for asking, JP. We're into the buttend of this thread so I don't see the harm in touching on stuff like this now that the topic of the OP is a distant memory.

As far as the philosopher’s duty to protect the foundations of a just order, I couldn’t agree more.

I think Strauss would say "the philosopher" is not obliged to protect them as far as propagating the "noble lie" of religion, but he is obliged not to destroy such "pillars" either.

Which is exactly what Washington was saying about "patriotism."

A simple statement on the importance of religion for the ethnical underpinnings of society doesn’t reveal the speaker's philosophical sympathies. That’s all.

Exactamundo per GWash [and many or most other Founders], and not a very extravagant statement atall. It's a delight having you onboard around here, Jason, clarity being more important than agreement. We can use all the clarity we can get these days.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Philosophy should not undercut the practical nature of the political realm, where real humans, their lives and livilhoods live and move as free moral agents.

Angie, your responses are getting just a tad scattershot. We can't address the whole human condition in every thread.

As you can see in the discussion above between Jason and me, even the "philosopher" is not a "free moral agent," a term pretty close to gibberish. Hitler was a free moral agent and so was John Wayne Gacy.

You touch on many good points, but making 20 of them at once, along with 10 iffy ones, makes it impossible to include you in the discussion if it's to be productive. Pick one---preferably the one everybody else is discussing---fix yrself an appropriate cocktail or do some bong hits, and then it can be like Plato's Republic, with everybody kickin it in a proper Socratic dialogue, and in the end, something somebody else might find worth reading through.

These posts and discussions stay up on the internet forever, y'know. Most of our traffic is from older posts and Google even turns up results from the comments sections. So, everytime you write, take a breath, organize your neurons, and make it one for the ages.

Cheers.

Jason_Pappas said...

It's a pleasure as always, Tom. -Jason

King of Ireland said...

Great discussion here. Angie I agree with Tom. You make some very good points but are hard to follow because you hit on too many themes all at once. I find that I often just skim your comments at times instead of reading them because it is just too much information.

Pinky said...

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Some good comments here. I think Tom has got Strauss nailed pretty good.
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I'm thinking what Angie started was intended to go in a different direction and I would have liked to have seen more of what she wanted to uncover.
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Joe Winpisinger said...

Phil stated:

"I'm thinking what Angie started was intended to go in a different direction and I would have liked to have seen more of what she wanted to uncover"

Was it germane to the thread?

Pinky said...

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I'm think it was germane; but, don't know how.
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Angie Van De Merwe said...

The overall view of government was what the discussion was/is about.

We got into a discussion about human development in faith, intellectual, and moral development, and how those play out in choice, and value, as Rand would suggest. Egotism is the idea that "self" has come into its own worldview. Philosophy is the handmaiden that underlies one's values and ultimate commitments.

Pinky said...

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Do you mean egoism?
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