Sunday, January 20, 2013

George Will on religion and the American founding

The noted columnist (and Ph.D. in political science) recently gave an address in St. Louis on the topic of religion and the founding. Titled Religion and Politics in the First Modern Nation, video of Will's speech may be found here. The prepared text of Will's address can be found here. A response to Will's arguments by Conrad Black, including a robust defense of Woodrow Wilson against Will's attack, has been posted over at National Review Online.


Jason Pappas said...

George Will sees the founding fathers as religious in some watered down sense but nevertheless they are advocates of religion for the masses. Will seems to be sympathetic to the neo-conservative (sorry for the sloppy term) position that the masses need their myths. Conrad Black takes offense. Important to our focus, Black argues that the founders were more religious than Will acknowledges.

The question still remains: are the founders less religious than the population but believe the nation requires a more vigorous religious practice? Neither establishes their case in my opinion. It was still delightful to read Will’s thoughts on the matter.

Mark D. said...

Will is insightful as always, even if his presentation has its flaws. FWIW, I think that when speaking of the Founders, it is important to keep in mind of whom we are speaking. The "top tier Founders" were for the most part Theists who saw themselves as being connected to Christianity but who were not conventionally orthodox as far as we can tell (Washington, John Adams, Jefferson, Madison). Hamilton's religious convictions changed over time, from orthodox to less so, then back to orthodox again by the time of his death. The second and third tier Founders, though, were for the most part orthodox Christians, overwhelming Protestant (with the Carroll family proving a bit of Catholic leaven). Samuel Adams, Fisher Ames, John Carroll, would all have happily said the Nicene Creed. Even the unorthodox among the second and third tier Founders, like John Jay, were significantly more church-attending than the top tier Founders.

Tom Van Dyke said...

GWash quite plainly argues for the social utility of religion.

"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."

This is what pisses me off about militant anti-religionists. Forget the woo, disrupting the social order is unpatriotic.