Thursday, June 25, 2020

Steven Green's Contribution to Cato Unbound

Here is a link to the Steven Green contribution to the Cato Unbound symposium on the faith of the American founders. A taste:
The incidence of religious language and discourse among leaders of the founding generation more likely tells us something different. As public figures, they understood the power of religious rhetoric to motivate and inspire people. That public speakers used those familiar idioms is unsurprising—everyone did it, including that “filthy little atheist” Tom Paine, as Theodore Roosevelt called him.[6] One must not lose sight of the significant challenges—with the high likelihood of failure—that the founders faced in the last quarter of the eighteenth century. Both political and religious figures purposefully drew on Biblical types to legitimize their revolutionary and governing efforts. Political and religious leaders sought to score symbolic points by identifying America’s successes with divine providence; another favorite was to analogize Britain and King George to Egypt and pharaoh and the colonists to the Children of Israel (with George Washington as Moses, leading them to the promised land). This purposeful use of religious imagery served an important political purpose of anointing the struggle with a transcendent purpose. In light of the extraordinary times and the commonality of religious discourse, it would have been remarkable if the founders had not employed biblical terminology in their public statements.[7]  
An undue focus on the religious upbringing of leading Founders, or on the religious discourse during the Founding, also undervalues the significance of Enlightenment rationalism and secular Whig political ideas on the founding generation. By the second half of the century, both strains of thought were significantly impacting the emerging ideas about revolution and republicanism.[8] The writings of figures such as John Locke, Baron Montesquieu, Hugo Grotius, and David Hume not only influenced the thinking of political leaders, they were adapted and integrated into the thought of clergy.[9] ...

2 comments:

Tom Van Dyke said...

The writings of figures such as John Locke, Baron Montesquieu, Hugo Grotius, and David Hume not only influenced the thinking of political leaders, they were adapted and integrated into the thought of clergy.[9] ...
Posted by Jonathan Rowe at 4:07 PM No comments: Links to this post


Hiding one's argument behind a footnote to another scholar is so incredibly lame.

First you have to make Green's argument for him before you can disagree with it. He shouldn't even have even bothered.

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