Thursday, August 6, 2020

Hall on Rakove at Christianity Today

Mark David Hall has an article out at Christianity Today that reviews the new work by Jack Rakove on religious liberty and the American founding. A taste:

The Boundaries of Toleration

Historically, religious toleration has been the exception rather than the rule. But early modern thinkers such as John Milton and John Locke argued in favor of tolerating dissenters, and in 1689 England’s Parliament passed the Toleration Act, which offered limited protections to non-Anglican Protestants. Rakove states that the act “did not legally bind Americans,” but he suggests that it did “influence their behavior.” However, Rhode Island, Maryland, and Pennsylvania were already doing a superior job protecting religious liberty, and many American colonies soon joined them in surpassing their mother country. (I do not mean to imply that religious liberty was always and everywhere advancing in British North America. For instance, in 1692, following the Glorious Revolution, Maryland repealed its groundbreaking 1649 toleration act.)

In the Anglo-American world, the boundaries of religious toleration were regularly tested by members of the Society of Friends—better known as Quakers. Among other peculiarities, Friends decline to swear oaths, a practice Rakove attributes to the Fourth Commandment. I suspect he means either the Second or Third Commandment’s admonition not to “take the name of the Lord your God in vain” (Ex. 20:7, ESV). (Different traditions number the commandments differently.) But even citing Exodus is incorrect—Quakers refuse to swear oaths because they take literally biblical passages such as Matthew 5:34–37, where Jesus says, “Do not swear an oath at all. … All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one” (NIV). Furthermore, Quakers are pacifists and so refuse to serve in the military. They were routinely jailed because they acted on these convictions.

In 1696, Parliament passed a law permitting Quakers in England to affirm rather than swear some oaths. However, they were not allowed to be witnesses in criminal cases or hold civic offices—disabilities that remained until 1826 and 1832, respectively. Yet as early as 1647, Rhode Island permitted them to affirm rather than swear. Many American colonies followed this example and, in addition, exempted them from militia duty. The United States Constitution bans religious tests for office and permits anyone to affirm rather than swear oaths, which enabled Quakers to serve in the national government 44 years before they could do so in England. Rakove almost completely ignores these important advances for religious liberty in America.

Hall clearly endorses religious exemptions more so than Rakove does. That's the point of the review. However, figuring out how the founding fathers/First Amendment ought to apply is complex. Like Hall, I tend to generously support religious exemptions. Though I think Justice Scalia in Employment Division v. Smith got it right that the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment doesn't require such. 

That is, to the extent that these exemptions are legitimate, they are as creatures of legislatures and state constitutions. 

Further, scholars such as Marci Hamilton, Philip Hamburger and Phillip Munoz have demonstrated that such is the correct originalist understanding of religious liberty. True, America's founders did support giving exceptions and accommodations from the secular law that might burden religious practice. But did so more as a privilege that could be taken away.

(I understand this point is quite contentious in some scholarly circles; but at the moment I would kick the can to the above mentioned three scholars and can link to some of their arguments in the comment section if any readers so desire.) 

36 comments:

Mark David Hall said...

I am open to the argument that an originalist understanding of the Free Exercise Clause does not require religious exemptions, and in fact I am rather fond of narrow exemptions created by legislatures because it is difficult for judges to ignore them. What is clear to me is that exemptions do not violate the Establishment Clause, as some law professors have claimed, or that they are somehow illegitimate because they create "third party harms," as Rakove, following "progressive" law professors, asserts.

Tom Van Dyke said...

True, America's founders did support giving exceptions and accommodations from the secular law that might burden religious practice. But did so more as a privilege that could be taken away.


I endorse this observation too.

We see here that not just tolerance but accommodation became part of the fabric of America even before the Constitution was ratified. As I'm fond of saying, a nation is more than the sum of its laws.

Smith made the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act [RFRA] necessary but its application has been required for more than obscure and sui generis issues such as the religious use of peyote.

And that's a shame because its entirely common sense and common courtesy to accommodate religious liberty wherever possible, where other means can be used to achieve the desired goal. [Such as the distribution of free contraceptives without dragging the Little Sisters of the Poor into it.]

We shouldn't need a law to restrain such authoritarian brutishness.

Jim Goswick said...

Mr. Hall also mentions his contention that deism was not the norm in the colonies, however the evidence says the ffs were mostly deists such as: Jefferson, Wythe, Morris, Bartlett, Robert Morris, Gerry, Robert treat Paine, Hopkins, Baldwin, Blair, Rush, Wilson, Franklin, Burr, Madison, Adams, Iredell, Pickering, Washington and most of the others. And most of those men were pseudo anglicans who allowed true religious freedom, unlike the framers of the toleration act. As Professor Kidd says, very few would be surprised by a deist believing in providence. Its more like 80 to 90% of the colonists were ecumenical deists like Washington. It follows then, that you falsely define deism. It's the same thing as european deists believing in miracles. Most of them did. Deists were everywhere and going to church in 19th century america.

The founding religious liberty is deistic because nature's God in the DOI is the god of deism.

Mark David Hall said...

Mr. Goswick,

I don't think there is evidence to support your assertions. In "Did America Have a Christian Founding?" I consider first the claim that most of America's founders were deists as the term is often defined, e.g. by folks including Grasso, Wolfe, and Seidel, and find there is almost no evidence to support this claim (Paine and Allen are perhaps deists of this stripe). I then turn to the claim that they were "soft" or "providential" deists, and have a hard time finding evidence that more than a handful (e.g. Jefferson, Franklin, Adams) are accurately labeled a such. Even if you had evidence that all of the men you list were soft deists, you would need to leave your select sample that is largely Anglican (about 16% of the population in the era) and consider more folks from Reformed denominations (50-75% of the population) if you want to make claims about the religious beliefs of 80-90% of Americans.

Jim Goswick said...

What evidence are you looking for? The evidence I'm talking about is the actions from the ffs and colonists themselves on the ground. Ethan Allen is a good example; a deist using the name of jehovah in ecumenical context. It was the covenant name of the Jews the ffs used, and they weren't jews. Allen's actions have more weight since he is a sample of the military.

It's the same story with the reformed; presbyterians and congregationalists. Carried on by the halfway covenant, deists (unitarians)infiltrated all the churches, in every colony. Even in the most calvinist of churches, like Edwards' church.

The same thing goes for the presbyterians and baptists. They didn't put Christ in the bill of rights. They kept Christ out when some pastors took notice. William Livingston was the leader of the New York presbyterians and he was an ecumenist.

Had the colonists been true Christians unlike the ffs, they would have neutralized the secular compacts the ffs formed at the ratification debates, but they didn't. They went right along with it, proving they were like minded.

It would be interesting to see communion roles of each denomination.

Mark David Hall said...

Jim,

I have in mind evidence such as denying any basic tenet of orthodox Christianity. We have such texts from TJ, BF, and JA, but very few others.

As I explain in my book and will not reargue here, the founders were influenced by Christian ideas when they created America's constitutional order. This included adopting things like religious liberty for all.

Mark David Hall said...

I won't rewrite the book, but I will cut and paste a few passages about Baldwin who is identified as a deist above.

Abraham Baldwin was born in Connecticut, graduated from Yale College, was a tutor at Yale for three years, and served as a full-time chaplain in the Revolutionary Army from 1779-1783. Yale President Ezra Stiles recruited him to be a professor of divinity, but Baldwin declined and studied law instead. He was licensed as an attorney in 1783, and moved to Georgia in 1784.

Baldwin was elected to Georgia’s General Assembly the same year he arrived in the state. After Governor Lyman Hall requested that the legislature design a school system where “[e]very encouragement [is] given to introduce religion,” Baldwin drafted a statute to create a state university and to provide oversight for other public schools in the state. The statute began with a preamble proclaiming that it should be:

among the first objects of those who wish well to the national prosperity, to encourage and support the principles of religion and morality, and early to place the youth under the forming hand of society, that by instruction they may be molded to the love of virtue and good order.

The statute also required that “[a]ll officers appointed to the instruction and government of the university shall be of the Christian religion . . .”

--------
Two questions:
(1) what evidence is there that he was a deist?
(2) as an orthodox Christian I object to religious tests such as that contained in the statute above. My objecting to religious tests does not make me a deist of any sort.

Bonus fact, Baldwin played a key role in drafting the First Amendment to the Constitution.

Jim Goswick said...

The majority ffs weren't outspoken like the ones you listed. Moreover, Religious liberty is not a biblical idea, right?

I put Baldwin on that list because of what I read about him years ago. He only wrote in generic terms like the others that we see so often. Generalize everything and omit Christ. Baldwin was best friends with another deist Joel Barlow, which means he changed, but only his politics. He went from a federalist teaching at Yale, to a Democrat rather quickly that coincided with his transfer to Georgia. Further, TJ called himself a Christian, yet we know about him.

The evidence of true conversion for 18th century American elites is the same for today.

The answer to your 2nd question is connected to the first. No religious test is evidence of deism not the other way around. Especially if the test is in accordance with the Westminister confession and shorter catechism.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Anonymous Jim Goswick said...
Moreover, Religious liberty is not a biblical idea, right?


Well, it's definitely a Protestant one. Out of necessity, since there were almost countless Protestant sets by 1787. Sectarianism did not exist in the time of the apostles, thus your premise is faulty.

It would probably be more accurate to speak of the Founding as Protestant than "Christian." In Protestant thought, in the popeless "priesthood of all believers," no one man or sect has the authority to speak for all. Thus, in the Protestant milieu, freedom of religious conscience became a "natural" right.

"No religious test" is evidence of deism

It is evidence of Protestant sectarianism. As Dr. Hall, points out, many or most of the states did have religious tests, according to the druthers of their dominant sects. [Or in Virginia's case, the lack of one.]

Mark David Hall said...

If one is going to make an affirmative claim, e.g. "Barack Obama is a Muslim," it is reasonable to ask for evidence to support that claim. If one is going to claim that 80-90% of the founders were soft deists, it is reasonable to ask for evidence to support that claim. Such evidence does not exist.

I think you miss my point about religious tests. I, Mark Hall, am a practicing, orthodox Christian. I oppose religious tests for civic offices and believe in religious liberty for all. Embracing these ideas does not make me a deist.

Jim Goswick said...

The evidence of deism is manifest from the lack of evidence of biblical Christianity in the way I mentioned earlier. The colonial elites confirmed this deism by exalting nature's God instead of Christ in the national documents they established. The state documents were written by the same people with the same ecumenical definition; John Adam's definition.

You may be correct in that your faith has nothing to do with views of a religious test but it doesn't support your theory about the deist ffs. Deists would be on your side. Is Christ for a religious test?

Mark David Hall said...

Jim: Read "Did America Have a Christian Founding?" and the many documents collected in Dreisbach and Hall, "The Sacred Rights of Conscience," and let me know if you still have the same view.

Jonathan Rowe said...

I haven't carefully read through the comment chain, but there is a bit of a backstory to Mr. Goswick. He's been with us for well over a decade and cares about learning all of the details. He apparently has flipped his position.

And here is where I disagree with Dr. Frazer and his branding: There simply was not one definition of deism during the American founding. There were multiple uses of the term and one of them was simply "you aren't orthodox enough" from the perspective of someone who is uber-orthodox.

Mr. Goswick well represents that position today.

jimmiraybob said...

"As I explain in my book and will not reargue here, the founders were influenced by Christian ideas when they created America's constitutional order. This included adopting things like religious liberty for all."

How do you make the separation between "Christian ideas" and ancient Greek and Roman ideas that were absorbed by Christianity. One example would be "Providence" and another "Logos."

From Epictetus to Cicero to Seneca to Marcus Aurelius, these ideas were explored in the context of Stoic philosophy and the university-educated (European or American) FFs – broadly speaking – were more than familiar with pre-Christian philosophy, including epistemology, logic, metaphysics, ethics, aesthetics, and political. George Washington, who never made it to university, was steeped in Stoic ideas. And, if enough of the public and private letters and writings of the founding generations, including especially the authors, reviewers and ratifiers of the DOI and Constitution, it is easy enough to imagine that America’s “constitutional order” did not rely on Christian ideas but on broader and older philosophical and political ideas predating the European Christian order….which I might add, never came close to constituting such a liberal humanistic order based upon the sovereignty of the people and leaving religion to be freely adopted or not. The earliest European that comes the closest was the 17th-century Dutch philosopher Baruch Spinoza; and the Christian European church (broadly speaking) and their University Schoolmen did and still do everything possible to demonize – literally and figuratively – him and his work. Go ahead, spend a year studying Spinoza (I’d start with the more accessible Theological-Political Treatise) and the earlier Stoics (especially, Cicero and Seneca).

In short, when it comes to the political philosophy of the founding, there’s no getting away from pre- to non-Christian primary sources (even when John Adams and Jefferson are talking about republican models they include Rome and also later Italian attempts at republican rule). As to the cloak of religious speak among the “key” founders that are often considered “Deist,” there is little room between Stoic political-religious language and European/American colonial religious language.

jimmiraybob said...

"There simply was not one definition of deism during the American founding. There were multiple uses of the term and one of them was simply 'you aren't orthodox enough' from the perspective of someone who is uber-orthodox."

Hudson’s The English Deists(1) provides an in depth and academic assessment of the multiple facets of early “deism.”

"Atheist" was often used in a similar way as "deist" in order to denigrate - accuracy and precision ware not often practiced when attacking perceived enemies. Likewise "orthodox" and "non-orthodox."

1) Hudson, Wayne, 2008. The English Deists: Studies in Early Enlightenment (The Enlightenment World Book 7) 1st Edition. Routledge; 1 edition. pp 224.

Tom Van Dyke said...

How do you make the separation between "Christian ideas" and ancient Greek and Roman ideas that were absorbed by Christianity. One example would be "Providence" and another "Logos."


Such a separation is not required and indeed elides the point. The strength of Christianity is that it subsumed all the ancient truths rather than ignoring them. This is how St. Paul won over the Western World, and how Aquinas re-won it.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Recovery_of_Aristotle


Since truth cannot contradict truth, the truths derived by classical Greek and Roman thought are called "general" revelation--truths available to human reason without the Bible or the prophets--what St. Paul calls the "law written on the human heart."

The fundamental equality of men--which the Greeks and Romans did NOT derive--is the foundational truth upon which the American experiment is founded. This is a "self-evident" truth, however, part of the natural law, but it owes its genesis to Christianity.

Christianity subsumed and perfected the ancient philosophical truths, which alone were insufficient.


"Or whatever else was the cause, 'tis plain in fact, that human reason unassisted, failed men in its great and proper business of morality. It never, from unquestionable principles, by clear deductions, made out an entire body of the law of Nature.

And he that shall collect all the moral rules of the philosophers, and compare them with those contained in the new testament, will find them to come short of the morality delivered by Our Saviour, and taught by his apostles; a college made up, for the most part, of ignorant, but inspired fishermen."
---Locke, The Reasonableness of Christianity

Tom Van Dyke said...

jimmiraybob said...

"Atheist" was often used in a similar way as "deist" in order to denigrate - accuracy and precision ware not often practiced when attacking perceived enemies. Likewise "orthodox" and "non-orthodox."


True dat. The operative question is whether their God differed in any significant way from Jehovah, the God of the Bible. One has to go to Paine's Age of Reason, not published until 1794, well after his influence on the Founding had waned.

jimmiraybob said...

"Such a separation is not required..."

Of course it is. Maybe Mark can answer.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Unresponsive. Fight your own battles, lol.

jimmiraybob said...

"Unresponsive. Fight your own battles, lol."

Unhelpful. Perhaps Mark might provide a substantive response.

Tom Van Dyke said...

jimmiraybob said...
"Unresponsive. Fight your own battles, lol."

Unhelpful. Perhaps Mark might provide a substantive response.




There is nothing to respond to. You have no argument. As a child of modernity, even after all this time you are incapable of apprehending the Founding theology.


James Wilson was the brightest mind and best scholar and philosopher of the Founding generation. Your attempt to create an artificial wedge between Christian thought and classical reason is malcontrived. To the Founders the laws of nature and of nature's God are one in the same:


"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."
James Wilson, Of the Law of Nature, 1804

jimmiraybob said...

"There is nothing to respond to." Blah.

Seriously. Are you on Mark's payroll? Secretary perhaps? Spokesman? Otherwise, the original question was directed to Mark.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Waste of time. You'll never get it.

jimmiraybob said...

So, while we're waiting to see if Mark provides a substantive response, a question. What do you call your subsumation thesis; Pagan Christianity or Christian Paganism?

Tom Van Dyke said...

Once again your premise is mistaken. You need to do more work on God and the ancients, on Aristotle and especially the Stoics.


But you won't.


As a formal rebuttal, paganism such as you describe did not even exist by the time of the Founders. That whatever truths it held were subsumed by "Christian thought" is simply a historical fact: Whatever daylight there is between Aristotle and Aquinas no longer existed after Thomas "christianized" him.

You grabbed at straws with Spinoza, but you'll get no help from Mark David Hall on that fiasco.

http://americancreation.blogspot.com/2015/04/hall-on-stewarts-natures-god.html

jimmiraybob said...

“But you won't.”

Why would I submit to your cult-like mysticism? You’re not arguing history you’re preaching magical thinking – the baptism and subsumation of ideas – under the pretense of history. Since at least Justin Martyr people have been wedding the imagined mystical wonders of the divine realm with secular philosophical ideas in order to satisfy their desire for constructing a God of their imaginations to sooth their spiritual needs. And you chastise Gregg Frazier, rills eyes.

Now if you’d argued that Christianity has in large park incorporated portions of pagan thinking into their theology nobody could argue. But to argue that Christianity subsumed and now is the sole proprietor of those preceding ideas and, thereby, all previous attachments to the originators and all later propagators is arguing a theological position. To argue that Aquinas washed away the pagan, like a certain shampoo washes away the gray, is laughable. I don’t know how your blog mates can stand it.

Anyway, I’ll wait to see if Mark has anything of substance to add before I assume that you speak for him.

jimmiraybob said...

Also too, for a guy that knows absolutely nothing about Spinoza, you sure do strut.

Tom Van Dyke said...

You had your shot at Mark David Hall, tough guy. You were MIA. He cannot help you now.

You grabbed at straws with Spinoza, but you'll get no help from Mark David Hall on that fiasco.

http://americancreation.blogspot.com/2015/04/hall-on-stewarts-natures-god.html

Mark David Hall said...

Sorry, folks, I've been working other writing projects. Let me quickly concede that almost no idea relative to politics is distinctively or uniquely Christian. By that I mean that you can find such ideas in pre-Christian European cultures (e.g. Greece and Rome) or in times and places completely removed from the European context (e.g. 5th century BC China).

Taken human sinfulness, or self-interestedness if you prefer. Many people past and present accept this reality. To my way of thinking, the question is what led America's founders to accept this idea? Surely the Christian view that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Ron 3:23) and that even Christians continue to struggle with sin (Rom. 7) played an important role. So did the Calvinist spin on this doctrine that humans are totally depraved (and 50-75% America's founders are reasonably classified as Calvinists). Because they accepted this view of human nature, they designed a constitutional order characterized by federalism, checks and balances, separation of powers, etc. By way of contrast, some leading Enlightenment thinkers were moving to the position that humans are basically good--a conclusion that leads to a very different political order.

Tom Van Dyke said...

shoulda taken his chances on Aquinas

jimmiraybob said...

Thanks Mark.

"...the question is what led America's founders to accept this idea?"

I agree and, after I have a chance to ponder a bit, will likely have a comment. If for no other reason than to suss out my thinking. And, of course, for the abuse.

Tom Van Dyke said...

"...the question is what led America's founders to accept this idea?"



Even if not Calvinism, reason and experience. You have haunted this blog for a decade, JRB. You speak but do not listen.


“Towards the preservation of your government, and the permanency of your present happy state, it is requisite, not only that you steadily discountenance irregular oppositions to its acknowledged authority, but also that you resist with care the spirit of innovation upon its principles, however specious the pretexts. One method of assault may be to effect, in the forms of the Constitution, alterations which will impair the energy of the system, and thus to undermine what cannot be directly overthrown.

In all the changes to which you may be invited, remember that time and habit are at least as necessary to fix the true character of governments as of other human institutions; that experience is the surest standard by which to test the real tendency of the existing constitution of a country; that facility in changes, upon the credit of mere hypothesis and opinion, exposes to perpetual change, from the endless variety of hypothesis and opinion; and remember, especially, that for the efficient management of your common interests, in a country so extensive as ours, a government of as much vigor as is consistent with the perfect security of liberty is indispensable.”

― GWash, Farewell Address


You have learned nothing. You tear down statues and call it "progress."

jimmiraybob said...

Mark - “To my way of thinking, the question is what led America's founders to accept this idea?”

Uh oh. Here comes the haunting – queue the spooky music.

There were multiple routes to acceptance of the idea that some men do evil and some men do good – an observation that I imagine goes back to the beginning of sentient awareness and social organization. As to the structure of government for the American experiment, while compatible with church polities within the colonies, almost all key intellectual drafters and defenders of the new national political language drew directly upon ancient Greek and Roman sources (e.g., tyrant, democracy, representation, separation of powers, republic, etc.). This is evident in public as well as private writing and upon examination of the contents of diaries and the shelves of private libraries. Of course, many drew Biblical inspiration to varying degrees and all sought the approval of the peoples of various Protestant sects as well as Catholics and Jews (and, again of course, the majority being the Protestants). Some of the generations of Founders drew more inspiration from and parallels to scripture than others and some were earnest religionists of various stripes.

But compatibility is not causation. And, given that so many pre-Christ, pre-Christian (or even contemporaneous) philosophical elements have been incorporated into the faith, it’s hard to distinguish between the two and especially, in the past tense. [Shakes fist at Justin Martyr and later cohorts.*]

It’s hard not to recognize that someone like Jefferson, with a distinct take on religion - his “religion of one,” or a Madison, or a Hamilton, or a Washington, or an Adams, all with a vast knowledge of ancient pre-Christian political and religious ideas as well as being steeped in the religious sentiments of their time and place, could fashion a hybrid – subsume a multitude of ideas from various sources – and come to a stance on government that could appeal to the Christian mind, let’s say a Sam Adams, as well as the atheist mind, let’s say Ethan Allen, or even the French philosophs. The bottom line is that the government that they fashioned, as the elite politicians of their day, appealed to most post-colonial Americans.

And where in the history of Christianized Europe or of colonial America had government been constituted solely on the voice of the people without an appeal to the sovereignty of God; a government that acknowledges the rights of individual worship but makes no demands of the people to be one religion or another or to even worship a God or gods? What Biblical Christian or Judeo idea is that?

In the end, I think that the other Jim’s realization is correct. The United States of America – the union of states and peoples – was not constituted as or anointed a Christian Nation and rests on no discrete Biblical principle while many elements are compatible, as they are with other religions, agnosticism, and even atheism. The key realization of the intellectual architects of America was that it was and would grow to be a land of too many beliefs not to have a pluralistic national governing philosophy. At least if the lessons of old Europe, with its centuries of religious intolerance, wars and massacres were to be heeded.

Continued Below

jimmiraybob said...

Continued


So, what have I learned in my time spent in secular public schools and University and beyond? That religion, and specifically Christianity, has played and continues to play a large role in the shaping of the United States of America. But, (to quote Sarah Palin) also too, peoples of different faiths and no religious faith at all have also contributed to the growth and fabric and the viability of the nation. All under the supreme law of the land. Plurality, ya either love it or hate it.

Now queue Tom’s “but the states…..” Which I might add, followed the exact same route – some sooner and some later.

*The English “Deists” as well as a number of American Founders drew a distinction between primitive Christianity (and the morals of Jesus – e.g., see Jefferson) and later “man-corrupted” variations.

I tell you what Tom, if you get a couple of your blog brothers to join in petitioning me to never haunt here again I’ll take my haunting elsewhere.

PS Calvin was was trained as a humanist lawyer and studied the Greek and Roman classics before he invented his take on religion.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Not a single new fact or argument presented in 800 words of blather, only negation and assertion. Congratulations.

Oh and Jefferson. Always Jefferson. Jefferson who wrote most of the best parts of the Declaration, then disappeared for the entire Revolution and was an ocean away during the drafting and ratification of the Constitution and Bill of Rights--and whose religion was so alien to the Founding generation he had to keep it secret.

All based on the convenient elision of the plain fact that "pre-Christian" thought was absorbed and perfected over 1700-odd years of Christianity leading up to the Founding. But Christianity is the sine qua non of THE Founding principle, of the fundamental equality of men and the existence of certain natural rights, endowed by the divine. Even Jefferson could not make the Founding argument without it.


It has never been the position of this blog that the origin of Christianity is divine or if it's merely a creation of man's imagination and appropriation of "pagan" traditions. It is immaterial; a dead end.

Even Jefferson conceded that what men believed is all that matters.


"And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are of the gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with his wrath?"


You don't even have Jefferson on your side.

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