Over at his personal blog "Dispatches from the Culture Wars," Ed Brayton has commented on a recent audio interview from our good friend David Barton. And being that I have not posted in a while (sorry, busy doing the family/Christmas thing) I thought I might "hijack" Brayton's post and put it on our main page (my apologies, Mr. Brayton, the holidays don't allow me the luxury of coming up with my own stuff).
To start off, Brayton quotes Barton from the interview:
If you take the Bible and Christianity out, you will not have a Republican form of government in America. You will not have a free market economic system. You will not have a benevolent nation. You will not have common school education available for every student. You will not have freedom of conscience or religious toleration. They go through at least a dozen characteristics that are unique to America that were produced by Christianity and the Bible...they don't exist in other cultures, they exist here and they're the fruit of the Bible.
Then Brayton adds:
Really? The United States is the only benevolent nation on the planet? That will come as quite a shock to many other nations. The only Republican form of government on earth is in the United States? Really? I wonder if he realizes that we got many of the ideas for that form of government from - gasp! - French philosophers like Montesquieu?
I'll give him another example that will really make his eyes bug out. Japan is all of those things. It has a Republican form of government, public schools, religious freedom and freedom of conscience and is a benevolent nation. Yet Japan is probably the least Christian nation in the developed world.
Now, he might well respond that this is only because the United States wrote their constitution after WWII. But guess who actually wrote that constitution for them? A man named Roger Baldwin. He founded the ACLU and Barton has derided him as a godless communist bent on destroying everything good and Christian.
Smell that? That's cognitive dissonance.
And it's funny, people like Barton always point to the Massachusetts Bay Colony and the Mayflower Compact as examples of America's Christian heritage -- but where was that freedom of conscience and religion established by those people? They didn't even protect freedom of conscience for the wrong kind of Christians, much less for Jews or Hindus or non-believers. Just being a Baptist or a Quaker in Massachusetts was grounds for being jailed, exiled and even put to death.
Where was that religious freedom in the Christian colony at Maryland, where blasphemy resulted in such punishments as having a 'B' branded into one's forehead or having a hole bored in your tongue. Boy, that sure is tolerant, isn't it?
And while I agree that Barton's insistence that the Bible, and Christianity in general, are responsible for the creation of the American republic is preposterous, I think the founders were also clear in their belief that a republican government would NOT thrive without religion (whether that religion be Christian or not and what KIND of Christianity is another debate for another day). Yes, it's silly to insist that Christianity is what created the American republic, free market capitalism, etc. Barton (a "historian") would do well to look at the many examples of republican government that were created (past and present) without the Bible, Christianity, etc. Perhaps the correct answer is to say that the founders, regardless of how they established the American republic, believed very deeply that such a government would quickly fail without, as Washington put it, "God and the Bible." Franklin's advocacy for an American "public religion" is also indicative of this hope.
The American republic's STRUCTURE and ORIGIN may not have depended on the Bible, Jesus, etc. but the founders certainly believed that the ENGINE for such a republic would require such forces.