Monday, January 2, 2012

Trenchard & Gordon on Religion: All Government proved to be instituted by Men, and only to intend the general Good of Men. (Trenchard) (NO. 60. SATURDAY, JANUARY 6, 1722)

America's Founders were Lockeans. But they didn't get their Locke unfiltered. T & G were crucial filters.

See an exerpt here:

Every man's religion is his own; nor can the religion of any man, of what nature or figure soever, be the religion of another man, unless he also chooses it; which action utterly excludes all force, power, or government. Religion can never come without conviction, nor can conviction come from civil authority; religion, which is the fear of God, cannot be subject to power, which is the fear of man. It is a relation between God and our own souls only, and consists in a disposition of mind to obey the will of our great Creator, in the manner which we think most acceptable to him. It is independent upon all human directions, and superior to them; and consequently uncontrollable by external force, which cannot reach the free faculties of the mind, or inform the understanding, much less convince it. Religion therefore, which can never be subject to the jurisdiction of another, can never be alienated to another, or put in his power.


Phil Johnson said...

Every man's religion is his own; nor can the religion of any man, of what nature or figure soever, be the religion of another man, unless he also chooses it; which action utterly excludes all force, power, or government.
Should the wall of separation between church and state come down, then that statement will no longer be true.

Jason Pappas said...

What I find interesting in this defense of religious freedom is the view that religion is inalienable (see last sentence). This makes religious freedom metaphysical. You can’t have a religion that is not of your own choosing since it requires “conviction.” You can force behavior but not conviction. The problem with making this freedom metaphysical is that it no longer requires ethnical and political norms. Religious freedom is internal and inalienable, i.e. it can’t be taken away.

That being said, it is interesting that T&G’s discussion like Locke’s 1st letter on Toleration is inherently individualistic. Both are concerned with an individual’s conviction for the individual’s sake. Neither talks about the needs of society. For example, laws against blasphemy may not change an individual’s belief but they can influence an individual’s behavior. Such might be advocated for the effect good behavior has on the young or the general conditions of the social order.

I see no such concern in Locke or T&G (ignoring Locke’s worry about sedition and Catholicism). Thus, the social order appears to have no bearing on legislation of religious practice. Did the founding fathers take this view?

Mark D. said...

The Lockean position for religious liberty is ultimately grounded on a particular theological argument about the nature of true religion. It is heavily influenced by the ideology of the English Protestant dissenters -- note that Locke and his followers were notoriously bigoted against Catholics and denied civil liberty to both individual Catholics and to the Catholic Church.

The irony of course is that the notion of the separation of church and state is itself in its origins a theological idea. A naked public square, devoid of religious ideas, would cast Locke and his disciples out just as surely as it would Pat Robertson or Robbie George.

The theological idea underpinning Locke is also the key principle undergirding Jefferson's statute on religious liberty and Madison's Memorial & Remonstrance. More irony!

Jason Pappas said...

Yes and I believe Locke gives a historical argument. The distinction of the ecclesiastical and civil go back to the founding of the religion. As Locke noted:

There are, indeed, many cities and kingdoms that have embraced the faith of Christ, but they have retained their ancient form of government, with which the law of Christ hath not at all meddled. He, indeed, hath taught men how, by faith and good works, they may obtain eternal life; but He instituted no commonwealth. He prescribed unto His followers no new and peculiar form of government, nor put He the sword into any magistrate's hand, with commission to make use of it in forcing men to forsake their former religion and receive His.

Locke would eliminate the church in civil affairs:

It is not my business to inquire here into the original of the power or dignity of the clergy. This only I say, that, whencesoever their authority be sprung, since it is ecclesiastical, it ought to be confined within the bounds of the Church, nor can it in any manner be extended to civil affairs, because the Church itself is a thing absolutely separate and distinct from the commonwealth. The boundaries on both sides are fixed and immovable.

As he would the magistrate in spiritual matters:

The care, therefore, of every man's soul belongs unto himself and is to be left unto himself. But what if he neglect the care of his soul? I answer: What if he neglect the care of his health or of his estate, which things are nearlier related to the government of the magistrate than the other?

Locke argues that civil authorities do not save men from material ruin; they obviously don’t save men from spiritual ruin. Locke comes across as a radical libertarian in some of these passages.

In any case, Locke argues that the separation is natural to the Christian religion going back to its inception and I think it is. He finds danger to both in an undue influence of one over the other.

I believe his Letter on Toleration is only hostile to the political aspects of the Catholic Church as it existed at that point in time.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Britain kept its ecclesiastical courts, which adjudged marriage, divorce, public drunkenness, even some tenant disputes, through the 1800s.

It's often said that Locke doesn't rate very highly in Britain.

By contrast, the Puritans left ecclesiastical courts behind in Europe and that's how it remained in America.

Just a thought.

Jason Pappas said...

And interesting thought.

Also, I often wondered how Locke, a member of the C of E, could talk about the church and state being "absolutely separate" in the face of the fact that the C of E is headed by the King. It was certainly a fact that Washington was painfully aware.

I recently read that today the PM appoints the Archbishop of Canterbery on behalf of the King. Perhaps that explains why Tony Blair didn't covert to Catholicism until after he was PM. Odd, place, that England.

Phil Johnson said...

I am always fascinated by the idea of a "wall of separation" between the church and state.
So, when I picked up the most recent issue of The Smithsonian and saw this article, I wanted to share it with readers and bloggers at this site.