David Barton’s Appalling Lie that the Constitution Puts God’s Law Above Man’s Law

Source: PoliticsUSA


Emphasis Mine

From the Religious Right’s response to Kim Davis’ arrest, you would think none of them had ever heard of the United States Constitution. David Barton, the Religious Right’s premier fake historian, in Houston to attend Deputy Darren Goforth’s funeral, proclaimed that “the Founding Fathers made it real clear that the laws of God are higher than the laws of man.” According to Barton, “This is a law of God. Man’s law is not allowed to contradict God’s law.”

In fact, it is exactly the opposite. The United States Constitution was written by those same Founding Fathers to put humans, not deities, in the driver’s seat, that political power derives from the hands of the people and the consent of the governed. You could not tell a bigger lie than David Barton just did if you tried.

Barton must have a special copy of the Constitution, one nobody else has ever seen, because nowhere did the Founding Fathers say God’s law was the law of the land. It would be difficult to do when the Constitution doesn’t even mention God – or the Bible, or the Ten Commandments. Thomas Jefferson, with his low opinion of the Church and its bloody history, didn’t give them a mention in the Declaration of Independence either.

Seems pretty cut and dried, doesn’t it? And yet this is more than just trumping the Constitution with God’s law, as discussed here yesterday by Muse; it is implying the Constitution itself puts God’s law first.

The Founding Fathers gave us a new nation, with the best institutions the Enlightenment had to offer. They had their pick when using models out of ancient history. But it wasn’t monotheistic ancient Israel that interested these men. It was ancient Pagan Greece with its democratic ideal, and Pagan Rome with its republic and its senate. It was the Pagan Anglo-Saxons and their common law.

Barton added, “That’s why we’re a Republic, not a democracy.” A republic puts the law of God above the law of man and a democracy doesn’t? When, exactly, did this transformation in political science take place?

In fact, the United States is a democracy, in that political power derives from the consent of the governed. It is also a republic. When, in the Federalist Papers No. 10, James Madison contrasted republics and democracies, he did so according to the 18th century definition of a democracy being a “direct democracy,” like that found in ancient Athens, which not only led to chaos, but which did not give adequate protections to minorities.

(N.B.: consider the case of Socrates, who was executed for a minority opinion…)

David Barton claims here that what sets republics and democracies apart is a “higher power” – i.e. God. It is not of course.

In the Federalist Papers No. 39, Madison explained that a republic “is a government which derives all its powers directly or indirectly from the great body of the people; and is administered by persons holding their offices during pleasure, for a limited period, or during good behavior.”

He is describing, in modern terms, a representative form of government. The government, in fact, given us by the United States Constitution. He is not describing anything found in the Bible, which offers us a choice between a monarch ruling by divine right, or an outright theocracy with priests calling the shots on behalf of God. Nothing in the Federalist Papers suggest that God’s law trumps man’s law. As with the Constitution, rather the contrary, in fact.

The word “republic” itself comes from the Latin, res publica, or “public thing,” and all it means is that the people govern for their own benefit, rather than for the benefit of, say, a king. Rome was a Republic. It drove out its last king and hated the very idea of monarchy as a form of tyranny.

The Roman idea of a republic had nothing to do with god, or with gods, and everything to do with the people and how those people viewed the role of their government; the difference between Rome and Athens is that the Athenians embraced the idea of one man, one vote, whereas the Romans elected representatives to rule over them.

Thus we find Article IV, Section 4, of the United States Constitution, which states “The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government.”

Only a mental defective would understand this to mean imposition of theocracy, which is what David Barton is proposing. Barton may or may not actually believe it, but disbelief only means he is the most audacious liar in American history.

For the Romans, who so inspired Jefferson and the other Founding Fathers, the idea of Republic was found in the acronym SPQR – Senatus Populusque Romanus the Senate and the People of Rome. Not the gods and Rome. Not even the gods and the people and the senate. Just the senate and the people as a single voice.

What all this goes to prove is that David Barton is a liar, and a rather bad liar at that. You cannot expect to just invent things out of whole cloth that are contradicted by the facts and not be challenged. Of course, scholars have been challenging Barton’s lies for years, as have the folks at Right Wing Watch, and as I have here.

The extent to which he still finds welcome has a lot to do with the company he keeps. Glenn Beck is Barton’s BFF, as is Mike Huckabee, who said years ago he wants us all to listen to Barton at gunpoint – which, let’s face it, is about the only way that’s going to happen.

It is no surprise that Republicans prefer made up history, given their preference for made up facts. Fake facts demand fake history to back them up, with the result that they are living not in the real world, cognizant of real world facts and our shared reality, but in a fantasy novel they are making up as they go along.

Only subscribers to this fake reality will subscribe to Barton’s monstrous lies. Of course, pretty much everything that comes out of Barton’s mouth is a monstrous lie, this not least among them.


5 Christian Right Delusions and Lies About History

Source: AlterNet

Author: Amanda Marcotte

“The Christian right is most known for their denial of inconvenient science, but in many respects, they’re just as bad when it comes to the facts of history. After all, no matter what the topic, they know they can just make stuff up and their people will believe it. So why not do the same when it comes to political history? Here are five examples.

1. Joe McCarthy was a good guy. A new and extremely toxic myth is beginning to percolate in on the Christian right: Insisting that Sen. Joseph McCarthy, a paranoid alcoholic who saw communist subversives in every corner, was actually an upstanding guy fighting for God and country. In 2003, Ann Coulter published a book she claims vindicates McCarthy, but its impact wasn’t felt until 2010 when the Christian right members who stack the Texas State School Board tried to get the pro-McCarthy theories into Texas school books.

Christian right fanatics attempted to claim that McCarthy had been vindicated by something (wrongly) called the “Verona papers” (they’re actually named the “Venona papers”). There is a Venona project that has reputed historians who show that the Soviets did have spies in the country, but saying that means McCarthy was right is like saying I’m right to call your mother a serial killer because there are serial killers in America. Harvey Klehr, one of the experts working on the Venona project, denounced Christian right efforts to exploit his work to vindicate McCarthy, noting that McCarthy mostly just fingered innocent people in his paranoid haze.

The new information from Russian and American archives does not vindicate McCarthy. He remains a demagogue, whose wild charges actually made the fight against communism more difficult. Like Gresham’s Law, McCarthy’s allegations marginalized the accurate claims. Because his facts were so often wrong, real spies were able to hide behind the cover of being one of his victims and even persuade well-meaning but naïve people that the whole anti-communist cause was based on inaccuracies and hysteria.

That the Soviets spied on the U.S. is neither surprising—not even to liberals—nor indicative that the communist witch hunts were an appropriate response. The Christian right’s interest in rehabilitating McCarthy probably has less to do with readjudicating the anti-communist cause and more to do with their modern-day obsession with promoting paranoid liars in the McCarthy mold to leadership positions. If they can instill the idea that McCarthy was vindicated by history, it will be easier to argue that the current crop of politically powerful right-wing nuts such as Michele Bachmann and Ted Cruz will actually “be proven right by history.” But McCarthy wasn’t and neither will they be.

2. What the Founding Fathers believed. For people who downright deify our Founding Fathers, the religious right is really hostile to accepting them as they actually were, which is not particularly religious, especially by the standards of their time. But David Barton, a revisionist “historian” whose name comes up again and again in these kinds of discussions, has spread the belief far and wide in the Christian right that the Founders were, in fact, fundamentalist Christians who are quite like the ones we have today. Gov. Sam Brownback of Kansas confirms this, saying that Barton “provides the philosophical underpinning for a lot of the Republican effort in the country today.”

Barton has convinced the right to believe in their fervent wish that the Founders were religious and even theocratic with quote-mining and outright lying. He likes to whip out this John Adams quote: “There is no authority, civil or religious — there can be no legitimate government — but what is administered by this Holy Ghost.” Problem? Adams was summarizing the opinion of his opponents; that wasn’t Adams’ view at all.

Barton’s reputation took a hit recently. His most recent book, which tried to portray Thomas Jefferson as a “conventional Christian” who wanted a religious government, was so bad that even his Christian publisher decided to reject it.  But according to Politico, that’s just a small setback and Barton is quickly being restored to his position as an authority on history for gullible right-wingers. So that means his lies continue to grow and spread in right-wing circles—such as the completely made-up claim that the Constitution (which only mentions religion to insist the government stay out of it) is based on the Bible.

3. God’s protection. If you believe the lie that the Founders intended this to be a religious nation and that secularism is only a recent development, it’s not much of a leap to decide next that God, in his anger, has turned his back on the United States. And therefore that bad things are happening to us because he doesn’t protect us anymore.

You see this belief throughout the Christian right all the time. Every bad thing that happens is blamed on God removing his “hedge of protection” from the U.S. to punish us for turning our back on God in recent decades.School shootingsGlobal warmingHurricanes9/11.

The problem with this theory should be obvious: If God is turning away from America because we’re supposedly becoming more secular, then things were better back in the day. But when was this supposed Eden of American life supposed to have happened? During the Civil War? The Gilded Age of abusive labor practices? The Great Depression? WWI? WWII? Bad things are always happening, so the notion that they can only be blamed on God’s irritation with us sinners now makes no sense at all.

4. Roman civilization. The Christian right doesn’t just like to lie about our own history; they lie about other nations, too. A popular theory on the right is that the Roman Empire “collapsed” because growing decadence and liberalism caused people to, I don’t know, be too busy screwing to govern. It’s always a little hazy, but the formula is standard: Romans started having a bunch of sex, stuff fell apart, warning for America. Not a day goes by that you don’t hear this theory floated.

The problem with that theory is it makes no kind of sense. It’s not really right to suggest there was some kind decline in “moral values,” by which the Christian right means sexual prudishness, at all. Romans were pretty uptight.The rumors that they turned all perverted and debauched were made up by Christians trying to smear pagan culture. Rome didn’t really “fall” in the sense the Christian pundits mean, anyway. It was more a gradual decline of centralized power.

Anyway, the decline coincided with the rise of Christianity, which under the “God’s protection” theory means that God was punishing Rome for dropping paganism and adopting monotheism.

5. French revolution. One problem with characterizing the American revolution as Christian instead of secular is that there was another one shortly thereafter, built on the same basic ideals, that was undeniably secular due to the aggressive attacks on Catholic power. If the French were so secular, how could the Americans not be? The answer to the conundrum is to lie and claim there was some kind of gulf between the ideals of the French Revolution and the American Revolution.

Rick Santorum floated this theory at the 2013 Values Voters Summit, where he claimed the French revolutionaries were bad because they believed that rights and democracy stem from the social contract, instead of being handed down from God. Fair enough, though really the “reason” is probably closer to how they would have described it at the time, but where he goes off the rails is to insinuate that they were rejecting the values laid out by their fellow revolutionaries in America when they did this. In reality, the arguments of French and American revolutionaries are nearly identical, echoing philosophers like John Locke who were trying to construct an ideal of rights and freedoms that is frankly secularist in nature. “

Emphasis Mine

see: http://www.alternet.org/belief/5-christian-right-delusions-and-lies-about-history?akid=11177.123424.GM743e&rd=1&src=newsletter928098&t=3&paging=off&current_page=1#bookmark


The Truth About Religion in America: The Founders Loathed Superstition and We Were Never a Christian Nation

From: AlterNet
By Kerry Walters, Free Inquiry

N.B.: It might be noted that the first four of the ten ‘commandments’ are in direct opposition to the First Amendment!

“Once they begin  to circulate, falsehoods—like counterfeit currency—are surprisingly tenacious. It doesn’t matter that there’s no backing for them. The only thing that counts is that people believe they have backing. Then, like bad coins, they turn up again and again.

One counterfeit idea that circulates with frustrating stubbornness is the claim that America was founded as a Christian nation. It’s one of the Christian Right’s mantras and a favorite talking point for televangelists, religious bloggers, born-again authors and lobbyists, and pulpit preachers. Take, for example, the Reverend Peter Marshall. Before his death in 2010, he strove mightily (and loudly) to “restore America to its traditional moral and spiritual foundations,” as his still-active website says, by telling the truth about “America’s Christian heritage.” Or consider WallBuilders, a “national pro-family organization” founded by David Barton, whose mission is “educating the nation concerning the Godly foundation of our country.” Called “America’s historian” by his admirers, Barton is a prolific writer of popular books that spin his Christian version of American history. And then there’s Cynthia Dunbar, an attorney and one-time professor at Liberty University School of Law. She’s another big pusher of the Christian America currency. Her 2008 polemic One Nation Under God proclaims that the Christian “foundational truths” on which the nation rests are being “eroded” by a “socialistic, secularistic, humanistic mindset” from which Christians need to take back the country.

Unlike some of the wackier positions taken by evangelicals—think Rapture—the claim that America was founded as a Christian nation has gone relatively mainstream. This is the case largely because the media-savvy Christian Right is good at getting across its message. A 2007 First Amendment Center poll revealed that 65 percent of Americans believe the founders intended the United States “to be a Christian nation”; over half of us think that this intention is actually spelled out somewhere in the Constitution. Conservative politicians sensitive to the way the wind blows are careful to echo the sentiment, or at least not to dispute it, even if they’re not particularly religious themselves. Recent GOP presidential aspirants Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann, Newt Gingrich, and Rick Perry championed the claim with gusto. Even John McCain, who usually left the Bible-thumping to his Alaskan running mate, jumped on the bandwagon in his failed 2008 bid for the presidency by assuring a Beliefnet interviewer that “this nation was founded primarily on Christian principles” and that he personally would be disturbed if a non-Christian were elected to the highest office in the land.

So the notion that America was founded as a Christian nation is widespread. In the currency of ideas, it’s the ubiquitous penny. But like an actual penny, it doesn’t have a lot of value. That so many people think it does is largely because they don’t stop to consider what “founded as a Christian nation” might signify. Presumably the intended meaning is something like this: Christian principles are the bedrock of both our political system and founding documents because our founders were themselves Christians. Although wordier, this reformulation is just as perplexing because it’s not clear what’s meant by the term founders. Just who are we talking about here?

There are three primary candidate groups, and each is regularly invoked by the Christian Right. Some say that the founders of the nation were the Puritans, the “original settlers” of the New World. (Never mind that they’re not the original English settlers; that honor goes to the ragtag and much less prudish Jamestown lot.) Others contend that the real founders of the country were the people who actually lived in the colonies at the time of the revolution. But the most widely recognized candidates are the men at the center of the struggle for independence and the subsequent formation of the republic who have since been enshrined as the “Founding Fathers.”

Puritans as Founders

Cynthia Dunbar is among those who believe that the Puritans who began migrating to New England in the first half of the seventeenth century are our nation’s founders. In her One Nation Under God, she applies John Winthrop’s famous 1630 city-on-a-hill rhetoric about the Massachusetts Bay Colony’s destiny to the United States. “We as a nation were intended by God,” she writes, “to be a light set on a hill to serve as a beacon of hope and Christian charity to a lost and dying world.” To clinch her argument, Dunbar appeals to the Mayflower Compact, a covenant signed by slightly fewer than half of the original Mayflower Pilgrims in 1620. Quoting the part of the Compact that reads, “Having undertaken for the glory of God and advancement of the Christian faith … a voyage to plant the first colony,” Dunbar comments that “this is undeniably our past, and it clearly delineates us as a nation intended to be emphatically Christian.”

No less an authority than Alexis de Tocqueville shares her sentiment, although in a less heavy-handed way. In his Democracy in America(1835 and 1840), he argued that the basic principles upon which the American experiment is based—equality and democracy—were inspired by Puritan covenants such as the Mayflower Compact. They established communities in which local independence, the “mainspring and lifeblood of American freedom,” could flourish, thus preparing the way for a “completely democratic and republican” form of national government.

This sounds good on a first run-through. But the problem is that both Dunbar and de Tocqueville miss important points. The Mayflower Compact that Dunbar thinks establishes the nation on a Christian footing is clearly more political than religious. She quotes from the document’s preamble, which in fact does contain conventional references to God, but ignores the purely secular meat of the document. Signatories bind themselves “into a civil body politic” for the sake of enacting “just and equal laws, ordinances, acts, constitutions, and offices, from time to time, as shall be thought most meet and convenient for the general good of the colony”—period. The Mayflower Compact may ceremonially invoke God, but its substance is religiously neutral. And even in its opening reference to God, there’s not a breath of anything specifically Christian.

De Tocqueville gets it right when he claims that the Puritans established self-regulating local communities. But he overplays his hand when he says that these are prototypes of democratic and republican forms of government, because the sorry truth is that the Massachusetts Bay Colony was more theocratic than democratic. Repression of religious dissent—including the public execution of Quakers and harsh restrictions on dress, behavior, and “secular” forms of entertainment—are representative of the oppressive bigotry that characterized Puritan settlements. It’s difficult to see any common denominator between Puritan polity and the principles of the early Republic except the bare fact that both advocated “just and equal laws.” But the salient point of comparison is not, of course, the mere advocacy but rather the contentof those laws, and the theocratic drift of the Puritan ones obviously clashes with the republic’s careful separation of church and state. The conclusion is obvious: the Puritans may have founded the Massachusetts Bay Colony, which historically preceded the United States, but they didn’t found the United States. To claim otherwise is to fall victim to one of the oldest fallacies on the books, post hoc ergo propter hoc, the hasty assumption that because A precedes B, A causes B.

Christian Majority as Founders

So much for the Puritans. What about the second candidate group, the people who actually lived in the colonies when the United States was born and consented to its creation? Weren’t they by and large Christian? And if so, wouldn’t the general will have been that the new nation reflect prevailing Christian beliefs and values? (Televangelist D. James Kennedy once threw his weight behind this assertion by bizarrely arguing that because the colonial Jewish population was so small, the Christian population had to have been overwhelmingly large.)

This is a reasonable question. But the answer isn’t as apparent as some members of the Christian Right believe, because the issue is more complicated than they allow. (The tendency to oversimplify is one of the movement’s defining characteristics.) It’s not obvious that most late-colonial residents were “Christian” in the narrow sense meant by present-day evangelicals. In the final quarter of the eighteenth century, American religious sensibilities were in flux. Because membership in religious denominations was voluntary—a welcome reaction to the earlier Puritanical repression of religious choice—inherited membership and denominational allegiance were weak. Laypeople hopped from one sect to another in such numbers and with such frequency that Richard Hofstadter calculated in his 1974 Anti-Intellectualism in American Lifethat upwards of 90 percent of Americans were unchurched during the revolutionary and early republic years. Historian James MacGregor Burns agreed, noting in his 1983 The Vineyard of Liberty that the years immediately following the Revolution were a “wintry season” for Christianity in America.

What this suggests is that it is misleading to speak of Christian belief from that period as a uniform, monolithic set of principles and doctrines (just as it’s misleading to so characterize modern-day Christian belief, by the way), because people either migrated from denomination to denomination or rejected affiliation altogether. Adding to the confusion was the plurality of Christian interpretations that they had to choose from. There were Quaker, Dunker, Baptist, Moravian, Methodist, Lutheran, Shaker, German Reformed, Anglican, Congregationalist, and Roman Catholic beliefs. Moreover, there was a spectrum of theological opinion within each of these denominations, ranging from the extremely conservative to the extremely liberal. Quakers, Moravians, Baptists, Shakers, and Dunkers were explicitly leery of attempts to marry religion and politics, but even those denominations that accepted in principle a connection disagreed on its specific parameters. In short, Christians’ attitudes about the role their faith should play in the governance of the new nation were all over the map.

To illustrate just how ambiguous the label “Christian” could be, consider the example of James Madison, who was consecrated Episcopal bishop of Virginia in 1790. (No, not that Madison. The bishop shared a name with his cousin, the fourth president of the United States.) Even though he shepherded one of the most populous Episcopal dioceses in the country, Madison was criticized even during his lifetime for being something of a freethinking Deist. Clearly influenced by the Enlightenment era’s emphasis on natural science—he taught the subject for years at the College of William and Mary—Madison, as one of his fellow bishops delicately put it, was thought to “philosophize too much on the subject of religion” to be entirely orthodox. Despite his Church of England connection, Madison was also a patriot during the revolution, ardently championing political equality and democracy. But it’s difficult to tell whether his reasons for doing so are attributable to Christian conviction or his study of political theorists such as John Locke. Both influences are intermingled in his writings and sermons.

Madison was by no means unique. Many of his formally Christian contemporaries held similarly heterodox views that would be quite unacceptable to today’s Christian Right. As I argued in my 1998Benjamin Franklin and His Gods, Americans in the late colonial and early republic years were often caught in a worldview clash between Christianity on the one hand and the Enlightenment on the other. Some reacted by clinging to their Christian faith and blasting Enlightenment “infidelity” with jeremiads, while others, as Jonathan Edwards grumbled in 1773, “wholly cast off the Christian religion and are professed infidels.” College students at Yale, Princeton, Harvard, King’s (present day Columbia), William and Mary, and Dartmouth gleefully embraced, at least for a while, the Enlightenment’s anti-biblical religion of Deism. In the 1790s, thanks largely to the efforts of Deist crusader Elihu Palmer, militant Deism—which rejected miracles, revelation, the authority of Scripture, and the divinity of Jesus—enjoyed a spurt of rather astounding popularity. But many people who lived at the founding of the nation tried to steer a middle course that combined, even if awkwardly at times, elements from both Christian and Enlightenment worldviews. This made for any number of nuanced possibilities when it came to Christian commitment, all of them much more complex than the Christian Right would prefer to acknowledge.

Christian Founding Fathers

Since colonial and early republic Christians were no more uniform in belief than today’s Christians are, we can dismiss the claim that the United States was intended to be Christian because the general population at the time of independence was Christian. But what about the position that the leaders in the struggle for independence—names that every American kid immediately recognizes—were Christian and intended the republic to reflect their religious convictions? This is the argument to which the Christian Right most commonly appeals. Marshall, Barton, and Dunbar champion it with gusto, as do dozens of other evangelical authors such as John Eidsmore (Christianity and the Constitution: The Faith of Our Founding Fathers, 1995); Tim LaHaye of apocalyptic Left Behind series fame (Faith of Our Founding Fathers, 1994); and Gary DeMar (America’s Christian Heritage, 2003). As we’ve seen, it’s also received wisdom for a majority of Americans.

The problem, as scholar after scholar has pointed out—how often must it be repeated before the reality breaks through the myth?—is that it simply isn’t true. The Founding Fathers weren’t all Christian. Some, of course, were: Patrick Henry (Episcopalian), John Hancock (Congregationalist), John Jay (Episcopalian), and Sam Adams (Congregationalist), for example, were all devout and pretty conventional Christians. But the big players in the founding of the United States—such men as Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Paine, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, John Adams, and probably Alexander Hamilton—weren’t. Each of them was much more comfortable with a deistic understanding of God than a Christian one. For them, the deity was an impersonal First Cause who created a rationally patterned natural order and who was best worshiped through the exercise of reason and virtue. Most of them may have admired the ethical teachings of Jesus (although Paine conspicuously did not), but all of them loathed and rejected the priestcraft and superstition they associated with Christianity.

Despite this, the Christian Right insists on adopting these men (aside from Paine) as Christian founders. The usual justification is that each of them (again, except Paine) belonged to an established Christian denomination. But as we’ve already seen, formal membership by itself wasn’t then (or now) a fail-safe measure of an individual’s religious beliefs. As David Holmes compellingly argues in his 2006 Faiths of the Founding Fathers, other factors—such as the way in which the founders referred to God, opinions they expressed in personal correspondence, and their involvement in church life—must be considered as well. None of the founders, for example, used conventional Christian language when writing or speaking about God. Instead, the terms they favored—Supreme Architect, Author of Nature, First Cause, Nature’s God, Superattending Power—were unmistakably deistic. (One of the Christian Right’s most telling blind spots is its failure to pick up on the founders’ obviously non-Christian nomenclature.) Another indicator of their lack of conventional Christian commitment is the fact that while all of them had been baptized as infants, an initiation that of course made them nominally Christian, none who were members of denominations that offered the sacrament of Confirmation sought it as adults. Moreover, they generally did not take Communion when it was offered, nor did they typically involve themselves in church activities. Even when they did, it was no clear signal that they were orthodox Christians. George Washington, for example, served on the vestry in several Episcopalian parishes. But he avoided Confirmation and Communion, never used give-away Christian terms such as Lord or Redeemer, and rarely even referred to Jesus by name. Finally, none of them gave the slightest hint in their personal letters or diaries that they considered themselves committed Christians.

The obvious conclusion is that it’s a stretch to call the leading founders “Christians,” particularly of the evangelical sort. Most of them may not have been contemptuously anti-Christian (although Paine certainly was, with Jefferson a close second), but neither did they have much use for Christianity. They had so little regard for its central tenets, in fact, that they couldn’t square it with their consciences to salt their public statements with even an occasional Christian phrase. In this way they displayed an integrity that few vote-hungry politicians in our day feel moved to emulate. Revealingly, only a handful of their contemporaries seemed particularly bothered by their obvious indifference to Christianity, and those who made a big deal of it generally did so more for political reasons—as when Federalists attacked the “infidel” Jefferson in the presidential elections of 1800 and 1804—than from any sense of outraged orthodoxy. Then as now, what pretended to be a religious battle was often a political one.

Perhaps the most obvious way in which the founders intentionally used non-Christian language is in their drafting of the nation’s two defining documents, the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution. In the Constitution, no mention whatsoever of God is made except in the document’s date (“Done … in the year of our Lord …”), an inexplicable oversight if its framers intended it to lay the foundation for a Christian nation. The Declaration of Independence does use religious language, but the religion is obviously Deism rather than Christianity. God is referred to as “Nature’s God,” the “Creator” of the physical “Laws of Nature” in addition to the “unalienable [moral] Rights” to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. To interpret the document as even suggestively Christian is sheer fantasy or worse. On the contrary, both it and the Constitution clearly serve as precedents for the famous passage in the 1797 Treaty of Tripoli—one which the Christian Right loves to hate—which affirms that “the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion.” The treaty, which sealed a routine diplomatic agreement between the U.S. and the Muslim state of Tripolitania, was unanimously ratified by the Senate and publicly endorsed and signed by President John Adams. That it was passed without debate or dissent attests to the fact that neither the president nor senators found its denial of a Christian foundation to the nation objectionable.

The claim that America was founded as a Christian nation, therefore, just doesn’t ring historically true. But as with all counterfeit coins, there’s enough genuine metal mixed in with the paste to fool unsuspecting consumers. To deny the obviously false claim that the founders of the United States intended it to be Christian doesn’t imply that certain sentiments and values held by Christians played no role in the nation’s founding. As we’ve seen, the Puritans endorsed equality and self-government. Baptists and Quakers, probably because of their sometimes savage persecution by Puritans, championed the separation of church and state. Deistic nominal Christians, such as Bishop James Madison, embraced the political ideals of tolerance and republicanism. But none of these beliefs are uniquely Christian, and in fact they’re much more obviously at home in Enlightenment liberal thought than eighteenth-century orthodox Christian theology. One could have held them as a Christian, but holding them didn’t necessarily mean one was a Christian. Such beliefs could just as well have been held by a Deist or even a thoroughgoing secularist. Nonetheless, to the extent that some Christians held them, it is undeniable that Christian-owned principles were part of the convergence of beliefs that defined the new nation. This is, however, a far cry from saying that the nation was explicitly built upon Christian principles.

But let’s concede, just for the sake of the argument, what is patently false: that the nation in fact was founded on Christian principles and intended by its founders to be Christian. The obvious perplexity that then arises is why the Christian Right is so convinced that a “socialistic, secularistic, and humanistic mindset” has jerked the nation up by its Christian roots. The founding documents framed by our “Christian” forebears are still venerated today. The same protection of religious liberty endorsed by our “Christian” founders is still fiercely championed by political leaders and the courts. So what’s been uprooted? What’s been lost that our “Christian” founders put in place?

The answer, of course, is that nothing has been lost, and the Christian Right knows it. What evangelicals really want is something that never was, and that’s an explicitly sectarian statement of commitment to Christ worked into the warp and woof of national law and public policy. What they want is the Christian theocracy that the founders explicitly rejected. For all their political thundering against the intrusive ways of “big government,” what evangelicals yearn for is strict legal codification of their version of Christian values. What never occurs to the Christian Right is that if the founders in fact had been Christians intending to create a commonwealth faithful to Jesus’s teachings, the United States today would be a nation quite different from what evangelicals think it should be. There would be no standing army, no divide between rich and poor, no ethnic hatred or closed borders, no persecution of religious dissent, no national chauvinism, a lot less holier-than-thou finger-pointing, and a lot more forgiveness and compassion.

Now, that would be a shining city built on a hill.”

Kerry Walters, William Bittinger Professor of Philosophy at Gettysburg College, Pennsylvania, is the author or editor of twenty-five books, including Revolutionary Deists: Early America’s Rational Deists, a 2011 Choice Outstanding Book; a critical edition of Thomas Paine’s Age of Reason (Broadview, 2011); and Atheism: A Guide for the Perplexed (Continuum, 2010).

Emphasis Mine.
see: http://www.alternet.org/story/155890/the_truth_about_religion_in_america%3A_the_founders_loathed_superstition_and_we_were_never_a_christian_nation

Jon Stewart and Actual Historian Refute David Barton, on Religion and Law

From Alternet:

(N.B.: this is why Separation is So important today!)

(N.B.: David Barton is neither an historian nor an attorney.)

“University of Pennsylvania historian Richard Beeman was yesterday’s guest onThe Daily Show with Jon Stewart following an appearance by pseudo-historian David Barton. Beeman, like other real historians, notes that Barton greatly embellishes the religious views of the Founding Fathers and misrepresented the Constitution.

“The Constitution is federally devoid of any mention of religion except for one provision which says there shall be no test for public office or any position of public trust, so the only mention of religion is keep religion out of our government,” Beeman says, and “the debate in the [constitutional] Convention is virtually devoid” of religious references. Barton, on the other hand, made this pathetic case that the Constitution incorporates the Bible.

Right Wing Watch looked into Barton’s many fabricationsfalsehoods,obfuscationsrevisionist history, as well as his total neglect of the Fourteenth Amendment’s incorporation of the First Amendment to the states and his warped view of constitutional jurisprudence while he was on The Daily Show.

During part II of the interview with Beeman, Stewart noted that while Barton told him that he was OK with Sharia law in the US, he would likely make the opposite case to his conservative supporters.

In fact, that is exactly what happened, as Barton dedicated an entire radio program to denying what he plainly told Stewart about Sharia.

Such dishonest actions reflect the fact that Barton is a political activist, not a historian — he even was paid by the Republican National Committee to mobilize church groups to support President Bush’s reelection and Republican candidates. As Kyle notes, even his documentary on African American history is brazenly partisan.

As Beeman and other credentialed historians make clear, Barton is simply distorting history for his own political purposes.”

Emphasis Mine


No Theocracies Here, Please!

10 Great Things About America That Drive Conservatives and the Religious Right Insane

Religious Right groups and their allies in the Tea Party claim to respect American values, but much would change if they had their way.
May 15, 2011  |   From AlterNet, by Rob Boston
(N.B.: this is why our First Freedom is so important right now!)

“Religious Right groups and their frequent allies in the Tea Party talk a good line about respecting American values, but much would change if they had their way. They seek not to restore our country to some Golden Age (that never existed anyway) but to recreate it – in their own fundamentalist image.An America rebuilt along Religious Right lines would be a very different place. And to get there, the theocrats among us first have to tear down some features of American life – some of which are longstanding. Here are ten things about the United States that drive Religious Right groups crazy:

1. Our history debunks Religious Right mythologyAmerican history stands as a rebuke to the Religious Right. America’s founders established a secular government with freedom of religion and its necessary corollary, separation of church and state, built into the First Amendment. A “Christian nation” was not what the founders sought. How do we know this? They said so. Think about it: If an officially Christian nation had been the intent of the founders, the Constitution would prominently include that concept. It doesn’t.

And those Religious Right claims that separation of church and state is a myth? They’re a crock. As James Madison put it, “Strongly guarded…is the separation between Religion and Government in the Constitution of the United States.” Madison ought to know. He’s considered the Father of the Constitution and was one of the primary drafters of the First Amendment.

(N.B.: Historical revisionists – such as David Barton – always reference ‘other documents’: they must, as the Constitution is SECULAR! )

see: http://www.positiveatheism.org/writ/founding.htm)

2. We support scienceWhile polls show some confusion over issues like evolution, most Americans are big fans of science and are quick to rally around the latest medical breakthroughs and cutting-edge technology. Many religious people in America long ago reconciled their faith with modern science. But the Religious Right remains stubbornly insistent that any science that conflicts with its literalist interpretation of the Bible must go.

Religious Right activists hate science because it casts doubt on their narrow worldview – a worldview that teaches that all answers are found in a rigidly fundamentalist interpretation of an ancient religious text. To the Religious Right, evolution and the Bible can’t co-exist. They refuse to read the scriptures in a metaphorical or symbolic context. Since, to the Religious Right, evolution undercuts the Bible, evolution should not be taught in public schools. 

3. America has a tradition of tolerance: Yes, we’ve fallen short of complete tolerance from time to time, but at the end of the day, most Americans believe in treating their fellow citizens decently, even if they have different religious or philosophical beliefs. But to the Religious Right, tolerance is entrance ramp on the highway to hell.

The idea that religions should strive to get along is dangerously close to the idea that all religions are on equal footing. This is bad, so says the Religious Right, because it leads people into “error” – that is, an embrace of any religion that’s not fundamentalist Christianity. Tolerance is ridiculed because it dares to suggest that a Unitarian, Buddhist, Jew, Hindu, Pagan or atheist might have an equal claim on truth alongside a fundamentalist.

4. We have a secular government: To the theocrats of the right, secular government, secularism and secular anything is the bogeyman of the moment. If you doubt it, just listen to some of our leading politicians (assuming you have the stomach for it). To most people, it just makes sense for government to remain neutral on theological disputes – remember the Middle Ages? To the Religious Right, such neutrality equals hostility toward religion and a “war” against Christianity.

Ironically, there is one place where the Religious Right backs secular government: Muslim nations. Those should be secular, of course – but only as a prelude to adopting fundamentalist Christianity.

5. The U.S. Constitution has enduredThe Religious Right and the Tea Party claim to revere our basic governing document, the Constitution. So why do they treat it like a first draft? Just consider the list of amendments they’d like to add: pro-school prayer, anti-abortion, “parental rights,” fetal personhood, “traditional marriage,” the list goes on.

Why does the Religious Right distrust our founders? Maybe because the founders weren’t fundamentalists, and they dared to believe that the Bible could speak metaphorically yet still contain wisdom and insight. Consider this quote by Thomas Jefferson (from a letter to Benjamin Rush, May 21, 1803): “To the corruptions of Christianity I am indeed opposed; but not to the genuine precepts of Jesus himself. I am a Christian, in the only sense he wished any one to be; sincerely attached to his doctrines, in preference to all others; ascribing to himself every human excellence; & believing he never claimed any other.”

6. The nation has a legacy of freedom of religionTo the Religious Right, “religious freedom” means the right to use their religion to run other people’s lives. When it comes to groups they don’t like, ideas like liberty and freedom suddenly evaporate.

Consider the controversy over the proposed Islamic center in lower Manhattan and efforts to block construction of a mosque in Murfreesboro, Tenn. Normally, once religious groups comply with local zoning laws, get the necessary permits and so on, they can build houses of worship where they please. Yet Brian Fischer, a columnist with the American Family Association, argued recently that the Constitution grants religious freedom rights only to Christians (!!!)  and said we can legally shut down mosques. Where does this appear in the Constitution? It doesn’t. Fischer made it up.

7. Americans support reproductive rights: The ability to control your own body when it comes to reproduction is the ability to control your own destiny. It’s a big no-no to the Religious Right. God is supposed to control your destiny. Who are you to interfere with His plans? Although most people think of this issue in terms of abortion, it’s worthwhile to look a little deeper. Increasingly, access to birth control is on the chopping block as well. (See attempts to defund Planned Parenthood and bills in the state laws granting pharmacists a right to refuse to fill prescriptions for the pill.)

Throughout recorded history, religious prudes have been obsessed with sex lives of others. They clearly have issues. There’s just something kind of icky about it.

8. Gay people live here: Where to begin? Not only will gay people not stay in the closet or become straight, now they want to get married! You can be sure that Bible Belt fundamentalists, who have the highest divorce rate in the nation, aren’t going to stand for that assault on the sacred institution of marriage.

The bile the Religious Right spews toward gays is unfathomable. You have to call it what it is: Hate. And as polls show increasing numbers of Americans backing same-sex marriage, it’s only going to get worse.

9. Most kids go to public schools: These godless hotbeds of secular humanism actually receive tax funding! They’re known to teach evolution, and some even dare to talk about how they human reproductive system works in Biology class. Since not everyone has the time for home-schooling, it’s best to distribute vouchers, says the Religious Right.

Here’s Tim LaHaye, author of the popular series of apocalyptic potboilers “Left Behind” on public education: “I have a pet concern, and I think it is the concern of everyone in this room; and that is we are being destroyed in America by the public school systems of our country. And it was Abraham Lincoln who said, essentially, let me educate the children of this generation and they will be the political leaders of the next generation. And, folks, we have let the enemy come in and take over the greatest school system in the history of the world.” (So, Tim, what do you really think?)

10. We fund NPR and PBS: Sure, the Religious Right and the Tea Party said they wanted to cut off funding to public broadcasting to save a few bucks, but in reality, they just don’t like the elitist, left-wingery of “All Things Considered” and “Masterpiece Theatre.” Snobs listen to and watch that stuff!

Don’t even get them started on the Muppets. Bert and Ernie have a suspiciously close relationship. ‘Nuff said.

Of course, there are many other things the Religious Right dislikes about our country – consider women’s rights, for example. For all of their flag waving, some supporters of the Religious Right just don’t sound too happy to be here. I doubt they plan to leave soon, so we can expect they’ll keep working to change our nation. Be warned – this list is just a start.”

Rob Boston is the assistant director of communications for Americans United for Separation of Church and State, which publishes Church and State magazine.

Emphasis Mine