Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Jefferson says

From a letter to Miles King September 26, 1814
Our particular principles of religion are a subject of accountability to our god alone. I enquire after no man's and trouble none with mine; nor is it given to us in this life to know whether yours or mine, our friend's or our foe's, are exactly the right.

From a first draft letter to Horatio G. Spafford January 10, 1816
You judge truly that I am not afraid of the priests. They have tried upon me all their various batteries, of pious whining, hypocritical canting, lying & slandering, without being able to give me one moment of pain. I have contemplated their order from the Magi of the East to the Saints of the West, and I have found no difference of character, but of more or less caution, in proportion to their information or ignorance of those on whom their interested duperies were to be plaid off. Their sway in New England is indeed formidable. No mind beyond mediocrity dares there to develope itself. If it does, they excite against it the public opinion which they command, & by little, but incessant and teasing persecutions, drive it from among them. Their present emigrations to the Western country are real flights from persecution, religious & political, but the abandonment of the country by those who wish to enjoy freedom of opinion leaves the despotism over the residue more intense, more oppressive. They are now looking to the flesh pots of the South and aiming at foothold there by their missionary teachers. They have lately come forward boldly with their plan to establish " a qualified religious instructor over every thousand souls in the US." And they seem to consider none as qualified but their own sect. Thus, in Virginia, they say there are but 60, qualified, and that 914 are still wanting of the full quota. All besides the 60, are "mere nominal ministers unacquainted with theology." Now the 60. they allude to are exactly in the string of counties at the Western foot of the Blue ridge, settled originally by Irish presbyterians, and composing precisely the tory district of the state. There indeed is found in full vigor the hypocrisy, the despotism, and anti-civism of the New England qualified religious instructors. The country below the mountains, inhabited by Episcopalians, Methodists & Baptists (under mere nominal ministers unacquainted with theology) are pronounced "destitute of the means of grace, and as sitting in darkness and under the shadow of death." They are quite in despair too at the insufficient means of New England to fill this fearful void, "with Evangelical light, with catechetical instructions, weekly lectures, & family visiting." That Yale cannot furnish above 80. graduates annually, and Harvard perhaps not more. That there must therefore be an immediate, universal, vigorous & systematic effort made to evangelize the nation. To see that there is a bible for every family, a school for every district, and a qualified (i. e. Presbyterian) "pastor for every thousand souls; that newspapers, tracts, magazines must be employed; the press be made to groan, & every pulpit in the land to sound it's trumpet long and loud. A more homogeneous" (I.E. New England) "character must be produced thro' the nation." That section then of our union having lost it's political influence by disloyalty to it's country is now to recover it under the mask of religion. It is to send among us their Gardiners, their Osgoods, their Parishes & Pearsons, as apostles to teach us their orthodoxy. This is the outline of the plan as published by Messrs. Beechef, Pearson & Co. It has uttered however one truth. "That the nation must be awaked to save itself by it's own exertions, or we are undone."

The above are offered in the service of pointing out that, in fact, "our founding fathers" did not intend America to become one nation under the Ten Commandments. Though I know I will be typing into the abyss, as everyone seems to be leaving their screens for the holiday weekend, I may yet post more thoughts on the myth that there even is such an entity as "our founding fathers" and the complication that is the Enlightenment. I've been pondering this for some time, but am having difficulty being concise about it.


Anonymous said...

"I do not find in our particular superstition of Christianity one redeeming feature.....Millions of innocent men, women and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burned, tortured, fined and imprisoned. What has been the effect of this coercion? To make half the world fools and half hypocrites; to support roguery and error all over the world."

-Thomas Jefferson"Where do we find a precept in the Bible for Creeds, Confessions, Doctrines and Oaths, and whole carloads of other trumpery that we find religion encumbered with in these days?"

"The doctrine of the divinity of Jesus is made a convenient cover for absurdity."

John Adams

"What influence in fact have Christian ecclesiastical establishments had on civil society? In many instances they have been upholding the thrones of political tyranny. In no instance have they been seen as the guardians of the liberties of the people. Rulers who wished to subvert the public liberty have found in the clergy convenient auxiliaries. A just government, instituted to secure and perpetuate liberty, does not need the clergy."

-James Madison

I could go on all day, but I'm preaching to the converted here...


Anonymous said...

"If I could now conceive that the general government might ever be so administered as to render the liberty of conscience insecure, I beg you will be persuaded, that no one would be more zealous than myself to establish effectual barriers against the horrors of spiritual tyranny, and every species of religious persecution... [E]very man, conducting himself as a good citizen, and being accountable to God alone for his religious opinions, ought to be protected in worshipping the Deity according to the dictates of his own conscience."

Guess who said that?

Anonymous said...

Um, trav? Are you gonna write another dissertation? I smell footnotes...

Travis (♀) said...

That would be a big no on the dissertation. As I have said before, they don't call it a "terminal" degree for nothing. I am happy to have lived through the one.

As for the "guess who" quote, I admit I had to look it up. I was surprised. I admit I'm pretty used to thinking of the General before the civil libertarian.

More on founders to come! Stay tuned.

Travis (♀) said...

Preaching to the converted. Now that's cute, E. Actually A (who has yet to even leave her name at the bottom of her clever comments) once upon a time called me an "evangelical Atheist," but that was years ago. Now I'm more like a wry Agnostic.