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To the editor:
Richard Dawkins, a well-known atheist, is purported to have commented that one should not argue with a Christian.
That may be so. However, in Jess Thompson’s guest column titled “Atheist spreading message of nothing,” in the Aug. 31 edition of The Anderson News, I find a few minor details that may be misleading.
I do agree that there are atheists all around us. However, that fact illustrates the all-encompassing, well thought out agenda of our forefathers. The actuality of the freedom to believe or not believe is a staple of the freedoms that make our nation a great one.
But that particular freedom is one of many and may well have had monetary as well as faith-based reasons behind it.
To state that “ … American freedom is based on religious tolerance … ” is erroneous when one studies the history of Judeo-Christian goodness. Perhaps the words crusade or witch burning might conjure up images of the Judeo-Christian tolerance. And to state that, “ … It was never meant to allow the values of other cultures to replace the Judeo-Christian values on which this country was established … ” is simply repeating the same rhetoric that fundamentalists and born-again Christians have been disgorging since this nation was born.
People who spread this misconception are called Christian Revisionist.
The Founding Fathers were men of the Enlightenment era. They were not atheists but were considered to be deists. Deism was a popular philosophy in the 18th century that held the belief in a creator of the universe that was not a personal god and not involved with human actions on a daily basis. Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Paine, Benjamin Franklin and many other leaders of the day held these beliefs.
Though there is some dispute among scholars about wording, the 1797 Treaty of Tripoli, negotiated by George Washington and signed by John Adams declared, “The government of the United States is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion.” And the words, “In God We Trust” did not appear on US currency until 1956. The “under God” phrase was not added to the Pledge of Allegiance until 1954.
If one reads the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States one discovers that neither one mentions the Ten Commandments, Hell, Heaven, Judeo-Christian doctrine, Jesus Christ, Christianity or the Bible. Yes, it does state that “ … they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights … ” which did not speak of a personal god, but of a deist creator.
They specified that no religious test would ever be required to hold office or a public trust in our nation. And due to the right to exercise religious freedom, Christians can no longer persecute and kill those who do not agree with them as they did in the past.
Yes, George Washington did end his oath of office with “So Help Me God.” Many others spoke of God when in public. But if one researches deeper, one discovers in many of the forefather’s personal writings that they did not believe in a personal god. Perhaps they, like many of our contemporary politicians, spoke out the sides of their mouths when it came to religion. No contemporary politician would dare run for office as an atheist and believe he or she could win.
Thomas Jefferson once wrote in a letter to a Dr. Woods, “I have recently been examining all the known superstitions of the world, and do not find in our particular superstition one redeeming feature.” Thomas Paine wrote, “The Christian system of religion is an outrage on common sense.” Benjamin Franklin wrote, “I have found Christian dogma unintelligible. Early on in life I absented myself from Christian assemblies.”
Thomas Jefferson wrote to John Adams in 1823 stating, “The day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus, by the Supreme Being as his father, in the womb of a virgin, will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerva in the brain of Jupiter.”
Do you really believe that these men based our country’s government on Judeo-Christian principles? Then you should research more. It is truly astounding what our forefathers really thought about Christianity.
Ministers of the day tried to prevent the presidency of Thomas Jefferson by calling him an atheist. Yet, today they claim Jefferson as one of their own. Perhaps that is why he wrote to Baron Von Humbolt in 1813, stating, “History, I believe, furnishes no example of a priest-ridden people maintaining a free civil government. This marks the lowest grade of ignorance, of which their political as well as religious leaders will always avail themselves for their own purpose.”
I am in no way trying to discredit your religious beliefs. But, as a graduate and life-long student in political science and government history, I find that many who study history as well as their Bible, learn just enough to get it wrong.
They say if you don’t study history, you are doomed to repeat it. I suppose that is why we continue to hear the same fallacies over and over. The truth may well be that the Founding Fathers were trying to protect government “from” religion, not base government “on” religion.
That’s what makes this nation great: we, each, may believe what ever we want without fear of persecution. In other words, our Constitution, thought up and written by mortal man, is designed to do what your God failed to do.
E. Yossarian Riley