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Palin’s Misunderstanding of History

Timothy Kincaid

September 2nd, 2008

Often evangelical conservatives suffer under the misperception that the nation’s Founding Fathers shared their belief that the country was intended to be a Christian Nation governed according to a conservative understanding of Scripture. Although even the most casual reading of our founding documents will quickly reveal that those who established our governmental system found the idea of a church state to be frightening, a shared mythology thrives within a subset of our nation in which the drafters of our documents have been assigned theology that is consistent with their own. And then sainted.

This often result in rather amusing statements.

In responding to a 2006 Gubernatorial questionnaire from socially conservative Eagle Forum Alaska, the GOP vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin (then running for governor) gave the following answer:

11. Are you offended by the phrase “Under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance? Why or why not?

SP: Not on your life. If it was good enough for the founding fathers, its good enough for me and I’ll fight in defense of our Pledge of Allegiance.

Palin seems a bit unfamiliar with the history of the Pledge of Allegiance.

The Pledge was written in 1892. However, though written by a Baptist minister, the original version did not contain the words “under God”. That phrase was added in 1954 after a campaign started by the Knights of Columbus and supported by a number of Protestants.

If there were any “founding fathers” around in 1954 to consider this phrase “good enough”, they must have been quite old indeed.

Comments

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Tina-cious.com
September 2nd, 2008 | LINK

What a dumb ass.

She’d fit in perfectly with our current administration.

L.C. Burgundy
September 2nd, 2008 | LINK

Most people also don’t understand that the national anthem was written in re: War of 1812 and not the Revolutionary War.

I can understand a large difference in opinions re: gay rights and obviously you’re not going to agree on that, but this is nitpicking and attempt to create a potatoe moment.

Timothy Kincaid
September 2nd, 2008 | LINK

L.C.,

This is not really intended to say much about Palin at all and certainly not to create a potatoe moment.

What it goes to is a way of thinking in a portion of our population who equate God with Country and who then assign their own religious beliefs as being those of the founders; ie the “legitimate” values of our nation. You see it constantly in the imagery of cultural conservatives: flags, eagles, the Declaration, all as though these are not symbols of our shared heritage and nation but rather their banner in the Cultural War.

It’s sort of the political equivalent of “old time religion” (which was not particularly “old time”); an appeal to a tradition and history that did not exist.

Palin’s gaffe is but an example of this type of mindset. I’m still hopeful (or perhaps naive) that when the rhetoric clears a little, she may prove to be pragmatic and conservative but not discriminatory or fervently anti-gay. Despite all of the devoutly held beliefs of several here, I’m not sure that we have an answer about that yet.

AJD
September 2nd, 2008 | LINK

We also shouldn’t forget Article 11 of the 1797 Treaty of Tripoli:

“[T]he Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion …”

The treaty was read aloud before the Senate, passed unanimously and signed into law by President and Founding Father John Adams.

Rick Brentlinger
September 2nd, 2008 | LINK

I think one has to read into Governor Palin’s words, something she certainly did not say, to conclude that she believes the Pledge of Allegiance was around at the founding of our country.

She was simply answering a question about the pledge of allegiance and belief in God (one nation under God) and asserting that her belief in God is similar to the beliefs of the Founders.

I hope boxturtlebulletin posts and comments are not going to emulate the snarkiness of the Daily Koz.

Gays used to chant, “We’re here, We’re queer, Get used to it!”

To some of my gay brothers and lesbian sisters, perhaps its time to say:

“Some of us gay folks are conservative-

Get used to it.”

Rick Brentlinger

Swampfox
September 2nd, 2008 | LINK

My guess is that a lot of educated people who hold high office do not know the history of our pledge of allegiance. How many are aware that Jefferson actually rewrote the New Testament that took out all what he considered according to the Wikapedia the, “supernatural aspects as well as perceived misinterpretations he believed had been added by the Four Evangelists.”

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jefferson_Bible

Jason D
September 2nd, 2008 | LINK

Rick,
What are you talking about?? She did say that. Unless you have proof otherwise and can present it, the exact words of what Palin said are exactly what’s on the Eagle forum website.

It’s really quite simple. She was asked a direct question, which she answered directly:

11. Are you offended by the phrase “Under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance? Why or why not?

SP: Not on your life. If it was good enough for the founding fathers, its good enough for me and I’ll fight in defense of our Pledge of Allegiance.

If someone asks “are you offended by the phrase “under god” in the Pledge of Allegiance?” and you respond “Not on your life, If it was good enough for the founding fathers, it’s good enough for me” what else can you conclude by that statement? She says “no” that she does not have a problem and then goes on to say “if it was good enough for the founding fathers…” as in “If (the phrase Under God) was good enough for the founding fathers, ….”
How does that not suggest she believes the pledge was around during the founding of our country? What is she referring to by saying “If it was good enough…” what does that refer to if not the phrase “under god” within the pledge? If it doesn’t refer to the phrase under God within the pledge — then her response makes no sense.

No, Rick, I think you’re reading into this. The question wasn’t about her beliefs, your explanation for her answer makes no sense, and makes Palin sound like some sort of madwoman.

Priya Lynn
September 2nd, 2008 | LINK

You’re right Jason, Palin clearly believes the pledge was around at the founding of the U.S. – there’s no other reasonable interpretation of her words.

Rick Brentlinger
September 2nd, 2008 | LINK

Jason D-

The salient words are “under God.” That is her point of reference.

As you indicated, when she says, “if it was good enough for the founding fathers…” as in “If (the phrase Under God) was good enough for the founding fathers, ….” she is not saying the Pledge of Allegiance existed and the Founding Fathers said it or used it.

That is an illogical jump Sarah never made. Instead, she is agreeing with the viewpoint of many of the Founders that we are a nation “under God,” not that the Pledge existed more than a century before it was written.

I don’t recall this type of snarky nitpicking on boxturtlebulletin when Senator Obama said there were “57 states” and many other errors of fact in his public discourse.

Rick Brentlinger

jmc
September 2nd, 2008 | LINK

I think her Christian Hertiage Week declaration also shows some misunderstandings. The founders were divided on such declarations, and I assume they would be similarly divided over whether “under God” should be in the pledge or even if there should be a pledge.

MR Bill
September 3rd, 2008 | LINK

For what it’s worth, the Pledge was written by a Christian Socialist, Francis Bellamy in 1892. It originally read: “I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
“Under God” was added during one of the Red scares.
A lot of folks are ignorant about this;
Palin’s statements lead one to think she is ignorant about a great deal.

Jason D
September 3rd, 2008 | LINK

Rick,
There’s nothing snarky about this.

We would not be talking about the phrase “Under God” if we weren’t talking about the pledge. That is the context of the question. The question she was asked was not in regards to the concept of God, or America being “under God” it was a direct question about the phrase “under God” within the context of the pledge. She answered that if it (meaning “Under God” in the pledge) was good enough for the founding fathers, it’s good enough for me.

For her to have meant what you rationalize her to mean, she would have to be answering a question she was not asked. Not a far-fetched idea, but one that is clearly not supported by the words she wrote.

Are you a close personal friend of Palin? Have you read an interview where she clarified her statement? Cause that’s the only way you can be sure that you are correct.
Based SOLELY on her response, it’s reasonable to believe that Palin thinks “under God” has been in the pledge since the founding fathers.

Whether or not she actually believes what she’s said is something that someone should ask to clarify, but based solely, and completely on what was literally written down, it appears, quite obviously, that palin thinks that “under God” has been in the pledge since the founding fathers.

Let’s put this quite simply:

Here’s what she said, in a nutshell

Q: Do you have a problem with barbeque sauce on ice cream?
A: Certainly not, if it was good enough for the inventor of the dairy product industry, it’s good enough for me.

here’s your interpretation:

Q: Do you have a problem with barbeque sauce on ice cream?
A: I like barbeque sauce.

What she said, does not support your conclusion.

ryan charisma
September 3rd, 2008 | LINK

And Jason D wins with critical thinking and paying attention.

Sadly, Rick loses and big time.

cowboy
September 3rd, 2008 | LINK

Incidentally, haven’t we learned from a past Veep (Quayle) that it’s potato and not potatoe.

Priya Lynn
September 3rd, 2008 | LINK

Rick doesn’t make any sense to me.

Timothy Kincaid
September 3rd, 2008 | LINK

Let’s be courteous, folks.

Rick Brentlinger
September 3rd, 2008 | LINK

Governor Palin’s words can just as easily be understood as referring to the Founder’s belief that we are a nation “Under God” – a general belief in the God of the Bible as differentiated from then current enlightenment beliefs which tended to ignore the God of the Bible. 

Although I am a conservative gay Christian, I am quite sure that the views of the Founding fathers were closer to Governor Palin’s views than my own, when the issue is gay rights and what constitutes a family. The implication that the views of the Founders may have been closer to the views of the gay religious mainstream than to Sarah Palin’s views is laughable.

Certainly the Founders did not intend to privilege things like Muslim prayer rooms in public schools and public buildings while teachers and principals prohibit Christian students to pray in Jesus’ Name at school functions.

It is not a stretch to envision the Founders as men of a mind to give preference to the Christian faith above other faiths and affirming that idea, it seems to me, is the point Governor Palin was making.

To put the worst possible spin on Governor Palin’s words and from that unsound premise, jump to the conclusion that she is stupid or ill-informed is less than thoughtful.

Surely if we disagree with her, we can make an argument against her beliefs based on something more substantial.

Emily K
September 3rd, 2008 | LINK

Rick said:

Gays used to chant, “We’re here, We’re queer, Get used to it!”

To some of my gay brothers and lesbian sisters, perhaps its time to say: “Some of us gay folks are conservative- Get used to it.”
—-
Rick, what the hell does being conservative have to do with anything?? the issue at hand is Palin’s historical knowledge. Liberals, Conservatives, Commies, and Fascists can agree that it is a public blunder – however minor or major – to declare what she said is “fact.”

you know, it used to be that declaring “this country is NOT theologically grounded or associated” was not the same thing as being “liberal.” It was just called being “truthful.” So, Rick, if you declare that being “conservative” means unofficially giving politicians a religious test, and then due things like declare one politician’s Christianity “woefully deficient,” and THEN declare that this is a reason not to vote for them, go ahead. This is why I will probably never find myself going over that center line from centrism to conservatism: Because re-inventing history makes it impossible to learn from it. Besides, that was Stalin’s official policy. And isn’t he the reason they put “God” in the pledge in the first place?

Emily K
September 3rd, 2008 | LINK

Rick said:
“It is not a stretch to envision the Founders as men of a mind to give preference to the Christian faith above other faiths”

YES IT IS. In fact, Jefferson’s Bible was a reaction to how much he opposed the Christianity of his day. The Constitution makes sure NO religion is favored. Your statement offends me as an American who cherishes what this country was built upon. Of course, as a Jew, I’m not going to want Christianity to be favored. Christian favoritism put my people in grave danger for, oh, 1800 years or so.

Palin’s AND your Christianity, Evangelical Conservative Fundamentalism, in which the Bible down to every last word is inerrant and literal, is VERY FAR from what even the most religious of the Founding Fathers believed, since your brand of Christianity wasn’t invented until the early 20th century. They were, for the most part, Deists – closer to what would be called Unitarian Universalism today – one of the first sects in this nation to accept gay people.

Priya Lynn
September 3rd, 2008 | LINK

Rick, there is no other reasonable interpretation of Palin’s words other than that she believed the pledge and “under god” were around at the time of the founding fathers. You’re tortured “explainations” certainly don’t make an opposing case.

Jason D
September 3rd, 2008 | LINK

Governor Palin’s words can just as easily be understood as referring to the Founder’s belief that we are a nation “Under God” – a general belief in the God of the Bible as differentiated from then current enlightenment beliefs which tended to ignore the God of the Bible.

But that’s not the question she was asked, nor does her answer support that conclusion. She was asked specifically about the pledge of allegiance and if she was bothered by the inclusion of “Under God” in that pledge. She said no, and went on to say that if it (meaning the phrase “under God” within the pledge of allegiance) was good enough for the founding fathers, then it’s good enough for her.

This was a written statement. This was not an off-the-cuff remark, nor was it a surprise question she had very little time to consider before answering. She had time to formulate her thoughts. If she intended what you think, why didn’t she write it plainly? She has a BA in journalism, I would assume writing clearly is one of her skills! Something like
“No, i’m not bothered by “under God” being included in the pledge of allegiance. I believe the founding fathers would not be bothered by this being in our national pledge, had they been around when it was introduced.”

But did she? No, she gave an answer that obviously, and plainly suggests that she thinks that Under God has been part of the pledge since the Founding Fathers. It’s one thing to mis-speak, it’s another to mis-write.

Again, your interpretation means Palin answered a question that she was not asked. And answered it in such a way as to sound like she was answering the question asked of her, in the context of that question: the pledge of allegiance.

the rest of your post is irrelevent to the discussion, which is not about christianity, favoritism of christianity, or whether the founding fathers thought homosexuality would be okay. Whether or not they envisioned gay marriage or cell phones, or Ashton Kutcher is irrelevent.

At best, she’s not a very clear communicator, at worst, she doesn’t know American history. Plainly this was a gaffe, whether it was intended as such or not.

David
September 3rd, 2008 | LINK

Timothy,

Your post makes an all too common mistake. Having an established state church is one thing; governing the nation according to an understanding of scripture is something else entirely.

You are spot on, however, when you say that “a shared mythology thrives within a subset of our nation in which the drafters of our documents have been assigned theology that is consistent with their own.” There is a long history of certain Americans equating American democracy with their own version of Christianity.

PiaSharn
September 3rd, 2008 | LINK

Rick, Palin was asked specifically about the Pledge. I don’t see how it is an “illogical jump” to interpret her response in that context.

Yes, her words could be interpreted in the manner you suggested if she had been asked about the beliefs of the Founding Fathers, but that was not what she was asked.

Why would she respond to a question about the Pledge with a statement that had nothing to do the the Pledge?

Rick Brentlinger
September 3rd, 2008 | LINK

Emily K-

“Rick, what the hell does being conservative have to do with anything?? the issue at hand is Palin’s historical knowledge.”

Well, apparently the fact that I and Governor Palin are conservatives irritates some folks.

“Palin’s AND your Christianity, Evangelical Conservative Fundamentalism…”

Timothy began his post with a critique of evangelical conservatives, of which I am one who happens also to be gay.

Jason D-

“the rest of your post is irrelevent to the discussion, which is not about christianity, favoritism of christianity, or whether the founding fathers thought homosexuality would be okay. Whether or not they envisioned gay marriage or cell phones, or Ashton Kutcher is irrelevent.”

Please take the time to re-read Timothy’s opening paragraph which refutes your statement.

“Often evangelical conservatives suffer under the misperception that the nation’s Founding Fathers shared their belief that the country was intended to be a Christian Nation governed according to a conservative understanding of Scripture…

a shared mythology thrives within a subset of our nation in which the drafters of our documents have been assigned theology that is consistent with their [evangelical conservative] own. And then sainted…”

Emily K
September 3rd, 2008 | LINK

Rick, could you please respond specifically to the points I wrote? Or should I just assume you embody the sort of American that values very anti-American principals regarding history and religious freedom?

And I don’t care if you’re gay, straight, queer, femme, butch, bi, or trans. I’m beyond that and I didn’t mention a thing about your sexual orientation because I don’t care. That has nothing to do with anything in this discussion.

Rick Brentlinger
September 4th, 2008 | LINK

Emily K-

Thank you for giving me opportunity to respond to your interesting comments. I feel you took offense to what I wrote when absolutely no offense was intended.

So, Rick, if you declare that being “conservative” means unofficially giving politicians a religious test, and then due things like declare one politician’s Christianity “woefully deficient,” and THEN declare that this is a reason not to vote for them, go ahead.

I did not make those statements.

The Constitution makes sure NO religion is favored. Your statement offends me as an American who cherishes what this country was built upon…

They [the Founding Fathers] were, for the most part, Deists – closer to what would be called Unitarian Universalism today

Your statement is factually incorrect.

3 of the Founders were Roman Catholic. 28 were Episcopalian (Church of England), 8 were Presbyterians, 7 were Congregationalists, 2 were Lutherans, 2 were Dutch Reformed, 2 were Methodists.

At least one Founder, Patrick Henry was what some today would decry as a conservative, evangelical, fundamentalist Christian.

Other of our Founders were anti-clerical although not irreligious. Jefferson, Washington, Adams and Franklin were not fond of organized churches although Jefferson, Washington, Franklin and Adams made reference to God in writings and speeches and quoted the Bible.

These Founders did not envision our country as an irreligious secular state nor did they see it as a Baptist, Catholic or Muslim state.

They envisioned a country without a state church which dictated religious beliefs to the populace but a country where religion could be freely practiced without government interference.

The first amendment is pretty clear:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”

The Founders opened their sessions of the Continental Congress with prayer to the Christian God, including sometimes invoking the name of Jesus Christ, a practice which continues in our Congress and Senate to this day.

That “privileging of Christianity” over other faiths is a fact of our history.

Of course, as a Jew, I’m not going to want Christianity to be favored

Okay. The USA was founded on Judeo-Christian values derived from the Jewish scriptures, not solely on Christian values. All the authors of the books which make up our Bible were Jewish (with perhaps Luke as the one exception).

All of the Christian apostles in the New Testament were Jewish. Christian values are based on Jewish values and flow from the Jewish scriptures. Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ was a Jew.

Christian favoritism put my people in grave danger for, oh, 1800 years or so.

I am a Baptist. The same religious entity which persecuted your people for their Jewish faith persecuted my people for their Baptist (and Anabaptist) faith. It would not be far off the mark to suppose that some of our ancestors shared a cell during the Inquisition.

Palin’s AND your Christianity, Evangelical Conservative Fundamentalism… your brand of Christianity wasn’t invented until the early 20th century.

Your comment is factually incorrect. The beliefs I personally hold are traceable through Christian history clear back to the New Testament.

I apologize for not addressing your comments point by point sooner.

Emily K
September 4th, 2008 | LINK

There is no such thing as “Judeo-Christian.” That is an oxymoron. The things we have in common – “don’t murder, be kind to others,” etc. – are found in every religion in the world throughout history. They are not strictly “judeo-christian.” And the attempt to include us “poor Jews” in the equation is patronizing at best. Our beliefs about the nature of G-d and humanity are seemingly almost opposite.

This article, with numerous citations, i believe best sums up my beliefs: http://www.skeptically.org/thinkersonreligion/id9.html

do you really think we would have “shared a cell?” Do you really think the only religious entity that persecuted my people was the Catholic church? Fundamentalists are so quick to say that they are victims of this or that, but compared to 1800 years of being considered by ALL Christians to be the “children of the devil” as jesus says in the book of john, and that “G-d has divorced Israel” in Paul’s writings, being victims of persecution for a generation or two is a walk in the park. Eventually, all Christian sects come around to the view that Jews are being judged harshly by God for their “unbelief,” and we are expected to cowtow to a point of view that perverts our understanding of G-d and the human role in the Divine and Earthly. Your bible will not change and Jews will always be the agents of satan, lest they become “Jews for jesus,” that insidious missionary group sponsored largely by your church. And don’t claim that your love for Israel automatically makes you a friend to the Jewish people. It doesn’t.

your view, “Sola Scriptura,” wasn’t accepted until Luther, at earliest. The fundamentalist point of view, Biblical literalism, which the Baptists hold, wasn’t invented until the early 20th century.

rusty
September 4th, 2008 | LINK

as the great melting pot, America’s politicians have always turned to religion to ‘tie us all together’. Addressing a group of voters, politicians spewed out ‘God fearing Folk’ because the voters they addressed were imigrants, or children of imigrants. Religion has been the ‘tie that binds’ by using a standard set of universally held morals. During the time of the placement of ‘Under God’ which is a relatively new addition. . .America was rebuilding itself in the 50’s, where women were being shuffled back into the homes to be silent, barefoot and pregnant and McCarthyism was spreading. Again, it was the simple ‘you’re either with us or against us’ attitude. With this election, party lines are being sculpted around faith, rather than reason.

Priya Lynn
September 4th, 2008 | LINK

Go Emily! Tell it like it is!

Rick Brentlinger
September 4th, 2008 | LINK

Often evangelical conservatives suffer under the misperception that the nation’s Founding Fathers shared their belief that the country was intended to be a Christian Nation governed according to a conservative understanding of Scripture…

“It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great nation was founded, not by religionists, but by Christians, not on religions, but on the gospel of Jesus Christ. For this very reason, peoples of other faiths have been afforded asylum, prosperity, and freedom of worship here.” Patrick Henry, – Speech to the Virginia House of Burgesses, May, 1765

“The right to freedom being the gift of God Almighty, it is not in the power of man to alienate this gift and voluntarily become a slave… These may be best understood by reading and carefully studying the institutes of the great Law Giver and Head of the Christian Church, which are to be found clearly written and promulgated in the New Testament.”Sam Adams, Rights of the Colonists, November 20, 1772

“O Most Glorious God, in Jesus Christ, my merciful and loving Father; I acknowledge and confess my guilt in the weak and imperfect performance of the duties of this day. I have called on Thee for pardon and forgiveness of my sins, but so coldly and carelessly that my prayers are become my sin, and they stand in need of pardon.

I have sinned against heaven and before Thee in thought, word, and deed. I have contemned Thy majesty and holy laws. I have likewise sinned by omitting what I ought to have done and committing what I ought not. I have rebelled against the light, despising Thy mercies and judgment, and broken my vows and promise. I have neglected the better things. My iniquities are multiplied and my sins are very great.

I confess them, O Lord, with shame and sorrow, detestation and loathing and desire to be vile in my own eyes as I have rendered myself vile in Thine. I humbly beseech Thee to be merciful to me in the free pardon of my sins for the sake of Thy dear Son and only Savior Jesus Christ who came to call not the righteous, but sinners to repentance. Thou gavest Thy Son to die for me.

Make me to know what is acceptable in Thy sight, and therein to delight, open the eyes of my understanding, and help me thoroughly to examine myself concerning my knowledge, faith, and repentance, increase my faith, and direct me to the true object, Jesus Christ the Way, the Truth, and the Life.”George Washington, from his handwritten manuscript book, April 23, 1752

“Here is my Creed. I believe in one God, the Creator of the Universe. That He governs it by His Providence. That He ought to be worshipped. That the most acceptable service we render to Him is in doing good to His other Children. That the soul of Man is immortal, and will be treated with Justice in another Life respecting its conduct in this.

These I take to be the fundamental points in all sound Religion, and I regard them as you do in whatever Sect I meet with them. As to Jesus of Nazareth, my Opinion of whom you particularly desire, I think the System of Morals and his Religion, as he left them to us, is the best the World ever saw, or is likely to see.”Benjamin Franklin, Letter to Ezra Stiles, President of Yale University, March 9, 1790

“The God who gave us life, gave us liberty at the same time; the hand of force may destroy, but cannot disjoin them.”Thomas Jefferson, A Summary View of the Rights of British America, August, 1774

Priya Lynn
September 4th, 2008 | LINK

Treaty of Tripoli, article 11
“As the government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion,-as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion or tranquility of Musselmen…”

This treaty represented U.S. law as all U.S. Treaties do (see the Constitution, Article VI, Sect.2: “This Constitution, and the laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof, and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every State shall be bound thereby, anything in the constitution or laws of any State to the contrary notwithstanding.”)

Thus the LAW OF THE LAND is that the U.S. is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion.

The Founders
Even though the majority of Americans at the time were Christians, several of the key figures in politics were Deists. They rejected the specific beliefs of religion and Christianity.

John Adams- 2nd president, Proposed and signed the Treaty of Tripoli

“Have you considered that system of holy lies and pious frauds that has raged and triumphed for 1500 years.”
letter to John Taylor, 1814, quoted by Norman Cousins in In God We Trust: The Religious Beliefs and Ideas of the American Founding Fathers (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1958), p. 106-7, from James A. Haught, ed., 2000 Years of Disbelief

“The question before the human race is, whether the God of nature shall govern the world by his own laws, or whether priests and kings shall rule it by fictitious miracles.”
letter to Thomas Jefferson, June 20, 1815

Thomas Jefferson- 3rd president, Drafted Declaration of Independence, Signer of Constitution, influential on 1st Amendment

“I do not find in orthodox Christianity one redeeming feature.”

“Religions are all alike – founded upon fables and mythologies.”

“Millions of innocent men, women, and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burned, tortured, fined, and imprisoned, yet we have not advanced one inch toward uniformity. What has been the effect of coercion? To make one half of the world fools and the other half hypocrites.” [Notes on Virginia]

“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 civil as well as religious leaders will always avail themselves for their own purposes” [Letter to von Humboldt, 1813].

“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.” [Letter to John Adams, April 11, 1823]

“In every country and in every age, the priest has been hostile to liberty. He is always in alliance with the despot, abetting his abuses in return for protection to his own” [Letter to H. Spafford, 1814].

“…an amendment was proposed by inserting the words, ‘Jesus Christ…the holy author of our religion,’ which was rejected ‘By a great majority in proof that they meant to comprehend, within the mantle of its protection, the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and the Mohammedan, the Hindoo and the Infidel of every denomination.'” [Jefferson’s Biography]

James Madison- 4th president, influential in the Constitutional Convention, Proposed the 1st Amendment

“During almost fifteen centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial. What has been its fruits? More or less, in all places, pride and indolence in the clergy; ignorance and servility in the laity; in both, superstition, bigotry, and persecution.”

“In no instance have . . . the churches been guardians of the liberties of the people.”

“Religious bondage shackles and debilitates the mind and unfits it for every noble enterprise.” [April 1, 1774]

Benjamin Franklin- signer of Declaration of Independence, signer of Constitution

“The way to see by faith is to shut the eye of reason.”
[Poor Richard’s Almanack, 1758]

“Lighthouses are more helpful than churches.”

“He (the Rev. Mr. Whitefield) used, indeed, sometimes to pray for my conversion, but never had the satisfaction of believing that his prayers were heard.” [Franklin’s Autobiography]

George Washington – 1st president

After Washington’s death, Dr. Abercrombie, a friend of his, replied to a Dr. Wilson, who had interrogated him about Washington’s religion replied, “Sir, Washington was a Deist.”

In a sermon of October 1831, Episcopalian minister Bird Wilson said,

“Among all of our Presidents, from Washington downward, not one was a professor of religion, at least not of more than Unitarianism.”

Jason D
September 4th, 2008 | LINK

Rick, that’s nice but NONE of those quotes are from the Consitution or Bill of Rights — the documents that define and govern this country. There is no mention of God or Christianty in any of the documents on which this country is based.

The closest we get is the vague “creator” mentioned in the Declaration of Independance.
Not Jesus.
Not Lord.
Not Heavenly Father.
Not Savior.
Not Christ.
But Creator…. a vague term that could equally be applied to any deiety of any religion, or simply to one’s ancestors.

If they intended this to be a Christian nation ruled by evangelical values, and were surrounded by Christian people who would SURELY not object to Jesus in the Constitution…… they completely missed out on the opportunity to write that into law. Which is curious, considering the quotes you pulled.

To me, it says these were wise men who absolutely believed in the seperation of church and state, clearly they had some semblance of christian values but chose, consciously chose to omit Jesus from our government.

Priya Lynn
September 4th, 2008 | LINK

I should point out that the vote on the Treaty of Tripoli was recorded because at least a fifth of the Senators present voted to require a recorded vote. This was the 339th time that a recorded vote was required. It was only the third time that a vote was recorded when the vote was unanimous! (The next time was to honor George Washington.)There is no record of any debate or dissension on the treaty. The treaty was reprinted in full in three newspapers, two in Philadelphia and one in New York City. There is no record of any public outcry or complaint in subsequent editions of the papers. Clearly at the time it was NOT a controversial idea that the U.S. was not in any sense founded upon the Christian religion – it was well accepted fact.

Jason D
September 4th, 2008 | LINK

(sorry for the double post)

and keep in mind, The Declaration of Independence is not a governing document, it’s merely our letter to England telling them to piss off.

Nowhere in the documents that define and govern our country was there one mention of God, Christianty, or Jesus. Nowhere.

Timothy Kincaid
September 4th, 2008 | LINK

Selective sampling from the writings of Jefferson, Washington, and Franklin may falsely lead one to think that these persons were strong Christians.

However, the totality of their writings suggests that they were all deists. And while they did believe in a God – perhaps even a provident and beneficent God – they generally did not believe in the virgin birth, the miracles of Christ, the redemptive sacrifice, the Trinity, or in most Christian theology or doctrine.

Rick, you do yourself a disservice by seeking to prove what is obviously not true. Rather than defending Palin’s comments, you are illustrating a willingness to – as I stated – assign founders beliefs they did not have and to cannonize them for it.

Emily K
September 4th, 2008 | LINK

Most Conservatives dabble in Revisionism, I’ve found. How frightful.

Timothy Kincaid
September 5th, 2008 | LINK

Emily,

Please avoid sweeping generalizations.

St. James
September 5th, 2008 | LINK

One or two comments concerned the hypo-
thetical question “Would the nation’s
founders have thought homosexuality was
OK?” The concept of sexual orientation was unknown and unrecognized until the last part of the
19th century. In the 18th century, it
was likely that an individual may have
known a few gay persons, but gays were
not thought of a a group (or class) of
people.
Now that our national leaders know some-
thing about the gay condition, none of them seem to have an informed opinion at all.

Pray for their enlightenment (even if you’re an athiest)!

Priya Lynn
September 5th, 2008 | LINK

James, pray if you’re an atheist? Not even at gunpoint.

jmc
September 5th, 2008 | LINK

Rick Brentlinger, most historians do not think Washington wrote that prayerbook.

Priya Lynn, do you have sources for these two?

“I do not find in orthodox Christianity one redeeming feature.”

“Religions are all alike – founded upon fables and mythologies.”

I have not been able to find these in the primary sources, and the second one seems a bit too strong even for Jefferson.

We also need to disconnect the issues of orthodoxy and government proclamations. Neither Adams nor Jefferson accepted the divinity of Christ, but Adams did issue proclamations of prayer and thanksgiving while Jefferson did not. The issue is not even one of believing in God. As mentioned above, many orthodox Christians opposed religious declarations by the government. They felt such things were private matters, or they worried those pronouncements would be the camel’s nose to further government encroachment. If Palin is fully aware of when the pledge was written and added upon, she still apparently misunderstands this point.

PiaSharn
September 5th, 2008 | LINK

Rick, I’ve noticed that you still have not responded to the arguments against your interpretation of Palin’s statement.

Namely, that she was asked specifically about the Pledge, so why would her response be about something different? Why are you accusing us of making an “illogical leap” when we view her answer within the context of the question she was asked?

Rick: “These Founders did not envision our country as an irreligious secular state nor did they see it as a Baptist, Catholic or Muslim state.”

They also did not envision a country which allowed women to vote or considered slavery to be a crime. So perhaps not doing things exactly the same way that the Founding Fathers did is not always detrimental.

Priya Lynn
September 5th, 2008 | LINK

JMC, I got those quotes from this page:

http://bmccreations.com/one_nation/nation.html

If you google “I do not find in orthodox Christianity one redeeming feature.” you’ll find many pages providing that quote, I’m not sure exactly what you’re looking for.

jmc
September 5th, 2008 | LINK

Priya Lynn, thank you. I was just looking for the original location of the quote since there are a few inaccurate ones out there.

PiaSharn
September 5th, 2008 | LINK

Speaking of inaccurate quotes, the Patrick Henry one that Rick posted appears to be a fake. See this Snopes article for more information. The bit concerning the quote in question is about 2/3 of the way down the page.

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