Monday, March 27, 2006

John Adams on Atheism:

I was going to save this John Adams quotation for a later time, but since Andrew Sullivan has taken to defending the rights of atheists and invoking the Founders to boot, I figured I'd feature John Adams's thoughts on the matter (taken from James H. Hutson's book of quotations on the Founders and religion).

"Government has no Right to hurt a hair of the head of an Atheist for his Opinions. Let him have a care of his Practices."

John Adams to John Quincy Adams, June 16, 1816. Adams Papers (microfilm), reel 432, Library of Congress; as seen in Hutson, p. 20.

This is important to note: The Founders largely followed Locke whose teachings on religious liberty were revolutionary for their time. However, for our time, Locke may not seem so liberal. He wouldn't extend (at least not in his textual arguments) religious rights to atheists or Catholics. Yet, our Locke imbibed Founders took Locke's principles to their logical conclusion and did believe in extending the full rights of conscience to atheists, polytheists, heretics and infidels. Or in Jefferson's words, "the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Mahometan, the Hindoo, and Infidel of every denomination."


Lons said...

Great post! I've been trying my best to gather a collection of well-worded thoughts on atheism for a post on my own blog, and I'll definitely make a point to reference this find.

Jonathan said...

Glad you liked it.