Monday, October 30, 2006

Mastering Nature II:

Continuing with the theme of my last post, and referencing the same LA Times article about gay men having children with the help of surrogates, I wonder whether gays' artificial reproduction may actually produce "better" social outcomes (children grow up to be better educated, earn more, have more talents, etc.) than from "normal" heterosexual reproduction.

The question that needs to be answered is whether the circumstance described in the LA Times article is or will be somewhat typical of when gays have children. If so, then gays' reliance on artificial methods may have the effect of selecting for the "more desirable" genes -- higher intelligence, better looks, various talents, etc. -- for gay couples. Then, comparing the children of gays v. straights, the social outcomes for gay families may be better.

Here is how the article describes it:

Chad Hodge liked #694. She was a 21-year-old college student, 5-feet-5, 135 pounds, with straight brown hair, blue eyes and a narrow nose. She had won 16 awards in high school for academics and music, and scored a 1210 on the SAT. She was outgoing, intelligent, responsible and friendly, or at least she said she was. . . . But David Craig, Chad's partner of seven years, had his heart set on #685. She was a teacher, 23, 5-feet-2, with wavy blond hair and light blue eyes. She wore a size 0. She had been a varsity tennis player in high school, a ballerina and a classical pianist.

Note, those who argue against gay marriage stress that studies show children do best with married parents of both sexes. Indeed, at the very least, social science demonstrates that poor, unwed, uneducated young mothers having children out of wedlock practically guarantees poverty and other social problems. Democrat William Galston noted that one need do only three things -- simple things that anyone can do -- which practically guarantees avoiding poverty: 1) don't have children until you are married, 2) don't get married until you are at least 20; and 3) graduate high school before getting married and having children.

But failure to do this, and its consequences (the inner city ghettos) is not at all the same or anything remotely similar to say, two professional, educated gay men using a surrogate or adopting. Thus any "study" which relies on comparing intact heterosexual families to out-of-wedlock births by single mothers is utterly inapt to the gay marriage/gay family debate.

When poor unwed young mothers have children, it is the antithesis of "rational planning." When gays adopt or use a surrogate, they have to jump through an endless set of bureaucratic hoops and pay significant $$$. And such requires the utmost amount of "rational planning." (Indeed, ironic that the inability of gay couples to naturally procreate may select for rational planners among gay parents, and make typical gay parents superior to typical straight parents, whose average parenting level is brought down by all of the parents who have children irresponsibly when they shouldn't.)

Some social science already shows that gays tend to be better educated, have higher income, and possess greater wealth. All of this correlates with higher average IQ levels. And gays stereotypically are more creative (and it's not just creativity in styling hair, but in producing the Western Canon. Bruce Bawer's article "Canon Fodder" could have been called "Queer Eye for the Western Guy"). Add to that the hurdles that gays must go through to have children which may select for more responsible and affluent gay parents, and the results may be children of gays, as a group end up, on average, better off by various measures. The fact that the children are missing a parent of one sex may be a negative. But the positives -- parents with, on average more wealth, more education, more income, better genes -- may outweigh the negative of missing a parent of one gender or the other.
Mastering Nature:

Fascinating discussion by Richard Samuelson over at Claremont. It references an LA Times article about gay men having biological children with surrogates. Samuelson's discussion notices that it's only with the marvel of Western science that gay men have these choices.

He asks very apt questions:

A few further thoughts: What would someone (almost anyone) have said about a story like this 100 years ago? That gay couples existed out in the open would shock them....What will they say 100 years from now? Societies with open homosexuality are rare in history, and no previous society has tried to treat homosexual couples the same as heterosexual couples. It is an experiment. Will it work? In a century, we might have some answers.

The same questions could have been asked when America was founded between 1776 and 1787. Our "Novus Ordo Seclorum" was a "great experiment" -- something never done before and whose outcome was uncertain -- which radically broke with tradition.

The attitude toward nature is fascinating here. On one hand, nature gives the couple its moral bearings. That they are attracted to men and not women dictates how they lead their lives. On the other hand, they use technology to overcome nature. It allows them to become, in a sense, joint fathers. What is the connection between these two attitudes toward nature?

Again, the same perplexing attitude toward nature was evident in America's Founding. On the one hand, we appealed to "the laws of Nature and Nature's God" to found our nation. Yet, according to the East Coast Straussians, Locke's teachings dictate that "[m]an, if he is sensible, separates himself from nature and becomes its master and conqueror. This was and still is the prevailing belief of liberal democracies, with their peace, gentleness, prosperity, productivity and applied science, particularly medical science." Allan Bloom, The Closing of the American Mind, p. 171.

Keeping this in mind, Samuelson asks: "Finally, how does all that fit it with treating the human body as a commodity to be used according to basic instinct, and also to be rented out for hire."

And indeed it was Locke who first posited that man owns himself. If I own my body, I can rent it out for hire!

Samuelson's final question: "What would the founders think? Is this the liberty for which they fought and died?" Whether they realized it or not, arguably yes. Even though I often disagree with Paul Cella, he wrote a great article entitled "Locke Box", where he noted "[i]f the[ Founders] were indeed Lockeans, and Locke was indeed a profound innovator, even a revolutionary, then America was indeed the vanguard of political modernity." Arguably, it's because of our founding principles that we read the story about gay men having biological children through surrogacy.
I Hereby Banish Thee From My Co-op:

Here is an article that illustrates the seemingly private tyranny of co-ops. (Hat tip.) My own thoughts are that co-ops have every right to be jerks and I wouldn't want to live with the likes of Mr. Winthrop anyway.

The "jerk" in the article is named John Winthrop -- co-op board chair in Boston -- who puts the kibosh on a prospective sale of a unit. He is actually related to the original John Winthrop of Puritan Massachusetts infamy. Given his roots, he must have inherited a "jerk gene."

They've got every right to exist, but I'd never want to deal with one. So I won't. In places like New York, even multimillionaire celebrities have been turned down. From the article:

Co-ops are much more common in New York than Boston, and prospective owners are frequently rejected without knowing why. Singer Barbra Streisand, clothing designer Calvin Klein, and casino entrepreneur Steve Wynn are among those rejected by co-ops .
A More Structure Performance:

Last time I posted something of me playing, I promised a more "structured" performance would follow (as opposed to me just jammin'). Well, here is a popular classical guitar piece -- Recuerdos de la Alhambra -- played on electric guitar with distortion. Not sure if the distortion really works -- it might work if I could find a way to keep up the tremolo while slightly muting the strings.

When I recorded this a few weeks ago, I hadn't played it for months, or seriously practiced it for years. That's why the tempo is slower than what it should be. Also, I just played the first movement, didn't want to bore you with the whole piece.

This clip, by the way, is getting a lot more hits on Youtube than my other guitar clips. Probably because it is a very popular classical guitar piece and many search for performances by name. If you want to see how the piece really should be played, check out this clip.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

If You Ever Run Into Andrew Dice Clay...:

Be sure to ask him about his recent occupation -- running a gym.

And remember where Dice got his start -- on Different Strokes.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Founders & Religion Hits the Blogsphere:

My readers knew I'd eventually get to this. I'm glad this issue is being discussed and wish it were more often. Indeed, there are so many current books on topic (James Hutson's, David Holmes's, Jon Meacham's, and Michael Novak's book on Washington), and many past ones that you would think this topic would be more popular on the blogsphere.

It began with George Will's review of Brooke Allen's newest edition to the line of current books on the Founders and Religion, "Moral Minority: Our Skeptical Founding Fathers." Will's review is sympathetic to Allen's thesis, but, as he notes, " polemics often do, occasionally goes too far." After a brief mention by Matthew J. Franck of Bench Memos wanting for a response from an expert like Michael Novak, Novak and his daughter/co-author Jana, responded.

My analysis: Where Allen is right and where she, in Will's words, "goes too far." [Note, like the Novaks, I haven't yet read Allen's book, but did read her article in The Nation, and am basing my claims on Will's review.]

Will notes the prime motivation for Allen's book is "an...attempt to present America's principal founders as devout Christians. Such an attempt is now in high gear among people who argue that the founders were kindred spirits with today's evangelicals, and that they founded a 'Christian nation.'" Allen sets out to debunk this notion as historical revisionism. And she is right.

Where she gets it wrong (like many on the secular left) is in, as Will puts it, "[h]er thesis...that the six most important founders -- Franklin, Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Madison and Hamilton -- subscribed, in different ways, to the watery and undemanding Enlightenment faith called deism....Eighteenth-century deists believed there was a God but...[h]aving set the universe in motion like a clockmaker, Providence might reward and punish, perhaps in the hereafter, but does not intervene promiscuously in human affairs. (Washington did see 'the hand of Providence' in the result of the Revolutionary War.) Deists rejected the Incarnation, hence the divinity of Jesus. 'Christian deist' is an oxymoron."

The problem with this thesis is that the term "Deist" is understood as one who believes in a remote Watchmaker God, and each of those six men, as they founded the nation, consistently, in their public proclamations and private correspondence invoked a warm intervening Providence. They were perhaps "deistic," yes, strict Deists, no.

Allen and Will, apparently, slightly recognize this inconsistency. We are told that the Founders subscribed, "in different ways" to Deism, that God doesn't intervene "promiscuously" in human affairs. And that Washington believed God's intervention in the American Revolution.

The Novaks jump on this disconnect between the notion of a non-intervening Deist God, and all of the quotations that show these Founders clearly believed Providence often intervened, as the central flaw in the secular left's notion of a Deist Founding. And they are right in that regard. But, the Novaks falter by trying to reconcile what these Founders really were with Christianity.

Much of this depends upon what it means to be "Christian." Today, as during the Founding era and throughout history, people who believe in all sorts of things call themselves Christians (see today's Episcopalians). What is clear, though, is that these Founders' beliefs cannot be reconciled with what is commonly termed, "orthodox Christianity."

In rejecting our Deist Founding, the Novaks write: "If by Deism you mean a belief in a watchmaker God who has no intimate concern for human individuals or individual nations, a God for whom interpositions in history are out of the question, Deism is contrary to Judaism and to Christianity -- and to the public (and private) convictions of George Washington."

Yet, it is equally true that though these key Founders believed in an intervening God, their religious convictions, in other ways, were just as contrary to Judaism and Christianity. And the Novaks refuse to properly inquire here. Instead, we get equivocations like the following:

Some of the Founders were uncertain about the divinity of Jesus and how to think of it -- as Christians have always been since the beginning (not only in individual hearts, but also in great public debates and Councils of the Church). That Jesus Christ is both God and man is central to Christian faith; and yet how to understand that is not easy.

"Uncertain"? Jefferson and Adams, in no uncertain terms, bitterly ridiculed the Trinity, and its subsidiary doctrines, thus rejecting what is, in the Novaks's opinion, "central to Christian faith." Most probably realize this fits Jefferson's personality. But few realize that Adams entirely agreed with Jefferson on these matters. The Novaks note that Gordon Wood finds "Jefferson -- the Founder most attended to today -- was an outlier among the Founders." Perhaps in his desire to Separate Church and State. But regarding his personal religious faith, not a shred of meaningful difference can be shown between what Adams and Jefferson believed (or what the other four Founders in question believed; some of them are harder cases because they were so reticent to discuss their personal faith). Here is John Adams on the Incarnation:

"An incarnate God!!! An eternal, self-existent, omnipresent omniscient Author of this stupendous Universe, suffering on a Cross!!! My Soul starts with horror, at the Idea, and it has stupified the Christian World. It has been the Source of almost all of the Corruptions of Christianity."

John Adams to John Quincy Adams, March 28, 1816

Sounds like it could have come right from Jefferson's mouth. Indeed, in 1823, Jefferson explicitly stated to Adams, they worshipped the same benevolent unitarian Deity, not Calvin's malignant, demonic Tri-God.

I can never join Calvin in addressing his god. He was indeed an Atheist, which I can never be; or rather his religion was Daemonism. If ever man worshipped a false god, he did. The being described in his 5. points is not the God whom you and I acknowledge and adore, the Creator and benevolent governor of the world; but a daemon of malignant spirit. It would be more pardonable to believe in no god at all, than to blaspheme him by the atrocious attributes of Calvin.

The Novaks discuss how Franklin politely dismissed the Trinity while speaking to the then President of Yale. Franklin wrote:

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, the best the world ever saw, or is likely to see; but I apprehend it has received various corrupting changes, and I have, with most of the present dissenters in England some doubts as to his divinity; tho' it is a question I do not dogmatize upon, having never studied it, and think it needless to busy myself with it now, when I expect soon an opportunity of knowing the truth with less trouble.

Though, the Novaks applaud Franklin when they ask -- "How many professors at American universities today are so certain that they will meet Jesus Christ after death, to see the evidence for themselves?" -- their fundamentalist friends might note that if you don't believe Jesus is God when you die, you aren't going to meet Him. And that contrary to praising Franklin, perhaps they should castigate him for his hubris is asserting that he need not bother himself with the question of Jesus Divinity, that is, the ultimate nature of God.

And Franklin, understandably, walked on eggshells when speaking with Ezra Stiles, a leading orthodox Christian of the day. In that same letter, Franklin asks that its contents remain secret, else his public reputation be hurt. And this, in turn, tells us something that few understand about the context of the Founding and Religion.

These Founders adhered to what orthodox Christians, both during that era as well as today, would term "infidel principles." Besides denying the Trinity, they thought man's reason superseded biblical revelation, and though some revelation legitimately came from God, parts of the Bible contained error "fit" for man's reason to edit. They also were universalists who denied eternal damnation and thought most if not all world religions contained the same basic Truth as Christianity and were thus valid ways to God. And, as noted, their God was, contrary to Deism, a warm-intervening Providence. (See Dr. Gregg Frazer's thesis.)

Yet, orthodox Christianity was far more socially and legally entrenched back then. Thus, one couldn't wear one's infidelity on one's sleeve. Paine did so and paid the price by being publicly ruined and dying a pauper. Importantly, these founders wanted to transcend this era and believed that by Founding American on the light on man's reason, the Christian religion would further reform to incorporate their unitarian-universalist beliefs, or otherwise fully tolerate those who openly profess heresy. And men like them, in the future, could wear their so called "infidelity" on their sleeve without being publicly ruined as "infidels."

Finally, let me answer the Novaks's assertion that if the Founders really were the Deists that Brooke Allen makes them out to be they were hypocrits for publicly uttering things inconsistent with Deism. (As the Novaks put it: "This tiny minority of six expressed a very different set of beliefs privately from those they showed in public.") They would be right if the Founders were Deists like Allen argues. But, as we have seen, they weren't. Virtually nothing that those six Founders ever publicly uttered conflicted with their private beliefs. These Founders commonly invoked a warm-intervening Providence, but never publicly identified Him in terms that conflicted with their heterodox theistic rationalism. Rather, they were vague and simply left-out the specific details which might get them into trouble. Publicly, they invoked a generic Nature's God. Privately, Adams told Jefferson that the laws of Nature demonstrate Nature's God to be unitarian, not Trinitarian in His attributes, something a national politician could not publicly utter back then (or perhaps even today).

But, thankfully, the private correspondence that Jefferson, Adams, and Franklin left behind explicitly details what they really believed. Madison and Washington were not so generous to future generations, but left behind some important clues, which unmistakably point in the direction of their belief in the same "infidel" principles, not orthodox Christianity. For one, these two hid in a religious closet regarding their specific religious beliefs (though they did, as we have seen, publicly and privately invoke an intervening, generically defined Providence). And we have seen that the context of the time demonstrates keeping religious secrets means personal belief in "infidel" principles. Jefferson certainly believed this to be the case for Washington:

The following is taken from the notes of Thomas Jefferson on February 1, 1800.

Dr. Rush tells me that he had it from Asa Green that when the clergy addressed Genl. Washington on his departure from the govmt, it was observed in their consultation that he had never on any occasion said a word to the public which showed a belief in the Xn religion and they tho[ugh]t they should so pen their address as to force him at length to declare publicly whether he was a Christian or not. They did so. However he observed the old fox was too cunning for them. He answered every article of their address particularly except that, which he passed over without notice. Rush observes he never did say a word on the subject in any of his public papers except in his valedictory letter to the Governors of the states when he resigned his commission in the army, wherein he speaks of the benign influence of the Christian religion.

I know that Gouverneur Morris, who pretended to be in his secrets & believed himself to be so, has often told me that Genl. Washington believed no more of that system than he himself did.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

New Jersey Marriage Decision:

From what I understand of the decision, I can't complain. Keep in mind New Jersey has an already existing statute which grants same-sex domestic partner benefits. This statute may grant many of the rights to same-sex couples that married couples have; but it doesn't grant everything. I read this decision as stating either grant marriage, or grant all of the rights, every one, so that the arrangement would be marriage in all but name only. And that's fine. Government need not be involved in granting the "name" marriage to any couple. But even if government does grant the name to heterosexual but not homosexual couples, as long as government grants same-sex couples every single right that married couples have, I think that's close enough to satisfy a meaningful concept of equality.

On originalist grounds, I see this decision as clearly growing out of the "seeds" of equality that the Declaration of Independence and founding principles first planted. It's certainly true that the Founders or the population at large didn't intend for this. However, when the populace at large heard that very broad and general phrase, "all men are created equal," arguably most people first thought: All white propertied Protestant males...a sentiment while which today would be unthinkable, was still remarkably egalitarian coming out of the throne and alter era of divine right of Kings and Aristocracy.

Like it or not, the twin pillars of classical liberalism -- liberty and equality -- have been consistently expanding since our nation was first founded in 1776, just as the Founders intended. As Jefferson put it:

"[L]aws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths disclosed, and manners and opinions change with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also, and keep pace with the times. We might as well require a man to wear still the same coat which fitted him when a boy, as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors."

Now, one can argue that they didn't intend Constitutional rights to so evolve, that the evolving should be done via statutes and the common law. But liberal democracy is predicated on the notion that individual rights -- liberty and equality rights -- exist prior to majority rule. So it makes sense that a countermajoritarian institution like the courts would get the final say on individual rights. And, given that we inherited a common law system where judges entirely created substantive norms (damn important ones like contract, property and tort) in an evolving body of law, it makes sense that judges today (as they historically have) often play very prominent roles in substantive rule making and rights recognition.

My biggest concern with gay marriage or its equivalent by judicial decree, on originalist and separation of powers grounds, is that while judicial nullification clearly exists within the original meaning of the "judicial power," something else may be going on here. Judicial nullification is not the same as when judges exercise a quasi command and control power ordering other branches of government to take affirmative action. When judges simply strike down laws in the name of liberty and do nothing else, they are acting entirely consistent with the way our Constitutional Republic was originally structured. However, when judges exercise a command and control like power, as they often do in the name of equality, such may not be as defensible on originalist grounds. (I could be wrong; if someone wants to point me to the scholarship, I'd greatly appreciate it). Nullifying a statute or act of government on equality grounds also would be consistent with the original meaning of the judicial power, as well as the very powerful notion of substantive equality under the law, which is foundational to liberal democracy.

Whether gay marriage will come to the US universally in every state, and how it will finally occur, I can't entirely answer. I hope we get there and think we eventually will. Right now, the gradual state-by-state approach seems the most judicious.

A Supreme Court decision finally resolving the issue? In my opinion, it would be wisest for such a decision to occur after a vast majority of states have already recognized gay marriage. So far, we have at least one, perhaps two out of fifty. We are a long way away from gay marriage at the national level, in my opinion.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Joe's Argument for God:

Speaking of The Facts of Life, see how Joe reacts to Blair's Socratic questioning the existence of God. I think this is an apt metaphor for the way pre-Enlightenment societies tended to treat those who questioned sacred religious cows, going to back to Socrates. Allan Bloom must have written this script, or at least have been script consultant.

Also, guess who Blair's "nun" sister is. (Is it very sad that I remember watching the original broadcast of this twenty some years ago and can tell you why Blair doesn't believe in God: It has something to do with her parents' divorce.)

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Good Takedown of Dawkins:

By Terry Eagleton.

Will the atheist half of Positive Liberty defend dear old Richard?
Three Bong Family:

Tommy Chong's jail sentence for selling drug paraphernalia brought to mind how for years this stuff has been sold in ordinary businesses (record stores, "head shops," etc.). The "ruse" or legal loophole is that apparently you are supposed to smoke tobacco out of these things.

This was further brought to mind when the Spencer's chain at my mall (the Oxford Valley Mall) recently got into legal trouble for selling bongs.

And I thought to myself...didn't The Facts of Life cover this in an episode twenty some years ago. Then I checked YouTube which had this gem. Not only can you use bongs for tobacco, but they also serve another useful function: they hold jellybeans.

David Barton Watch:

If he were some fringe figure associated with the so called "Constitution Party" only, I wouldn't spend so much time paying attention to him. But he's not. He was the Vice-Chair of the Texas Republican Party. He is also, apparently, Senator Sam Brownback's hero. From the People for the American Way's Right Wing Watch:

"So far, Rep. Todd Akin, Rep. Bobby Jindal, and Sen. Sam Brownback have all appeared on Barton’s program and were effusive in their praise and flattery for Barton and his work.

"For instance, Sen. Brownback, appearing on October 17th

"Dave Barton is one of my big heroes. When I first got into the United States Senate, I was watching some of his videos and it made me mad that we walk over so much of the beautiful heritage that makes our history come to life and he’s done a great job of that , so I’m honored to be on with … one of my heroes, Dave Barton.

"The following day, Rep. Bobby Jindal appeared on the program and went on at length about the importance of Barton’s work, which is not too surprising considering that earlier this month, Barton traveled Louisiana with Jindal where the two made several joint appearances...."

The link also has a great line from Arlen Specter on Barton: "Even Republican Senator Arlen Specter has blasted his work, saying Barton’s 'pseudoscholarship would hardly be worth discussing, let alone disproving, were it not for the fact that it is taken so very seriously by so many people.'"

My thoughts exactly.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Cause We've Ended As Lovers:

One of Jeff Beck's best, written by Stevie Wonder and inspired by Roy Buchanan:


When the Berlin Wall fell. This one magnificent event typified the end of an era (wish the quality were better):

Our Founders Believed Enlightenment Should Transform Christianity:

Mark Lilla, writing in the New York Times, nailed how the key Founders understood religion.

In truth, the leaders of the British and American Enlightenments shared the same hope as the French lumières: that the centuries-old struggle between church and state could be brought to an end, and along with it the fanaticism, superstition and obscurantism into which Christian culture had sunk. What distinguished thinkers like David Hume and John Adams from their French counterparts was not their ultimate aims; it was their understanding of religious psychology. The British and Americans made two wagers. The first was that religious sects, if they were guaranteed liberty, would grow attached to liberal democracy and obey its norms. The second was that entering the public square would liberalize them doctrinally, that they would become less credulous and dogmatic, more sober and rational.

In other words, the Founders desired the Christian religion to reform and conform to the tenets of the age of Enlightenment. One major difficulty with the Founders' vision is most of the "irrational" tenets of the Christian religion which they desired Christians to scrap turned out to be the heart and soul of orthodox Christianity: The Trinity, the Incarnation, the Atonement, the infallibility of Scripture, etc. While Founders like Adams and Jefferson, and the preachers they followed like Jonathan Mayhew and Charles Chauncy, continued to call themselves "Christian," they sacrificed so many of the key tenets of Christianity at the alter of rationalism (as Gregg Frazer puts it), that their religious creed arguably ceased to be "Christian." This is why Dr. Frazer coins a new term to describe their faith: Theistic Rationalism.

See Dr. Frazer painstakingly debate this issue on these threads with commenter Richard Knapton, who for some reason, seems intent on denying the historical reality that the Founders' desire that the Christian religion further reform was part of their "Enlightenment project."

Since I have quoted extensively from Jefferson and Adams to prove the point in the past, let me, for a change, offer some quotations from Washington and Madison, to demonstrate that our Founders' personal religious beliefs and desire for religious reform was part of their Enlightenment project.

First, James Madison. From this excellent paper by James H. Hutson on Madison's religion. Hutson writes:

Perhaps a better clue to Madison's outlook is a letter to Jefferson, December 31, 1824, in which he complained about Presbyterian "Sectarian Seminaries," armed with charters of incorporation, disseminating obsolete religious doctrines, by which he clearly meant Calvinism.

Unassailable charters allowed a "creed however absurd or contrary to that of a more enlightened Age" [Rowe's emphasis] to be perpetuated indefinitely. The Reformation itself, Madison continued, must be considered the "greatest of abuses," if legal impediments could prevent its doctrines from being brought up to date. The idea that Madison was espousing, that religious truth must evolve to incorporate the discoveries of science and other branches of modern learning, was far from the theological orthodoxy of most 19th century American churches. It can be inferred that his own religious views had evolved from the verities he had learned at Princeton, but how and in what direction neither this nor other writings disclose.

Next Washington:

Religious controversies are always productive of more acrimony and irreconcilable hatreds than those which spring from any other cause. I had hoped that liberal and enlightened thought [Rowe's emphasis] would have reconciled the Christians so that their religious fights would not endanger the peace of Society.

Letter to Sir Edward Newenham, June 22, 1792

Also noticed how Washington referred to Christians in the third person as "them" or "their" as though he were not part of that group. Indeed, unlike Adams and Jefferson, Washington didn't even call himself a Christian.

The term "liberal" goes hand in hand with "enlightened" because our classical liberal founding, though it drew from a variety of different intellectual sources, was predominantly a product of Enlightenment thought.

Now, understanding the context, look at John Adams's thoughts on the Jews and his desires for them. Each of the bold words is my emphasis:

I really wish the Jews again in Judea an independent nation. For as I believe the most enlightened men of it have participated in the amelioration of the philosophy of the age, once restored to an independent government & no longer persecuted they would soon wear away some of the asperities and peculiarities of their character [and] possibly in time become liberal unitarian Christians for your Jehovah is our Jehovah & your God of Abraham Isaac & Jacob is our God.

John Adams to Mordecai Noah, March 15, 1819. Adams Papers (microfilm), reel 123. Quoted from James H. Hutson's The Founders on Religion, p. 127.

The ameliorated "philosophy of the age" was Enlightenment, whose "enlightened men," (of which he, of course, was one) reformed Christianity to become in Adams's words "liberal unitarian." The problem again, is this "enlightened" version of Christianity which rejects the Trinity, Eternal Damnation, infallibility of Scripture, etc. is not "Chrisitanity" as the orthodox believers understand that term.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Steve Morse and Johnny Copeland:

I love Steve Morse's guitar style. It's commonly referred to as "fusion," and what it is is a fusion of rock, country, and jazz, with rock as the dominant element, country the secondary, jazz tertiary, all played at the level of virtuosity. And as this clip shows, Morse plays blues as well. (He plays classical too.)

I have a feeling though, that Morse's style is "too refined to be blues" for the usual crowd (Sandefur, Brayton, and M. Kuznicki).
My Dog:

Better late than never. I promised Karen I would do a video post on my puppy Louie who is now six months old (and a handful). This is actually something I recorded for an online Business Law course that I teach.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Refuting the FRC's anti-gay smear:

First Andrew Sullivan and then Julian Sanchez linked to this excellent paper by Mark E. Pietrzyk refuting an earlier paper done by Dr. Timothy Dailey (whose Ph.D. is in theology) which attempts to demonstrate a connection between adult homosexuality and child molestation. As Sanchez, Sullivan, and Pietrzyk note, the FRC study notoriously twists definitions in order to make the otherwise dubious connection.

And Pietrzyk's main points mirror what I've been saying all along.

These scientists note that pedophilia is a separate orientation from homosexuality and that the vast majority of molesters who target boys have either no interest in mature males or are heterosexual men who are attracted to the feminine characteristics of pre-pubescent males.

Sanchez offers a great analogy as well:

The key point here is that child molesters are overwhelmingly male, and the rate at which their victims are also male is higher than the rate of homosexuality in the general population. If you don't know anything about the psychology of sexuality, it's apparently intuitive to call these men "homosexuals" and conclude that there's a disproportionate amount of homosexual pedophilia. Of course, to recycle an analogy I've used earlier, this is a little like asking men who have sex with goats whether they're boy goats or girl goats and drawing inferences about the goatfucker's sexual orientation. Men who molest prepubescent children are almost never "homosexual" in the sense of "being attracted to men in general."

Thus, any study which "lumps in" men who like little boys only (almost all of whom do not identify as "gay men" and are far likelier to be heterosexual in their adult orientation and are often married) with what we normally understand as homosexual or "gay" men is tainted from the start.

So while the connection between adult homosexual attraction and pedophilia is dubious, gay men in general may be attracted to underaged teens, who are, after all biological adults. Perhaps, therefore, some concern about underaged teenage males being alone with gay men is valid. But, it does you no good to make an otherwise valid point with a spurious argument. For instance, perhaps the Palestinians have some valid points regarding unfair treatment by Israelis. But it would do them no good to begin arguing their case with "Jews drink with the blood of Palestinian children." That is a conversation stopper. Likewise, no credible evidence shows gay men are more likely to be involved with underaged men than straights are with underaged women. A more persuasive argument might start with "just as we would feel uncomfortable with an adult straight man and a teenaged girl in this circumstance...."

Finally, conflating all acts, whether consensual or not, between adults and underaged teens under the rubric of "pedophilia" or even "child rape" further muddies the issue. Again, terms like "pedophilia" and "child rape" are conversation stoppers, connoting horrible evil. As the myth goes, examples of gay men involved with underaged teens are offered (as though heterosexuals never engage in or glorify such) to show that gays are on the "cutting edge" or "chic" in deconstructing what's left of Western morality.

When the reality is, such heterosexual ephebophilia (the proper term) until recently, was so ingrained in Western morality that arguably one could assert that Judeo-Christian, Biblical morality endorsed ephebophilia, or if pedophilia is the right term, Judeo-Christian morality endorsed pedophilia, as long as it took place within the context of a marriage, which institution is indeed the ultimate "normalizer" of sexual behavior. I've offered past examples of Jerry Lee Lewis and Loretta Lynn being involved in marriages where one party was an adult male, the other, a 13-year-old girl, in the South in the 1950s (the heydey of social conservatism).

As Pietrzyk notes:

An honest examination of the historical record indicates that Biblical law and the Judeo-Christian tradition, far from condemning pedophilia, often condoned sexual relations between adults and children. The contemporary social and legal taboo against sex with children developed only gradually over the centuries, and did not become firmly established until the late nineteenth/early twentieth centuries. The very concepts of age of consent and statutory rape did not derive from Biblical orthodoxy and ancient tradition, but rather evolved out of the same modernist conceptions of individual rights and equality which underlie the contemporary struggle for gay rights. Thus, if the slippery slope argument has any validity at all, it more aptly applies to contemporary proponents of Biblical orthodoxy and "traditional family values" than to proponents of gay rights.


More detailed information on the sexual ethics of ancient Judaism can be found in the Talmud. The Talmud is the record of oral law and commentaries which supplements the written law of Scripture; in Jewish tradition, the oral law is part of the divine revelation received by Moses on Mount Sinai.

According to the Talmud, the recommended age for marriage is sometime after twelve for females, and thirteen for males. Marriage below these ages was generally frowned upon.

Strangely (and previously unbeknownst to me), the Talmud outright endorses pedophilia:

However, a father was allowed to betroth his daughter to another man at an earlier age, and sexual intercourse was regarded as a valid means of sealing a betrothal. The age limit for betrothal through sexual intercourse was shockingly low. According to the Talmud, "A girl of the age of three years and one day may be betrothed by intercourse."42

This age limit was apparently chosen because, according to Rabbinical discussion, the features of virginity in the young female (the hymen, which breaks and bleeds the first time after intercourse) did not finish developing until the age of three years and one day. Intercourse with a female younger than this was like "putting a finger in the eye,"43 that is, as putting a finger in the eye causes it to tear and tear again, intercourse with a female younger than three causes the hymen to initially bleed but then to grow back again, restoring the sign of virginity. Thus intercourse with a female younger than three years and one day was not a crime; it was simply invalid as a means of sealing betrothal by ending her virgin status, since the signs of virginity would eventually reappear. According to the Talmud, "When a grown-up man has intercourse with a little girl it is nothing, for when a girl is less than [three years], it is as if one puts the finger into the eye."44

Of course, bizarre and immoral practices endorsed by the Bible or traditional Judeo-Christian morality (like for instance slavery, or the execution of homosexuals, adulterers, and those who worship "false gods") can be explained away by historical context. But if one looks to "the Bible" and traditional Judeo-Christian morality to contain the inerrant and eternal Truth, as True today as when written, one is bound to be sorely disappointed, sometimes shockingly so.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Remind Me to Retire...:

Before I start giving lectures like this.

Actually, the professor in question was relieved of his teaching duties because of this tape. My favorite is the commentary from this website:

I say to you, who among of us hasn't gone to class drunk or high? Why should this man, this happy, rambling man, be punished for something we have all done? Let he who is without sin cast the first stone! We Demand Justice!

How many of you have sat through a lecture delivered by an uninspired, lazy TA who can barely find the energy to read aloud from the textbook? How many of you have teetered on the brink of sleep while your professor monotonically droned on about business ethics or the inverse square law? John Hall was different! John Hall entertained while he taught and THAT we support!

We must right this wrong and get Professor Hall reinstated at University of Florida. Make Your Voice Heard! Join the Facebook group! Let the president of UF know you demand justice!

Friday, October 13, 2006

It's Not Just Gays Who Sometimes Have A Zipper Problem:

...It's also prominent members of the "Christian Nation" crowd. I'm not usually one to muck-rake, but given I spend so much time debunking the "Christian Nation" myth, and with all of the hubbub going on about Mark Foley, and with Dancing With The Stars being such a pop-culture phenomenon...I can't resist mentioning this story.

Back in June, I blogged about a representative from a "Christian Nation" group known as American Destiny appearing on Hannity and Colmes. That speaker just happened to be one Craig Schelske, who also happens to be married to country star Sara Evans of Dancing With the Stars fame, and he also happened to run for Congress as a Republican in Oregon, and he also happens to have a degree from Regent University and is buddies with Tom Delay, who sent a mass email urging his followers to "help a good friend of mine, country music singer and GOP supporter Sara Evans."

Well, Sara Evans just quit Dancing With the Stars and filed for divorce from Schelske. You've got to read to allegations to believe them:

In Sara's formal complaint, she accuses Craig of having an affair and littering their computer with pornographic pictures (including those of him having sex with other women) and personal ads soliciting sex online.

Ironically, Sara recently told us her favorite song on her latest album is called "Cheating."

"It's about some of the unfortunate things that can happen to you if you get caught cheating," she revealed.

Sara's sensational papers also claim that just two weeks ago, one of the couples's three young kids confronted Craig while he was allegedly watching an adult film.

Now, the country star has obtained a temporary restraining order against Craig, prohibiting him from physically, verbally or emotionally abusing or harassing her.

As the Family Guy sings, "Where are those good old family values on which we used to rely?"

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

The Founders, Religion, and Context:

I've repeatedly shown on this website how when it comes to religion, the "Christian Nation" crowd (David Barton et al.) when they manage to quote the Founders accurately, often grossly distort the context of the quotations in attempting to prove their myth.

Jefferson and Adams, because they called themselves Christian, are particularly easy to quote out of context. I've noted a number of times how the Christian Nation crowd offers the following quotation from Adams, which, when plucked from context, does seem on point for their side: "The general principles on which the Fathers achieved independence, were . . . the general principles of Christianity." However, when one reads the rest of Adams's letter to Jefferson from which the quotation is taken, a different meaning emerges:

Now I will avow, that I then believed, and now believe, that those general Principles of Christianity, are as eternal and immutable, as the Existence and Attributes of God; and that those Principles of Liberty, are as unalterable as human Nature and our terrestrial, mundane System. I could therefore safely say, consistently with all my then and present Information, that I believed they would never make Discoveries in contradiction to these general Principles. In favour of these general Principles in Phylosophy, Religion and Government, I could fill Sheets of quotations from Frederick of Prussia, from Hume, Gibbon, Bolingbroke, Reausseau and Voltaire, as well as Neuton and Locke: not to mention thousands of Divines and Philosophers of inferiour Fame.

Looking primarily to Enlightenment philosophers, including the works of atheist, Hume, or radical French philosophes, Rousseau and Voltaire, in support of "the general principles of Christianity"? Adams clearly doesn't mean what the Christian Nation crowd wants him to mean.

So in the last few weeks of debating this issue on various threads, and watching Dr. Gregg Frazer debate on this particular thread, I've been struck by how often the other side utterly misunderstands the context in which our Founders spoke, and otherwise tries to split hairs and read things into their words which they did not say or mean. Some of the misunderstanding seems innocent enough. Some of it, however, seems willful or at least willfully viewing this issue with blinders on, refusing to give up on an idea -- that the US Founding was Divinely inspired by your understanding of God -- when the evidence clearly seems to indicate otherwise, or asks more questions than it answers (for instance, if God divinely inspired the Founding and intended America to be a "Shining City on the Hill" founded by Christians for Christians, why did He choose so many theological unitarians-universalists or Infidels to play such prominent, indeed the most important, roles?).

The following is another quotation, taken from Adams's Dec. 25, 1813 letter to Jefferson, the Christian Nation crowd often offers to prove Adams was a "devout Christian":

"I have examined all, as well as my narrow Sphere, my streightened means and my busy Life would allow me; and the result is, that the Bible is the best book in the World. It contains more of my little Phylosophy than all the Libraries I have seen: and such Parts of it as I cannot reconcile to my little Phylosophy I postpone for future investigation."

Usually the Christian Nation crowd ends the quotation with the sentence which ends "in the World." The next sentence indicates that Adams has a "philosophy" and that parts of his "philosophy," he can't reconcile with the Bible, already giving us a clue that Adams doubts the Bible is inerrant or at least complete.

But when one reads the entire letter and understands it in full context, one sees that Adams's understanding of "Christianity" and the "Bible" appears quite unorthodox. Indeed, nothing about that above quotation, understood in its proper context, contradicts anything I have argued about Adams. Adams's quotation simply means that Reason and Revelation largely agree (a tenet I've long noted about Adams and the other key Founders' religious creed). In that same letter, Adams also clearly asserts that Reason supersedes Revelation, indeed makes Revelation entirely unnecessary and that most (perhaps all) world religions contain the same Truth as Christianity and are thus valid ways to God. Adams's writings, in their entirety, demonstrate that he was a universalist also in the sense that he denied eternal damnation. Plus, he was a theological unitarian who thought the Bible contained errors, amendments and suspected fabrications.

Although Adams's December 25, 1813 letter to Jefferson is not (as far as I am aware) online in full, I blogged about it and made similar points in this past post. But, Dr. Frazer on this thread, recently posted an excellent summary of the entire letter and its context. An excerpt from Dr. Frazer's post thus follows:

Re the Adams Hindu quote: the only way FOR YOU to understand Adams's quote is to "ASSUME" what he clearly did not mean (if one knows the context -- which I do). In context, he has just said: "Philosophy, which is the result of reason, is the first, the original revelation of the Creator to his creature, man. ... no subsequent revelation, supported by prophecies or miracles, can supersede it." [the latter refers, of course, to the Bible and its inferiority to philosophy] He goes on to say: "Philosophy looks with an impartial eye on all terrestrial religions" and then talks about the Bible further. About the Bible, he then says: "such parts of it as I cannot reconcile to my little philosophy, I postpone for future investigation." He then talks about Joseph Priestley (his spiritual mentor) and about various religious systems he and Priestley have encountered, including Zoroastrianism, Confucianism, Plato, the Brahmins, and then the Shastra -- and the quoted commentary on the Shastra. A paragraph later, he says "these doctrines, sublime, if ever there were any sublime, Pythagoras learned in India, and taught them to Zaleucus and his other disciples." Earlier in the same letter, he said: "The preamble to the laws of Zaleucus, which is all that remains, is as orthodox as Christian theology as Priestley's ...." This is critical because Priestley is Adams's (& Jefferson's) spiritual mentor and because the laws of Zaleucus were supposedly handed down to pagans from Athena! SO YOU SEE THAT HE SPECIFICALLY INCLUDED CHRISTIANITY IN THE COMPARISON! Further, if a set of laws supposedly handed down from Athena 600 years before the birth of Christ can be considered "Christian" -- what real meaning does the term have for Adams? See, you have to find out what THEY meant by the terms they used.

Monday, October 09, 2006

A Farwell to Kings:

One of Rush's most underrated tunes:

I Wonder if This Makes My Degree in International Law More Valuable:

LL.M. 2001, Temple University (JD/MBA 1999).

See David Bernstein's post where he notes Harvard Law has just revamped its first year curriculum to require fewer of the traditional common law courses and replace them with, among other things, a course in international law. Many commenters are skeptical of the practicality of the move.

I love this comment from a practitioner in the field:

One of the things that I tell my clients is that now that I am no longer an attorney, I can tell them the things that no attorney will tell them, among which is the fact that a contract isn't worth the paper it's written on.

Oh, I exaggerate, of course. Sure, it's important to hammer out the details of what, where, when and so on. But at the end of the day, if there is a real dispute between you and your client, are you really going to sue them in a Japanese court of law? Nonesense. You don't have the resources. It's better to cut your losses and move on.

So the bottomline is that it's far more important to do your due diligence in investigating who is your partner, and then spend time developing that relationship. I say it time and again, all international trade is based on personal relationships. If you have a good relationship, you will work things out. If not, then you just have to move on.

Took me a long time to learn that. But clients respond very favorably to that, because that's a businessman's approach to the real world.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

The Bible's Qualified Influence on our Founding:

Gordon Mullings replied to Dr. Frazer with a number of his typical book-length ponderous posts. In particular, he opened himself to a rhetorical jab by informing us:

In short, to say of the use of Locke that Jefferson was not making use of the biblical context, is flat out false and highly misleading. [Indeed I just had quite a little discussion with my almost 8 YO son by going back and forth between my notes and the Bible regarding the exact above!]

My reply follows:


Maybe you can get your 8-year-old son to explain to you the difference between a "biblical covenant" and a "social contract" because apparently, you don't understand the difference between the two.

There is nothing covenantial about the Declaration of Independence as it makes no "covenant" with God -- either the God of the Bible or the "Nature's God" in which it invokes. It does say that "Nature's God" grants men unalienable rights. But those rights are not secured by a "biblical covenant," but rather by a "social contract." The "social contract"/"the state of nature" theory does not come from the Bible or even Locke himself. Rather, Hobbes created the concept of the "the state of nature/social contract," which gave rise to liberal democracy. And such a theory is, as Leo Strauss put it, "wholly alien to the Bible."

Now, it's true that Locke tried to "dress up" the state of nature/social contract in "Biblical terms" -- after all, he was trying to sell his ideas to a largely Christian audience and in a time when one could be executed for heresy or blasphemy simply for saying the "wrong" things. But one has to ask if something wholly alien to the Bible (the Hobbsean/Lockean social contract/state of nature theory) can be transformed into something "biblical" simply by dressing it up in biblical language.

But this is, in some way, besides the point, as our "Lockean" Founding was not Locke as he understood his ideas, but rather, Locke as our key founders -- Adams, Jefferson, Madison, and Franklin -- understood him. And they made it clear the worldview upon which they operated. And it was as, Dr. Frazer describes it, "Theistic Rationalism."

And this brings us to Mr. Moeller's point: You've created, to use Gordon's favorite term, a rationalist "strawman." Yes, there are certain forms of rationalism which reject the Bible/Revelation, God, or any kind of "supernatural" ideas -- there is atheistic rationalism, deistic rationalism, etc. And the entire point of Dr. Frazer's work is to show that these aren't the kinds rationalism in which our key founders believed!

Rather, their form of rationalism, similar to Aquinas's, believed that reason and revelation by-in-large agreed, that indeed some revelation was legitimately given by God. But it differed from the "older" classical rationalism of the medieval Church because that rationalism sought to use reason to support the Bible and Church Dogma, whereas the newer Enlightenment rationalism of our key Founders saw reason as Supreme, and revelation was designed to support reason, not the other way around.

And indeed, the theistic rationalism of our Founders, unlike the older Christian rationalism of Aquinas, did so seriously break with the traditional Christian view of nature that arguably their natural law ceased to be "Christian" at all.

For instance, according to John Adams, the natural law of the Declaration demonstrates that God is unitarian not trinitarian in his attributes, that God doesn't burn anyone in Hell for eternity, and that entire parts of the Bible are "fit" to be cut out (especially those miracles which seem to defy the laws of nature and science), as unreasonable.

So if one wants to understand the "worldview" behind the Declaration of Independence, one should look to, in detail, the words of the men who actually wrote the document. To say that "Jefferson [made] use of the biblical context," is itself "flat out false and highly misleading" unless one understands how these key Founders viewed the Bible and the consequent relationship between Reason and Revelation. And when one does this one sees that they thought the Bible contained, in John Adams's words "error[s]" and "amendment[s]" or Jefferson's, that its history was "defective" and "doubtful." As I wrote in a previous post, "Adams and the other rationalist Founders believed in the God of the Bible and Scripture, but only insofar as Scripture was reasonable; to them, parts of it were; parts of it weren't." So the truth is the Bible did influence our Founders and their ideas, but it was a highly qualified influence. It was the Bible and Christianity, minus everything in the Bible and Christianity which man's reason deemed to be "irrational."
More From Frazer on the Political Theology of the Founding:

Dr. Frazer leaves another very informative comment on this thread at the Evangelical Outpost. I always welcome the opportunity to feature his work:


OK, now we're getting somewhere! Thanx for interacting with my comments.

Re terminology in the Declaration:
Yes, the terms (except for "nature's God," which places God in a secondary, subvervient position to nature) can be "deduce(d)" to be "consistent with the characteristics of God described in the Bible" -- but that isn't the claim. The claim is that the terms for God are biblical -- not simply consistent with what the Bible says generally. Also, whereas they may not be consistent with Hinduism or Buddhism, they are VERY consistent with deism and natural religion. They are, in fact, very normal usage terms for deists -- not just consistent with deist teaching. I agree that Jefferson, Adams, and Franklin carefully chose their terminology "in order to appeal to both secular and non-secular audiences." That is why Jews and Muslims and deists and secularists are as comfortable with the Declaration as are Christians. This is the point: as theistic rationalists, Jefferson et al. were not committed to Christianity; nor they expressing specifically Christian concepts -- simply "religious" concepts which served as a moral basis for a free state.

Re "Almighty": my purpose was not to deny that Almighty referred to the God of the Bible -- MY PURPOSE WAS TO SHOW THAT THEY DID NOT CONNECT THE GOD OF THE BIBLE TO ANY CONSTITUTIONAL PRINCIPLES OR INFLUENCE.

Having said that, I do deny that the "Almighty" to which they referred was the God of the Bible because they rejected the "wrathful" God of the Old Testament and rejected the deity of Christ -- so they did not believe in the OT God or in the triune God of the Bible. By "Almighty," they meant the rather generic God who is (by their account) the subject of worship in different ways by different religions. If you can point me to a case (as you did the JW) in which the key Founders expressed belief in the triune God of the Bible, I'm "all ears."

Being biblically literate, I know Who I refer to as the Almighty -- but I do not project my understanding onto writers who believed something else. This is a recurring problem with Christians reading the founding documents. We know what WE mean by certain terms and we read OUR understanding into them. This is, I believe, precisely what Jefferson wanted to accomplish in the Declaration -- to write it in such a way that any and all who read it would feel comfortable and say, "yeah, I agree with that."

Re liberty in the Bible: regardless of what kind of political system the NT saints would have constructed, the point is that all of the biblical passages about liberty/freedom are about SPIRITUAL liberty/freedom -- not political freedom. Perhaps western "democracies" are a reflection of what they believed about political freedom -- BUT WE DON'T KNOW BECAUSE THEY DIDN'T SAY WHAT THEY BELIEVED ABOUT POLITICAL FREEDOM. They (under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit) spoke only about spiritual freedom -- e.g. freedom from the bondage of sin.

Re traces of other religions in documents: I would not expect "traces of other religions" in the US documents -- not because they didn't see them as good, but because the Founders were raised as Protestants. Theistic rationalism is a mixture of Protestantism, natural religion, and rationalism and they were most familiar with Protestantism. Either way, traces of Christianity are not codified in the documents, either -- rather, generic, nonsectarian, non-specific "religion" is codified.

Re rationalism as prevailing element: they believed that revelation and reason would generally agree with one another. But if and when there was a perceived conflict between them, REASON trumps revelation. Their view was exactly opposite that of Aquinas, for example. For him, reason was a supplement to revelation and bowed to its superiority; for them, revelation was a supplement to reason and bowed to its superiority. THEY WERE NOT DEISTS! They believed in a present, active, intervening God -- just not the God of the Bible in general or Christianity in particular. Hence, they had no problem with references to the Almighty.

Re many religions producing morality: Mr. Rowe is correct that the issue is what the Founders believed -- not whether they were right.

As for "their own words," hopefully a few quotes will suffice (I don't want to re-type my 440-page dissertation):

Adams: "I have attended public worship in all countries and with all sects and believe them all much better than no religion .... Religion I hold to be essential to morals. I never read of an irreligious character in Greek or Roman history, nor in any other history, nor have I known one in life, who was not a rascal." [April 18, 1808 letter to Benjamin Rush]

"... moral liberty resides in Hindoos and Mahometans, as well as in Christians." [letter no. 13 to John Taylor in 1814]

"Where is to be found theology more orthodox, or philosophy more profound, than in the introduction to the Shastra [Hindu text]?" [Dec. 15, 1913 letter to Jefferson]

"... the interests of society require the observation of those moral precepts only in which all religions agree ... and we should not intermeddle with the particular dogmas in which all religions differ, and which are totally unconnected with morality." [Sep. 27, 1809 letter to James Fishback]

Regarding Unitarianism and Trinitarianism, he said: "Both religions, I find, make honest men, and that is the only point society has any right to look to." [Dec. 8, 1822 letter to James Smith]

"The moral branch of religion ... instructs us how to live well and worthily in society, while dogmas" exist only for the benefit of "the teachers who inculcate them." [Jan. 21, 1809 letter to Thomas Leiper]

"History will also afford frequent Opportunities of showing the Necessity of a Publick Religion, from its Usefulness to the Publick" to "the Advantage of a Religious Character among private persons." [Proposals Relating to the Education of Youth in Pensilvania, 1749]

"If Men are so wicked as we now see them WITH RELIGION, what would they be if WITHOUT it?" [Dec. 13, 1757 letter to an unknown person]

He complained about a local minister's sermons that "their aim seeming to be rather to make us Presbyterians than good citizens." [Autobiography]

He identified "the essentials of every religion" and "being found in all the religions we had in our country, I respected them all, though with different degrees of respect, as I found them more or less mixed with other articles, which, without any tendency to inspire, promote or confirm morality, served principally to divide us ...." [March 9, 1790 letter to Ezra Stiles]

At his urging, a meeting house was constructed "expressly for the use of any preacher of any religious persuasion who might desire to say something to the people at Philadelphia; the design in building not being to accommodate any particular sect ... so that even if the Mufti of Constantinople were to send a missionary to preach Mohammedanism to us, he would find a pulpit at his service." [Autobiography]

"I think Opinions should be judg'd of by their Influences and Effects; and if a Man holds none that tend to make him less Virtuous or more vicious, it may be concluded he holds none that are dangerous." [April 13, 1738 letter to Josiah & Abiah Franklin]

{misspellings are in the originals}

Hopefully, these suffice to support my claim.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Heersink on the Christianity and Founding Principles:

D. Stephen Heersink leaves a comment on the topic of historical Christianity, the Bible, and Founding principles which deserves a careful read:

I don't claim to be an expert, but I am thoroughly familiar with the Bible, the Constitution, and the Declaration of Independence (and very familiar with Christian History and Theology), and I find no implicit or explicit correlation to anything in the Bible and Christian Theology/History with anything in the Founding Documents. Not a single thing. Even the single reference to a deity is by "Creator," not Yahweh, Adonai, or any other Hebrew or Christian term. I don't believe the word "Creator" is to be found in the Bible either. It's first published use was the Council of Nicea in 325. There appears to be an equivocation between "Creator" and "Maker" in different contexts, but I seriously doubt the Founders were engaged so narrowly on the distinction. Not even "Author of our Being," a popular conceptual phrase in the Bible and the early Church is not synonymous with "Creator."

Even though Athenian democracy preceded the New Testament by four centuries, the notion never appears in a biblical text. Rather, the opposite. The early Christians, from which the Bible emerged, had a very hierarchical sense of their faith, which Clement, one of the earliest Christian writers (and third successor to Peter) describes is a certain procession: "As the Father sent the Son, so the Son sent the Apostles, so the Apostles sent the Bishops, and so the Bishops send the Presbyters, who are served by the Deacons, in which the faithful believer is "overseen." The Council of Jerusalem, described in Acts 15 and elsewhere, clearly mirrors this procession, with James, the Apostle of Jerusalem presiding with his fellow Apostles. But the Apostles were not elected, indeed they cast lots (dice) in the trial by ordeal to choose Matthias to replace Judas. Subsequent bishops were not elected either, but commissioned by their predecessors, in an effort to create a historical succession of the "procession" through the "laying on of hands" transmitting Apostolic Authority through the generations. This KEY aspect of the early Church was entirely negated by the Reformation, even though it predates the Bible. In fact, its existence begat the Bible.

The notion of separate powers in balance (as in the Constitution) would have been ludicrous to the "procession" claim. Even when rulers (monarchs) wanted authority to govern, they needed the Authority of the Bishop to do so, and thus begetting the Divine Right of Kings. All authority comes from God, according to the early believers (and confirmed by scripture), so only God's Stewards of Oversight could confer Divine Authority to Rule Temporal Power.

Any sense of "rights" as we understand them today was not on anyone's radar in biblical times. Indeed, they are the invention of the Enlightenment in opposition to Authority as Christians customarily understood it. Granted, the Puritans and Protestants no longer submitted to episcopal authority, despite the biblical command to do so, but their antinomian impulses were often contrary to received traditions. But those radically individualistic impulses and a pluralistic liberal democracy achieved a sense of "inevitability" and compatibility by a new understanding of the believer as Diviner.

IF there is ANY connection, and admittedly it is tenuous, it is with the Puritan/Protestant insistence on a "direct" relationship with God (mediated through his private interpretation of the Bible) and therefore left to the "individual" to work out his salvation in fear and trembling, rather than being mediated by the "Church." This is a radical disjunction and departure from historical Christianity. The "new" sensibility is that each believer gets to divine religious truth as she sees fit, and I'll agree this independent, even anarchic, self reliant ethos played an important role in their embracing democracy, because religious truth is no longer "revealed" but "discovered," no longer "imposed," but "chosen." This independent spirit among Protestants and Englightenment thinkers was surely compatible compared to historical antecedents, but it is only this elan, not any particular religious belief or biblical sense, that linked the two disparate factors together. The ONLY connection to the Founders and the religious in the emerging nation is their joint antinomian impulses, where self-determining freedom, self-determining religious belief, and self-determining governance converged.

Those who claim the Founding Documents are "biblical" or are compatible with "Christianity must cite some example, some "correspondence," some "evidence" for their pipe dream fantasies. Clearly, the American experiment was totally at ODDS with historical Christianity (a point still relevant to Catholics as late as the 19th C), but the Self-As-Authority in Protestant religion and secular politics made a convenient bedfellow of politics and religion. In a very odd twist, if not perversity, the new breed of Christianist is not so "independent," and not so "tolerant" of others' beliefs, and in fact subscribes to principles antithetical to the 18th C. elan. Whatever the religious persuasion of each Founder, "rights" were not negotiable. Indeed, they preserved the "independent" thinking person from any religious hegemon. Yet, as we've seen recently, religious hegemony and domination, compromising rights and personal freedom, are features of the New World Order. Madison, Hamilton, Jefferson, et al. would be appalled. Angrily appalled. But even the Puritan ethic would never have embraced today's Christianist relativism toward torture. On matters of sex, Puritans were definitely inhibited, but on matter of individual liberty and divine propriety, they would never have compromised their independence for false security.
Saddest Part of the Foley Affair:

The bigots are trying to resurrect the myth that gays are more likely to be pedophiles.

Let's deal with some facts. The antigay right often points to this fact: While 3-4% of the population have a predominant or exclusive same-sex attraction to adults, between 25% to one third of pedophiles have a predominant or exclusive same-sex attraction to little children. A similar fact is that 1/3 of sexual abuses against children are homosexual in nature. My reaction is how is this relevant? I would ask, why would you expect pedophiles -- that is those who like little prepubescent children -- to have a gender attraction which perfectly parallels the homo v. hetero attraction among the adult population? Indeed, antigay forces use the % of those who have an adult same-sex attraction as a baseline and erroneously conclude that gays are X times more likely to molest children. The assertion is erroneous because one would first have to prove that the 3-4 percent of folks with an adult same-sex attraction -- those who self-identify as "gay or bi" -- are the ones who are actually doing all of the molesting. But we have every reason to believe that they aren't.

The fact remains that some large but unknown % of that same-sex abuse is committed by men who have no attraction to adult males, often are married to women, self identify as "straight," and have no otherwise connection to the gay community. Hence, they aren't part of that 3-4% of the population who self-identify as gay and/or have a full or predominant attraction to adults of the same-sex. Indeed, a recent study done in the Archives of Sexual Behavior notes: "Most men who molest boys and most men who molest girls are heterosexual in their adult sexual preference (Groth and Birnbaum, 1978)."

My understanding of the social science is while there may be exceptions to the rule, those who like little boys (pre-puberty) tend to have no attraction to adults of the same sex, don't identify as "gay," are often married to women, and have no otherwise connection to the gay community. See for instance, Arnold Friedman. They are not what we typically think of as "gay men" anymore than a man who likes male sheep only is what we think of as a "gay man." Thus, lumping them into a statistic about "gays" is dishonest. And that's what the antigay right does when it puts forth their figures that "gays are X times more likely to molest."

Social science also demonstrates that those into underaged teens -- like Mark Foley -- tend to also be attracted to adults and are what we think of as gay men. If a study therefore were done that shows gay men are more likely to have sex with underaged teens than straight men, then we'd be comparing apples to apples. But 1) I'm not aware of any such study, and 2) My common sense tells me given straight men have been boinking underaged teen girls since time immemorial at very high rates -- indeed given so many prominent historical marriages with girls well under the age of 18 -- you won't find gays more likely to be involved in the behavior.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Frazer on the Bible and Founding Documents:

Dr. Gregg Frazer has gotten involved in discussion on this thread regarding the relationship between the Bible and Founding documents. In particular, he refutes the "Christian Nation" claim that the Bible is the prime source for the ideas contained in those documents. Responding to the claims of one Terence Moeller who wrote, "In the Declaration the principals of equality, life, and liberty were not thought experiments of Jefferson and Locke, they were first established in the Bible," Frazer replies:


Correlation does not demonstrate causation. Leaves do not turn brown because squirrels gather nuts (or vice versa).

The fact that some parts of the Declaration and/or Constitution are not in conflict with verses in the Bible does not mean that the Bible was the source. This is especially important when -- as in the case of the Declaration and the Constitution -- the authors claim other sources, but do not claim the Bible as a source!

In a May 8, 1825 letter to Henry Lee, Jefferson identifies his sources for the Declaration's principles. He names as sources: Aristotle, Cicero, Locke, and (Algernon) Sidney -- he does not mention the Bible. Then again, the terminology in the Declaration is not specifically Christian -- or even biblical, with the exception of "Creator." The term "providence" is never used of God in the Bible, nor are "nature's God" or "Supreme Judge of the world" ever used in the Bible.

In the hundreds of pages comprising Madison's notes on the constitutional convention (and those of the others who kept notes), there is no mention of biblical passages/verses in the debates/discussions on the various parts and principles of the Constitution. They mention Rome, Sparta, German confederacies, Montesquieu, and a number of other sources -- but no Scripture verses.

In The Federalist Papers, there is no mention of biblical sources for any of the Constitution's principles, either -- one would think they could squeeze them in among the 85 essays if they were, indeed, the sources; especially since the audience was common men who were familiar with, and had respect for, the Bible. The word "God" is used twice -- and one of those is a reference to the pagan gods of ancient Greece. "Almighty" is used twice and "providence" three times -- but neither is ever used in connection with any constitutional principle or influence. The Bible is not mentioned.

As for freedom and liberty in the Bible, it is always SPIRITUAL freedom/liberty -- as a look at the verses you've listed IN CONTEXT shows. That is NOT to say that political liberty is an anti-biblical concept -- it's just not a biblical one. Arguing that it is a "Calvinist" concept does not make it a biblical one, either. The "disciples" of Calvin did not write inspired revelation.

The key Founders (J. Adams, Washington, Jefferson, Franklin, Madison, Hamilton, Wilson, & G. Morris) -- those most responsible for the founding documents -- were religious, but not Christians. They believed that religion was essential to produce the morality that a free society required, but that any religion would suffice. Their religious belief was a mixture of Protestantism, natural religion, and rationalism -- with rationalism as the trump card and decisive factor. They retained elements of Christianity, but rejected the elements of Christianity (and of natural religion) that they considered irrational. However: of the ten CORE beliefs of Christianity (those shared by all of the major Protestant denominations of the day (and by the Catholics), they held to only one (or two, in some cases). Their belief system was, as I have termed it, theistic rationalism.

If the view of Adams, Jefferson, and Franklin that any/all religions were valid paths to God and that any/all religions would suffice to produce the morality needed was a "minority opinion" among the Founders, why were they chosen to write the philosophical (you say religious) document (Declaration)?

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

What the Foley Scandal Doesn't Illustrate:

Any kind of connection between child sexual abuse, pedophilia, and adult homosexuality. First off, Foley isn't a pedophile (indeed, the Drudge Report just noted that the "victim" in question may have been 18).

I agree that Foley's revelation of abuse by a Catholic Priest, while simultaneously "coming out" was oddly done. It gave the false impression of a link between his homosexuality and the alleged abuse (though he was most likely trying to find blame for his inappropriate Internet behavior). Keep in mind that Foley claims to have been between the ages of 13 and 15 when the abuse occurred. And while legitimate debate occurs regarding homosexuality's origin as biological or developmental, no serious person who has studied the issue believes that the orientation is created that late in development. Even James Dobson (I think) agrees that the developmental factors which may be involved in homosexuality occur before the age of four.

One study trotted out by the antigay right in response to all this apparently shows:

Forty-six percent of the homosexual men in contrast to 7% of the heterosexual men reported homosexual molestation. Twenty-two percent of lesbian women in contrast to 1% of heterosexual women reported homosexual molestation.

Keep in mind that 7% of heterosexual men and 1% of heterosexual woman refers to "homosexual" not heterosexual "molestation" (i.e., straight people admitting to homosexual molestation). I haven't seen this study in detail, but I really want to know how they define "molestation." If such abuse includes consensual behavior -- which it almost certainly does -- then common sense dictates that a homosexually oriented youth is likelier to consent to sex with an adult of the same gender. The logic of Occam's Razor therefore suggests that someone interested in a younger partner of the same sex will take the path of least resistance and hence would likelier target a homosexually oriented youth. In other words, the adult looking for same-sex contact with the underaged could simply "put out the vibe" and the homosexual teens with the raging libido that all teen males have likelier will respond to the advances.

So it may be true that 46% of homosexual men report having sex before they were 18 with a party over 18 (I don't know; I haven't seen the study). If that qualifies as "molestation" then no doubt similar figures exist among heterosexuals. That is, if a 22-year-old male having sex with a 16-year old girl, etc. qualifies as "heterosexual molestation," then similarly high numbers of such heterosexual conduct probably occur. I blogged about this before where I reminded folks that according to such logic, Jerry Seinfeld is a child-molester.

Indeed, until recently Western culture (and even presently most non-Western cultures) saw nothing wrong with such heterosexual "ephebophilia," provided it took place within the context of marriage.

Finally, check out the reaction to all of this by Bill Donahue, a far right defender of Catholic Dogma. His reaction supports the notion that an adult interested in a same-sex experience with a teen (though not a young child) will likelier target homosexually oriented ones, or at least will have better "luck" with them.

"As for the alleged abuse, it's time to ask some tough questions. First, there is a huge difference between being groped and being raped, so which was it Mr. Foley? Second, why didn't you just smack the clergyman in the face? After all, most 15-year-old teenage boys wouldn't allow themselves to be molested. So why did you?"

I'm not saying I agree with Donahue's sentiment completely. It's entirely possible for a clever Priest in their revered position of authority to manipulate a straight teen to consent to sex. It would be a lot easier for a Priest, however, to seduce a homosexually oriented teen, which is no doubt what happened with Foley.
Kopel on Mayhew:

Liberty Magazine has a great article by David Kopel on Jonathan Mayhew, a founding era preacher who coined the phrase, "no taxation without representation." Coincidentally, Mayhew has been the topic of much discussion on this blog as of late.

As Kopel's article notes, Mayhew preached pro-Revolutionary sermons from the pulpit and used the Bible to justify revolt. The problem was, Scripture, in Romans 13, seems to explicitly forbid revolt against government. Indeed, traditional interpretation of the Bible, John Calvin's for instance, held that the Bible, in no uncertain terms, demands obedience to civil leaders and forbids revolution.

Mayhew was also a theological unitarian who took a very unorthodox approach to Biblical interpretation. Kopel's article accurately states:

Mayhew rejected these Calvinist principles in favor of modern, Enlightenment views. Indeed, he even rejected the orthodox Christian doctrine of the Trinity (that the Godhead is composed of three persons — Father, Son, and Holy Spirit). Mayhew contended that God was One — which implied that Jesus was not God, but instead was simply mankind's mediator and advocate with God. He was one of the most influential forerunners of Unitarianism in America. Yet he always considered himself a Congregationalist, as did the members of the Old West Church, which could have dismissed him if they chose. They didn't. And Harvard was so impressed with Mayhew that he was named a lecturer in 1765. His insistence on the importance of the individual conscience became not only a Unitarian doctrine but also a cornerstone of broader American cultural beliefs about religious freedom.

The controversy is whether Mayhew's unorthodox "revision" of traditional theological Christian beliefs also parallels his "revision" of the traditional understanding of Romans 13, which, when applied to the American Revolution, obviously holds such to be a biblically unjustified act.

I'm not going to try to resolve this controversy in this post. As I noted in a comment:

Ultimately, regarding Romans 13 and the right to revolt, like other important moral issues -- slavery, and religious liberty -- one could argue that the Bible gives no definite answer and orthodox [and unorthodox, I might add] Christians have been on both sides of the debate and have quoted Scripture to justify their positions.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Some Problems with the Concept of the "Judeo-Christian Worldview":

Other problems I'd like to point out in Gordon Mullings's assertions. A commenter on the Evangelical Outpost thread mentioned that constant references to the amorphous concept of a "Christian" or "Judeo-Christian worldview" is problematic absent further clarification of what this really means. Mullings so clarified:

As to the idea that the biblical, Judaeo-Christian worldview is ill-defined or hard to outline, that is laughable. Yes there are disputes or debates over relatively narrow points of doctrine [we are here speaking of worldviews not theologies and schools of thought within a worldview], or because of ignorance and twisting of the scriptures, but the core of that worldview is long since on public record as bith NT documents and subsequent easily accessible creedal statements, regularly publicly recited, e.g. the Nicene creed - which aptly summarises the faith once for all delivered unto the saints.

Mullings's reply, it seems to me, is laughable. Note Jews, presumably the "Judeo" part of the "Judeo-Christian" worldview, explicitly reject the Nicene Creed as they reject that Jesus is Messiah. Further, as I constantly point out, our key Founders (Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Madison, Franklin, and some others) were theological unitarians who rejected the Nicene Creed and rationalists who elevated man's reason over Biblical revelation.

Here is Mullings's response -- a common one among the "Christian Nation" crowd -- to the notion that our key Founders weren't orthodox Christians:

Mr Eidsmoe, as onlookers can easily verify, showed that the overwhelming majority of the founding circle were Christian in their public worldview commitments and engagements. In remarking on that, I noted: of the 55 signers of the US DOI, all but a few were traceably Christian theists in their worldviews and social engagements -- not necessarily the same as being born again, committed Christians -- of one stripe or another. Even Jefferson wrote as an attorney for a client, the Congress and People of the nascent USA, who were overwhelmingly Christian in their worldviews.

But if the Nicene Creed is central to the "Christian worldview" as Mullings argues, what are we to make of the fact that these key Founders rejected the Nicene creed, some of them like Jefferson and Adams bitterly so? John Adams, in a private letter to Jefferson, goes so far as to say that "the laws of Nature" reveal Nature's God to be unitarian, not trinitarian in His attributes! There, Adams also elevates man's reason so far over Biblical revelation that he tells Jefferson had God Himself revealed the doctrine of the Trinity to him on Mt. Sinai, Adams still would not have believed it because one was not three period. So much for the "Nicene Creed" being part of the "Christian Worldview" central to our founding principles!

Further, let me note the converse of the notion that "even our non-Christian Founders like Jefferson were influenced by the Christian worldview." And that is, when it came to their articulation of founding principles, even the orthodox Christians like Patrick Henry, John Witherspoon, and John Jay were influenced by Enlightenment rationalism because the Bible and traditional Christianity were not sufficient to give us the ideas upon which our Declaration and Constitution are based. That's why the Bible isn't quoted in either of those two documents or the Federalist papers which explicate the ideas behind our Founding in detail.

Regarding Christianity's influence, I've never denied it. Rather, I assert that the Bible and Christianity had a qualified influence on our Founding. Our key Founding Fathers sought to take from Christianity what was rational and useful and thought they could discard the rest. It was the Bible put through the lens of man's reason, with all of the "unreasonable" parts fit to be cut out. This following quotation of John Adams's, often cited by the Christian Nation crowd as proof of their contention, when understood in context, actually perfectly illustrates the Founding's Enlightenment rationalistic reading of the Bible.

"The general principles on which the fathers achieved independence were...the general principles of Christianity...I will avow that I then believed, and now believe, that those general principles of Christianity are as eternal and immutable as the existence and attributes of God; and that those principles of liberty are as unalterable as human nature."

That's usually where the "Christian Nation" crowd ends the quotation. But there's more:

Now I will avow, that I then believed, and now believe, that those general Principles of Christianity, are as eternal and immutable, as the Existence and Attributes of God; and that those Principles of Liberty, are as unalterable as human Nature and our terrestrial, mundane System. I could therefore safely say, consistently with all my then and present Information, that I believed they would never make Discoveries in contradiction to these general Principles. In favour of these general Principles in Phylosophy, Religion and Government, I could fill Sheets of quotations from Frederick of Prussia, from Hume, Gibbon, Bolingbroke, Reausseau and Voltaire, as well as Neuton and Locke: not to mention thousands of Divines and Philosophers of inferiour Fame.

Finding Christianity in the works of atheist Hume or French philosophes, Rousseau and Voltaire? And keep in mind that Adams's Christianity was theologically unitarian and universalist. One could arguably assert that the Founders' Enlightenment rationalistic reading of Christianity sacrificed so many of its orthodox tenets that it ceased to be "Christian."