Monday, July 31, 2006

Downsize DC Show:

I want to thank Jim Babka for hosting me on his show. I had a great time. And if interested, you can listen to my appearance here.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Justice Douglas as...:

A while back after reading Jim Lindgren's account of a meeting with Justice Burger, I noted that Burger reminded me Judge Smails (Ted Knight) of Caddyshack fame.

So now I read Judge Posner's very interesting discussion of Justice Douglas where Posner writes:

Apart from being a flagrant liar, Douglas was a compulsive womanizer, a heavy drinker, a terrible husband to each of his four wives, a terrible father to his two children, and a bored, distracted, uncollegial, irresponsible, and at times unethical Supreme Court justice who regularly left the Court for his summer vacation weeks before the term ended. Rude, ice-cold, hot-tempered, ungrateful, foul-mouthed, self-absorbed, and devoured by ambition, he was also financially reckless--at once a big spender, a tightwad, and a sponge--who, while he was serving as a justice, received a substantial salary from a foundation established and controlled by a shady Las Vegas businessman.

After reading that, I thought to myself, man, Douglas was Dan Fielding. (Except on Night Court, Fielding seem to be portrayed as a conservativish Republican Prosecutor, while Douglas was a liberal).
Heads Up:

I'm going to be on Jim Babka's show tomorrow (Sunday) at 5:00pm (tune in at 5:07) Eastern time discussing the Founders & Religion.

You can listen to the show on the Internet here. Listen on the first or second feeds.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Another David Barton Myth Debunked:

This time by a 17-year-old highschool senior, homeschooled, Christian conservative, the exact audience which Barton targets for his propaganda (indeed, he's been nicknamed their "lesson-planner"). And that's a real shame. Some of those homeschooled Christians are real bright; they deserve better than Barton.

The myth in question is about the so called "Jefferson Bible." Barton's website claims:

The reader, as do many others, claimed that Jefferson omitted all miraculous events of Jesus from his "Bible." Rarely do those who make this claim let Jefferson speak for himself. Jefferson's own words explain that his intent for that book was not for it to be a "Bible," but rather for it to be a primer for the Indians on the teachings of Christ (which is why Jefferson titled that work, "The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth"). What Jefferson did was to take the "red letter" portions of the New Testament and publish these teachings in order to introduce the Indians to Christian morality.

And then we have D. James Kennedy spreading the myth:

So what about the Jefferson Bible, that miracles-free version of the Scriptures? That, too, is a myth. It is not a Bible, but an abridgement of the Gospels created by Jefferson in 1804 for the benefit of the Indians. Jefferson's "Philosophy of Jesus of Nazareth Extracted From the New Testament for the Use of the Indians" was a tool to evangelize and educate American Indians. There is no evidence that it was an expression of his skepticism.

And others:

There never was a Jefferson Bible per se. Jefferson did cut out miracles from the Gospels in order to produce a book on ethics -- the ethics and morals of Jesus Christ for the purpose of evangelizing and educating the American Indians.

But Derek Wallace actually researches the primary sources in context and discovers that Jefferson's Bible really was for his own use and was an expression of his skepticism. In fact, Jefferson thought much of Scripture was a corrupted "dunghill," with "diamonds" of Truth buried therein. From Jefferson's October 13, 1813 letter to John Adams (and Adams by the way, approved of Jefferson's editing Scripture, because he too thought the Bible was errant, and noted if he had the time, Adams himself would have produced his own Bible with the "error" edited out):

In extracting the pure principles which [Jesus] taught, we should have to strip off the artificial vestments in which they have been muffled by priests, who have travestied them into various forms, as instruments of riches and power to themselves . . . We must reduce our volume to the simple evangelists, select, even from them, the very words only of Jesus, paring off the amphibologisms into which they have been led, by forgetting often, or not understanding, what had fallen from him, by giving their own misconceptions as his dicta, and expressing unintelligibly for others what they had not understood themselves. There will be found remaining the most sublime and benevolent code of morals which has ever been offered to man. I have performed this operation for my own use, by cutting verse by verse out of the printed book, and arranging the matter which is evidently his, and which is as easily distinguishable as diamonds in a dunghill.

And this is not the only time Jefferson discusses, in his private correspondence, his "Bible"; many times, he notes that his Bible is for his own use.

Read the rest of the article; it's quite good. I'd say that at 17, Mr. Wallace's skills at historical research have already surpassed Barton's.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Roy Moore Joins WND:

I second Ed Brayton's thoughts. I'm sure Moore's columns will provide much future entertainment and fodder for us.

Seriously though, I think, in this past post, I answered the basics of what Moore writes in his introductory column. I'll expand a little here.

First, Moore could argue that as a matter of constitutional technicality, he was in the right (although, the way our system works is that state courts must obey federal court commands, and if you think a lower federal court erred, you may appeal the case to higher federal courts, up to the Supreme Court of the United States, and make your case there). In fact, Moore does argue this:

As the former chief justice of the Supreme Court of Alabama, I lost my position because I chose to follow God and the United States Constitution, our rule of law, instead of a federal judge's unlawful order commanding me to remove a Ten Commandments monument from the rotunda of the Alabama state judicial building.

There are a couple doctrines which some serious constitutional scholars advance that suggest on originalist grounds, Moore's case didn't involve an Establishment Clause issue (and we'd have to get 5 Justice Thomases on the Supreme Court and wait for such a ruling to come down in order for Moore, as Chief Justice of a State Court, to get to lawfully keep his monument, though). For instance, the argument that the Establishment Clause is a federalism only provision. Or if anything is incorporated against the states, it is an individual right to be free from coercive establishments, things that actually "pick the pockets or break the legs," (a metaphorical phrase for real harm) of individuals. If a rock displayed on public grounds with a religious message doesn't actually harm you in any real sense, then no Establishment Clause issue is raised.

If that were the proper way to understand the Establishment Clause (as Justice Thomas argues), then not only would Moore be able to keep his rock, but...a Muslim Judge could erect a monument to Allah, a Hindu Judge to Shiva, a Pagan Judge to the Greek and Roman Gods of Justice, (all of them could argue that our rights come from such divine sources), or an atheist Judge could erect a monument which says "under no God" and no Establishment Clause issue likewise would be implicated.

But that's not what Moore was fighting over. Indeed, if Moore understood the issue in that respect, I don't think he would have bothered with a fight which ended up destroying his career. As he writes:

But my case was not about a monument and it was not about the Ten Commandments: It was about the acknowledgment of the Judeo-Christian God as the sovereign source of our law, liberty and government.

What Moore actually did was misunderstand and betray our Founding Fathers (Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Madison, Franklin, et al.) who never identified God in their public supplications as the God who revealed the Ten Commandments to Moses. They replaced the Biblical God with a generic "Nature's God," and the Ten Commandments, with the Ten Amendments of the Bill of Rights. If Moore had simply erected a multi-ton monument of the Declaration of Independence with its invocation of a generic God and Divine Providence and also featured the Ten Amendments of the Bill of Rights on the stone (and nothing more), I wouldn't have had a problem with that. And, if you want to challenge strict secularists who want no mention of the Divine in the public square, that would be a test case which correctly understands Founding history and political philosophy.

Also, there is no such thing as the "Judeo-Christian" God as Jews and Christians worship different gods. The Christian God is triune in nature, while the Jewish God is not. Moreover, the Founders didn't use the term "Judeo-Christian" and otherwise did not try to make any kind of coalition, or draw a lowest-common-denominator between Jews and Christians only. Back then, though the colonies varied in which particular religious sects received rights, the two strongest competing philosophies were that which held Protestant Christians only ought to receive the full rights of conscience and that which would grant rights universally to those with creeds no matter how unorthodox. Our key Founding Fathers fell into the latter. In other words, they would grant Jews full rights of conscience along with, in Jefferson's words, "the Gentile, the Christian and Mahometan, the Hindoo, and Infidel of every denomination."

To repeat, you will not find the key Framers -- Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Madison, Franklin -- identifying God exclusively as the God who revealed the Ten Commandments to Moses or the God of the Bible. Now, their generic monotheistic God could be, in the minds of private citizens, the God of the Bible, or some very unorthodox Providence. But He (or She or It) is not so specifically defined. Even when Washington addressed the Jews and noted the God whom they worshipped -- "Jehovah" -- was the same "Wonder Working Deity" in whom he believed, he said so as a religious universalist who customarily referred to God in specific terms used by those he addressed (Washington never used the word "Jehovah" when not speaking to Jews as far as I know). Indeed, when speaking to the Native Americans, Washington, Jefferson, and Madison (perhaps Adams, I haven't yet found his quotations as I have with the other three), referred to God as "The Great Spirit," just as the Indians did.

If you want to say that the Founders' "Nature's God" is the God in the Bible, the best you could argue is yes, He is with one serious caveat: He is the Biblical God except for everything written in the Bible about Him which didn't comport with their understanding of Man's Reason, like His irrational wrath and jealously. These Founders believed the Bible was errant; it contained in Adams's words "errors and amendments" (or in Jefferson's, its history was "defective and doubtful") and Man's Reason was the penultimate tool for determining which parts of the Bible were legitimately revealed by God (as Jefferson put it, Man's Reason could find the "Diamonds" of Truth among the "Dunghill" of error contained in the Bible) and which were not. Everything that didn't passed the "Reason" smell test was thus properly edited from the Bible. And doctrines like the Trinity and the Incarnation were the most unreasonable "corruptions" of Christianity which, as John Adams put it, "stupified" the minds of the Christian world. Adams went so far as to tell Jefferson that even if God Himself told him the Trinity were true, he wouldn't have believed the doctrine because 1 is not 3 and 3 is not 1, period. And both Jefferson and Adams explicitly doubted that the Ten Commandments were in fact revealed by God.

Somehow, I don't think the likes Roy Moore think such a God deserves worship or public acknowledgement. But Jefferson and Adams (along with the similarly heterodox Ben Franklin, and two other lesser well knowns) were the men who actually wrote the Declaration of Independence.

It's a pity Moore doesn't properly understand the Founding. If he did, he might still have a job.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

John Adams on Thanksgiving Proclamations:

This may surprise some folks. It's well known that Washington, Adams, and Madison issued Thanksgiving proclamations (to a generic God), while Jefferson refused. And Madison, in his Detached Memoranda seemed to indicate it's improper for the federal government to do this (thus giving support to the notion that Founding-era practice is not dispositive, that indeed, it's entirely possible to raise a constitutional ideal one minute, then break it the next).

Before seeing this quotation in James H. Hutson's fine book, I didn't know that Adams too regretted issuing the Thanksgiving Proclamation. His words are quite interesting:

The National Fast, recommended by me turned me out of office. It was connected with the general assembly of the Presbyterian Church, which I had no concern in. That assembly has allarmed and alienated Quakers, Anabaptists, Mennonists, Moravians, Swedenborgians, Methodists, Catholicks, protestant Episcopalians, Arians, Socinians, Armenians, & & &, Atheists and Deists might be added. A general Suspicon prevailed that the Presbyterian Church was ambitious and aimed at an Establishment of a National Church. I was represented as a Presbyterian and at the head of this political and ecclesiastical Project. The secret whisper ran through them "Let us have Jefferson, Madison, Burr, any body, whether they be Philosophers, Deists, or even Atheists, rather than a Presbyterian President." This principle is at the bottom of the unpopularity of national Fasts and Thanksgivings. Nothing is more dreaded than the National Government meddling with Religion.

John Adams to Benjamin Rush, June 12, 1812. Old Family Letters, 392-93; taken from Hutson's The Founders on Religion, 101-02.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Rebroadcasting Propaganda:

Coral Ridge rebroadcast last year's propaganda special attempting to prove we were founded (in a public sense) as a "Christian Nation." Here is how I dealt with it last year (which also links to other posts which address Kennedy's spurious claims).

One thing I missed in last year's discussion: It noted how Ben Franklin proposed a prayer at the constitutional convention. Franklin was a theist who believed in an interventionist God, but otherwise rejected the key tenets of orthodox Christianity. Coral Ridge said that was the "turning" point in the convention (I guess they assumed the conventioneers actually prayed), that after the event, the convention went from the brink of failure to success. Which is utter nonsense: The convention did not pray; they rejected Franklin's call to prayer.

One more word about the whole "covenants" thing. Usually, there is a kernel of truth in urban myths. The special argued that the Declaration and Constitution were based on earlier documents -- "covenants" with the Christian God. What's truly remarkable about this claim is that neither the Declaration or the Constitution contain covenants to God. The kernel of truth is perhaps earlier covenant documents influenced our Founding insofar as those covenants were experiments with self-government. But what is distinctive about the Declaration and the Constitution is that they do not covenant, but rather replace covenants with the social contract. So the Declaration and Constitution are like earlier Christian covenants, except with the heart ripped out of the earlier documents: The covenants with God.

My own opinion on the ideological origins of the US Constitution, similar to what Bernard Bailyn has argued, is that the Founders drew from a variety of intellectual sources and synthesized them, including 1) Christian-Biblical principles, 2) Pagan Greco-Roman principles, 3) traditional common law or "rights of Englishmen" principles, and 4) modern Enlightenment principles or "the rights of man." Now, the Founders probably thought that these sources by-in-large agreed on most matters. Yet, when a conflict occurred, something had to dominate. And it was not the Bible or "Christian principles." Rather, it was Enlightenment principles which trumped and Man's Reason was the ultimate lens through which all of the sources were to be viewed.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Bad Neighbors:

This is not the way to handle things if your neighbor has a recalcitrant child with developmental disabilities.
ACLU Defends Phelps:

Hey, if the Nazis have a right to march in Skokie.... This type of case seems to be the ultimate reductio ad absurdum for free speech.

On a related note, apparently the Phelps's have created commercials for their cause (I can't imagine anyone ever voluntarily selling them airtime). Most of them have been uploaded to YouTube. I guess it's out of morbid curiosity that I find these commercials entertaining. They are so bizarre, you have to wonder if they are serious. Yet, one thing I've learned is that a small fraction of people living on the margins really do believe in comically bizarre things.

Should we take these people seriously? Or should we just mock them?

This one entitled "Thank God for IEDs" is typical.

Living Loud:

See this past post where I detailed who they are -- basically the band who wrote and performed Ozzy Osbourne's first (and best) two solo albums, minus Ozzy and Randy Rhoads. They got Steve Morse, one my favorites, to handle the guitar (Morse knew keyboardist Don Airey, because Airey replaced John Lord on keys for Deep Purple, and Morse replaced the legendary Ritchie Blackmore on guitar). Some singer named "Jimmy Barnes" handles the vocals for Living Loud. I have no idea who he is. But apparently, he's big in Australia.

Their version of I Don't Know has just been added to YouTube. Check it out:

Saturday, July 22, 2006


Yes, even though this band had some terribly annoying commercial hits (We Built This City), this number 1 hit of theirs in my opinion, is a good tune. Mickey Thomas's voice soars. He has a voice for progressive rock. Too bad he never performed in that genre.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Michael Moore lets Fred Phelps have it:

I knew Michael Moore was good for something.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Not a Fair Criticism of Strauss:

This post by Scott Horton at Balkinization is not a fair reading of Strauss and Straussianism.

The post focuses on one of Strauss's private letters, reproduced in its entirety in Horton's post, which seems to reveal fascist tendencies that Strauss felt at one time. The offending passage is as follows:

There is in this case just one solution. We must repeat: we, "men of science," - as our predecessors in the Arab Middle Ages called themselves - non habemus locum manentem, sed quaerimus...(4) And, what concerns this matter: the fact that the new right-wing Germany does not tolerate us says nothing against the principles of the right. To the contrary: only from the principles of the right, that is from fascist, authoritarian and imperial principles, is it possible with seemliness, that is, without resort to the ludicrous and despicable appeal to the droits imprescriptibles de l'homme(5) to protest against the shabby abomination.

"Droits imprescriptibles de l'homme" refers, I am told, to the notion of "the rights of man" or natural rights liberalism. The letter is just one more piece of evidence that the Shadia Drury types will use to argue that Strauss was really a fascist, not a defender of liberal democracy.

But they are mistaken. From what I've read of Strauss, and of Bloom and the other Straussians, they are indeed defenders of liberal democracy (in a Churchillian sense -- not "flatterers" of the system).

Bloom's work in particular lets "out of the bag" (makes explicit) some teachings which Strauss previously only taught privately. And Ravelstein (where Leo Strauss is dubbed "Davarr," which is Hebrew for "Word"), Saul Bellow's novel on Bloom, is even more explicit regarding certain Straussian doctrines previously kept secret, for instance, where Bloom states "no true philosopher can believe in God." Strauss was never so publicly adamant about his atheism. Indeed, he taught that God's nonexistence could not be proven. Yet privately, he too was known to say things like "philosophers are paid to be atheists." And Strauss meant even philosophers like John Locke who on the surface claimed to believe in God.

So I am someone who a) is not a Straussian (I disagree with much of their social conservatism), and b) recognizes Strauss had private esoteric teachings which, if known, would turn off many admirers, especially those religious conservative "gentlemen" whom Strauss and company supported.

But that esoteric truth is not that liberal democracy is bad and fascism is good. Rather the esoteric Truth is as follows: God doesn't exist; rights aren't grounded in nature; indeed the entire natural law is a fiction. And Nietzsche and Heidegger were right as to the ultimate (nihilistic) nature of reality.

I'm not saying I believe this; rather this is the "secret" teaching of Strauss and his followers.

We can't stop there though. Strauss was still a defender of liberal democracy. And that's because he didn't believe this secret Truth was a "pearl" as Shadia Drury put it; it was not a "good" Truth that would set men free; but rather a dangerous flame -- capable of producing the most horrible destruction and suffering -- to which only philosophers, not the masses could tend.

Strauss was not a fascist because he didn't believe political orders could be founded on such a nihilistic "Truth." Indeed, that fascism and Nazism resulted when liberal democracy was thrown out and the abyss was looked to for "new gods" to lead, demonstrated that liberal democracy was the only "solid" place where public orders could rest, even if such a system was "low" in the way it made productive use out of man's baser instincts.

Back to the letter. And the context should help us to understand why Strauss, post WWII, in America where his teachings had their impact, wasn't a fascist. The letter was written in 1933. Now, I'm no historical buff, but this was well before the extent of Nazi horror was fully realized.

Strauss no doubt was imbibed in Nietzsche and, to a lesser extent, Heidegger. One of the reasons why Strauss believed that you couldn't found political orders on Nietzchean nihilism is because a thinker as profound as Heidegger, Nietzsche's heir, ended up supporting the Nazis!

I do believe that Strauss himself, before WWII, flirted with fascism. That makes perfect sense. Strauss followed Heidegger. And Heidegger himself became a Nazi. But when all (WWII, the Holocaust) was said and done, Strauss was profoundly disturbed by Heidegger's support of Nazism (and no doubt his own flirtation with fascist principles which led to such horror).

And this -- the dangers of nihilism being consumed by the masses -- was what inspired Strauss to write Natural Right and History in the first place where he argued that the philosophical rejection that Truth can be found in either Reason or Revelation constituted a crisis in the West.

In this past post, I quoted part of Bloom's The Closing of the American Mind, which explains all of this. Here Bloom uses Heidegger's Nazism to demonstrate that the Truth of nihilism was not something that set men free, or was otherwise a sublime "treasure," but rather a dangerous fire.

I shall not comment on the Nazi period of the now de-Nazified Heidegger, other than to remark that the ever more open recognition that he was the most interesting thinker of our century, formerly chastely displaced in admiration for his various proxies, gives evidence that we are playing with fire. p. 154

On the same page Bloom notes that you cannot found political orders on Nietzsche's Truth, that nihilism will just as easily take one down the road to Nazism as to liberal democracy. "Once one plunges into the abyss, there is no assurance whatsoever that equality, democracy, or socialism will be found on the other side. At the very best, self-determination is indeterminate."
Good News for Walmart:

Remember, corporations are people too.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Lester Kinsolving on Morton Downey:

Yes, I confess, when I was about 14 and 15, I used to watch Morton Downey Jr.'s show. My Dad, an old lefty, used to walk downstairs to where our family TV was located and scowl. I think we all knew Downey wasn't for real.

The difference between Howard Stern and Downey (the two were often compared to one another) is that Stern had real talent, offered something novel and clever. Downey was just a rehash, flash in the pan, repackaging of Joe Pyne.

And if you type his name into YouTube, some clips of Downey's TV show, which was entertaining for about two years, pop up.

This clip is noteworthy because it features Lester Kinsolving of WorldNutDaily. I'm often entertained by Kinsolving's lunatic rants about gays. And apparently, he's been doing this for a long, long time. Kinsolving is such a buffoon. He even gets under the skin of Downey and Bob Grant (another guest).

At one point, Downey grabs Kinsolving's "notes" and Kinsolving chases him around the set and is forcefully removed by security. But then is let back on the show. Downey also says Kinsovling looks like a fat Walter Mondale. And even though I'm not a fan of Mondale's, I'd say Downey, though he was trying to insult Kinsolving, delivered a far greater insult to Mondale.

Monday, July 17, 2006

One of my favorite Kansas songs...:

Just got uploaded to Youtube.

I miss the days when rock songs were 9 and a half minutes long, had fat sounding analog keyboards, and the singing didn't start until 2:30 into the song. And the singing, btw, is magnificent. Steve Walsh's voice is positively haunting.
Reverse Reparations for Ralph Reed:

If this is true, it's a scheme that Ralph Reed and Jack Abramoff conspired for a massive transfer of wealth from older black folks to Reed and Abramoff.
Boston 1775:

Check out this blog Boston 1775, which deals with revolutionary-founding era issues.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

George Washington, Infidel:

I've decided to try Youtube as a platform for my webcasts (hey, it's free!). Check out my ten minute lecture on George Washington's religious beliefs.

This was just me improvising from the top of my head. I make a lot of assertions, and I'm going to briefly source some of them.

First, I assert that many of the Founding era elite-educated Virginia Anglicans/Episcopalians were, like Washington, Jefferson, and Madison, not orthodox Christians but rather personally adhered to Deist-Unitarian or "Infidel" principles. Here is the testimony of an Episcopalian mister who knew James Madison personally, on the fact that many of the elites "Whigs" in Virginia were "Infidels." Meade is speaking about how although Madison may have had a brief flirtation with orthodox Christianity early in life, the creed of his elite Whiggery was decidedly not orthodox Christianity. Meade stated about Madison:

His religious feeling, however, seems to have been short-lived. His political associations were those of infidel principles, of whom there were many in his day, if they did not actually change his creed, yet subjected him to a general suspicion of it.

I also note how Patrick Henry, likewise, was a Virginia Whig/Episcopalian and automatically this raised a red flag in the minds of some folks that he was a Deist or a Unitarian, not an orthodox Christian. But Henry indeed was an orthodox Christian. And when confronted he explicitly noted that he wasn't a Deist but rather an orthodox Christian.

Amongst other strange things said of me, I hear it is said by the deists that I am one of the number; and, indeed, that some good people think I am no Christian. This thought gives me much more pain than the appellation of Tory; because I think religion of infinitely higher importance than politics; and I find much cause to reproach myself that I have lived so long, and have given no decided and public proofs of my being a Christian. But, indeed, my dear child, this is a character which I prize far above all this world has, or can boast.

Jefferson's letters clearly show that he rejected the tenets of orthodox Christianity. He was branded an "infidel" for some of the tamer things he wrote in Notes on the State of Virginia; but his private letters clearly show that Jefferson rejected (sometimes savaged) the orthodox Christian creeds.

So what about Washington? Mum was the word on his religious creed. Washington was more than just "reticent" to talk about his private faith; he absolutely held his cards to himself. What he really thought, specifically, about orthodox Christianity was for him to know and you to guess.

The context of the time was that people generally and public figures particularly were expected to affirm or otherwise pay homage to orthodox Christianity. And such a system back then had far greater social and legal entrenchments. Some pious folks tried to corner Washington into admitting whether he really believed in orthodox Christianity, and Washington basically dodged the question. Later Jefferson commenting on how how Washington avoided answering the question called him a "cunning old Fox." Here is Jefferson's testimony:

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 thot 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.

And here is Jefferson noting what Gouverneur Morris's take on all this:

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.

If Washington did believe in the tenets of orthodox Christianity, why didn't he just say so, like Patrick Henry?

Finally, I noted how Washington's systematic refusal to take communion evidences that he wasn't an orthodox Christian but rather points in the direction of belief in the same unorthodox system of Enlightenment rationalism as Jefferson, Madison, and many other of the elite Virginia Whig-Episcopalians. Michael and Jana Novak, in their book on Washington, note that many Virginia Episcopalians likewise didn't take communion. Yes, but there were many Deists and Unitarians among the Virginia Episcopalians. And they were the ones who didn't take communion! At least, that's the impression I get from the testimony of Washington's own minister, Dr. Abercrombie. Here he is on all of those elite Whig-Episcopalians, most notably Washington, who ducked communion:

With respect to the inquiry you make I can only state the following facts; that, as pastor of the Episcopal church, observing that, on sacramental Sundays, Gen. Washington, immediately after the desk and pulpit services, went out with the greater part of the congregation -- always leaving Mrs. Washington with the other communicants -- she invariably being one -- I considered it my duty in a sermon on Public Worship, to state the unhappy tendency of example, particularly of those in elevated stations who uniformly turned their backs upon the celebration of the Lord's Supper. I acknowledge the remark was intended for the President; and as such he received it.

Washington never attended that Church on communion Sundays again. But more to the point, here is Dr. Abercrombie being very direct on the matter: "Sir, Washington was a Deist."

In a letter, dated November 29, 1831, Abercrombie explains why he thought Washington a Deist:

"That Washington was a professing Christian, is evident from his regular attendance in our church; but, Sir, I cannot consider any man as a real Christian who uniformly disregards an ordinance so solemnly enjoined by the divine Author of our holy religion, and considered as a channel of divine grace."

Now, clearly Washington believed in a warm-intervening Providence and wasn't a "Deist" in that strict sense. But the notion that Washington was a Deist is an invention of modern revisionists historians is utter balderdash. Modern historians may be wrong in believing Washington's God was a cold-distant watchmaker, but these scholars assert Washington was a "Deist" because his own ministers said so.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Thanking God for Darwin...:

And Darwin for God. That's pretty much what Harry Jaffa does in this article. When I graduated from Berklee College of Music, James Taylor was our featured speaker. One of the interesting lines in his speech was, "I thank God for music, and I thank music for God." Just substitute "Darwin" for "music" and I think Harry Jaffa is saying the same thing in this passage:

There is, for example, nothing in Darwinian theory that excludes the possibility that natural selection is the means by which God created the species. It may be an act of faith to believe this, but it is no less an act of faith to deny it. There is therefore nothing in the logic of evolution, strictly speaking, that places it in opposition to the Bible. Hence there never was any compelling reason for Biblical fundamentalists to oppose the teaching of evolution; nor is there reason now for Darwinian fundamentalists to oppose the teaching of intelligent design.

Jaffa/Claremont are known for their mighty attempts to reconcile Reason and Revelation (while the East Coast Straussians know that they are entirely irreconcilable; but that's a Truth that must be kept secret from the masses). But Jaffa's article is a bit much. It lends credence to the thought that the West Coast Straussians are really closet nihilists, like their East Coast brethren; they are just more secretive about it and want to continue the charade of publicly/textually defending the notion that Reason/Revelation are agreeable, that "ends" are grounded in Nature, that God exists, when secretly they know these things not to be the case.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

George Washington...still wasn't a Christian:

I just finished watching another one of D. James Kennedy's absolutely laughable specials on George Washington's supposed Christian faith. Kennedy recycles the same sermon every year, but adds little changes each time. It's really a shame that someone who is a "Christian" minister, supposedly committed to the Truth, spreads so many tall tales. But alas, since Parson Mason Weems, there seems to be a long tradition of Christian ministers making things up about George Washington. And Kennedy best represents the "Weems" tradition, presently.

I certainly am not going to answer all of the tall tales now, just a few.

First, regarding Washington's character, Kennedy invokes the ultimate strawman by taking the George Washington (Barry Bostwick/Jaclyn Smith) miniseries as an example of the historical academy's "revisionism" because they portrayed Washington as having an affair. As if Gordon Wood were the executive producer! I don't think anyone takes this movie as a serious work of history. And as long as directors like Oliver Stone are well regarded in Hollywood, I doubt the (left-leaning) historical academy will ever take Hollywood seriously.

So let's instead turn to what a real historian, one who hardly could be accused of being a PC revisionist, has to say about Washington's character. Forrest McDonald in Novus Ordo Seclorum writes:

It is obvious why Washington was trusted, however; the more elusive question is how a man could become so utterly trustworthy. Admittedly, he was far from being an ordinary man, but he was a long way from being a saint. As a soldier he had been capable of blundering, rashness, and poor judgment. He was addicted to gambling, apparently indulged in a good dealing of wenching, was avid in the pursuit of wealth, and was a "most horrid swearer and blasphemer." He was vain, pompous, pretentious, and hot-tempered in the extreme; and though he was normally a perfect gentleman in his public behavior, he could be a perfect alley cat in his private behavior. Even in public his conduct was not always free of blemish. During the war he had been willing to hang an innocent British prisoner, Capt. Charles Asgill, in retaliation against the unauthorized behavior of some hooligan New York Loyalists; and Washington was not sufficiently magnanimous to grant the request of the unfortunate Maj. John Andre to be shot as a soldier rather than to be hanged as a spy. And yet a whole nation could entrust him with its liberty and, indeed, its fate, in revolutionary circumstances which almost invariably breed Caesars and Cromwells, and could know that it was safe to do so.

pp. 192-3.

Now, of course, there is another side. On balance, Washington was a man of great virtue. But let's not turn the man into a saint.

A few other things. I have neither the time nor the interest in refuting everything Kennedy said, but the following three examples, which Kennedy relies on as "key" pieces of evidence to prove Washington's Christianity, illustrate what could be done with practically every line of Kennedy's sermon. First, Washington supposedly prayed for two hours a day, while kneeling and reading his Bible. This automatically should raise a red flag because it was well known that Washington didn't kneel when praying. I tracked down the source for this.

"It seems proper to subjoin to this letter what was told to me by Mr. Robert Lewis, at Fredericksburg, in the year 1827. Being a nephew of Washington, and his private secretary during the first part of his presidency, Mr. Lewis lived with him on terms of intimacy, and has the best opportunity for observing his private devotions in his library both morning and evening; that on those occasions he had seen him in a kneeling posture with a Bible open before him, and that he believed such to have been his daily practice."(7)

However, as the linked Bessel article notes:

Unfortunately, this comment is hearsay. There is no evidence given in that or other books to support it, such as any letter from Washington's nephew who was being quoted, and it therefore is probably another example of someone fashioning a story about Washington to support what some people wished to believe.

Kennedy also invokes the Quaker/Valley Forge/Prayer tall tale invented out of whole cloth by Parson Weems. From the Bessel article:

Weems wrote a story that supposedly took place at Valley Forge, when a Quaker named Potts was walking through the woods near Washington's headquarters and, as he told his wife, he saw "the commander in chief of the American armies on his knees in prayer!" Potts told her that this proved that Washington was a man of God and that God would therefore save America.(9)

"The Potts story has been the most cherished of all the anecdotes about Washington at prayer, though, interestingly, it was never alluded to by Quaker writers on Washington, no even by those of a 'Free Quaker' of nonpacifist persuasion. It has been repeated with countless variations since Weems first put it forward; scores of witnesses attesting to the event (many years later) have been dug up by champions of the story; and many details have been added by later writes to Weems's original account....

"The Valley Forge story is, of course, utterly without foundation in fact. There was indeed a Quaker farmer named Isaac Potts who came into possession of a house in Valley Forge toward the end of the Revolutionary War; but he was nowhere near Valley Forge in the winter of 1777 when Washington was supposed to have been praying in the snow. Nevertheless, Washington's 'Gethsemene,' as the Valley Forge episode has been called, was eventually fixed in bronze on the Sub-Treasury Building in New York City and Potts's house itself was made into a shrine...

"In June, 1903, moreover, the cornerstone of the million-dollar Washington Memorial Chapel, commemorating the event, was laid at Valley Forge; in 1928 the United States government issued a batch of two-cent stamps showing Washington praying at Valley Force; and in 1955 a private chapel for the use of United States Congressmen was opened in the Capitol containing, as its chief feature, a stained-glass window above an oak altar depicting the kneeling figure of Washington at Valley Forge. Even Weems, one guesses, would have been somewhat thunderstruck by the solemn literalness with which many of his readers interpreted his exuberant narrative of The Life of George Washington; with Curious Anecdotes, Equally Honourable to Himself, and Exemplary to His Young Countrymen.(10)

9. George Washington and Religion [by Paul F. Boller, Jr., published by Southern Methodist University Press, Dallas, Texas, 1963], pages 8-9; and The Life of Washington, by M.L. Weems, 1857 edition, pages 198-199; and 1837 edition, pages 183-184; and 1814 edition, pages 183-184..

10. George Washington and Religion, pages 9-11.

Finally, Kennedy, to prove Washington prayed "Christian" prayers, continues to peddle Washington's debunked "prayer book," without which, Washington's public record of prayers includes making supplications to a generic deity only, absent explicitly Christian language. Ed Brayton got the goods on the prayer book from one of the nation's leading experts on Washington's writings. "That scholar is Frank Grizzard of the University Virginia, a senior associate editor of the George Washington Papers collection housed there. Here is his response:"

The so-called prayer journal is not in GW's writing, although I'm not sure it's actually a forgery. The manuscript dealer (Burk I think) who first sold it when it came to light in the 19th century printed a facsimile edition in which he admits that the Smithsonian rejected it as a non-GW document, but it did have Washington family provenance, so he said. Thus it apparently was a descendant's. Johnson's version is taken from Burk. The prayers are based on the English prayer book.

So there is no credible evidence that George Washington had a "Christian" prayer book.

Practically every point Kennedy makes to "prove" Washington's Christianity, can be answered in this way. The only valid point that the "Christian Nation" crowd has against the notion that Washington was a "Deist" is that Washington, contra the "Deists," invoked a warm-intervening Providence, not a cold-distant watchmaker. But so too did Jefferson and Franklin. There really is nothing in the historical record that demonstrates Washington believed any differently than Franklin and Jefferson on religious matters.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

My Favorite Led Zeppelin Song:

Of course, it's not one that's overplayed on the radio. A pretty good version of it follows:

Friday, July 07, 2006

Andy Timmons:

One of the best guitarist whom you've probably never heard of.

One of the few who can out "Steve Morse" Steve Morse in the instrumental virtuoso rock/bluegrass fusion style.

Here is Steve Morse playing a tune in that style.


Opera has never been my cup of tea, but one of the giants seems to be ready to check out. Luciano Pavarotti is battling cancer. They say he is recovering, but he has pancreatic cancer which is a type of cancer from which you generally don't recover, especially if you are 70 years old.
James Madison's God...:

is the God of the Cherokee Indians: "The Great Spirit." The following is excerpted from James Madison's To My Red Children, August 1812.

"I have a further advice of my Red children. You see how the country of the eighteen fires is filled with people. They increase like the corn they put into the ground. They all have good houses to shelter them from all weathers, good clothes suitable to all seasons; and as for food, of all sorts, you see they have enough and to spare. No man, woman, or child, of the eighteen fires, ever perished of hunger. Compare all this with the condition of the Red people. They are scattered here and there in handfulls. Their lodges are cold, leak, and smoky. They have hard fare, and often not enough of it.

"Why this mighty difference? The reason, my Red children, is plain. The white people breed cattle and sheep. They spin and weave. Their heads and their hands make all the elements and productions of nature useful to them.

"It is in your power to be like them. The ground that feeds one lodge by hunting, would feed a great band by the plough & the hoe. The Great Spirit has given you, like your white brethren, good heads to contrive, and strong arms, and active bodies. Use them like your white brethren of the eighteen fires, and like them, your little sparks will grow into great fires. You will be well fed, dwell in good houses, and enjoy the happiness for which you, like them, were created. These are the words of your father to his red children. The Great Spirit who is the father of us all, approves them. Let them pass through the ear in to the heart. Carry them home to your people; and as long as you remember this visit to your father of the eighteen fires, remember these are his last and best words to you!"

Am I saying that Madison followed the religion of the Cherokees? Of course not. Madison's usage is evidence however, that his religion (like Washington's) was universalistic; that is he thought all religions more or less were valid paths to God. And as I said before, to the extent that orthodox Christianity makes exclusive claims about God is the extent to which our key Founders' religion conflicts with orthodox Christianity.

Thursday, July 06, 2006


is it that other people tend to do a much better job recording or performing Bob Dylan songs than Dylan himself?

Well, Dylan does a pretty good version of the tune here.


Thanks to Andrew Sullivan for the link on the Chomsky v. Foucault post. Judging by the traffic I've been getting, lots of people seem interested in watching their debate. I've also gotten some great comments. For instance, this one by D. Stephen Heersink. We even got one by a Foucault acolyte. Finally, Tom Van Dyke manages to state in two pithy plain English sentences what took Leo Strauss, Allan Bloom et al. countless books in abstruse prose, "beating around the bush" to say: "The problem with Nietzsche is that he's always right. And that leaves us...nowhere."
Funniest Explanation for Global Warming:

Really, it sounds like something that would come out of the mouth of Stewie Griffin. But it comes out of the mouth of Alberta Premier Ralph Klein.

Mr. Klein has stirred controversy in the past by rejecting scientific data suggesting industrial pollution is one of the leading causes of global warming.

He has even said global warming trends that occurred millions of years ago may have been caused by “dinosaur farts.”

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Foucault, a Pimple on Nietzsche's Ass:

Here's an old but good article on Michel Foucault by Roger Kimball. Kimball is the anti-Foucault intellectual -- that is, a total prude. And the article is written from that perspective (its title is The perversions of Michel Foucault). Kimball seems positively fascinated by Foucault's "perversions"; the article is written in titillating detail. (On sexual matters, I'd like to think that I'm somewhere in between both of these thinkers.)

Foucault's work and his life illustrate the dangers of the abyss. The most valuable part of Kimball's article is its comparison between Foucault and Nietzsche. It mirrors what Allan Bloom wrote in The Closing of the American Mind. That is, Nietzsche's work was quite profound, as was, to a lesser extent, Heidegger's. But it all started going downhill with his (post-Heideggerian) successors, especially the French ones. Here is Kimball:

But Foucault differed from Nietzsche in more than such outward trappings. The fundamental world outlooks of the two men were radically different. Basically, Foucault was Nietzsche’s ape. He adopted some of Nietzsche’s rhetoric about power and imitated some of his verbal histrionics. But he never achieved anything like Nietzsche’s insight or originality. Nietzsche may have been seriously wrong in his understanding of modernity: he may have mistaken one part of the story—the rise of secularism—for the whole tale; but few men have struggled as honestly with the problem of nihilism as he. Foucault simply flirted with nihilism as one more “experience.” Mr. Miller is right to emphasize the importance of “experience,” especially extreme or “limit” experience, in Foucault’s life and work; he is wrong to think that this was a virtue. Foucault was addicted to extremity. He epitomized to perfection a certain type of decadent Romantic, a type that Nietzsche warned against when he spoke of “those who suffer from the impoverishment of life and seek rest, stillness, calm seas, redemption from themselves through art and knowledge, or intoxication, convulsions, anaesthesia, and madness.” Foucault’s insatiable craving for new, ever more thrilling “experiences” was a sign of weakness, not daring. Here, too, Nietzsche is a far better guide than Foucault. “All men now live through too much and think through too little,” Nietzsche wrote in 1880. “They suffer at the same time from extreme hunger and from colic, and therefore become thinner and thinner, no matter how much they eat.—Whoever says now, ‘I have not lived through anything’— is an ass.”

Kimball also references a debate between Foucault and Noam Chomsky, where Foucault's extremism makes Chomsky look like a voice of sane moderation!

One thing that is refreshing about Foucault’s political follies, however, is that they tend to make otherwise outlandish figures appear comparatively tame. In a debate that aired on Dutch television in the early Seventies, for example, the famous American radical and linguist Noam Chomsky appears as a voice of sanity and moderation in comparison to Foucault. As Mr. Miller reports it, while Chomsky insisted “we must act as sensitive and responsible human beings,” Foucault replied that such ideas as responsibility, sensitivity, justice, and law were merely “tokens of ideology” that completely lacked legitimacy. “The proletariat doesn’t wage war against the ruling class because it considers such a war to be just,” he argued. “The proletariat makes war with the ruling class because … it wants to take power.” Of course, this has been the standard sophistical line since Socrates encountered Thrasymachus, but these days one rarely hears it so bluntly articulated. Nor were such performances rare. In another debate, Foucault championed the September Massacres of 1792, in which over a thousand people suspected of harboring royalist sympathies were ruthlessly butchered, as a sterling example of “popular justice” at work. As Mr. Miller puts it, Foucault believed that justice would be best served “by throwing open every prison and shutting down every court.”

And you can watch parts of that debate courtesy of YouTube.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

George Washington's Universalism:

I'm going to do a little bit more nitpicking on Michael and Jana Novak's conception of Washington's God. Check out their latest post on July 4 and God.

The Novaks, in their book, have noted that Washington's God is "Judeo-Christian" and not "Deist." "Deist" may not be the proper term for Washington's (or Franklin's or Jefferson's) God. But "Judeo-Christian" is clearly too restrictive.

Just because Judaism and Christianity, like Washington and the other key Founders, posit the notion of a warm intervening God that takes an interest in man's affairs, doesn't therefore mean the Founders' God is the God of the Bible, or as Novak likes to put it, the God who gave the Ten Commandments to Moses. In fact, our rationalistic Founders, of which Washington was one, doubted much of Revelation, specifically they doubted that God revealed the Ten Commandments to Moses.

The Novaks, like pretty much all scholars, have a theory which they are trying to peddle, and view the facts to support that theory. In particular, to support the notion that Washington's God was the God of the Bible, they stress one letter Washington wrote to the Hebrew Congregation in Savannah, in particular this passage:

May the same wonder-working Deity, who long since delivered the Hebrews from their Egyptian oppressors, planted them in a promised land, whose providential agency has lately been conspicuous in establishing these United States as an independent nation, still continue to water them with the dews of heaven and make the inhabitants of every denomination participate in the temporal and spiritual blessings of that people whose God is Jehovah.

Because of that passage, the Novaks claim that Washington's God "is Jehovah" or "the Judeo-Christian" God. Well, I have a theory too. George Washington, like the other key Founders, was a religious universalist who believed that all (more or less) religions were valid ways to God. To the extent that Christianity makes exclusive claims about God is the extent that our key Founders' religion conflicts with orthodox Christianity.

As a universalist, Washington would "speak in the terms" of the particular religion he was addressing. Washington (as far as I know) only ever referred to God as Jehovah when addressing the Jews. Likewise, when Washington addressed his fellow Freemasons, he referred to God on their terms as "the Great Architect of the Universe." And, when Washington addressed the Cherokee Nation, Washington referred to God as "the Great Spirit," which is how they referred to God.

Paul Boller notes that Washington specifically crossed out the word "God" from one of his speeches (perhaps Boller was referencing the Cherokee speech, I'm not sure) to the Indians and specifically wrote in "the Great Spirit." George Washington and Religion, p 69 (note I don't have Boller's book but am referencing Gregg Frazer's Ph.D. thesis).

Using the Novak's method of categorization, when asked "who is Washington's God?" we could likewise say "the Great Architect of the Universe" the Freemasons worshipped, or even "the Great Spirit" the Cherokees worshipped.
Happy July 4:

The National Anthem, courtesy of Eric Johnson and YouTube.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Robert Tilton is Funny:

Even when featured in a commercial by the demon-possessed Fred Phelps.

"You are not going to have diarrhea any longer."

Simple Simon:

A really cool tune by Steve Morse courtesy of YouTube.

John Witherspoon:

Interesting article by Roger Kimball on Founder John Witherspoon.

As the article notes, Witherspoon was a very important Founding Father, and mentored James Madison at Princeton (where Madison studied and Witherspoon was President). Interestingly, Witherspoon was both an orthodox Calvinistic Protestant, but also supported and taught the Enlightenment principles which provided the basis for the Revolution.

This debate thread on Worldmag illustrates some of the controversy over Witherspoon's legacy. Was it his orthodox Christianity, or his being imbibed in Enlightenment principles which were key to understanding his contribution to the Revolution? See way back when I was just a "reader" of Sandefur's Freespace when I wrote him with Walter Berns's theory on the matter. Here is what I wrote:

Although [Walter] Berns is generally a social conservative and anti-libertarian, he actually has quite a strong understanding of this nation's secular foundation. Chapter 2 -- "God Before Country" -- in Making Patriots provided me with some pretty valuable insights regarding America's secular founding.

That book also notes that John Witherspoon, contrary to Sheldon's claims, was as much of a Lockean as he was a Calvinist (He was a Presbyterian -- which Calvin founded. Maybe that's why Sheldon claims this). From Berns: "Like Jefferson and Madison, [Witherspoon] had obviously read Locke with care and was persuaded by him of the importance of liberty of conscience -- which put him at odds with the founder of Presbyterianism, John Calvin. (For Calvin, liberty of conscience meant just that, and no more than that. If someone gave voice to his conscience, thus being heard or read by others, he might rightly be punished. So it was that, as the effective governor of his city of Geneva, Calvin had one of his anti-Trinitarian critics put to death.)" Making Patriots, p. 42.

Witherspoon's importance to our founding seems to be that he acted as sort of a "mediator" between the Enlightenment philosophers and Christian theology, and led Christians to believe that Enlightenment philosophy was perhaps more compatible with their orthodox Christianity than perhaps it really was. The philosophers who articulated "Natural Right" were either non-Christians or non-Trinitarian heretic Christians. "Nature's God" who, according to the philosophers, grants us inalienable rights certainly wasn't the God of orthodox Christianity. And the notion that Jehovah or Jesus grants us inalienable rights is "wrong as a matter of doctrine -- where does the Bible speak of unalienable natural rights, or the liberty to worship or not to worship as one pleases?" Id.

However, it made very good political sense for a nation founded on Enlightenment principles, yet populated by many orthodox Christians, to get such Christians to believe in this. And Witherspoon greatly helped in making this a reality (too successful--how many times do we hear today the religious right claim that this nation was founded on Christianity because the Declaration states that our rights come from the "Creator" which they interpret as the God of Biblical Christianity?). "Witherspoon could speak unreservedly of 'natural liberty' and 'natural rights'; and of the 'state of nature' and like Locke...of its 'inconveniences,' inconveniences that caused men to leave it for the 'social state.' But in the same lecture he could admonish his listeners and readers to accept 'Christ Jesus as he is offered in the gospel,' for 'except that a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.' In a word, Witherspoon saw no conflict between the new political philosophy and the old religion, which is to say between the principles set down in the Declaration of Independence and what he understood as orthodox Christianity." Id.

One note on the Kimball article. While I have no quibble with most of it, Kimball is completely off track regarding Madison's religious beliefs. As Sandefur's original post noted, Madison's relationship with Witherspoon is the source of an urban myth that Madison himself was an orthodox Christian, of Calvinist bent. In fact, Brit Hume during his Fox special on religion in America erroneously asserted that Madison converted to Presbyterianism. Kimball apparently believes in the myth. He writes:

Madison is often called "the father of the Constitution." His contributions to "The Federalist," especially his analysis of the danger of and remedy for "faction," is a masterpiece of political philosophy. The two great formative influences on Madison's outlook were his own Calvinist beliefs and Witherspoon's tutelage....For us looking back on the generation of the Founders, it is easy to deprecate the religious inheritance that, for many of them, formed the ground of their commitment to political liberty. Theological skeptics and even atheists there were aplenty in late eighteenth-century America. But for every Jefferson who re-wrote the Bible excising every mention of miracles, there was a platoon of men like Madison who wrote commentaries on the Bible.

First, Madison was not a Calvinist, but, like Jefferson, Washington, a lifelong Anglican/Episcopalian (though, even before his time with Witherspoon, Madison was educated by some Scottish Calvinists). While Madison may have had a brief flirtation with orthodox Christianity sometime in his early life, for most of his time, his religious beliefs were exactly like Jefferson's, Franklin's and the other key Whig American Founders.

And I have no idea what Kimball means by "for every Jefferson who re-wrote the Bible excising every mention of miracles, there was a platoon of men like Madison who wrote commentaries on the Bible." Jefferson wrote far more commentaries on the Bible than Madison. Madison, in fact, wrote very little on religion, like Washington, didn't give us much at all to indicate what he really personally believed in.

But from the credible evidence we have, Madison's personal beliefs on religion seemed to be exactly the same as Jefferson's. One Episcopal Bishop who knew the Madison family quite well commented on Madison's youthful flirtation with orthodox Christianity:

"His religious feeling, however, seems to have been short-lived. His political associations with those of infidel principles, of whom there were many in his day, if they did not actually change his creed, yet subjected him to the general suspicion of it...."

Here is one eye-witness account from an 1815 dinner table conversation with Madison:

“He talked of religious sects and parties and was curious to know how the cause of liberal Christianity stood with us, and if the Athanasian creed was well received by our Episcopalians. He pretty distinctly intimated to me his own regard for the Unitarian doctrines.”

See this post for the primary sources.

Note, because Madison was hiding in a religious closet, there are little if any direct quotations of him that are on point regarding his specific beliefs. As a general matter, we can evidence plenty of quotations that show Madison believed in a warm-intervening Providence. Yet, Madison, again, like all of our other key Whig Founders virtually never spoke in Scriptural terms but rather invoked a generic, amorphous "Nature's God."

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Positive Liberty's Biggest Day:

Check out Jason's post on our biggest day yet over at Positive Liberty, all because of an article I wrote.

And no, unfortunately, it was not for one of my post where I meticulously research our Founders' religious views or where I make an argument on constitutional interpretation.

Unfortunately, that doesn't seem to be the stuff that sells big. This is the kind of thing that interests the masses.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Historical Revisionism from WorldNutDaily:

Hey, what else would you expect from them? First this article by Greg Laurie. Laurie, apparently can't face up to the historical truth that the Declaration of Independence is an Enlightenment document, and speaks of God in rationalistic or Enlightenment terms. So he has to support his revisionist theory with phony quotations. For instance, this one from Thomas Jefferson: ''The Bible is the cornerstone for American liberty.'' He then quotes Lincoln as stating:

''All the good Savior gave to the World was communicated through this Book. But for this Book we could not know right from wrong. All the things most desirable for man's welfare, here and hereafter, are to be found in it.''

Now, admittedly, I'm less familiar with Lincoln's work than the Founders; but based on the limited research I've done so far, it seems to be another phony quotation. Lincoln, operating in the tradition of our key Whig Founders, seemed to be a "Theistic Rationalist" -- that is, he believed in and invoked a warm-intervening Providence, but otherwise didn't believe in Scripture or the God of the Bible. Though, Lincoln did quote from or otherwise invoked the Bible and the Christian religion for political purposes. But clearly, he didn't believe in that system.

Here Laurie makes the critical error which I've spent so much time on my blogs debunking:

The same God our Founding Fathers invoked when they established this nation. The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The God who gave us Jesus Christ as His Son to die on the Cross in our place. The God who gave us the Bible as our guide and manual for living. The only God who can save America and us as individuals.

Funny, as I pointed out in my last post, our Founding Fathers almost never identified God in those terms when they invoked Him in their public supplications. Rather they spoke of a generic, amorphous "Nature's God" who could be the God of the Bible or rather some heterodox Providence. And they certainly disbelieved in and often viciously ridiculed some of the Christian doctrines implied in Laurie's above quoted paragraph, like the Trinity and the Incarnation.

Next, we have Pat Boone (a man who almost personally ruined Rock 'N Roll until the Beatles saved it), making nearly the same error. Boone apparently doesn't realize how the two halves of this following paragraph contain an utterly ironic contradiction.

American pride in its institutions is rooted and grounded in this fundamental belief [in God]. George Washington believed it. Ben Franklin believed it. Thomas Jefferson declared it. John Adams and James Monroe and all the signers of the Constitution devoutly believed it. The first Supreme Court Chief Justice, John Jay, stated on October 12, 1816: ''Providence has given to our people the choice of their rulers, and it is the duty, as well as the privilege and interest of our Christian nation, to select and prefer Christians for their rulers!''

Yes, certainly Washington, Franklin, Jefferson, Adams, and Monroe were monotheists who believed in God. Yet, they all were (or likely were) theological Unitarians who therefore could not be classified as "Christians," at least as many understand that term. So if the "Christian people," exercising their Providentially given right to vote, heeded Jay's advice, they could not vote for a single historical figure that Boone invoked!

Here is founding era preacher Bird Wilson (James Wilson's son) on the matter: "[A]mong all our presidents from Washington downward, not one was a professor of religion, at least not of more than Unitarianism."

He went on to say (I'm copying from Farrell Till's linked article, though this is a direct quotation from Wilson's sermon):

"[T]he founders of our nation were nearly all Infidels, and that of the presidents who had thus far been elected [George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe, John Quincy Adams, and Andrew Jackson] _not a one had professed a belief in Christianity_" (Remsberg, p. 120, emphasis added).