Monday, February 18, 2008
The Danger of Freedom
My opinion is that there would never have been an infidel, if there had never been a priest. - Thomas JeffersonCarol V. Hamilton has an excellent article at George Mason University's History News Network on why the notion that the United States is a "Christian Nation" is, at the very least, misleading and, as propounded by the Righteous Right, is an outright falsehood. Jumping off from the article "Christianizing US History" in Nation magazine by Chris Hedges (author of American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War On America), about House Resolution 888, seeking to establish American Religious History Week, Ms. Hamilton proceeds to give, well, chapter and verse showing that the most important Founding Fathers neither wanted nor expected America to have a Christian government. As she rightly points out:
Ignorance of science and of intellectual history is endemic in this country, but it is exacerbated by home-schooling and religious schools, with their "Christ-centered" curricula.She lists the great sources of the American attempt to establish political and personal freedom: "John Locke, Roger Williams, the Federalist Papers, the Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom, [and] the Bill of Rights." Of particular note was the praise James Madison, who, more than any man, was the author of our Constitution and the First Amendment, had for the Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom, authored by Jefferson. Madison called it:
[A] true standard of Religious liberty: its principle the great barrier against usurpation on the right of conscience.In turn, Jefferson held, in a phrase I personally love, that its passage was "meant to comprehend, within the mantle of it's protection, the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Mahometan, the Hindoo, and infidel of every denomination." When the issue of Congressional chaplains came up, Madison warned of sectarianism:
Could a Catholic clergyman ever hope to be appointed chaplain? To say that his religious principles are obnoxious, or that his sect is small, is to lift the evil at once and exhibit in its naked deformity the doctrine that religious truth is to be tested by numbers, or that the major sects have a right to govern the minor.We don't have to go back 200 years to see this in action, either.
As Ms. Hamilton points out, Madison's objection:
... articulates a primary concern of the Founders: to prevent what Alexis de Tocqueville later characterized as "the tyranny of the majority." "Give all power to the few, they will oppress the many," warned Alexander Hamilton at the Constitutional Convention. "Give all power to the many, they will oppress the few."Those who would impose their religion on our government are un-American and, along with others who would ignore the Constitution, pose the greatest threat to our democracy. Terrorists will never take our freedom from us. The real danger is that we will give it away.