Thursday, April 02, 2009
Condemned to Repeat It
The Nation has a reprint of an article By Rollin Lynde Hartt from July 22, 1925, entitled "Scopes Trial: What Lies Beyond Dayton."
Nothing about America is more curious than its choice of fears. With the utmost ease any impostor can convince America that Jews are about to control us, though there are hardly three million Jews in the entire country. It is a simple matter, likewise, to convince America that the Catholic church hopes sometime to control us, though Catholics believe in the separation of church and state, and though we have in all only 18,000,000 Catholics in the country. Yet, despite the fundamentalists' much greater numerical strength, despite their success in forcing Congress and the legislatures to adopt national prohibition, despite their already more or less successful demand for the religious control of public education, and despite what is now going on at Dayton, it is with difficulty that any American can awaken in himself a very lively fear when he inquires where all this is going to end. We clearly perceive and resent the apparently isolated onslaughts of fundamentalism upon our liberties, but do not recognize as clearly or as resentfully its underlying policy. We combat it, not in its essential character, but in its manifestation. We have an Association Against the Prohibition Amendment to fight fundamentalism's control in matters of personal habit. We have a Science League in America to fight its "monkey bills." But we have as yet failed to combat its underlying policy by founding a League to Maintain the Separation of Church and State.
Through methods purely educational, such a league might do quite a little toward Christianizing the fundamentalists. Gently, and with suitably adroit diplomacy, it could remind them that Jesus of Nazareth, to whose precepts and example they now attach but slight importance, never prosecuted his fellow-men for seeking enjoyments different from his own, and never sought to obtain from the Roman government the power to do so. He conceived of religion as a persuasive, not as a coercive, force. He believed in the separation of church and state.
What has changed fortunately, is that you now do have groups like Americans United, just as Hartt calls for.