Realities Created, Maintained and Destroyed, WHILE-U-WAIT!

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Nature and Nature's God

"I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use."
Galileo Galilei

From the Declaration of Independence.

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

Have you ever wondered why Jefferson used such an interesting turn of phrase in the declaration? It would have been much more likely for a Christian of the time to be invoking Jesus Christ and the Most Holy Trinity.

The reason is that many of our Founding Fathers (and Mothers) including most likely Jefferson (see this essay by David J. Voelker), were not Christian at all, but were Deists.

So what is Deism? Thomas Paine wrote;

"The Calvinist, who damns children of a span long to hell to burn forever for the glory of God (and this is called Christianity), and the Universalist who preaches that all shall be saved and none shall be damned (and this also is called Christianity), boasts alike of their holy [reveled] religion and their Christian faith.

"Something more therefore is necessary than mere cry and wholesale assertion, and that something is TRUTH; and as inquiry is the road to truth, he that is opposed to inquiry is not a friend to truth. "The God of truth is not the God of fable; when, therefore, any book is introduced into the world as the Word of God, and made a groundwork for religion, it ought to be scrutinized more than other books to see if it bear evidence of being what it is called. Our reverence to God demands that we do this, lest we ascribe to God what is not His, and our duty to ourselves demands it lest we take fable for fact, and rest our hope of salvation on a false foundation.

"It is not our calling a book holy that makes it so, any more than our calling a religion holy that entitles it to the name. Inquiry therefore is necessary in order to arrive at truth. But inquiry must have some principle to proceed on, some standard to judge by, superior to human authority."

We see from Paine's words that Deism was in many ways antithetical to Christianity, in that Deism did not put stock in the validity of "holy books" and dogma, though it did affirm the existence of one primary creative force, Jefferson's "Nature's God".

Deists who were deeply involved in the American revolution were John Quincy Adams, Ethan Allen, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison Thomas Paine, and George Washington.

Thomas Paine was one of the more prolific writers on Deism, and was quit outspoken about his positions. For more information as to the philosophical structure of the American revolution you might want to check out his writings. You may also want to read "Reason: The Only Oracle Of Man" by Ethan Allen to get a sense of how many of our founding fathers really felt about Christianity.

So my thought for the Holiday is:

America was never intended to be a "Christian Nation", quite the opposite in fact. The country was founded in such a way as to protect its citizens from the tyranny of religion.

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