Medved's mendacity

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In commenting on McCain's "Christian nation" remarks, Michael Medved insisted that "The Founders Intended A Christian, Not Secular, Society." Medved accuses First Amendment scholar Charles Haynes of "sweeping and profoundly misleading comments" that are "appallingly, demonstrably and inarguably wrong." Let's take a long look, instead, at Medved's own arguments; several of them fall into precisely those categories.

His claim that "THE FOUNDERS NEVER 'WANTED TO ESTABLISH A SECULAR NATION'" [caps in original] is refuted easily at several points. Most obvious is the "no religious test" clause in the Constitution and the First Amendment's prohibition of an established church. This passage from Jefferson's "Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom" is also relevant:

" man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burthened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer, on account of his religious opinions or belief; but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish, enlarge, or affect their civil capacities."

Medved's assertion that the Founders "WERE, ALMOST WITHOUT EXCEPTION, DEEPLY SERIOUS CHRISTIANS" [again, caps in the original] is disproven by history. Medved mentions that "assiduous study of the Bible" was "a lifelong passion in the case of Jefferson and Franklin," but shies away from Jefferson's cut-and-paste assembly of the volume now known as the "Jefferson Bible." Jefferson assiduously trimmed from his Bible such things as: angels, the Trinity, Jesus' divinity, miracles, and the Resurrection. Such temerity would hardly endear him to the Religious Right. Instead, he would swear "eternal hostility" against them just as he did against their forebears two centuries ago.

Medved even claims that "the most radical of the Founders, pamphleteer Thomas Paine, would fit more comfortably with today's religious conservatives than with the secular militants who seek to claim his as one of their own," but this assertion is just as ludicrous. For just one example, here is a passage from Chapter II of The Age of Reason:

...the opinions I have advanced in that work are the effect of the most clear and long-established conviction, -- that the Bible and the Testament are impositions upon the world; -- that the fall of man, the account of Jesus Christ being the Son of God, and of his dying to appease the wrath of God, and of salvation by that strange means, are all fabulous inventions, dishonourable to the wisdom and power of the Almighty; -- that the only true religion is deism, by which I then meant and now mean the belief of one God, and an imitation of his moral character, or the practice of what are called moral virtues; -- and that it was upon this only (so far as religion is concerned) that I rested all my hopes of happiness hereafter.

John Fea observes at History News Network (h/t: Carlos at Talk to Action) that "Those who insist that America was founded as a Christian nation run roughshod over the historical record." Medved has provided several examples. Jon Meacham reminds us at the NYT that "A Nation of Christians Is Not a Christian Nation," and mentions the Treaty of Tripoli:

In the 1790s, in the waters off Tripoli, pirates were making sport of American shipping near the Barbary Coast. Toward the end of his second term, Washington sent Joel Barlow, the diplomat-poet, to Tripoli to settle matters, and the resulting treaty, finished after Washington left office, bought a few years of peace. Article 11 of this long-ago document says that "as the government of the United States is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion," there should be no cause for conflict over differences of "religious opinion" between countries.

The treaty passed the Senate unanimously. Mr. McCain is not the only American who would find it useful reading.

Mr Medved, please familiarize yourself with the American history section of your local library before again making a public spectacle of your ignorance. Returning to the issue of John McCain's remarks, Ira Forman (executive director of the National Jewish Democratic Council) called McCain's remarks "repugnant" and added (h/t: SEB):

"Someone running for president ought to understand the Constitution a little better. Nowhere does it say the United States is a 'Christian' nation. How can we trust someone to uphold the Constitution who doesn't even know what is in it?"

update (10/15 @ 10:07am):
Daylight Atheism has a multi-point rebuttal to the "Christian nation" myth here, looking at ten important aspects of our nation that are either unsupported or explicitly rejected by the Bible. I'd love to see Christianists try to square such (secular) issues as (small-r) republicanism, separation of powers, religious freedom, and trial by jury with the textual evidence against them.

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This page contains a single entry by cognitivedissident published on October 9, 2007 2:49 PM.

Democratic complicity in Bush's lawlessness was the previous entry in this blog.

Sullivan on sacrifice is the next entry in this blog.

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