Monday, May 7, 2007


Editor's Note by PraetorOne
The following is the first in a multi-part series that attempts to debunk some of the mythology and outright historical revision which is being promulgated by far right aspects of the Bush Administration, Televangelists, and Mega churches. It begins with a brief section on homosexuality; and then proceeds to cover some of the revisionism surrounding the Founding Fathers and their religious beliefs. AS the series continues it will also examine the theocractic attempt to rewrite our constitution, as well the literal interpretation of the Protestant Bible with which they would replace our Constitution. This will bring the series back to the cultural wars and why it is so imperative that we take these people seriously and do everything in our power to counter their disingenuous speech with better, enlightened speech.
And now, we are proud to submit the first part of our series.  
By SweetPea, BibleBelted, Thomas Paine, and PraetorOne
The Redefinition of Equal Rights:  Equality is Not a Matter of Special
Whenever I hear people talk about gays and lesbians wanting to promote
the "homosexual life style" I don't know if I want to laugh or cry.
In the first place the idea that we want to promote a given life style
is just one bread slice short of a sandwich, and to be perfectly
honest, the term "homosexual life style" is usually bantered about by
people who have a lot more to promote than just a so called "life
The only thing that gays and lesbians seek is the right to be treated
in the same way that heterosexuals are treated.  That includes the
right to marry, the right to raise families, equal employment
opportunities, and just about any other right or convenience that the
heterosexual community takes for granted on a daily basis.   And yet,
for some reason, whenever we seek what the majority already enjoys, we
are accused of promoting a life style or of asking for special
privileges.  Strange, I never thought that asking for the rights and
benefits that others routinely enjoy could be defined as special
treatment, but for some reason a few people choose to redefine the
argument in those terms.
Of course you also have to remember that many, indeed the vast
majority of the people who use that kind of Orwellian argument
themselves have something to promote, and as I have already stated it
is a lot more than a mere lifestyle.   It is a form of religion-based
government which is not recognized by our constitution.  In short the
people who want to delegate gays and lesbians to second class
citizenship are attempting to impose their religion in what can only
be described as a Christian-oriented theocracy which would have made
our Founding Fathers cringe.  Or to put it another way, the would be
theocrats, instead of taking the attitude that they don't have to
engage in activities which they consider sinful, have taken the
attitude that they have the right to impose those values on others who
do not consider homosexuality to be sinful.  They truly believe that
their religious views should reign supreme, and instead of taking
personal responsibility for their own actions they want to impose that
responsibility on those of differing faiths and creeds.
Now if that isn't an establishment of religion will someone please
tell me what is?
Confusing the 17th and 18th Centuries
I'm not claiming that the Founding Fathers would have been entirely
understanding of homosexuality, but they certainly would have
understood that the method by which the so called Christian Right
wants to eradicate homosexuality is a direct violation of the First
Amendment Religion clause, so I think we can safely say that the
Founders would have been appalled by some of the arguments that are
being made by the Radical Christian Right today.
The Founding Fathers, by virtue of the time in which they lived, were
a lot closer to some of the religious conflicts and abuses that had
taken place in both America and England.  They understood well the
horrors which had been perpetuated during conflicts between Puritans
and Anglicans; they knew well terrors that accompanied religious-based
civil wars in jolly old England; and they were certainly aware of the
many abuses which had taken place during Puritan reign in
Massachusetts and Connecticut .  And yet for some reason, the prudes
in 21st America truly believe that the Founders would have studied
these abuses and then created the same kind of religious-based system
that created those abuses in the first place.   At its heart the
Radical Christian Right argument for entanglement doesn't make any
sense and it never well.  Not from an historical point of view, not
from a Constitutional point of view, and not from a practical point of
Those on the far right mistakenly believe that the repressive,
witch-hanging Puritans, who arrived here from Jolly Old England, were
our founding fathers.  This of course is an error, and it is not
accidental.  Historical revision is one of the most important weapons
in the Radical Christian arsenal of mass deception.  The true Founding
Fathers were the intellectual giants of the 18th Century who fought
the Revolutionary War and who created the Constitution that we all
know in love at Philadelphia in 1787.   But if the Founding Fathers
were products of the late 18th Century then who, exactly were the
Puritans?  Where did they fit in?
It might be useful to stop thinking of the Puritans (and the Pilgrims,
for that matter) as the poor persecuted victims of religious
persecution who came to the New Jerusalem to seek religious freedom.
In England they had often been the instruments of persecution; and
when they came to the New World they were not seeking universal
religious freedom.  In England they had made life a living hell for
Anglicans and Catholics, and they were no better when they came to the
New World.   They were in no way open minded when others dissented and
chose to worship differently. [1]  Indeed, the only liberty that early
American Calvinism recognized was the right to impose its dictates on
others.  Baptists were forced to practice their beliefs in secret
because of Puritan persecution.
The Tyrannical Puritans
In 1651 an elderly blind man wrote to Baptist friends in Rhode Island.
requesting that they pay him a visit. Responding, were a certain
John Crandal and the Reverends John Clark and Obadiah Holmes. During
the course of their visit they were arrested at their host's home and
dragged off to a Puritan church for mandatory, pubic worship. When
they refused to acquiesce to Puritan demands  they were arrested for
holding a private meeting, disturbing public worship, and re-baptizing
one or more persons. The sentence, like all Puritan sentences, was a
harsh one: heavy fines or flogging by default. Clark and Crandal were
lucky; friends paid their fines for them. Holmes, however, was flogged
30 times. Sympathetic spectators who dared to offer compassionate
words of support were also fined.
Quakers fared no better. Massachusetts's Cart and Whip Laws decreed
that a Quaker be "stripped from the middle upwards and be tied to a
cart's tail and whipped through the town." The victim was then taken
to the next town where he was whipped again. This continued from town
to town until the victimized Quaker had been removed from
Puritan social life was no better. Repressive Blue Laws discouraged
loud singing, exuberant laughter, drinking, gambling, dancing, while
prescribing severe restrictions on social etiquette and sexual
morality. So of course, they were prone to closet drinking, compulsive
gambling ( i.e. horse racing), and premarital sex. According to
surviving documents (such as birth records) from the period, nearly a
third of Puritan children were conceived out of wedlock, assuming a
child born within six months of marriage had been so conceived).
These are the narrow-minded, totalitarian individuals who the Radical
Right Wing Theocrats would claim as our Founding Fathers.  And to make
the situation even more ironic, they also claim that the real Founding
Fathers, the towering intellects, deists, and scientific thinkers of
the late 18th Century were devout, fanatical Christians who were
intent upon creating a Christian Republic, and to support their claim
they routinely use quotes out of context, or worse yet, make up facts
to fit their deluded, unconstitutional world view.
The Recreation of James Madison
This may come as a shock and a revelation to the Radical Christian
Right, but James Madison was not a rabid religious fanatic.   He did
indeed support the concept of Church State Separation.
Consider these words by James Madison:  "During almost fifteen
centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial.
What have been its fruits? More or less in all places, pride and
indolence in the Clergy, ignorance and servility in the laity, in
both, superstition, bigotry and persecution. Enquire of the Teachers
of Christianity for the ages in which it appeared in its greatest
luster; those of every sect, point to the ages prior to its
incorporation with Civil policy. Propose a restoration of this
primitive State in which its Teachers depended on the voluntary
rewards of their flocks, many of them predict its downfall. On which
Side ought their testimony to have greatest weight, when for or when
against their interest?" [2] They come from Madison's Memorial and
Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments of 1785 and they do not
sound like the words of a devout, mainstream Christian.  Of course
there is a reason for this.  James Madison was not the kind of
Christian that the radical Theocratic Right of today would find
acceptable.  Moreover the above quote is only the seventh of fifteen
such points, all of which can be found in a link at the bottom of this
Thomas Jefferson, Rewritten by the Christian Right
Thomas Jefferson, a life long deist, took a similar attitude:  "It is
error alone which needs the support of government.   Truth can stand
by itself.  Subject opinion of coercion:  Whom will you make your
inquisitors?   Fallible men; governed by bad passions, by private as
well as public reasons.   And why subject it to coercion?  To produce
uniformity.  But is uniformity of opinion desirable?  No more than of
face and stature.   Introduce the bed of Procrustes then and there is
a danger that the large men may beat the small, make us all a size, by
lopping the former and stretching the latter.   Difference of opinion
is advantageous in religion. The several sect perform the office of a
censor morum over each other.  Is uniformity attainable?  Millions of
innocent men, women, and children, since the introduction of
Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined, imprisoned; yet we
have not advanced one inch towards uniformity.   What has been the
effect of coercion?  To make one half the world fools and the other
half hypocrites.  To support roguery and error all over the earth."
[3[ That isn't what you'd expect to hear from the pulpit of the
Reverends Falwell, Dobson, or Robinson, is it?   Again, those who
would turn Thomas Jefferson into a Bible thumping Christian simply
have the facts wrong.  Not only was Thomas Jefferson a Deist, who
believed that Christ was not divine and that God merely wound up the
universe and stood back to watch it unfold, Jefferson was, on
occasion, openly hostile towards various forms of Christianity,
Calvinism in particular.   ""His [Calvin's] religion was demonism. If
ever man worshiped a false God, he did. The being described in his
five points is ... a demon of malignant spirit. It would be more
pardonable to believe in no God at all, than to blaspheme him by the
atrocious attributes of Calvin" [4]
Benjamin Franklin:  Super Moralist?
Of course any attempt at historical revision would be complete if the
Radical Theocrats didn't try to paint Benjamin Franklin with their
totalitarian tar.  Not only was Benjamin Franklin a dedicated
scientist, he also evolved into a free thinking Deist who had his own
questions about the nature of Christ and the trinity.  In a letter
dated March 9, 1790 to Ezra Stiles, Franklin offers the following
opinion on the nature of Jesus Christ: "As to Jesus of Nazareth, my
opinion of whom you particularly desire, I think the system of morals,
and his religion, as he left them to us, the best the world ever saw
or likely to see; but I apprehend it has received various corrupting
changes and I have, with most of the dissenters in England, some
doubts as to his divinity; though it is a question I do not dogmatize
upon, having never studied it and think needless to busy myself with
it now." [5]
On other occasions, Franklin used language which gave the appearance
that he believed in reincarnation.  "'When I see nothing annihilated,
and not even a drop of water wasted, I cannot suspect the annihilation
of souls, or believe they will suffer the daily waste of millions of
minds ready made that now exist, and put himself to the continual
trouble of making new ones.'  Franklin included his own soul in the
conservation scheme. 'This finding myself to exist in the world, I
believe I shall, in some shape or other, always exist, and with all
the inconveniences human life is liable to, I shall not object to a
new edition of mine, hoping, however, that the errata of the last may
be corrected." [6]
Radical Theocrats frequently take Franklin's remarks about Jesus out
of context, that much is for certain, but they seldom quote statements
in which Franklin questions the divinity of Christ.  Of course they
can't mention the section in which Franklin expresses his doubts,
because you can't have a Fundamentalist Franklin who was a lifelong
deist who questioned the very foundation of the Christian faith.  But
that doesn't stop the would be Theocrats in this country from
rewriting American History.
And if anyone believes that Benjamin Franklin possessed a superior
morality, one should remember that this was the same individual who
routinely flirted with attractive women while he was in Paris.
Franklin also wrote a personal code based on various religious beliefs
which, on the surface might be construed as Christian, but when you
read them very closely, leave specific loopholes for misbehavior; a
favorite being his take on Chastity:  "Rarely use Venery but for
Health of Offpsirng; Never to Dullness, Weakness, or the Injury of
your own or another's Peace or Reputation." [7]  Note that Franklin
left just enough wiggle room to excuse any potential indiscretion on
his own part.  But then again, we're talking about the same gentlemen
who wrote a list about the eight reasons to marry an older woman and
who took frequent air baths, in which he stripped himself naked,
opened a door or window and allowed the outside air to enter, thus
bathing him.  You just have to wonder how Pat Robertson would like to
have Franklin for a neighbor!  In other words, old Ben was a bawdy
one!   In fact he was a bawdy young one!  All too often we think about
the plump, middle aged Benjamin Franklin with the benign facial
expression and flowing white hair.  Seldom do we remember that the
youthful Benjamin Franklin was a an energetic, muscular young man who
stood approximately five feet nine or five feet ten inches tall who,
like most young men, had a a active libido.  Or to be blunt, there was
a time in his life when Franklin found an outlet for his passions with
ladies of the evening, i.e. prostitutes.
Thomas Paine:  Too Outspoken to Reinvent!
Another Founder who throws a brick in the
Framers-Were-Devout-Christians argument is the most outspoken Deist of
them all, Thomas Paine.   In his classic treatise, The Age of Reason,
Paine openly admits that he is not a Christian.  In Part 1, Chapter 1,
he writes:  "I believe in one God and no more and; and I hope for
happiness beyond this life.  I believe in the equality of men, and I
believe that religious duties consist in doing justice, loving mercy,
and endeavoring to make our fellow creatures happy.  But lest it be
supposed that I believe many other things in addition to these, I
shall in the progress of this work, declare things I do not believe,
and my reasons for not believing them.  I do not believe in the creed
professed by the Jewish Church, by the Roman Church, by the Greek
Church, by the Turkish Church, by the Protestant Church, nor by any
church I know of.  My own mind is my own church."  In Chapter Two (Of
Missions and Revelations) Paine states that he cannot accept the above
mentioned religions because they are based on hearsay. In Chapter
Three (Concerning the Character of Jesus Christ and His History) Paine
clearly and openly denies the divinity of Jesus Christ, writing:
"Jesus wrote no account of himself, of his birth, of his parentage, or
anything else.  Not a line of the New testament is of his writing.
The history of him is altogether the work of other people; and as to
the account of his resurrection and ascension, it was the necessary
counterpart to the story of his birth.  His historians, having brought
him into the world in a supernatural manner were obliged to take him
out in the same manner, or the first part of the story must have
fallen to the ground.  The wretched contrivance with which the latter
part is told exceeds everything that went before it.  The first part,
that the miraculous conception, was not a thing that admitted
publicity; and therefore tellers of this part of the story had this
advantage, that though they might not be credited, they could not be
detected.  They could not be expected to prove it, because it was not
one of those things that admitted proof, and it was impossible that
the person of whom it was told could prove it himself."  [Clearly
American children will not be reading Age of Reason in their Sunday
school lessons because Paine was, quite simply a dyed in the wool
Deist who rejected the virgin birth, miracles, resurrection and
ascension. [8]
George Washington:  Not a Bible Thumping Fanatic
As  a supposedly devout Anglican,  Washington often used unusual
phrases to describe the Christian God that the modern Day Theocrats
would force all of us to worship.   "Almighty and Merciful Sovereign
of the Universe" or "Wonder-working Deity."   Those were the kinds of
phrases which Washington used to describe his God.  And yet 21st
Century Theocrats insist that George Washington should be included
among their numbers.  But before you can do so you need to answer a
number of questions.  Why, in his first Inaugural Address, did
Washington not mention the word God nor use frequent references to
Christ and Christianity?  Instead he referred to "the invisible hand
that guides the affairs of man," and "the benign parent of the human
race." The truth of the matter is that while Washington was a nominal
Anglican he walked in step with the Deists of the late 18th century.
"Washington's religious belief was that of the enlightenment: deism.
He practically never used the word "God," preferring the more
impersonal word "Providence." How little he visualized Providence in
personal form is shown by the fact that he interchangeably applied to
that force all three possible pronouns: he, she, and it." [9]
Washington's attitude towards his Anglican Church was revealed quite
clearly by the fact that he would take Martha to Church but would not
set foot in the church himself, instead preferring to wait outside
until the service was finished.  In addition, Washington, on his death
bed, never received an kind of last rites.
  "Washington believed that several apparently dead people, perhaps
including Jesus, had really been buried alive, a fate he wished to
avoid.   His statement also calls attention to a missing presence at
the deathbed scene" There were no ministers in the room, mo prayers
uttered, no Christian rituals offering the solace of everlasting life.
The inevitable renderings of Washington's death by nineteenth-century
artists often added religious symbols to the scene, frequently
depicting his body ascending into heaven surrounded by a chorus of
angels.  The historical evidence suggests that Washington did not
think much about heaven or angels; the only place he knew his body was
going was into the ground, and as for his soul, it's ultimate location
was unknowable.  He died as a Roman Stoic rather than a Christian
Saint." [10]
John Adams:  More Open Minded Than Some Would Suspect
John Adams, perhaps because of his Puritan background, is frequently
reshaped into the modern day equivalent of right wing theocrat; but if
the truth is to be known, Adams was infinitely more tolerant of other
religions than our current roster of televangelists, dominionists, and
Bible thumpers ever could have imagined.  In A Defense of the
Constitutions of Government of the United States (circa 1787-1788),
Adams wrote: "The United States of America have exhibited, perhaps,
the first example of governments erected on the simple principles of
nature; and if men are now sufficiently enlightened to disabuse
themselves of artifice, imposture, hypocrisy, and superstition, they
will consider this event as an era in their history. Although the
detail of the formation of the American governments is at present
little known or regarded either in Europe or in America, it may
hereafter become an object of curiosity. It will never be pretended
that any persons employed in that service had interviews with the
gods, or were in any degree under the influence of Heaven, more than
those at work upon ships or houses, or laboring in merchandise or
agriculture; it will forever be acknowledged that these governments
were contrived merely by the use of reason and the senses." [11]  In
1814, in a letter to John Taylor, Adams wrote:  "What havoc has been
made of books through every century of the Christian era? Where are
fifty gospels condemned as spurious by the bull of Pope Gelasius?
Where are forty wagon-loads of Hebrew manuscripts burned in France, by
order of another pope, because of suspected heresy? Remember the Index
Expurgato-rius, the Inquisition, the stake, the axe, the halter, and
the guillotine; and, oh! horrible, the rack! This is as bad, if not
worse, than a slow fire. Nor should the Lion's Mouth be forgotten.
Have you considered that system of holy lies and pious frauds that has
raged and triumphed for 1,500 years." [12] And in one of his last
letters to Thomas Jefferson, Adams wrote:  "We think ourselves
possessed, or, at least, we boast that we are so, of liberty of
conscience on all subjects, and of the right of free inquiry and
private judgment in all cases, and yet how far are we from these
exalted privileges in fact! There exists, I believe, throughout the
whole Christian world, a law which makes it blasphemy to deny or doubt
the divine inspiration of all the books of the Old and New Testaments,
from Genesis to Revelations. In most countries of Europe it is
punished by fire at the stake, or the rack, or the wheel. In England
itself it is punished by boring through the tongue with a red-hot
poker. In America it is not better; even in our own Massachusetts,
which I believe, upon the whole, is as temperate and moderate in
religious zeal as most of the States, a law was made in the latter end
of the last century, repealing the cruel punishments of the former
laws, but substituting fine and imprisonment upon all those
blasphemers upon any book of the Old Testament or New. Now, what free
inquiry, when a writer must surely encounter the risk of fine or
imprisonment for adducing any argument for investigating into the
divine authority of those books? Who would run the risk of translating
Dupuis? But I cannot enlarge upon this subject, though I have it much
at heart. I think such laws a great embarrassment, great obstructions
to the improvement of the human mind. Books that cannot bear
examination, certainly ought not to be established as divine
inspiration by penal laws. It is true, few persons appear desirous to
put such laws in execution, and it is also true that some few persons
are hardy enough to venture to depart from them. But as long as they
continue in force as laws, the human mind must make an awkward and
clumsy progress in its investigations. I wish they were repealed. The
substance and essence of Christianity, as I understand it, is eternal
and unchangeable, and will bear examination forever, but it has been
mixed with extraneous ingredients, which I think will not bear
examination, and they ought to be separated. Adieu." [13]
Say what you like, but statements such as those would not be accepted
by the conservative religious base of the Republican Party. AS a
matter of fact, none of the above statements are in line with the
theology of the contemporary Christian Right, and yet for reasons
which defy explanation, the indefatigable theocrats are perfectly
willing to overlook the Founders doubts about Christianity and Christ
as they revise history to make the intellects of the late 18th and
early 19th century the modern day equivalents of Calvinistic witch
But Didn't the Original Colonies have Established Religions?
Why yes, as a matter of fact they did, but what the Right Wing
Theocrats fail to mention is the fact that only two of those colonies,
Massachusetts and Connecticut actually retained their established
religions into the 19th Century.  The rest had been disestablished
before 1800.  (As an interesting side note, one can't help but raise
one's eye brows at the fact that it was Massachusetts and Connecticut,
two Puritan Colonies which engaged in witch hunts, which retained
their established religions the longest!)
The ties between church and state began to weaken as a direct result
of the American fear of aristocratic power.  Prior to the Revolutionary
War, the colonies did in fact have their own established religions.
Rhode Island embraced the Congregational Church; the Church of England
was embraced in the Southern colonies.  But during the American
Revolution the Church of England fell out of favor and was cut off
from state support.  The New England states maintained their
established faiths after the Revolution, but as church-state
entanglements weakened, the taxpayers were allowed to specify the
Protestant Church to which their money could be directed.  When the
new State Constitution's were created  religious freedom became a part
of those Constitution's.  Some of the original thirteen states still
required elected officials to take a religious oath, but that began to
change in Virginia with Thomas Jefferson's Statute of Religious, the
document which became the basis for the First Amendment Religion
clause of the United States Constitution.  So when modern day
Theocrats try to tell you that the Founding Fathers approved of
established religions because the original thirteen states had
established religions, just remember that  it was the same generation
which fought the American Revolution and which framed the United
States Constitution which removed those established religions.
End Part I
Next time in Part II.  How the Theocratic Right Misinterprets the Constitution
Sources for Part I
[1 From "They are a trouble unto me": The Quakers in the Massachusetts BayColony , 1656-1689 "
by Douglas Lehman
[2] From: James Madison's Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious
Assessments of 1785
[3] From: Notes on the State of Virginia
by Thomas Jefferson
Published privately in 1784-1785
[4] From Six Historic Americans:  Thomas Jefferson
[5] From:  A letter by Benjamin Franklin Postdated Philadelphia, March
9, 1790 to Ezra Stiles
My Religious Credo by Benjamin Franklin
From: Heritage of American Literature Volume I
Edited by James E. Miller Junior
Published by Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Copyright 1991
Pages 438-459
[6]  From:  The First American:  The Life and Times of Benjamin Franklin
By H. Brands
Pages 657-658
First Anchor Books Edition, March 2002
Copyright 2000 by H.W.Brands
[7]  From:  Benjamin Franklin
By Edmund S. Morgan
Pages 22-23
Yale Press 2002
Copyright by Edmund S. Morgan
[8] From:  Age of Reason
By Thomas Paine
From: Heritage of American Literature Volume I
Edited by James E. Miller Junior
Published by Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Copyright 1991
Pages 565-571
[9] From: Quotations that Support The Separation of Church and State
By Ed and Michael Buckner
From 1993
Scroll Down to Section on George Washington
[10] From:  His Excellency George Washington
By Joseph J. Ellis
Page 269
Borzoi Book Published by Alfred A. Knopf
Copyright Joseph J. Ellis
[11] From: Positive Atheism's Big List of John Adams Quotations
Copyright 1996-2006
[12]  ibid
[13]  ibid  

No comments: