12 April 2009

AMERICAN LEADERS' THOUGHTS ON RELIGION


This post is part of a nationwide
event taking place April 10-12, 2009

Click on the link above to visit
posts from other bloggers.

Reverend Doctor Bird Wilson (an Episcopal minister in Albany, New York):
 
       • "The founders of our nation were nearly all Infidels, and that of the presidents who had thus far been elected [Washington; Adams; Jefferson; Madison; Monroe; Adams; Jackson] not a one had professed a belief in Christianity.... Among all our presidents from Washington downward, not one was a professor of religion, at least not of more than Unitarianism." (Sermon, October 1831)

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *
BELOW, PLEASE FIND
A SAMPLING OF
QUOTATIONS ON RELIGION
FROM AMERICA'S LEADERS
PAST & PRESENT
(in alphabetical order by last name)


ADAMS, JOHN, 1st Vice-president, 2nd U.S. President (1735-1826):
        • “As I understand the Christian religion, it was, and is, a revelation. But how has it happened that millions of fables, tales, legends, have been blended with both Jewish and Christian revelation that have made them the most bloody religion that ever existed?” (Letter to F. A. Van der Kamp, December 27, 1816)
        • “I almost shudder at the thought of alluding to the most fatal example of the abuses of grief which the history of mankind has preserved -- the Cross. Consider what calamities that engine of grief has produced.” (Letter to Thomas Jefferson, 2000 years of Disbelief, James A. Haught, ed.)
        • “Let the human mind loose. It must be loose. It will be loose. Superstition and dogmatism cannot confine it.” (Letter to his son, John Quincy Adams, November 13, 1816, 2000 years of Disbelief, James A. Haught, ed.)

ADAMS, JOHN QUINCY
, 6th U.S. President (1767-1848):
        • “There is in the clergy of all Christian denominations a time-serving, cringing, subservient morality, as wide from the spirit of the gospel as it is from the intrepid assertion and vindication of truth.” (diary entry, 5/27/1838)

BLACK, HUGO
, U.S. Supreme Court Justice (1886-1971):
        • “...It is only by wholly isolating the state from the religious sphere and compelling it to be completely neutral that the freedom of each and every denomination and of all unbelievers can be maintained.”
        • “State help to religion injects political and party prejudices into a holy field. It too often substitutes forces for prayer, hate for love, and persecution for persuasion. Government should not be allowed, under cover of the soft euphemism of ‘co-operation,’ to steal into the sacred area of religious choice.”

BUCHANAN, JAMES
, 15th U.S. President (1791-1866):
        • “I have seldom met an intelligent person whose views were not narrowed and distorted by religion.” (James A Haught, ed, 2000 Years of Disbelief)
        • [The United States] “possesses no power whatever over the question of religion.”

BUSH, GEORGE W.
, 43rd U.S. President, (1946- ):
        • “Americans practice different faiths in churches, synagogues, mosques and temples. And many good people practice no faith at all.” (Easter Address, 2002)
        • “Baptists have long upheld the ideal of a free church in a free state. And from the beginning, they believed that forcing a person to worship against his will violated the principles of both Christianity and civility.” ("Remarks by the President Via Satellite to the Southern Baptist Convention 2002 Annual Meeting" 6/11/02)
        • “My job is to make sure that, as President, people understand that in this country you can worship any way you choose. And I'll take that a step further. You can be a patriot if you don't believe in the Almighty. You can honor your country and be as patriotic as your neighbor.” (Christianity Today: 5/28/04)

CARTER, JAMES EARL
, 39th U.S. President (1924- ):
        • “As a Christian, a trained engineer and scientist, and a professor at Emory University, I am embarrassed by Superintendent Kathy Cox's attempt to censor and distort the education of Georgia's students.... There is no need to teach that stars can fall out of the sky and land on a flat Earth in order to defend our religious faith.” (The Dallas Morning News, 2/04/04)
        • “I believe in the separation of church and state and would not use my authority to violate this principle in any way.” (letter to Jack V Harwell, 8/11/1977)
        • “The government ought to stay out of the prayer business.” (press conference, 1979)

               RAUCH, JONATHAN, American author, journalist, 
               activist (1960- ):
                         • "Indeed, one modern President abjured God
               altogether, ending speeches with a chaste 'Thank you
               very much.' This was Jimmy Carter, the most
               genuinely devout President of the postwar period."

COOLIDGE, CALVIN, 30th U.S. President (1872-1933):
        • “We cannot permit any inquisition either within or without the law or apply any religious test to the holding of office. The mind of America must be forever free.” (Inaugural Address, 3/4/1925)

FILLMORE, MILLARD
, 13th U.S. President (1800-1874):
        • “I am tolerant of all creeds. Yet if any sect suffered itself to be used for political objects I would meet it by political opposition. In my view church and state should be separate, not only in form, but fact. Religion and politics should not be mingled.”(address,1856)

FRANKFURTER, JUSTICE FELIX
, U.S. Supreme Court Justice (1882-1965):
        • “Certainly the affirmative pursuit of one’s convictions about the ultimate mystery of the universe and man’s relation to it is placed beyond the reach of the law. Government may not interfere with organized or individual expressions of belief or disbelief. Propagation of belief ---or even of disbelief ---in the supernatural is protected, whether in church or chapel, mosque or synagogue, tabernacle or meeting-house.” (Majority decision, Jehovah’s Witnesses case, 1940. Minersville School District v. Gobitis, 310 U.S. 586)
        • “Separation means separation, not something less. Jefferson’s metaphor in describing the relation between Church and State speaks of a ‘wall of separation,’ not of a fine line easily overstepped.”

FRANKLIN, BENJAMIN
, American statesman, scientist, author (1706-1790):
        • “I have found Christian dogma unintelligible. Early in life I absented myself from Christian assemblies.”
        • [Of Christianity] “I wish it were more productive of good works. I mean really good works, not holy day keeping, sermon hearing, or making long prayers filled with flatteries and compliments desired by wise men.”
        • “Lighthouses are more helpful than churches. The way to see faith is to shut the eye of reason.”
        • “The United States Constitutional Convention, except for three or four persons, thought prayers unnecessary.”

GARFIELD, JAMES ABRAM
, 20th U.S. President (1831-1881):
        • “In my judgment, while it is the duty of Congress to respect to the uttermost the conscientious convictions and religious scruples of every citizen ... not any ecclesiastical organization can be safely permitted to usurp in the smallest degree the functions and powers of the national government.” (Inaugural Address, 3/4/1881)
        • “The divorce between church and state should be absolute. It ought to be so absolute that no Church property anywhere, in any state, or in the nation, should be exempt from equal taxation; for if you exempt the property of any church organization, to that extent you impose a tax upon the whole community.”(Congressional Record, 1874)
        • “Whatever help the nation can justly afford should be generously given to aid the States in supporting common schools; but it would be unjust to our people and dangerous to our institutions to apply any portion of the revenues of the nation or of the States to the support of sectarian schools. The separation of Church and State in everything relating to taxation should be absolute.” (letter of acceptance of presidential nomination, 7/12/1880)


GRANT, ULYSSES S.
, 18th U.S. President, commander Union forces (1822-1885):
        • “Encourage free schools and resolve that not one dollar appropriated for their support shall be appropriated for the support of any sectarian schools.Resolve that neither the state nor the nation, nor both combined, shall support institutions of learning other then those sufficient to afford every child growing up in the land the opportunity of a good common school education, unmixed with sectarian, pagan, or aetheistical dogmas. Leave the matter of religion to the family altar, the church, and the private school, supported entirely by private contributions. Keep the church and state forever separated.”
        • “I would like to call your attention to ... an evil that, if allowed to continue, will probably lead to great trouble.... It is the accumulation of vast amounts of untaxed church property.”
        • “I would suggest the taxation of all property equally, whether church or corporation.”
        • “Leave the matter of religion to the family altar, the church, and the private schools, supported entirely by private contributions. Keep the church and the state forever separated.”

HARDING, WARREN G
., 29th U.S. President, (1965-1923):
        • “In the experiences of a year of the Presidency, there has come to me no other such unwelcome impression as the manifest religious intolerance which exists among many of our citizens. I hold it to be a menace to the very liberties we boast and cherish.” (address, 3/24/1922)

HAYES, RUTHERFORD B., 19th U.S. President (1822-1893):
        • “We all agree that neither the Government nor political parties ought to interfere with religious sects. It is equally true that religious sects ought not to interfere with the Government or with political parties. We believe that the cause of good government and the cause of religion suffer by all such interference. (Statement as Governor of Ohio, 1875)

HOOVER, HERBERT CLARK, 31st U.S. President (1874-1964):
        • “I come of Quaker stock. My ancestors were persecuted for their beliefs. Here they sought and found religious freedom. By blood and conviction I stand for religious tolerance both in act and in spirit.”

JACKSON, ANDREW
, 7th U.S. Presient (1767-1845):
        • “I could not do otherwise without transcending the limits prescribed by the Constitution for the President and without feeling that I might in some degree disturb the security which religion nowadays enjoys in this country in its complete separation from the political concerns of the General Government.”(statement refusing to proclaim a national day of fasting and prayer, 1832)


JEFFERSON, THOMAS
, 3rd U.S. President, founder of the University of Virginia (1743-1826):
        • “Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legislative powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should 'make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,' thus building a wall of separation between church and State.” (to Danbury Baptist Association, 1802)
        • “Christianity neither is, nor ever was a part of the common law.” (to Dr. Thomas Cooper, 2/10/1814)
        • "Civil officials have no business meddling in private religious affairs." (when asked to issue an official prayer proclamation)
        • "Difference of opinion is advantageous in religion. The several sects 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 and imprisoned. What has been the effect of this coercion? To make one half the world fools and the other half hypocrites; to support roguery and error all over the earth." (Notes on the State of Virginia, Query XVII)
        • “Fix reason firmly in her seat, and call to her tribunal every fact, every opinion. Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, than that of blindfolded fear... Do not be frightened from this inquiry by any fear of its consequences.  If it end in a belief that there is no God, you will find incitements to virtue in the comfort and pleasantness you feel in its exercise and in the love of others which it will procure for you... Your own reason is the only oracle given you by heaven, and you are answerable not for the rightness, but uprightness of the decision.” (to Peter Carr, 8/10/1787)
        • “History, I believe, furnishes no example of a priest-ridden people maintaining a free civil government. This marks the lowest grade of ignorance of which their civil as well as religious leaders will always avail themselves for their own purposes.” (to Alexander von Humboldt, 12/6/1813)
        • "I consider the government of the United States as interdicted by the Constitution from inter meddling with religious institutions, their doctrines, discipline, or exercises...Certainly no power to prescribe any religious exercise, or to assume authority in religious discipline, has been delegated to the general government. ...But it is only proposed that I should recommend, not prescribe a day of fasting and prayer. That is, that I should indirectly assume to the United States an authority over religious exercises, which the Constitution has directly precluded them from...civil powers alone have been given to the President of the United States and no authority to direct the religious exercises of his constituents." (to Reverend Samuel Miller, 1/23/1808)
        • “If we did a good act merely from love of God and a belief that it is pleasing to Him, whence arises the morality of the Atheist? ...Their virtue, then, must have had some other foundation than the love of God.” (to Thomas Law, 6/13/1814)
        • “Ignorance is preferable to error; and he is less remote from the truth who believe nothing than he who believes what is wrong.” (Notes on the State of Virginia, 1781-1785)
        • “I have recently been examining all the known superstitions of the world, and I do not find in our particular superstition [Christianity] one redeeming feature. They are all alike, founded upon fables and mythologies.” (Letter to Dr. Woods)
        • “I inquire after no man's [religion], and trouble none with mine; nor is it given to us in this life to know whether your or mine, our friends or our foes, are exactly the right." (to Miles King, 9/26/1814)
        • “I never submitted the whole system of my opinions to the creed of any party of men whatever in religion, in philosophy, in politics, or in anything else where I was capable of thinking for myself. Such an addiction is the last degradation of a free and moral agent.” (to Francis Hopkinson, 3/131789)
        • “It does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.” (Notes on Virginia, 1782)
        • “It is between fifty and sixty years since I read it [the Apocalypse], and I then considered it merely the ravings of a maniac, no more worthy nor capable of explanation than the incoherences of our own nightly dreams.” (to General Alexander Smyth, J1/171825)
        • “It is wicked and tyrannical to compel any man to support a religion in which he does not believe.”
        • “Man once surrendering his reason, has no remaining guard against absurdities the most monstrous, and like a ship without rudder, is the sport of every wind.” (to James Smith, 1822)
        • [In Virginia] “No man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burdened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinion of belief; but that all men shall be free to profess...their opinion in matters of religion.” (Jefferson’s Act for Establishing Religious Freedom, 1786)
        • "No religious reading, instruction or exercise, shall be prescribed or practiced [in the elementary schools] inconsistent with the tenets of any religious sect or denomination." (proposed legislation meant to be sent to Joseph C. Cabell, 9/9/1817, but scratched out, legislation not enacted)
        • “Say nothing of my religion. It is known to God and myself alone. Its evidence before the world is to be sought in my life: if it has been honest and dutiful to society the religion which has regulated it cannot be a bad one.”
        • “Shake off all the fears of servile prejudices, under which weak minds are servilely crouched. Fix reason firmly in her seat, and call on her tribunal for every fact, every opinion. Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason than that of blindfolded fear.”
        • “What has been the effect of religious coercion?  To make half the world fools, and the other half hypocrites.” (Notes on the State of Virginia, 1785)

KENNEDY, JOHN FITZGERALD, 35th U.S. President, (1917- 1963)
        • “The great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie: deliberate, continued, and dishonest; but the myth: persistent, persuasive, and unrealistic.”
        • “...Because I am a Catholic, and no Catholic has ever been elected President, the real issues in this campaign have been obscured.... So it is apparently necessary for me to state once again -- not what kind of church I believe in, for that should be important only to  me -- but what kind of America I believe in.
        “I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute; where no Catholic prelate would tell the President...how to act, and no Protestant minister would tell his parishioners for whom to vote; where no church or church school is granted any public funds or political preference, and where no man is denied public office merely because his religion differs from the President who might appoint him, or the people who might elect him.
        “I believe in an America that is officially neither Catholic, Protestant nor Jewish; where no public official either requests or accept instructions on public policy from the Pope, the National Council of Churches or any other ecclesiastical source; where no religious body seeks to impose its will directly or indirectly upon the general populace or the public acts of its officials, and where religious liberty is so indivisible that an act against one church is treated as an act against all.
        “For while this year it may be a Catholic against whom the finger of suspicion is pointed, in other years it has been -- and may someday be again -- a Jew, or a Quaker, or a Unitarian, or a Baptist. It was Virginia's harassment of Baptist preachers, for example, that led to Jefferson's statute of religious freedom. Today, I may be the victim, but tomorrow it may be you -- until the whole fabric of our harmonious society is ripped apart at a time of great national peril.
        “Finally, I believe in an America where religious intolerance will someday end, where all men and all churches are treated as equals, where every man has the same right to attend or not to attend the church of his choice, where there is no Catholic vote, no anti-Catholic vote, no bloc voting of any kind, and where Catholics, Protestants, and Jews, at both the lay and the pastoral levels, will refrain from those attitudes of disdain and division which have so often marred their works in the past, and promote instead the American ideal of brotherhood.
        “That is the kind of America in which I believe.”
               (excerpt from: Address to the Greater Houston 
               Ministerial Association, 9/12/1960. The entire
               text and an audio file can be found HERE.)

LINCOLN, ABRAHAM
, 16th U.S. President, (1809-1865):
        • “Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes his aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God's assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men's faces, but let us judge not that we be not judged.” (Second Innaugural Address, 1865)
        • “The only person who is a worse liar than a faith healer is his patient.”
        • “There was the strangest combination of church influence against me. Baker is a Campbellite; and therefore, as I suppose with few exceptions, got all of that Church. My wife had some relations in the Presbyterian churches, and some in the Episcopal churches; and therefore, wherever it would tell, I was set down as either one or the other, while it was everywhere contended that no Christian ought to vote for me because I belonged to no Church, and was suspected of being a Deist and had talked of fighting a duel.” (letter to Martin M Morris, 3/26/1843)
        • “When the Know-Nothings get control, it [the Declaration of Independence] will read: "All men are created equal except negroes, foreigners and Catholics." When it comes to this I should prefer emigrating to some country where they make no pretense of loving liberty -- to Russia, for instance, where despotism can be taken pure, and without the base alloy of hypocrisy.” (letter to Joshua F Speed, 8/24/1855)
          See an earlier post with more quotations by Lincoln.


MADISON, JAMES
, 4th U.S. President (1751-1836):
        • "During almost fifteen centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial.  What has 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."
        • "The establishment of the chaplainship to Congress is a palpable violation of ... constitutional principles." (Detached Memoranda)
        • "It degrades from the equal rank of Citizens all those whose opinions in Religion do not bend to those of the Legislative authority.  Distant as it may be in its present form from the Inquisition, it differs from it only in degree."
        • "Strongly guarded as is the separation between Religion and Government in the Constitution of the United States, the danger of encroachment by Ecclesiastical Bodies may be illustrated by precedents already furnished in their short history." (Detached Memoranda)
        • "The settled opinion here is that religion is essentially distinct from Civil Government. and exempt from its cognizance; that a connection between them is injurious to both…." (1823)
        • "Who does not see that the same authority, which can establish Christianity, in exclusion of all other Religions, may establish with the same ease any particular sect of Christians, in exclusion of all other Sects?" (address to the VA Assembly, 1785)
        • "A zeal for different opinions concerning religion...[has] divided mankind into parties, inflamed them with mutual animosity, and rendered them much more disposed to vex and oppress each other than to co-operate for their common good." (The Federalist Papers, Paper No. 10)

OBAMA, BARACK, 44th U.S. President (b.1961):
               See an earlier post with quotations by Obama.

PAINE, THOMAS
, English-born American patriot (1737-1809):
        • “Accustom a people to believe that priests, or any other class of men, can forgive sins, and you will have sins in abundance.”
        • “All national institutions of churches, whether Jewish, Christian or Turkish, appear to me no other than human inventions, set up to terrify and enslave mankind, and monopolize power and profit.” (The Age Of Reason)
        • “I believe in the equality of man; and I believe that religious duties consist in doing justice, loving mercy, and endeavoring to make our fellow-creatures happy” (The Age Of Reason)
        • “I do not believe in the creed professed by the Jewish church, by the Roman church , by the Turkish church, by the Protestant church, nor by any church that I know of. My own mind is my own church.” (The Age Of Reason)
        • “I have always strenuously supported the right of every man to his opinion, however different that opinion might be to mine. He who denies to another his right, makes a slave of himself to his present opinion, because he precludes himself the right of changing it.”
        • “Infidelity does not consist in believing or in disbelieving; it consists in professing to believe what one does not believe.” (Ralph De Sola, Quotations from A-to-Z for freethinkers and other skeptics)
        • “The most formidable weapon against errors of every kind is reason. I have never used any other, and trust I never shall.” (The Age of Reason)
        • “Of all the tyrannies that afflict mankind, tyranny in religion is the worst: every other species of tyranny is limited to the world we live in; but this attempts a stride beyond the grave, and seeks to pursue us into eternity.”
        • “Persecution is not an original feature in any religion; but is always the strongly marked feature of all low-religions, or religions established by law.” (The Rights of Man)
        • “The World is my Country and to do good my Religion.”

POLK, JAMES KNOX. 1175 U.S. President (1785-1849):,
        • “Thank God, under our Constitution there was no connection between Church and State, and that in my action as President of the United States I recognized no distinction of creeds in my appointments to office.”

ROOSEVELT, THEODORE
, 26th U.S. president (1858-1919):
        • “I hold that in this country there must be complete severance of Church and State; that public moneys shall not be used for the purpose of advancing any particular creed; and therefore that the public schools shall be nonsectarian and no public moneys appropriated for sectarian schools.” (Carnegie Hall address, 10/14/1915)

TAFT, WILLIAM HOWARD
, 27th U.S. President (1857-1930):
        • “I do not believe in the divinity of Christ, and there are many other of the postulates of the orthodox creed to which I cannot subscribe.” (Note: Taft was a Unitarian)

TRUMAN, HARRY S.
, 33rd U.S. President (1884-1972):
        • “We have gone a long way toward civilization and religious tolerance, and we have a good example in this country. Here the many Protestant denominations, the Catholic Church and the Greek Orthodox Church do not seek to destroy one another in physical violence just because they do not interpret every verse of the Bible in exactly the same way. Here we now have the freedom of all religions, and I hope that never again will we have a repetition of religious bigotry, as we have had in certain periods of our own history. There is no room for that kind of foolishness here.” (note: while Truman professed that bigoty has no place in the U.S., he had unkind words to say about Jews.)

TYLER, JOHN
, 10th U.S. President (1790-1862):
        • “The United States have adventured upon a great and noble experiment... that of total separation of Church and State. No religious establishment by law exists among us. The conscience is left free from all restraint and each is permitted to worship his Maker after his own judgement. The offices of the Government are open alike to all. No tithes are levied to support an established Hierarchy, nor is the fallible judgement of man set up as the sure and infallible creed of faith. The Mahommedan, if he will to come among us would have the privilege guaranteed to him by the constitution to worship according to the Koran; and the East Indian might erect a shrine to Brahma if it so pleased him. Such is the spirit of toleration inculcated by our political Institutions.... The Hebrew persecuted and down trodden in other regions takes up his abode among us with none to make him afraid.... and the Aegis of the Government is over him to defend and protect him. Such is the great experiment which we have tried, and such are the happy fruits which have resulted from it; our system of free government would be imperfect without it.” (letter, dated 7/10/1843)



WASHINGTON, GEORGE
, 1st U.S. President, commander-in-chief Continental Forces (1732-1799):
        • “If I could conceive that the general government might ever be so administered as to render the liberty of conscience insecure, I beg you will be persuaded, that no one would be more zealous than myself to establish effectual barriers against the horrors of spiritual tyranny, and every species of religious persecution.” (letter to the United Baptist Chamber of Virginia, May 1789)
        • “The government of the United States is in no sense founded upon the Christian religion. The United States is not a Christian nation any more than it is a Jewish or a Mohammedan nation. Religion is a matter which belongs to the Church, and not to the State.”
        • “Religious controversies are always productive of more acrimony and irreconcilable hatreds than those which spring from any other cause. I had hoped that liberal and enlightened thought would have reconciled the Christians so that their... religious fights would not endanger the peace of Society.” (Letter to Sir Edward Newenham, 6/22/1792)
        • “We have abundant reason to rejoice that in this Land the light of truth and reason has triumphed over the power of bigotry and superstition ... In this enlightened Age and in this Land of equal liberty it is our boast, that a man's religious tenets will not forfeit the protection of the Laws, nor deprive him of the right of attaining and holding the highest Offices that are known in the United States.” (letter to the members of the New Church in Baltimore, 1/27/1793)

WILSON, WOODROW, 28th U.S. president (1856-1924):
        • “It does not become America that within her borders, where every man is free to follow the dictates of his conscience, men should raise the cry of church against church. To do that is to strike at the very spirit and heart of America.” (Address, 4/4/1915)
        • “May it not suffice for me to say ... that of course like every other man of intelligence and education I do believe in organic evolution. It surprises me that at this late date such questions should be raised.(letter to an academic, 8/29/1922)

Find my two other posts for the 2009 Blog Against Theocracy event:

16 comments:

JollyRoger said...

I went in this direction myself, but I wasn't this exhaustive :) I wanted to talk about the remarkable Roger Williams, whose ideas ran through the words and deeds of most of the Founders.

Nicki said...

This is excellent! Thanks so much for sharing! And thanks for your kind words Re: my post!

deletedsoul said...

There is so much overwhelming evidence that our founding fathers supported the separation of church and state - it baffles me that so many still proclaim that the US was founded on Christianity.

Excellent post!

Snowbrush said...

I see you missed George Bush. Was it Bush I or II who said that atheists aren't citizens?

BTW, did you know you look like a bird--a big, bad bird; a bird not to be trifled with. I look more like a schnauzer (or a snowbrush shrub , opinions differ).

C Woods said...

Snowbrush,

Thanks for visiting my blog.

I included a few quotes by Bush 2, who (surprisingly) made some positive remarks about church/state separation.

It was Bush 1 who allegedly said, "I don't know that atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered patriots. This is one nation under God." (Source: http://www.holysmoke.org/sdhok/aa011.htm)
I didn't include Bush 1's comment on this blog post because I was using quotations in support of church/state separation, not remarks that would seem to limit freedom of (or from) religion. Also, there is some controversy over whether Bush 1 actually said it. (http://message.snopes.com/showthread.php?t=13314)
A part of me believes such a comment would not be out of character, but on the other hand it would be an incredibly stupid remark for a public figure to make. (Of course the Bushes aren't known for their smarts.)

Dave said...

One can find quotes to support a lot of things, and I have listed quotes from almost all those above that would seem to present the opposite opinion. One of the quotes above is especially misleading, where you quote John Adams as saying, "This would be the best of all possible worlds if there were no religion in it." That particular quote is even used on this page as a clear example of how context can change the entire meaning. The whole quote is:

"Twenty times, in the course of my late reading, have I been on the point of breaking out, 'this would be the best of all possible worlds, if there were no religion in it!!!!' But in this exclamation, I should have been as fanatical as Bryant or Cleverly. Without religion, this world would be something not fit to be mentioned in public company—I mean hell."Keep in mind that President Adams also declared a day of Solemn Humiliation, Fasting and Prayer for the nation in 1798:

Adams' ProclamationSo perhaps it would be a better indication of the Founders' feeling to note their actions. Before the ink was dry on the Bill of Rights and the First Amendment's religion clauses, they: opened their first official meeting with a 3-hour prayer; they authorized positions and pay for chaplains; they commissioned a printing of 20,000 Bibles to be used in schools; the authorized the use of the U.S. Capitol Building for Christian worship every Sunday (a practice that lasted for decades), which they attended; they accompanied President Washington after he was sworn in to a church service; and so on.

Yet documents like the Treaty of Tripoli and some of the quotes above can say honestly that we are not a Christian nation if they mean that we are not forced to adhere to Christian faith. That is certainly true. But our heritage and foundation are Christian, or Judeo-Christian if you prefer. For example, House Resolution 888 states in part, "Whereas political scientists have documented that the most frequently-cited source in the political period known as The Founding Era was the Bible;" (read the whole resolution here.It seems to me undeniable if you look at the whole of the actions and writings of the Founders that we have a Biblical heritage, much of which is literally carved in stone throughout the buildings in Washington, D.C.

C Woods said...

Dave,
Thank you for the info on John Adams quotation. As I was gathering material for this post, I remembered there was one Adams quote that I should have eliminated from my database of quotations. I checked a few quotation sites, but couldn't find the info I needed. Since I thought I had probably already deleted the "bad" one from my database, I posted it along with others.

I deleted it from this post because you are correct about that.

I have some bones to pick with you on the other matters in your comment. But I will have to do that another day.

Snowbrush said...

Dave, I too appreciate your clarification about Adams as I had never heard it in context.

"... if you look at the whole of the actions and writings of the Founders that we have a Biblical heritage..."

I'm not sure what you mean. If you mean that our laws are built on Biblical laws as is so often claimed, I rather doubt it as the Biblical laws that are peculiar to the Bible are sometimes horrendous (or at least ridiculous) as in the case of the following from my last entry on my own blog:

“If a man rapes a girl…he must pay a fine to the girls’ father and marry her; he may never divorce her.

“If a man’s testicles are crushed, or his penis cut off, he shall not enter the sanctuary [place of worship].

“A bastard may not enter the sanctuary, nor any of his descendants for ten generations.

“Any man [soldier] who becomes ceremonially defiled because of an seminal emission during the night must leave the camp…

“If two men are fighting and the wife of one intervenes to help her husband by grabbing the testicles of the other man, her hand shall be cut off without pity.”

Then there are Jesus' admonitions about turning the cheek, giving more to a thief than he planned to steal, and other oddities that we by no means even pretend to follow. I cannot believe that an informed observer could compare the Bible to the Constitution and say, "Yep, the latter was inspired by the former okay."

Dave said...

Mr. Woods,
Thanks for the polite response and for correcting your data. It is hard to get accurate quotes; I know because I have used a couple I later had to drop. My own blog presents the opposite site of the argument with many quotes. Especially for my more recent posts, I have looked hard into authoritative sources for verification. When possible I try to use official government sites. But there were some very tempting quotes I found in my research of other sites that I could not verify to my satisfaction, so I sadly discarded them.

There are many quotes I could bring up that are more on my side of the discussion, but I don't desire to argue it out here. Your post was not argumentative and simply quoted historic figures. Nothing wrong with that. Maybe someday we'll run into each other at a party and can kick it around for a while! In the meantime, I thank you for allowing my dissenting post; not all writers are willing to do that.

C Woods said...

Snowbrush:
Thanks for your comments. I agree totally. In an earlier post "WHY I AM AN ATHEIST: The Bible - Part1" I site 2 particular Biblical passages Judges 11:30-40 and Judges 19:22-29 that horrified me as a teenaged girl, and that was a decade before the women's movement convinced me the Bible was even more sexist than I had imagined.
Although I don't believe in any gods, if I did, the Judeo/Christian one would not be my choice of one to worship based on the Bible which I read cover to cover several times. See links to my posts on why I am an athest on my sidebar under "Categories", which will be updated soon with more links to other posts.

C Woods said...

To everyone. I finally completed my CATEGORIES section on the sidebar that lists all my posts up to 4/12/09. Several posts are listed more than once under several different topics. This is to help readers find posts on the topics that interest them, since I tend to post randomly, in no particular order. I hope this helps.

C Woods said...

Dave,
I am always willing to post opposing views as long as they are not abusive or preachy. How else can we learn from each other? I don't have all the right answers, and you seem like a reasonable person who would admit the same. We don't have to be disagreeable to disagree. Actually I have (so far) rejected only one comment and it was because it made no mention of the content of the post and was merely an advertisement for that person's blog, which contained totally unrelated content.

Regarding your previous comment:
Just as you say you can find quotes that contradict the ones I have posted, I can find actions contrary to the ones you mention. For example, when it was suggested that the constitutional convention begin with prayer, the meeting was adjourned rather than a vote taken and the subject was never brought up again. Franklin said only 3 or 4 people thought prayers necessary. Many early presidents refused to declare national days of prayer.

Of course there were actions that seems to indicate a Christian bias, but there were also actions (or perhaps inactions) that allowed slavery to continue. Does that mean it was the right thing to do?

The framers of the Constitution created a wall of separation that resulted in a document so secular that the first thirty or so years after it was ratified, the chief criticism of the Constitution was that it was a godless document ---whereas now, the religious right is trying to claim the opposite. Both cannot be true.

As for writings being carved in stone ---that doesn't make them right or the right thing to do. In a country that has a secular Constitution, government buildings should not have religious messages carved into them.

So much that happens in regard to religion and politics seems to have a foundation in fear, not reason. Adding "under god" to the pledge, for example, happened during the red scare. Most of us were willing to give up certain freedoms after 9/11, freedoms none of us would have imagined relinquishing freely on 9/10/01. And, of course, we shouldn't forget that the perpetrators of 9/11 were religious fanatics, just not of the "right" religion.

Snowbrush said...

Great sidebar, CW. I wish I knew how you did it, but I assume it's rather complicated.

C Woods said...

Snowbrush,
Some blog programs have a special way of making categories, but blogger does not. I found directions on blogger help for getting around the category problem but I couldn't figure it out. I toyed with several ways of doing it and came up with this.

It wasn't difficult but was time consuming. If I keep up to date on it, it will be easy to add new posts, one or two at a time in the future, but creating it for the first time and entering 63 posts took several hours. I see you have nearly 300 posts so it might take you an entire day or several days in small doses.

I am writing these instructions as if the reader knows next to nothing about how to do these things, in case a novice is reading this.

I went to the layout page and chose to add a gadget. I chose HTML/JavaScript.

For the title I wrote POST CATEGORIES. Then in the main window below the title, I typed, in all caps again, the names of several categories. At the end of each line of type, you have to type a code to make it jump to the next line. Type the lesser than sign (above the comma) then "div" (without the quote marks), then the greater than sign (above the period.) Once you add it at the end of one line, you can copy and paste it on every line once you have completed everything that follows.

In another window, I opened my very first post to view. Then I decided what category (or more than one) it could fall into.

Below the appropriate category, I typed the post name. (Sometimes I didn't use the entire name if it could be described in fewer words.) Then from the top of the window on which the post was open, I copied the url, then highlighted the post title on the HTML/Java window, clicked on the link tool (looks like a chain) then pasted the url address into that window. Now my post names include the url and look strange on the page, but only the post name will appear on the blog and it will be a link to that post.

Then I went back to the window with the post and scrolled to the end and chose the next newer post and repeated the process. As I thought of new categories, I added them in alphabetical order. (I also added the post names under the categories in alphabetical order.)

Once done, it needs to be saved. On the layout page you can move it lower on the sidebar if you wish, then save the layout. You can go back as often as you wish to make changes or corrections.

For the time being, I added some posts to more than one category, but I may have to stop doing that when the list gets longer.

One thing that made it easier for me, is that my husband set up two monitors side-by-side at my workspace, so I can have one window on each monitor and easily go back and forth between them.

I hope this helps you, Snowbrush, or anyone else who cares to try it..

Snowbrush said...

Thank you so much for the instructions. I am going to back them up onto my removable drives, so I won't lose them. I am already so busy blogging that it's going to be hard to find time to put into the process. Maybe after my next shoulder surgery.

Raven said...

Great set of quotes and an interesting discussion in the comments. I enjoyed your Pizzaro post above too. Amazing what people do in the name of God, though on the flip side, there are those who do great good as well. They, I think, tend to do it much more quietly.

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