Thursday, July 24, 2008

Founders on God & Country: John Adams

"Suppose a nation in some distant Region should take the Bible for their only law Book, and every member should regulate his conduct by the precepts there exhibited! Every member would be obliged in conscience, to temperance, frugality, and industry; to justice, kindness, and charity towards his fellow men; and to piety, love, and reverence toward Almighty God ... What a Eutopia, what a Paradise would this region be."
--Diary and Autobiography of John Adams, Vol. III, p. 9


Charles D said...

You do realize that if the founders had not built a wall between religion and government, there would be no tolerance for those whose religion did not fit with the dominant belief system. In other words, LDS would still not be tolerated. (It goes without saying that any of the founders who were part of an organized religious group would have found LDS to be heretical and dangerous.)

While states and localities persecuted the early LDS, they were able to find freedom because the Constitution did not permit the federal government to discriminate on the basis of religion. Let's be thankful that the founders carefully separated the sacred from the secular and kept government on the secular side of that divide.

Cameron said...

Actually, members of the LDS Church had to leave the United States entirely in order to escape persecution. There was an extermination order issued, making it legal to kill a Mormon. Church members used every legal avenue available to them, from local officials all the way to the president, but to no avail. In the face of state sanctioned mob violence, they were forced to give up all they possessed and move to a mountain desert next to a huge lake full of salt. Interestingly, it was today, July 24th 1847, that the first group entered the valley.

As for your "It goes without saying..." assertion, I find it ironic that you generally expend so much energy trying to prove that the Founders were not religious, but now in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, you change course and say they were ultra-religious to the point of persecution. Odd, that change in stance.

Regardless, as I wrote in an earlier post, it was denominations that the founders wanted to prevent from holding power, not necessarily "religion". The Founders were quite obviously religious, and Christian, and established the government on those values.

Charles D said...

Cameron, I believe that some of the founders were religious, probably even a few would have been considered devout. Others, particularly many of the key players, were Deists or held rather unorthodox religious beliefs for their time.

The founders did assume a society with common moral standards. It was those commonly held ethical and moral values they hoped would enable their vision to succeed, not the sources of those values which differ greatly from individual to individual. Let us not conflate religion with ethics, nor assume that we should return to an 18th century world view and language to restore greatness to our nation.

It is their great genius that they produced a Constitution that for the first time in western history, setup a government that did not claim to derive its power from God. They had the good sense to create a secular state, not a religious one. Not only did this prove to be good for government, it helped this nation have the most religious diversity and the highest percentage of church attendance in the western world.

Cameron said...

I missed this when it was first posted, and I'd like to respond a little.

I can't disagree more with this comment, DL:

they produced a Constitution that for the first time in western history, setup a government that did not claim to derive its power from God.

I have just posted a month's worth of quotes that refute it. At least, in the sense that I believe you mean it. Our government was founded on the belief that we are given rights from God, and any government we create only has those rights we decide to give it; always remembering and recognizing that the ultimate progenitor and protector of those rights is God.