UPDATED AND PROMOTED
dougindeep has responded, albeit late and after this post had already fallen off the front page but since he makes the argument that I didn’t make my point and we can’t consider the Declaration when talking about our government, I wanted the other readers and cobloggers to have an opportunity to respond… Utah
Posted on March 1, 2012 by Utah
For the past few years as I have argued that the absence of a specifically mandated religiosity in the Constitution of the United States is simply an example of the religious influence and tolerance that exists there, I have continued to consider the significance of religion and spirituality (actually the role of God) as it relates to the three enumerated concepts of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
I have stated before that I believe that we are mandated to have a secular government – with emphasis that the term “secular” holds the meaning that institution of government is limited to and pertains only to worldly things or to things that are not regarded as religious, spiritual or sacred, that government is temporal and has no right to transgress into the domain of religion. I am often misunderstood as stating that governance should not include religion – that is not the case. I do not propose that “secular” means that religion should be excluded from the act of governance, only that the institution of government shall never dictate to religion.
There is a difference – governance is the act, government is the mechanism. One is intellectual, the other institutional – big difference.
I believe that I share this vision with the Founders and that the enshrinement of that vision is the specific reason for the Establishment Clause, the First Amendment to the Constitution, that states:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
It is clear to me that the Founding Fathers saw that God was the ultimate authority and guide and that government was to be utilized solely in the province of men, made clear by these words from the Declaration of Independence:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.
Society has perverted the meaning of secular to mean the exclusion of God and the elevation of man to His role. In my interrogation of this paradigm, the questions that I ask myself are these:
- If one accepts a secular humanist view, does that mean that one must reject God?
- If one rejects God, how can one believe in the concept of eternity?
- If one cannot believe in eternity, can one believe that there is meaning beyond the limited span of a human life?
- If one believes that there is no meaning beyond the end of a human life, how can they understand the universal and eternal concepts of liberty and freedom?
There is a document that predates our Constitution and is largely forgotten as an article of our founding but it is significant nonetheless. It is called the Northwest Ordinance of 1787. Formally known as An Ordinance for the Government of the Territory of the United States, North-West of the River Ohio, it was passed on July 13, 1787 under the authority of the precursor to the Constitution, the Articles of Confederation, by the Congress of the Confederation of the United States. The primary effect of the ordinance was the creation of the Northwest Territory as the first organized territory of the United States out of the region south of the Great Lakes, north and west of the Ohio River, and east of the Mississippi River.
On August 7, 1789, the newly created U.S. Congress affirmed the Ordinance with only slight modifications. The Ordinance purported to be not merely legislation that could later be amended by Congress, but rather “the following articles shall be considered as Articles of compact between the original States and the people and states in the said territory, and forever remain unalterable, unless by common consent….”, in effect making the Northwest Ordinance part of the Constitution.
An important aspect of that last statement is that the Northwest Ordinance cemented the concept of Natural Rights into American law. Wikipedia states that:
The Natural Rights provisions of the ordinance foreshadowed the Bill of Rights, the first ten amendments to the U.S. Constitution.Many of the concepts and guarantees of the Ordinance of 1787 were incorporated in the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights. In the Northwest Territory, various legal and property rights were enshrined, religious tolerance was proclaimed, and it was enunciated that since “Religion, morality, and knowledge, being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged.” The right of habeas corpus was written into the charter, as was freedom of religious worship and bans on excessive fines and cruel and unusual punishment. Trial by jury and a ban on ex post facto laws were also rights granted.
This statement effectively solidifies religion as part of the educational curriculum and demands that government encourage it, not ban it. There is no hint of secular humanism in this statement:
“Religion, morality, and knowledge, being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged.”
There is significance in that this statement equates religion and morality with knowledge and, in what to me seems especially important, notes that religion and morality are two thirds of what is necessary for “good government”. They clearly saw worldly knowledge as being incomplete without God (religion and morality flowing directly from Him).
[Sort of a non sequitur, but one has to wonder why certain SCOTUS justices seek wisdom in foreign laws and never seem to recognize important US precedents like the Northwest Ordinance…actually, I know why – that was rhetorical. It is because this goes completely against the post-modern, anti-religious “progressivism” that has become so de rigueur in contemporary juris prudence.]
It seems to me that if life can be construed to have no meaning or worth, then liberty also has no meaning or worth. A secular humanist view has a very selfish and self-righteous perspective that presupposes that there is only what we can accumulate during our limited lives and there is nothing that we should leave behind for those who come after us.
I cannot reconcile the idea that a person can understand and believe in the concepts of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness without a belief in God. Secular humanism is a mechanism for the destruction of the American Republic and by extension, freedom and liberty.
I can only reach this conclusion…yes, God is necessary to liberty.
God was necessary for the creation of the United States and is still necessary for its survival and a belief in the eternal life promised by God is necessary for the survival of liberty and people who love it.
Caution: Smitty link attached.
54 thoughts on “Is God Necessary to Liberty?”
NICELY DONE! I like it! 😀
I see where you are coming from now, as well. You and Madison are soul mates when it comes to your understanding of the 1st Amendment. This helped clarify some past confusion – at least for me. It also lets me know that you and I have always been heading to the same destination, just taking slightly different paths to get there – as did several of our founders (Franklin and Jefferson among them).
I would offer one thing I found in my research that might shed some real light on our modern understanding of the Declaration. It would seem that “the pursuit of happiness” was a technical legal term under English law (I believe it was part of the common law). The term refers to our being free to live a life in pursuit of Natural Law, or the Creator’s law. As such, it does not necessarily mean doing whatever makes us happy, it means pursuing what we should do. In this sense, it is akin to the Christian understanding of joy. In reading Locke and many of the founders letters, you will find a great deal of evidence to suggest this is EXACTLY what they understood “the pursuit of happiness” to mean. Oh, and you are correct: the founders took Locke’s side in arguing that the enlightenment and knowledge actually affirm faith (specifically, the Bible).
Also, we must be careful with their original writings, as they used the word “religion” to mean anything pertaining to an organized belief in God, but they also used “Religion” as a substitute for “general Christianity,” and sometimes as an equivalent to “sect” or “denomination.” We must read the full context of their letters to avoid errors of etymology, as the difference between “religion” and “Religion” can be HUGE.
Finally, the reason our founders said religion was necessary to the maintenance of a free and self-governing society is because they said morality/virtue were necessary to build the self-control all freemen must exercise, and that morality/virtue come ONLY from God! This is one of those areas where we must be careful to understand how the founders were using the term “religion.” We might think of it today as faith (remember, many of the founders were opposed to or wary of the notion of organized religions as we know it today). They were correct: there is no morality without a Creator. It is a logical impossibility. Yet, we all have a sense of right/wrong impressed on our hearts (which is one of the reasons why our founders said these things are self-evident). This is also why God is the necessary fallacy.
I apologize for the word-vomit, but this was a VERY SOLID post and it got me excited. I LOVE it. Thanks. 😀
Just a few remarks …
“Government” is a thing. “Government” is an object. Government cannot preside over other things, or objects. Government has no faith, and no bias. People do. A “person” can do all these things that the “government” cannot do.
In this progressive movement, we’ve seen a trend in the marginalization of religion by atheist, and by some who claim to be agnostic. Please allow this very simplified example:
Atheist Joe (not to pick on you Black) decides to file a court order because he feels slighted that his boss (Utah) decides to hold a voluntary prayer session in the meeting room before work. Joe feels slighted because as a “non believer with no faith whatsoever, he should have the “right” to not have to hear this babbling tripe. The court, finds for him in his favor, and the prayer session is now “illegal”.
[give you a moment to ponder that]
Concept – both Atheism and Agnosticism are both belief systems same as any other.
Did the “government” just cross that secular line as detailed in the 1st Amendment? Absolutely not. That was done by a person who misinterpreted the 1st Amendment, or just simply chose to trample it because they have an agenda (maybe that SCOTUS is agnostic or atheist as well).
Now this goes back to the discussion that Joe, and I wrestled over about Social Entropy (not that we are going to debate it again) where the decay of our morality has lead to choices by person(s) (and not government) which have now allowed one sect of people to trample on the freedoms of others for their own personal gain(s).
Folks, the “government” was set up correctly by “people”. The government isn’t the problem, it’s the people who occupy seats in that government.
Ah, but you are describing a govt. SYSTEM different from ours – or, at least what we are SUPPOSED to be.
In our system, the court is supposed to tell Joe (the atheist), too bad. They have a right to pray, you have no right not to hear it, just to not agree. By siding with Joe, the court HAS taken sides – the side of the “I don’t want to hear no God stuff.” This is not only a violation of freedom of conscience (religion), it is also a violation of free speech. So our Joe is wrong – as you rightly point out – but so is the court, as the court is charged with protecting EVERYONE’S rights.
besides, if the court were doing it’s job, it would also say to Joe: it is UTAH’S business, he can do however he pleases. You can either deal with it, or you are free to work somewhere else.
Just sayin’ 😀
Joe – no offense here, but all you did was make my point in different words.
I did? OK, for the sake of clarity, help me out. I took what you said to mean that the govt. can and SHOULD rule for the atheist when MY understanding of the Constitution and founders’ original intentions would have the court tell the atheist TOUGH! People have the right to worship as they see fit, where they see fit and when – especially on their own property.
I thought you were saying the govt. was intended to kick all acknowledgment of God out of the public arena. If I misunderstood you, I apologize, but I would like you to put a point on this for me so I do not continue in a misunderstanding…please 🙂
Joe – I am saying that a government is a “thing”, and its the people who hold government offices that choose to follow the constitution, or not.
Kind of like a gun. Is it the gun that is dangerous, or the person who handles the gun?
Additionally – as Joe brought up Madison, I feel it a perfect opportunity to plug a great group of people/resources for all of us “federalists” out there …
While I respect Madison a great deal, history has proven his position to be the wrong one. It has led to a nation that is 180 opposite what he and the rest of the founders intended.
He wasn’t always wrong. Your absolution on the matter is no 100% correct.
Just saying. 🙂
damn iphones – “not”, and not “no”.
I was speaking to the abstract of his position (generality of his position). But I hear ya. 🙂
Besides, Madison was a strident Christian. He almost became a preacher. He just thought Christianity would thrive best without ANY involvement from govt. But I think he would have objected to the way we treat the 1st Amendment today. He never said he was against anyone living their values while in service to the nation, and I’m sure he would have opposed the idea that we couldn’t speak our mind just because we held elected office.
/agreed, and I will add that speaking your mind while in elected office is one thing, while writing and signing unconstitutional laws is quite a different thing.
True, but how we “see” the original intent of the founders has a decided affect on forming our opinions as to what is and isn’t Constitutional. TO ME, the solution is easy: go to the founders and read what they said, then look to the EARLIEST court rulings on these matters – the rulings that were handed down by the men who actually formed this govt. But I suspect there is a reason one side of this debate refuses to do that… 😉
A little something interesting that might help to illustrate how (and why) our society has been taught that the founders were less assertive in their beliefs about religion and government than they were. Here is a rather well known quote from Dr. Benjamin Rush, a very important founding father:
Now, here is the FULL citation:
See the difference?
Things like this are NOT mistakes, they do not happen by accident. Our “educators” do this intentionally.
Of course they do. And that my friend is a conscientious choice these educators make; likely to suit a goal (progressiveness for example). None of this is by chance, but rather by design. Just as one can play with numbers, one can also play with words.
This takes us back to Social Entropy, and my position that people make decisions/choices.
Yes, people do. And when enough of them break away from a society’s culture (i.e. history, common religion, etc), it starts to fall apart.
I DO understand your point, but I also think “entropy” is a useful tool for understanding society (understood as the collective action of a collection of INDIVIDUALS). Entropy works for EVERYTHING in the universe, and our society is no different. To me, it shows that we must act – as a society of INDIVIDUALS – to keep those common beliefs and understandings consistent. The founders said the very same thing, and they said teaching religion in schools was an essential part of doing this. They even told us which religion they preferred and why. 🙂
I can embrace your notion of entropy is long as the perspective is from that of doctrine of social decline (how downtrodden is that theory?), and not thermodynamics. The later is just plain ole hogwash.
Not “my notion” my friend, other people developed this notion of social entropy – and I agree with you, they use it in a way with which I disagree as well. I just take the very basic idea that all sealed systems tend to decay – unless additional energy is added to the system. In the case of society, unless we constantly re-enforce and teach the principles upon which the society was built (in our case, our founders’ idea of religion and the principles of liberty), then that society will decay. In this sense, that constant re-enforcing is the “energy” necessary to maintain society. When we let that re-enforcing go and people start to chase their own ideas of right/wrong, then the “entropy” (or DISORDER) in society increases and society decays.
I guess I didn’t explain it that well in my original post, huh? 🙂
I enjoyed this post, M. But, playing Devil’s advocate here; wasn’t FDR a believer? For that matter, weren’t Woodrow Wilson and Eisenhower believers? Come to think of it, our current president subscribes to Christianity….
Kells – there is a difference in saying that you are a believer and living the belief, especially when it comes to politics. FDR didn’t seek to govern as a man of faith, he sought to institutionalize his view of faith in government and take government places that it had no license to go.
I never said that “progressives” are godless but it is undeniably the “progressive” movement that is seeking to remove God from public life in order to substitute government in His place.
@Kells – mean absolutely no offense here, but it’s clear based on your trying to find a balance here when there’s little balance to be had.
My advice, trust in the Constitution, and when a question is posed ask your self the following:
a) Does this act to take away my liberty?
b) If it doesn’t, does this act to take away someone else’s liberty?
c) If we sign this in to law, can it later be used in a way to encroach on anyone’s liberty?
Some positions are clear, and easy to define. Others are not. This is but one litmus test if you will, that should help you screen. I’m certain that others here could expand further.
Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr (iphones) – “based on your posts that your”
I’m merely pointing out that their are plenty of God-loving people doing the wrong thing as there are Atheists doing the right thing. In other words, I believe the individual holds the power of discerning between good an evil. You may call it what you will; faith, belief, morals, God… the fact of the matter is that if a political ideology pulls you and you see it as just; you can be a flippin oompa-loompa prayin to Willy Wonka and still do the right thing.
That said, the statistics are a bit stacked against me in this argument…..
I am NOT insulting you here (but you are providing a perfect example of something I have been discussing with Augger, sorry).
See what I mean about entropy?
I really don’t see what my point of view has to do with entropy. Let me try to be more specific. Let’s take Charles Manson, for example. Fruitloop-extraordinaire, right? But then look at some folks raised in the same kind of circumstances as he that actually turned out to be successful and productive.
I believe it is in our best interest to teach of God and morals; but in the end, the individual will decide their path….
Wait for it …..
Wait for it ….
Apart from noting that you won’t find an answer to the philosophical question whether God is necessary to liberty in either the Declaration of Independence or the Northwest Ordinance, I’ll leave that large subject aside and instead address your treatment of the two documents you invoke.
Underlying your view of the Declaration’s role appears to be the idea that it and the Constitution written twelve years later were drafted and adopted by one and the same persons or institution. That, of course, is simply not the case. While the documents plainly are related as a matter of history, the people and institutions that prepared each differed. Of the 56 or so delegates who participated in the Second Continental Congress, convened by the thirteen colonies, that drafted and adopted the Declaration of Independence, seven later participated in the Constitutional Convention, convened by the Confederation Congress, that drafted and adopted the Constitution.
While some also draw meaning from the references to “Nature’s God” and “Creator” in the Declaration of Independence (references that could mean any number of things, some at odds with the Christian idea of God) and try to connect that meaning to the Constitution, the effort is largely baseless. Important as the Declaration is in our history, it did not operate to bring about independence (that required winning a war), nor did it found a government, nor did it even create any law, and it certainly did not say or do anything that somehow dictated the meaning of a Constitution adopted twelve years later. The colonists issued the Declaration not to do any of that, but rather to politically explain and justify the move to independence that was already well underway. Nothing in the Constitution depends on anything said in the Declaration. Nor does anything said in the Declaration purport to limit or define the government later formed by the free people of the former colonies. Nor could it even if it purported to do so. Once independent, the people of the former colonies were free to choose whether to form a collective government at all and, if so, whatever form of government they deemed appropriate. They were not somehow limited by anything said in the Declaration. Sure, they could take its words as inspiration and guidance if, and to the extent, they chose–or they could not. They could have formed a theocracy if they wished–or, as they ultimately chose, a government founded on the power of the people (not a deity) and separated from religion.
Care should be taken as well not to make more of the provision in the Northwest Ordinance than it warrants. The ordinance resulted from negotiations with Dr. Manasseh Cutler, a minister and former army chaplain, of the Ohio Company, a land speculation firm, about buying land within the Northwest Territory. Congress much needed the proceeds of such a sale to help pay the heavy debt incurred in the Revolutionary War. Cutler initially proposed an ordinance with a provision stating: “Institutions for the promotion of religion and morality, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged . . . .” Congress changed that to the provision you quote. Note that Congress removed “religion” from the items directly to “be encouraged” and mentioned it instead in a provision expressing an opinion about what is necessary to good government. Such a change is consistent with the view, reflected in the First Amendment, that the federal government is not to promote religion. It is instructive to observe as well that in 1802 when Congress first used the ordinance to admit a state, it altered some of its provisions, one of which is the provision you quote. After expressly noting that provision, Congress offered to admit Ohio with this alternative: “That the section No. 16, in every township sold, or directed to be sold by the United States, shall be granted to the inhabitants of such townships, for the use of schools.” Religion, thus, was entirely omitted.
It also bears noting that a “disestablishment” political movement then sweeping the country succeeded in disestablishing all state religions by the 1830s. In keeping with that movement, when Congress admitted twelve states to the union under the Northwest Ordinance, only once did it use the provision you quoted, twice it used substantially revised language, and nine times it entirely omitted the provision. More than that, Congress required each of the newly admitted states to guarantee their citizens religious freedom, akin to that guaranteed in the First Amendment. It is worth noting, as well, that this disestablishment movement grew out of another movement, the Great Awakening. The people of the time saw separation of church and state as a boon, not a burden, to religion.
It is instructive that you argue for both the exclusion and the inclusion of documents and legislative instruments in your post – exclusion of those that do not fit your views and inclusion of those that do. Classic illogic that we have pointed out time and again, an example of doublespeak.
I never argued for a theocracy or that the state should support a particular religion, what I argued was that God was necessary to liberty. Government is merely the tool by which liberty is preserved or destroyed. I believe that I did make the point that through incorporation of ideas conceived by Locke, et. al. that God was present in their philosophies and by incorporation, present in those of our Founders as well.
I’ll be happy to promote this back to the top and let Black3 educate you as to why your argument that we cannot philosophically link the Declaration to the Constitution and why your view that one takes precedent over the other. As a matter of legalism, the Constitution is the legal basis for our nation but the Declaration is the philosophical basis and as a philosophical precedent, it is in fact relevant.
You also seem to have a tenuous grasp on the concept of liberty…and of God.
Hmm….I thought it was very interesting information that D. provided…..
Interesting…yes. Relevant to the question…no.
Of course, I’m just a bible thumper, a bitter clinger to my guns and religion who wants to oppress women and re-implement slavery…or so I’m told.
Except most of it is false and/or misleading and a great deal of it was provided as nothing more than a red herring to divert from the real argument – an argument he cannot win because THE FOUNDERS say he is W-R-O-N-G! But, typical Progressive, he knows what the founders were thinking better than they do.
So you’re denying the 12-year separation between the two?
IRRELEVANT! The Declaration is the document that made this a nation. This FACT is recognized in the wording of BOTH the Articles of Confederation AND the U.S. Constitution. All the Constitution does is establish a govt. – NOT a nation. As such, it is the “how” of our govt., but the Declaration is the “what” and “why” of AMERICA!
Doug does NOT want you to understand the connection because – if/when you do – it DESTROYS his argument.
I don’t think Doug is trying to be misleading. I think he was just pointing out some facts. Also, he’s cute and plays a mean shovel.
Exclusion and inclusion of documents? Not sure what you’re talking about. I didn’t advocate anything of the sort. Rather, I took note of all the documents you presented and endeavored to analyze what can and cannot be derived from them with respect to the relationship between religion and government.
Now, for a good example of “classic illogic,” try this: As a matter of “legalism,” (1) the Constitution is the “legal basis” of our nation, but (2) the Declaration is the “philosophical basis” and (2) as a “philosophical precedent,” (4) it is “relevant.”
1. The Constitution is indeed the “legal basis” of our government. So far, so good.
2. The Declaration undoubtedly offers some philosophical context to the colonies’ effort to break from Great Britain and to the efforts twelve years later of the then free people and states to found a government. Beyond that, whether it may be regarded as “the” “philosophical basis” (whatever you mean by that) of our nation (or did you mean government?) is open to discussion. Rather than worry about the appropriateness of such labeling, I simply state the point that there is no basis for selecting one of various possible meanings of the Declaration’s political or philosophical statements, transporting that meaning to the Constitution, and giving it the effect of law.
3. What you mean by “philosophical precedent,” I do not know. Certainly, as I have said, the Declaration preceded the Constitution, and it certainly could inspire those who drafted and ratified the Constitution. If that was your meaning, we are in agreement.
4. “Relevant”? That’s it? That’s the conclusion of your argument? Relevant to what? Lots of things are relevant to understanding the Constitution. The Declaration at least provides some context for interpreting the Constitution–as do the Revolutionary War, the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, the Great Awakening, the disestablishment movement, the slave trade, the political rivalry between large and small states, and the like. Again, though, that hardly means that some interpretation of the Declaration can simply be inserted into the Constitution and given the effect of law.
Wow, the guy starts with a “demonstrable falsehood” (i.e. LIE) and then wants to be taken seriously. Here, Doug, let me help you with that proof that God is necessary to liberty:
Folks, at that point, if you keep reading, you are wasting your time listening to an ideologue who either cannot or will not recognize the plain meaning of the English language – which then brings him under the condemnation of this man:
And, Utah, there is no reasoning with the irrational mind. Another of my favorite founders put it this way, and I think it applies nicely to our man, doug:
Please don’t get sucked in by this one, either. These are words spoken out of ignorance and/or a deliberate attempt to erase the truth. EVERY word/phrase in the Declaration can be traced directly to established Christian thinking and the Bible, as thoroughly explained AND DOCUMENTED by Gary T Amos in his excellent book, “Defending the Declaration, How the Bible and Christianity Influenced the Writing of the Declaration of Independence.”
@ doug – So you want your cake, and you want to eat it too. Nice try at fooling us. It didn’t work.
This one is necessary to the Progressive cause. If they can get you to accept this one, then they CAN say the Constitution supports a Progressive DICTATORSHIP.
This is essentially the “Living Document” argument. REJECT THIS CLAIM – but not because I said so, because the founders said so (and doug, the Constitution references the Declaration in the last section, meathead).
As with all effective propaganda, there is usually a kernel of truth in the lie – and such is the case with this statement. Yes, the Great Awakening DID influence the Colonists thinking about the Church and govt. It is what John Adams was talking about when he said this:
But it wasn’t that the Great Awakening led the Colonists to think religion should be divorced from govt. – quite the opposite. The Great Awakening taught the Colonists that there can be no freedom without it. Again, this is why Adams said these words:
And his son seconded his sentiment:
So, as usual, doug tried to trick the casual reader, but what he did was provide the very evidence that condemns his argument.
Oh, and doug, again, others said the same as I – others who were actually there and who studied it. Here, try Alexis de Tocqueville on for size:
Wait! Didin’t Alexis write that AFTER this supposed 1830’s sweep of religion from the State Constitutions? Why yes, yes he did. Gee, how could that POSSIBLY be after doug told us the Americans wanted nothing to do with mixing religion and govt…unless doug is – OH, MY – WRONG!? 🙂
Upon reading the first sentence of my comment, one might understand me to say that determining the answer to such a large philosophical question as whether God is necessary to liberty requires more than merely quoting a line or two from this or that document. Or one might understand me to deny that the Declaration of Independence says anything about the matter. To take that silly meaning, though, one would have to suppose that I am dimwitted enough to suppose that you are dimwitted enough not to notice the Declaration’s most famous line. You nonetheless chose to take that meaning and most emphatically refute it, thus demonstrating that you are not so dimwitted as you suppose I suppose. Touché.
With respect to the relationship of the Declaration and Constitution, you assert that what I said is essentially the “living document” argument. Wrong. That concept has nothing to do with what I said. It just doesn’t.
Perhaps a useful way to illustrate my point is to note the well established principle that a legislature cannot enact a law in one year that would bind a legislature in future years to act or not act in particular ways. An analogous concept applies here. The people of the colonies in declaring their independence on July 4, 1776, did not and, indeed, could not bind the people of the future independent states, 12 years hence, to form a government at all, let alone one conforming to any particular prescription. The independent people of 1787 were free to form any sort of government they chose–and they chose to form a secular one predicated on the power of the people and not on the power of a deity.
In the end, there is simply no basis for selecting one of various possible meanings of the Declaration’s political or philosophical statements, transporting that meaning to the Constitution, and giving it the effect of law.
Samuel Adams but restates the facts that the Declaration was ratified by the states before the formation of the Constitution and that it was never “disannulled.” There has, of course, never been any need or occasion to annul (which, I assume, is what he meant) the Declaration, and what effect such an act might have, I can only wonder. In any event, the Declaration, unannulled and in full glory, can have little more effect on the Constitution than I described.
You point to the expressed views of John and John Quincy Adams. While the religious views of various founders are subjects of some uncertainty and controversy, it is safe to say that many founders were Christian of one sort or another and held views such as you note regarding religion. In assessing the nature of our government, though, care should be taken to distinguish between society and government and not to make too much of various founders’ individual religious beliefs. Their individual beliefs, while informative, are largely beside the point. Whatever their religions, they drafted a Constitution that establishes a secular government and separates it from religion as noted earlier. This is entirely consistent with the fact that some founders professed their religiosity, their belief that Christianity was conducive or even necessary to good government, and their desire that Christianity remain the dominant religious influence in American society. Why? Because religious people who would like to see their religion flourish in society may well believe that separating religion and government will serve that end and, thus, in founding a government they may well intend to keep it separate from religion. It is entirely possible for thoroughly religious folk to found a secular government and keep it separate from religion. That, indeed, is just what the founders did.
Lest there be any doubt on this score, note that shortly after the founding, President John Adams (a founder) signed, with the unanimous consent of the Senate (comprised in large measure of founders), the Treaty of Tripoli declaring, in pertinent part, “the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion.” No need to resort to reading tea leaves to understand that. Note too that the Constitution provides that treaties, apart from the Constitution itself, are the highest law of the land.
That the people of the time saw separation of church and state as a boon, not a burden, to religion, as I noted earlier, was recorded by a famous observer of the American experiment, someone you may trust: “On my arrival in the United States the religious aspect of the country was the first thing that struck my attention. . . . I questioned the members of all the different sects. . . . I found that they differed upon matters of detail alone, and that they all attributed the peaceful dominion of religion in their country mainly to the separation of church and state. I do not hesitate to affirm that during my stay in America, I did not meet a single individual, of the clergy or the laity, who was not of the same opinion on this point.” Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America (1835). You needed but to read a page or so beyond the quotation you offered in order to learn his full meaning.
Unsupported assertion (i.e. opinion) based on a selective and fallacious definition of the term “secular” – a definition to which the founders would have objected and the historic record indicates that the people of America post 1787 believed would have prevented the Colonies from ever declaring independence in the first place. (Look it up, doug. I’m tired of doing the work just for you to ignore it, but it is in the official records of Congress)
WRONG! Just plain and simply and DEMONSTRABLY WRONG! The historical record abounds with clear and pointed explanation as to what the founders meant by the Declaration, and what they intended. You simply ignore it because it is the ONLY way you can make your argument. This makes your ENTIRE argument fallacious on its very foundation.
Incidentally, the very language of the Declaration can be directly traced back through CHRISTIAN thinking, NOT Hobbsian secularism as so many want to argue today. That you have also ignored Utah’s many postings about the role Locke played in both the Declaration AND the founding of this nation substantiates my accusation. It also leaves the reader to decide: are you actually dimwitted after all, or intentionally deceitful?
A modern argument that — AGAIN — ignores what the founders (nearly to a man) SCREAMED at us. Or are you going to ignore the compact nature of govt. found in BOTH the Declaration and the Constitution? Because, in a free and self-governing society, the govt. IS THE PEOPLE! They are NOT separate.
I am sooo tired of this argument. 1st, same man signed the treaty ending the Revolution that said the treaty was in the name of the Holy Trinity. Second, that section you quote is referring to a Christian theology, as the Barbary Pirates understood the religious nations of Europe. And then, given the reason for the Treaty, we cannot ignore the POLITICAL POSSIBILITY that the founders were simply trying to avoid war with a people WHO SAID WE WERE A CHRISTIAN NATION!
Now, as for de Tocqueville, it is VERY INTERESTING that you mention him immediately after this treaty as de Tocqueville said WE ARE A CHRISTIAN NATION! He even said the greatness of America was to be found in her pulpits. Be nice to get a little consistency from you, but then, all you have to cling to here are the inconsistencies that can be bent to fit your point of view IF they are removed from the greater historical context. And here again, we see you equivocating. de Tocqueville saying we had a separation of Church and State does NOT mean the same notion of separation as you seem to argue. We KNOW the founders were NOT against practicing your faith IN PUBLIC OFFICE! We know BECAUSE THEY DID IT!
You like to cling to Madison on this issue. Fine, here:
He NEVER renounced this opinion nor his religion…
In response to my point that there is no basis for selecting one of various possible meanings of the Declaration’s political or philosophical statements, transporting that meaning to the Constitution, and giving it the effect of law you simply pronounce it demonstrably wrong–in bold capital letters no less–and then . . . offer nothing in demonstration of your assertion.
Let’s go at it this way: Were the people of the independent states free in 1787? If they were free, does that not mean that they were free to establish whatever form of government they may choose? If they were free to make that choice, does that not mean that they were not bound by anything said in the Declaration? Or, put differently, did the Declaration somehow constrain the choices they could make in 1787? If you think it did, pray tell how. If, on the other hand, you think it did not so constrain the people, then on what basis do you claim the Declaration affects the meaning of the Constitution?
Not me, numb-nuts, THE FOUNDERS SAID THE DECLARATION GUIDES THE CONSTITUTION!!!
I have posted their words saying EXACTLY this so many times my fingers have crossed, but you just ignore what THE FOUNDERS SAID and keep preaching your baseless assertions as though ignorant persistence makes it reality. Well, here’s something else one of our founders said that applies to you:
“It is as useless to argue with those who have renounced the use and authority of reason as to administer medication to the dead.”
Reader: when you quote the founders (THE experts) telling posterity (us) that the Declaration is the founding document of this nation and that it was never annulled (i.e. is still in effect); when you quote the founders telling us that the Declaration is the declaratory charter of the rights of ALL Mankind; when you quote multiple founders telling you that our govt. was founded upon the principles of Christianity and people like doug, here, simply claim these men did not mean what they said, then you are dealing with someone (i.e. doug) who is – BY DEFINITION – irrational. That he claims to be an attorney actually bolsters my case as he is demonstrating why the founders told us our undoing would come from the Courts.
“Law logic — an artificial system of reasoning, exclusively used in courts of justice, but good for nothing anywhere else.”
–John Quincey Adams
1. I do not ignore what the founders have said. Nothing you have said or quoted here remotely suggests that the Declaration controls or guides the Constitution.
2. Even if an individual founder said something of that sort, why would you presume it has the effect of law? Yes, I am a lawyer, and I think like one. As we are talking about constitutional law, you might give it a try.
3. You continually speak of the “founders” as if they were a single monolithic body, akin to a legislature, that enacted this or established that. Hardly so. Did you catch my comment above that the people and institutions that drafted and adopted the Declaration and Constitution were not one and the same. Different institutions and largely different people?
I have posted those quotes on the RNL MANY times. The founders DID say this – you reject it.
Yes, you think like a lawyer – hence my use of J Q Adam’s words.
The founders said the Constitution was NOT to become like you lawyers have made it: so complicated it becomes the realm of lawyers alone. YOU, sir, have lost track of what the law was intended to be. Go back and re-read Bastiat’s “The Law.”
As for the founders not being the same: irrelevant. The purpose of those who started the Revolution was the same as those who ratified the final Bill of Rights, And, in fact, many of the same men stayed with the process from beginning to end. You are trying to argue from a position that is outside the spirit of the times. Frankly, I reject it: I reject it because the law even says you are wrong. I can find it in the ruling of the Supreme court all the way up to the late 1800’s – right about the time you Progressives started to push your cancer into our society and government.
But I’ll do this for you: I will take time to write and compose a post as to why God is necessary to liberty, and it will have NOTHING to do with ANY founder or founding document. We’ll see how you respond then.
Try it this way: name the nations that have known TRUE freedom without having had a national faith in God. I’ll go catch a New Year’s dinner while I wait for your reply.
Doug “claims” that God has nothing to do with liberty. Our founders said liberty DEMANDS virtue and morality, and that virtue and morality DEMAND faith and religion, and faith and religion are dependent on G-O-D! Therefore, simple and SOLID logic DICTATES that liberty depends on God. Here, read for yourself:
How many more of these do I have to post, and how many more times do I have to post them before it starts to sink in? I mean, READ THAT LAST QUOTE! The man who penned the Declaration tells you this nation was founded on the principles of religion, SUPPORTED BY REASON. He even goes so far as to say no govt. can JUSTLY claim or exercise power if it is NOT based in religious principles. THIS IS JEFFERSON SAYING THIS!
PLEASE, for the love of this nation, our liberty and our INDIVIDUAL rights, FIRMLY REJECT DOUG AND ANYONE WHO ARGUES WITH HIM! HE IS WRONG!
At least you’re easy on the eyes…especially in a tux. Oh wait! I am to behave! Okay. We all know that you are very generous with your Bible-thumping gun-totin sex slaves. No worries. I’ll stick up for you. And so will Rick Perry.
I do look good, don’t I?
Rick and I are off shoot some farm-raised hobo’s this weekend. I tell him you said “hi”.
No need, luv. Ross skipped out on my massage and Rick had to cover, I got a peep at the lot you’ll be after. They’re a handful as Rick has kept them well-fed. Have fun and think on me!
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