Monday, October 23, 2006

America's founders and religion

Christopher Levenick and Michael Novak at NRO respond to an article in the Nation by Brooke Allen which contends that the Founders were in no sense Christians:
"In her litany of statements that intend to prove that 'the Founding Fathers were not religious men,' she cites one line from a letter written by John Adams. According to Allen, 'As an old man, [Adams] observed, 'Twenty times in the course of my late reading have I been upon the point of breaking out, 'This would be the best of all possible worlds, if there were no religion in it!''' Pretty damning evidence, right? Well, no: Allen neglects to include the next two sentences from Adams: 'But in this exclamati[on] I should have been as fanatical as Bryant or Cleverly. Without Religion, this World would be Something not fit to be mentioned in polite Company, I mean Hell.'

Allen commits plenty of other errors in her argument, but we'll confine ourselves to looking at just a few.

She asserts that '[i]n the Declaration of Independence, [God] gets two brief nods.' Not true. As every schoolboy knows, the Declaration mentions God four times: 'the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God,' 'endowed by their Creator,' 'Supreme Judge of the world,' and 'divine Providence.' Equally problematic is her dismissive description of these invocations as 'brief nods.' (In fact, if you exclude the long list of grievances against George III, the Declaration on average invokes the name of God just about once every paragraph.) More important than its frequency is the indispensability of divine sovereignty to the document's overarching natural-law argument. The source of human rights, according to the Declaration, is not located in mutual human consent but rather in the creative activity of God." The rest.
They go on to enumerate errors with respect to Madison, Washington, Jefferson and Franklin.

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