Monday, November 20, 2006

"The God who gave us life gave us liberty..."

In the October First Things, Michael Novak reviewed two books about religion and the American Founders. A section that is relevant to the discussion about the "wall of separation" and our current discussion about the BJC's understanding of American history:
NONETHELESS, THE MINDS of most of the Founders, even the least orthodox among them, had been formed by the Bible, and virtually all quoted from Scripture much more than they quoted from any other author. Even the least orthodox among them, such as Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin (the two outliers in this respect), wrote frequently of God, Judgment Day, and Providence. All held with the Declaration that all men “are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights,” and with Jefferson’s personal aphorism that “the God who gave us life gave us liberty at the same time.”

Consider that the opening words of the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom announced quite starkly: “Whereas
Almighty God hath created the mind free . . . ” [emphasis added]

For Holmes and Meacham alike, the by-now conventional notion that the Founders were purely men of the Enlightenment does not satisfy the evidence. Yes, the Founders sometimes took up such themes as common sense and limited government and religious liberty in the language of Enlightenment thinkers. But they also strongly believed that, while conscience and religious liberty must be inviolable, and church and state ought to be separate, nevertheless, government still has the duty to support religion, by one method or another.

“Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure,” Washington wrote, the morals required for republican government depend, for most people, on religious cultivation.
[the rest]
Even the Deism believed by a few of the Founders isn't the same thing as atheism, humanism or even secularism.

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