Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Thomas Paine Contra the Religious Right in America

Glenn Beck's use of Thomas Paine is quite ironic considering Paine's view of the Judeo-Christian tradition and his distaste for Church and State connection. Either Glenn Beck is woefully ignorant or he is a charlatan who takes advantage of the ignorance of those he fleeces.

The adulterous connection between church and state...
[Thomas Paine, The Age of Reason]

Glenn Beck (and many others on the religious right) have been pushing this Judeo-Christian identity as the inspiration of the American Experiment and Founders. But again his history is very selective.
If we are saying that the majority of Americans were and are Christian then that would be fair. But the inspiration and knowledge that framed the American experiment was not the Judeo Kings of the Old Testament or the Kings of Christian Europe but rather it was the example of Ancient Greece (Democracy) and the Roman Republic. It was Pagan Europe not Christian Europe that was the inspiration. The American Founders had a classical education and they were inspired by Ancient Greece and the Republic of Rome. Political Christianity from Europe was not what the American Experiment was about. The Enlightenment and the Classical world were very influential in the philosophy of the Bill of Rights and the Constitution.

Glenn Beck and David Barton say the separation of Church and State was to keep Government out of Church but not Church out of Government...that is like saying that Jelly should stay out of peanut butter but peanut butter can mix with jelly. If the mix is the problem what party crosses the line is not the fundamental issue. They want Church to run government but not government to run church? Take power from the Government and give it to the Church? Sounds like a theocratic dream. Freedom of Religion requires Freedom from Religion when it comes to the State. Otherwise the confusion of which God and which holy book is problematic. Even Christians who agree somewhat on the same God fight among themselves over the correct interpretation of that God. That is why the founders(important Deists among them) would only acknowledge a vague Creator or Providence. Something the classical pagans would have no problem with. Something as broad as Nature was used as a source of rights as well. When Thomas Paine argued for the rights of man he did not invoke Christian-Judeo heritage but the Age of Reason and the values of the Enlightenment.

What Athens was in miniature America will be in magnitude. The one was the wonder of the ancient world; the other is becoming the admiration of the present.
Thomas Paine, Rights of Man

From the Declaration of Independence to the Constitution, the Founding Fathers looked to classical history as a reliable guide to their successful experiment in building a lasting republic.
Dr. Joe Wolverton II

I too am an epicurean.I consider the genuine (not the imputed) doctrines of Epicurus as containing everything rational in moral philosophy which Greece and Rome have left us.

Thomas Jefferson,Monticello, October 31, 1819

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