Imparting Appreciation For
Non-Christian Viewpoints
Wayland Dong

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From: Wayland Dong
To: "VS Big List"
Date: Thu, 13 Sep 2001 11:39:57-0700
Subject: [vsbiglist] Re: Re(OT): We also in a shock in Europe ... with youallinprayer ...

    Maybe not, but this very country (USA) was founded with the bible as a source for it's foundation.

The Bible was neither the source nor the foundation of this country's government.

This country is a child of the Enlightenment, founded on principles of the exaltation of "natural rights" and the exercise of reason as opposed to the appeal to authority. The Declaration of Independence reads nothing like the Bible or any other holy text. The Bible says this is the only answer, do this, don't do that, or else; the Declaration proclaims reason and "natural rights," i.e., rights held by men even in their natural state, in the absence of society.

As Jefferson himself reflected (at the end of his life) on the Declaration:

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May it [the Declaration of Independence] be to the world, what I believe it will be (to some parts sooner, to others later, but finally to all) the signal of arousing men to burst the chains under which monkish ignorance and superstition had persuaded them to bind themselves, and to assume the blessings and security of self-government. That form which we have substituted, restores the free right to the unbounded exercise of reason and freedom of opinion. All eyes are opened, or opening, to the rights of man.

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Self-government, exercise of reason, freedom of opinion, natural rights of man. These are the founding principles of our government; they have nothing to do with the Bible or any religion. In some respects (freedom of opinion, for example), they are the antithesis of revealed religion.

John Adams said,

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The United States of America have exhibited, perhaps, the first example of governments erected on the simple principles of nature.... It will never be pretended that any persons employed in that service had interviews with the gods, or were in any degree under the influence of Heaven, more than those at work upon ships or houses, or laboring in merchandise or agriculture; it will forever be acknowledged that these governments were contrived merely by the use of reason and the senses.

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Unlike almost every previous government, ours did not claim divine authorship or the divine right of the rulers to rule. It is precisely because our government was not founded on religion that makes it noteworthy!!

The key Founding Fathers (Jefferson, Madison, Franklin, Paine, even Adams) were most accurately termed deists, who believed in Spinoza's God (that Nature is God), or a vaguely benevolent Providence. They rejected as absurd the inspired authority of the Bible and the divinity of the man Jesus, called Christ.

Some, like Washington and maybe Adams, did believe that some form of religion was necessary to maintain the morality of the masses. (I don't think that's true, nor do I think that's an easy view to justify, but then I'm speaking 200 years later.)

More important than their personal religious beliefs, the Fathers believed almost exclusively in the separation of religion and government, or church and state, as the common phrase goes.

Of course Bush has the right to quote from the Bible in his speeches. But should he? I quote again T. Jefferson, who, when pressed by clergy to declare a national day of prayer, replied as follows. Sorry for the long quote, but who can say it better?

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I consider the government of the United States as interdicted by the Constitution from intermeddling in religious institutions, their doctrines, discipline, or exercises. This results not only from the provision that no law shall be made respecting the establishment, or free exercise, of religion, but from that also which reserves to the states the powers not delegated to the United States. Certainly, no power to prescribe any religious exercise or to assume authority in religious discipline has been delegated to the General Government. It must then rest with the states, as far as it can be in any human authority. "But it is only proposed that I should recommend, not prescribe a day of fasting & prayer. That is, that I should indirectly assume to the U.S. an authority over religious exercises which the Constitution has directly precluded them from.... I do not believe it is for the interest of religion to invite the civil magistrate to direct it's exercises, it's discipline, or it's doctrines; nor of the religious societies that the general government should be invested with the power of effecting any uniformity of time or matter among them. Fasting & prayer are religious exercises. The enjoining them an act of discipline. Every religious society has a right to determine for itself the times for these exercises, & the objects proper for them, according to their own particular tenets; and this right can never be safer than in their own hands, where the constitution has deposited it. I am aware that the practice of my predecessors may be quoted.... Be this as it may, every one must act according to the dictates of his own reason, & mine tells me that civil powers alone have been given to the President of the U.S. and no authority to direct the religious exercises of his constituents.

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I would much prefer that Bush and other politicians would take this tone and avoid proclaiming national days of prayer and avoid quoting divisive holy texts in their speeches.

I further wish that we can end this myth about the Bible and Christianity being the source of our government. It's simply not true.

I close with a final quote, from the Treaty of Tripoli, signed between the United States and the Barbary Coast pirates -- er -- kingdoms in northern Africa. Apparently there was concern that because they were Muslim, there would be a religious conflict with the U.S. The response is noteworthy:

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As the government of the United States is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion or tranquility of Musselmen [Muslims] ... it is declared ... that no pretext arising from religious opinion shall ever product an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries....

The United States is not a Christian nation any more than it is a Jewish or a Mohammedan nation."

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Can you imagine the uproar in Congress and in the nation today if someone introduced legislation or a treaty proclaiming "the government of the United States is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion"? So what happened in 1797? The treaty containing this language was unanimously approved by the Senate and signed by President Adams. Contrary to popular belief, we are a more religious country in many ways now than then.

Note that Adams probably would have considered himself a Christian if asked, but he is clear in his beliefs that the Federal government has its standing solely in the rights of man, including the right to self government, and not in Christianity or any other religion.

In some sense, we do need to return to the principles of the Founders, and those principles have no Bible anywhere in sight.

Wayland

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