Re: [asa] NPR on New Atheism

From: David Clounch <>
Date: Wed Oct 21 2009 - 21:35:24 EDT


I agree.

I have a book by historian Gary T. Amos called Defending The Declaration.
I mention that because it includes details about the emergence of "modern"
western civilization and the ideas of the political calvinists (lower case
c?). Where did the founders get their ideas of democracy? In what way were
these ideas connected to the bible? It's a fascinating history. Amos's
theme, of course, is the declaration is not a deistic document. Regardless
of that motif, his development of biblical roots of law and politics is
independently interesting.

[He goes into the meaning of "laws of nature and nature's God" which meant
something different than it does today. It had specific biblical meanings
in 1776 that had been recognized for almost the previous 400 years. It has
now been lost so we can't quite imagine why Jeffersom pick those terms].

Another book I have is by historian Willis B Glover, this one was
recommended to me by Bob Osburn, called Biblical Origins of Modern Secular
Culture. Glover describes how we have a dual Christian and secular culture
where the relationship between the two is complex.

What really struck me was reading John Locke's Second Treatise on
Government for myself. It comes straight out of the bible. I see nothing
deistic in Locke. But I know Jefferson studied Montesquieu, Locke, and
Blackstone. All were Christians. I don't see a basis of non-Christian
philosophy undergirding Jefferson. The enlightenment influenced him, but
wasn't his basis. He himself claimed (epicurean) philosophy, not deism.

Here's an interesting tidbit:
Edwin Gaustad's "Sworn on the Altar of God, A Religious Biography of
Jefferson" shows that Jefferson was a YEC. He thought the earth was only
15,000? years old, and the earth had not changed since the creation, and
the earth had been "wound up" and God didnt need to be tweaking the world.
God simply wound up the creation and let it go. This was, IMO, the basis
for any claim of deism Jefferson may have had. So YEC and deism are
actually tied together for Jefferson. Had he abandoned one he may have
abandoned the other.

But I have never found Jefferson to be a deist. I find him to be an
unconventional thinker, and probably just some sort of an unbelieving
Anglican. Who prayed, BTW. He was Anglican at a young age and Anglican at
an old age. Jefferson issued declarations for days of prayer when he was in
power. He also insisted there be a Chair of Divinity, that divinity school
be located across the street from the university, that credits be accepted
between both schools, etc. He wanted students attending both. This was in
effect a low and permeable wall of separation (within the state). So he
didn't act much like a deist. But...deism is more complicated than most
people think. So who knows?

You are right about some conservatives...esp. their recent attraction to
Paine. (BTW, Paine came close to losing his head in the Bastille!) Many
conservatives have bought into (a Paine-like) non-Christian
secular-morality version of freedom meaning freedom to do whatever one wants
or sees as right in one's own eyes. To the founders Liberty meant freedom
to do what God wants.

So, I agree, care must indeed be taken. I was taught NOTHING WHATSOEVER of
the truth of any of this in school. Americans are mostly taught lies. So we
have whole generations who don't have a clue.

Dave C

On Wed, Oct 21, 2009 at 3:43 PM, George Murphy <> wrote:

> I'm not one to pooh-pooh all talk of the importance of Christian
> principles in the founding of the USA but a lot of care is needed with
> that. I wish Dorothy Sayers' _The Mind of the Maker_ had a decent index so
> I could find this easily, but she has somewhere there a telling contrast of
> the grand picture of humanity in the Declaration of Independence - "endowed
> by their creator with certain inalienable rights" &c [where do we find them
> in scripture?] with the statement in the Anglican 39 Articles that "man is
> of his own nature very far gone from original righteousness, and is of his
> own nature inclined to evil" &c.
> To jump a bit - indeed there was a lot of Christian (or at least biblical)
> influence on the formation of the USA. But the most serious was that of
> Hamilton & other conservatives who realized (even if only implicitly) the
> sinfulness - i.e., selfishness - of human beings & the need to control it.
> That contrasts c the more more cheery ideas of Jefferson et al who thought
> that, freed from the tyranny of priests & kings &c, heroic yeoman farmers &
> their families (& slaves, whose equal creation for some reason didn't
> entitle them to equal humanity) could live in a kind of repristination of
> Eden. & 1 thing I find appalling about some of the "conservative"
> criticisms of the present administration's policies is their appeal to
> _Jefferson_ of all people - Jefferson of the mangled Gospels, defence of
> southern institutions &c. (See Gerry Wills _Negro President_ - i.e.,
> Jefferson - on this.)
> Shalom
> George
> ----- Original Message -----
> *From:* David Clounch <>
> *To:* Schwarzwald <>
> *Cc:*
> *Sent:* Wednesday, October 21, 2009 4:18 PM
> *Subject:* Re: [asa] NPR on New Atheism
> Are you saying "Liberty...chop chop ...Equality...chop
> chop...Fraternity...chop chop...?
> Isn't this what comes from secular morality and secular humanism? Looking
> to the inner standard of right and wrong, ignoring the value of creatures
> (Adam's race) created in God's image?
> Christian civilization has had its excesses too. But always in response to
> the type of insanity demonstrated by the secularists. Look at how very
> dangerous the secular insanity was in France! And later in Germany,
> Russia, Cambodia, etc.
> This is why the USA, having been founded on Christian principles, must
> not throw God out of its operating principles. When it does then all civil
> rights can easily be cast aside just like in those countries.
> On Tue, Oct 20, 2009 at 9:54 PM, Schwarzwald <>wrote:
>> Heya Mike,
>>> Sounds like hypocrisy. Basically, the New Atheists think the way to get
>>> people to embrace reason and science is to use hateful propaganda, edgy
>>> ridicule, and any other means of arousing negative emotions. Whatever
>>> it takes. New Atheists clearly do not believe in reason and science.
>>> They believe in whatever it takes.
>> Exactly. Not only are they not relying on either reason or science, but as
>> near as I can tell, they don't even want people to embrace those things.
>> Those things have become little more than buzzwords that amount to
>> shockingly little - what's really central is a combination of personal
>> animosity, and social/political considerations. Always has been, and always
>> will be.
>> I reject the common claim that the New Atheists subscribe to 'scientism'.
>> Science is appealed to superficially only insofar as it offers utility - and
>> is either ignored, rejected, or superceded by ideologies otherwise. To make
>> what I think is an apt comparison, during the french revolution the
>> revolutionaries yelled quite a lot about "reason". But does the reign of
>> terror really seem like the result of reason? Do historians, or anyone who
>> reads about that age, talk about how reason triumphed during that reign?

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Received on Wed Oct 21 21:35:34 2009

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