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Switch to Forum Live View Neither Secular Nor Christian
6 years ago  ::  May 12, 2008 - 6:17PM #1
hortonthrockmorton
Posts: 3,497
Thesis:  the United States of America was intended by the founding fathers to be neither singularly Christian (as was late 18th century England) nor strictly secular (as was late 18th century revolutionary France).  Instead, the founding fathers intended and promoted the notion of a more generic public religion, in which a generic God's favor was sought, but lacking dogmatic particulars which might promote division.  Therefore, those who insist that the U.S. was founded as a secular nation and those who insist that the U.S. was founded as a Christian nation are both wrong.


Agree?


Disagree?


Why?
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6 years ago  ::  May 12, 2008 - 7:51PM #2
Hatman
Posts: 9,634

hortonthrockmorton wrote:

Thesis:  the United States of America was intended by the founding fathers to be neither singularly Christian (as was late 18th century England) nor strictly secular (as was late 18th century revolutionary France).  Instead, the founding fathers intended and promoted the notion of a more generic public religion, in which a generic God's favor was sought, but lacking dogmatic particulars which might promote division.  Therefore, those who insist that the U.S. was founded as a secular nation and those who insist that the U.S. was founded as a Christian nation are both wrong.

Agree?

Disagree?

Why?



Horton-
I agree to a point; their Christian upbringing---or at least, what they'd read/heard of how Christ was, despite how His supposed "ministers" preached---certainly informed their intellects and influenced their positions, as a detailed perusal of many of their writings would reveal.  However, if you like, feel free to reflect upon the following quotes in re: virtue and government, then tell me if you think these uniquely "christian" or universal, and whether gov't servants should be held to these standards, or not(apologies in advance for the abundance):

"[V]irtue or morality is a necessary spring of popular government."
~George Washington

"Can it be that Providence has not connected the permanent felicity of a nation with its virtue? "
~George Washington

"[T]here is no truth more thoroughly established, than that there exists . . . an indissoluble union between virtue and happiness." ~George Washington

"Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim tribute to patriotism who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness -- these firmest props of the duties of men and citizens. . . . reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principles."
~George Washington

"The aggregate happiness of the society, which is best promoted by the practice of a virtuous policy, is, or ought to be, the end of all government . . . ."
~George Washington

~"Human rights can only be assured among a virtuous people. The general government . . . can never be in danger of degenerating into a monarchy, an oligarchy, an aristocracy, or any despotic or oppressive form so long as there is any virtue in the body of the people."
~George Washington

"Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom. As nations become more corrupt and vicious, they have more need of masters."
~Benjamin Franklin

"A nation as a society forms a moral person, and every member of it is personally responsible for his society."
~Thomas Jefferson

"No government can continue good but under the control of the people; and . . . . their minds are to be informed by education what is right and what wrong; to be encouraged in habits of virtue and to be deterred from those of vice . . . . These are the inculcations necessary to render the people a sure basis for the structure and order of government." ~Thomas Jefferson

"It is in the manners and spirit of a people which preserve a republic in vigour. . . . degeneracy in these is a canker which soon eats into the heart of its laws and constitution."
~Thomas Jefferson

"[In a republic, according to Montesquieu in Spirit of the Laws, IV,ch.5,] 'virtue may be defined as the love of the laws and of our country. As such love requires a constant preference of public to private interest, it is the source of all private virtue; for they are nothing more than this very preference itself... Now a government is like everything else: to preserve it we must love it . . . Everything, therefore, depends on establishing this love in a republic; and to inspire it ought to be the principal business of education; but the surest way of instilling it into children is for parents to set them an example.'"
~Thomas Jefferson: copied into his Commonplace Book.

"When virtue is banished, ambition invades the minds of those who are disposed to receive it, and avarice possesses the whole community."
~Montesquieu (written by Thomas Jefferson in his Common Place Book).

"Liberty . . . is the great parent of science and of virtue; and . . . a nation will be great in both always in proportion as it is free."
~Thomas Jefferson

"The order of nature [is] that individual happiness shall be inseparable from the practice of virtue."
~Thomas Jefferson

"Without virtue, happiness cannot be."
~Thomas Jefferson

"The institution of delegated power implies that there is a portion of virtue and honor among mankind which may be a reasonable foundation of confidence."
~Alexander Hamilton

"To suppose that any form of government will secure liberty or happiness without any virtue in the people, is a chimerical idea."
~James Madison

  "The aim of every political Constitution, is or ought to be first to obtain for rulers men who possess most wisdom to discern, and most virtue to pursue, the common good of society; and in the next place, to take the most effectual precautions for keeping them virtuous whilst they continue to hold their public trust."
~James Madison

". . . Virtue, morality, and religion. This is the armor, my friend, and this alone that renders us invincible. These are the tactics we should study. If we lose these, we are conquered, fallen indeed . . . so long as our manners and principles remain sound, there is no danger."
~Patrick Henry

"Bad men cannot make good citizens. It is when a people forget God that tyrants forge their chains. A vitiated state of morals, a corrupted public conscience, is incompatible with freedom. No free government, or the blessings of liberty, can be preserved to any people but by a firm adherence to justice, moderation, temperance, frugality, and virtue; and by a frequent recurrence to fundamental principles."
~Patrick Henry

"Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other."
~John Adams

"We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge, or gallantry would break the strongest cords of our constitution as a whale goes through a net."
~John Adams

"Liberty can no more exist without virtue and independence than the body can live and move without a soul."
~John Adams

"Public virtue cannot exist in a nation without private, and public virtue is the only foundation of republics."
~John Adams

"[i]t is religion and morality alone which can establish the principles upon which freedom can securely stand. The only foundation of a free constitution is pure virtue."
~John Adams

  "Honor is truly sacred, but holds a lower rank in the scale of moral excellence than virtue. Indeed the former is part of the latter, and consequently has not equal pretensions to support a frame of government productive of human happiness."
~John Adams

"Our liberty depends on our education, our laws, and habits . . . it is founded on morals and religion, whose authority reigns in the heart, and on the influence all these produce on public opinion before that opinion governs rulers."
~Fisher Ames

"It is certainly true that a popular government cannot flourish without virtue in the people."
~Richard Henry Lee

"Whenever we are planning for posterity, we ought to remember that virtue is not hereditary."
~Thomas Paine

"[N]either the wisest constitution nor the wisest laws will secure the liberty and happiness of a people whose manners are universally corrupt. He therefore is the truest friend of the liberty of his country who tries most to promote its virtue, and who, so far as his power and influence extend, will not suffer a man to be chosen onto any office of power and trust who is not a wise and virtuous man."
~Samuel Adams

"The diminution of public virtue is usually attended with that of public happiness, and the public liberty will not long survive the total extinction of morals."
~Samuel Adams

"[M]en will be free no longer than while they remain virtuous."
~Samuel Adams

"No people can be great who have ceased to be virtuous."
~Samuel Johnson

"[A] free government . . . cannot be supported without Virtue."
~Samuel Williams

"A country cannot subsist well without liberty, nor liberty without virtue."
~Jean Jacques Rousseau
(continued)

"History records that the moneychangers have used every form of abuse, deceit, intrigue, and violent means possible to maintain their control over governments by controlling money and it's issuance."
-- James Madison(1751-1836), Father of the Constitution for the USA, 4th US President
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6 years ago  ::  May 12, 2008 - 7:57PM #3
Hatman
Posts: 9,634
"Machiavel, discoursing on these matters, finds virtue to be so essentially necessary to the establishment and preservation of liberty, that he thinks it impossible for a corrupted people to set up a good government, or for a tyranny to be introduced if they be virtuous; and makes this conclusion, 'That where the matter (that is, the body of the people) is not corrupted, tumults and disorders do not hurt; and where it is corrupted, good laws do no good:' which being confirmed by reason and experience, I think no wise man has ever contradicted him."
~Algernon Sidney

"[L]iberty cannot be preserved, if the manners of the people are corrupted . . ."
~Algernon Sidney

"[A]ll popular and well-mixed governments [republics] . . . are ever established by wise and good men, and can never be upheld otherwise than by virtue: The worst men always conspiring against them, they must fall, if the best have not power to preserve them. . . . [and] unless they be preserved in a great measure free from vices . . . ."
~Algernon Sidney

"Fruits are always of the same nature with the seeds and roots from which they come, and trees are known by the fruits they bear: as a man begets a man, and a beast a beast, that society of men which constitutes a government upon the foundation of justice, virtue, and the common good, will always have men to promote those ends; and that which intends the advancement of one man's desire and vanity, will abound in those that will foment them."
~Algernon Sidney

"[i]f vice and corruption prevail, liberty cannot subsist; but if virtue have the advantage, arbitrary power cannot be established."
~Algernon Sidney

"If the public safety be provided, liberty and propriety secured, justice administered, virtue encouraged, vice suppressed, and the true interest of the nation advanced, the ends of government are accomplished . . ."
~Algernon Sidney

"[L]iberty without virtue would be no blessing to us."
~Benjamin Rush

"Without virtue there can be no liberty."
~Benjamin Rush

"No free government can stand without virtue in the people, and a lofty spirit of patriotism."
~Andrew Jackson

"Lastly, our ancestors established their system of government on morality and religious sentiment. Moral habits, they believed, cannot safely be on any other foundation than religious principle, nor any government be secure which is not supported by moral habits."
~Daniel Webster

"[i]f we and our posterity reject religious instruction and authority, violate the rules of eternal justice, trifle with the injunctions of morality, and recklessly destroy the political constitution which holds us together, no man can tell how sudden a catastrophe may overwhelm us, that shall bury all our glory in profound obscurity."
~Daniel Webster

"Liberty cannot be established without morality, nor morality without faith."
~Horace Greely

"What is liberty without wisdom and without virtue? It is the greatest of all possible evils; for it is folly, vice, and madness, without tuition or restraint."
~Edmund Burke

"Manners are of more importance than laws. Upon them in great measure the laws depend. The law touches us but here and there, and now and then. Manners are what vex and smooth, corrupt or purify, exalt or debase, barbarize or refine us, by a constant, steady, uniform, insensible operation, like that of the air we breathe in. They give their whole form and color to our lives. According to their quality, they aid morals, they support them, or they totally destroy them."
~Edmund Burke

"It is better to cherish virtue and humanity, by leaving much to free will, even with some loss of the object , than to attempt to make men mere machines and instruments of political benevolence. The world on the whole will gain by a liberty, without which virtue cannot exist."
~Edmund Burke

"Among a people generally corrupt liberty cannot long exist."
~Edmund Burke
   
"Men are qualified for civil liberty in exact proportion to their disposition to put moral chains upon their appetites; in proportion as their love of justice is above their rapacity; in proportion as their soundness and sobriety of understanding is above their vanity and presumption; in proportion as they are more disposed to listen to the counsel of the wise and good, in preference to the flattery of knaves. Society cannot exist unless a controlling power upon will and appetite be placed somewhere, and the less of it there is within, the more there must be without. It is ordained in the eternal constitution of things, that men of intemperate minds cannot be free. Their passions forge their fetters."
~Edmund Burke

(continued)
"History records that the moneychangers have used every form of abuse, deceit, intrigue, and violent means possible to maintain their control over governments by controlling money and it's issuance."
-- James Madison(1751-1836), Father of the Constitution for the USA, 4th US President
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6 years ago  ::  May 12, 2008 - 7:59PM #4
Hatman
Posts: 9,634
"[T]he very best forms of government are vain without public virtue . . . ."
~William A. Cocke

"No polity can be devised which shall perpetuate freedom among a people that are dead to honor and integrity. Liberty and virtue are twin sisters, and the best fabric in the world . . . ."
~James H. Thornwell

"[P]erfect freedom consists in obeying the dictates of right reason, and submitting to natural law. When a man goes beyond or contrary to the law of nature and reason, he . . . introduces confusion and disorder into society . . . [thus] where licentiousness begins, liberty ends."
~Samuel West

"When was public virtue to be found when private was not?"
~William Cowper

"The laws by which the Divine Ruler of the universe has decreed an indissoluble connection between public happiness and private virtue, whatever apparent exceptions may delude our short-sighted judgments, never fail to vindicate their supremacy and immutability."
~William Cabell Rives

"Unless virtue guide us our choice must be wrong."
~William Penn

"If men be good, government cannot be bad."
~William Penn

   "The life of the nation is secure only while the nation is honest, truthful and virtuous."
~Frederick Douglas

"[R]eligion, morality and knowledge, being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall be forever encouraged."
~Northwest Ordinance of 1787

"I consider the domestic virtue of the Americans as the principle source of all their other qualities. It acts as a promoter of industry, as a stimulus to enterprise and as the most powerful restraint of public vice. . . . No government could be established on the same principle as that of the United States with a different code of morals."
~Francis Grund

"The American Constitution is remarkable for its simplicity; but it can only suffice a people habitually correct in their actions, and would be utterly inadequate to the wants of a different nation. Change the domestic habits of the Americans, their religious devotion, and their high respect for morality, and it will not be necessary to change a single letter in the Constitution in order to vary the whole form of their government."
~Francis Grund

"History fails to record a single precedent in which nations subject to moral decay have not passed into political and economic decline. There has been either a spiritual awakening to overcome the moral lapse, or a progressive deterioration leading to ultimate national disaster."
~Douglas MacArthur

"[Liberty] considers religion as the safeguard of morality, and morality as the best security of law and the surest pledge of the duration of freedom."
~Alexis de Tocqueville

"I sought for the greatness and genius of America in her commodious harbors and her ample rivers, and it was not there; in her fertile fields and boundless prairies; and it was not there; in her rich mines and her vast commerce, and it was not there. Not until I visited the churches of America and heard her pulpits aflame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her genius and power. America is great because she is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, America will cease to be great."
~An old adage attributed to Alexis de Tocqueville

"No government at any level, or at any price, can afford, on the crime side, the police necessary to assure our safety unless the overwhelming majority of us are guided by an inner, personal code of morality. And you will not get that inner, personal code of morality unless children are brought up in a family -- a family that gives them the affection they seek, that makes them feel they belong, that guides them to the future, and that will build continuity in future generations. . . . the greatest inequality today is not inequality of wealth or income. It is the inequality between the child brought up in a loving, supportive family and one who has been denied that birthright."
~Lady Margaret Thatcher

"A state is nothing more than a reflection of its citizens; the more decent the citizens, the more decent the state."
~Ronald Reagan

"Today it would be progress if everyone would stop talking about values. Instead, let us talk, as the Founders did, about virtues."
~George Will

"The ultimate success of this government and the stability of its institutions, its progress in all that can make a nation honored, depend upon its adherence to the principles of truth and righteousness."
~John Lord

"Righteousnessexalteth a nation."
Proverbs 14:34
   
Given the above, do you think that certain elements, desirous of deceiving and destroying America to enrich themselves at the expense of fools, have encouraged vice and made of virtue a laughingstock a-purpose?

All that said(and admittedly, rather verbosely, but IMO necessary to repeatedly underscore the point), upon reflection of my own, I agree with your premise---that the FF were more desirous of virtuous Representatives to diligently preserve the blessings of Liberty to all(and the concomitant suppression of tyranny in all it's insidious forms, particularly the "lovers of paper money") than to either be thought of as an "ungodly" secular government OR a godly "religious" one.

Warmest regards-

Hatman
"History records that the moneychangers have used every form of abuse, deceit, intrigue, and violent means possible to maintain their control over governments by controlling money and it's issuance."
-- James Madison(1751-1836), Father of the Constitution for the USA, 4th US President
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6 years ago  ::  May 12, 2008 - 8:42PM #5
mountain_man
Posts: 39,077

hortonthrockmorton wrote:

Disagree?


Vehemently disagree. They wanted a strictly secular, religiously neutral, government with a solid wall of separation between church and state.

Dave - Just a Man in the Mountains.

I am a Humanist. I believe in a rational philosophy of life, informed by science, inspired by art, and motivated by a desire to do good for its own sake and not by an expectation of a reward or fear of punishment in an afterlife.
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6 years ago  ::  May 13, 2008 - 2:24AM #6
Hatman
Posts: 9,634

mountain_man wrote:

Vehemently disagree. They wanted a strictly secular, religiously neutral, government with a solid wall of separation between church and state.



Not according to John Jay, arguably the first president of the united States, and the head of the first Supreme Court:

   “Providence has given our people the choice of their rulers, and it is the duty as well as the privilege and interest of our Christian nation to select and prefer Christians for their rulers.” — John Jay

Hopefully, it goes without saying  that there was then---and remains now---a great division regarding just what a "Christian" IS, or what attributes properly define one(a whole host of infamous names come to mind, here, like Robberson, Foulwell, et al).  In addition, the "wall of separation" was never meant to exclude the virtuous from being selected as Representatives, but rather to greatly encourage the same as being a NECESSITY for good government.

With goodwill to all the People-

Hatman

"History records that the moneychangers have used every form of abuse, deceit, intrigue, and violent means possible to maintain their control over governments by controlling money and it's issuance."
-- James Madison(1751-1836), Father of the Constitution for the USA, 4th US President
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6 years ago  ::  May 13, 2008 - 2:59AM #7
Hatman
Posts: 9,634
I ALMOST got the following into the above post, but the timeout feature prevented it's accomplishment, ergo:

Several others seem to concur, and I quote:

"It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great nation was founded, not by religionists, but by Christians; not on religions, but on the gospel of Jesus Christ! For this very reason peoples of other faiths have been afforded asylum, prosperity and freedom to worship here."
~Patrick Henry

"...the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth - that God governs in the affairs of men...We have been assured, Sir, in the sacred writings , that "except the Lord build this house they labour in vain that build it."
~Benjamin Franklin

The moment the idea is admitted into society that property is not as sacred as the law of God, and that there is not a force of law and public justice to protect it, anarchy and tyranny commence.
~John Adams

"We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That wherever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or abolish it, and to institute new Government…"
~Jefferson – Declaration of Independence (1776)

Warmest regards-

Hatman
"History records that the moneychangers have used every form of abuse, deceit, intrigue, and violent means possible to maintain their control over governments by controlling money and it's issuance."
-- James Madison(1751-1836), Father of the Constitution for the USA, 4th US President
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6 years ago  ::  May 13, 2008 - 7:18AM #8
davelaw40
Posts: 19,669

hortonthrockmorton wrote:

Thesis:  the United States of America was intended by the founding fathers to be neither singularly Christian (as was late 18th century England) nor strictly secular (as was late 18th century revolutionary France).  Instead, the founding fathers intended and promoted the notion of a more generic public religion, in which a generic God's favor was sought, but lacking dogmatic particulars which might promote division.  Therefore, those who insist that the U.S. was founded as a secular nation and those who insist that the U.S. was founded as a Christian nation are both wrong.


Agree?


Disagree?


Why?



Agreed, they were trying to create a structure where Deists, Jews, Unitarians, Muslims. Catholics and Protestants could all make vague references to God and America without ever offending one another.


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_civil_religion

“ While some have argued that Christianity is the national faith...few have realized that there actually exists alongside...the churches an elaborate and well-institutionalized civil religion in America ”   


      “ The greatest part of...America was peopled by men who...brought with them into the New World a form of Christianity...by styling it a democratic and republican religion ”   
      “ Civil religion is neither bona fide religion nor ordinary patriotism, but a new alloy formed by blending religion with nationalism. If civil religions were bona fide religions then one would expect to find a soft side to them, teaching love of neighbor and upholding peace and compassion. But this is not the case. ”   
Non Quis, Sed Quid
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6 years ago  ::  May 13, 2008 - 12:20PM #9
TPaine
Posts: 9,266

Hatman wrote:

Not according to John Jay, arguably the first president of the united States, and the head of the first Supreme Court:

   “Providence has given our people the choice of their rulers, and it is the duty as well as the privilege and interest of our Christian nation to select and prefer Christians for their rulers.” — John Jay



Hatman,
Jay's quote could be countered by Article 11 of the Treaty of Tripoli signed in 1797 ratified by the Senate, and signed off on by President John Adams which states:

"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 law, religion or tranquility of Musselmen; and as the states have never entered into any war or state of hostility against any Mohometan nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinion shall ever produce an interruption of harmony existing between the two countries."

I cannot accept the belief that virtue can only be found through Christianity. There are many virtuous people who have followed other belief systems as well as those who follow none.

"The civil Government, though bereft of everything like an associated hierarchy, possesses the requisite stability, and performs its functions with complete success, whilst the number, the industry, and the morality of the priesthood, and the devotion of the people, have been manifestly increased by the total separation of the church from the State" ... James Madison (Letter to Robert Walsh, Mar. 2, 1819).

"Compulsion in religion is distinguished peculiarly from compulsion in every other thing. I may grow rich by an act I am compelled to follow; I may recover health by medicines I am compelled to take against my own judgement; but I can never be saved by a worship I disbelieve and abhor." ... Thomas Jefferson

"The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg." ... Thomas Jefferson

"Be it therefore enacted by the General Assembly, That no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burdened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief; but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of religion, and that the same shall in nowise diminish, enlarge, or affect their civil capacities." ... Thomas Jefferson (The Virginia Act For Establishing Religious Freedom 1786)

"It is always to be taken for granted, that those who oppose an equality of rights never mean the exclusion should take place on themselves." -- Thomas Paine: Dissertations on First Principles of Government (July 7, 1795)
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6 years ago  ::  May 13, 2008 - 3:08PM #10
Hatman
Posts: 9,634
T.Paine-
There's a codacil to the Treaty of Tripoli of which you may be unaware, to wit:


"Written in Algiers and signed at Tripoli on Nov. 4, 1796, and at Algiers on Jan. 3, 1797, by Hassan Bashaw, dey or bey of Algiers, and Joel Barlow (1754-1812), U.S. Consul to Algiers. The original is in Arabic, and the English text was translated by Joel Barlow. Both texts were submitted to the U.S. Senate on May 29, 1797, and the treaty was ratified and proclaimed in Philadelphia on June 10, 1797. George Washington was president when the treaty was signed at Tripoli, but by the time it reached the Senate for ratification, John Adams was president and presented it to the Senate. Joel Barlow was co-author with Moslem officials of this treaty and sole author of Article XI which contains the non-Christian statement.

Interestingly, there is no Article XI in the original Arabic, and in its place is a crude letter of no importance from the Dey of Algiers to the Pasha of Tripoli. This discrepancy remains a mystery to this day."
http://www.ffrf.org/fttoday/june_july97/tripoli.html

[FONT="]
That said, I agree with Horton's thesis, that the Founders most certainly wanted to prevent religious tyranny(Jefferson, in particular, had suffered under ridiculous demands of "churches" in his day, hence his quite natural objections to churches exercising a form of despotism over not only their own members, but others in general society)---but they wanted to prevent tyranny of ANY kind over all those who were indisposed to commit criminal acts upon their fellows.  One of my favorite Jefferson quotes goes "There are two enemies to liberty: criminals and government.  Let us tie down the latter with the chains of the Constitution so that it cannot become the legalized version of the former."

I wholeheartedly agree that Christianity has no corner on virtue, too---and in fact, there have been and continue to be MANY people far more virtuous than a NUMBER of those who call themselves "Christian" but are not, starting mit de Fearlez Leadah and his NeoCon Nutbar review.  Shoot, at least Atheists are not hypocrites like a lot of 'em.

With goodwill to all the People-

Hatman[/FONT]

"History records that the moneychangers have used every form of abuse, deceit, intrigue, and violent means possible to maintain their control over governments by controlling money and it's issuance."
-- James Madison(1751-1836), Father of the Constitution for the USA, 4th US President
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