Ms. Torkelson reports: (Let me include some salient pufferies from the little guy. Uncanny would be the nice word to described Chaput's view of democracy. Weird would be a little more to the point.)
Denver Archbishop Charles Chaput slammed secularism before a Southern California audience last week, calling religious faith essential to democracy and secularism "actively destructive" to it.Okay, then... Let's look at the facts, shall we.
"Democracy does not mean putting aside our religious and moral beliefs for the sake of public policy; in fact, it demands exactly the opposite..."
"Democracy depends on people of character fighting for their beliefs in the public square - legally, ethically and nonviolently, but forcefully and without apology." [I agree. Without qualification!]
Meanwhile, secularism "isn't really morally neutral," Chaput said, according to his prepared text. "It's actively destructive. It undermines community. It attacks the heart of what it means to be human. It rejects the sacred while posturing itself as neutral to the sacred.
"It also just doesn't work," Chaput added. "In fact, by its nature it can't work as a life-giving principle for society."
Chaput, who speaks frequently around the country, said Americans have confused the principle of maintaining nonsectarian public institutions, which is proper, with the secularist destructive view, which calls for a religion- free public square.
"Whenever you hear loud fretting sparked by an irrational fear of an 'established church,' somebody's trying to force religious believers and communities out of the public discussion of issues..." [Ah, does George perceive a wee bit of bullshit here? Who, I wonder, actually trembles with "...irrational fear of an 'established church'..."???
The nation's core principles, such as inalienable rights and equality under the law, are traced to Christianity and its Jewish roots, he said, lamenting that "as a country we're losing the Founders' perspective on the meaning of our shared public life." [Yes, indeed, theocratic revisionism at its best!]
He also blasted common cultural bywords such as "tolerance" and "consensus," saying they are of less value in making civic choices than charity, justice, faith and truth. [Oh, my...]
Even the word "community" has been corrupted, Chaput said.
The Constitution contains no reference to a deity. The Declaration of Independence proposed the outrageous conclusion that the divine right of kings (read: God-given) was anomalous to the essence of democracy.
Thomas PaineThe incisive quotes above are detailed, of all places, in Ms. Magazine (fall 2004), the full text of which is here.
“I do not believe in the creed professed by the Jewish church, by the Roman church, by the Greek church, by the Turkish church, by the Protestant church, nor by any church that I know of. My own mind is my own church” (The Age of Reason, 1794).
“Of all the systems of religion that ever were invented, there is no more derogatory to the Almighty, more unedifying to man, more repugnant to reason, and more contradictory in itself than this thing called Christianity” (Ibid.).
“Scarcely was I arrived at fifteen years of age, when, after having doubted in turn of different tenets, according as I found them combated in the different books that I read, I began to doubt of Revelation itself ” (Franklin’s Autobiography, 1817–18).
“Some volumes against Deism fell into my hands … they produced an effect precisely the reverse to what was intended by the writers; for the arguments of the Deists, which were cited in order to be refuted, appeared to me much more forcibly than the refutation itself; in a word, I soon became a thorough Deist” (Ibid.).
The false image of Washington as a devout Christian was fabricated by Mason Locke Weems, a clergyman who also invented the cherry-tree fable and in 1800 published his Life of George Washington. Washington, a Deist and a Freemason, never once mentioned the name of Jesus Christ in any of his thousands of letters, and pointedly referred to divinity as “It.”
Whenever he (rarely) attended church, Washington always deliberately left before communion, demonstrating disbelief in Christianity’s central ceremony.
Adams, a Unitarian inspired by the Enlightenment, fiercely opposed doctrines of supernaturalism or damnation, writing to Jefferson: “I almost shudder at the thought of alluding to the most fatal example of the abuses of grief which the history of mankind has preserved — the Cross. Consider what calamities that engine of grief has produced!”
Adams realized how politically crucial — and imperiled — a secular state would be: “The United States of America have exhibited, perhaps, the first example of governments erected on the simple principles of nature; and if men are now sufficiently enlightened to disabuse themselves of artifice, imposture, hypocrisy, and superstition, they will consider this event as an era in their history. … It will never be pretended that any persons employed in that service [forming the U.S. government] 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. …Thirteen governments [of the original states] thus founded on the natural authority of the people alone, without a pretence of miracle or mystery… are a great point gained in favor of the rights of mankind” (A Defence of the Constitutions of Government of the United States of America, 1787–88).
It’s a commonly stated error that U.S. law, based on English common law, is thus grounded in Judeo-Christian tradition.
Yet Jefferson (writing to Dr. Thomas Cooper, February 10, 1814 ) noted that common law “is that system of law which was introduced by the Saxons on their settlement in England …about the middle of the fifth century. But Christianity was not introduced till the seventh century. …We may safely affirm (though contradicted by all the judges and writers on earth) that Christianity neither is, nor ever was a part of the common law.”
Jefferson professed disbelief in the Trinity and the divinity of Jesus Christ, while respecting moral teachings by whomever might have been a historical Jesus. He cut up a Bible, assembling his own version: “The whole history of these books [the Gospels] is so defective and doubtful,” he wrote Adams (January 24, 1814), “evidence that parts have proceeded from an extraordinary man; and that other parts are of the fabric of very inferior minds.”
Scorning miracles, saints, salvation, damnation, and angelic presences, Jefferson embraced reason, materialism, and science. He challenged Patrick Henry, who wanted a Christian theocracy: “[A]n amendment was proposed by inserting ‘Jesus Christ,’ so that [the preamble] should read ‘A departure from the plan of Jesus Christ, the holy author of our religion’; the insertion was rejected by a great majority, in proof that they meant to comprehend, within the mantle of its protection, the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Mohammedan, the Hindoo and Infidel of every denomination” (from Jefferson’s Autobiography, referring to the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom).
The theme is consistent throughout Jefferson ’s prolific correspondence: “Question with boldness even the existence of a God” (letter to Peter Carr, August 10, 1787).
“[The clergy] believe that any portion of power confided to me, will be exerted in opposition to their schemes. And they believe rightly: for I have sworn upon the altar of God, eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man” (letter to Dr. Benjamin Rush, September 23, 1800).
“I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which…thus[built] a wall of separation between church and state” (letter to the Danbury [ Connecticut ] Baptist Association, January 1, 1802).
“History, I believe, furnishes no example of a priest-ridden people maintaining a free civil government” (letter to Alexander von Humboldt, December 6, 1813).
“In every country and in every age, the priest has been hostile to liberty. He is always in alliance with the despot, abetting his abuses in return for protection to his own” (letter to Horatio G. Spafford, March 17, 1814).
“[W]hence arises the morality of the Atheist? …Their virtue, then, must have had some other foundation than the love of God” (letter to Thomas Law, June 13, 1814).
“I am of a sect by myself, as far as I know” (letter to Ezra Stiles, June 25, 1819).
“The day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus… will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerva in the brain of Jupiter” (letter to John Adams, April 11, 1823).
Although prayer groups proliferate in today’s Congress, James Madison, “father of the Constitution,” denounced even the presence of chaplains in Congress — and in the armed forces — as unconstitutional. He opposed all use of “religion as an engine of civil policy,” and accurately prophesied the threat of “ecclesiastical corporations.”
“Religious bondage shackles and debilitates the mind and unfits it for every noble enterprise” (letter to William Bradford, April 1, 1774).
“During almost fifteen centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial. What have been its fruits? More or less in all places, pride and indolence in the Clergy, ignorance and servility in the laity; in both, superstition, bigotry and persecution” (Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments, Section 7, 1785).
“What influence in fact have ecclesiastical establishments had on Civil Society? In some instances they have been seen to erect a spiritual tyranny on the ruins of the Civil authority; in many instances they have been seen upholding the thrones of political tyranny: in no instance have they been seen as the guardians of the liberties of the people. Rulers who wished to subvert the public liberty, may have found an established Clergy convenient auxiliaries” (Ibid., Section 8).
“Besides the danger of a direct mixture of Religion & civil Government, there is an evil which ought to be guarded agst. in the indefinite accumulation of property from the capacity of holding it in perpetuity by ecclesiastical corporations. The power of all corporations ought to be limited in this respect. …The establishment of the chaplainship to Congs. is a palpable violation of equal rights, as well as of Constitutional principles. … Better also to disarm in the same way, the precedent of Chaplainships for the army and navy. … Religious proclamations by the Executive [branch] recommending thanksgivings & fasts are shoots from the same root. … Altho’ recommendations only, they imply a religious agency, making no part of the trust delegated to political rulers” (Monopolies, Perpetuities, Corporations, Ecclesiastical Endowments, circa 1819).
As to Chaput's thoughts on "...common cultural bywords such as 'tolerance' and 'consensus...' May we conclude that not even the Archbishop--or the Pope, for that matter--has the divine right to tell us how to interpret English grammar--the meaning of words. I think we are quite capable of determining that for ourselves.