Sunday, October 22, 2006

The Founding Fathers and Religion

There is currently a discussion taking place on the NRO's Corner concerning the Founding Father's religious beliefs and opinions. It was sparked by the publication of George Will's review in the NYT of a book called Moral Minority by someone named Brooke Allen. The debate is centered on the professed deism of most of the Founding Fathers. (I should note that I myself am a Deist, and at least partly due to the deism of the FF)

While I do not believe in religion (just a creator), intellectually I can appreciate the role that organized religion has played in civilization. In fact I believe that civilization is not possible without religion. I believe that most men (and women) are brutish by nature, and need an external force to moderate their behavior. Religion provides both a carrot and a stick, along with a justification, that encourages civil behavior.

When we look at societies that have attempted to suppress or eliminate religion (revolutionary France and various communist countries) we see a reversion to a State of Nature. (ie a lack of civilization)

Jefferson , Washington, Madison and the rest were intelligent enough to know that civilization and public order required the presence of a moral code and authority external to the State and society. They had to repose the origins of our rights in a creator in order to preserve them from destruction at the hands of a future despot.

As the Supreme Court has seen fit to transfer these rights from the realm of a creator to the realm of politics and judicial review, we have seen these rights threatened.

So yes, the Founding Fathers were skeptical of religion, but I firmly believe they understood it's utility and necessity.


PhD9 said...

Interesting post. Fortunatly, one doesn't need to believe in a Creator for a fully formed moral sense to take shape. I start with "all men are created equal" extropolate from that and the results are significantly more resilient than anything thumpers can come up with.

Gahrie said...

Sure that works for You, but that was not the problem. The problem is how to deal with the general populace, many, if not most, of whom are not as enlightened as you are.

For instance, when those words were written, not even all of the Founders believed them.

And just because you think that "all men are created equal" is a good idea, doesn't mean that a majority of voters always will.

If rights are given and protected by the good will of men, they can be taken and destroyed by the ill will of men. If rights are given from an outside authority, they cannot be be destroyed by man.