Wednesday, January 24, 2007

The Speech

To recall the image of true intellectual leadership, masterful oratory, and real statesmanship, re-read Patrick Henry's speech, "The War Inevitable." I haven't read it in years ... powerful and profound. To comment further would require rhetorical skills to match Mr. Henry's and I must decline the temptation. Read it all. ... Oh, you thought I meant another speech?

27 Comments:

Blogger Always On Watch Two said...

This applies today:

Shall we acquire the means of effectual resistance by lying supinely on our backs, and hugging the delusive phantom of hope, until our enemies shall have bound us hand and foot?

In other words, appeasement when war has been declared against us, is nothing more than an illusion.

It's been a while since I've read the whole of this speech. Thank you for the reminder, Jason.

1/24/07, 8:22 PM  
Blogger Jason_Pappas said...

I knew you'd appreciate it, too. I glad you noticing some of the same timeless principles and worries.

1/24/07, 8:38 PM  
Anonymous jeremayakovka said...

Nice catch, Jason. (It's not like I was going to learn any of this in high school or college....)

1/25/07, 2:39 AM  
Blogger Weingarten said...

Thanks Jason, Patrick Henry is exquisite.

1/25/07, 12:45 PM  
Blogger Mr. Beamish the Instablepundit said...

Jason,

It's good to look at the geopolitical analysis of the Iron Curtain speech and look over the long strange trip it has been since the end of World War 2. Some is applicable, some seems downright alien.

The United Nations never became what it was intended to be, but I think Churchill anticipated even that by emphasizing Anglo-American unity.

1/26/07, 3:23 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jason:

The Patrick Henry "Give me liberty or give me death" speech is exactly the one Bush should have given at The State Of The Union Address.

All he would have had to do is insert some new material about the Unholy Alliance of the Left and Islam to crush liberty, and delete the old material about the tyranny of King George.

Cheers, Ronbo

1/26/07, 8:28 AM  
Blogger Weingarten said...

I agree with Jason about the fine qualities of Churchill, as well as his naïve side in favoring the UN. Initially, he even supported the statist approach of fascism (as did Roosevelt).

The UN could never in principle have been successful, for unlike our constitution it was not based on the rights of the individual, but on the aims of all countries (most of which were and are tyrannical). Given a negative common denominator, practices had to devolve to narrow interests.

I also agree with Barbour that Patrick Henry’s speech is precisely what we need today. Yet if the public, who think they favor our founders, actually read them, they would be aghast.

1/26/07, 9:16 AM  
Blogger Weingarten said...

The speech by Patrick Henry was okay, but just think how much better it would have been if he had a Public School education. He could even have become president of the GO. One rewrite is as follows:

Don’† Go †o War!

I g€ts nawsh€us by †h€m pa†rio†s who †hink mor€ of a coun†ry †hann i†s p€opl€. Now €v€ry †hing is a ma††€r of opinion, bu†† myne is bas€d on pol€s of wha† p€opl€ lik€. †h€y lik€ us †o n€go†ia†€ and g€† a long wi†h our €n€mi€s, for †h€r€ is gr€a† lov€ in loving †h€m. W€ hav€ †o show †h€m †ha† †h€y shouldnn† b€ usps€†, so w€ will s€nd †h€m arms and all will b€ w€ll.

R€m€mb€r, †h€y ar€ human b€ings jus† lik€ us, so w€ should b€ on †hair sigh€d. Now †hair ain† no God who pr€zid€s, so †h€ s†rong will win, which is †h€m. Lif€ is d€ar and so †is b€††€r †o b€ r€ad †han d€ad.

Almi†€y D€mocracy, I know wha† o†h€rs lik€, for †h€ pol€s only show †hir†€€ p€r c€n† wan†ing war, so for m€ I say I wan† mor€ b€n€fi†s. To those who disagree, with this finger I say ‘fok ewe’.

1/27/07, 9:11 AM  
Anonymous George Mason said...

Jason,

Just imagine how thrilling this speech was in its time, and how "ordinary" in the sense that people thought in such principles and talked using such language. Patrick Henry could get in and tweak the adrenals, while a lot of writers and speakers of the time were not eloquent. Yet, look at the breadth of their thought, the reach of their vision, the grasp of mission, and their willingness to stand up for principles. What a contrast to today.

Speaking of contrasts, maybe the comment by Weingarten who "translated" the speech into modern p.c. public schoolese really demonstrates how far we have come down from Patrick Henry. (Nice touch using the Euro symbols).

1/31/07, 7:18 PM  
Blogger Weingarten said...

Following the Revolution, Patrick Henry supported proposals in the Virginia legislature that would have essentially established the Episcopal church in that state. The proposed measures would have "incorporated" the Episcopal clergy, and would have provided financial support to the church through tax levies. These bills were ultimately defeated, due largely to the efforts of James Madison and some of his allies.
See: http://www.geocities.com/peterroberts.geo/Relig-Politics/PHenry.html

I do not mention the above to argue for Henry's approach, which I view as mistaken. I merely state it to indicate that Christianity played a role in the formation of the United States. Somehow, many libertarians and Objectivists maintain that religion had and has little to do with America.

A while ago I watched the TV film “The Valley of Light”. It was a drama and a love story, yet as an aside it portrayed the Christian faith of a community in America at the end of WWII. One noted the deep seated religious motivations of these quiet folks (which was surely neither Greek nor Roman). One saw it in their funerals, and one can imagine how they treated their weddings and births.

With that in mind, consider the Preamble to ‘Liberty And Culture’, which writes of liberty being a “product of a specific cultural evolution having its genesis in Ancient Greece and reaching the summit of philosophical maturity in the Anglo-American Enlightenment.” There is no mention of the influence of Judaism or Christianity upon liberty. Yet Judaism fought for religious liberty (against both the Greeks and the Romans) as did Christianity against its oppressors. (Perhaps the atheists of that time would have sided with the Greeks & Romans as representing a higher level of civilization, and been surprised when these great empires collapsed, while the Jews and Christians lived on). In both religions, one of the defenses against tyranny was that the will of God required a higher standard than conforming to the powers that be. The Negro spirituals spoke of “Let My People Go” as a call for liberty, going back to the Israelites in ancient Egypt. Dietrich Bonhoeffer called on his version of Christianity in organizing resistance to fascism, as did others in their resistance to communism and Islam.

Now the atheist and Objectivist may wish to focus on the secular callings for liberty. However, that does not refute that for many Americans, their guide to liberty (even if said to be illogical) brings to mind their religion. To deny the Jewish and Christian roots of America is wishful thinking at best, and doctrinaire at worst. The social-democrats (or liberals) know how to appeal to the American public, by dealing with their religious orientation (even if it is viewed as altruism). Would that the libertarians and Objectivists would do the same.

2/2/07, 12:17 PM  
Blogger Jason_Pappas said...

The Ancient Jews and Christians didn’t fight for liberty and certainly not for religious liberty. Rome could tolerate multiple religions – it had over 70 – as long as the practitioners were tolerant in return. When Rome became Christian it outlawed pagan religions. It took another 1000 years and the religious wars of the 17th century before toleration was once again considered.

Christians eventually incorporated Greco-Roman concepts into their framework. So it is not surprising to see Christians referring to secular liberty as being Christian. I welcome it.

One of the interesting things about Henry’s speech is the way he uses religion. He doesn’t argue from religion. Note he says: “I have but one lamp by which my feet are guided, and that is the lamp of experience.” This was similar to the Federalist quote I used the other day: “experience is our oracle.” But he still refers to religion.

His usage is what I call a “cosmic” usage. It heightens the rhetorical effectiveness of the speech. I think it is wonderful. There is nothing that is Episcopalian or anti-Catholic in the speech at all. You wouldn’t even know if this God was a Christian God but of course for Henry it was. He just doesn’t use this for the substance of his argument but it adds immeasurable.

And I love the Battle Hymn of the Republic. There’s no need for Christians to fail to acknowledge the Greco-Roman roots of individual rights. And there’s no reason not to praise the face that Christians can harmonize and incorporate the great ideas from our Hellenic tradition. How each individual does that is left to the individual to decide. Does Henry say how he would do this?

2/2/07, 1:20 PM  
Blogger Weingarten said...

I shall confine myself to Jason’s initial sentence “The Ancient Jews and Christians didn’t fight for liberty and certainly not for religious liberty.”

To my knowledge, the first fight for religious freedom occurred in 167 BC when the Jews, led by the Maccabees, defended their liberty, and especially their religious liberty, against the Greeks. The story is extensive, so I will provide but a few quotes.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maccabees
“In 167 BC, after Antiochus issued decrees in Judea forbidding Jewish religious practice, a rural Jewish priest from Modiin, Mattathias the Hasmonean, sparked the revolt against the Seleucid empire by refusing to worship the Greek gods and slaying the Hellenistic Jew who stepped forward to worship an idol.”

Jewish Encyclopedia, p.635 volume I.
“A royal decree proclaimed the abolition of the Jewish mode of worship; Sabbaths & festivals were not to be observed; circumcision was not be performed; the sacred books were to be surrendered and the Jews were compelled to offer sacrifices to the idols that had been erected…The possession of a sacred book or the performance of the rite of circumcision was punished with death…Open resistance ensued (167-166) and after defeating two armies sent against them, by 165 the Regent “Lysias, himself was forced to flee to Antioch, having been completely routed by the victorious Jews.”

Next is the fight of the Jews against the persecution by the Romans, who were the greatest power on earth. The Jews won their initial battles, but were ultimately defeated, due to dissention in their ranks. (This dissention was similar to the way that the Democrats of today seek to be defeated by their enemies.)

http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Judaism/revolt.html

No one could argue with the Jews for wanting to throw off Roman rule. Since the Romans...Equally infuriating to the Judeans, Rome took over the appointment of the High Priest...The Jews, alone in the empire…would not defile God's Temple with a statue of pagan Rome's newest deity…In the decades after Caligula's death, Jews found their religion subject to periodic gross indignities, Roman soldiers exposing themselves in the Temple on one occasion, and burning a Torah scroll on another…Ultimately, the combination of financial exploitation, Rome’s unbridled contempt for Judaism, and the unabashed favoritism that the Romans extended to gentiles living in Israel brought about the revolt…Throughout the Roman conquest of this territory, the Jewish leadership in Jerusalem did almost nothing to help their beleaguered brothers. They apparently had concluded—too late, unfortunately—that the revolt could not be won, and wanted to hold down Jewish deaths as much as possible...It is estimated that as many as one million Jews died in the Great Revolt against Rome.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Masada
“Masada became famous for its significance in the First Jewish-Roman War (Great Jewish Revolt), when a siege of the fortress by troops of the Roman Empire led to a mass suicide of the site's Jewish defenders when defeat became imminent.”

The Christian resistance against the Romans was less military, and more spiritual.

http://www.olph.com/lions.htm
Because the Roman gods were actually a part of the state religion, and it was thought that they must be worshipped regularly in order for the Romans to have victory in war and prosperity at home, it was considered a Roman's patriotic duty to sacrifice regularly to Jupiter, Mars, Juno, Vesta, and leave offerings out for the household gods, the Lares and Penates...The Christians, on the other hand, believed in one God and worship Him in three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Making sacrifice to Jupiter or Poseidon was (and still is) abhorrent to a Christian. Because the Romans believed that the favor of the gods was necessary to the security of the state, the Christians were believed to be not only impious and anti-religious but unpatriotic as well…Most Roman magistrates believed themselves to be enlightened and the government they represented to be merciful. and gave the Christians many opportunities to renounce their "strange unpatriotic beliefs" before condemning Christians to death in the arena or by formal execution…some were crucified in the arena, others thrown to wild animals, and still others were burned alive as living torches to light Nero's garden at his Golden House… Persecutions were renewed under Septimius Severus, Trajan Decius, Valerian, Gallienus, and Diocletian.

Many have heard of the gladiator games at the coliseum, where Christians were thrown to the lions. The story is told about the boy in the audience who cried. His father consoled him that it is the way of the world to punish heretics. The boy responded “I know, but that little lion isn’t getting any.”

Perhaps I misunderstand Jason’s view, but he seems to suggest that we ought to respect the Greeks and Romans, who engaged in persecution, while downgrading the Jews and Christians who defended against them.

2/2/07, 6:19 PM  
Blogger Jason_Pappas said...

I chose my words very carefully when I said “Rome could tolerate multiple religions – it had over 70 – as long as the practitioners were tolerant in return.” I had in mind the early Christians and some Jews who would were not tolerant of other religions. When Constantine legalized Christianity in 313AD the fear that other religions would not be tolerated was eventually proven true; by the end of the century all pagan religions were outlawed and pagans were fed to the lions in the circuses. Prior to the rise of Christianity, all that the Romans asked was that the state religion be respected and mutual respect was shown to other religions.

It’s clear that the Jews in the Levant fought to practice Judaism but they didn’t fight for religious liberty anymore than the Pilgrims who landed on Plymouth Rock sought to establish religious liberty. In both cases they fought to establish their orthodoxy. As you note Mattathias slew “the Hellenistic Jew who stepped forward to worship an idol.” That’s not establishing religious freedom in my book.

Let’s back-up a bit. After Alexander’s men established their empires, Jews established a presence through out North Africa. By the time of Jesus, Jews had large communities in Alexandria and Rome itself. They played an important part in the intellectual life of Alexandria. One history of science text declares Maria of Alexandria, a Jewess, was the first chemist for inventing the process of distillation. I’ll toast that!

Thus, the orthodox Jews in the Levant weren’t the whole of the Jewish community. Perhaps they were the most orthodox and perhaps they were the most intolerant. No doubt they fought for their independence but as I commented a few months back (and you enjoyed the distinction) national independence and individual liberty are two different matters.

There is little in your exposition that shows the Jews establishing freedom and toleration. The Roman state still falls far short of modern standards (and absolute standards) in establishing and securing liberty. But they took a large step forward. The Stoics and Ciceronians had aspirations that were never realized. But their ideas had influence. Comparing the tradition in the Levant at its best and the tradition of Rome at its best shows the influence went from Rome to Christianity (and Judaism which was still evolving.)

2/2/07, 8:12 PM  
Blogger Weingarten said...

I had responded to Jason’s initial sentence “The Ancient Jews and Christians didn’t fight for liberty and certainly not for religious liberty” by describing the Jewish wars against the Greeks and Romans, as well as the Christian resistance to the Romans.

Jason counters that the Jews “fought to practice Judaism but they didn’t fight for religious liberty.” To show this he argues that Mattathias slew “the Hellenistic Jew who stepped forward to worship an idol" [writing] "That’s not establishing religious freedom in my book.”

Given that the Jews were engaged in war at the time, the Hellenist ‘stepping forward’ was an act of treason, akin to someone shouting ‘Heil Hitler’ during an uprising against German domination, rather than a practice of religious belief. (Let us note that the Jews did not object to other Jews who wished to worship the Greek gods, but rebelled when they themselves were forced to do the same.) Yet, let us presume that the Hellenistic Jew actually was praying to the Greek idol, and that the Jews did deprive him of his religious freedom. If such behavior refutes a war for liberty and religious liberty, it would refute any such war. Surely those innocent Tories who were persecuted and slain during and following our War of Independence bring to mind the litany of freedoms that were violated during our ‘universal’ quest for liberty. Nor could our Constitution stand for liberty, given its consent to slavery. Similarly, by Jason’s reasoning, WWII was not a fight for liberty, given its many violations.

Jason correctly points out that “national independence and individual liberty are two different matters.” Yet the Jewish revolt was not originally a struggle for independence, but for the right to worship. Had Antiochus not required that the Jews violate their religion, there would have been no struggle for national independence. He came to his decision to destroy the Jews only AFTER his draconian methods to eradicate Judaism failed. It was Antiochus’ decision that forced the Jewish struggle for religious freedom to become a struggle for independence. The same held for the Christian resistance. Those struggles established the essential principle that one’s relation to God superceded governance by the State (which does not deny that the principle was at times violated in practice.)

It appears that Jason employs a double standard. To downgrade the Jewish and Christian struggles for their religious liberty, because of imperfections, is to establish a standard by which no such struggle ever existed. Any struggle for liberty and religious freedom has and will continue to be imperfect. Jason could similarly claim that the Negro slave revolts were not a struggle for liberty, but only a fight for their liberty, thereby concluding that the slaves never fought for liberty.

The Chinese say that “to fight injustice anywhere is to fight it everywhere”. From that perspective, I view the struggles of the Jews and Christians for their liberty as inseparable from the fight for all liberty, and the oppression by the Greeks and Romans as a fight against liberty everywhere.

Finally, Jason points out that Patrick Henry “doesn’t argue from religion”...(but from experience”…There is nothing that is Episcopalian…in the speech at all. You wouldn’t even know if this God was a Christian God”. Apparently this indicated that the role of Christianity was not central to his views. Yet consider that the concepts of liberty took hold among Christians and Jews, which Jason views as coincidental. Would he say the same for science, literature, economics, Objectivism, and other important disciplines? Is it just a coincidence that in the world of the intellect there is a disproportionate number of Jews and Christians? Clearly, those in science, do not derive their conclusions from the Bible, and there are multitudes of atheists among them. Yet if one thinks that their contribution had nothing to do with their religious heritage, it is a coincidence that requires explanation

2/3/07, 4:32 PM  
Blogger Jason_Pappas said...

“To downgrade the Jewish and Christian struggles for their religious liberty, because of imperfections, is to establish a standard by which no such struggle ever existed.”

That’s not my position.

I did pointed out one contrary piece of evidence from what you provided but I did that in passing. The main part of my summary was: “There is little in your exposition that shows the Jews establishing freedom and toleration. The Roman state still falls far short of modern standards (and absolute standards) in establishing and securing liberty. But they took a large step forward. The Stoics and Ciceronians had aspirations that were never realized.”

Now you might say that I didn’t prove the assertion that the Jews weren’t fighting for liberty. But I believe you also didn’t prove your assertion that they were. Since Jews were not to be in a position of power for 2000 years I can’t point to their record.

However, I did point to the record of a religious offshoot of Judaism: Christianity. My description of Christianity is that it brought to an end the centuries of toleration (imperfect as it was) and instituted millennia of intolerance. That’s not an isolated datum but a vast sweeping description.

I readily admit I know more about Christianity’s history because of its influence in the last 2000 years. 1. Can we agree that Christianity, prior to the Renaissance has a poor record of liberty and toleration? 2. Can we also agree that the religious toleration, imperfect as it was, was greater during pagan Roman times for any religion that showed mutual respect and tolerance?

2/3/07, 10:42 PM  
Blogger Jason_Pappas said...

As an anecdote in passing I like to appreciate the multi-part series of the History of the Jews (either History Channel or PBS) narrated by Abba Eban. I found it inspiring that Eban was able to marvel at the religious tolerance in Rome and the Roman Empire. Given the reason for talking about Rome at all in the middle of Jewish history, that was quite a statement.

This is what I mean by the ability of many Christian and Jews to respect the great step forward that Rome represented. And many can credit Greco-Roman culture for secular liberty.

The idea of natural right and natural law was Greek. Here is what Leo Strauss says: “The idea of natural right must be unknown as long as the idea of nature is unknown. The discovery of nature is the work of philosophy. Where there is no philosophy, there is no knowledge of natural right as such. The Old Testament, whose basic premise may be said to be the implicit rejection of philosophy, does not know ‘nature’: the Hebrew term of ‘nature’ is unknown to the Hebrew Bible.” … There is, then, no knowledge of natural right as such in the Old Testament.”

“The distinction between nature and convention, between physis and nomos, is there coeval with the discovery of nature and hence with philosophy. … By uprooting the authority of the ancestral, philosophy recognizes that nature is the authority. … Furthermore, we must distinguish between those human desires and inclinations which are in accordance with human nature and therefore good for man, and those which are destruction of his nature of his humanity and therefore bad. We are thus led to the notion of a life, a human life, that is good because it is in accordance with nature.”

This is from Strauss’ famous essay, “The Origin of the Idea of Natural Right.” Here he traces its roots in Hellenic philosophy. Strauss was not an Objectivism but he was highly regarded among many conservatives. I have this in Strauss’ book, “Natural Right and History” and I have it in a book of conservative essays on political philosophy. It’s worth reading to see why Strauss comes to this conclusion.

2/3/07, 11:07 PM  
Blogger Jason_Pappas said...

I still can’t understand how you don’t see the vast difference between’s Rome’s toleration of dozens of religions and Christianity’s 1600 years of religious intolerance.

Rome did have a state religion but it didn’t require the population to accept a belief system and live a certain way. Showing respect to the state religion was a ritual like saluting the flag or saying the pledge. In history it is only in the last few decades that one finds exemption from saying the pledge or saluting the flag.

Rome had many religions and philosophies. Some of the major religions that were worshiped were Mithra, Isis, etc. Philosophies such as Stoicism, Epicureanism, neo-Platonism, all competed. The majority of Jews had no problem. Jews living through out Northern Africa, Asia Minor, Greece, and Italy practiced and living according to their belief.

Rome’s civic Gods didn’t signify a belief system. There was no Jupiterism, Venusism, etc. One was free to believe.

Compare that to Christianity. When Christians rose to power it outlawed all pagan religions. Christians were far more intolerant of Jews than Rome was. Christians were intolerant of other Christians far more than they were of Jews and pagans. There were many sects of Christianity that differed on the exact nature of the divinity of Jesus. The differences were so minute that I always have a hard time remember them.

There were Arians, Donatists, Monophysites, Nestorians, etc. Most of the Goths were Arians, for example, but I believe the Vandals were Donatists. In any case, the fighting among Christian sects was fierce. Eventually the Orthodox view prevailed except at the eastern fringes of the Christian world.

We see intolerance of non-orthodox views dominate the first 17 centuries of Christianity and intolerance of non-Christian religions was standard with few advocates of toleration. When we come to the 18th century in America we see a miracle. Deists (like Jefferson), traditionalists (like Patrick Henry) Unitarians (like Sam Adams) can all get along. This would have been unimaginable in the prior 17 centuries. Unitarians would have been burned at the stake. Denying the divinity of Jesus was a death sentence.

Thus, it took over 1000 years for Christians to revive the tradition of toleration of Rome. And the Stoics in Rome took toleration and rights much further but they couldn’t secure its practice. I’m glad Christians could finally reform and accept liberty and toleration. But there is no need to claim Christianity was tolerant all along and indeed, invented religious liberty. Let’s respect our debt to Greece and Rome. The founding fathers did.

2/4/07, 8:35 AM  
Blogger Weingarten said...

Jason, I appreciated your erudition, but let me return to your statement “The Ancient Jews and Christians didn’t fight for liberty and certainly not for religious liberty.” Presumably fighting the greatest powers on earth, defeating the first and partially defeating the second, doesn’t count, nor does allowing others to practice their religion. Perhaps you will explain what would have counted as fighting for religious liberty two millennia ago. Should the Jews and Christians have accepted the oppression by others, and sought to become just like them?

2/4/07, 2:14 PM  
Blogger Jason_Pappas said...

Where do you find the Christians allowing others to practice there religion? Where is there a Christian voice advocating religious liberty? To what extent can one find exposition that argues for religious liberty? To what extent can one find the practice of religious liberty in Christendom prior to the Enlightenment?

Christians didn’t fight Rome. They converted Romans. And this ended religious liberty for over 1000 years.

2/4/07, 3:39 PM  
Blogger Weingarten said...

My question was “Perhaps you will explain what would have counted as fighting for religious liberty two millennia ago. Should the Jews and Christians have accepted the oppression by others, and sought to become just like them?”

To this Jason replied in a manner that I do not consider responsive. However, he raised other questions, which I shall respond to ad seriatum.


“Where do you find the Christians allowing others to practice there religion?”

Primarily in America, and most of the Western world. To repeat, I attribute much of the virtues in America to Christianity, even though those virtues are no more spoken of as Christian, than are the achievements in science, economics, and Objectivism, attributed to Judaism.

“Where is there a Christian voice advocating religious liberty?”

The leader of the Catholic Church, the Pope, for one. Other Christian voices include: Albert J. Nock (and the Nockian Society), Reinhold Niebuhr, Reverend Opitz, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Richard Neuhouse, and Pat Robertson come to mind. And also politicos like Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum, and many in the US Congress. We may also note Lord Acton (“Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely”) along with members of the Acton Institute.


“To what extent can one find exposition that argues for religious liberty?”


Again, I find it in the words of the supporters of the Declaration of Independence. It is telling that only in our Christian country did its founders herald their religiosity, time and again stating their Christian belief as the source of our form of government? It is claimed that Madison proposed the notion of the separation of powers at the Continental Congress from his understanding of Isaiah 33:22. http://www.eadshome.com/JamesMadison.htm. (Below, I shall provide quotes and sources for my position.)

“To what extent can one find the practice of religious liberty in Christendom prior to the Enlightenment?”

How about the Magna Carta of 1215, which preceded the Enlightenment by over 4 centuries? See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magna_Carta “Magna Carta influenced many common law documents, such as the United States Constitution and Bill of Rights, and is considered one of the most important legal documents in the history of democracy.” One can criticize it for not going far enough, or as not being for liberty (as Jason would say) but only for the liberty of the English Barons. However, to most historians it was central to establishing all liberty.

Again and again, Jason deals with the explanation of liberty in terms of ideas, whereas I attribute it primarily to aspirations, and secondarily to theories.


As an aside (for the few who have read so far) there are ‘Founding Fathers Quotes’ in http://www.eadshome.com/QuotesoftheFounders.htm
"The country's first two presidents, George Washington and John Adams, were firm believers in the importance of religion for republican government." --official Library of Congress statement.

The First Charter of Virginia…which may, by the Providence of Almighty God, hereafter tend to the Glory of his Divine Majesty, in propagating of Christian Religion (1606).

John Adams and John Hancock:
We Recognize No Sovereign but God, and no King but Jesus! [April 18, 1775]

John Adams:
“ The general principles upon which the Fathers achieved independence were the general principals of Christianity… I will avow that I believed and now believe that those general principles of Christianity are as eternal and immutable as the existence and attributes of God.”
“[July 4th] ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty.” “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other." --October 11, 1798

Samuel Adams: “ He who made all men hath made the truths necessary to human happiness obvious to all… Our forefathers opened the Bible to all.” ["American Independence," August 1, 1776. Speech delivered at the State House in Philadelphia]

John Quincy Adams: the birthday of the nation is indissolubly linked with the birthday of the Savior… The Law given from Sinai [The Ten Commandments] was a civil and municipal as well as a moral and religious code.

Benjamin Franklin: “ God governs in the affairs of man…without His concurring aid, we shall succeed in this political building no better than the builders of Babel” –Constitutional Convention of 1787
In Benjamin Franklin's 1749 plan of education for public schools in Pennsylvania, he insisted that schools teach "the excellency of the Christian religion above all others, ancient or modern."

Alexander Hamilton: the two things which Hamilton said made America great:
(1) Christianity (2) a Constitution formed under Christianity. “The Christian Constitutional Society, its object is first: The support of the Christian religion. Second: The support of the United States.”

On July 12, 1804 at his death, Hamilton said, “I have a tender reliance on the mercy of the Almighty, through the merits of the Lord Jesus Christ.”…"For my own part, I sincerely esteem it [the Constitution] a system which without the finger of God, never could have been suggested and agreed upon by such a diversity of interests." [1787 after the Constitutional Convention]

There are comparable statements by : John Hancock, Patrick Henry, John Jay, Thomas Jefferson, Samuel Johnson, James Madison, James McHenry, and others.

In http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/religion/rel06.html “Religion and the Founding of the American Republic” there are extensive descriptions of how religion contributed to the founding of America.


Finally, some will argue that many of the statements by our founders were made for public consumption. That however would indicate that the Americans they appealed to were motivated by their religion. As for the Greeks, the main thing that the American public knew was ‘How to separate the men from the boys in the Greek Navy’ which was “With a crowbar.”

2/5/07, 3:24 PM  
Blogger Jason_Pappas said...

I acknowledged that Christians have changed. Notice almost all the examples are from the last three centuries. But that’s obviously after the rebirth of classical knowledge! This shows the influence of Greek and Roman thought. I applaud the ability of Christianity to absorb our Greco-Roman heritage to the extend it has. And it has been considerable. The Magna Carta is an exception worth respecting.

None of the quotes you provided say what specifically came from religion. They are merely cover-statements. Look under the hood and you’ll notice the principles of our Greek and Roman forbearers. Natural law – a Roman concept. Universal rights – a Stoic notion. Logic, science, and observation – extensively developed by the Greeks. Self-realization and self-fulfillment in this life – Aristotle. After centuries Christians come to believe that these notions were always part of their religion. They’ve wrapped Greco-Roman ideas in a Judeo-Christian cover.

But thinkers from Aquinas to the current Pope aren’t afraid to acknowledge their debt to and admiration of Hellenic and Roman thinkers. Why can’t you?

2/5/07, 4:00 PM  
Blogger Weingarten said...

Jason, you write "thinkers from Aquinas to the current Pope aren’t afraid to acknowledge their debt to and admiration of Hellenic and Roman thinkers. Why can’t you?"

Since I have favorably written about Greek philosophers, as well as our (and my) debt to them *I cannot imagine why you write that I do not recognize their contribution.* Similarly, I have favorably written about Cicero, natural law, etc. (I have also appreciated the contribution of atheists, such as Ayn Rand and yourself.)

Can you mention a single Greek or Roman thinker that I have disparaged, or not given his due?

The question is rather why Objectivists, such as yourself, deny the religionist contribution to the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. These religionists have stated that their religion has motivated them. Yet if one quotes many of our founders as saying that their religion was the basis for their position on liberty, you dismiss it, and deny that America was a Christian nation. Is it not conceivable that as the Declaration of Independence states, there is respect for the "Laws of Nature and Nature's God" and also that Men are "endowed by their Creator with certain Unalienable rights" ?

To me, the cooperation between faith and reason is imperative, since the former provides aspirations, while the latter provides theories for achieving it.

2/5/07, 6:40 PM  
Blogger Jason_Pappas said...

I stand corrected and I’m glad (about your acknowledgement of the great pagan thinkers.)

I acknowledge that the founders were for the most part religious to varying degrees. They found their religion a motivating factor (as did the Loyalists.) And they embedded righteous sentiment with religious language to express ideas that originated in Greece and Rome. Some were aware of that and some weren’t.

As for “Laws of Nature and Nature's God” that begs the question. What are the laws of nature and how do we know them? If universal rights are a law a nature we know that from Roman writers and see it confirmed in action by observation and reflection. If respect for property rights is the corner stone of a fair and rational social system it is from Aristotle, Cicero and the Roman system of law that drives home that lesson.

The Old and New Testament have many statements that are in harmony with those notions and there are statements which are in harmony with their antithesis. I’ve seen people across the political spectrum that derive their aspirations from the Bible with reasonable plausibility when in fact it is external considerations that present a full-blown political ideology in the modern sense.

I’m overjoyed when people see their religion in libertarian terms that uphold individual rights. But this notion comes from Greek and Roman law and was welcomed into Christianity by the Church fathers, Justinian, Aquinas, and many others. This is wonderful. I have no problem with noting that people are motivated by Greco-Roman ideas re-expressed in a Judeo-Christian framework. It bothers some but it doesn’t bother me as I note when expressing great respect for Patrick Henry’s speech.

By the way, what aspirations haven't I covered?

2/6/07, 2:03 PM  
Blogger Weingarten said...

Jason, we appear to agree about the great pagan thinkers; and that our founders were in part motivated by their religion. We also concur that Greek and Roman ideas influenced them. In particular, by mentioning the “Laws of Nature and Nature's God” we see the influence those ideas had on the Founders. (As an aside, see: http://www.lonang.com/ for an extensive analysis of this subject.)

You state “The Old and New Testament have many statements that are in harmony with those notions and there are statements which are in harmony with their antithesis" and that “people are motivated by Greco-Roman ideas re-expressed in a Judeo-Christian framework.” So far so good, but there is the supposition that this is the sole contribution of Judaism & Christianity (J&C) to liberty. When you ask “what aspirations haven’t I covered?” my response is ‘virtually none of them’.

Now I recognize that to speak of faith (or religion) is interpreted by you as engaging in superstition. In previous discussions, I have not had the opportunitiy to discuss this subject by stipulating my definitions. So allow me to address one component of faith, which I believe you would acknowledge, namely ‘mythology’. Scientists know that mythology, whether or not factual, deeply motivates people. Greek and Roman tales of their gods expressed their view of the world, as did the myths of all ancient civilizations. Taoism, in its declaration of freedom, and rejection of intervention, continually employed mythology to which even a cursory reading of Chuang Tzu attests. Treating a myth as factual negates both its meaning and its purpose. It misses the essence of mythology, which serves to orient one’s outlook in poetic form. Thus, to view Aesop’s fables as claiming that animals spoke, would detract from the author’s aim at providing moral guides.

Now to speak of J&C mythology, we must begin with the Bible, which predated the pagan thinkers, or at the very least was not derived from them. I could digress to a litany of tales, but the point can be made by a few. The Bible begins with God creating a ‘good’ and ‘purposeful’ world (in contrast with most cultures that viewed the world as cyclical). Note that God (unlike the Greek and Roman gods) is a unified, compassionate and moral being (Who is said to count the tears). The Bible is replete with stories: of man failing to act as he should, due to his arrogance (or what the Greeks term ‘hubris’); the tale of Cain who murders his brother out of envy, presents the notion of free will; of Abraham’s quest for justice, even by arguing with God to act more morally; and of Moses who slays an Egyptian for whipping a slave, frees his people, and establishes moral law (and is called “The Law Giver”). Throughout, an appreciation for those who desired peace (perhaps too much) is recorded; and even the vaunted warriors (such as David) are found lacking. And of course there are the teaching of the Prophets, who spoke truth to power, while being castigated for doing so. Rather than providing a view of the world as a place where the ideal is material rewards, we are presented with the aspirations of virtue.

These myths motivated people to achieve the very attributes to which our civilization aspires. Now, there are many ways to characterize Western civilization. My view is that its cornerstones were: truth, justice, beauty, and responsibility (American civilization addends as primary ‘individual liberty’). I do not claim that the aspirations of J&C are perfect in this regard. ‘Truth’ is at times subordinated to doctrine; “Justice” is in part subordinated to mercy (e.g., aiding the widows and orphans, and excusing aggression); “Beauty” is not a priority of J&C, for a variety of reasons (and here Jason is correct about the pagan influence which gave us Adonis, Venus, Aphrodite, etc.); “Responsibility” is at times viewed as altruism; and “Individual Liberty” is occasionally subordinated to responsibility. So when I consider the relationship between the aspirations of J&C, and Western civilization, I acknowledge that neither is perfected.

I would note the superiority of the Greeks and Romans with regard to certain virtues, including being adventurous and egocentric. I am not an advocate who aims at showing J&C to be uniformly good, or showing the pagans to be uniformly bad. Rather my point is that in all cases, the aspirations are puissant, and these frequently derive from mythology.

Again, the criteria for gauging mythology is not whether it meets scientific criteria, but whether it uplifts or degrades man. I submit that for some of our founders, and for many Americans, the mythology of the Bible did not motivate them to become barbarians, but to raise their sights to be better than they were.

Now I have not dealt with practices, which of course tend to fall far short of aspirations. This is true for nations, institutions, and professions. Moreover, I have disregarded the issue of survival, which is a prerequisite for justice and morality, and in emergencies we may have to sacrifice them. It may be noted that at this point, J&C have survived, while Greece and Rome have not. Finally, I agree with Ayn Rand in the glory of man, for that is his destiny, but not in his practices, for they are deplorable.

2/8/07, 2:30 PM  
Blogger Jason_Pappas said...

I fully agree that mythology and literature can be inspiring. Sometimes it’s the story itself and sometimes it’s the meaning people attach to the story. But no doubt the Bible, Homer, Sophocles, and many others have inspiring passages. This is true regardless if the stories are taken a literal fact or as fiction. I have no problem with that.

2/8/07, 5:20 PM  
Blogger Jason_Pappas said...

People generally miss (not you, of course) the great works and ideas of Greco-Roman culture. They know them second hand and have some inkling that somehow they’ve influenced history. However, they can’t distinguish between major concepts that are at the core of Western civilization and the false notions that are fashionable. Multi-culturalism isn’t individuality but its opposite. Equal outcome (in a material sense) isn’t justice but results from rights-violations. The purpose of virtue isn’t to inflict pain but to gain capacities that are empowering. Self-interest isn’t mindless indulgences but just the opposite.

Clearly you know this but you’re an exception.

2/8/07, 5:30 PM  
Blogger Weingarten said...

Jason, we agree that “mythology and literature can be inspiring”. I was suggesting something in addition, namely that they can be the source of our aspirations. I am pleased that you recognize that this does not depend upon their stories being fact. As an aside, the Foreword to the ‘Encyclopedia of World Mythology’ opens with ‘The words “myth” and “story” are both Greek in origin.’

I also concur that many people “can’t distinguish between major concepts that are at the core of Western civilization and the false notions that are fashionable.” Yet again, our emphasis departs, where yours is on the role of concepts, while mine is on the role of aspirations. We also agree that individuality and self-interest is primary, while multi-culturalism is its opposite.

Thank you for your insights.

2/8/07, 6:03 PM  

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