Posts Tagged ‘james madison’

So, I’m watching Meet the Press this morning. One of my least favorite theocrats, Rick Santorum, commented on Presidential candidate John F. Kennedy’s speech before the Greater Houston Ministerial Association in which Kennedy said he believed in an “absolute” separation of church and state. Rick Santorum said that Kennedy’s words almost made him throw up, and that and absolute separation was never the intent of the founding fathers. Really? (Read the full text of Kennedy’s speech.)

Of course, David Gregory didn’t take the trouble to call him out on this…I suspect that challenging Santorum wasn’t part of a pre-appearance agreement setting the interview ground rules…so I just muttered what the f*** to myself, figuring that there must be another Constitution out there that I hadn’t read.

He then goes on to say that the founding fathers wanted a public square filled with a diversity of ideas, and that the ideas belonging to people of faith were not meant to be excluded from that debate. You’re right, Rick, the founding fathers did not intend to exclude people of faith…or people of no faith…from the public square, but I am equally confident that the ideas they had in mind were those that were well reasoned and intellectually based, rather than those rooted in religious myth and custom. The latter, no matter how widely they are believed, have no more place in the public square than do beliefs in Santa Clause, the Easter Bunny or, my personal favorite, the Tooth Fairy.

To say this in a less prejudicial way, when ideas cannot stand apart from the faith-based belief set from which they spring, especially when those ideas can influence domestic and foreign policy, they must have no standing in the public square debate. Maybe that’s what James Madison meant when, in a letter to William Bradford, Jr., April 1, 1774, he wrote, “Religious bondage shackles and debilitates the mind and unfits it for every noble enterprize, every expanded prospect.” Having channeled Madison on a number of occasions, I know, when he spoke of debilitations of the mind, he was referring to Santorum’s inability to embrace Darwin’s theory of evolution, as well as the threat of global warming.

Later on in the interview Santorum unleashed a Republican favorite; the government shouldn’t pick winners and losers. What drives me insane about this is that even left-wing pundits seem comfortable with the winners and losers thing as though picking them is some kind of transcendent evil. Tell it to China or Germany or Brazil. They find winners pretty easily, and then eat our lunch with them.

Of course, Rick Santorum will argue that American exceptionalism takes us down a different and better path…a path that includes exceptional ignorance.

James Madison, Hamilton's major collaborator, ...

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Letter to a friend regarding the relationship between religion and politics.

My anger is focused somewhat differently than yours. I am angry at all those who claim to know God’s will and intent. How presumptuous of us! How presumptuous of any religion!

The events of the past few years have driven a wedge between me and organized religion. I resent those who think that they have some “exclusive” knowledge of things that can’t be known. In place of this spiritual chauvinism, my view of ethics and morality is derived, very simply, from the Sermon on the Mount. Everything is there that anyone needs. Everything else is politics.

I find it more than coincidental that many of our country’s greatest thinkers felt similarly about the role of religion:

“The Bible is not my book nor Christianity my profession. I could never give assent to the long, complicated statements of Christian dogma.” Abraham Lincoln, American president (1809-1865)

“I have found Christian dogma unintelligible. Early in life, I absented myself from Christian assemblies.” Benjamin Franklin

“In no instance have…the churches been guardians of the liberties of the people.” James Madison, American president

“This would be the best of all possible worlds, if there were no religion in it.” John Adams, U.S. President, Founding Father of theUnited States

“The time appears to me to have come when it is the duty of all to make their dissent from religion known.” John Stuart Mill

Looking at it another way, the religious right would have us believe that there is no morality without religion. History, both recent and past, proves that to be a tragically flawed notion and yet, here we are, walking down that path again.