Dispatches from the Creation Wars

Tim Sandefur has responded to my post on Bill Federer and his simplistic version of American history. However, I think he misunderstands the point I was trying to make. He writes,

But I must disagree with his response to Federer on the issue of the “deity-based belief system” of the founding fathers. Most of the founding fathers did, indeed, have a “deity-based” belief system, including such notable skeptics as Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson.

But this is not something I ever even implied. I didn’t question the fact that they had a deity-based belief system. To a man, they certainly did, even Paine (though it certainly wasn’t the same deity-based belief system). What I was criticizing was the incredibly simplistic claim he made based upon that fact. When Federer claims that the result of a deity-based belief system is that the government can’t take your rights away and that there would be no second class citizens, he is simply wrong, and the founders themselves proved that by voting to take away rights that they themselves claimed to be from God and by creating a system which had not only second class citizens, but human beings denied citizenship entirely. Their deity-based belief system didn’t stop them from doing those things, and they are the example that he uses! This is not to suggest that the founding fathers were horrible people by any means. I am a great admirer of many if not most of them, despite their flaws. But if Federer thinks that all you have to do is believe in God and freedom and liberty will flow down the streets – and he at least seems to – he’s being absurd. And the fact that our constitution contains no references to any deity-based ideas and draws solely on enlightenment philosophy should tell us that the ideas of freedom are compelling and world-changing quite aside from whether one thinks they ultimately come from God or not. My point was that whether a nation has freedom or not has precious little to do with God. If the rulers wish to take away our freedom for their political gain, their professed belief in God doesn’t do a thing to prevent them from doing so, nor has it ever prevented an incursion of rights that I can think of. The historical track record of “deity-based belief systems” in government isn’t any more inspiring than the track record of any other type of government. Our rights are secure as long as our leaders are held accountable and we ourselves are willing to grant to others, and demand for ourselves, self-determination. Either way, I don’t see much reason to believe that God plays any role in the preservation of liberty.