Pharyngula

David Paszkiewicz speaks out…

…and he’s as much of a fool as you’d expect. Paszkiewicz is theteacher who told his students they deserved to go to hell if they didn’t believe in Jesus, among other things, and he has now written a letter to his regional newspaper.

The letter is about as you’d expect. It’s a long-winded example of quote-mining the founding fathers to support his continued claim that America is a Christian nation, and also that the courts are being used to strip Christians of their freedom. It’s awfully silly stuff.

All I can say is that I don’t care that the Jefferson and Washington held religious views—they also held slaves, and we managed to finally purge our country of that odious institution, so what’s one more? And if you are going to take Jefferson’s opinions and make them the model for our new state religion, I might be willing to go along with it, actually…but can you imagine the howls when we start taxing the Catholics and Baptists and make the Unitarians the official established Church of America? It would be hilarious.

Anyway, for what little it’s worth, I’ve put the letter below the fold.

It is my firm conviction that there is an effort afoot to undermine the very underpinnings of our freedoms. Kearny has been characterized as a backward town inhabited by barbarians. This is unfortunate, because Kearny (the town I love, have chosen to live in and serve) is nothing of the sort. It is made up of intelligent, hard-working, benevolent, tolerant people and it pains me greatly to see it maligned. In light of the current controversy concerning church and state in Kearny, I would like to share some thoughts from our founders.

But first let me say this, the words ?separation of church and state? cannot be found in our Constitution. The intent of the founders was to limit the government?s encroachment into matters of conscience and religion, not to exclude any discussion of religion from public life. The so called ?wall of separation? is mentioned only in a letter to an organization of Baptists in Danbury Conn. in which Jefferson uses that phrase to assure them that he will not restrict their religious liberty. It is unfortunate that this is the only Jefferson quote on the subject that gets attention in the press. Allow me to share some more. The first group I?d like to share concern Jefferson?s beliefs.

?I am a real Christian, that is to say, a disciple of the doctrines of Jesus.? (Letter to Benjamin Rush April 21, 1803).

?God who gave us life gave us liberty. And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are a gift from God? That they are not to be violated but with His wrath? Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just, and that His justice cannot sleep forever.? (Notes on the State of Virginia, 1781).

These next quotes concern Jefferson?s thoughts on the courts. I?m sharing these because they seem to have been prophetic. Jefferson?s worst nightmare has come true! The courts have been used to strip us of our liberty!

?The Constitution is a mere thing of wax in the hands of the judiciary, which they may twist and shape into any form they please.? (Letter to Spencer Roane Sept. 6, 1819).

?You seem to consider the judges as the ultimate arbiters of all Constitutional questions; a very dangerous doctrine indeed, and one which would place us under the despotism of an oligarchy … The Constitution has erected no such single tribunal … knowing that to whatever hands confided, with corruptions of time and party, its members would become despots.? (Letter to William Jarvis Sept. 28, 1820).

It is abundantly clear to me that popular conceptions of our First Amendment freedoms have drifted far from what the founders intended. Jefferson is often quoted by the enemies of religious freedom who appeal to the decisions of tyrannical courts rather than the will of the people, the minds of the founders or the Constitution. Jefferson would be appalled if he were alive today!

George Washington, the venerated father of our beloved country, also had some interesting thoughts on the subject:?What students would learn in American schools above all is the religion of Jesus Christ.? (Washington?s speech to the Delaware Indian Chiefs May 12, 1779).

?It is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits and humbly to implore his protection and favors.? (Washington?s Thanksgiving Proclamation Oct. 3, 1789).

I would be remiss to fail to include quotes from another icon of the anti-freedom of religion crowd, Benjamin Franklin:

?God governs in the affairs of man. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without His aid? We have been assured in the sacred writings that except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it. I firmly believe this. I also believe that, without His concurring aid, we shall succeed in this political building no better than the builders of Babel? (Constitutional Convention 1787).

?In the beginning of the contest with Britain, when we were sensible of danger, we had daily prayers in this room for divine protection. Our prayers, Sir, were heard, and they were graciously answered ? do we imagine we no longer need His assistance?? (Constitutional Convention, Thursday June 28, 1787).

In 1749, Franklin put a plan together for public education in Pennsylvania and he insisted that schools teach ?the excellency of the Christian religion above all others, ancient or modern.?

In 1787, he helped found Benjamin Franklin University. It was dedicated as ?a nursery of religion and learning, built on Christ, the cornerstone.?

This is a mere sampling of what was on the minds of our founders as they formed this great nation of ours. May we walk worthy of the great heritage they left us. Let us remember that it is in this context that we have preserved the freest nation on earth!

In closing, with regard to this town being made up of unintelligent barbarians ? if that is true, it is only because they share the same thinking as Jefferson, Washington and Franklin!

David A. Paszkiewicz, Kearny

Comments

  1. #1 Teresa
    January 13, 2007

    Aaaaahhhh…the ghost of David Barton continues to wail and screech out fake founding father quotes to try to re-write history!

    http://www.wallbuilders.com/resources/search/detail.php?ResourceID=20

    Thanks for the help with sorting out the fake science from the real stuff.

    In return, here’s a hand with sorting out fake history from the real stuff.

    With a two-point front, we’ll get ’em yet!

    For those interested, I’ve posted some REAL quotes about religion from the founding fathers at my blog, under the title “PRaise the Lord! and pass the ammunition!”

    I also have a quotes from Religionists detailing how they plan to take over American and kill us all, under the title “Quotes to curl your hair.

  2. #2 seaducer
    January 13, 2007

    Frankin a “nursery of religion”? Wasn’t he like, a john or something? Oh wait, silly me, I forgot about Ted Haggert. I thought prostitution was against God or something, for a second there…

  3. #3 Christophe Thill
    January 13, 2007

    Seems to me that Jefferson’s “I am a real Christian” means precisely that he follows Jesus’ techings, such as love your neighbour, share the bread and fish, don’t slap people, etc., and not what is usually called Christian, ie the belief in certain supernatural things. In other words: ok for the philosophy of life, nope for the religion itself. I don’t know that much about Jefferson, but it seems to fit with his character, don’t you think?

  4. #4 Miguel Garcia-Blanco
    January 13, 2007

    Let’s see, maybe I can do some quote-mining too:

    “Shake off all the fears and servile prejudices under which weak minds are servilely crouched. Fix reason firmly in her seat, and call to her tribunal every fact, every opinion. Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, than that of blindfolded fear.” –Thomas Jefferson to Peter Carr, 1787. ME 6:258 Papers 12:15 [link]

    I guess Paszkiewicz’s god and Jefferson’s god are not one and the same.

  5. #5 Blake Stacey
    January 13, 2007

    “It was George Washington who said that God should not be subtracted from politics. Who are we to argue with George Washington?”

    “The product of many hundreds of years worth of evolution since George Washington’s tree-killing ass went in the dirt, the obvious answer.”

    Transmetropolitan, Vol. 6

  6. #6 nunyer
    January 13, 2007

    And this guy is a HISTORY teacher?

    Time to look at his tests/teaching materials. If he’s teaching Barton’s crap in his classroom as fact, he should be fired for sheer incompetence just on that basis.

  7. #7 Steve LaBonne
    January 13, 2007

    I guess Paszkiewicz’s god and Jefferson’s god are not one and the same.

    Considsring that he openly mocked the idea of the Trinity, and produced a bowdlerized edition of the New Testament with all references to the divinity of Jesus, and to any supernatural events, edited out, I’d say you’ll win that bet handily…

  8. #8 Todd Adamson
    January 13, 2007

    It is my firm conviction that there is an effort afoot to undermine the very underpinnings of our freedoms.

    Freedom to worship Jesus Christ whether you like it or not? I don’t think that word means what you think it means.

  9. #9 jmc
    January 13, 2007

    The truth is that the greatest enemies to the doctrines of Jesus are those calling themselves the expositors of them, who have perverted them for the structure of a system of fancy absolutely incomprehensible, and without any foundation in his genuine words. And the day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus, by the supreme being as his father in the womb of a virgin will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerva in the brain of Jupiter. But we may hope that the dawn of reason and freedom of thought in these United States will do away all this artificial scaffolding, and restore to us the primitive and genuine doctrines of this most venerated reformer of human errors.

    Thomas Jefferson to John Adams, 11 April 1823

  10. #10 Larry Moran
    January 13, 2007

    What’s with this worship of the “Founding Fathers”? They’re a bunch of English dudes who died 200 years ago. Besides, as you point out, they had slaves and did all sorts of things that we don’t approve of today. Why are their old-fashioned opinions on religion so important?

  11. #11 Caledonian
    January 13, 2007

    Why are their old-fashioned opinions on religion so important?

    Because their ideals are, at least according to our own national mythology, the basis for our system of government. They’re what makes America ‘special’.

    And if we actually had them, they would.

  12. #12 jeffw
    January 13, 2007

    “Religious freedom” is an oxymoron. Religion is not about freedom. It’s about conformity. Their “freedom” should end where my pain begins.

  13. #13 Dan S.
    January 13, 2007

    Iin Whose Freedom? by Lakoff, he talks two very different understandings of religious freedom; the liberal one, and the conservative one, where ” Religious freedom is the freedom of any conservative Christian to put the Ten Commandments up in his courtroom. That is an instance of religious freedom. Freedom for a teacher to conduct prayer in a classroom, that’s considered religious freedom,” to quote from some talk he gave, since I don’t have the book . . .

    In a way, this version is freedom to impose, rather than freedom from imposition, although I don’t recall if that’s quite what Lakoff says. It may not be too far from ‘everyone is free to be a Christian’ – anyone have a copy on hand?

  14. #14 Dan S.
    January 13, 2007

    that should be ‘In . . . Lakoff talks about . . .” or whatever. Sleepy.

  15. #15 BlueIndependent
    January 13, 2007

    The usage of the “legacy quotes” by the founders concerning religion are a favorite tool of religionists because they seek to recast American history as something it is not, but that they feel it should’ve been.

    Basically what they are saying by quote mining letters from the Founders is that our society is turning away from its appropriate social tradition, just as they would in the same breath claim it is turning away from God’s divine word. It’s essentially a huge metaphor for them, made flesh by rock and roll, women voting, sexual freedom and other such products of a truly open society that has no need for the overly curious quibblings of a religion or many with a law system based in control-freakery.

    Witness their argument that humans cannot remain moral in the face of the lack of a punishing God, who will resign deleterious spirits to eternal pain for their misdeeds upon death. What they are really saying, inadvertently on their part, is that they feel humankind is unable to comprehend, let alone practice, the idea that it could be freed from the bonds of religion and still remain orderly. In short, they do not believe in humanity itself, and so they must anchor human existence to something greater but unseen.

    To be sure, the quote-mining activities on their part, while of course disingenuous, irresponsible, fool-hardy and dishonest, to them seems like a great tool because they can find as many quotes as they feel necessary to make their point. All this while removing context and a larger view of the real situations that truly created our past history. It is equally true, though, that for as many times as it seems the Founders prostelityzed religion, they as many times wiped their feet upon it where reason presided.

  16. #16 tomh
    January 13, 2007

    There is a big difference between believers today and believers of two hundred years ago and that difference is honesty. Consider this quote by the Rev. Bird Wilson, an evangelical and one of the prime movers of the “Great Awakening”, a Christian Revival movement that began in the 1830’s and some might argue still continues today.

    “When the war was over and the victory over our enemies won, … the Constitution was framed and God was neglected. He was not
    merely forgotten. He was absolutely voted out of the Constitution. The
    proceedings, as published by Thompson, the secretary, and the history of the
    day, show that the question was gravely debated whether God should be in the
    Constitution or not, and, after a solemn debate he was deliberately voted
    out of it …”

    You seldom find that kind of intellectual honesty among believers today, they simply distort the historical record to fit their own purpose.

  17. #17 George
    January 13, 2007

    By favorably quoting the ignorant opinions of the “founding fathers,” Pastor Dave only demonstrates that he is as ignorant as they were.

    These religious people have strange opinions. The glorify freedom, yet they have no problem completely and fetishistically enslaving themselves to one book, a book that is patently out-of-date, and so full of moldy mumbo-jumbo and utopian wish-fulfillment, that it should have been laughed out of favor centuries ago.

  18. #18 Dan S.
    January 13, 2007

    I’m always amazed how little the argument-from-the-golden-rule/kindergarten (How would you like it if an atheist/Muslim/Jewish/Wiccan/Etc. teacher tried to pull this kind of stuff) affects these kind of folks. Imagining that the founders’ personal religious beliefs matter presumably helps maintain this non-empathy (oh, but, that would be wrong because this is a Christian Nation . . .)

    I’ve never asked – wonder what they would say if asked, well, what if the founders had all been hardcore atheists, or Muslims, or polytheists, or whatever (but having? written the same Constitution?

  19. #19 John Emerson
    January 13, 2007

    I basically agree that we should take the founding fathers with a little bit of a grain of salt, but their actual beliefs are a weapon against the Christian super-patriots. Short answer: most of them were pro-Science deists who did not believe in the Trinity and were extremely doubtful about institutional religion. Chrstians take Deist statements and make them seem Christian. Few of the first sixteen Presidents were actively and devoutly religious (or even church members at all) — Jackson was the most evident exception — and a few of them were almost completely disengaged from organized religion.

  20. #20 386sx
    January 13, 2007

    Jefferson would be appalled if he were alive today!

    He sure would! He would be appalled because it’s the 21st century and teachers still don’t know how to use google! Maybe it’s too “tyrannical” or something! Ha!

  21. #21 David Marjanovi?
    January 13, 2007

    Few of the first sixteen Presidents were actively and devoutly religious (or even church members at all) — Jackson was the most evident exception —

    Jackson? Andrew “Trail of Tears” Jackson? Please don’t tell me that’s the one. I don’t like having my prejudices confirmed.

  22. #22 David Marjanovi?
    January 13, 2007

    Few of the first sixteen Presidents were actively and devoutly religious (or even church members at all) — Jackson was the most evident exception —

    Jackson? Andrew “Trail of Tears” Jackson? Please don’t tell me that’s the one. I don’t like having my prejudices confirmed.

  23. #23 David Parker
    January 13, 2007

    Paszkiewicz badly misquotes Jefferson’s letter to Benjamin Rush. TJ actually said: “To the corruptions of Christianity I am indeed opposed; but not to the genuine precepts of Jesus himself. I am a Christian in the only sense in which he wished any one to be; sincerely attached to his doctrines, in preference to all others; ascribing to himself every human excellence; & believing he never claimed any other.”

    But of course the actual quotation says the opposete of what Paszkiewicz wants Jefferson to say, so ….

  24. #24 PZ Myers
    January 13, 2007

    Whoa, wait a moment: how do you “misquote” this:

    To the corruptions of Christianity I am indeed opposed; but not to the genuine precepts of Jesus himself. I am a Christian in the only sense in which he wished any one to be; sincerely attached to his doctrines, in preference to all others; ascribing to himself every human excellence; & believing he never claimed any other.

    Into this?

    I am a real Christian, that is to say, a disciple of the doctrines of Jesus.

    You can’t even mangle one into the other with deletions and ellipses! Is there some other quote that is being more reasonably distorted?

  25. #25 dorkafork
    January 13, 2007

    Is there some other quote that is being more reasonably distorted?

    Not in the letter the quote is supposed to come from, as far as I can see.

  26. #26 octopod
    January 13, 2007

    David Marjanovic — Yepsorry.

  27. #27 dorkafork
    January 13, 2007

    In fact that specific letter contains this quote:

    I am moreover averse to the communication of my religious tenets to the public; because it would countenance the presumption of those who have endeavored to draw them before that tribunal, and to seduce public opinion to erect itself into that inquisition over the rights of conscience, which the laws have so justly proscribed. It behoves every man who values liberty of conscience for himself, to resist invasions of it in the case of others; or their case may, by change of circumstances, become his own. It behoves him, too, in his own case, to give no example of concession, betraying the common right of independent opinion, by answering questions of faith, which the laws have left between God & himself.

  28. #28 llewelly
    January 13, 2007

    TJ took exception to the miracles accredited to Jesus, disbelieving the miracle of the loaves and the fishes, the raising of Lazarus from the dead, and the Resurrection of Jesus, and all the others.
    See for example the wikipedia article on the Jefferson Bible .

  29. #29 PZ Myers
    January 13, 2007

    Yikes. That’s like some bizarre form of anti-plagiarism. Is that a David Barton “interpretation” of what Jefferson wrote?

  30. #30 386sx
    January 13, 2007

    I am a real Christian, that is to say, a disciple of the doctrines of Jesus.

    http://christianparty.net/tjthomson.htm

    (Falsely attributed as a letter to Benjamin Rush, but really a letter to Charles Thomson, January 9, 1816. Good going Mr. Paszkiewicz.)

    I, too, have made a wee-little book from the same materials, which I call the Philosophy of Jesus; it is a paradigma of his doctrines, made by cutting the texts out of the book, and arranging them on the pages of a blank book, in a certain order of time or subject. A more beautiful or precious morsel of ethics I have never seen; it is a document in proof that I am a real Christian, that is to say, a disciple of the doctrines of Jesus, very different from the Platonists, who call me infidel and themselves Christians and preachers of the gospel, while they draw all their characteristic dogmas from what its author never said nor saw. They have compounded from the heathen mysteries a system beyond the comprehension of man, of which the great reformer of the vicious ethics and deism of the Jews, were he to return on earth, would not recognize one feature.

    The key phrase in there is that Jefferson said he was a real Christian. And of course since Paszkiewicz’s Christians are real Christians, and Jefferson was a real Christian, then Jefferson was one of them. That’s pretty much how it goes, I think.

  31. #31 G. Tingey
    January 13, 2007

    To pick up on Larry Moran’s quote (isn’r he “Sandwalk”?) ….
    “What’s with this worship of the “Founding Fathers”? ….They’re a bunch of English dudes who died 200 years ago. Furthermore, they were rebellious, traitors and accepted FRENCH money and assitance!

    And if the christians continue to get their way in the USa, you may have to emulate Sitting Bull, and flee to those lands in the North …..

  32. #32 dorkafork
    January 13, 2007

    He also failed to put ellipses in the quote from the Letter to Spencer Roane quote. The original is “The constitution, on this hypothesis, is a mere thing of wax in the hands of the judiciary, which they may twist and shape into any form they please.”

    Also, I am fairly certain this quote is in error:

    “What students would learn in American schools above all is the religion of Jesus Christ.” (Washington’s speech to the Delaware Indian Chiefs May 12, 1779).

    Quite a coincidence that this quote appears in a 1998 piece from a website called “ChristianAnswers.net” (provided by Wallbuilders, Inc.):

    While encamped on the banks of a river, Washington was approached by Delaware Indian chiefs who desired that their youth be trained in American schools. In Washington’s response, he first told them that “Congress… will look on them as on their own children.” [4] That is, we would train their children as if they were our own. He then commended the chiefs for their decision:

    You do well to wish to learn our arts and our ways of life and above all, the religion of Jesus Christ. These will make you a greater and happier people than you are. Congress will do everything they can to assist you in this wise intention. [4]

    According to George Washington, what students would learn in American schools “above all” was “the religion of Jesus Christ.”

    Looks like somebody took the writer’s paraphrasing of what Washington said and decided to quote it as Washington’s own words.

  33. #33 Steve_C
    January 13, 2007

    Forget being fired for proselytizing in class… how bout firing him for being a piss poor history teacher.

  34. #34 George
    January 13, 2007

    The Right Wing Watch site points out that almost every quote is coming from the WallBuilders web site:

    http://www.rightwingwatch.org/individuals/david_paszkiewi/index.html

    Paszkiewicz: “And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are a gift from God? That they are not to be violated but with His wrath? Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just, and that His justice cannot sleep forever.”

    WallBuilders: “And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are of the gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with His wrath? Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that his justice cannot sleep forever.”

    Paszkiewicz: “It is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits and humbly to implore his protection and favors.”

    WallBuilders: “Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor.”

    Paszkiewicz: “God governs in the affairs of man. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without His aid? We have been assured in the sacred writings that except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it. I firmly believe this. I also believe that, without His concurring aid, we shall succeed in this political building no better than the builders of Babel.”

    WallBuilders: “God governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without his aid? We have been assured, Sir, in the sacred writings, that “except the Lord build the House they labour in vain that build it.” I firmly believe this; and I also believe that without his concurring aid we shall succeed in this political building no better than the Builders of Babel.”

  35. #35 Ed Darrell
    January 13, 2007

    On behalf of serious history teachers everywhere, I apologize for this nut.

    On behalf of serious Christians everywhere, I apologize for this nut.

    But we have a First Amendment (which prohibits his proselytizing in class, by the way), and he can be as nutty as he wishes on his own time.

    How to rebut? So much is wrong with what he says, and how he says it. It’s as if he never studied history, never read Franklin’s writings (his ‘I am not a Christian’ letter to Ezra Stiles, for example), nor the story of the Delawares.

    The tragedy of the Delaware Tribe should give every Christian and every American nightmares, every night. The Delawares were fearful of attack by the colonists. They had already converted to Christianity, and as a show of friendship, they pledged their firstborn sons to live with the whites and learn the colonists ways.

    Their attempt at making peace was unsuccessful. This same group was attacked and slaughtered a short while later by colonists who wanted their land. Washington was unable to protect them, as he had promised.

    The colonists made a liar out of George Washington. David Barton keeps forgetting to mention that. For that alone, we should be careful in studying this part of history. There is so much to get wrong. Santayana’s famous line comes back like a ghost with a hook — those who do not know history are condemned to repeat it.

    In that way, in fact, we may indeed note that this so-called teacher is a condemned man: He doesn’t know history. More, as a Christian, it seems to me this fellow is unaware of the teachings of Jesus, who said those who mis-teach children are condemned.

    Most states have licensing exams for teachers. Maybe we need a licensing exam for Christians, too. (You decide: Is that satire or not?)

  36. #36 octopod
    January 13, 2007

    Ed Darrell: Regarding “a licensing exam for Christians”, the person reading over my shoulder observes: “Welcome to Judaism”.

    This may be slightly unfair. However, it’d certainly cripple the memetic fitness of Christianity; you don’t see a lot of converts to Judaism, do you? (Cf. the beginning of Stephenson’s “Diamond Age”.)

  37. #37 Tristram Shandy
    January 13, 2007

    Not only are there few converts to Judaism, the first job of a rabbi meeting a potential convert is to discourage him or her three times from becoming a Jew, on the principle that one can be a gentile and considered righteous by following the seven basic Noahide laws (and there are many righteous gentiles in the Tanach), whereas Jews have over six hundred rules to follow, and that much more possibility of failing.

    But that’s a very funny observation. I’ll have to share that with some of my Jewish friends and relatives.

    One of my family came up with the immortal rebuff to a Christian proselytizer on her doorstep: “I’m Jewish; I don’t do sequels.”

  38. #38 Paul
    January 13, 2007

    What always astounds me about these types of discussions is the fact that the Christian fundamentalists seem to completely misunderstand that it was the very fact that the founding fathers held religious beliefs that they understood the need for the formation of a secular state. How they cannot understand that the separation of church and state protects their beliefs, not attacks them is beyond me.

  39. #39 John Pieret
    January 14, 2007

    Hmmm … maybe its time for an update of Santayana:

    Those who do not know history are condemned to repeat David Barton.

  40. #40 Dan S.
    January 14, 2007

    “How they cannot understand that the separation of church and state protects their beliefs, not attacks them is beyond me.”

    Digby has a recent post about Republicans who adopt people-friendly policies in *one* specific area, after – and *only* after – the problem or situation personally affects them or someone close to them (see post&comments for examples – Nancy Reagan and stem cells, etc..). And generally *only* in that one specific area, too as if they can’t generalize at all, to say nothing of being able to empathize without having to personally experience whatever.

    Which remind me of that WorldNetDaily letter-to-the-editor by a formerly very pro-pre-game-(school)-prayer evangelical fellow, who finally realized what folks were complaining about after he was transfered to Hawaii and was faced with a pre-game Buddhist invocation:

    The point is this. I am a professional, educated and responsible man who is strong in his faith and is quite comfortable debating the social and political issues of the day. Yet when placed in a setting where the majority culture proved hostile to my faith and beliefs, I became paralyzed with indecision and could not act decisively to defend and proclaim my own beliefs. I felt instantly ostracized and viewed myself as a foreigner in my own land.

    Which – well, on one hand, good for him, I’m sure there are plenty of folks who wouldn’t have made this kind of leap – but why did it take literally standing in the Other’s shoes for this to sink in? (Although being Jewish and an atheist, I do have a bit of a historical & personal head start; perhaps I’m underestimating the difficulty?)

  41. #41 Uber
    January 14, 2007

    Ed Darrell-

    I know you mean well but-

    On behalf of serious Christians everywhere, I apologize for this nut

    He is no less serious than you are just ignorant of history. No need to apologize for him as he most likely thinks your brand of Christianity is wrong as you do his. If you apologized for every religious nut you’d be here all day.

    and fankly any rational person should be appalled to have this thought in their head:

    More, as a Christian, it seems to me this fellow is unaware of the teachings of Jesus, who said those who mis-teach children are condemned.

    So although this man is an ignorant ass does he really deserve eternal torment? I think not. You seem to suffer from the same ‘delusion’ he does but would rather consign him to be condemned rather than the muslim or atheist child the teacher you comment about would. Frankly I find both positions pretty indefensible from a moral standpoint even if I find his ‘teaching’ worthless.

  42. #42 Dan S.
    January 14, 2007

    Those who do not know history are condemned to repeat David Barton.

    – wipes tea off desk –

    -further updates:
    “Hegel remarks somewhere that all great world-historic facts and personages appear, so to speak, twice. He forgot to add, in this case: the first time as farce, the second time as farce again.
    Men make their own history, and they do make it as they please . . . under self-selected circumstances, with no attention to circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past. [It] . . .weighs like a nightmare on the brains of the living.”

    Although Marx’s original has some interesting resonances with these attempts to make long-dead founders testify to and support this pathetic cause.

  43. #43 Ed Darrell
    January 14, 2007

    Uber, I don’t think simple error in teaching children will earn one a spot in whatever concept of hell one may happen to hold. But I do think it important to hold the feet of self-proclaimed Christians to the fire. This bozo is ignorant of history, and he’s teaching the ignorance. Is he Christian? Then he should be well aware of the teachings of the one he calls his savior. But he’s not.

    As Washington said, let every man support his own faith — but let every man be faithful to the one he supports.

    The actions of this teacher are inexcusable by any standard.

  44. #44 Uber
    January 14, 2007

    I agree with you Ed but the concept as presented in the comment above regarding anyone suffering in such a fashion for finite activities IMHO is truly distrubing.

  45. #45 Dan S.
    January 14, 2007

    He also failed to put ellipses in the quote from the Letter to Spencer Roane quote.

    And oddly enough, left out this bit:

    But you intimate a wish that my opinion should be known on this subject. No, dear Sir, I withdraw from all contest of opinion, and resign everything cheerfully to the generation now in place. They are wiser than we were, and their successors will be wiser than they, from the progressive advance of science.

    But honestly, it’s no surprise that these folks want to – basically – get rid of judicial review. No more Engel v. Vitale, sure, but also no more Roe v. Wade . . . or Griswold v. Connecticut . . . or Brown v. Board . . .
    _____

    The claim that “In 1749, Franklin put a plan together for public education in Pennsylvania and he insisted that schools teach “the excellency of the Christian religion above all others, ancient or modern.”” is also not quite right. For starters, what he actually wrote was:

    But if History be made a constant part of [the student’s] reading, such as the translations of the Greek and Roman historians, and the modern histories of ancient Greece and Rome, may not almost all kinds of useful knowledge be that way introduced to advantage, and with pleasure to the student? . . .

    [various disciplines discussed]

    History will also afford frequent, opportunities of showing the necessity of a public religion, from its usefulness to the public; the advantage of a religious character among private persons; the mischiefs of superstition, and the excellency of the Christian religion above all others, ancient or modern.

    One can argue that this is close enough to be identical in meaning. More importantly, though, Franklin was not talking about public education in the sense we mean, but about the (private – *if* I understand correctly, might be confused) establishment of a college, the Academy of Philadelphia, which was to become the University of Pennsylvania.

  46. #46 dorkafork
    January 14, 2007

    Dan S., whether he was talking about public or private education, it’s still an interesting quote to use, quoting approvingly advice to have public schools teach “the excellency of the Christian religion above all others, ancient or modern.” Rather a far cry from “The intent of the founders was to limit the government’s encroachment into matters of conscience and religion, not to exclude any discussion of religion from public life”, isn’t it?

  47. #47 Ed Darrell
    January 14, 2007

    To the claim that Franklin’s plan for education was to focus on “the excellency of the Christian religion” when an excerpt from Franklin’s writing shows that to be ripped out of context, someone wrote:

    One can argue that this is close enough to be identical in meaning.

    Only if one wishes to argue that the Gettysburg Address was about the number 87, since it starts out: “Four-score and seven . . .”

  48. #48 Dan S.
    January 14, 2007

    Ed –

    I wasn’t quite clear – Franklin seemed to have seen this as one small aspect of historical study, *certainly* not the focus. By arguably “close enough to be identical in meaning,” I meant only that he *did* appear to be suggesting that it might be included (although it’s not even entirely clear that it he would even have intended it to be explicitly taught. If they had had powerpoint presentations back then, it would very much be a sub-sub bullet point in teeny letters. – and of course, it’s very much a public proposal, with all sorts of things thrown in to raise interest and cover bases.

    Of course, each and every founder could have been running evangelical christian bible study groups twice weekly, and it wouldn’t matter one whit, something some of these folks can’t get (or won’t admit).

  49. #49 Michael
    January 15, 2007

    It’s the one thing I never could figure out about you Americans. What’s the fetich you have about what someone said a couple of centuries ago?

    Those guys may or may not have been the pinnacle of truth at their time, but we all know that they were ignorant peasants compared to what we know now. They’re dead, and let them remain that way.

    Every generation gets smarter by experience, well, the non idiots at least. Why is it, that Americans seem to generally worship their “founding fathers” as they would some imaginary god?

    Truth be told. As a European, I think you’re all pissing against the wind.

    But, I honestly think you’ve lost the fight. You’ve become a Christian Iran. Another country to laugh at. In case you’ve not noticed, India and even more China are the countries to pay respect to. Because they have already surpassed you in innovation. And, in those countries we don’t have to worry about nutjobs that you Americans elect to lead you.

    Face it, you’re the Christian version of Iran.

    And, I am sure that if you try to fight it, the same thing will happen to you, as happen to dissidents in muslim countries.

    Now, I hope that won’t happen, as I got my education in the US, but how else to interpret what is happening?

  50. #50 George
    January 15, 2007

    In case you’ve not noticed, India and even more China are the countries to pay respect to.

    Let’s not go overboard. China is not exactly a paragon of virtue in the human rights area. Their censorship is quite impressive. They treat the environment like their personal toilet. Plus, they have overpopulated the planet. 1,313,973,713 people in July 2006. That’s a lot of people.

  51. #51 Teresa
    January 15, 2007

    I’m so far down in the comments, I don’t know if this is worth it or not, but I’ll try anyway.

    One of the reasons to care what the Founding Fathers said, is because it is part of our history. Not because we have to obey their every wish or intention, but we have to UNDERSTAND those wishes and intentions to understand our history, and our culture, and to interpret them correctly so that they can’t be manipulated by shallow, vulgar, insane people like this creationist nut-roll.

    Thomas Jefferson himself said that the decisions and commitments of the dead should not control the living. Thomas Paine used this sentiment as a fundamental argument against the validity of monarchy (specifically, that the ancestors who swore fealty to the King for themselves and their posterity until the end of time, had no right to do so).

    As for not listening to them because they owned slaves, or didn’t respect women in society the way we do, or whatever, many of the founding fathers made it clear that they believed that there was a great deal of work left to do, and that only so much could be done in a single life-time. The foundational documents, notations, and debates made it clear that it was expected that subsequent generations would improve upon the documents and laws in question, which is why they were made amendable. Certainly, defying the convention of monarchy, fighting a war of independence, forging political alliances with foreign nations, establishing prosperous trade, building a nation, and defending it against the many threats to it’s infancy was enough for these men to do in their lifetime, and many of them looked forward with hope that one day slavery would be abolished…even many of them that owned slaves, and continued to hold them as there was only small means for freed slaves to support themselves outside of the slave system.

    So, no we shouldn’t hold them in awe and see their words as the be-all and end-all of wisdom and righteousness. Neither should we discredit what wisdom they have to offer that still holds true today, and for certain, we should not let their words be twisted and manipulated to represent something they never intended.

    Since we inherited their work, I think we should at least respect it enough to learn about it in an accurate fashion…which includes not worshipping it unduly as well as not denigrating it unfairly.

  52. #52 Greg Laden
    January 16, 2007

    Those guys may or may not have been the pinnacle of truth at their time, but we all know that they were ignorant peasants compared to what we know now. They’re dead, and let them remain that way.

    I’m not really in the business of defending Thomas, George, Sam and those guys (except maybe Sam, because of the beer) but …

    They were not ignorant nor were they peasants. They were worldy and well educated at a time when it was possible to be fully educated. Yes, there is more to know now, but does that mean that anyone knows all of it? And the principles of fairness, liberty, etc. are not complicated nor were they unknown in the 18th century.

    In fact, there is an edge to what the so called “founding fathers” understood that you (and me and many others) can’t understand. They were involved in a revolution, not only as a national (with a small n) movement, but in a way of thinking of how a government can run. The educated activists of the 18th century invented modern government. We have received this social construct and largely ignore it.

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