Historical Ignorance on Display

One of the Talk to Action diaries has the text of a speech by Gary Lankford, president of the Ohio Restoration Project. Some of the statements in it are astonishingly ignorant. Like this one:

For over 300 years in America, it was widely assumed that to be in public office, you needed to be a Christian--or at least a Unitarian or a Deist. And that distinction, though important, wasn't critical, because even Deists in ages past were much more biblical in their worldview and their understanding of scripture than many of today's Evangelical office-holders.

Wow. Has he never read Thomas Paine? Or Voltaire? I doubt either could be accused of being "more biblical in their worldview" than today's evangelicals. To whom is he referring? He doesn't say, of course. I can't imagine who it might be. Perhaps he needs to read The Age of Reason, Paine's most famous work. There he would see such statements as:

All national institutions of churches, whether Jewish, Christian or Turkish, appear to me no other than human inventions, set up to terrify and enslave mankind, and monopolize power and profit.

Sure doesn't sound like a "biblical worldview" to me, especially since much of the book is a criticism of the validity of the Bible. Indeed, he says bluntly, "I sincerely detest it (the Bible), as I detest everything that is cruel." Voltaire, of course, wrote volumes of wickedly funny mockery of Christianity and the bible, as did many other deists. But there are other ignorant statements:

It was a different culture, and we had a broad, Christian cultural consensus as the backdrop for the public discourse and the public debate. You know, one of the great achievements of American Christianity is religious tolerance. Religious tolerance was a new thing in the world, and not practiced very many places, and not practiced for very long anywhere.

I have no idea what "American Christianity" is (as opposed to European Christianity?), but this is utter nonsense, especially in light of the fact that he refers to "300 years" of allegedly continual practice. But let's look back 300 years to the makeup of the officially Christian colonies and see if you can find some shred of "religious tolerance" in them. Blasphemy was still punishable by death, each colony had its own form of theocratic rule, people were jailed and beaten and even hanged - and that was just for being the wrong brand of Christian, never mind being a Jew or a Muslim or a deist.

Religious tolerance came only with the Enlightenment-influenced founding fathers, who wrote a Constitution that forbid religious tests for office, guaranteed religious freedom, prohibited religious establishment and had not a single provision that was based upon the Bible. This led John Adams to declare, in his Defense of the Constitution of Government of the United States:

"The United States of America have exhibited, perhaps, the first example of governments erected on the simple principles of nature; and if men are now sufficiently enlightened to disabuse themselves of artifice, imposture, hypocrisy, and superstition, they will consider this event as an era in their history. Although the detail of the formation of the American governments is at present little known or regarded either in Europe or in America, it may hereafter become an object of curiosity. It will never be pretended that any persons employed in that service had interviews with the gods, or were in any degree under the influence of Heaven, more than those at work upon ships or houses, or laboring in merchandise or agriculture; it will forever be acknowledged that these governments were contrived merely by the use of reason and the senses.

This emphasis on reason over revelation is highly distinct from and in opposition to the "Christian worldview."

Now when the colonists first came to America, they came for religious freedom from Catholicism. They were not very tolerant of other Protestants. Eventually they progressed to where they were tolerant of other Protestants. Some more time went by, and they finally accepted and tolerated Catholics. Some more time went by, and they finally tolerated Jews, and Hindus and Buddhists and other faith traditions--nonwestern religions. And finally America accepted Atheists and Secularists.

But if religious tolerance is to be credited to Christianity, why did the Christians who ruled have to evolve that tolerance? Surely one should be able to point to specific references in the Bible or in Christian tradition that argued for religious tolerance if that was true, but one cannot. There was no Christian society that had religious tolerance or religious freedom prior to the founding of this country, which was an explicit rejection of centuries of religion nitolerance and religious establishments by Christian rulers.

To whom would he turn in Christian history as arguing for religious tolerance? Certainly not to the Catholic Church, which was responsible for forced conversions for centuries and had passed law after law forbidding Jews and other non-Christians from practicing their faith?. To John Calvin, whose rule resulted in Michael Servetus being burned at the stake (Calvin himself, kind soul that he was, thought he should have just had his head chopped off rather than the slow death of burning; what a liberal)? To Martin Luther, who wanted Jewish synagogues burned to the ground and Jews rounded up and imprisoned? Prior to the Enlightenment, there simply was no tradition of religious tolerance in Christianity; indeed, the movement toward religious toleration was a reaction to centuries of intolerance from Christian leaders.

There were also some very significant Supreme Court decisions that came in the 1960s and 70s, and I want you to think about this for a second. These were all landmark decisions that marked major shifts in American culture and American experience. They all happened for the very first time in the 1960s and 1970s. In 1961, we had Torcaso vs. Watkins, where for the first time they outlawed religious tests for public office. 1961.

Actually Gary, you might want to check the Constitution. Article 6. It's right there in black and white: "no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States." The only thing Torcaso did was apply that to state officials as well (via the 14th amendment, of course). Are you against that, Gary? Do you think that only Christians should be allowed to hold office in Ohio or in any other state? It sure sounds like it, since you're offering that ruling as an example of anti-Christian court rulings. Gee Gary, how would you feel if Ohio passed a law saying that Christians couldn't hold office? Answer that question and you'll know why Torcaso was decided correctly.

In 1962 they outlawed any kind of school prayer in American schools, led in any way by teachers or faculty or staff. Here was the prayer that they outlawed in 1962: "Almighty God, we acknowledge our dependence upon Thee, and beg Thy blessings upon us, our teachers, and our country." That was deemed a violation of the separation of church and state. Did you catch that? "Almighty God, we acknowledge our dependence upon Thee, and beg Thy blessings upon us, our teachers, and our country."

Yes, Gary, I caught that. What on earth is your point? Having government officials forcing school children to recite a prayer clearly is a violation of the establishment clause. If forced religious exercises are not an establishment of religion, then nothing could possibly be. Now ask yourself this, Gary: if the prayer acknowledged our dependence on "Almightly Allah" instead, would you still think it's not an establishment of religion to force you and your children to recite it? Answer that question and you might actually begin to get a clue on this subject.

In 1963, the Court found Bible reading over the school intercom unconstitutional. You couldn't read Bible verses in the morning announcements.

Imagine that. How about suras from the Quran, Gary? You okay with that? Of course you're not. You're only okay with this sort of government coercion and endorsement when it's your beliefs being endorsed and forced on others. And yet you talk about religious tolerance. Are you beginning to see the problem here, Gary?

In 1971, they devised a new test to determine what was "excessive entanglement" in church-state issues, called the Kurtzman test.

No, Gary, it's called the Lemon test. Kurtzman was on the other side of the case.

Here are the three new definitions. The government action must have a secular purpose, or it's not allowed. Its primary purpose must not be to inhibit or advance religion--if it inhibits or advances religion, it's not allowed. And three, there must be no excessive entanglement between government and religion. Now if you follow church-state court cases at all in the last 35 years, you'll find that the Lemon v. Kurtzman case settle nothing at all. Every Supreme Court had a totally different idea of what each of those three points meant in practical usage.

And what's your point, Gary? The courts have all sorts of tests that they apply and the meaning and application of those tests vary over time. There's a good reason for this, because the people on the courts change over time. This is inevitable. Law is not a mathematical formula, for crying out loud.

The whole thing was just one stupid talking point after another, all filtered through the man's astonishing ignorance of history and law.

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Question: when Adams writes of "Catholicism", did he include the Church of England in that? Was there still the attitude, post-restoration (1660s), that the Anglican Church had not yet significantly removed Catholic dogma and practice?

There's certainly evidence to support that viewpoint; I'm just wondering if it really was the attitude at the time, 130 years after the partially religious driven English Civil War, that the Church was still perceived as Catholic as was back then.

There are many ways in which us Americans probably don't totally understand all of the after-effects of the English Civil War, just as most Brits probably don't understand how little has changed in the perception of the south and of Blacks a hundred years after our own war.

By Joe Shelby (not verified) on 09 Oct 2006 #permalink

Oh wait, was it Adams or was it Lankford who called the church "Catholic"? - hard to tell.

If it was Lankford, then it probably was more out of ignorance than post ECW "attitude".

Perhaps as you write these excellent summaries, you could be a little more clear when you switch between speakers in your blockquotes. :)

By Joe Shelby (not verified) on 09 Oct 2006 #permalink

And I bet if you looked up some of those talking points, you could trace them back to one D Barton, the 'father' of modern historical revisionism and xian apologetics.

All this diatribe shows is that it's much easier to spout a bunch of lies than it is to actually do any historical research and back up your assertions.

Oh, and "Kurtzmann test"??? WTF?

I wonder if he could find a single ruling post Lemon-Kurtzmann that refers to it that way....

Cheers.

Yeah, reading the original, I can see now he really just created a huge strawman against Catholicism, when in actuality Catholics too were trying to escape the state religion of England in coming to the colonies.

Which is odd, because thanks to the abortion and a few other things like the supposed "war on Christmas" and the evolution debate, the Catholics are increasingly being drawn into the evangelical attitudes as their need for faith in light of Europe's dominating secularism pulls their dogma further and further back into dark ages ignorance.

I wonder if it's possible for someone to track down who by inheritance is actually the Holy Roman Emperor. :)

By Joe Shelby (not verified) on 09 Oct 2006 #permalink

I think it would be easy to make the case that by inheritance, the Holy Roman Emperor would be Crown Prince Otto of Austria, who was in his 90's but still alive last I knew. He was in line for the Hapsburg throne until the end of WWI, but was maybe 5 years old at the the time. The Hapsburgs resigned the Holy Roman Empire early in the 19th century due to the Napoleonic wars, so it's all moot.

The whole thing about tolerance beginning with Christians, slowly being extended to everyone and eventually the atheists and secularists kicking the Christians off the "tolerance" boat is the thesis of a new book by historical hack William Federer, who along with David Barton notoriously spread those "unconfirmed quotations" by our Founding Fathers.

Re the Deists and Unitarians being "Biblical" in their worldview, one could argue that this gets it ass-backwards. As I noted onthis debate thread with the painfully ponderous Gordon Mullings: Since the Bible and orthodox Christianity could not provide the ideas upon which we Declared Independence and Constructed the Constitution, even orthodox Christians like Patrick Henry, John Witherspoon, and John Jay, when they talked "founding principles," had to speak in "Enlightenment" language (the "state of nature/social contract") language that is, again, in the words of Leo Strauss, "wholly alien to the Bible."

Pre-Enlightenment Christian Europe did have a kind of religious tolerance. I say 'kind of' because we would not recognize it as tolerance because it was bound up in notions of hierarchy. In most places during the Middle Ages, Jews had a fair amount of freedom and autonomy. Catholic theology held that Jews continued to exist as witnesses to Christianity and stewards of the Biblical tradition. Until the Reformation the Papacy discouraged forced conversions. Jews were not equals under any cicumstances of course and could be deported the second their charter expired. this is similar to the status Jews and Christians had under Muslims at the same time. Christian Europe would not see our brand of tolerance until the Enlightenment, but it got there by baby-steps and has as much to do with the Peace of Augsburg as the Enlightenment, I think.

The office of Holy Roman Emperor was not a hereditary office. The monarchs of the eleven most powerful states in central Europe held the title of Elector and elected one of their own to hole that increasingly meaningless office. Electoral monarchies were common in Central Europe, though in practice it meant that a couple big families took turns running countries.

After 1452 the elections essentially amounted to confirming the current Habsburg ruler, but the threat always existed that the other Electors might revolt against the Habsburgs as they did in 1740. In that year Maria Theresa inherited the Habsburg titles and the Electors voted in Charles of Bavaria (a Wittelsbach, not a Habsburg). When Charles died, the Habsburgs had regained enough influence to have Maria Theresa's husband elected and the imperial title stayed in the Habsburg family till the end of the Empire in 1806.

To get a Holy Roman Emperor today, we would need to round up the claimants to the thrones of Austria, Prussia, Bavaria, and the others and have them elect an Emperor.

The interesting thing about tolerance is that between the end of the Thirty Years War and the Enlightenment, toleration was something of a dirty word. After the Thirty Years War many countries had some sort of toleration laws to manage the peace between Protestants and Catholics. Toleration was seen not as a virtue, but as a sign of weakness by each side. The other religion was too large to force convert, expell, or kill so they had to be tolerated, much as one has to tolerate a bad smell when one lives in the city.

For a better example of pre-Enlightenment religious tolerance, look to some of the medieval Muslim states, especially in Spain. Prior to the twentieth century, tolerance was far more characteristic of Muslim rule than intolerance (though there were some ugly exceptions). In classical Islam, "people of the book" (Christians, Jews, and sometimes Hindus and Parsees) were granted self-rule and toleration as long as they paid a community tax. This is not the same as modern freedom of individual conscience, but it was quite enlightened for the times.

"Until the Reformation the Papacy discouraged forced conversions."

The opposite was the case during and after the reconquista of Iberia.

RE: Holy Roman Emperor

It was an elective title. After 1556 they were not crowned in Rome and so were technically only "Emperors Elect" and Kings of Germany. The last actual Habsburg emperor died in 1740 and was followed first by Charles VII, a Bavarian Wittelsbach, then by his son-in-law Francis of Lorraine. After that the Habsburg-Lorraine family (who quickly took to just calling themselves just Habsburg) held on until the dissolution of the Empire in 1805. The history of the Empire was very convoluted and easily misrepresented. If you have the time, it is a fascinating study. R. A. Kann "A History of the Habsburg Empire" is probably the standard reference.
Dr Otto Habsburg was a member of the European Parliament from Bavaria from 1979 to 1999. He was fairly active in conservative (Christian Social) politics, but seems to be retired now.
"Habsburg" is standard German; "Hapsburg" is common in English.

I see that John McKay already covered this while I wasn't looking.

Ed wrote:

Surely one should be able to point to specific references in the Bible or in Christian tradition that argued for religious tolerance if that was true, but one cannot.

If I properly understand how you are using the phrase "religious tolerance," I suspect that you would agree that a separation of church and state is one of the necessary characteristics of a religiously tolerant society. Historian Bernard Lewis asserts that the idea of a separation of church and state "is, in a profound sense, Christian." (What Went Wrong? p.96) Jesus himself stipulated the separation when instructing, "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's."

Islam and other civilizations are in stark contrast. According to Lewis, "At no time did [Muhammad and his successors] create any institution corresponding to, or even remotely resembling, the church in Christendom," that is, an Islam separate from the state. (p.99) Many Roman emperors and Egyptian pharaohs claimed to be gods, leaving state and religion intertwined.

Ramsey Wilson wrote:

Historian Bernard Lewis asserts that the idea of a separation of church and state "is, in a profound sense, Christian." (What Went Wrong? p.96) Jesus himself stipulated the separation when instructing, "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's."

And yet no Christian ever interpreted that verse as a command for separation of church and state, or even as a command for religious freedom for anyone other than Christians (an absolutely necessary component of separation) for nearly 1700 years after those words were spoken. Not Augustine, not Aquinas, none of the church fathers, none of the Christian rulers from the 4th century Roman empire through all of European history. No one, indeed, until Roger Williams. And when he came up with the concept, those good Christians of the Massachusetts Bay Colony - who surely knew that verse as well as you do - threw him out and condemned him as a heretic for suggesting that anyone other than Puritans should have religious freedom. If the meaning of Christ's words is so clear today, why did no Christian thinker ever interpret it that way for over 1600 years?

Ed wrote:

no Christian ever interpreted that verse as a command for separation of church and state

I take you at your word. Nonetheless, "Christendom," unlike other major civilizations, has been characterized by separate institutions of state and church, since long before the Enlightenment. Why do you think that might be?

I concede that separation of church and state is necessary but not sufficient for the emergence "religious tolerance." As you indicate, other elements are necessary (e.g., freedom of conscience and practice).

By Ramsey Wilson (not verified) on 09 Oct 2006 #permalink

Nonetheless, "Christendom," unlike other major civilizations, has been characterized by separate institutions of state and church, since long before the Enlightenment. Why do you think that might be?

Ignorance on your part of the historical details of "other major civilizations"? I mean, that would just be my guess.

Ramsey Wilson wrote:

Nonetheless, "Christendom," unlike other major civilizations, has been characterized by separate institutions of state and church, since long before the Enlightenment. Why do you think that might be?

You're going to have to give me an example of where there was any Christian society that had separation of church and state prior to Rhode Island; I am aware of no such thing. The point of separation of church and state is not merely that the state and the church are "separate institutions", but that neither has the ability to control the other. If you can find an example of any Christian nation, colony or society that had anything approaching religious freedom prior to Roger Williams' Rhode Island colony, you will be the first to discover one as far as I know. In all of the early American colonies - the ones to whom the David Bartons of the world continually refer as evidence of this being a "Christian Nation" - there was no such separation and no religious freedom. Each had an established church and required all citizens to pay to support it, and each punished even people of other Christian denominations (don't even think about being a Jew, a deist or a Muslim). All of the various European nations to which ecclesiastical authority was wed were run essentially as theocracies. It was the American and French revolutions, first and foremost, that were the nails in the coffin of religious coercion in the West.

I concede that separation of church and state is necessary but not sufficient for the emergence "religious tolerance." As you indicate, other elements are necessary (e.g., freedom of conscience and practice).

Absolutely. But none of those things are anywhere mentioned in the Bible, or in Christian theology for some 1700 years or so. To claim that religious liberty is a Christian idea is simply absurd.

There was no Christian society that had religious tolerance or religious freedom prior to the founding of this country, which was an explicit rejection of centuries of religion nitolerance and religious establishments by Christian rulers.

The 17th century Dutch were somewhat tolerant after ousting the Spanish, at least to various Protestant sects and Jews, despite having a Calvinist government. Catholics were treated as second-class citizens, though. My Catholic ancestors had to worship in the cellar of a local castle, but they were allowed to worship.

Ed wrote:

You're going to have to give me an example of where there was any Christian society that had separation of church and state prior to Rhode Island; I am aware of no such thing.

I am aware of no earlier nation, colony or society that had "separation of church and state" in the robust sense to which you point.

Ed also wrote:

The point of separation of church and state is not merely that the state and the church are "separate institutions" . . . .

I agree. Hence, my earlier concession that separate institutions is not sufficient. Where you and I seem to disagree is whether the fact of separate institutions helped contribute to the robust separation of church and state embodied in our Constitution. You seem to be saying that it is irrelevant.

Earlier, Ed wrote:

Religious tolerance came only with the Enlightenment-influenced founding fathers

I do not deny that Enlightenment thinking contributed positively to the formation of the U.S. But I do question whether it was solely responsible for the inclusion of principles of religious freedom in the Constitution. For example, have you ever considered whether freedom of religion also may have been a matter of necessity, in light of the denominational pluralism that existed at the time?

Last quote from Ed!

none of those things [e.g., freedom of conscience and practice] are anywhere mentioned in the Bible

The foundations for "those things" are in the Bible. God created man in his own image, meaning (in relevant part) that we possess self-determination. He gave humans the choice of whom we would serve; He does not coerce obedience or love. In story after story in the Bible, we see the consequences of those choices.

(By the way, Ed, I very much appreciate that you not only allow dissenting points of view to be heard here, but that you thoughtfully engage them.)

By Ramsey Wilson (not verified) on 09 Oct 2006 #permalink

Ramsey Wilson wrote:

Where you and I seem to disagree is whether the fact of separate institutions helped contribute to the robust separation of church and state embodied in our Constitution. You seem to be saying that it is irrelevant.

Well, I never really agreed that Christianity commands that church and state be separate institutions. Certainly the single phrase you cite to that effect (Render unto Caesar) does not make a case for such, it is merely a recognition that there was a non-religious government in power that could command their allegiance (non-religious only from their perspective, of course; from the perspective of the Romans, the emperors were often viewed as Gods - and even born of virgins). But the Mosaic law established no such separation and ancient Israel was a theocracy where church and state were one, created at the alleged command of God. There is no concept of political liberty anywhere in the Bible.

I do not deny that Enlightenment thinking contributed positively to the formation of the U.S. But I do question whether it was solely responsible for the inclusion of principles of religious freedom in the Constitution. For example, have you ever considered whether freedom of religion also may have been a matter of necessity, in light of the denominational pluralism that existed at the time?

No, I think quite the opposite is true. Surely the American colonies were far less pluralistic than the Roman Empire, which included a vast multitude of religions with whole nations under its command having their own religion distinct from other nations. And Europe had far more fierce denominational fighting than the US did (just look at the wars between Catholics and Protestants that never took place here, precisely because we had religious freedom). If it was a matter of necessity, it would have come far earlier. Instead, it came after a sustained period of attack on the theological arguments for the divine right of kings and on the barbarism of governments enforcing their own Christian views against everyone else.

The foundations for "those things" are in the Bible. God created man in his own image, meaning (in relevant part) that we possess self-determination. He gave humans the choice of whom we would serve; He does not coerce obedience or love. In story after story in the Bible, we see the consequences of those choices.

You must be reading a different bible than I am. The consequences of those choices often included commands from God himself to slaughter entire civilizations for daring to worship other gods. The Midianites are a good example, an entire society slaughtered except for the virgin females, who were taken as the spoils of war - and all because two of their women "tempted" some Israelite men to worship other gods. And of course, the very notion of hell is about as contrary to the notion that God gives humans the choice of whom to serve as it can possibly be. "Do what you want...but if you choose wrong you'll have your flesh burned off for all eternity" isn't exactly tantamount to religious freedom.

The Midianites are a good example, an entire society slaughtered except for the virgin females, who were taken as the spoils of war

I certainly don't have all the answers. I find such bloodshed difficult to understand.

the very notion of hell is about as contrary to the notion that God gives humans the choice of whom to serve as it can possibly be.

G.K. Chesterton once described hell as a monument to human freedom. God honors the decision of a person to reject Him, by allowing that person to spend eternity forever separated from Him.

Surely the American colonies were far less pluralistic than the Roman Empire

Perhaps so. At the same time, the American colonies did not have the hammer of the Roman army to hold their pluralistic society together.

it [religious freedom] came after a sustained period of attack on the theological arguments for the divine right of kings . . . .

As I understand it, while kings sometimes asserted a "divine right," such claims were not ratified by the church. From Augustine to Aquinas and John Wycliffe, theologians developed justifications for resisting tyrant kings. (Rodney Stark, The Victory of Reason pp.81-82)

By Ramsey Wilson (not verified) on 09 Oct 2006 #permalink

G.K. Chesterton once described hell as a monument to human freedom. God honors the decision of a person to reject Him, by allowing that person to spend eternity forever separated from Him.

Then I would have to argue that G.K. Chesterton was a deluded imbecile. If hell is a monument to human freedom it is the grossest one ever conceived and implemented.

A more honest attempt would allow those who choose to be seperate to live in another realm entirely so they can make their own way. Not punish them for making a decision you don't like.

A bit more information about the Habsburgs. After 1806 they were rulers of the Austrian Empire (after 1856 Austro-Hungarian Empire, interesting thing about the Hungarians: when they rebel, they lose, but not so disastrously that a second round is out of the question and their conquerors have a habit of not wanting a second round) until 1918 and I think still de jure Kings of Hungary until 1945. Even after 1806 they still claimed the right to veto candidates for the Papacy and last exercised that veto in the Conclave prior to WWI that elected Benedict XV.

"He does not coerce obedience or love. "

Hahahahahahahahaha.

Thou shalt not bow down thyself unto them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me, and showing loving kindness to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.

By Ginger Yellow (not verified) on 10 Oct 2006 #permalink

Ramsey Wilson wrote:

I certainly don't have all the answers. I find such bloodshed difficult to understand.

For the purposes of this discussion, understanding why doesn't really matter. The fact that God does order people killed for worshipping other gods is enough to disprove the notion that the God of the Bible does not coerce belief. So does the very first commandment, as Ginger noted above. There simply is no concept of religious or political liberty in the Bible.

Ed wrote:

The fact that God does order people killed for worshipping other gods is enough to disprove the notion that the God of the Bible does not coerce belief.

I don't think the conclusion logically follows. I'll try to explain why, and then allow you the last word (if you desire).

Your conclusion seems to presuppose that freedom from coercion requires that God not unduly (or disproportionately) penalize those who choose to follow other gods. Otherwise, the argument goes, people are left with no meaningful choice; they are, in essence, coerced by the threatened consequences.

But what does it mean for God to "unduly penalize" a person for choosing to follow other gods? The question presupposes the basic principle of justice: "to each his due." And what is God due? From a Biblical perspective, God is due "loyalty, worship, and obedience." He has given us the "supreme benefit" - our very being - thereby incurring "supreme obligation." "To deny Him is the deepest form of treason - much more serious than the ordinary sort." J. Budziszewski, What We Can't Not Know 31 (discussing the First Commandment).

With these other Biblical principles more plainly in view, it becomes more difficult to conclude that the Midianites, for example, have suffered injustice. (One can dispute the truth of any or all of these principles, but that is another discussion altogether.) If there is no injustice, there is no undue penalty for choosing to follow other gods. If there is no undue penalty, there is no coercion.

By Ramsey Wilson (not verified) on 10 Oct 2006 #permalink

Again, whether you think God is justified in slaughtering an entire nation for daring not to worship him - and frankly, I think any such justification is borderline lunacy - is not relevant to the question of whether the Bible, or God himself, endorses the notion of freedom of religion. The fact that he (allegedly) empowered a nation to destroy people for worshipping other gods is more than enough to disprove the notion that the Bible endorses religious liberty. It really is that simple.

"And what is God due? From a Biblical perspective, God is due "loyalty, worship, and obedience."

Let me get this straight. The Bible says God is due worship and obedience. The Bible says that the punishment for disobedience is not only eternal damnation, but in the OT at least having your tribe wiped out or your descendants punished for generations. But according to you the Biblical God doesn't coerce belief. Did you take a degree in sophistry? What behaviour on the part of God would be coercive, if not that?

By Ginger Yellow (not verified) on 11 Oct 2006 #permalink

Ramsey Wilson:

With these other Biblical principles more plainly in view, it becomes more difficult to conclude that the Midianites, for example, have suffered injustice.

This is a textbook case of taking an axiom, applying reasoned logic, and arriving at a conclusion which is completely bonkers.

If you think that having your men, women and children violently put to death, and your virgin daughters forced into prostitution simply because you have the wrong book in your temple, does not count as "injustice", then your concept of justice is fundamentally broken. Sorry.

By Nebogipfel (not verified) on 11 Oct 2006 #permalink