The Daily Jefferson

Portrait of Thomas Jefferson by Rembrandt Peal...

The below quote often gets snipped down a key sentence – you know which one it is – and I think this is a mistake. Thomas Jefferson probably was not an atheist. However, a modern atheist can read the below quote and see how it may be applied in the very same way said atheist came about said’s deeply rationalized personal atheism:

 But our rulers can have authority over such natural rights only as we have submitted to them. The rights of conscience we never submitted, we could not submit. We are answerable for them to our God. The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my neighbour to say there are twenty gods, or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg. If it be said, his testimony in a court of justice cannot be relied on, reject it then, and be the stigma on him. Constraint may make him worse by making him a hypocrite, but it will never make him a truer man. It may fix him obstinately in his errors, but will not cure them. Reason and free enquiry are the only effectual agents against error. Give a loose to them, they will support the true religion, by bringing every false one to their tribunal, to the test of their investigation. They are the natural enemies of error, and of error only. Had not the Roman government permitted free enquiry, Christianity could never have been introduced. Had not free enquiry been indulged, at the aera of the reformation, the corruptions of Christianity could not have been purged away. If it be restrained now, the present corruptions will be protected, and new ones encouraged. Was the government to prescribe to us our medicine and diet, our bodies would be in such keeping as our souls are now. Thus in France the emetic was once forbidden as a medicine, and the potatoe as an article of food. Government is just as infallible too when it fixes systems in physics. Galileo was sent to the inquisition for affirming that the earth was a sphere: the government had declared it to be as flat as a trencher, and Galileo was obliged to abjure his error.

Thomas Jefferson – Notes on the State of Virginia p. 285 (Query regarding Religion)

*That’s right, the whole book is online at that link. Go nuts with it.

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Creating an Out-Faith Dialogue to Justify Fundamentalism

At least that’s how I read it. Tell me how you read it.

Both Islamism and Christianism, to my mind, do not spring from real religious faith; they spring from neurosis caused by lack of faith. They are the choices of those who are panicked by the complexity and choices of modernity into a fanatical embrace of a simplistic parody of religion in order to attack what they see as their cultural and social enemies. They are not about genuine faith; they are about the instrumentality of faith as a political bludgeon.

Notice the absence of real faith, which would recoil even at the very thought of killing innocents, but the pragmatic, cold-blooded use of faith as a psychological mechanism to enable mass murder.

This looks like creating an out-group. Fundamentalists can’t claim true belief, not like us, the true believers. Those of us properly practicing the tenets of Christianity, we would never kill someone or commit any other sin listed by our dogma. Yadda, yadda, yadda, nonsense.

Thankfully, Sullivan concludes his tract with a bit of a message for us on this side of the Atlantic.

He did what he did, knowing it was evil, because of a passionate commitment to a political cause, which has become fused with a politicized parody of one religion, and with a passionate paranoid hatred of another one.

If you think that contains no lessons for the United States, you might want to open your eyes a little more widely.

Source (about the Norway shooting, disappointingly not dealing with political fascism and instead excusing the inconvenient Christianity of the perpetrator).

A better read comes from Christopher Hitchens – not about the fascism of the perpetrator, but about the mistake of the media in identifying the shooter, before all the facts came out, as a Muslim fascist instead of a Christian fascist.

In tapes and sermons from mosques in London and Hamburg, you may find whole manifestos about the need to keep women as chattel, to eradicate the disease of homosexuality, to thwart the Jewish design over international finance, and other fantasies of the Third Reich mentality. Pushed to its logical or pathological conclusion, this would involve something that Europeans and Americans have never seen before: a conflict between different forms of fascism in order to see which assault on multi-ethnic democracy was the most effective.

I just pulled a great quote because as Hitchens often does, he expounds and swirls out his argument. This being just one thread, though I would say, his threads are a lot more substantial and nutritious than, let’s say, the Andrew Sullivan “please allow me to make excuses for inconvenient Christian expression” line of reasoning.

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