Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Thomas Jefferson is the man: Robbie's Week 8 New and Hot

In The Providential Detection , Federalists have God attacking Thomas Jefferson for his involvement with the the religious brouhaha of the French Revolution. via the Library of Congress' Exhibition on Religion and the Founding of the American Republic.

Though Jefferson predates Darwin and the evolution debate by quite a few years, Jefferson is an incredibly important figure in today's debate about the role that religion should play in the U.S. government. We spend a lot of time discussing Darwin's intentions (and how his intentions matter) including his opinion of religion; the same scrutiny is placed on the Founding Fathers, especially by proponents of the American right, who argue that the religious views of the Founding Fathers imply that the U.S. was founded as a Christian nation.

This makes me angry. If anything, though the Founding Fathers do reference God, most of them seem more like agnostics or athiests. For example, in a letter Jefferson wrote to his nephew Peter Carr, he advises his young nephew to be critical of religion:

"... shake off all the fears & 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."

Here's another interesting snippet from Article 11 of the 1796 Treaty of Peace and Friendship with Tripoli which was signed by President John Adams:

"As the government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion,-as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion or tranquility of Musselmen,-and as the said States never have entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mehomitan nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries."

There you go. This is another example of how the intentions of important thinkers are really questioned and interpreted. Interpretations of intention are actually very important. For example, Justice Scalia of the U.S. Supreme Court is really into looking at what Alexander Hamilton thought about Federalism as a basis for making a Federalist interpretation of the constitution; Scalia discounts Thomas Jefferson's extreme disagreement with the Federalists because Jefferson was in France for some of the time during which the U.S. Constitution was drafted.

1 comment:

chickenpox said...

Thomas Jefferson is most certainly awesome, if I may say so.- Joy