Sunday, February 11, 2007

The Myth of Judeo-Christian

Well folks, it's Sunday, and I thought I would celebrate my not being compelled to go somewhere and babble to the sky god of the Christians, by having a few beers, and attacking one of their most sacred premises: the myth that the United States was founded on "Judeo-Christian" values.

According to this myth, the intention of the 'Founding Fathers' was to establish a nation on North America whose morals, laws, civil codes, etc. were based on some unified set of beliefs codified by some (non-existent) amalgamated system of Jewish/Christian belief. There are so many things wrong with this idea that I hardly know where to start.

Before I begin, let me start with my qualifications for a redress of this issue. I have a hard won (and much paid for) BA in American history, and am six hours short of an MA in the same subject (which is where my tendencies of over detailing and over citing my posts come from). I also have a lifetime of experience with supposed Christian values, and an extensive amount of time studying the Bible. While none of this makes me some kind of top-dog scholar in this area, it is far more expertise and qualification in this subject than 99.9% of the people who spout the nonsense to begin with.

First, let's look at the term Judeo-Christian Values. Simply put: there is no such thing. The term itself, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, was first used in 1899 (well after the founding), but in relation to the separation of Jewish and Christian beliefs. The first usage of the term in its modern context wasn't until 1938 as an alternative the term 'Christian civilization' in light of Hitler's attacks on Judaism: basically a political move by what would become the Allies to not be seen as anti-Semitic.

As for some actual set of Judeo-Christian beliefs, no such thing exists. Simply put, Christianity, under Jewish law, is a large heresy, and vice-versa. While their are beliefs common to both sides: the Ten Commandments, the Patriarchs, God..., the very basis of Christianity (i.e. Jesus as God) puts all Christians in violation of the first commandment 'there is only one god, and God is it.' The majority view under Jewish law is that Christians and Jews do not worship the same god.

So, Judeo-Christian values cannot actually exist. But, when Christians use the term they don't mean to include Judaism anyway, they are more accurately meaning:
Christian values some of which are based on select Jewish values, but only those which we agree with.
Otherwise, no Christian would eat pork and the inquisitions would have never happened.

So, these idiots actually maintain that the United States was founded on Christian values, and never intended for there to be a separation of religion from government. Which, is another assertion based on ignorance and mythology.

Now there needs to be a clarification of the term the United States was founded. Technically the United States was founded in 1781 with the ratification of the Articles of Confederation, but was not an actual sovereign state until the Treaty of Paris in 1783. In fact the Articles of Confederation were considered to be a temporary system under which the original colonies could have a system of government during the ongoing war with England. The United States government as it stands now began on 1789 with the ratification of the US Constitution.

None of these documents call for a place in government, and one, the Constitution, actually forbids such a union twice:

First in Article VI when it expressly forbids religious belief being a prerequisite for government office:
The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.
Then again in the oft' misquoted, and extremely misread First Amendment (section in bold commonly forgotten by religious folk):
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Side Note: An Amendment that is often overlooked by those in this country who want religion to be part of government is the Ninth Amendment, which forbids the adoption of any amendment which contradicts the first ten. Basically meaning that Congress cannot just make an amendment in violation of the first ten such as an amendment requiring or allowing a union of religion and government.

For sensible literate people these documents are proof that Jefferson, Madison, Franklin, etc. were against a melding of religion (including Christianity) and government. But, there are the stubborn who say something to the effect that we are reading all of this wrong--that the founding fathers believed in a Christian government and we have perverted their intentions. Statements to this effect are not only stupid, but can be proven wrong with the words of the founding fathers themselves.

Thomas JeffersonFirst up we have Thomas Jefferson, author of The Declaration of Independence, and the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom.For some people, the "inalienable rights" line in the Declaration is proof of Jefferson's intention to have a Christian government, which is another example of misread and misquote.

Here is the line:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed, by their Creator, with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.
Pay special attention to the two words their creator. Notice that it does not say "our" creator, or "the" creator. This entity could be, the Egyptian creator, the Sumerian creator, Vishnu, basically any creator whom the person mentioned believes in.

Yes, Jefferson believed in the Christian god, but not in the way most Christians today do, and Jefferson held a firm belief that this, or any, god had no place in government, which he quite eloquently states in the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom:
Section 2: " man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burthened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer, on account of his religious opinions or belief; but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish, enlarge, or affect their civil capacities."
Section 3: "...that the rights hereby asserted are of the natural rights of mankind, and that if any act shall be hereafter passed to repeal the present or to narrow its operation, such act will be an infringement of natural right."
Jefferson wrote this, and Madison championed it. The two men combined forces again when they got the Establishment Clause codified into the Bill of Rights.

Jefferson was so proud of this statute that he requested that it be considered one of his three greatest accomplishments along with the establishment of the University of Virginia, and the Declaration of Independence.

But, I have heard the argument made that these documents were edited, amended, or otherwise changed and therefore do not actually represent the personal ideology of Jefferson and Madison--Wrong again.

In a letter to the Danbury Baptists written in 1802, Jefferson said the following concerning the First Amendment:
Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should "make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof," thus building a wall of separation between Church & State. Adhering to this expression of the supreme will of the nation in behalf of the rights of conscience, I shall see with sincere satisfaction the progress of those sentiments which tend to restore to man all his natural rights, convinced he has no natural right in opposition to his social duties.
From this we get Jefferson's rationale for the Separation Clause. His obvious and stated intention was to build a "wall of separation" between government and religion so that a perceived set of religious rights could not interfere with governmental duties. This letter was a show of solidarity with the Baptists who had written him a letter regarding their fears that a majority religion could gain control of the government. They felt that such a thing was unacceptable because "Religion is at all times and places a matter between God and individuals... no man ought to suffer in name, person, or effects on account of his religious Opinions." Something of a slap in the face of current Baptists who believe differently.

James MadisonThis opinion was echoed by James Madison in a letter he wrote to the Baptist churches in 1811. In this letter, Madison says that:
"practical distinction between Religion and Civil Government is essential to the purity of both, and as guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States"
Eight years later in a letter to Robert Walsh, Madison reaffirmed this belief when he said that there was a:
"total separation of the church from the state"
Which, according to Madison, was:
"Strongly guarded . . . is the separation between religion and government in the Constitution of the United States,"... .

For anyone who thinks the above statements from Madison, or Jefferson are out of context, the Library of Congress has them online, and you are welcome to do some of your own research.

Madison and Jefferson were by no means the only Founding Fathers to have reservations about religion.

In 1776, in his pamphlet, Common Sense, Thomas Paine wrote:
"As to religion, I hold it to be the indispensable duty of all government, to protect all conscientious professors thereof, and I know of no other business which government hath to do therewith…"

Benjamin FranklinAnd there's my favorite letter on religion, written by Benjamin Franklin to Richard Price a "friend or Quaker" in 1780:
I am fully of your opinion respecting religious tests; but, though the people of Massachusetts have not in their new Constitution kept quite clear of them, yet, if we consider what that people were 100 years ago, we must allow they have gone great lengths in liberality of sentiment on religious subjects; and we may hope for greater degrees of perfection, when their constitution, some years hence, shall be revised. If Christian preachers had continued to teach as Christ and his Apostles did, without salaries, and as the Quakers now do, I imagine tests would never have existed; for I think they were invented, not so much to secure religion itself, as the emoluments of it. When a religion is good, I conceive that it will support itself; and, when it cannot support itself, and God does not take care to support, so that its professors are obliged to call for the help of the civil power, it is a sign, I apprehend, of its being a bad one.
Not only does Franklin believe government and religion should be separate, but he believed that getting paid to preach was wrong, and that a religion that had to get help from a government was not sanctioned by God.

Amen Benny--Amen.

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Dan Marvin said...

If you run out in the middle of the highway and say I don't believe in trucks it doesn't mean you will not get run over. If you jump out of a window screaming "I don't believe in gravity" doesn't mean you will not get hurt. God does exist and He came as a man here on earth to pay for all your sins. By sins I mean the Ten Commandments which are God’s law. Have you stolen, lied, dishonored your mother and father etc. then you broke his laws and the penalty is death. Rev 21:8 all liars have there part in the lake of fire. But God doesn't want that to happen to you and I don't either. I don't want you to drink and drive but if you do then you will go to jail, and if you lie then you will spend eternity in Hell. Now someone came to pay your fine so you wouldn't have to spend time in jail. Jesus came to pay your fine for you so that justice would be satisfied and you could go free. All you have to do is Repent which means turn away from sin and trust Jesus like you would a parachute. Pray to God and ask his forgiveness and he will give you a life without death and you will not spend forever in hell. Go to my site @ for more

R Nicolas said...

The problem with your "logic" is that trucks are real--I can see, feel, hear, and even smell them, so jumping in front of one would be lunacy.

If I drop a rock--I see the scientifically proven law of gravity, therefore self-defenistration would be lunacy.

I also don't break laws like drinking and driving, so won't go to jail for them. Knowing that I would go to a jail that I can see, and disobeying laws written by and enforced by people that I can see, hear, touch, etc. , and then purposely breaking those laws would be lunacy.

As for offending a fairy-tale character--if I was worried about some mythical place called Hell, and arranged my life around something for which there is not one grain of proof or even logical argument, then I would be no different from people who give burnt offerings to the gods of Frodo the Hobbit, and thereby engaging in lunacy.

You get the same offer that I gave the terrorist sympathizer and minister Rev. Don Spitz--defend your position here, publically in accordance with your God's instructions in 1 Peter chapter 4.

And since you didn't say one word about the fallacy of this country having been founded on Judeo-christian values, I will take it to mean you have no argument for that. Thanks for stopping by, come again soon.

dbs said...

Thanks, R Nicolas, I enjoyed your post which states clearly much of what our laws are based on. The First Amendment, and its background as you have discussed, is truly at the heart of what is great about this country. What Mr. Marvin fails to realize is that there are many paths to the truth. If you have found one that works for you, feel blessed and respect my path. Your response, Mr. Marvin, is that of a bigot.

R Nicolas said...

Well put dbs. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Very interesting, however I'd suggest that your review of Judeo-Christian faith is flawed. The fact remains, more evident in fact than many other accepted facts (such as evolution to the attach on the twin towers), that Jesus did exist, and that as part of the Trinity he is God, and therefore not a contradiction - there is one God, Father Son & Holy Ghost (one person, 3 forms)!

I'd also suggest that there are many people alive today that have had personal experiences of God in their lives, many experiences that cannot be explained away with science or physical observances.
An analogy would be the wind, until you feel or see the effects, there is little visible, physical or emotional evidence.

The Bible has not been proved as inaccurate as many are lead to believe, on the contrary in fact, there are a many who acknowledge the historical validity of the bible account (not all Christians), and even on that basis we should not knock the message that it conveys.

As you probably realise, the Bible is made up of two main parts the Old & New testiment - Christianity & Judeasim are linked by the Old testiment, the New testiment supports the old testiment and reveals how the world can have hope, through Jesus Christ - Orthodox, or traditional Jews are still waiting for their messiah because they missed who Jesus was, it can be said that they have not moved on from the old testiment. There is a Vast & growing movement of Jews however, who acknowledge who Jesus is, and are therefore Judeo-Christians! Judeo Christians live as Jews respecting traditions and accepting their special place in Gods creation, but also realising that Jesus was who he said he was and living in that knowledge. Paul, & all the desciples would fit in this catagory - So they did and still do exist!

If God was visible in the sky as you say, why would we need faith, a true contradiction is when someone has faith in only what they see or can understand (this requires no faith at all)- the problem with our world is that we think we are always right, or that we are somehow equal to God - I think if you re-check your Bible, this was the stance of Satan (an equally disregarded figure) - say no more.

I'd suggest, in the absence of any other firm evidence on how we all came to exist, how the universe was created and how it is that more than 2 thirds of the planets population believe in God, (1 third being Christian/Judeo-Christian) - I'd go with the only evidence available, that found in the Bible and through having a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ.

In Summary :-

God exists, he said so, he visited in the form of Jesus & the holy spirit, it's historically documented - (Roman accounts), the details in the Bible can be verified through historical recounts written & verbal - accross many nations (not just Jewish - i.e. Noah etc), Artifacts & places exist to this day to confirm. I think I'll stick with this rather than theories with gaping flaws. It might mean a little trust & faith, but without it what is the point of our existence. In fact, if there is no point why bother with moral standards or thought for one another. With respect to the great nation of America, you should understand that almost all people would agree in principle to the 10 commandemnts in essence, as is evident by the laws of almost every nation on the planet (I say in essence because, really the 10 commandemnts can be condensed into 2 - check your bible / Jews on the other hand have multiplied them by about 30). There are of course exceptions, even here in the UK we have repeatedly damaged our integrity by changing law to suit our sinful nature or to win political favour instead of keeping to the essence of scripture, but this aside, the law started out from the moral guidance afforded through the Bible full stop. What happens to it afterwards is our fault.

I could go on, but then I should really create my own rant blogg.

Thanks for raising the debate though, the more people do this, the more opportunity Christians & Jews have of introducing scripture & therefore God to the masses!

R Nicolas said...

Anon--I would suggest reading my other posts for answers to your flawed suppositions.

How the there be a Judeo-Christian faith when you, yourself say they are two different faiths.

As for air--its presence can me measured and quantified by any number of scientific instruments, so there is no more need to believe that it is the "breath of God" much less accept it as anything approaching a good use of logic in this instance.

As for historical facts in the Bible making it true: The city of Troy was discovered last century, and we can prove the existence of the Greeks and Trojans--does this mean that Homer's stories about Hera, Zeus, Poseidon, and Achilles are true?

It is the contradictions that show the Bible to be a flawed documentation of reality.

And the reason the Jews missed their messiah, is because according to OT prophecy he is supposed to be a great warrior come to save them--e.g. savior, not a pacifist come to change all the rules.

And finally--there is a plethera of FIRM evidence that all life on the planet as well as the planet and everything else came to be through natural process, as well as very distinct evidence (that I will post in a bit) that the Genesis accounts contradict each other therefore cannot be reasonably accepted as truth. By your logic--why not believe the Hindu version of creation after all, their time line of 3.5 billion years is much closer to the evidence than is 7,000 years.

R Nicolas said...

Oh--how can God be a "person" I thought he was supposed to be a god?