Sunday, June 05, 2011

taken from another's webpage


by Nick Gier, Professor Emeritus, University of Idaho (

Religious Liberalism and the Founding Fathers

Humanism, one of the greatest achievements of western civilization, has become a dirty word. Humanism, one of the essential aspects of our American heritage, has become an un-American word. Something is terribly wrong when a good term like this is abused by people who ought to know better.

It used to be that all of America's ills were blamed on a "communist" conspiracy, but now this has been replaced by a "humanist" conspiracy. Humanists are being targeted as the source of every "evil," from homosexuality to one-world government. The fact that the American Communist Party had become fossilized and a laughingstock did not deter earlier conspiracy theorists. And now to propose that the 3000-member American Humanist Association has a stranglehold on our minds is an insult to all intelligent Americans.

Communism, by and large, deserves the bad press that it receives. One can understand how Communism has become a dirty word. Many lives and much freedom have been lost in the name of Communism, just as formerly many were lost in the name of Christianity. But as far as I know, no one has ever been killed in the name of humanism.

This attack is truly incredible if one considers that the humanism of Socrates has become the basis for our ethical individualism; the humanism of the Greek Sophists gave law its adversarial system and inspired Renaissance humanists to extend education to the masses as well as to the aristocracy; the Christian humanism of Aquinas and Erasmus helped temper negative views of human nature found in the biblical tradition; and the humanism of the Enlightenment gave us political rights, representative government, and free market economics. It has been said that "the pluralistic, democratic, secular, humanistic one of the greatest political inventions of all time . . . "

Why has this innocent name been blackened? Why has the humanist become the new Satan and anti-Christ? The Religious Right must certainly take most of the blame, even, regrettably so, some of the best evangelical theologians. John Jefferson Davis, who otherwise makes some positive contributions to systematic theology, claims that an "ntirevelational" humanism is the cause of mental illness, international terrorism, and other evils.

Some of the blame also lies with narrow-minded humanists who have insisted that only their views are Atrue@ humanism. When some humanists say that only those who reject a belief in God and put their trust squarely in the scientific method are real humanists, they are distorting the meaning of humanism. When someone like B. F. Skinner, one of the signers of the Humanist Manifesto, claims that human beings have no freedom nor dignity, this is also a significant deviation from traditional humanism.

The late Jerry Falwell charges that humanism "challenges every principle on which America was founded. It advocates abortion-on-demand, recognition of homosexuals, free use of pornography, legalizing of prostitution and gambling, the free use of drugs... and the socialization of all humanity into a world commune." Needless to say, traditional humanism is not bound at all to any of these positions. Many of the humanists in the Libertarian Party would agree with most of this list, but as laissez-faire capitalists, they would definitely reject the world commune idea. There are also many Christian humanists who would disagree with most of these points. I shall also demonstrate that, contrary to Falwell's claims, America was founded on humanist principles.

The development of modern humanism went hand-in-hand with the rise of what I call Aclassical liberalism.@ Our word Aliberal@ comes from the Latin adjective liberalis, which means Apertaining to a free person.@ In feudal times a free person had to be born from noble stock, so that the liberi were then contrasted with the servi, the feudal serfs. Classical liberals challenged this distinction and declared that all human beings, whatever their social status, were from the same universal, noble stock.

Classical liberals viewed individuals as self-legislative beings, moral agents who, by the use of reason and experience, decided for themselves how their lives were to be fashioned and led. Classical liberals challenged the authority of governments and churches to interfere unnecessarily in individual lives. These first liberals were responsible for the basic freedoms that many people now enjoy--religious, intellectual, economic, and political.

Our Founding Fathers were definitely part of this liberal, humanist tradition. Norman Cousins even suggests that Enlightenment philosophers like John Locke and David Hume were the "invisible Founding Fathers." All of them retained a belief in God, but Jefferson, Adams, Washington, Paine, and Franklin rejected major Christian doctrines, including original sin, the deity of Christ, the Trinity, etc.

The famous Jefferson-Adams correspondence is filled with references to their common reading in the Greeks and the humanistic philosophers of the Enlightenment. It is also replete with criticisms of orthodox Christianity, especially Calvinism. In one letter Jefferson said that "it would be more pardonable to believe in no God at all, than to blaspheme Him by the atrocious attributes of Calvin."

Other early Americans like John Jay, Patrick Henry, and Samuel Adams had much more conservative views about Christianity, but they too agreed to put personal religious views aside and to establish a secular state free from all religious doctrine. The most striking proof of our Founding Fathers' belief in a secular state was the Treaty of Tripoli, whose eleventh article begins: "As the government of the United States is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion...." President Washington negotiated this treaty, the Senate ratified it without any recorded debate, and President Adams signed it.

I was surprised to find that Jerry Falwell appears to agree with this position. In an interview in Christianity Today (September, 1981) he stated that "America is not a Christian nation, it has never been a Christian nation, and it is never going to be a Christian nation." Then, with very few intervening words, he manages to Christianize America as a nation "under God" which has survived by following divine principles. Falwell completes the full circle of a logical contradiction by concluding that "God has raised up America in these last days for the cause of world evangelism and for the protection of his people, the Jews. I don't think America has any other right or reason for existence other than those two purposes."

One would look in vain in the documents of our Founding Fathers for such a parochial reason for America to exist. America exists not for the protection of the Jewish state or the evangelizing of the world. America does not exist as a mere means for any specialized interests, religious or secular. The humanist ideal for America is that America exists as an end itself: to allow for the greatest fulfillment of human freedom and dignity.

We have seen that traditional humanists believe that human beings have intrinsic value and are autonomous centers of value with free-will and moral responsibility. They hold that all persons have inalienable rights, including free expression and inquiry. They also use reason, not divine revelation, as the guide for moral action and education; but this does not mean that humanism is anti-Christian or anti-religion in general.

The fundamental principles of humanism turn out to be the principles of our state, not of any particular church. To ban the teaching of humanism in pubic schools would be to effectively ban the teaching of basic American values. The political philosophy taught in civics classes would also have to be rejected as "humanistic religion." The idea of free market capitalism is yet another contribution of classical liberalism and humanism. It too would have to be banned from our schools. Reductio ad absurdum!

Mr. Gier is a liberal educator (which places him in the majority) and certainly a coward among his peers to select a topic such as Humanism, for which there is no commonly agreed upon definition, and this cowardice presumes that his readers MUST follow his own definition. If you doubt that, Google “humanism ambiguous” for about 440,000 results in 0.18 seconds.

Humanism is certainly not as American as apple pie. Around 1806 Humanismus was used to describe the classical curriculum offered by German schools, and in 1856, German historian and philologist Georg Voigt used humanism to describe Renaissance humanism, the movement that flourished in the Italian Renaissance to revive classical learning, a use which won wide acceptance among historians in many nations, especially Italy.[6] This historical and literary use of the word "humanist" derives from the 15th-century Italian term umanista, meaning a teacher or scholar of Classical Greek and Latin literature and the ethical philosophy behind it.
But in the mid-18th century, a different use of the term began to emerge. In 1765, the author of an anonymous article in a French Enlightenment periodical spoke of "The general love of humanity ... a virtue hitherto quite nameless among us, and which we will venture to call ‘humanism’, for the time has come to create a word for such a beautiful and necessary thing.” The latter part of the 18th and the early 19th centuries saw the creation of numerous grass-roots "philanthropic" and benevolent societies dedicated to human betterment and the spreading of knowledge (some Christian, some not). After the French Revolution, the idea that human virtue could be created by human reason alone independently from traditional religious institutions, attributed by opponents of the Revolution to Enlightenment philosophes such as Rousseau, was violently attacked by influential religious and political conservatives, such as Edmund Burke and Joseph de Maistre, as a deification or idolatry of man. Humanism began to acquire a negative sense. The Oxford English Dictionary records the use of the word "humanism" by an English clergyman in 1812 to indicate those who believe in the "mere humanity" (as opposed to the divine nature) of Christ, i.e., Unitarians and Deists. In this polarized atmosphere, in which established ecclesiastical bodies tended to circle the wagons and reflexively oppose political and social reforms like extending the franchise, universal schooling, and the like, liberal reformers and radicals embraced the idea of Humanism as an alternative religion of humanity. The anarchist Proudhon (best known for declaring that "property is theft") used the word "humanism" to describe a "culte, déification de l’humanité" ("cult, deification of humanity") and Ernest Renan in L’avenir de la science: pensées de 1848 ("The Future of Knowledge: Thoughts on 1848") (1848–49), states: "It is my deep conviction that pure humanism will be the religion of the future, that is, the cult of all that pertains to man — all of life, sanctified and raised to the level of a moral value.

Nope, not as American as apple pie, but certainly a vague enough topic for Mr. Gier to mold into his own unique, liberal invention.
I've taken philosophy too, had to minor it theology/philosophy as a requirement of the catholic college I attended. Also took courses on the graduate level with Susan Haack (of the the top 100 philosophers in the world.)

Secular Humanist is defined as broadly as Christian. Yet you defend Christian principles as if there is only one specific defination.

So what's your point? That no one can define humanism, or that no one can define Christianity?

Oh and for your information liberals gave us the freedoms we have now, conservatives didn't fight for the 40 hour work week, or for the rights of citizens, so I happen to be PROUD to be a liberal and an American, although several professors I have had conversations with have told me I lean more towards being a Progressive. Depending on your attitude I guess you'd think that's worse.
“So what's your point? That no one can define humanism, or that no one can define Christianity?”

Again you missed my point. However you obviously got the vague, misguided point from the elitist, liberal educator which you reposted.

My point is still just as I expressed in my post. Humanism can be defined as anything an elitist wants to define it as. In Giels case, even defined as a sloppy, illogical attack against religion/Christianity. You reposted an article by a cowardly, liberal educator who takes undefined terms to turn easily impressed, childlike opinions into your general theme of denunciation of all things religious.

In the same way that liberal progressives consider a statue of Jesus covered with human urine to be an important work of art for our children to peruse, yet a private prayer is too distasteful for a liberal to have to suffer through the thought that someone, somewhere might be having one.

And yes, there is a “right” and a “wrong” unlike the liberal educators try to refute in the public school system.

So I will define humanism as this crazy, illogical attack that atheist, progressive liberals always try to foist on our children and other “open” minds.
It's amazing that you defend yourself by name calling what you can't justify. Coward? Since when are men who speak their minds cowards? Freedom of speech is a constitutional right. Just because you don't agree with what's said doesn't mean the person doesn'thave the right to say it or believe it.

Amazing how that Freedom thing in our constitution works isn't it? It protects EVERYONE not just those who think they know everything and are right about everything.

He has the right to say it and you have the right to call him names when you can't think of anything constructive to say.

If Christianity means you have to believe in Christ and follow his teachings why haven't you done as requested and "Sell everything you own and follow Me?" I paraphrased it, but it's in 10 Mark 21-22 Haven't done it? Then why call yourself a Christian?

I don't denounce religion, just the idiots who claim they know everything about it.
It's amazing that you defend yourself by name calling what you can't justify.
I don't denounce religion, just the idiots who claim they know everything about it.

The above quotes from you remind me of a liberal calling the pot black. Here are two questions for you to ponder - Are all cowards idiots? Are all liberals cowards AND idiots?

If Christianity means you have to believe in Christ and follow his teachings why haven't you done as requested and "Sell everything you own and follow Me?" I paraphrased it, but it's in 10 Mark 21-22 Haven't done it? Then why call yourself a Christian?

As I told you in an earlier post, I struggled with the principle you mis-quoted over 30 years ago. And since I LEARN from my experiences and LIVE my religion, that is how I call myself a Christian, as opposed to calling myself a "card carrying" Catholic.
Since Catholics believe in Jesus Christ as the Son of God, they are also Christian.

I too practice my faith as a Christian. we read the bible, three readings during every Sunday mass, plus the Psalm which makes it 4 readings, in a cycle every 3 years which covers ALL of the bible, old and new testament.

I don't do Syllogisms. So you decide for yourself, and you already have obviously if all idiots and liberals and cowards. Personally I don't believe so, but I'm not going through the philosophical machinations you expect me to to prove it. Figure it out for yourself.
"Since Catholics believe in Jesus Christ as the Son of God, they are also Christian."

So just believing and trembling makes you a Christian? Do you consider yourself a vain woman?

James 2:19 Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.
James 2:20  But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?
I didn't mention trembelilng, and what does being my opinion of myself have to do with anything.

I guess you didn't read previous posts about what I have done in the name of religion. FEED THE POOR AND HELP THE HOMELESS.

know "Wahtsoever yo do to the least of my brothers, that you do unto me." Remember that whole thing about setting up a community food pantry?I guess I failed to mention being part of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, 3 years a vice-president of the parish conference, Then 6 years as President of the Parish conference, 3 years as vice president of the dictrict council, 3 years as president of the district council and on the executive membership of the archdiocesan board?

By the way that's the only "card" I carried as a catholic, (since you obviously knew that instinctively by calling me a "card carrying catholic") the one that we were required to introduced ourselves to people we visited when making home visits to the poor and needy.

Oh I'm sorry, I misspoke, I also at one time carried a card behind my drivers license that had my name and my doctor's name and phone number and the words "I am a Catholic, please call a priest". that was in case I was in an accident and could not identify myself and my religious belief. So you were right, I did carry a card.

Oh yeah, and I also gave my "talent" to the church by being a choir member, Lector, and Eurharistic Minister over the years.

Imagine that, I profess a faith in Jesus Christ and I did good works too. Boy I must be really vain, giving of myself to help others like that. Thank you for pointing that out to me, I never would have realized how truely vain I was.
The Scriptures in James condemn you (not my condemnation),if as you stated, you believe "Since Catholics believe in Jesus Christ as the Son of God, they are also Christian."
Its not enough to believe and even tremble (fear) - even devils do both, and are not Christian. And then James explains that anyone who thinks that simply believing in Jesus is enough, is also "vain". Vanity seems to be a major component of liberal elitists?

I don't know whether you don't read my posts, or don't understand my posts? Which is it? But the end result is the same, no matter which?
I read you posts, but I am used to following logic, which many of your statements aren't. You're still name calling.

I don't have the same belief system as you, therefore I am vain? Oh come on...If you want to believe that you are welcome to because you have that right to say that under the constitution.

While I on the oher hand, have to right to practice my religion as I choose, whether it pleases you or not, because I am entitle to that Freedom by the Constitution.

Did you know two members of the Continental Congress were Roman Catholic?

Thomas Fitzsimons was a Commercial Federalist, and advocated stronger national government. Daniel Carroll was also a Federalist. I found it interesting that there were also Calvinists, actually Robert Yates was considered a "serious Calvinist" and a dedicated Antifederalist. William Livingston was also a Calvinist and "constantly in opposition to the more conservative".

There were also some Quakers, some Presbyterians and quite a few Episcopalians, but some considered themselves Deists. Luther Martin, one of the antifederalists, was later described as a Federalist.

Some "framers" of our country would not declare themselves to be of any religious know, they believe that the nation was to be created for the good of the people. Because the human condition deserves it.

Lots of good information about the private and personal background lives of the Framers, as the Founding Fathers are called in a book of that name by M. E. Bradford.

Great to know that the Founder FAthers were not a bunch of cookie cutter politicians with the same religious beliefs and political views.
You know, when someone writes a gnerous check and puts their name on a plaque they may consider that good works. Funny, Inever read that in the bible.

I read the part that say "go and do likewise".
Did you think I meant you were an idiot? Hum, why would you think that? I didn't specifically mention anyone by name but if you want me to then How about Jerry Faldwell?

Oh yeah, and how about the idiot who figured out when the world would end, Rev. Camping? God obviously gave him the wrong information, twice.

I don't even like listening to the Pope tell me about faith, because as far as I know no one has a "hotline" to God. It's all interpretation.

Some "man" tells you what God says. Joseph Smith gets a message from an angel and starts a new religion?

L. Ron Hubbard wrote a book of fiction and it couldn't get it published. So he changed it into a "religion" and made a fortune.

Any more idiots you want me to name? Or do you want to think up some of your own?
Here again you seem not to be reading my posts carefully enough. Asking you if you thought you were vain, is NOT calling you vain. But James the brother of jesus says if you think only a BELIEF in Christ is required then you are vain. Thats 4 times I have told you that and I am not sure you got it yet?

I NEVER said you called me an idiot, but I did point out to you quite a few times that you use a lot of name calling (and possibly a little rougher than mine when I say Gier takes the coward's way out in his vague post which influences people to think in a non rational direction, and he uses his vague, undefined terms to promote an anti religious position. I feel weird to call anyone an idiot.

Do you believe clear communication is ALWAYS important? Then read my posts more carefully, or ask me to explain anything I said. You keep accusing me of saying things that I did not say.
Nope, it is NOT "all interpretation" - you can only speak for yourself if you believe that. It would be vanity for you to state that for anyone except yourself. There are some people that seem to rarely have a "hotline", and there might be millions? We don't know the exact numbers, and that is a scientific fact.
No I am not vain.

And if it's not all interpretation explain to me why ther are so many versions and edition of the bible. If it's the true word of God then should ther not be only ONE?

But man translates and interprets what is said.

I don't think the Bible came with footnotes, nor did it have a concordence to "help" you read and understand it. Yet some "man" decided it was necessary to include it to "interpret" what God or Jesus said.

There are 10 cmmandments. Thous shalt not kill is one of them. It's doesn't have a foot note saying "except in self defense" or "except in times of war" or "except to defend your faith." Man has made those distinctions to justify his own action.
I am no more vain than you.
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