Zera's Blog

A Citizen's View from Main Street

A Nation Founded on Faith – in the People

U.S. Declaration of Independence ratified by t...

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Contrary to impassioned theocratic urban legend, the country was NOT founded on belief in a God. It was founded on the belief in the people to govern themselves through a government that derives it’s authority FROM THE CONSENT OF THE GOVERNED.

The political philosophy of the Declaration was not new; its ideals of individual liberty had already been expressed by John Locke and the Continental philosophers. What Jefferson did was to summarize this philosophy in “self-evident truths”

The Declaration of Independence

Religious zealots like to quote the Declaration of Independence: “they are endowed by their Creator” but they take it out of context in pursuit of their own agenda.

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.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,

The Declaration of Independence

Instituted among Men (not the church), deriving their powers from the consent of the governed (not God).

“The toleration of those that differ from others in matters of religion is so agreeable to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and to the genuine reason of mankind, that it seems monstrous for men to be so blind as not to perceive the necessity and advantage of it in so clear a light. I will not here tax the pride and ambition of some, the passion and uncharitable zeal of others. These are faults from which human affairs can perhaps scarce ever be perfectly freed; but yet such as nobody will bear the plain imputation of, without covering them with some specious colour; and so pretend to commendation, whilst they are carried away by their own irregular passions. But, however, that some may not colour their spirit of persecution and unchristian cruelty with a pretence of care of the public weal and observation of the laws; and that others, under pretence of religion, may not seek impunity for their libertinism and licentiousness; in a word, that none may impose either upon himself or others, by the pretences of loyalty and obedience to the prince, or of tenderness and sincerity in the worship of God; I esteem it above all things necessary to distinguish exactly the business of civil government from that of religion and to settle the just bounds that lie between the one and the other. If this be not done, there can be no end put to the controversies that will be always arising between those that have, or at least pretend to have, on the one side, a concernment for the interest of men’s souls, and, on the other side, a care of the commonwealth.”

A Letter Concerning Toleration, by John Locke

The church derives it’s just authority over it’s willing members from Scripture, which is predominantly immutable and accepted as a matter of faith, irrespective of proofs or reason. By consent of the faithful, church doctrine also holds authority over the congregation. Such authority does not extend beyond the congregation of the church, for who would say that religious freedom exists where one house of worship has the ability to impose their doctrine on the congregation of a differing house of worship? Who would have the authority to say which church should dominate the other?

When a doctrine is taken as an article of faith, it is not subject to negotiation or compromise. But in a diverse society of independent minds, universal agreement is too rare to meet the needs of the people. Negotiation and compromise are necessary to a functioning democracy. It takes little reflection to realize that the functioning of religion and the functioning of democracy are incompatible.

This is why the Wall of Separation between Church and State is necessary if we are to sustain a functional and healthy democracy. This is why the first restriction in the first amendment to the Constitution prohibits official State recognition of religion. The authority of the State does not extend into matters of faith, and the jurisdiction of Church does not extend beyond the boundaries of it’s own congregations.

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.

Article VI, U. S. Constitution

And yet, the Republican Party has imposed a religious Test for participation in their political party, with special regard to candidates for elected positions of Office or public Trust under the United States. The Republican Party, even as they claim to revere and defend the Constitution, defy it en masse. It is a pity that their patriotism has fallen in such decline as to threaten the government of We the People.

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