The View From 1776

Spiritual Religion is Essential to Freedom

Liberals are not really pushing for separation of church and state; there has never been an established spiritual religion.  Their goal is no less than to destroy spiritual religion and to impose socialism as the secular state religion under the banner of social justice.  They call it scientific progress, the same terminology employed in the French Revolution’s bloody Reign of Terror and in Adolph Hitler’s Holocaust.

Survival of our formerly inalienable individual liberties is now purely a matter of chance, of public-opinion-of-the-moment.  That?s why liberal intellectuals place such a high value on ?evolving? public opinion, as a sort of Darwinian creation of successive new species of acceptable government powers.  If the public can stomach it, the government can do it, no matter what the Constitution actually says.

Under our present-day secularity and moral relativism, there can be no such thing as inalienable individual liberties of the kind intended when the Bill of Rights was written.  Liberal secularism contends that the Federal government has no limits on the powers it may assert or the areas of individual life that it can bring within the ambit of its regulation.  All three branches of the Federal government have long since discarded the original Constitutional limit on arbitrary government power that was based on natural law and individual morality.

That?s what the New York Times calls ?mainstream? thinking.  Like a river, it has no permanence and can spill over its former boundaries, drowning formerly secure places. 

Oliver Wendell Holmes, our first socialist Supreme Court Justice, became a liberal icon by adopting the standard of public opinion to justify ?implied? powers of government.  Justice Holmes advocated the theory of ?legal realism,? declaring that there was no such thing as natural law that supported the concept of inalienable rights.  The law, he said, is nothing more than whatever a judge rules in a specific case. 

Within the past seventy years the Supreme Court has interpreted the Bill of Rights to mean that some rights are subordinate to others.  The Court has also adopted an interpretation of the ?establishment of religion? clause of the First Amendment that documentation from the Constitutional Convention proves to be completely false. 

As Alexander Hamilton warned in The Federalist papers, written words alone, in a Bill of Rights or any other document, can readily be distorted to the ends of a person intent upon doing so.  Liberties can be preserved only by an aroused public that knows and understands traditions and is prepared to defend them.  American voters today qualify in neither respect, because public education has failed them.

Religion has been under attack in Europe since around 1750, in America, since the 1880s.  Liberals in the United States today have sensors far more efficient than any airport bomb detectors.  Every whisper of religion is instantly dragged into the interrogation room and given the third-degree to extort a confession that the intent was to establish an unconstitutional, official national religion.

No rational person can sustain a case that expressing moral values and connecting them with religion amounts to any such thing, and it is barely credible that liberals themselves actually believe it.  Why then is voicing opinions about religion and morality absolutely forbidden, but attacking such opinions and indeed expressing anything else, however gross and revolting, protected by the First Amendment?s right of free speech?

The answer lies in the long skirmish between liberals aiming to institute socialism and traditionalists hoping to protect the original intent of the Constitution.  Traditionalism stands for individual liberty, that is, a society in which natural law restrains government from arbitrary exercises of power that infringe the rights of individuals.  Liberalism stands for state-imposed equality and welfare-state security in Big Brother?s sheltering arms.

Liberals think that only Federal technocrats have the smarts and the capacity to improve people?s lives.  Liberals prefer the bureaucrat whom they know to the individual whom they can?t control, as former Senator Bill Bradley observed.  In theory, after the United States has been fully transformed into a secular and amoral nation, liberal social engineers will be free to perfect humanity and create heaven-on-earth.

Our political ancestors were of a very different mind.  For them, religion was an essential element in their political liberties.  Understanding that requires a brief excursion into history and some basic concepts.

The Plymouth and Massachusetts Bay colonies were founded in 1620 and 1630 to escape political and religious persecution in England under the absolutist kings James I and Charles I.  Town governments in Puritan New England were operated through the local church congregations.  But early on, individualism and political liberty repeatedly were asserted.  The church was the town governing body, but the church members appointed the minister.  Members who disagreed with what was preached in the pulpit or who disagreed with political and economic decisions of the church congregation pulled up stakes, moved elsewhere, and formed new towns built around their own new churches.  Most of the early New England towns were established in this manner.  The large number of those towns makes clear that religion was no barrier to personal liberty.

Whatever their disagreements about specific church doctrine, they all were in agreement that pursuit of moral conduct was the essence of good government.  This understanding, while elemental within Christianity, dates from Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle.  Western European tradition called for governments to craft laws and to support religion and traditions that fostered moral conduct.

Political societies can be organized on one or the other of two fundamental premises about human nature.  One imposes order from above by decree of the all-powerful sovereign government.  It assumes that people are amoral beings who respond only to pleasure or pain.  The other depends upon social order flowing upward from individuals who are voluntarily self-restrained by codes of morality and civic virtue.  The first says that people follow society?s rules only because they fear punishment if caught.  The second says that most people follow the rules, even in the dead of the night when all others are asleep, because their consciences tell them that they should do so.

Our present-day liberal government is based on collectivized rule by regulatory decree.  The Constitution was based on expectation of individuals? behaving responsibly and doing their duty voluntarily.

Spiritual religions, especially the Protestant Christianity predominant in colonial times, place responsibility for personal conduct and duty to others squarely on the individual.  One can not escape moral responsibility for reprehensible acts by claiming that he was just following orders or executing the collective will of the people.  He is obliged by religion to consult his conscience and strive to do the right thing, from the view point of others, as well as himself.  This ethos promotes independence of judgment in political and social life.  And it coincides exactly with political liberty, the axiom that government may not infringe arbitrarily on an individual?s conscience or his inalienable rights.

A constitution establishing a government of limited powers can not survive if its citizens are not similarly constrained in their conduct by the higher authority of moral law.  One is a counterbalance to the other.  Morality, the vital component,  has always been the domain of religion, from which morality originates, in which morality is preserved, and by which citizens are instructed in morality.

The French Revolution of 1789 offers a compelling illustration.  As Alexis de Tocqueville (“The Old Regime and the Revolution,” 1859) noted, the brutal mass murders of the Reign of Terror came, not when mobs stormed the Bastille, but four years later in 1793, only after the French revolutionaries had debauched the church and confiscated its properties.  The authority of the monarchy a shambles, destroying religion removed the last restraint on systematic, barbaric, state-controlled terrorism.

Uniquely in the United States, there was to be no established national church, partly because so many different Protestant denominations had already taken root.  But everyone took for granted that those religious denominations would be the principal agencies to preserve and teach the codes of morality and civic virtue.

Religion in this sense is vital to political governance, but is not part of the political power structure.  Its realm is with its followers, as individuals.  For that reason alone it is absurd to claim that discussion of religion and morality in schools or anywhere else amounts to establishing an official state religion.

The First Amendment says, ?Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion,??  That phrase, ?establishment of religion,? was clearly understood to refer to the English Test Act, when the Bill of Rights was written.  Indeed it was so spelled out several different times in the debates at the Constitutional Convention.  Under the Test Act, English public office holders were required to be members of the Anglican Church.  Additionally, English citizens, regardless of their personal religious faith, were taxed to support the Anglican Church.  Though some American states had established official religions on the English model, no one wanted that at the Federal level. 

Trusting that a citizenry ignorant of history won?t know the difference, liberal commentators now go so far as to assert that the First Amendment guarantees Americans freedom from religion.  They are offended by hearing public figures proclaim their religious faith, and they maintain that people of religious faith threaten the alleged wall between church and state (a fiction that appears nowhere in the Constitution). 

Squaring First Amendment guarantees of free speech with this liberal thesis would, in the past at least, have been difficult.  It makes freedom of speech a one-way street, available only to secular liberals.  Religious believers presumably must endure continual legal attacks and ridicule from the media without rebuttal.  Their rights of free speech are trumped by the sensitivities of agnostics and atheists. 

In addition to specious use of the First Amendment, liberals attack religion and morality as unscientific value judgments. Yet clearly liberals hold very definite value judgments under the rubric of social justice. 

Were they actually concerned about the progress of science, they would not object to open classroom discussions of both socialism and traditional values.  For liberals, however, the issue was settled by what they regard as revelation of absolute truth in the French Revolution ? end of story, no further discussion.

That revolution gave birth to socialism and in time to liberalism, its American sect.  Thus forces driving American liberals? crusade against spiritual religion can best be understood in light of the parallel phenomenon of the Revolution?s secular religion.

Tocqueville noted that, while the Revolution consciously aimed to destroy traditional religion,  ??? the French Revolution, though ostensibly political in origin, functioned along the lines, and assumed many of the aspects, of a religious revolution.??the ideal the French Revolution set before it was not merely a change in the French social system but nothing short of a regeneration of the whole human race.??It would be truer to say that it developed into a species of religion, if a singularly imperfect one???

Yet another point of attack by liberals is the charge that religion both oppresses people and causes vicious strife and wars.  Many feminists, for example, see religion as a male-dominated institution to keep women subjugated.  Liberals point out that Islam was a motivating force behind the savagery in Bosnia and Serbia, as well as the World Trade Center destruction on September 11, 2001.

Aristotle?s answer to similar charges regarding private property rights was that the unavoidable source of anti-social behavior is human nature itself.  People are born with the potentiality for both good and evil.  Religion calls upon the individual to do unto others as he would have them do unto himself.  It doesn?t always work.  Neither does the existence of a code of criminal law and police forces, but no sane person would call for their abolishment just because some crimes continue to be committed.

No evidence exists to support the idea that religion and morality were to be wholly excluded from public life when the Constitution was ratified.  To the contrary, all the daily practices of government involved deferences to Divinity, from opening sessions of Congress with a chaplain?s prayer, to formal references to God in most public speeches.

Religion in the United States has been, since the Mayflower?s voyage, the citadel of individual liberties and individual responsibilities.  Early New England community governments were centered on the local churches.  Their town meetings were the model for self-government and the exercise of political freedom.  It was not by chance that opposition to George III was first organized in Puritan New England.

Liberals? contention that public education should be secular has no basis in history.  Colleges such as Harvard, Yale, and Princeton were established expressly to train ministers of the Gospel.  Horace Mann, the founder of free public education in the 1830s, became chairman of the nation?s first state board of education.  In his address to the Massachusetts legislature, he stated that the justification for expenditures of public funds on education was the vital need to instruct young people in the commonly-accepted core of religious morality and civic responsibility.

Not until John Dewey?s progressive education theories gained acceptance among intellectuals and academics in the 1920s did this begin to change.  A life-long socialist and the most influential intellectual of his era, Dewey taught that public education should dispense with the ?dead? past and inculcate the ideology of socialism.  He aimed to restructure the whole of society on the Soviet model that he and his fellows at Columbia University?s Teachers College praised so lavishly.

?Freedom from religion? would have voided the Declaration of Independence, which based the colonists? right to independence specifically upon ?the Laws of Nature and of Nature?s God? that applied to a people ?endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights.?

The abolition of slavery, our nation?s greatest single moral act, was not a liberal social-justice program, but the product of forty years of religious campaigning by Protestant ministers that began during the Second Great Religious Awakening in the 1820s.  It was these preachers who organized the first abolition societies.  People of the Northern states stood fast during the bloodiest war in history to that date, because preachers, Sunday after Sunday, called upon them to live up to the precepts of Christian morality. 

The Battle Hymn of the Republic projected the Civil War with majestic clarity as a Christian moral cause.  Lincoln?s Gettysburg address immortalized the ultimate sacrifice of so many for ?this nation, under God.? 

As recently as 1953, President Eisenhower said in his first inaugural speech, ?In our quest for understanding, we beseech God?s guidance.?This faith is the abiding creed of our fathers.  It is our faith in the deathless dignity of man, governed by eternal moral and natural laws. This faith defines our full view of life.  It establishes, beyond debate, those gifts of the Creator that are man?s inalienable rights, and that make all men equal in His sight.?

Humans? instinct for spiritual religion is hard-wired in our genetic makeup.  Every society documented by historians or studied by anthropologists and archeologists has had some form of religion as its fundamental ordering principle.  Historically, the collapse of a religion-based moral consensus has led to a greatly weakened political state, riven by internal dissension and vulnerable to a domestic tyrant or a foreign foe. 

The Etruscans became an irreligious people who, like present-day Americans, were obsessed with hedonistic sensual gratification.  The disciplined Roman Republic crushed them, leaving their tombs as the only evidence that Etruscan society had ever existed. 

France was the most powerful nation in Continental Europe before the 1789 Revolution wiped out its religious and political institutions.  The bloody Reign of Terror was followed by Napoleon?s seizure of imperial power and his brutal military subjugation of Europe.  France then collapsed into political instability that has involved more than a dozen different constitutions, five different socialist republics, a restoration of the Bourbon kings, the institution of the royal House of Orleans, the Second Empire under Napoleon III, and the collaborationist Vichy government during the Nazi occupation in the 1940s.  France is now a third-rate nation under its most recent constitution imposed when General Charles de Gaulle seized power in a 1958 military coup.

Germany, after World War I, sank into a cesspool of irreligion and hedonism so gross that even the Parisians were shocked.  The struggle between the socialist Weimar Republic, which rejected religious and moral codes, and those who longed for a return to stability and decency was ?resolved? in 1933 when President von Hindenburg asked Adolph Hitler, the winner of German public opinion, to become Reichs Chancellor.

President Lyndon Johnson?s socialistic Great Society in 1965 promised government-imposed equality of economic and social status, based on class membership.  Instead it produced riots, burning cities, soaring crime rates, plummeting educational standards, the highest illegitimate birth rates in history, and four generations of ever-growing welfare dependency.

Liberals are undeterred by such empirical facts.  Their zealous faith in secular socialism?s ultimate worldly redemptive power is impervious to experience.

Historical experience also appears to have had little effect on the voting public, who remain committed to the welfare state.  One is compelled to admit that the promise of a free lunch has a powerful appeal to a public ignorant of history.  They love the benefits, but don?t understand their cost

After more than seventy years of efforts to inculcate secular socialism in public education, liberal educators have formed a nation of people who know almost nothing about what the Constitution stood for when it was written.  Like people in boats drifting with the tide on a dark night, we no longer know where we came from, nor where we?re headed.

Since 1932, Americans have been willing to sacrifice political liberty for the servility of womb-to-tomb welfare-state security.  Otto von Bismarck, creator of the German Empire, knew what he was doing when he imposed the world?s first welfare system in 1881.  His purpose, Bismarck declared, was to make Germans servile and dependent upon the national state, so that they could be herded like cattle.

Tocqueville?s description of France under socialism in the 1850s applies equally well to the United States since 1932.  ??the passion for equality, first to entrench itself in the hearts of Frenchmen, has never given ground; ?? while the urge to freedom is forever assuming new forms, losing or gaining strength according to the march of events, our love of equality is constant and pursues the object of its desire with a zeal that is obstinate and often blind, ready to make every concession to those who give it satisfaction.  Hence the fact that the French nation is prepared to tolerate in a government that favors and flatters its desire for equality practices and principles that are, in fact, the tools of despotism.?

Today, our collectivized Federal government regulates an ever-widening spectrum of actions and thoughts.  Our socialist regulatory state permits, even encourages, individuals to look out only for themselves, to do whatever they can get away with.  The Federal government certainly does nothing to encourage or teach religious moral values that would lead people to heed their consciences and to do the right thing.

Our secular educational system teaches ?tolerance,? i.e., moral relativity, along with the liberal philosophy of pragmatism, which says that the only guide is whatever works for the individual.  In pragmatism, the end of socialism justifies any means, so there is no longer a limit on government?s arrogation of power or abrogation of individual rights.  Since 1937, provisions of the Bill of Rights have been selectively discarded by the courts, as owners of private property repeatedly have experienced.  Our government routinely grants special benefits based solely upon membership in favored social classes, making a mockery of ?equal justice? under the law.

All of this is in direct opposition to the government of limited powers instituted by the Constitution.  And all of it is contrary to individual liberty supported by the precepts of morality and instructed by religion.

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