The New Clarion

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The Answer is No

October 9th, 2010 by Jim May · 6 Comments · Uncategorized

Charlotte Cushman asks the question “Is America a Christian Nation?” over at The American Thinker.  It’s short but sweet, a very well-crafted shot across the theocrats’ bow.

Objectivists looking for target practice in refuting this Big Lie would do well to sift through the comments, which have become a veritable one-stop shop for all the usual religionist gambits.

6 Comments so far ↓

  • Neil Parille

    Here is Cushman:
    ____

    The United States was not multicultural. It had only one culture — the culture that recognized that each person was unique, was different, and had his own needs and desires. This one culture united people of different races, countries, customs, religions, and creeds. And this gave them strength.
    ___

    This is rather misleading. America had a common culture and it wasn’t “everything is beautiful in its own way”; America’s culture was British in its institutions, Protestant in its religion and European in its ethnic makeup.

    Observe that it’s the “dead white men” that the multiculturalists are attacking.

    -Neil Parille

  • Andrew Dalton

    America had a common culture and it wasn’t “everything is beautiful in its own way”

    Certainly not, and I don’t know of any Objectivist who would claim such a thing.

    For instance, American culture has no place for dissimulating Christian-dominionist white supremacists. Just as an example.

  • c andrew

    Andrew,

    Good pointed reply.

    Why is it that Irish Catholics and Irish Protestants, Turks and Greeks, Turks and Armenians, Various Balkan ethno-religious groups, etc. came to the United States and, while vehemently disliking the other, managed to avoid killing each other in wholesale lots as they were doing in their homelands?

    Because America was an individualist nation that tried to avoid politicization of culture based on groups. Our single bloodiest failure and most recalcitrant problem in that regard was the question of slavery, embedded in the Constitution and only excised by a nasty civil war. The cultural repercussions of that collectivism continues to this day although much mitigated by the demise of Jim Crow in the South.

    What the dissimulating Christian Dominionist white supremacists ilk and their reflective counterparts in the multiculturalist Left want to do is return to that same politicization that perpetuated our own racial tragedy and that has left perpetual blood in the streets of other, less Enlightenment based nations.

    The Multicultural Left wants to do it on the basis of “cultural” (racial, economic and ecological) subdivisions. The Christian Dominionist Right wants to do it on one’s ecumenical standing in “Real Christianity” (Dobson and Huckabee etal) – no mormons or other quasi-christians need apply.

    The ironic thing is that the Left, while fulminating against “legislating morality” are in fact trying to get their moral premises on race, economic status and ecology; eg., affirmative action, reparations, minimum wage, compulsory unionization, universal healthcare, cap and trade, etc., enacted into law. The Xtian Right, while protesting these infractions on their economic liberty want to impose their own legislative moral agenda;- personhood (with its prohibitions of abortion and birth control and IVF) , the drug war, anti-pornography, anti-gay, marriage amendments, etc. The Xtian Left, representing a synthesis of these views, embraces the entire program of the Multicultural Left while picking and choosing among agenda items on the Xtian Right. Huckabee, having had an epiphany regarding weight loss, wanted to regulate what foodstuffs would be permissible.[1] These instances underline the fact that economic freedoms tepidly embraced by the Xtian Right do not flow from Christian Doctrine but rather from Historical Happenstance.

    Cushman is making the argument that minimum government is required if men are to live in peace. That a government based on individual rights is that minimum and very near the maximum as well. All of the coercive curliques that the Multicultural/Christian Left and the Christian Right want to add will undermine our liberty and lead to the kind of murderous conflicts I’ve listed above.

    As Jim pointed out in the original post, the defenders of the Christian Nation moniker are Legion.[2] Why the Founders would want to create another Christian Nation with so many grim examples extant (His Most Holy Catholic Majesty, anyone?) at the time is beyond me. Another place you might want to look at for similar content is Amit Ghate’s article at Pajamas Media. [3]

    I particularly like the ones, and this is a meme that is found constantly throughout the conservative movement, who make the claim that America’s tradtion of Religious Freedom began with the Pilgrims. Let’s give a look at what these Paragons of Puritan Virtue considered appropriate for those Exercising Religious Freedom.

    Mary Dyer, who had gone back to England with Roger Williams and John Clarke (1609-1676) in 1652, had there heard the ministry of George Fox and became a Friend, and she and her husband also returned to Rhode Island in 1657. Holder and Copeland returned to Massachusetts and met with and convinced other Friends in Sandwich and other towns, but were arrested at Salem by Endecott and imprisoned for several months. They were released, but in April 1658 were rearrested at Sandwich and whipped. In June they went to Boston and were again arrested, and Holder’s right ear was cut off as a judicial penalty. Katherine Scott, Anne Hutchinson’s sister, spoke up for them and was imprisoned and whipped.
    At the end of 1658 the Massachusetts legislature, by a bare majority, enacted a law that every member of the cursed sect of Quakers who was not an inhabitant of the colony but was found within its jurisdiction, should be apprehended without warrant by any constable and imprisoned, and on conviction as a Quaker should be banished upon pain of death, and that every inhabitant of the colony convicted of being a Quaker should be imprisoned for a month, and if obstinate in opinion should be banished on pain of death. Some Friends were arrested and expelled under this law.
    Marmaduke Stephenson had been a ploughman in Yorkshire in England in 1655, when his heart was ravished by the love and presence of the living God as he followed the plough. Leaving his family to the Lord’s care, he had followed the divine prompting to Barbados in June 1658, and after some time there he heard of the new Massachusetts law and passed over to Rhode Island. There he met William Robinson, another Friend from the company of the Woodhouse, and in June 1659 with two others they went into the Massachusetts colony to protest at their laws. Mary Dyer went for the same purpose. The three were arrested and banished, but Robinson and Stephenson returned and were again imprisoned. Mary Dyer went back to protest at their treatment, and was also imprisoned. In October 1659 Endecott as per the instruction of the law previously passed, pronounced sentence of death upon the three.

    The execution day was Thursday 27 October (the usual weekly meeting day for the Church in Boston) 1659, and the gallows stood on Boston Common. They spoke as they were led there, but their words were drowned out by the sound of drums. After they had taken leave of one another, William Robinson first ascended the ladder. He told the people it was their day of visitation, and desired them to mind the light within them, the light of Christ, his testimony for which he was going to seal with his blood. At this the Puritan minister shouted “Hold thy tongue, thou art going to die with a lie in thy mouth.” The rope was adjusted, and, as the executioner turned the condemned man off, he said with his dying breath, “I suffer for Christ, in whom I live and for whom I die.” Then Marmaduke Stephenson stepped up the ladder and said “Be it known unto all this day that we suffer not as evil-doers, but for conscience sake.” He was turned off the gallows, saying “This day shall we be at rest with the Lord.” In memory of this, October 27 is now International Religious Freedom Day to recognize the importance of Freedom of religion. [4]

    Of course, there are those Persistent Apologists who claim that the Poor Puritans weren’t really as bad as painted. [5] But apparently this fellow wants it both ways. He recognizes “the idea that this larger purpose requires the coercive arm of the state.” (Emphasis mine).

    One wonders if the Christian Nation proponents recognize the historical comity between the Boston Martyrs (above) and the Martyrs of Cordoba and are as willing to defend the ruling religion in the one case as they are the other? [6]

    One of the other favorite tacks of the Christian Nation idea are those who point out that the original First Amendment only enjoined Congress from establishing a religion, not the states. And that several states, at ratification, had established churches. This from the comments at Pajamas Media:

    If anybody thinks that libertarianism of the Rand variety will hold back Islam and secularism, you’re dreaming.
    Man is NOT perfectible. If you cannot get by that truth, you’re already off the right path.
    I am a Tea Party Member, a GOP Precinct Exec., a Catholic and 80% libertarian. If you think in the long-run we can make progress on building stronger families, helping people be less dependent on government, and create an America where more people can be trusted to not abuse their freedom.[7] without Judeo-Christian religion combined with reason, you live in your own personal Manhattan as Allahpundit.
    Note: Religous Faith, important as it is though cannot be forced from the top, and really should not be addressed at the federal level. Therefore, it should go to the states. But, we can ask the federal government to let us PRACTICE our religion unmolested.
    (emphasis mine)

    Faith and Force anyone?

    [1]
    http://mikehuckabeepresident2008.blogspot.com/2005/08/huckabee-limits-junk-food-soft-drinks.html
    [2]
    http://bible.cc/mark/5-9.htm
    [3]
    http://pajamasmedia.com/blog/values-and-the-defense-of-freedom/?singlepage=true
    [4]
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boston_martyrs
    [5]
    http://www.christianitytoday.com/holidays/halloween/features/puritans.html
    [6]
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martyrs_of_C%C3%B3rdoba
    [7]
    Yet another manifestation of the problem of God Granted Rights. One cannot abuse one’s own freedom. The only relative abuse – insofar as the polity is concerned – is the violation of other peoples’ rights. This is just another iteration of God doesn’t Grant Man his Rights in order to do Wrong.

  • madmax

    Excellent response C_Andrew. I think that the term “culture” needs to be unpackaged. I believe in discussing value theory, Rand used the terms rational and optional values. I think culture can be thought of the same way. There is only one rational political culture – and that is laissez faire. But there can be many optional sub-cultures which exist in a free society. They could be ethnic, sexual, professional, etc..

    Right now, all non-traditional cultures (gay and lesbian, artistic, ethnic) are Leftist and thus statist. But that wouldn’t be the case under laissez-faire. In a society where initiatory force were banned, I don’t see there being any serious “cultural” problems.

  • c andrew

    madmax,
    Interesting point about unpackaging culture vis a vis optional values. In a way, that is what free association engenders. So long as the mandatory political values are observed, that is, the protection of individual rights, the rest falls under the Spanish proverb, “Take what you want and pay for it.”

    So I’m not limited by hardwired means (whether social or genetic or spiritual) to any particular subculture as the Leftists or the Evolutionary Sociologists or predestinate Xtians would argue. I get to choose my own option values and associate with any sub-culture that reciprocates that desire. Thus I can be a member of the “gun culture” or the “Opera culture” or, for that matter “Redskins Culture” (sans government subsidy of course).

    In this context, I have a question. Peikoff has indicated that he thinks the M1 compromise that brought about the flawed founding of America (being that that was the best available at the time) cannot be re-created because of the tendency of M1 cultures to seek their bedrock in M2 outcomes once the contradiction is exposed.

    If the mandatory values of individual rights were enshrined in a laissez faire polity, would a religious subculture be satisfied in exercising their optional values? Or would they be driven to impose their foundational premises as mandatory on all else?

  • madmax

    If the mandatory values of individual rights were enshrined in a laissez faire polity, would a religious subculture be satisfied in exercising their optional values? Or would they be driven to impose their foundational premises as mandatory on all else?

    This is a fascinating question, one I think also applies to secular altruists as well. My guess is that the religious will always want to implement their theistic metaphysics at the political level. Which means that the laissez faire culture will have to be firmly in the hands of an Objectivist (or whatever it will be called) intelligencia. Also, the universities will have to be dominated by Rand’s epistemology and whatever it leads to. Without that, I can’t see how religion or skepticism wouldn’t recapture political power.