Wednesday, September 28, 2005

On this day...

Septemer 28, 1618 The first pawnshop is opened in the Catholic Netherlands.

Now that's trivia!

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Founding Fathers

American Revolutionaries

Deism and religious liberalism were common among American Founders and prominent revolutionaries.

Many Founders who did consider themselves Christians, or who spoke favorably of Christianity, took a highly philosophical view of Christianity and maintained a scientific outlook. They also didn’t fail to criticize many Christian practices and the mentality of devout Christians.

George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin and James Madison are arguably good examples such men.

None of these men explicitly declared themselves Deists, and all spoke favorably of Christian philosophy, however these men did not put religion or Christianity beyond question, and their views were founded much more strongly in naturalism. They have often been considered Deists based on their views. They also rarely attended church services, and did not belong to any denomination. Some of the founders never attended church past childhood, with the exception of special occasions such as funerals, etc.

Thomas Jefferson, while still calling himself a Christian, was highly critical of the Bible and declared that he did not believe in any of the supernatural claims about Jesus or any other religion.

Of the founders, both Jefferson and Adams held strongly materialist worldviews and denounced all forms of supernaturalism. The God of Jefferson and Adams, as well as other Founders, was a God that created the laws of nature, but which did not actively intervene in the world. Jefferson was more critical of Christianity than Adams, but both were critical, yet both also saw value in the philosophy of the religion as well.

“Well aware that:
I. the opinions and belief of men depend not on their own will, but follow involuntarily the evidence proposed to their minds; II. that Almighty God hath created the mind free,
and manifested his supreme will that free it shall remain by making it altogether insusceptible of restraint;
VI. that our civil rights have no dependance on our religious opinions, any more than our opinions in physics or geometry; that therefore the proscribing any citizen as unworthy the public confidence by laying upon him an incapacity of being called to offices of trust and emolument, unless he profess or renounce this or that religious opinion, is depriving him injuriously of those privileges and advantages to which, in common with his fellow citizens, he has a natural right;”

- Thomas Jefferson – A Bill for Establishing Religious Freedom, 1777

“[W]here get we the ten commandments? The book indeed gives them to us verbatim, but where did it get them? For itself tells us they were written by the finger of God on tables of stone, which were destroyed by Moses; it specifies those on the second set of tables in different form and substance, but still without saying how the others were recovered. But the whole history of these books is so defective and doubtful, that it seems vain to attempt minute inquiry into it; and such tricks have been played with their text, and with the texts of other books relating to them, that we have a right from that cause to entertain much doubt what parts of them are genuine.”

- Thomas Jefferson – Letter to John Adams, 1814

"The immaculate conception of Jesus, his deification, the creation of the world by him, his miraculous powers, his resurrection and visible ascension, his corporeal presence in the Eucharist, the Trinity; original sin, atonement, regeneration, election, orders of Hierarchy, etc.," were all, "invented by ultra-Christian sects, unauthorized by a single word ever uttered by him."

- Thomas Jefferson – Letter to William Short, 1819

“It is not to be understood that I am with him [Jesus Christ] in all his doctrines. I am a Materialist; he takes the side of Spiritualism; he preaches the efficacy of repentance toward forgiveness of sin; I require a counterpoise of good works to redeem it.”

- Thomas Jefferson – Letter to William Short, 1820

“The truth is, that the greatest enemies of the doctrine of Jesus are those, calling themselves the expositors of them, who have perverted them to the structure of a system of fancy absolutely incomprehensible, and without any foundation in his genuine words. And the day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus, by the Supreme Being as his father, in the womb of a virgin, will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerva in the brain of Jupiter. But we may hope that the dawn of reason and freedom of thought in these United States will do away with this artificial scaffolding and restore to us the primitive and genuine doctrines of this most venerated Reformer of human errors.”

- Thomas Jefferson – Letter to John Adams, 1824

“One other of these laws deserves particular notice. In private, every family were free to worship the gods in their own way; and in public, though certain forms were required, yet there was not any penalty annexed to the omission of them, as the punishment of offences in this matter was left to the offended god. This, probably, was the source of that wise and humane toleration which does so much honour to the Romans, and reflects disgrace on almost every Christian nation.”

- John Adams: "A Defense of the Constitutions of Government of the United States of America" (1787-88)

“The United States of America have exhibited, perhaps, the first example of governments erected on the simple principles of nature; and if men are now sufficiently enlightened to disabuse themselves of artifice, imposture, hypocrisy, and superstition, they will consider this event as an era in their history. Although the detail of the formation of the American governments is at present little known or regarded either in Europe or in America, it may hereafter become an object of curiosity. It will never be pretended that any persons employed in that service had interviews with the gods, or were in any degree under the influence of Heaven, more than those at work upon ships or houses, or laboring in merchandise or agriculture; it will forever be acknowledged that these governments were contrived merely by the use of reason and the senses.
Unembarrassed by attachments to noble families, hereditary lines and successions, or any considerations of royal blood, even the pious mystery of holy oil had no more influence than that other of holy water: the people universally were too enlightened to be imposed on by artifice; and their leaders, or more properly followers, were men of too much honour to attempt it. Thirteen governments thus founded on the natural authority of the people alone, without a pretence of miracle or mystery, which are destined to spread over the northern part of that whole quarter of the globe, are a great point gained in favour of the rights of mankind. The experiment is made, and has completely succeeded: it can no longer be called in question, whether authority in magistrates, and obedience of citizens, can be grounded on reason, morality, and the Christian religion, without the monkery of priests, or the knavery of politicians.”

- John Adams: "A Defense of the Constitutions of Government of the United States of America" (1787-88)

The quote above in an excellent example of Adams’ relationship with religion. He regarded Christian values as good, yet he was not a religious man. He did not believe in the priesthood, in miracles, in the supernatural, nor in the perfection of the Bible. Like Jefferson, he viewed the Bible as a highly flawed text that had been tampered with and manipulated by priests over the centuries so as to add all manner of supernatural events to it.

The two most well known American revolutionaries that actually did declare themselves Deists, and wrote on the topic of religious criticism, were Ethan Allan and Thomas Paine.

--Ethan Allen (1738-1789)

Allan was a rough and rowdy colonist who became a fervent supporter of the revolutionary war and leader of the Green Mountain Boys. He was taken prisoner early in the war, but returned to political life in Vermont after being released from capture.

Perhaps more important than his participation in the Revolution, however, was his writing of one of the most significant early documents of American freethought, Reason: The Only Oracle of Man, in 1784, shortly before he died.

Allan believed that the universe was created by God, but beyond that there was little that could be known about the nature of God.

“In the circle of my acquaintance, (which has not been small,) I have generally been denominated a Deist, the reality of which I never disputed, being conscious I am no Christian, except mere infant baptism make me one;”

“The desire of knowledge has engaged the attention of the wise and curious among mankind in all ages which has been productive of extending the arts and sciences far and wide in the several quarters of the globe, and excited the contemplative to explore nature's laws in a gradual series of improvement, until philosophy, astronomy, geography, and history, with many other branches of science, have arrived to a great degree of

“But the fantastical illuminations of the credulous and superstitious part of mankind, proceed from weakness, and as far as they take place in the world subvert the religion of REASON, NATURE and TRUTH.”

- Reason: The Only Oracle of Man Thomas Paine (1737-1809)

Thomas Paine is America’s most well known early Deist. He came to America in 1774 at the invitation of Benjamin Franklin, where he quickly made a name for himself as a writer. Throughout his life, however, he refused to take profits from the sale of his books. He could easily have become one of the wealthiest men in America by the profits from his books alone, but instead he remained poor by his own choice, and gave what money he did get to charity or put it towards his various causes.

When Paine published Common Sense in January 1776 it quickly became a best seller, and ignited the desire for revolution among the colonists. Paine was indeed the first person to use the term “United States of America”. Thomas Paine quickly became the most well known author in the Western world, with a reputation that stretched back to Europe, where he was largely hated in his home country of England, of course because Common Sense was anti-British.

Paine continued to write important inspirational pieces throughout the Revolutionary War that were widely read by American patriots.

After the war Paine became Secretary of Foreign Affairs. Soon after, however, he developed the idea for a single-span iron bridge, the first of its kind. He then traveled to France, to the Institute of Math and Science, in order to have his invention analyzed and to acquire a patent. While in France the French Revolution erupted and Paine was then stuck. He became involved in the Revolution and then was thrown in jail, where he wrote his most important theological work, The Age of Reason, in 1794. Ironically, it was Thomas Paine’s opposition to the atheist movement in France that landed him in jail. He sent his manuscript back to America to be published, for he feared that he would be executed, and indeed he was scheduled to be executed but escaped death by a stroke of luck and was eventually saved by James Madison, after which he returned to America.

In the Age of Reason Thomas Pain delivered a thorough criticism of Christianity and the Bible. Paine denounced the Bible as a negative influence on mankind that perpetuated irrationality and barbarism. Paine discussed many contradictions in the Bible and explained the mystical elements of the story of Jesus as pagan mythology reheated.

Paine did state that he believed in God, but said that it is impossible to claim any knowledge of God other than what can be determined by the laws of nature, and that he viewed God merely as whatever created the universe.

The major works of Paine:
Common Sense (1776)
The American Crisis (1774-1779)
The Rights of Man (1779-1792)
The Age of Reason (1794-1796)

“I do not believe in the creed professed by the Jewish church, by the Roman church, by the Greek church, by the Turkish church, by the Protestant church, nor by any church that I know of. My own mind is my own church.

All national institutions of churches, whether Jewish, Christian or Turkish, appear to me no other than human inventions, set up to terrify and enslave mankind, and monopolize power and profit.”

“It is, however, not difficult to account for the credit that was given to the story of Jesus Christ being the Son of God. He was born when the heathen mythology had still some fashion and repute in the world, and that mythology had prepared the people for the belief of such a story. Almost all the extraordinary men that lived under the heathen mythology were reputed to be the sons of some of their gods. It was not a new thing at that time to believe a man to have been celestially begotten; the intercourse of gods with women was then a matter of familiar opinion. Their Jupiter, according to their accounts, had cohabited with hundreds; the story therefore had nothing in it either new, wonderful, or obscene; it was conformable to the opinions that then prevailed among the people called Gentiles, or mythologists, and it was those people only that believed it. The Jews, who had kept strictly to the belief of one God, and no more, and who had always rejected the heathen mythology, never credited the story.

It is curious to observe how the theory of what is called the Christian Church, sprung out of the tail of the heathen mythology. A direct incorporation took place in the first instance, by making the reputed founder to be celestially begotten. The trinity of gods that then followed was no other than a reduction of the former plurality, which was about twenty or thirty thousand. The statue of Mary succeeded the statue of Diana of Ephesus. The deification of heroes changed into the canonization of saints. The Mythologists had gods for everything; the Christian mythologists had saints for everything. The church became as crowded with the one, as the pantheon had been
with the other; and Rome was the place of both. The Christian theory is little else than the idolatry of the ancient mythologists, accommodated to the purposes of power and revenue; and it yet remains to reason and philosophy to abolish the amphibious fraud.”

“The opinions I have advanced… are the effect of the most clear and long-established conviction that the Bible and the Testament are impositions upon the world, that the fall of man, the account of Jesus Christ being the Son of God, and of his dying to appease the wrath of God, and of salvation by that strange means, are all fabulous inventions, dishonorable to the wisdom and power of the Almighty; that the only true religion is Deism, by which I then meant, and mean now, the belief of one God, and an imitation of his moral character, or the practice of what are called moral virtues—and that it was upon this only (so far as religion is concerned) that I rested all my hopes of happiness hereafter.”

- The Age of Reason

excerpted from the Rational Revolution website article, A Historical Outline of Modern Religious Criticism in Western Civilization by Geoff Price.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Bill Maher to Bush

Mr. President, this job can't be fun for you anymore. There's no more money to spend. You used up all of that. You can't start another war because you also used up the army. And now, darn the luck, the rest of your term has become the Bush family nightmare: helping poor people.

Yeah, listen to your mom. The cupboard's bare, the credit card's maxed out, and no one is speaking to you: mission accomplished! Now it's time to do what you've always done best: lose interest and walk away. Like you did with your military service. And the oil company. And the baseball team. It's time. Time to move on and try the next fantasy job. How about cowboy or spaceman?!

Now, I know what you're saying. You're saying that there's so many other things that you, as president, could involve yourself in...Please don't. I know, I know, there's a lot left to do. There's a war with Venezuela, and eliminating the sales tax on yachts. Turning the space program over to the church. And Social Security to Fannie Mae. Giving embryos the vote. But, sir, none of that is going to happen now. Why? Because you govern like Billy Joel drives. You've performed so poorly I'm surprised you haven't given yourself a medal. You're a catastrophe that walks like a man. Herbert Hoover was a shitty president, but even he never conceded an entire metropolis to rising water and snakes.

On your watch, we've lost almost all of our allies, the surplus, four airliners, two Trade Centers, a piece of the Pentagon and the City of New Orleans...Maybe you're just not lucky! I'm not saying you don't love this country. I'm just wondering how much worse it could be if you were on the other side.

So, yes, God does speak to you, and what he's saying is, "Take a hint."

Bill Maher from Real Time, 9/9/05

Tuesday, September 13, 2005


He's five feet two and he's six feet four
He fights with missiles and with spears
He's all of 31 and he's only 17
He's been a soldier for a thousand years

He's a Catholic, a Hindu, an athiest, a Jain,
a Buddhist and a Baptist and a Jew
and he knows he shouldn't kill
and he knows he always will
kill you for me my friend and me for you

And he's fighting for Canada,
he's fighting for France,
he's fighting for the USA,
and he's fighting for the Russians
and he's fighting for Japan,
and he thinks we'll put an end to war this way

And he's fighting for Democracy
and fighting for the Reds
He says it's for the peace of all
He's the one who must decide
who's to live and who's to die
and he never sees the writing on the walls

But without him how would Hitler
have condemned him at Dachau
Without him Caesar would have stood alone
He's the one who gives his body as a weapon to a war
and without him all this killing can't go on

He's the universal soldier
and he really is to blame
His orders come from far away no more
They come from him, and you, and me
and brothers can't you see
this is not the way we put an end to war.

Buffy Sainte-Marie© Caleb Music-ASCAP

[Buffy] wrote "Universal Soldier" in the basement of The Purple Onion coffee house in Toronto in the early sixties. It's about individual responsibility for war and how the old feudal thinking kills us all. Donovan had a hit with it in 1965.

'Nuff Said...

"The essence of oligarchical rule is not father-to-son inheritance, but the persistence of a certain world-view and a certain way of life ... A ruling group is a ruling group so long as it can nominate its successors... Who wields power is not important, provided that the hierarchical structure remains always the same." George Orwell, 1984

"Why is this man in the White House? The majority of Americans did not vote for him. Why is he there? And I tell you this morning that he's in the White House because God put him there for a time such as this." Lt. Gen William Boykin, speaking of G. W. Bush, New York Times, 17 October 2003

"God gave the savior to the German people. We have faith, deep and unshakeable faith, that he was sent to us by God to save Germany." Hermann Goering, speaking of Hitler

"A tyrant must put on the appearance of uncommon devotion to religion. Subjects are less apprehensive of illegal treatment from a ruler whom they consider god-fearing and pious. On the other hand, they do less easily move against him, believing that he has the gods on his side." Aristotle