Monday, July 19, 2004

Some people should not cite history

When I was in the seventh grade in Holy Rosary Catholic School in Bozeman (and that was a long time ago), history was the final period of the day. However, several times a week we had a young priest come in to talk to us about the evils of the world and the majesty of the Catholic Church. Invariably he would talk for two periods instead of one; the young nun couldn't cut him off and we didn't do history that day. I suspect that gave me a jaundiced view of priests that was just enhanced by later experiences. But I loved history. In high school, I always did well in that class and spent at least one summer reading the Bible, all of Shakespeare and a condensed, one-volume encyclopedia of history that my mother had gotten from the Book of the Month Club. Before I entered college I knew that most of the names we think of when we cite the Founding Fathers were not religious people. They were products of the Enlightenment, that time in the world when we began to realize that there were natural systems that held the universe together. If they were not deists who felt that if there was a god he had wound up the world and wandered away behind the veil (as the Bible says) or they were Georgian Church of England which was more of a social event than fundamental Christianity. Indeed Methodists, Friends and I suspect Congregationalists and Presbyterians all owe their birth to this attitude. None of our founding fathers, as far I have read, belonged to any of those sects then considered as weird as holy rollers would be later. Since then there have been tepid references to religion in our political lives, mostly when a leader says he has prayed for guidance, but nothing that indicates a belief in establishing a religion or forcing people to accept policy because one church says it is against "natural" law, which I say does not exist except in a majority, but not in a universal situation. I am reminded of a few years ago when the Gazette ran a picture of a recreation of an old-time one-room school house from the late 1800s. On the blackboard was the Pledge of Allegiance. And, of course, someone wrote in that the phrase "under god" (one of the most inane editorial changes ever made was omitted. They did not know history enough to know that the pledge was not changed to include that phrase until 1954 under the sainted President Eisenhower (for whom I cast my first vote) in the wake of the unsainted joseph mccarthy (lower case deliberate) who seems to me the model for the new fundamentalists. It always amazed me that the French and the English could pray during the hundred years war to the same god for victory and now we were doing it. It gave us an arrogance during the Cold War, I guess, a certainty that we were the chosen ones. And now, I understand, we have a unstable justice on the Supreme Court (Thomas) who actually thinks that states should be allowed under the Constitution to establish religions. Apparently he says this should be a state's right. I thought we settled all that business of states rights in 1864. At least the Supreme Court went on record some years ago as saying that the Bill of Rights pertained to the states. Thank "God"!


Blogger MTPolitics said...


Do you have a link for Thomas' comments?

6:33 AM  
Blogger Chuck Rightmire said...

My first source was a magazine called Church & State which is at (sorry, I haven't progressed far enough to link it in yet) in the July/August issue. You can look up Thomas' actual opinion in the case at under Elk Grove School District vs. Newdow. It is the pledge of allegiance under god case.

11:28 AM  
Blogger MTPolitics said...

Thanks Chuck.

12:13 PM  
Blogger The Liberal Avenger said...


When you are in the editor making your post, select the URL you type in then click on the icon that shows a little chain link. That will bring up a dialog that allows you to set the link type (defaults to http:// - which is what you want - don't change that part...). Paste or type in the complete URL in the second link (include the "http://).

Doing this, you can either have a link that LOOKS like a URL be a URL.

The other way to do it is to select some text, for example in this article you could have selected the phrase "unstable justice on the Supreme Court (Thomas)," and made that into a text-link.

Forgive me if I am telling you something you already know.

10:21 AM  
Blogger Chuck Rightmire said...

Thanks avenger, that's what I needed.

11:04 AM  
Blogger G-man said...

It's simplistic to say that the worldview of the colonial period was solely Christian. It's also simplistic to say that it's deistic or enlightenment. One of the greatest historians of our day -- Ellis Sandoz -- has an interesting take on the "Zeitgeist" of our founding fathers... What you find it that it's an amalgam of the three -- Christianity, deism, and enlightenment. Sandoz calls it “enlightenment religious rationalism.” Very thoughtful, unlike Chuck's post. Sorry Chuck.

1:14 PM  
Blogger Chuck Rightmire said...

Sorry, G-Man but I think if you look at it a little more in depth, you'll find that the dominant beliefs in the Continental Congress and the Constitutional Convention, in other words the beliefs of those who actually pulled things together and wrote the documents, were primarily deistic or, possibly, not believers. Yes, there was a mix in the country, as I mentioned, but the mix did not dominate the forming of our government. Jefferson himself is reported to have extremely angry that there was any mention of a deity in the Declaration.

5:05 PM  
Blogger Chuck Rightmire said...

Someone who wants to use zeitgiest in a blog and use it in context of the 13 colonies, which all had their own attitudes to the age it just about off the wall. I did go in and look at the Intercollegiate Studies Institute and while I agree that students of today need to know the past, they also need to know what has happened since the dead white men controlled the universe. I couldn't get into the paper you cited. Apparently, it is open only to alumni and subscribers. I am glad I am not the one and I would not be the other. The source you cite damn well better claim the attitude that he says existed or he would not be publishing in the ISI journal. The ISI calls itself a place for "students" and for "faculty" but it does not appear to be anything but a brainwashing program.

6:54 PM  
Blogger G-man said...

Well, Chuck, I'd be happy to read something you recommend that is as insightful as Sandoz's article. Did you say you couldn't open the pdf? If so, email me at with your address and I'll send it to you. Or, I'll just drop it off at your place if you want me to, since you reside in Billings. I hold to the position that it's incredibly inaccurate to say that the founders were by and large deists. What about the people, who had to vote to radify the Constitution? Who influenced them. A good book worth looking at (from which I've only read a little) is another by Sandoz... I didn't get your jab at my use of the word "Zeitgeist".

10:11 AM  
Blogger Chuck Rightmire said...

G-Man, I just realized that you are new on line, so welcome to the Blogosphere or whatever. I take exception to the use of the word because it always seems to me that such words are pretentious. Why not just say "the sense of the era" or some similar term. And I don't believe that you can use today's use of the world to relate to the world of two-plus centuries ago. If you look back at the colonial world that became the states under the Articles of Confederation and then the United States under the Constitution, it would have at least 13 views of the world from the criminals who settled George (deported there) to the Anglicans of Virginia to the Puritans (who had lost the greatest part of their influence by the revolution) in New England. And they had been just as cruel to folks who didn't believe their way as the religious of England and Europe; that's why we have Rhode Island. I have real problems with your choice of reading, have some familiarity with the ISI and the Cato Institute from other sources. Both look at the world through focused glasses so that they see things that they believe very sharply, but everything else is fuzzy; like trying to look long distances through the bottom half of my bifocals. And before you accuse me of dodging the truth, let me say that I take the same view of what's written on the left. It is interesting to me though that Google tells me that it cannot find the site you advised me to look at.

1:02 PM  
Blogger Chuck Rightmire said...

And G-Man to respond to your question about the people who had to ratify the Constitution, they were a hard sell convinced in part by the adoption of the first amendment and the other sections of the Bill of Rights and also by the Federalist papers produced by the same deists who wrote the Declaration and the Constitution. They also knew that in a colony with at least three main religious threads, they needed to have those rights in place before the government was in place.

1:05 PM  
Blogger Roberto Iza Valdes said...

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7:26 AM  

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