It was particularly offensive to my brain because I am professional artist, and I am an enthusiast of American history. Thusly I attempt to base my world view on fact, rather than the mindless passionate ravings of infotainment prophets like Glenn Beck. This painting seems to indulge in a fictive history and biased politic. Thomas Jefferson gave us the key for vanquishing false perceptions for freedom's sake.
Educate the whole mass of people...they are the only sure reliance for the preservation of our liberty.
Books like Cleon Skousen's Five Thousand Year Leap which linger in a factual famine, clinging to a biased world view, do little to objectively educate the whole mass of people. For the record, I'm a Jeffersonian Libertarian, but these clowns draw close to those ideas with their lips, but their hearts and facts are far from it.
So, allow me to assist in your enlightenment dear reader.
The painting depicts scores of historic luminaries basking in the light of Jesus. Furthermore his extremely religious right/neo-con bias is so palpable you can almost feel the atheist professor shoving Darwin down your throat. (because there are no religious people who also believe in evolution!) Like the rantings of a Fox news host, this depiction is based in dubious opinion and fallacious claims. In case the visual message wasn't overt enough, he provides an illuminating artist statement (under the painting) to explain his design.
In essence it says that The separation of church and state is bad and that the founding fathers were "passionately religious and saw the hand of God all around them." To prove his point he provides quotes from some of our most esteemed early leaders about God, thus "proving" his point.
Any slightly comprehensive investigation reveals that the men and women in this painting present a patchwork of faith and non-belief, both in and out of the Christian tradition. They were also most assuredly committed to a separation of church and state. Furthermore, any attempt to intertwine religion with state would be a catastrophe for civil and religous freedom. The Founding Fathers were all too aware of this as they had just freed themselves from such European tyrannies.
The artist of this work presents the most facile investigation of history, utilized to purport ones own bias as supreme. Let us investigate each quote and the man behind it to see if they really were "passionately religious" and proponents of a Christan republic relying on religion as it's necessary counter part.
We'll begin with my hero Thomas Jefferson.
God who gave us life gave us liberty. And Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are the gift of God.
Jefferson did indeed believe in god, however his god was much different form that worshipped by Christians of his time and today. Like many of his intellect and status, he was a deist. Thus, he believed in a supreme being who created the earth, and like a clock maker tightened the springs and let the whole earth take motion and operate. He confessed, To Dr. Benjamin Waterhouse, his appeal to Unitarianism, which has no dogma or specific belief system.
That was the extent of his religious convictions, he did not favor Christianity, nor did he believe that Christ was the Son of God, but a great moral teacher. In a letter to John Adams he commented.
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.
Furthermore, he edited the New Testament and removed all metaphysical references, like the Resurrection, miracles, and the virgin birth. It was privately written, but can be purchased today under the title "The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth".
Dose he strike you as a "passionately religious" man.
How about the separation of church and state?
Jefferson was the greatest champion of a separation of church and state. He has engraved on his grave stone,Author of the Virgina Statue of Religious freedom. This prevented a domination by any religious institution over the people of the state. Furthermore he was the author of the phrase separation of church and state in an letter to the Danbury baptists in 1802. Furthermore his ideas of liberty and freedom derived from Anglo Saxon common law, not Roman or Christian ideas of a republic. He authored the following.
... the common law existed while the Anglo-Saxons were yet pagans, at a time when they had never yet heard the name of Christ pronounced or knew that such a character existed.
Christianity neither is, nor ever was, a part of the common law.
Furthermore he expressed his disdain of religion intertwining itself in government. He related in letter to Jeremiah Moor the following.
The clergy, by getting themselves established by law and ingrafted into the machine of government, have been a very formidable engine against the civil and religious rights of man.
To Alexander von Humboldt he related the following,
History, I believe, furnishes no example of a priest-ridden people maintaining a free civil government. This marks the lowest grade of ignorance of which their civil as well as religious leaders will always avail themselves for their own purposes.
There is a mountain of primary source documents that attest to Jefferson distrust of organized religion, his desire for a separation of church and state and his rejection of Christianity. So even if there was a vast liberal conspiracy to paint Jefferson as a freethinking secularist, the documents speak for themselves. Seek for thyself.
Yet, Jefferson was supposedly inspired by Christ himself to write the Declaration of Independence. Facts say otherwise. The other founders fall into faiths similar to Jefferson's.
Stay tuned for more founding fathers in part II