Saturday, October 3, 2009

Vanquish Ignorance! ( part 1 )

 My intellect was soundly perturbed by this most absurd of all paintings.  ( Go ahead take a look!)

 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

 

1 comment:

The Varga Family said...

Interesting post, my friend. You know, I spent a few semesters in college researching the ramblings of popular romantic historians of the 18th and 19th centuries through their chosen form of art ... the pen and the written word. Schiller, Goethe, Motley, etc; theirs was a black and white history filled with good and evil. To me, their historical works seemed hilariously triumphant with great bias toward the ideals of their practiced religions. I realized then and see it over and over now, even in McNaughton's Fine Art, that history is simply a reproduction, in whatever chosen form of art, of that person's understanding and perspective of world happenings at that particular point in their life.

Historians are not omniscient. They do not know the beginning from the end no matter how many ghastly hours they spend researching and tracking down each and every sliver of evidence that has a faint hope of drawing them closer to a conclusive smoking gun. But if an historian is Christian, they cannot ignore such outrageous, or not so outrageous, prophecies of the eventual triumph of good over evil and, in the end, all knees bowing at Christ's feet in worship of the Son of God and recognizing his hand in all things, including the drawing up of the great Constitution of our country.

McNaughton's interpretation is simply, as he said, a reproduction of what he thinks and what he feels about American history. Romanticized? Of course. Factually inaccurate? Absolutely, especially as he attempts to give horribly researched evidence to explain his symbolic choosings. Historically correct? Now, that is up to interpretation if the term "historical" includes past, present, and future; one eternal round of happenings; the wearing of rose-colored glasses of the Christian variety.

Here's a lovely little book for you to read M.Scott. I think you'd like it. It's called "The Outrageous Idea of Christian Scholarship" by George S. Marsden. If you dare open its pages (if you haven't already), I'd be interested to know what you think. Until then, I'm glad I finally came across your blog of historical and political ramblings. It will certainly be enjoyable to read while engaging my mommyfied brain in something other than Elmo and Little Einsteins.