Sunday, January 11, 2009

The American Founding: Was it Christian?

My overall project of examining the intertwining of the Abrahamic religions and their influence-- beneficent or pernicious according to the theme in question--has perforce neglected many ancillary issues. After all, I can scarcely expect to live a hundred years more, the time that I estimate it would take to deal properly with all the issues.

One important theme is the role (or not) ascribed to Christianity in the American Founding. As Jon Rowe acknowledges, this depends on how Christianity is defined. See his superb blog:

As Rowe shows, the opinions of the Founders evolved over time. In my view the most remarkable evolution was that of John Adams. Beginning from a relatively conservative viewpoint, Adams came to believe towards the end of his life that Jesus Christ had never existed. Rather, this personage was a surrogate for the solar principle, as some scholars of the French Enlightenment had suggested.

It could be maintained that many Founders chose a kind of Averroist position, with a sophisticated set of truths for themselves, and more simplistic pablum for the masses. The greatest exponent of this split consciousness was, I believe, Abraham Lincoln who made masterful use of the Bible, a text that he probably regarded as a set of fictions. As indeed it is.

At all events, I urge readers to consult Jon Rowe's blog, where all the relevant issues concerning the American founding are thoroughly canvased.


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