Thursday, July 04, 2013

Freedom From...

The "Freedom From Religion" organization has taken out a full-page ad in today's printed version of the New York Times. Should one desire to do so, for a relatively nominal fee one may become a member of the organization and receive a monthly copy of "Freethought Today."

I'll stick to my weekly church bulletin (reading material should the homily drag on too long, a handy fan if the air conditioning isn't up to snuff).

As a historical point, I cannot quibble with the Constitution being "godless," as the Freedom From Religion organization points out. That is to say, God is not mentioned in the Constitution. One question that does occur to me, however, involves the relationship between the Declaration of Independence (July 4, 1776) and the Constitution (written in 1787, ratified in 1788, taking effect in 1789). For, if you read the text of the Declaration of Independence, it can hardly be called "godless." Indeed:
"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these..."
I'm neither a professional historian nor an expert on the Constitution but, as a reader of texts, I'd be curious to know how the Freedom From Religion foundation understands the relationship between the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. Is it that the Constitution repudiates the existence of God or does it take the existence of God for granted? When we read the establishment clause, is it the effort of the Founding Fathers to excise from the fabric of our society any notion of God or is it, rather, their recognition that the State should not and must not compel a person into a religious tradition?

On Sunday evening, I watched a remarkable interview with David McCullough on 60 Minutes. If you have 15-minutes, I strongly encourage watching the video.  At 8:40, he warns his audience that history and its lessons are being lost: we are raising children who are historically illiterate. History is hardly the memorization of facts, little gobbets of information. Instead, history involves learning the story, the narrative, of our past and considering how it might lead us into the future. I think it myopic, or at least a bit disingenuous, to extract the Constitution from its historical narrative. One can hardly point to the Constitution and say, "See! We need to be free from any mention of God" when Declaration of Independence grounds "self-evident truths" as having been endowed by a Creator.

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