What shall we debate?

Atticus, a  contributor to Sifting Reality, has offered to me a debate on a topic yet to be determined.  Of the proposed topics, we are not far enough apart to create a clear pro and con position.  We are looking for suggestions from our readers.

Comments

  1. Were the founders mostly Christian or mostly something else?

  2. Anyone with a brainstem that has even a fundamental grasp of early American history can answer that question. Hint: the former is true.

    Plus, John has proved this point time and again on this blog. The problem with atheists is that they think they’re enlightened and know better than anyone else. Even when their atheist propaganda is clearly false, they’ll insist its true because they suffer from delusions of grandeur. They think they’re smarter than believers and must prove this somehow. I hate to generalize, but that’s my experience with them.

  3. Terrance,

    While I have had experiences that reflect your sentiments, Atticus seems capable of bringing some serious game. I think he would lose this debate, but would like to see how he’d support his side, if he indeed believes the founders were mostly something other than Christian.

  4. Atticus is a fine chap, I’m sure. But on this issue, he’s not. He’s already proven to be unreliable. He issues falsehoods.

  5. To clarify I do not think that most of the founders were not Christian (as John mentioned above). I do believe that there is strong evidence that probably a dozen or so were deist and were not impacted by religion, but more so by the enlightenment and age of reason ideology.

    I think my overall point is that that the dozen or so group of deist had as much impact on modern society as the other 100 or so combined. (While I concede that there is a good argument either way) I also think that the other 100 or so were smart and courageous enough NOT to push their religious beliefs on anyone, but rather tried to design a system that was build around liberty and freedom and not a state religion.

    We could probably squeeze a debate out of this, but I think we’d end up agreeing a lot and disagreeing on some of the finer details.

  6. Atticus,

    So because a “dozen or so” Founders were diest and not impacted by religion, that means…what? That this country isn’t founded on Judeo-Christian values? That is a stretch.

    In order to believe as you do, you must discount the DoI, the Constitutions of the 13 orginal colonies, the Paris Peace Treaty of 1783, the Northwest Ordiance, and varous other early American documents.

    However, I won’t run roughshod over the historical record and suggest that our Founders wanted a Christian theocracy. I don’t believe that at all. My argument is that Judeo-Christian values served as America’s foundation – and that’s true. But why is that a point of contention with atheists? It’s a damn good thing. It produced a country that recognizes the inherent worth of every human being, no matter their race, gender, or creed. Why is it tabboo to admit the facts?

  7. Hello John Barron,

    Since you have behaved and continue to behave in a dishonest and dishonorable manner, including editing posts and censorship and plagiarism (quoting Frederick Douglass as a blog post without attributing the quote and distinguishing your own racist sentiments from the words of another human who wasn’t a racist), I think it quite impossible for you to engage in a debate with anyone, including an opponent as easy as Atticus.

    You have displayed all of the worst traits of Christianity in your behavior and there isn’t any potential for you to begin defending Christianity from criticism (since you have demonstrated both a lack of education and a lack of intellect along with your lack of character).

    Needless to say, your religion is wrong, your god imaginary, and your Bible a book filled with tall tales and lies. It really is an indefensible book.

    • And that, David, is why your comments will no longer be permitted.

    • David,

      And why not a word from a halfwit whose criticism of Christianity is based on logical fallacies. Incredible. You should have been banned a long time ago but benevolent ‘ol John saw fit to give you another chance. Silly. You don’t add anything to the conversation, except perhaps entertainment during one of your infantile rants. You suffer from delusions of grandeur, believing everything you post is pure gold when in fact its pure bullshit.

  8. @TerranceH

    “My argument is that Judeo-Christian values served as America’s foundation – and that’s true.”

    I do agree that many of the values and morals expressed in the creation of the United States are the same as Judeo-Christian values, but that does not make those values and morals exclusively the property of Judeo-Christianity. Those same morals and values could be attributed Secular humanist beliefs, parts of Islam, Buddhism, etc. etc.

    “But why is that a point of contention with atheists? It’s a damn good thing. It produced a country that recognizes the inherent worth of every human being, no matter their race, gender, or creed. Why is it tabboo to admit the facts?”

    I think the reason many Atheist and Agnostics find this a point of contention is because they feel that Christian’s try to imply that the moral philosophy applied by the founding fathers is exclusively the property and invention of Christianity. Instead, most non-religious thinkers try to separate the moral and ethical from that which is exclusively religious. Meaning the nation was not founded on Christian values, but rather by many Christian’s who happened to share a philosophy of decent values also shared by many non-Christians.

    That might be difficult for a Christian to relate to since most Christians believe that there is no morality outside of God because he created it in each of us. That is not to say that an Atheist can’t be moral, but just that God created those morals. Most Atheists and Agnostics believe that morality is derived from nature and our ability to reason.

    • Mengele was a big proponent of science and reason.

      The point is, Atticus, that the founders did what they did because of their Christianity, not that what they did and why they did it coincidentally lined up with it.

      I think atheists are afraid of our Christian founding because they think to admit it means we must go back.

      My position is one of verifiable history, not advocacy. Our country has moved away from our Christian-influenced founding, but it doesnt mean it never happened.

  9. Atticus,

    The cultural origin of concepts like “justice,” “freedom,” and “equality” is strictly Judeo-Christian in the Western world. It may be the case that some Eastern religions share similar concepts, but the fact remains that in the United States, the origin is Judeo-Christian. Hence, the foundation of the United States is Judeo-Christian. It is that orthodoxy – none other – that influenced our Founders.

    Some Judeo-Christian concepts are shared by other groups, but generally, the Judeo-Christian value set is unique and complex. It includes the aforementioned as well as ideas like free will, individual accountability, the struggle of an imperfect creature to do good and resit evil, and so on. I have yet to come across another orthodoxy which shares these attributes. I can’t think of any. And you won’t be able to either, since some of these attributes are strictly Judeo-Christian beliefs.

    Your stock answers fly in the face of common sense and historical truth.

  10. Benjamin Franklin said,

    “As to Jesus of Nazareth, my opinion of whom you particularly desire, I think the system of morals and His religion as He left them to us, the best the world ever saw or is likely to see.” [1]

    George Washington said,

    “The blessing and protection of Heaven are at all times necessary but especially so in times of public distress and danger. The General hopes and trusts that every officer and man will endeavor to live and act as becomes a Christian soldier, defending the dearest rights and liberties of his country.” [2]

    1.Benjamin Franklin, Works of Benjamin Franklin, John Bigelow, editor (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1904), p. 185, to Ezra Stiles, March 9, 1790.

    2. George Washington, The Writings of George Washington, John C. Fitzpatrick, editor (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1932), Vol. 5, p. 245, July 9, 1776.

  11. Atticus,

    I think a more accurate rendering would be to say that the atheist, particularly the atheist of the Western world, is as guided by Judeo-Christian philosophy as any Jew or Christian, minus those aspects that are decidedly religious, with those of today dispensing with a few other aspects, most of which are sexual. It would be more accurate, then, to say that the atheist’s morality is in alignment with the Judeo-Christian morality.

  12. @marshalart

    I think that is a Christian perspective and I get it; however, an Atheist would argue that those morals existed long before Christianity. Rather Christianity borrowed from existing morals and implemented them into their system (especially via the New Testament and the teachings of Jesus). So an Atheist may argue that the founders practiced existing morality, that was picked up by Christianity, then later picked up by secular humanist, and so on. The morals aren’t “Christian morals” they are morals that are used by all moralist – secular or religious. The Christian perspective would obviously be different.

  13. @TerranceH

    Two things I need to point out regarding your quotes:

    1. All of the founders were well aware of the public being predominantly Christian so they pandered to the will of the people for political effectiveness. They took the good examples of Christianity and used it in their writings and language to call to action the people. Much like a modern president may refer to examples of the Buddha if he were giving a speech in Thailand. It was a tactic utilized by many great thinkers. Thomas Paine, for example, called upon God in many of his famous writings (common sense and rights of man, specifically). He later says in “Age of Reason” (his second to last writing) that he waited to publish “Age of Reason” and reveal his opinion of religion because he knew it would be unpopular and render his other works less effective. So taking a founder’s writing out of context, unless it is specifically in regards to their personal beliefs, is usually not very helpful.

    2. I do not think any Atheist will deny that the teachings of Jesus weren’t great. I personally think, as a historical figure, he was one of the great revolutionaries. It truly cost him his life. I just think, for many reasons, that anything supernatural is a fabrication. There is evidence that suggest that many of the founders felt the same way (see the Jeffersonian Bible, for example). So it is not surprising that the founders called upon Jesus – it served two purposes. One, it is good advise. Two, the people held those words as divine. As a politician you would be crazy not to use the bible as a reference when it suites your needs.

    • Atticus, where is the documentation affirming that the founders pandered to their constituents? Or is this speculation?

      • I cited Thomas Paine as an example. Thomas Jefferson and Ben Franklin are other examples. They talk about Jesus and Christianity several times, but reveal privately that they are not Christians (they were deists). So those are three examples.

        If you want more examples, specific speeches and personal letters…well maybe I’ll do a blog post. :)

        • Thomas Payne was not a founding father, he was the 18th century version of Rush Limbaugh. Jefferson was a professing Christian even if not by todays orthodox standards, and Franklin was highly sympathetic to Christianity though wasnt openly a christian.

          • I concede that Paine was not a founding father (he didn’t sign the declaration), but I think he deserves to be in the conversation. He was a little more than a Rush Limbaugh, haha. He had a direct line to the founders, was personal friends with Presidents, and an adviser to many.

            Jefferson was not a Christian. He did not believe Jesus was God. He did study Christianity and took some of its teachings seriously. He was accused of being atheist. I think this is a decent summary, but there are better out there: http://freethought.mbdojo.com/foundingfathers.html#Jefferson

            I agree that Franklin was Franklin was highly sympathetic to Christianity (at least the good parts). I would argue that I am also sympathetic to Christianity – doesn’t change much.

            • Jefferson in his own words claims to be a Christian. You probably shouldnt get your history form ‘freethought’ blogs.

            • @Atticus

              When you reference “the Jefferson Bible” which one are you referring to? There are two.

              • Wikipedia is not always reliable when it comes to issues like this. It’s better to go to original sources, such as their writings themselves. But just taking your own citation, jefferson said this of his 1804 version: Jefferson wrote, “A more beautiful or precious morsel of ethics I have never seen; it is a document in proof that I am a real Christian, that is to say, a disciple of the doctrines of Jesus.”
                Jefferson’s claim to be a Christian was made in response to those who accused him of being otherwise, due to his unorthodox view of the Bible and conception of Christ

                So you retract your statement about him not being a Christian I take it?

              • “A more beautiful or precious morsel of ethics I have never seen; it is a document in proof that I am a real Christian, that is to say, a disciple of the doctrines of Jesus.”

                It seems to me that Jefferson was pretty clear. He is a disciple of the doctrines of Jesus. The DOCTRINES, not Jesus himself. I would say the same thing. Words matter. Context matters.

                Jefferson did not believe in the divinity of Jesus nor the miracles of the bible. Jefferson is also making commentary about what a “real” Christian is in his eyes. We get further context by the Jefferson Bible where he detracts anything supernatural, but leaves in the moral context.

                Jefferson valued the bible for its moral lessons, as there are many good examples, but denied the supernatural element. (Though Jefferson drew from many sources on morality and ethics)

                To be a Christian, by Christianity’s own standards, one has to believe that Jesus Christ is the son of God, the Savior of souls, and the second coming of God – not just a good moral teacher and revolutionary. There is a clear distinction.

              • His edited bible was to collect the teachings of Jesus, the 1804 was specifically crafted for use in evangelization to Indians, as says the title. Do you have documentation from Jefferson himself stating he didnt believe the miracles? Especially since some of them were included in both of his Jefferson Bibles?

                You know he helped fund full unabridged Bibles that were to be distributed, don’t you? His own ‘versions’ had specific purposes, they werent meant to take out “only the stuff he believed”.

                Are you still getting your information from skeptic’s blogs, or are you trying to find the documentation yourself?

              • Let me take a timeout and do some independent research. I’m going to do a blog post on this. I’ve read everything you are say and the counterarguments, but I want to get all of the data in one place and evaluate it. Give me a couple of days. It’s an interesting topic.

              • when you say independent research, I hope you use documentation from before 1850. There’s plenty at the library of congress site, and also the Avalon Project site for earliest american documents.

                I would hate to see a list of citations from modern authors’ comments. It’s best to use the founders own words rather than speculations based on a particular silence.

              • I plan to use original documentation and to put it in historical context. It will take a few nights of free time to plug through enough of it to draw a reasonable conclusion.

  14. 1. All of the founders were well aware of the public being predominantly Christian so they pandered to the will of the people for political effectiveness.

    Like John said, you’re speculating – and little else. Additionally, how is it possible that virtually the entire population was Christian but the Founders were only pretending? Does that sound reasonable to you? Were they pandering in their private letters to each other? Because I can show you image files of the actual letters from the actual Founders, like John Adams, in which they claim to be Christian.

    They took the good examples of Christianity and used it in their writings and language to call to action the people. Much like a modern president may refer to examples of the Buddha if he were giving a speech in Thailand. It was a tactic utilized by many great thinkers. Thomas Paine, for example, called upon God in many of his famous writings (common sense and rights of man, specifically). He later says in “Age of Reason” (his second to last writing) that he waited to publish “Age of Reason” and reveal his opinion of religion because he knew it would be unpopular and render his other works less effective. So taking a founder’s writing out of context, unless it is specifically in regards to their personal beliefs, is usually not very helpful.

    Thomas Paine was not a Founding Father. Regardless, this isn’t worth debating any more since you’ve been proven wrong time and time again. although you won’t admit it. All evidence in contrast to your belief is meaningless, you think. You write it off as pandering.

    2. I do not think any Atheist will deny that the teachings of Jesus weren’t great. I personally think, as a historical figure, he was one of the great revolutionaries. It truly cost him his life. I just think, for many reasons, that anything supernatural is a fabrication. There is evidence that suggest that many of the founders felt the same way (see the Jeffersonian Bible, for example). So it is not surprising that the founders called upon Jesus – it served two purposes. One, it is good advise. Two, the people held those words as divine. As a politician you would be crazy not to use the bible as a reference when it suites your needs.

    First, what you think doesn't matter as it’s demonstrably false. Second, if there is evidence that "many" of the Founders felt the way you do, then please show us the proof. You'll be proven wrong, of course, but it's gonna be entertaining.

  15. As an aside, I’m saddened to hear of David’s banishment. Though as deserving of such an action as any can be, I find such visitors entertaining as they go to incredibly desperate lengths to alter reality to their liking. Exposing such is most enjoyable. David distinguishes himself in his constant insistence that the failings of mankind are attributable to belief systems to which they might adhere, leaving for himself no excuse whatsoever except that he is, like the rest of us, imperfect. His intrepid lunacy will be missed…unless he wishes to try his luck at my place: marshallart.blogspot.com

    • I didnt really want to ban him. I don’t care about his rants, but when he isnt even discussing the topic and only insulting everyone, its just not worth it.

      I write these things to discuss.

  16. I know. I just have a sick side that derives pleasure in forcing such people to defend themselves. It’s not much different than insisting that anyone defends their position, but people like David tend to melt down rather than dare allow their paradigms to shift. I find that funny.

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