The Bible, Thomas Jefferson, Deism, and the Constitution.
Mr. Chmelik, your letter [Free Press March 1] talks about Deists believing in God, which might seem like they are equal to your beliefs, but Muslims, Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses and Jews also believe in the God of the Bible. So, is your belief in God the same as theirs? In the book, “Faiths of the Founding Fathers,” by David Holmes, professor of religious studies at the College of William and Mary, says, “For Deists, the principal revelation for Christianity – the Bible – bore every sign of human counterfeiting or alteration; they say the magnificent design of nature as revealing a Creator, or what Thomas Jefferson termed ‘a superattending power;” “In place of the Hebrew God, Deists postulated a distant deity to whom they referred with terms such as ‘The First Cause,’ ‘the Creator of the Universe,’ ‘Nature’s God’, etc…. In the 1323 words of the Declaration of Independence, it speaks of ‘Nature’s God’, 'Creator’, ‘supreme God’, and ‘divine Providence.’” (Deist terms)
As to implying that Jefferson was a Christian even if he disagreed with parts of the Bible, this ignores the fact that he did not believe in the three most important tenants of Christianity – the virgin birth, miracles, or the resurrection (the atonement). As a Christian for most of my life, those segments were dear to my heart.
In the book, “The Jefferson Bible: The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth” by Thomas Jefferson, Jefferson talks of his book in these words: This, “is a document in proof that I am a real Christian, that is to say a disciple of the doctrines of Jesus, very different from the Platonists who call me infidel and themselves Christians and preachers of the Gospel, while they draw all their characteristic dogmas from what its author never said nor saw.”
The First Amendment is made up of five freedoms, one being freedom of religion. In The Great Courses lecture about the First Amendment, John E. Finn, professor of government at Wesleyan University, states, “It is a common misperception that the American colonies were founded on guarantees of religious freedom or religious equality.” The court has changed this amendment so many times that it would be moot to try to describe all the changes, but from all I have read, the government cannot make religious rules and cannot promote one religion over another.
You talk of Biblical values we seem to be losing in this country. Using recent statistics from Pew Research, we find that in 1972, 90% of Americans self-identified as Christians. That percentage was down to 63% in 2017. But in 1972 only 5% of Americans were religiously unaffiliated, whereas in 2017 their percentage was at 29%. About 75% of Americans say religion’s influence in America is declining, as you point to. In October of 2022, 45% of Americans say we should be a Christian nation. Should we follow the supposed large numbers of Christians and make America a Christian nation, or should we consider the rights and opinions of the unaffiliated and other religions, and follow constitutional law rather than the majority?
You ask, “Are we better off now than when we started?” Let’s just take the Bible’s teachings for a minute. I know that all Bible versions are different; I’ll just refer to the King James Version. If we follow the Bible, we would be happy to kill babies (so much for the abortion issue); we should be happy to keep young girls as slaves; anyone who breaks the Sabbath should be killed; death to homosexuals; death to anyone who commits adultery; death to fornicators; nonbelievers in the God of the Bible shall be put to death, and kill some little children. And of course, God commands man to not kill, but then he commands Joshua to kill every man, woman and child. And as to slavery, both Jefferson and Washington were slave owners. That was probably the culture of the day. Should we not have abolished slavery? Women should keep silent in church, said Paul. I also think it was good women got the right to vote. I think we’ve improved on what the patriarchy has believed through the centuries on women’s rights, and through the founding of this nation by taking Biblical teachings as the preface for our laws. Do we really need all those laws? The God of the Bible gave his people 613 commandments to observe. How will observing all those commandments help us as a nation? If you would like the scriptural references of what I’ve noted, I would be glad to provide them for you. There are many good teachings in the Bible, but there are also a lot of bad ones. And because of 1,500 years of translations and copying of the New Testament, we have no way of knowing what Jesus said and therefore our Founders didn’t either.
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