Background Probability

The Agnostic Popular Front has moved to its new home at Skeptic Ink, and will henceforth be known as Background Probability. Despite the relocation and rebranding, we will continue to spew the same low-fidelity high-quality bullshit that you've come to expect.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Founders, Framers, Freethinkers

Which of America’s foundational figures are those most worthy of close examination? Joseph J. Ellis has expounded upon the emergence of those heroic figures who originally “deserved to be inducted into…the American pantheon.” (Passionate Sage, p. 212) starting of course with the apotheosis of George Washington followed by John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. Later, James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, Benjamin Franklin were joined to the constellation of great American luminaries, even as the first generation of founders passed from life into living memory. These six figures, commonly considered the most influential and defining figures of the founding/framing generation, are the primary subjects of a book by Brooke Allen titled Moral Minority – America’s Skeptical Founding Fathers, which I heartily recommend to anyone interested in the emergent mythology of Christian Nationalism. Contra Novak, these six men were those most prominent in the American pantheon (among scholars and laypersons alike) for generations before Allen was born, rather than hand-picked by her on account of confirmation bias. These six men are those whose lives and characters are most apposite to the question of whether this nation was founded on secular or sectarian principles, regardless of how Allen or Novak happen to feel about them.

If one takes the time to “go back to primary sources,” as State Rep. Sally Kern has so often recommended, one will find that not one of these men was a professing Christian during the time of the national founding and constitutional framing. Indeed, only one of them turned back to Christianity in the twilight of his life, that is, Alexander Hamilton. This is unsurprising to those who study American history, since of all the great luminaries of his generation Hamilton was the most comfortable with the idea of a strong authority concentrating power at the centre of things and having dominion over all aspects of life. To a Jeffersonian, these are fighting words, but Hamilton was not among those devotees of liberty who considered John Locke a far greater man than Julius Cæsar.

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