Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Who We Used to Be

Do Americans still believe this?

The mind being created free by the author of our nature, in vain have the arts of man endeavoured to shackle it: it may indeed be imprisoned a while by ignorance, or restrained from a due exertion of its powers by tyranny and oppression; but let the rays of science, or the dawn of freedom, penetrate the dungeon, its faculties are instantly rarified and burst their prison. This right of personal opinion, comprehends first, liberty of conscience in all matters relative to religion; and, secondly, liberty of speech and of discussion in all speculative matters, whether religious, philosophical, or political.

Do we believe it is true and a right of all people everywhere, as our Englightenment founders believed? Or of a lucky few only, and by them to be bargained and bartered for order and safety and unoffensiveness?

If so, whose children are we?

What about this?

Atheism leaves us to the full influence of most of our natural feelings and social principles; and these are so strong in their operation, that, in general, they are a sufficient guard to the order of society. But superstition counteracts these principles, by holding forth men to one another as objects of divine hatred; and by putting them on harrassing, silenceing, imprisoning and burning one another, in order to do God service. … Atheism is a sanctuary for vice, by taking away the motives to virtue arising from the will of God, and the fear of future judgment. But superstition is more a sanctuary for vice, by teaching men ways of pleasing God, without moral virtue; and by leading them even to compound for wickedness, by ritual services, by bodily penances and mortifications; by adoring shrines, going pilgrimages, saying many prayers, receiving absolution from the priests, exterminating heretics, &c. … Atheism destroys the sacredness and obligation of an oath. But is there not also a religion (so called) which does this, by teaching, that there is a power which can dispense with the obligation of oaths; that pious frauds are right, and that faith is not to be kept with heretics.

St. George Tucker, perhaps nowadays the most overlooked and underrated patriotic genius of the first generation of the American Republic.