Musings


These are merely questions that I have posed to myself. They are personal opinion, and thoughts, and should be taken as such. They are not meant to be a criticism of anyone's belief system, only to be personal musings.

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Why is America so violent?

In August 2003, the US Department of Justice acknowledged in a report that a total of 16,110 homicide cases occurred around the country in 2002 indicating a rising trend. (USA Today, Aug. 25, 2003).
The homicide rate in the US is higher than any other "civilized" nation. Why?
People would like to blame it on things such as violent video games, or the music our young people listen to, or violent movies, or a myriad of other things. But think back, didn't we listen to music our parents didn't approve of? And what of the games of "cops and robbers" or "cowboys and Indians" we played as children. Pointing a gun (even a toy one) at another child and shouting "Bang, bang you're dead!" wasn't violent? Its no different than playing a "shoot 'em up" video game. No one is really killed, and the action is still the same, only this time with digital blood added. Creatures from outer space crushing cities and people, and the military with its tanks and bombs responding isn't violent? It would seem that fear and violence walk hand in hand. One leads to another.
In America there is a culture of fear. Fear the unknown, fear each other, fear anyone different, fear other countries.. etc. We've been spoon fed this fear since we were children.
Its not just this generation. Every generation has been fed this fear. From the beginnings of this country its permeated society. Fear and hatred of the British, the French, the Native American, the Hessians, slaves, immigrants ....etc.
Newspapers, dime novels,and radio have been filled with violent crime. Sensationalism sells. America got to read of the exploits of people such as Billy the Kid, Jessie James, the Dalton Gang, and others. In the 1920s and 30's it was John Dillinger, Pretty Boy Floyd, Baby Face Nelson, Al Capone, and Bonnie and Clyde etc.. Their exploits were meticulously and painstakingly depicted, including pictures of their victims, and their own dead bodies when the law caught up with them.
In the 50's and 60's it was the fear of Communism. "Better dead than Red" was a favourite slogan. Fear of Communists around every corner and under every bed. The Cold war was in full swing and the fear of a nuclear bomb (which, by the way America was the first and only country to use on another country) being launched at us from Cuba or Moscow was being drummed into our heads.
America has always, it seems, been fascinated with violence. We've been exposed to the horrors of war, pictures of the dead and dying plastered across our television screens under the guise of nightly news. In the 90's, during the Gulf War America was glued to its televisions as pictures of "smart bombs" destroyed buildings, nameless people, and the fear of weapons of mass destruction was droned on at us. Has it numbed us to the extent that we no longer feel regret about what's going on in America?
Some have said America's very nature and history makes it violent. I don't have any answers. Perhaps if America wasn't so prone to fear, and didn't have such a fascination with crime and violence, it would be a safer, calmer place to be.

 
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Was America really founded as a Christian nation?

Every time an election draws near, we again are being bombarded with calls by the Christian Right to "take back America" by electing officials that will uphold the ideals of the Founding Fathers and bring Christianity back to our land. The idea of Christians "taking back America" is an impossibility, it can never happen because America was never a Christian nation, it was never intended to be such. To believe such a thing is to believe a lie.

A good example of this lie is found in the writings of the founder of the Christian Coalition, Pat Robertson. In his book The Turning Tide he writes:

"It is certainly true that the precepts of faith are interwoven throughout the founding documents of this nation. The forms of our constitutional government - as implemented by Jefferson, Madison, Franklin, Washington, Adams, and others - were carefully designed to acknowledge the authority of the Scriptures and our dependence upon the Creator."

Christian values may have contributed to the thinking of some of the Founders, but to say that these men were Christians simply is not true. It is true that many of the Founders applauded religion for its utility, and believed religion was good for the country, but they also argued for voluntary religion and complete religious freedom.

America was founded during the Age of Reason. Deism was the prevailing "religion" of the time. A faith based on nature, the laws of nature, and the creation. It is a natural religion as opposed to revealed or man-made, artificial religion. Deism says that it is rationality and reason that leads to God. To the Deist, the evidence is the creation and the idea of what brought about the evidence is the Creator. Deism teaches that no one knows for certain what happens after death, if anything at all. It teaches that, based on the creation we are all a part of, we shouldn't worry about it. That instead, we should be concerned for the present and future of planet Earth and humanity.

It has been said that at Benjamin Franklin's suggestion the Constitutional Convention opened its morning sessions with prayer, that there was complete agreement and that each day began and ended with prayer. However, the truth of the matter is there was not a prayer offered in the Convention from the time it opened until the day it closed.

The Constitutional Convention was made up of men who represented the general populace of this nation, and nearly unanimously the members opposed the proposition, no vote was even considered for this proposition and Franklin himself, in reference to it, says: " The Convention, except three or four persons, thought prayers unnecessary."

The original Constitution, when completed, did not provide for any of the freedoms that the people of this nation felt were necessary, so a series of amendments were proposed.

The Second Amendment to the Constitution states:

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

 

James Madison, the author of this Amendment, and much of the Constitution, was not Christian, but a Deist. His original proposal for a bill of rights provision concerning religion read:
"The civil rights of none shall be abridged on account of religious belief or worship, nor shall any national religion be established, nor shall the full and equal rights of conscience be in any manner, or on any pretense, infringed."
 
He knew, that given the opportunity, America would become a servant to a state religion, much as England had, in the form of the Anglican Church. He stated that:
" Religion and government will both exist in greater purity, the less they are mixed together"

His views were not Christian by any means, proclaiming Christianity to cause:

"pride and indolence in the clergy, ignorance and servility in the laity; in both, superstition, bigotry and persecution. Religious bondage shackles and debilitates the mind and unfits it for every noble enterprise. During almost fifteen centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial. What have been its fruits? What influence in fact have Christian ecclesiastical establishments had on civil society? In many instances they have been upholding the thrones of political tyranny. In no instance have they been seen as the guardians of the liberties of the people. Rulers who wished to subvert the public liberty have found in the clergy convenient auxiliaries. A just government, instituted to secure and perpetuate liberty, does not need the clergy."
 
Here, one of our founding fathers clearly shows that his idea of a perfect nation includes protections from Christian domination.

Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence, brought into law the principled basis for the Bill of Rights. In the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom, he wrote:

Be it enacted by the General Assembly, That no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burdened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief; but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinion in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish, enlarge, or affect their civil capacities.
 
Stating his reasons, he said:
 
"I have examined all the known superstitions of the word, and I do not find in our particular superstition of Christianity one redeeming feature. They are all alike founded on fables and mythology. Millions of innocent men, women and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined, and imprisoned. What has been the effect of this coercion? To make one half the world fools and the other half hypocrites; to support roguery and error all over the earth."
 
He knew that if America was founded as a Christian nation, religious freedom would be denied to all those not of the Christian faith, just as the Puritans tried to deny this freedom to those in the colonies that did not share their views. Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to John Adams dated April 11, 1823, writes:
"The day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus by the Supreme Being as his father, in the womb of a virgin will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerva in the brain of Jupiter."

George Washington, our first president seems to have had no interest in the forms and creeds of institutional religion. Although he often referred to Providence as an impersonal force, remote, and abstract, he never declared himself a Christian according to contemporary reports or in any of his many volumes of correspondence. He championed the cause of freedom from religious intolerance and compulsion. When John Murray, a Universalist, who denied the very existence of Hell, was invited to become an army chaplain, the other chaplains petitioned for his dismissal. Instead, Washington gave him the appointment. Washington uttered no words of a religious nature and did not call for a clergyman to be in attendance of his deathbed.

Washington believed in the freedom to follow one's conscience in the matter of worship. He wrote:

"If I could now conceive that the general government might ever be so administered as to render the liberty of conscience insecure, I beg you will be persuaded, that no one would be more zealous than myself to establish effectual barriers against the horrors of spiritual tyranny, and every species of religious persecution... Every man, conducting himself as a good citizen, and being accountable to God alone for his religious opinions, ought to be protected in worshipping the Deity according to the dictates of his own conscience."
 
Need more proof? Observe some of his correspondence and publications. Washington wrote the Treaty of Tripoli. Article 11 states:
 
"As the Government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquillity of Muslims; and as the said States never have entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mehomitan nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries." (emphasis is mine)
 
The treaty became law with John Adams signature on June 10, 1797, without dissent or argument from any involved parties, and remained in effect for eight years. This clearly shows the intentions of the Founding Fathers during the early history of the United States.

John Adams, himself a Deist, wrote:

"Where do we find a precept in the Bible for Creeds, Confessions, Doctrines and Oaths, and whole carloads of other trumpery that we find religion encumbered with in these days? The doctrine of the divinity of Jesus is made a convenient cover for absurdity."
 

Thomas Paine, a pamphleteer whose manifestoes encouraged the faltering spirits of the country and aided materially in winning the War of Independence, wrote in, The Age of Reason, that Christianity;

"serves the purposes of despotism. It is certain that, in one point, all nations of the earth and all religions agree. All believe in a God, The things in which they disagree are the redundancies annexed to that belief; and therefore, if ever an universal religion should prevail, it will not be believing any thing new, but in getting rid of redundancies, and believing as man believed at first. Adam, if ever there was such a man, was created a Deist; but in the mean time, let every man follow, as he has a right to do, the religion and worship he prefers."
 

Benjamin Franklin, wrote:

"As to Jesus of Nazareth, my Opinion of whom you particularly desire, I think the System of Morals and his Religion . . . has received various corrupting Changes, and I have, with most of the present Dissenters in England, some Doubts as to his Divinity; though it is a question I do not dogmatize upon, having never studied it, and think it needless to busy myself with it now, when I expect soon an Opportunity of knowing the Truth with less Trouble. The Infinite Father expects or requires no worship or praise from us. I conceive, then, that the Infinite has created many beings or gods vastly superior to man It may be these created gods are immortals; or it may be that after many ages, they are changed, and others supply their places. Howbeit, I conceive that each of these is exceeding good and very powerful; and that each has made for himself one glorious sun, attended with a beautiful and admirable system of planets. It is that particular wise and good God, who is the author and owner of our system, that I propose for the object of my praise and adoration" (Franklin's Works, Vol. ii).
 
In an essay on "Toleration" the intolerant character of Christianity is presented:
 
"If we look back into history for the character of the present sects in Christianity, we shall find few that have not in their turns been persecutors, and complainers of persecution. The primitive Christians thought persecution extremely wrong in the Pagans, but practiced it on one another. The first Protestants of the Church of England blamed persecution in the Romish church, but practiced it upon the Puritans. These found it wrong in the Bishops, but fell into the same practice themselves both here [England] and in New England"
 

Ethan Allen, patriot and leader of the Green Mountain Boys, stopped his own wedding until the presiding judge affirmed that "God" referred to the God of Nature and not to the God of the Bible. He wrote in Reason: The Only Oracle Of Man:

"THAT Jesus Christ was not God is evident from his own words, where, speaking of the day of judgment, he says, "Of that day and hour knoweth no man, no not the angels which are in Heaven, neither the Son, but the Father." This is giving up all pretention to divinity, acknowledging in the most explicit manner, that he did not know all things, but compares his understanding to that of man and angels; "of that day and hour knoweth no man, no not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son." Thus he ranks himself with finite beings, and with them acknowledges, that he did not know the day and hour of judgment, and at the same time ascribes a superiority of knowledge to the father, for that he knew the day and hour of judgment.
That he was a mere creature is further evident from his prayer to the father, saying, "father if it be possible, let this cup pass from me, nevertheless, not my will but thine be done." These expressions speak forth the most humble submission to his father's will, authority and government, and however becoming so submissive a disposition to the divine government would be, in a creature, it is utterly inconsistent and unworthy of a God, or of the person of Jesus Christ, admitting him to have been a divine person, or of the essence of God."
 
Roger Williams, the founder of Rhode Island, was a Baptist, persecuted for his faith. He argued for the separation of church and state nearly a hundred fifty years before Jefferson. He wrote:
 
"The Church and State need not be inextricably linked. A Pagan or Antichristian Pilot may be as skillful to carry the Ship to its desired Port, as any Christian Mariner or Pilot in the World, and may perform that work with as much safety and speed. God requireth not an Uniformity of Religion to be inacted and inforced in any Civill State. Rather, the tares in the field of Christian grain must be left alone; let man hold whatever religious opinions he chooses provided he does not 'actually disturb civil peace,' let civil government be based on the consent of the governed. The Soveraigne, originall, and foundation of civil power lies in the People. They 'may erect and establish what forme of Government seemes to them most meete for their Civill condition.'
 
These were men who shaped the founding of our nation, who gave of themselves, at the risk of their lives, to get America off to a strong start, built on a foundation of freedom. Yet they clearly were not men who championed the cause of Christianity, but instead championed the cause of freedom and the right to worship as our conscience dictates.