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Reading The Constitution In Context: A Critique of Rick Santorum


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#81 Brant Gaede

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Posted 04 March 2012 - 09:00 PM

... I simply do not see any logic to the arguments which try to undercut the clear wording of that treaty.

Dennis, I'm not trying to undercut the wording. I'm just trying, as I'm sure you are, to avoid a double meaning being used in the wrong way. Like it or not, the term "Christian nation" has more than one meaning....


For the third time, the Treaty of Tripoli refers to the U.S. government -- i.e., the federal government -- not to the nation. These terms did not mean the same thing during the 18th century, and they still don't. "Nation" signified a government and its citizens, i.e., both government and society.

There is no "double-meaning" involved in the statement that the "Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion." The is very precise and very accurate. It says nothing about the values and beliefs held by most Americans at that time, which were largely Christian. But a government administered by Christians is not the same thing as a Christian government.

Ghs

This is the reason a "Church of the United States" was inconceivable. While the Church of England signified a break with the political authority of Rome, the U.S. Constitution signified a break with all religious political authority. Thus the evolution of one to another ended up as a political-philosophical revolution. You ultimately cannot mix up the protection by government of individual rights with the establishment of any religion.

--Brant

Rational Individualist, Rational self-interest, Individual Rights--limited government libertarian heavily influenced by Objectivism


#82 Michael Stuart Kelly

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Posted 04 March 2012 - 09:05 PM

I see.

In other words, context matters, and is actually an extenuating factor when looking at JQA's words.

Got it.

Good standard.

Michael

Know thyself...


#83 George H. Smith

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Posted 04 March 2012 - 09:12 PM

I see.

In other words, context matters, and is actually an extenuating factor when looking at JQA's words.

Got it.

Good standard.

Michael


Context is everything when interpreting and understanding historical documents. This is precisely why Barton's egregious context-dropping makes him such a lowlife qua historian. And context is precisely what Rodda provides in those videos that you find so very, very dull. Providing historical context may not be entertaining for some people, but it is vital. That is what historians -- real historians, I mean-- do.

Anyone can read a document and mangle its meaning according to his whims. A primary job of the historian is to give a contextual interpretation of a document, i.e., to explain the document as it was understood by the person who wrote it.

Ghs

#84 Michael Stuart Kelly

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Posted 04 March 2012 - 09:13 PM

George,

I'm not so sure about Rodda's accuracy.

Whenever I see that much spin, my warning bells go off. In my experience, when people spin, they have inaccuracies, selective omissions, out of context interpretations, and so forth. I don't trust anything coming from her without doing my own checking.

I also take what Barton says with a grain of salt and have made it a point to double check anything by him before using it in my own work should I ever write seriously about history, but he is one hell of a communicator of history.

Rodda sucks at it big-time. And she spins like hell

Michael

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#85 George H. Smith

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Posted 04 March 2012 - 09:25 PM

George,

I'm not so sure about Rodda's accuracy.

Whenever I see that much spin, my warning bells go off. In my experience, when people spin, they have inaccuracies, selective omissions, out of context interpretations, and so forth. I don't trust anything coming from her without doing my own checking.

I also take what Barton says with a grain of salt and have made it a point to double check anything by him before using it in my own work should I ever write seriously about history, but he is one hell of a communicator of history.

Rodda sucks at it big-time. And she spins like hell

Michael


There is no "spin" in those videos by Rodda that I posted. If you disagree, then cite a specific instance or two. I grow very tired of your arbitrary generalizations. You don't like Rodda, for whatever reason. BFD. Your personal feelings have nothing to do with her comptence as a historian.

Ghs

#86 Michael Stuart Kelly

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Posted 04 March 2012 - 09:36 PM

George,

You want me to go back through that Rodda crap?

Just because you're tired of generalizations that are not your own?

Like hell I will.

I want to forget that crap, not nitpick it

I spent too many hours on it already. And it was certainly not to appease the delicate feelings of anyone with a chip on his shoulder. I was looking for balance with Barton. I found what I was looking for and found some stuff I didn't like, too. I don't need anything else from that woman.

The videos are here for the readers. Let them look if they are interested.

Why don't you read PARC again if you like that kind of crap?

Michael

Know thyself...


#87 George H. Smith

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Posted 04 March 2012 - 09:48 PM

George, You want me to go back through that Rodda crap? Just because you're tired of generalizations that are not your own? Like hell I will. I want to forget that crap, not nitpick it I spent too many hours on it already. And it was certainly not to appease the delicate feelings of anyone with a chip on his shoulder. I was looking for balance with Barton. I found what I was looking for and found some stuff I didn't like, too. I don't need anything else from that woman. The videos are here for the readers. Let them look if they are interested. Why don't you read PARC again if you like that kind of crap? Michael


You accused Rodda of "spin," and I asked for one or two examples. You have supposedly spent "hours on it already," but you cannot spare the time to write a few sentences of explanation. You could have done that in the time it took to write your post explaining why you won't explain.

I read PARC as part of a project with BB, one that was never completed. You know as much about that as you do about early American history, but in neither case were you hesitant to express opinions.

Ghs

#88 Brant Gaede

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Posted 04 March 2012 - 10:04 PM

Will you two guys simply Cool It?

--Brant
don't piss me off! I've got real problems!

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#89 Michael Stuart Kelly

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Posted 04 March 2012 - 10:06 PM

George,

I went through that stuff months ago. In order to critique it correctly, I would have to see it again.

I don't respect what I saw enough to want to repeat the experience.

It was extremely irritating at the time. Especially the spin.

I don't need her to check Barton anymore, I realized back then he's got flaws, and I don't need her to learn about history.

Let's do it this way.

I'm an opinionated idiot who doesn't know a fact from a hole in the ground. And I'm so dumb I'm an apologist for Christian revisionism without even realizing it.

What a tool I am!

There.

Happy?

Like I said, you like Chris Rodda? Knock yourself out.

In fact, here's her book in PDF form for free: Liars for Jesus.

I have not read it, nor do I intend to barring some compelling situation, but it says "Volume I" and is only 532 pages.

Go for it.

Michael

Know thyself...


#90 George H. Smith

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Posted 04 March 2012 - 10:16 PM

George, I went through that stuff months ago. In order to critique it correctly, I would have to see it again. I don't respect what I saw enough to want to repeat the experience. It was extremely irritating at the time. Especially the spin. I don't need her to check Barton anymore, I realized back then he's got flaws, and I don't need her to learn about history. Let's do it this way. I'm an opinionated idiot who doesn't know a fact from a hole in the ground. And I'm so dumb I'm an apologist for Christian revisionism without even realizing it. What a tool I am! There. Happy? Like I said, you like Chris Rodda? Knock yourself out. In fact, here's her book in PDF form for free: Liars for Jesus. I have not read it, nor do I intend to barring some compelling situation, but it says "Volume I" and is only 532 pages. Go for it. Michael


Thanks for the link. I will definitely read Rodda's book.

It appears that your Lizard Brain (to use your expression) has taken over, so it is best that we stop here. I have no choice in any case. I still have a lot of work to do on my next Cato Essay, which is due at noon tomorrow, and I will be up all night working on it.

Ghs

#91 Brant Gaede

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Posted 04 March 2012 - 10:25 PM

The rational brain vs the lizard brain?

Good nite, guys. You need each other for different reasons.

--Brant

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#92 Selene

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Posted 04 March 2012 - 11:13 PM

The rational brain vs the lizard brain?

Good nite, guys. You need each other for different reasons.

--Brant


Brant is a wise man. Quite correct on this one also.
"Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice..and moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue."

#93 Michael Stuart Kelly

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Posted 05 March 2012 - 12:00 AM

My lizard brain with Rodda?

Heh.

I'm stranded on a desert island. Hopeless situation. I might never get rescued and I've been here over three years.

My pet rat died last month and I didn't train a new one. I'm tired of training rats for pets, anyway, It's just I get so damn lonely I've got to have contact with some form of friendly life.

Wait...

What's that in the horizon? It looks like a ship.

I'll be damned, It is! It is! It is!

I watch in growing anticipation and frantically start waving my arms. I'm yelling as it approaches.

Finally I see them lower a small boat with some men on it. They have seen me and they are coming for me!

Hurrah!

The tears stream down my face. They take me on the boat and we go to the ship. I am overwhelmed with gratitude.

I talk a little to the captain. He gives me a funny look and suddenly his men lead me to a small room that serves as quarters. They say they will take me back to civilization, but I must do a task first and a person will be down to see me shortly. They leave abruptly, smiling oddly.

I'm starting to feel uneasy. Something isn't right. Why the mystery?

I hear a knock. In walks a man with a laptop computer. He asks if I have ever heard of David Barton.

I say I think he's a religious historian or something. The man tells me i must watch a video. He puts the laptop on the table and turns it on. The video is of a woman named Chris Rodda. The man tells me I must watch the whole thing.

It is awful. The lady is a duckbill platypus on a sacred mission. Then the man says there is another to see. It is awful, too. He asks again what I think of David Barton. I say the woman doesn't like him much and he says that isn't good enough. There are another forty videos by her I have to see and they will explain the true David Barton to me.

I don't know what this has to do with rescuing me, but when I say I don't want to watch any more sucky videos, the man gets really angry. He says I am an ungrateful swine. He says I really don't understand anything about David Barton and I need to let Chris Rodda tell me all about that liar.

So I watch another ten videos. It is torture and I am turning into a nervous wreck. This is worse than that hurricane that hit the island last year.

The man asks again what I think about David Barton. I ask David who? And why does that Rodda woman sound like a sniggering buzzsaw? That does not please him and he says after those forty videos, he has a fresh batch coming. And I have to watch all of them until I can tell him for sure who David Barton is.

I give a lunatic cry, knock the man over and fly out the door. I run up the stairs to the deck and, without hesitation, jump overboard. I'm crying like a madman. Anything but another video of that Rodda woman!

I swim back to the island. As I come ashore, exhausted, I see a small young rat scurrying up in front of me. Hello, young friend, I think. I'm going to call you... hmmmmm...

George...

I like it.

I know he will be my best pet of all the others.

Life on this island is not so bad, after all.

:smile:

Michael

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#94 studiodekadent

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Posted 05 March 2012 - 01:23 AM

Barton and his Evangelical buddies then tighten the screws and start using "America is a Christian Nation" to argue that "America should be governed according to the principles of Evangelical fundamentalist Christianity." Which means they would not acknowledge either Catholics or Unitarians as "real" Christians, and they would reject a secular state.

Andrew,

I don't agree with Barton on many things, but this mischaracterizes his position, at least according to what I have read and seen.

His argument is not about imposing Christianity on anyone. It is for allowing government officials to include their expressions of faith in discharging their duties. He is standing up to the removal of monuments from government buildings that, say, include the Ten Commandments, against prohibiting prayer for opening a meeting and things like that.


Since when are public officials forbidden from expressing their faith?

Barack Obama has invoked his religion more than George W. Bush, during his speeches.

Every single Republican candidate is tripping over themselves to demonstrate and reassure votes of their faith. Even Ron Paul.

Jimmy Carter referenced his religion often.

There is nothing in "Separation of Church and State" which prevents religionists from mentioning their faith. It isn't about "silencing" the faithful no matter how many Evangelicals stamp their feet and insist they're somehow persecuted.

That said, you're package-dealing government officials "expressing" their faith with ritualized prayer in government institutions and Christian monuments in government buildings. The latter is a pretty clear violation of the Establishment Clause; public monuments are paid for with public money and not all taxpayers are Christians. As for ritualized prayer in government institutions, that's a religious ritual. Whilst government officials can pray if they so wish, situations where prayer is MANDATED on a regular basis should be verboten.

Banning mandatory prayers in public institutions and not allowing Christian monuments to be paid for by public money is in no respects a violation of the freedom of public officials to practice or express their faith, unless you mistreat the freedom of religion as a positive liberty (when it is in fact a negative liberty).

You see Evangelicals do this too; when talking about their own religious freedom, they treat it as a positive liberty; "the state must enable us to be good Christians by outlawing pornography, drugs, rock music and buttsex (at least between men)," but the minute another religious group starts complaining that THEIR values aren't being turned into legislation, the Evangelicals say "you're not being forced to stop practicing your religion so quit your bitching."

He openly supports Glenn Beck's "We're all Catholics now" movement against government encroachment, so where do you get that anti-Catholic stuff?


Evangelical and Fundy Protestants typically believe the Catholic Church is the Whore of Babylon. I'm not making this up; Evangelicals typically loathe Catholics. The religious right might happily reach across the aisle to get political support (remember, they are fundamentally a political coalition), correct, but in their heads they believe the Catholics are going to hell for worshipping false gods. Look at how Mitt Romney's Mormonism made him a tough sell to the religionists. Same principle.

To be completely frank, Michael, I believe you are being excessively charitable when reading Barton. Charitable readings are good things, and one should always try to be fair (and Objectivists in general have a bad habit with avoiding being charitable when reading opposing arguments). So I am not attacking you for being charitable; I simply believe that in this context, Barton is not someone to be read charitably. You claim that Barton doesn't want to impose Christianity on everyone; so why do Barton and his Evangelical buddies all have a surprising tendency to want...
1) Government 'encouraged' prayer in public schools? (Note, I am against the government banning voluntary prayer in public schools, but I am equally against public money being used to 'encourage' prayer... to do this can only be described as "improving religious freedom" if you are talking about religious freedom as a positive liberty).
2) Sodomy laws, which are typically used against homosexual sodomy but not heterosexual sodomy (which, as Justice Sandra Day O'Connor correctly noted in her Concurrence in Lawrence v. Texas, is a blatant violation of the Equal Protection Clause)
3) Taxpayer money being used to finance Christian pet projects (what was it that Jefferson said about compelling people to finance viewpoints they disagree with? Oh, and there's the whole Establishment Clause issue)

Barton's arguments are invariably used to justify the above three things (and worse). They aren't used to say "Presidents can express their faith." No one has ever claimed Presidents cannot discuss their faith! Barton's arguments may be, when read charitably, quite modest in some respects. However, they are always used as means to support theocratic ends.

Has Barton ever condemned this use of his arguments? Has Barton ever came out against enforced Christian morality? Has Barton ever opposed the blatantly theocratic agenda of his fellow Evangelicals?

Perhaps Barton simply doing his job, as a good little Jesus Fascist, at manufacturing excuses for his fellow religionist's preferred public policies?
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#95 Dennis Hardin

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Posted 05 March 2012 - 03:22 AM

... I simply do not see any logic to the arguments which try to undercut the clear wording of that treaty.

Dennis,

I'm not trying to undercut the wording. I'm just trying, as I'm sure you are, to avoid a double meaning being used in the wrong way. Like it or not, the term "Christian nation" has more than one meaning.


Michael,

It's certainly true that the term "Christian Nation" could have multiple meanings, but my concern is with the conservatives' claim that America was founded as a "Christian Nation." To say that America is a "nation of Christians" is noncontroversial. That's just a matter of statistics, and I would have to add: So what? From a philosophical perspective, the critical issue is: Was the United States of America founded upon the Christian religion?

The essential founding document of the United States and its government is the Constitution. To say that the U.S. was founded on the Christian religion is to say that the founders based the Constitution on the Christian religion. The Treaty of Tripoli makes clear that they did not.

The United States was founded on the ideas of The Enlightenment and, to some extent, Aristotle. That was the philosophy embodied in the Constitution--and the founders knew it. Otherwise, those words would not have been in that treaty.

Unfortunately, today's religious conservatives do not know it and refuse to accept it. That's the problem--and the Treaty of Tripoli is my evidence that they are clearly and unequivocally wrong.

#96 studiodekadent

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Posted 05 March 2012 - 05:05 AM


... I simply do not see any logic to the arguments which try to undercut the clear wording of that treaty.

Dennis,

I'm not trying to undercut the wording. I'm just trying, as I'm sure you are, to avoid a double meaning being used in the wrong way. Like it or not, the term "Christian nation" has more than one meaning.


Michael,

It's certainly true that the term "Christian Nation" could have multiple meanings, but my concern is with the conservatives' claim that America was founded as a "Christian Nation." To say that America is a "nation of Christians" is noncontroversial. That's just a matter of statistics, and I would have to add: So what? From a philosophical perspective, the critical issue is: Was the United States of America founded upon the Christian religion?


Dennis,

I agree with you, and even that issue can be nuanced, complicated and thorny.
1) What "Christian" religion, specifically? There are multiple denominations of Christianity, most of which are incompatible with the other denominations and accuse the other denominations of being false Christians that will burn in hell forever. Even within the same denomination you can find multiple different philosophical substrains (Catholicism for instance). And certainly, from an historical perspective, all those evangelicals who say "America was founded on Christianity" seem to conveniently forget that the specific kind of Christianity they advocate and believe in didn't even exist at the time of the founding.
2) Being founded upon "Christian principles" does not necessitate that the principles themselves are uniquely Christian. For example, the Law of Identity is a principle one can find in Objectivism but is also found in other philosophies. One can correctly say that the Law of Identity is an Objectivist principle, but not an exclusively Objectivist principle.
3) Additionally, a principle being compatible with (any specific understanding of) Christianity does not necessarily mean the principle is "Christian."

The essential founding document of the United States and its government is the Constitution.


This is where I would register a slight disagreement, since I do think the Declaration of Independence is just as essential. This is where Santorum actually was correct; the Constitution must be read in the context of the Declaration (which in turn must be understood within the context of its historical and intellectual background etc.).

To say that the U.S. was founded on the Christian religion is to say that the founders based the Constitution on the Christian religion. The Treaty of Tripoli makes clear that they did not.


I agree.
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#97 Michael Stuart Kelly

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Posted 05 March 2012 - 08:03 AM

Since when are public officials forbidden from expressing their faith?

Andrew,

It happens. Usually at lower levels. Google it.

But I'll help you start. Here is some interesting reading where you will find some cases: ACLU Defense of Religious Practice and Expression.

The ACLU takes on all abuses, irrespective of religion. It infuriates atheists and Christians alike. You will find mostly non-governmental employees, but you will also find people in the government listed.

As to more prominent cases, I didn't pay all that much attention to them as they crossed the news. This topic is not high on my priority and in the information glut in which I live, I notice it when it arises, but it doesn't stick in my memory. I don't believe the higher elective government officials use the ACLU much, so I would need to do some digging to show you instances.

But do your own homework. The information is out there to be had. Just because Obama says "God bless America," this doesn't mean there isn't a push to prohibit officials from expressing their religion.

Banning mandatory prayers in public institutions...

The problem isn't mandatory prayers. The problem happens when voluntary prayer is prohibited. Like I said, Google it. Google is your friend.

To be completely frank, Michael, I believe you are being excessively charitable when reading Barton.

You are entitled to your opinion.

Michael

Know thyself...


#98 Michael Stuart Kelly

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Posted 05 March 2012 - 08:36 AM

The United States was founded on the ideas of The Enlightenment and, to some extent, Aristotle. That was the philosophy embodied in the Constitution--and the founders knew it. Otherwise, those words would not have been in that treaty.

Unfortunately, today's religious conservatives do not know it and refuse to accept it. That's the problem--and the Treaty of Tripoli is my evidence that they are clearly and unequivocally wrong.

Dennis,

As I showed, some of the states that make up the United States actually were founded on the Christian religion. But I know of no reference to Aristotle in any founding documents.

Fact: In the founding of the United States, the whole (the federal government) is not Christian but some the parts are (state governments).

Does that lead to this conclusion? That means that Christianity did not exist as a philosophical influence in the founding of the United States.

One does not follow from the other in my understanding.

But here's an idea for you. I agree with George on making a clear distinction between the government and the nation. The USA federal government was not founded on Christianity. Some state governments were, And the nation mostly was.

The influence of the Enlightenment was also present in the government and in the nation.

In other words, it's not an either-or proposition. Philosophically, both influences were present.

I know that idea does not satisfy fundamentalist Christians, but does it satisfy the enemies of fundamentalist Christians?

Incidentally, just because the founding of the country occurred one way, that does not mean it has to continue that way. Slavery is a good case in point.

Michael

Know thyself...


#99 George H. Smith

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Posted 05 March 2012 - 12:15 PM

Michael,

Sorry about getting so testy yesterday. My mind was alternating between racing and stalling as I attempted to figure out how to deal with certain parts of my next Cato essay, which will appear tomorrow. This process always generates a lot of tension in me. And as I jump back and forth between ""real writing" and writing posts, I can easily transfer the aggravation caused by the former to the latter.

I finally decided to get some sleep, get up at 4 a.m., and try again. After working for another 8 hours, I emailed the final draft shortly before the noon deadline.

Ghs

#100 PDS

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Posted 05 March 2012 - 12:55 PM

Michael,

Sorry about getting so testy yesterday. My mind was alternating between racing and stalling as I attempted to figure out how to deal with certain parts of my next Cato essay, which will appear tomorrow. This process always generates a lot of tension in me. And as I jump back and forth between ""real writing" and writing posts, I can easily transfer the aggravation caused by the former to the latter.

I finally decided to get some sleep, get up at 4 a.m., and try again. After working for another 8 hours, I emailed the final draft shortly before the noon deadline.

Ghs


The conciliatory gesture always has power well beyond its mere words. Good for you, George Smith.




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