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August 11, 2003

Atrios, fool-killer. Okay, you knew that already. But this is particularly good.

In a nutshell, NRO lamprey Michael Novak (“the George Frederick Jewett Scholar in Religion, Philosophy, and Public Policy at the American Enterprise Institute,” which is sort of like being Regius Professor of Forestry at Isengard State University) put forth the remarkable assertion that:

[T]he defense that both Jefferson and Madison gave of the right to religious liberty depends crucially on a specifically Jewish and Christian concept of God. Theirs is not a Hindu, Buddhist, or Muslim concept, let alone the concept of God in Aristotle or Plato, Kant or Leibniz.
Atrios responds with a quotation from that Jefferson guy, writing in 1821, making it abundantly clear that “the bill for religious freedom” was “meant to comprehend, within the mantle of its protection, the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Mahometan, the Hindoo, and Infidel of every denomination.”

But what makes this a true gem of blogdom, predictably enough, is Eschaton’s comment section, wherein one Brian C. B., in the course of explaining that “Jefferson’s beliefs were anything but easy to assess,” informs us that:

What is clearest about his religious understanding is that he was willing to scour received dogma against the rock of Reason—he assembled a version of the Gospels edited down to only those sayings of Jesus of Nazareth, and dispensing with all else—and to count no man less as a citizen because he wasn’t of a particular religion. As a result, even in his lifetime he was scorned by many more doctrinaire Christians, but admired by those whom religious tests might have consigned to second class citizenship: Commodore Levy, a Jew, bought Monticello from its first purchaser after Jefferson’s death (he died bankrupt) with the intention of preserving it because he believed Jefferson’s championing of religious freedom was responsible for his own advancement in the Navy. And Baptists in Massachusetts presented Jefferson at his inauguration with the world’s largest wheel of cheese.
It’s that final detail that reassures me that the basic DNA of what makes America American persists. [10:14 PM]
Welcome to Electrolite's comments section.
Hard-Hitting Moderator: Teresa Nielsen Hayden.

Comments on Atrios, fool-killer.:

Scott Lynch ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2003, 10:22 PM:

Awww, shucks, that's...

Oh, you were talking to Patrick.

Mumble mumble crap mumble damn.

arthur ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2003, 10:34 PM:

This religious freedom stuff is sort of intersting, but tell us more about the world's largest wheel of cheese. I guess thsi was done in 1801 or 1805. Was this the beginning of absurd attempts to make something the "world's largest"? If it was, all Americans owe a debt to the Massachusettts Baptists.

How big was it? What kind of cheese? Pre-Guinness Book, who figured out it was the world's largest? Was it intended that all presidential inaugurations be celebrated with gifts of cheese wheels? Does the record still stand? If not, what religion defeated the Baptists?

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2003, 10:39 PM:

Hear hear. I think we should be told.

P.S.: 1801.

Avram ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2003, 10:40 PM:

I like the bit about "a specifically Jewish and Christian concept of God". Anyone know Novak's own religion? I notice that a whole lot of right-wing Christians seem to make a point, when bad-mouthing faiths other than their own, of mouthing a bit of an exception for Judaism. It's one of the favors the Nazis did us -- making antisemitism unfashionable.

On the other hand, maybe Novak really thinks only Judaism counts, and is making a polite exception for Christainity.

Avram ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2003, 10:45 PM:

Hm. Reading over Novak's piece, when I see him write about "a God who reads our intentions, hearts, and consciences, not just our outward behavior", I wonder if he knows as much about Judaism (a religious tradition in which atheism is regarded as a mere heresy, not a denial of the faith in its entirety) as he thinks he does, and also if he's glossing over the faith-vs-works argument which I seem to recall being a big part of the history of Christianity.

Avram ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2003, 10:52 PM:

Google is some help here. Apparently the wheel of cheese weighed 1,235 pounds, and this is the origin of the phrase "the big cheese" to describe an important person. It was sent by a Rev. Mr. Leland, and Jefferson, who was not in the habit of taking gifts, paid Leland 200 dollars.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2003, 11:00 PM:

Truly, all knowledge is contained in blogdom.

Lois Fundis ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2003, 11:17 PM:

Novak is a very conservative Catholic. I would even say notorious as such. Put him on one side of the teeter-totter and Garry Wills on the other and you could have some real fun!

Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2003, 11:33 PM:

Wow. Until 9/11, it was only us Pagans who weren't supposed to have religious freedom. Moslems used to be under the big Sinai Triad Monotheist tent.

I thought Jefferson was a Deist - you know, those God The Watchmaker guys? Atheists, basically. But that was tough to get away with back then.

That's wonderful about the phrase 'the big cheese'. I wonder if it's true. Actually it sounds like the sort of thing that happens all the time, so it might be. Eventually we'll start calling the President "the football," since he gets it as soon as he's inaugurated.

Put in your quarter and I'll give you my whole rant about the meaning-inversion of the term 'gafia'. Words change meaning all the time.

And that, my friends, is what makes text fundamentalism so stupid.

Guys like Michael Novak don't believe this shit. They're just trying to give ammunition to the people who want to impose the values of the most narrow, right-wing, text-fundamentalist, kill-everybody-but-me-and-my-pals "Christianity" on those of us who are still sane, however marginally.

He's like one of those "The Critics are Raving!" quotes on really bad movies...they know the thing was a piece of coprolith, but they get paid to rave, and if you look it's from the Smithson's Furnace Mining News or something.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2003, 11:33 PM:

With all due respect, Novak is a "conservative" about the same way Lenin was, which is to say, not.

Quite the contrary, Novak is a radical who is determined to completely re-engineer the ethical tradition he claims to be "conserving." By comparison, an old-fashioned Catholic like Garry Wills is a real conservative. Wills knows about mercy and the corporal works thereof. Novak is a myrmidon in the army of cruelty, a Mouth of Sauron ever-ready to explain that viciousness is really a higher form of virtue, and for your own good besides.

Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2003, 11:47 PM:

Like the Inquisition, whose sadism was partly justified, at least in their own minds, by the twin notions that a) since heretics were going into everlasting torment anyway, torturing them was just moving up the timetable a little, and b) the sight of this happening might cause other people to recoil from heresy, thus saving their souls.

I will never cease to be amazed at the capacity of the human brain for self-delusion and/or making up plausible-if-you're-stupid explanations for the benighted masses. Novak is just another in a long series of lying demagogues. May he suffer the fate of Savonarola.

No, wait, I'm against the death penalty. NnnngggGG. Damn, being ethical sucks sometimes.

Avram ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2003, 11:47 PM:

The Gafia is the Marvel Universe's version of the Mafia, right?

Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2003, 11:49 PM:

Better not wait,
Get your brass knuckles before it's too late!"

Lois Fundis ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2003, 12:33 AM:

Patrick, you're right about Novak, Wills, and the true values of "conservative".

I was using "conservative" in the more usual manner, but alas! the world is turned upside down, and "conservative"=radical and we "liberals", adhering to old-fashioned values like truth, justice, freedom, and civil rights are the reactionaries.

As for the big cheese story, it's true. The town of Cheshire, in western Massachusetts, made it in 1801 and shipped it to Washington. It was over 4 feet in diameter, 18 inches thick, and weighed 1235 pounds or more. Some sources give higher figures, such as 1,450 pounds. It's said to have used milk from 934 cows, and is usually decribed as a cheddar.

And at least one version says it was not for the inauguration. Rather, word had reached Massachusetts that Jefferson had served a Connecticut cheese, and the good people of Cheshire felt insulted!

Tuxedo Slack ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2003, 07:18 AM:

I have no comment, I just like saying "Regius Professor of Forestry at Isengard State University". But only because there is no curse in Entish, Elvish, or the tongues of Men adequate to people like Novak the Lesser.

Keith ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2003, 09:49 AM:

There's a bit about a giant cheese roll in Pynchon's Mason & Dixon. I think it was Dixon who almost got run over by the cheese and that's how he met his wife. A very strange book...

jupiter ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2003, 10:20 AM:

Not actually a work commemorating that giant cheese, but worth noting nonetheless. (Besides, one must seize oversized-cheese-celebrating opportunities as they present themselves.)

Ode on the Mammoth Cheese
Weighing over 7,000 pounds

by James McIntyre (1827-1906)

We have seen thee, queen of cheese,
Lying quietly at your ease,
Gently fanned by evening breeze,
Thy fair form no flies dare seize.

All gaily dressed soon you'll go
To the great Provincial show,
To be admired by many a beau
In the city of Toronto.

Cows numerous as a swarm of bees,
Or as the leaves upon the tres,
It did require to make thee please,
And stand unrivalled, queen of cheese.

May you not receive a scar as
We have heard that Mr. Harris
Intends to send you off as far as
The great world's show at Paris.

Of the youth beware of these,
For some of them might rudely squeeze
And bite your cheek, then songs or glees
We could not sing, oh! queen of cheese.

According to the highly recommended anthology Very Bad Poetry, where this stirring ode may be found: "A furniture maker by trade, James McIntyre turned his hand to poetry in order to help others appreciate the many wonders of Canada as he viewed them. Key among them: cheese. Few could argue with his rationale; to wit, 'it is no insignificant theme.'"

And, yes, Novak is a simpleton.

Simon ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2003, 10:35 AM:

Giant wheels of cheese were apparently a regular feature of presidential inaugurations in those early 19th century days. Here's a picture of one from an inauguration of Andrew Jackson, which might or might not be bigger than Jefferson's. I'd seen this picture before, attributed to his first inauguration, but this site says it's his last inauguration and also dates it as 1837, and no two of these can be simultaneously correct.

Xopher: Referring recently to "God, the God, the one worshipped by Jews, Christians, and Muslims," brought me a reply from a conservative Christian friend to the effect that Muslims do not worship God, but instead worship a devil that they call Allah. This is apparently the word being spread around some conservative Christian circles these days. I think they know that the word "Allah" means "God" but they're quite insistent that it's not in fact the same being.

Judaism and Christianity bear sufficiently differing views of the nature and purpose of God that these Christians, who tend to view Jews as proto-Christians who for some reason just balk on identifying Jesus as the Messiah, would be quite surprised. The "Judeo-Christian" religious tradition is thus as artificial as a "Christian-Mormon" tradition would be.

"Conservatives" who write of the "Judeo-Christian tradition" are trying to rope in Jews for reasons of their own, which might include the intellectual cachet, a desire to persuade Jews to convert, or an anxiety not to appear anti-Semitic.

Jon H ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2003, 11:03 AM:

Lois Fundis writes: "And at least one version says it was not for the inauguration. Rather, word had reached Massachusetts that Jefferson had served a Connecticut cheese, and the good people of Cheshire felt insulted!"

Maybe someone just mixed up Cheshire, Massachusetts and Cheshire, Connecticut.

Jon Hendry
Cheshire, CT

Jon H ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2003, 11:05 AM:

Incidentally, Mr. Novak has an email address at the American Empire Institute crank tank.


(Hm. Doesn't that 'org' domain seem kinda, oh I don't know, socialist? I'd think that'd more properly be .com or at least .net. Or maybe a .aei.us domain, to make the nationalists happy.)

Jon H ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2003, 11:23 AM:

I just received a response to an email I sent to Mr. Novak, bringing up the Jefferson quote. Here's his response. The ellipsis makes me wonder if this is a quote from the book he mentions.

"I know the jefferson text well, and use it in On 2 Wings, my book-length study.a0 The Assembly was following the principle of religious liberty as open to every conscience,a0 by not specifying the Author of our religion--which was already clearly enough specified in ipsis verbis.a0 The Author of their religion addresses Muslims, Buddhists, atheists, everyone without exception through their consciences, so all consciences must be respected.a0a0 ....a0 How many other traditions of speaking about God do that, and how many have inspired such a political principle?a0a0 Madison in Fed 14 thought this was a new model on the face of the earth, a burst of originality in the Jewish-Christian tradition, and it was.

I have always held that the founders did NOT, repeat NOT, intend to found a Christian country.a0 Nonetheless, they needed certain Jewish-Christian understandings in order to discover a way of respecting all consciences without exception.

It is necessary to recur often to those first principles, to remind ourselves of the source of our good fortune.a0 One does not have to be Jewish ora0 Christian in order to do that, just respectful."

Ken MacLeod ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2003, 11:44 AM:

Novack isn't saying (here, at least) that religious liberty is only for those who have a 'specifically Jewish and Christian concept of God', and not for, you know, these there Hindoos and Mohammedans and heathens in their blindness bowing down to wood and stone and atheists scoffing and blaspheming over their pint pots and clay pipes.

He's saying that Jefferson's and Madison's argument for religious liberty depends on such a concept.

The argument might go something like this: Outward conformity is of no avail before a God who reads our consciences; the God with Whom we have to do. Indeed, if the prophets and the gospels are anything to go by, it's utterly abhorrent to Him. Coercing or even tempting our neighbours into venality and hypocrisy by making such conformity a requirement or a political/social benefit is to put our souls and theirs in mortal danger, and to undermine true piety.

Etc, etc. I don't know if that's the argument the Founders made, but it's a reasonable argument, and a strong counter to those who claim that the principle of separation institutionalises atheism or religious indifference or scepticism towards scripture, etc.

Other arguments in favour of a separation of church and state, some of which do just that, can be made: 'Whether there is a God or not, there is no way of certainly establishing his requirements, so it would unjust and arbitrary to enforce any.' 'Whether there is a God or not, our opinions on the subject are no business of the state's.' 'There is no god, so of course any mumbo-jumbo you may wish to indulge in within the peace is no skin off anyone's nose.' 'Religion is a reflex of class society, and will wither away in the classless society; in the meantime, persecution would merely delay public enlightenment and waste the time of the people's political police.' Some such arguments, I understand, were advanced in favour of actual past or present constitutional laws on religious liberty in some countries, but not, I think, for the American one.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2003, 12:12 PM:

Well, the observation that Jefferson and Madison (and Franklin, and Adams, and Washington, etc) wrote and spoke in the context of "Jewish-Christian understandings" is unexceptionable. Obviously this was the case. There's plenty in the history of Judaism and Christianity that, with our magisterial hindsight, we can see as presaging the evolution of our republic. Judaism gave us the concept of history as a progressive narrative, rather than an eternal return. Christianity became a seedbed for the idea of the autonomous individual.

The larger context which may be less evident to Ken MacLeod, however, is that Novak (in harmony with his colleagues at the American Enterprise Institute) wants us to do more than acknowledge the ways in which our modern secular democracy is descended from the Christian intellectual traditions to which it is heir. He, and they, also want us to subscribe to a political platform in which organized Christianity regains much of the political and social power it has lost.

Novak says "It is necessary to recur often to those first principles, to remind ourselves of the source of our good fortune. One does not have to be Jewish or Christian in order to do that, just respectful." But the "source of our good fortune" is as much the pragmatism of Franklin and the anticlericalism of Jefferson and Paine as anything else. The Founders' intellectual background was shot through with Christianity--how could it not have been?--but what made the new republic brilliant was its radical departure from the idea that Church and State must be one.

One can be "respectful" of Christianity's contributions to the American idea while demurring from Novak's demand that we credit it as the singular "source of our good fortune." As his ominous reference to "first principles" suggests, Novak in fact wants us to be more than "respectful." In keeping with the political faction to which he has hitched his star, Novak wants wants us to obey.

John Farrell ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2003, 12:27 PM:

What would be cool:

A giant wheel of this.

Adam Rice ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2003, 01:09 PM:

Novak is also still guilty of some religious bigotry by saying that a secular state can only proceed from a Jewish/Christian position. Admittedly I can't conjure up a whole lot of counter-examples, but Islam has not always and everywhere been the Wahabbist variety that frightens people. The Mogul empire in India was quite ecumenical.

Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2003, 01:13 PM:

Referring recently to "God, the God, the one worshipped by Jews, Christians, and Muslims," brought me a reply from a conservative Christian friend to the effect that Muslims do not worship God, but instead worship a devil that they call Allah...I think they know that the word "Allah" means "God" but they're quite insistent that it's not in fact the same being.

A fascinating addition to the Annals of Wilful Ignorance. Are they also aware that Arabic-speaking Christians also call their deity "Allah"? What do they make of that, I wonder? Are they just so foolish that a name in any language but English must be "a devil"? (So, for example, Martin Luther was worshipping a devil he called Herr (or even Gott)?) What would they say to the fact that I call on a being I call The Lord -- right after his boss The Lady?

I'd love to have a conversation with one of these people. In a safe environment, of course.

Judaism and Christianity bear sufficiently differing views...The "Judeo-Christian" religious tradition is thus as artificial as a "Christian-Mormon" tradition would be.

I tend to lump all the monotheists together in one category. From this distance they're hard to distinguish. (I hasten to add that I know there are differences; this is when I'm trying to annoy someone who's really pissed me off...) I throw in the LDS, even though they're not strictly speaking monotheists (ask Teresa about the other Gods of other universes, and God's wife, and stuff).

One perfectly true thing that's guaranteed to get a rise out of a certain type of Christian is to tell them that Satanism is a Christian Heresy. (Usually when they mistake this nice Wiccan boy for a Satanist.) It's Christianity, but for people who've decided to be BAD. A few of them are scary; most are just pathetic. And their understanding of magic tends to be crude at best.

I think some of the people who say "Judeo-Christian" are trying to be honest about where Christianity comes from. (In contrast to people who, if you point out that Jesus was a Jew, will deny it. Turn on your heel and walk away without another word. They haven't even read the Bible.) You get a different version of Christianity when that's kept in mind...nobody who thinks the parables are literally true, for example.

And that's why they talk about the J-C tradition, not the religion. Christianity IS a branch of Judaic tradition, though the reverse is not true. Some, in fact, would say that before Paul won the battle against Peter about letting Gentiles in (e.g. not making Romans get circumcised before joining up), Christianity was basically a weird sect of Judaism.

Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2003, 01:21 PM:

Adam, these things were done differently among paleo-Pagans. Ever wonder why Apollo has so many names (Hekatos, Phoebus, Pythios etc.)? They were all different gods originally; when the Indo-European conquerors came, they said "Oh, those are all Apollo. Let's build a temple."

Not the case everywhere, or with every deity. But it's kind of cool.

Christianity did the same thing in Europe, to some extent. Brigid/Bridget/Bride was a goddess before she was a saint...and yes, I know there was a historical person who is now considered the saint in question. Lugh was identified with St. Michael (St. Michael's Mounts abound in Celtic countries), and so on and on.

On a lighter note, I once had my SCA persona (10th Century Irish) introduce a song by claiming to have learned it "from a traveler from the East," and informing my listeners that it was about "some saints they have there" - named Kali, Durga, and Parvati.

James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2003, 01:48 PM:

The priest of Baal whom Elijah had such problems with were worshipping "the Lord." (That's what "Baal" means.)

Simon ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2003, 02:12 PM:

Xopher, I've misled you about these people if you think they're focusing on the name Allah. I think they're quite aware that you call God "Allah" in Arabic. What they mean is that the being that Muslims call Allah is not the being that Christians call God.

Which I consider stunning enough, though I don't really know anything about Islam.

Sure, give the "Judeo-Christian" camp credit, they're not trying to cast Jews into the outer darkness. Instead they're trying to co-opt them, which isn't much better.

And sure, Christianity derives from Judaism, but their religious traditions are quite unalike, and the sort of vague generalized statements that are defined as "the Judeo-Christian tradition" aren't equally applicable to both religions.

In the same sense as Christianity is derived from Judaism, Mormonism is derived from Christianity, and I think we've heard enough from Christians and from ex-Mormons to confirm that they're really very different.

Kevin J. Maroney ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2003, 02:50 PM:

The last guest on The Leonard Lopate Show (NYC NPR talk radio) today was Sheri Holman, discussing her latest novel, The Mammoth Cheese, which was inspired by the cheese presented to Jefferson.

There are no coincidences.

Avram ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2003, 03:10 PM:

There is historical evidence to indicate that mammoths survived into the 18th century, the early Industrian Age. According to surviving High Industrian sources, the early American president Big Tom Jefferson was presented with a cheese made from mammoth milk. (Big Tom actually existed, though there are many myths associated with him. The Grand Canyon is a natural geological phenomenon, carved by water over millions of years. The story of how it was caused by Big Tom smashing down the tablets carved with the Ten Amendments, after coming down from Mount Rushmore to see the thirteen colonies worshipping idols, is an adaptation of an earlier myth.)

David Moles ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2003, 03:13 PM:

I thought C.S. Lewis made it quite clear that what Muslims worship is a four-armed demon with the head of a vulture.

And Xopher, don’t forget Saint Josaphat.

Arthur D. Hlavaty ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2003, 03:23 PM:

And my faith in the internet/Web/blogosphere was reinforced that someone had already posted the "Ode on a Mammoth Cheese" before I looked here.

Yonmei ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2003, 03:30 PM:

Christianity and Islam are sister religions: they both have the same "parent" religion, Judaism. This is just a basic historical truth, regardless of how you want to twist the theology of it. It's fairly recognised that Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, while differing considerably, bear a strong family resemblance to each other.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2003, 03:41 PM:

Um, I'm no expert on Islam, but I wonder about that. Many of the earliest adopters of Christianity were Jews. How many of the earliest followers of Islam were? My impression is, not that many.

The three religions obviously share veneration for certain very old Middle Eastern stories (Abraham, etc), but I suspect that, all things considered, the "sibling" and "parent" metaphors are a bit strained.

Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2003, 03:45 PM:

Nicely nicely, Patrick.

Have you noticed that Novak has a bad case of presumption? He says our secular state has to "recur often to those first principles, to remind ourselves of the source of our good fortune." That is, he's saying that God not only loves us as individuals, but that He especially loves the United States, and that this has been the cause of its overall long-term good luck.

Lois Fundis ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2003, 03:48 PM:


Islam is related to Judaism and Christianity in much the same way as Mormonism is to more mainstream Christianity. Their prophets (whether Muhammed or cousin Joe[1]) took the basic Bible story, both Testaments, and did some, um, creative things with it. For example, Muslims believe in the Virgin Birth (they call the main characters of that episode Mariam and Isa), but not in the Resurrection. Jesus/Isa was, in Islamic thought, the next-to-last and next-to-greatest prophet, but a man just as Muhammed was. Their other prophets are the main Hebrew ones: Abraham, Moses, etc.

One of the best introductions I can think of to the basic relationship between Islam and Christianity are fiction. One is one of Harry Turtledove's alternate histories -- a series of short stories set in a Byzantine Empire in which "Saint Mahomet" (I think that's the spelling used) was able to overcome his misgivings over the doctrine of the Trinity [2] and became a noted Orthodox Christian monk and hymn-writer.

Another book that explores the relationship of Islam with the other monotheistic religions is Salman Rushdie's The Satanic Verses, the most controversial parts of which have to do with the Prophet's relationship with another triune divinity (related to Xopher's post). It does, though, emphasize that Islam is more radically monotheistic than Christianity, and in many ways much closer to their common relative, Judaism.

[1] The Smith side of my family tree is mysterious enough that he may well be back there someplace!

[2] Not that lots of Christians don't also have trouble with the Trinity. For example, this book, which I recently came upon a blurb for. It's by a minister from Texas who deplores the Trinitarian doctrine as defined by the Nicene Council back in the fourth century, because he believes it "has dishonored Jesus Christ by placing Him lower than the Father of Glory thus bringing about the fall of the modern day Church." He seems to base this (mis)understanding of the Godhead on a very literal reading of a poorly worded translation -- one of the King James Version's weaker moments -- of Colossians 2:2. (I'm using the Bible Gateway site because it's easy to flip among various translations for comparison.)

On a more orthodox, or at least Catholic, note, I've been reading Garry Wills' Papal Sins One of Wills' gripes about the Church in the last couple of centuries is the tendency to replace the Holy Spirit with Mary in many cases of what seem otherwise to be Trinitarian formulae. This, to me, verifies Patrick's description of him upthread as a conservative Catholic in the truest sense.

Daniel Martin ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2003, 04:28 PM:
Christianity and Islam are sister religions: they both have the same "parent" religion, Judaism.

This statement embodies a mistake that many modern Christians (and, I imagine, quite a few Jews as well) make: that Christianity and Judaism share a parent/child relationship.

In actuality, Christianity and Judaism share a relationship more akin to that between French and Italian - both are descended from the same root and while one looks and sounds much more like the original than the other, the relationship is more accurately characterized as "sibling" than as "descendant". Although my knowledge of Islam is considerably more sketchy than my background on Christianity or Judaism, I could certainly believe that it too belongs as a sibling of the other two. (Albeit 700 years younger)

Rabinical Judaism (developed mostly during the diaspora after the ~ 70 AD destruction of the temple, though the roots were there beforehand) is a very different religion from Templar Judaism. It is a serious mistake to freeze Judaism at the point of Christ's ministry; that view contributes to the idea that Jews are this weird group who just can't get with the modern era and accept that their religious tradition has been fulfilled in the person of Christ. (reference here the number of conservative Christians who might recognize the term "Torah" but would balk at "Talmud" or "Mishna") True, there is still a special place in most Jewish congregations for the Kohenim, but everyone agrees that the temple is gone, and that this is a change.

I'm now adding to my tuit list (as in, "when I get around to it", i.e. probably never) to investigate more about the borrowing back and forth among Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. I have read that Islamic scholars borrowed heavily from the Christian and Jewish scriptures (the story of Eve from Adam's rib is not in the Quran; I've been reading feminist critiques of fundamentalism), and certainly Christianity borrowed from post-Jesus Jewish traditions (some of the books of the "old" testament, and certainly bits of the Apocrypha, date from after the destruction of the temple). Now I just need Judaism borrowing from the other two (borrowings from Christianity may well exist in the Talmud - the thing's big enough to contain almost anything, and it was compiled in ~ the year 500. True, the Christian bible hadn't solidified by then, but Christians were certainly no longer an obscure little sect.), and Christianity borrowing from Islam. Maybe I'll find that Pat Roberts has been secretly recycling hadith for years.

Daniel Martin ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2003, 04:31 PM:

Um... "Pat Robertson", not "Pat Roberts", though maybe the Kansas Senator has also been quoting the prophet.

Avram ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2003, 05:28 PM:

"Templar Judaism"? Well, I guess they'd still be interested in getting the Holy Land away from the infidels....

Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2003, 05:59 PM:

Jews who worship Baphomet in homoerotic rites. Haven't you heard of them? Their modern descendants are called the OTOH (Talmudic scholarship not being unknown to them).

What? Why are you looking at me like that?

Yonmei ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2003, 06:05 PM:

Daniel, thanks for your comments on Christianity and Judaism: I stand corrected, and shall champion the "three siblings" model hereafter.

FWIW, I have attended services in a Reform synagogue and in an Episcopalian church, and have at both services been requested to turn to the person standing next to me and exchange "a sign of peace". (Handshake in the synagogue: kiss on the cheek in the church: "peace be with you" in both.) Whether this is SOP in Episocopalian churches or in Reform synagogues, I don't know: I don't have enough experience of either.

Lydia Nickerson ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2003, 06:30 PM:

I had thought that the separation of church and state was a necessary compromise in order to form the federal state. The Puritan states weren't keen about the idea of the Catholic states having sway over the religious aspects of their territory, and the Quakers weren't too keen on either one of them. Am I mistaken, or had there been the equivalent of a state religion until the Articles of Federation?

The other thing to consider is that many of the early colonists came here to escape religious oppression. That oppression had a very real, economic aspect. There was no little outrage amongst the Puritans, for instance, that some of their taxes were given to the C of E (was it called that, then?) and therefore supported an institution which they deplored. On the other hand, once in the New World, they saw nothing ironic or contradictory about setting up their own, official State Church. After all, they were Right.

The Founding Fathers had seen with their own eyes the ways in which secular and sacred authority combined, and understood the ways in which it could be abused. Their history was one in which battles, usurptions, and civil wars, not to mention the more normal sort of foreign wars, were fought about religion and doctrine. The desire to spare the fledgling nation, already chock full of different religions, the strife that they knew official religion caused, has nothing to do with "Judeo-Christian" ethics. Practical politics and the Enlightenment had a great deal more to do with it. A genuine compassion was there, too. What Novak's trying to sell is a keg of hogwash. It's like the attempt some Christian religions make of claiming all virtue to themselves, insisting that nothing good or right or beautiful could ever have its roots in something other than Jesus.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2003, 08:20 PM:

"I had thought that the separation of church and state was a necessary compromise in order to form the federal state. The Puritan states weren't keen about the idea of the Catholic states having sway over the religious aspects of their territory, and the Quakers weren't too keen on either one of them. Am I mistaken [...]"

Well, you're certainly mistaken in the idea that there were "Catholic states" among the original 13. The closest you get to that is Maryland, which was founded as a Catholic colony, but which had long since come under the sway of what Marylanders called the "Protestant Ascendancy."

Jeremy Leader ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2003, 08:22 PM:

Yonmei, I've seen that same thing ("peace be with you") in a Catholic service; it was accompanied by a handshake or sometimes a hug. Don't know who borrowed it from whom, or when.

Jon Hansen ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2003, 09:52 PM:

I've seen that same thing ("peace be with you") in a Catholic service.

They also did that in my (Lutheran) church when I was growing up.

Will Shetterly ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2003, 12:08 AM:

No one's mentioned Zoroaster, so I guess I will: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are the major post-Zoroastrian religions. Their relationship is incredibly incestuous if you choose to think of them as siblings; they draw in different ways on other offshoots like Mithraism, Sabaeanism, and Gnosticism. Tracing the influence of Zoroaster would be a bit like tracking the influence of Mary Shelley or William Shakespeare on 21st century science fiction: you could graph it in many ways, but a line won't work.

Kevin J. Maroney ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2003, 12:11 AM:

A little more infodumping about the family relations of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam:

John Crossan said something like this in his book The Birth of Christianity:

It is a mistake to believe that Christianity is the decendent of modern Judaism. Instead, it is much closer to the truth to state that from the matrix of ideas surrounding the end of the Second Temple era emerged two religions, Christianity and rabbinical Judaism, both of which claimed continuity with the original religion. They are not parent and child; they are brothers. As were Cain and Abel.

As noted, the Mishna and Talmud--which were both vital in the transformation of Second Temple Judaism into rabbinical Judaism--both postdate the emergence of Christianity as a separate religion.

I just happened to mention on rasff a good book on the origins of the foundational documents of Christianity and rabbinical Judaism, Donald Harman Akenson's Surpassing Wonder. He explores, without facile conclusions, the degree to which later Judaism emphasizes elements that were also emphasized by the Christians, such as the resurrection of the dead at the time of judgement, but if I recall correctly, there's simply too little evidence to be sure what influenced what.

It's worth noting that Jesus, as presented in the Gospels, was a Pharisee, and the Pharisees had a huge impact on post-Temple Judaism.

The Prophet Mohammed was not a Jew; however, it's unmistakable that he studied with the Jews of Mecca. Early Islam, like Pauline Christianity, was a version of Judaism for the goyim; as is widely know, Muslims prayed toward Jerusalem until Mohammed fell out with the Jews after the Hajira.

mark ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2003, 01:18 AM:

"Peace be with you" is indeed a feature in most Catholic services, at least here in Australia. Over the last fifty years there seems to be greater and greater variety introduced into the Catholic Church and Catholic services. It's no longer the big, monotheistic, incense-sniffing behometh it once was.

What is "goyim"? Is it Hebrew? If so, is it (and other Hebrew phrases) widely-used by non-Jews in America?

Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2003, 08:23 AM:

Goyim is indeed Hebrew. It means 'the nations', but is usually translated as 'gentiles' - i.e., non-Jews (LDS usage to the contrary).

As for goyish usage of Hebrew: not too common nationwide. Yiddish (from German judisch Deutsch, Jewish German) is somewhat more common, and virtually universal in New York. 'Nosh' (n., goodies and v. nibble or graze), 'schlep' (lit. 'drag'; carry or travel in an unpleasant way), and other Yiddish words are now standard parts of the dialect here.

Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2003, 09:31 AM:

Speaking of Smiths, and big wheels, and separation of curds and whey, favorite writer H. Allen Smith has a chapter or portion of one about the Piddington Cheese in his book Smith's London Journal. It seems (working from memory here) that they made a mammoth cheese and wanted to take it on the road, but fell to quarreling amongst themselves over whether to roll the true cheese, or to make a plaster replica that could withstand the rigors of the road better. It grew quite acrimonious, and Smith felt that the controversy was significant enough that the two parties should still be at it somewhere, calling themselves the "Plasters" and the "Reals," but, alas, could find no sign that they really were.

David Moles ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2003, 09:37 AM:

For anyone who’s curious about Zoroastrianism, www.avesta.org is an excellent site. The rules make Deuteronomy look pratically libertarian, but the mythology’s pretty interesting. Just make sure you don’t kill any otters.

BSD ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2003, 11:36 AM:

That's the Maggia, Avram.

"Judeo-Chnristian" and its linguistic ilk is one of my personal annoyances. Christianity and Judaism are absolutely imcompatible, in that the basic idea of Christianity is incompatible with the most fundamental statement of Jewish faith, that is to say the Shma. To invest divine identity in a person, or accept divine divisibility, even conceptually as in the Trinity, is to reject Judaism (on a side note, this is why I am DEEPLY uncomfortable with the modern form of Hasidism. The Baal Shem Tov is one thing (though not mine, I'm with the Vilna Gaon), but Schneerson is QUITE another).

Additionally, this "Judaism and Christianity are siblings" idea is proceeding from an incorrect assumption, that Rabbinic Judaism began around the time of Jesus and was a revolutionary change. This is incorrect. Just as Temple services were different from pre-Temple observances, and the Babylonian Exile (from which much of the Talmud dates) required post-temple procedures and rules, Second Temple observances were different from those in the first, and post-Second Temple observances once again rely upon Rabbinic sources. In short, Post-Temple (Christianity-Cotemperaneous) Judaism is simply a spot along a continuum, and has developed since then, just as it had developed before then. Christianity takes certain ideas from Judaism at a certain point, and then goes off on its own, syncretic, and to the Jewish mind, apostatic and idolatrous, path.

This is not to say there is no borrowing-back. I consider most of Hasidism to be borrowing back, and find certain current statements, beliefs and practices of the Lubavitch sect to be worryingly familiar, to say the least.

Jeremy Leader ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2003, 01:09 PM:

Does anyone else get a whiff of "The blind men and the elephant", or in this case, "The near-sighted men and the collection of various large mammals" from this?

My own very near-sighted take on the herd at hand is that any sufficiently wide-spread religion will develop in contact with other large religions, and will both borrow features from, and specifically emphasize contrasts with, neighboring religions.

As an example of emphasizing contrasts, I read a claim once that the whole "thou shalt not cook a kid in its mother's milk" thing (the original form of the meat/milk kosher rule) was aimed at a neighboring religion which did just that as part of their celebrations.

I always assumed that "Judeo-Christian" generally refered to the Ten Commandments. My impression is that the "faith before works" Christians don't put as much emphasis on Mose's tablets as some sects. I'm not sure how the importance of the Ten Commandments varies among Jews.

Avram ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2003, 01:54 PM:

Yeah, "Judeo-Christian", at its best, refers to the elements that both faiths have in common, though I can't, offhand, think of anything Christianity and Judaism have in common that isn't shared with at least one other religion.

More often, it means "I want to say something about Christianity that makes it seem better than all the other religions, but I don't want to look like an antisemite."

Lydia Nickerson ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2003, 02:03 PM:

"Judeo-Christian" is a relatively modern word. The online Merriam-Webster gives its first usage as 1899, so it's just over a hundred years old. The definition is "having historical roots in both Judaism and Christianity" which is a pretty Christo-centric view. Of course, we remain a very Christo-centric culture, will-sh-nil-she. I suspect that the coinage was an attempt to acknowledge that the Jews and the Christians share the Old Testament, even if the two of them do interpret them very, very differently.

As for whether or not Christianity and Judaism are cousins, sisters, parents, or great uncles, I don't think that the metaphor works. Religions do not come in two and only two sexes, nor do they procreate in a way at all similar to people. It depends on who you are which bits you think are the important DNA, and that will affect how you trace the parentage.

Lydia Nickerson ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2003, 02:08 PM:

Yeah, "Judeo-Christian", at its best, refers to the elements that both faiths have in common, though I can't, offhand, think of anything Christianity and Judaism have in common that isn't shared with at least one other religion.

The Christians believe that we share a holy text with the Jews, the Old Testament. I don't think that the Jews view what we call the Old Testament in the same way at all, which is probably why Judeo-Christian falls so trippingly off the tongue of a Christian, but can be a shibboleth for a Jew. My understanding is that the Muslims only revere the Koraan as holy, and again, their take on holy text is different from Christians or Jews.

The Tough Democrat ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2003, 02:26 PM:

This was a great post, Patrick. How nice to read something in the blogosphere that teaches you something, rather than just an assertion of opinion. Hey, plus I got to read some Pynchon references in the comments.

How cool!

Daniel Martin ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2003, 05:09 PM:

I'll note that the incompatibility of the doctrine of the Trinity with the Sh'ma is one of those religious issues for which words such as "obviously" and "clearly" are best avoided.

Certainly Mohammed believed the two incompatible; the Quran is pretty explicit about that. Also, I'd wager that most present day Jews believe the two incompatible.

However, Christian doctrine (the source of the doctrine of the Trinity) believes the two are not: the Trinity is three persons, but one Godhead. Further than that into the doctrine of the Trinity makes me think that the triquetta symbol (traditional symbol for the Trinity; its overuse in the opening credits for the show "Charmed" always makes me do a double-take) is really not nearly complicated enough.

Ronit ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2003, 06:24 PM:

Huzzah, Avram! Well put.

Let's add the popular usage (as seen above), in which "Judeo-Christian" means "I want to break down the barrier between church and state, but I don't want to look like I'm doing it on behalf of only Christianity."

Jeremy Leader ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2003, 07:57 PM:

For some reason this discussion of religious similarities and differences reminded me of Emo Phillips' routine about discovering a member of his own religion trying to commit suicide:


Lydia Nickerson ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2003, 09:57 AM:

Patrick, I stand corrected.

I went prowling about the net a little bit, and happened upon a rather good site with excerpts from many letters having to do with the Bill of Rights and the Establishment of Religion clause in particular. I was more than a little surprised to find out that the actual issue was proportional representation, and that the Bill of Rights was considered a non-controversial sop to the anti-Federalists. Non-controversial? Wow. Here's a bit from Madison:

JUNE 15, 1789, (Amendments)

The inclosed paper contains the proposition made on monday last on the subject of amendments. It is limited to points which are important in the eyes of many and can be objectionable in those of none. The structure & stamina of the Govt. are as little touched as possible. Nothing of a controvertible nature can be expected to make its way thro' the caprice & discord of opinions which would encounter it in Congs. when 2/3 must concur in each House, & in the State Legislatures 3/4 of which will be requisite to its final success. The article which 1 fear most for is that which respects the representation. The small States betray already a coolness towards it. And I am not sure that another local policy may not mingle its poisin in the healing experiment.

Source: James Madison to Edmund Randolph, June 15, 1789, James Madison Papers, Library of Congress.

When I was in school, we were told that some brave states refused to sign the Constitution into law until certain individual rights were granted. What they didn't tell me, but which is clear from reading the letters, is that this was a State's Rights issue from the very beginning.

Here's a charming quote describing what Madison is doing by introducing the Bill of Rights:

...like a sensible physician he has given his malades imaginaires (1)bread pills powder of paste & neutral mixtures to keep them in play...

(1)Imaginary illnesses.

George Clymer to Tench Core, June 28, 1789

Oh, and pardon me for this paragraph, which is just too interesting to pass up, although it doesn't advance the discussion much:

It seems to be agreed on all hands that paper declarations of rights are trifling things and no real security to liberty. In general they are a subject of ridicule. In England, it has been necessary for parliament to ascertain and declare what rights the nation possesses, in order to limit the powers and claims of the crown; but for a sovereign free people, whose power is always equal, to declare, with the solemnity of a constitutional act, We are all born free, and have a few particular rights which are dear to us, and of which we will not deprive ourselves, altho' we leave ourselves at full liberty to abridge any of our other rights, is a farce in government as novel as it is ludicrous.

"Pacificus" (Noah Webster) to James Madison, 14 August 1789, The New York Daily Advertiser, 17 August 1789.

Freedom of religion and press weren't mentioned, except as being obviously non-controversial. While the right to bear arms and the question of whether or not to have a standing army during peace time did generate some debate, the crux of the argument was really over whether or not it was wise to amend the Constitution at all. A number of Federalists were afraid that if the Bill of Rights was incorporated as a series of Amendments, it would make the Constitution too fragile.

At any rate, I do stand by my initial statement that the reason the Constitution includes freedom of religion is because of political, not religious, feelings.

Stuart Buck ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2003, 01:36 PM:

Ken MacLeod correctly interpreted what Novak actually said. To wit:

Novack isn't saying (here, at least) that religious liberty is only for those who have a 'specifically Jewish and Christian concept of God' . . . . He's saying that Jefferson's and Madison's argument for religious liberty depends on such a concept.

The argument might go something like this: Outward conformity is of no avail before a God who reads our consciences; the God with Whom we have to do. Indeed, if the prophets and the gospels are anything to go by, it's utterly abhorrent to Him. Coercing or even tempting our neighbours into venality and hypocrisy by making such conformity a requirement or a political/social benefit is to put our souls and theirs in mortal danger, and to undermine true piety.

Etc, etc. I don't know if that's the argument the Founders made, but it's a reasonable argument, and a strong counter to those who claim that the principle of separation institutionalises atheism or religious indifference or scepticism towards scripture, etc.

Yes, it is indeed an argument that the Founders made. MacLeod here comes close to reproducing an argument that was central to James Madison's famous Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments from 1785. The first among many reasons listed by Madison is the primacy of individual conscience and belief in the eyes of God, a notably Christian (nay, Protestant) concept of religion:

The Religion then of every man must be left to the conviction and conscience of every man; and it is the right of every man to exercise it as these may dictate. This right is in its nature an unalienable right. It is unalienable, because the opinions of men, depending only on the evidence contemplated by their own minds cannot follow the dictates of other men: It is unalienable also, because what is here a right towards men, is a duty towards the Creator. It is the duty of every man to render to the Creator such homage and such only as he believes to be acceptable to him. This duty is precedent, both in order of time and in degree of obligation, to the claims of Civil Society.

That said, one can have a long and interesting debate over the conceptual roots of Jefferson's and Madison's beliefs on why religious liberty is worth preserving. But, contra Atrios' misrepresentations, Novak never claimed that Jefferson or Madison thought religious liberty itself should be enjoyed only by Jews and Christians.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2003, 01:52 PM:

No, he didn't need to; the movement he works with has other people to advance that claim. But if you don't think it's one of the long-term agendas of the institutional right, you're kidding yourself.

Remember George Bush the Elder's remark in an unguarded moment: "I don't know that atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered patriots. This is one nation under God." (August 27, 1987.)

Lydia Nickerson ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2003, 02:42 PM:

So, where does Novak get off claiming that only someone from a Judeo-Christian background would have conceived of freedom of religion? This is less horrible than claiming that only Christians and Jews have the right to freedom of religion, but it remains a chauvinistic remark which appears to privilege some religions above others. The claim that Judeo-Christianity (a term that won't be invented for 110 years after Madison et. al. debate and create the Bill of Rights) reminds me of other claims, such as it was the Christianity which is responsible for the great leaps forward in science of the West. I have no problem noting that monasteries preserved writing and practiced record-keeping, and that this contributed art which eventually became science. However, there were many other influences, many of them secular.

We don't normally claim that Newton created Newtonian physics because of his grounding in Christianity, although that's probably much closer to the truth than Novak's claim. In point of fact, Newton's investigations may have been stimulated by religous motives, but he found what he found because it was there, and he thought of ways to measure it. We are impressed by his work, and use the results of his research, not because they are founded in Christian thought, but because they work.

Newton was a great genius. Our Founding Fathers were political geniuses. There are few documents in the world like the Constitution, and few political entities formed out of revolution that made the transition to independence as easily and as tranquilly as we did. This wasn't an accident, it wasn't serendipitous, it was by design. They were taking advantage of all the prior art in the field of governance, including Ancient Rome, which has no Christian or Jewish underpinnings. We revere their work, not because of where it came from, but because it works. (Well, for some value of works. I'd argue that worked is a better verb, here, for many parts of our civil society, but because of the way our government is structured, I think we have a chance to change that.)

Novak's trying to make an argument for there being a special place for Judaism and Christianity in our civil sphere. It is an argument which is dangerous and flawed. Novak intends to give the impression that when Madison says "Creator" Madison is speaking of YHWH, Jehovah of the King James Version of the Old Testament. I don't think that's true. I believe that Creator was more of a rhetorical device than an identified deity at that time. Novak wants us to look at one small portion of the context in which the Constitution and the Bill of Rights were written, not the full, complex context which is far less religion-steeped than people realize.

Stuart Buck ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2003, 02:50 PM:

Patrick said: No, he didn't need to; the movement he works with has other people to advance that claim. But if you don't think it's one of the long-term agendas of the institutional right, you're kidding yourself.

As to these "other people" claiming that only Jews and Christians ought to have religious liberty:

1. Who are they? Name names.

2. How are they connected to Novak?

3. How are they connected to the "institutional right"?

And most importantly:
4. In concrete terms, what exactly have they accomplished towards their putative goal?

Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2003, 03:16 PM:

Stuart, Patrick did name at least one name: Bush Senior. GHWB didn't say "only Jews and Christians," but he said "a nation under God," and most other religions don't call their deity "God." Mine doesn't, for example. Some forms of Buddhism have no deities at all.

I remember someone at the 1993 (? I may have the year wrong) Parliament of the World's Religions trying to get everyone to agree that "We all worship the same God, whatever we call Him." He even insulted some of the theists with that one.

Stuart Buck ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2003, 04:03 PM:

I understand that Patrick came up with one remark attributed to a sitting Vice-President 16 years ago. But he provides no evidence that this one off-hand remark had even the remotest effect on public policy, i.e., that it actually denied religious liberty to any real-world atheists.

Patrick will say that I am "kidding" myself, no doubt, but I do not see even a shred of evidence that there is any meaningful right-wing movement to deny religious liberty to non-Jews and non-Christians. If you look for people who are actually working in the trenches to further religious liberty for Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Baptists, Catholics, peyote-smoking Indians, and every other imaginable group, you're going to find mostly right-wing conservative groups (such as the Becket Fund, which has filed a lawsuit on behalf of a Buddhist Temple, and has urged the New York Public Schools to make allowances for Muslim students who needed extra time for Ramadan prayers).

Stuart Buck ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2003, 04:17 PM:

I suppose I should correct myself by adding that the ACLU has indeed worked on behalf of religious liberty in a variety of cases. On the other hand, its rigid view of the Establishment Clause leads it to take positions that are harmful to religious liberty. For example, there's its unwavering opposition to vouchers. This has the effect of telling religious students, "If you choose the secular option, we'll pay for it; but if you choose a religious education, we'll fight you tooth and nail." There might be other good reasons to oppose vouchers, but the conflict with religious liberty is unavoidable.

David Moles ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2003, 04:25 PM:

How does not allowing state money to be used to subsidize a religious organization conflict with religious liberty?

Stuart Buck ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2003, 04:34 PM:

Because the freedom to choose religious schooling is a form of religious liberty. And when the government takes taxes from everyone and pays for everyone's schooling except for those who want religious schooling, the effect is to discriminate against the liberty to choose religious schooling.

Put it this way: What if the government paid for no one's schooling and then punished religious students with a $5,000-per-year fine? The economic impact would be precisely the same. Either way, the religious students are penalized relative to the government's treatment of everyone else.

Stefanie Murray ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2003, 06:36 PM:

Mr. Buck:

Next you'll be saying that students who choose an Andover education are also being penalized by the government. Or any of a number of other elite schools.

The government provides access to an education which, in accordance with the establishment clause, does not advance any kind of religion. If students, for whatever reason, choose not to avail themselves of that opportunity, it is their choice to do so and not the government's responsibility.

As far as being penalized, it just doesn't work that way. I will never have kids; am I penalized by still paying for public education? No. It's not a pay-as-you-go-get-what-you-pay system.

James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2003, 08:14 PM:

Stuart Buck, asks:

As to these "other people" claiming that only Jews and Christians ought to have religious liberty:

1. Who are they? Name names.

One name comes instantly to mind: Jim Finnegan

2. How are they connected to Novak?

Like Novak, a right-wing editorialist.

3. How are they connected to the "institutional right"?

The Manchester Union Leader? This should be obvious. The Union Leader thinks that The Wall Street Journal is a left-wing rag, and that Ronald Reagan was soft on Communism. It's also the largest and most influential newspaper in the state. Finnegan was the editorial-page editor. The Union Leader opposed a Martin Luther King holiday, not because King was Black, but because he was Red.

And most importantly:

4. In concrete terms, what exactly have they accomplished towards their putative goal?

Put the idea in play, and reinforced it, in a state which is very important in selecting presidential candidates every four years.

Here's an example:

Editorial in the Manchester Union Leader 30 June 1995, page C1):


They're More Bewildered Than Bewitched

Which witch ditched logic and came up with the insensitive idea of conducting a pagan wedding ceremony at the Cathedral of the Pines?

And there isn't even a full moon!

Instead of the so-called Witches Anti-Discrimination Lobby filing silly complaints with the New Hampshire Human Rights Commission and the New Hampshire Civil Liberties Union because Cathedral officials denied the request, the high priestess of the AppleMoon witches coven in Groton, Connecticut, should be convening nocturnal ceremonies around a dictionary, not a lawbook.


Cathedral of the Pines officials, who do know the meanings of words, were fully entitled to suggest in effect that the witches go bay at the moon on their own time.

The word "cathedral," in this instance one "DEDICATED TO ALMIGHTY GOD" (from the words inscribed on the plaque there honoring Lieutenant Sanderson Sloan of Rindge, whose bomber was shot down over Germany in 1944), has as much religious meaning today as it did in its Middle English, Old French and Latin versions. That religious meaning is enhanced, not lessened, by the presence of trees forming cathedral arches.

Pagans, people who are neither Christians nor Moslems nor Jews and who indeed have no religion, obviously have a right to conduct their heathen ceremonies. But they have no right to mock people of religious faith by conducting them in houses of God.

They complain that Cathedral officials shouldn't advertise that they're open to people of all faiths. Why not? "Faith" is not used here in the sense of confidence in some person, some idea, or some thing.

Rather, it is used by the Cathedral directors in the dictionary sense of "the theological virtue defined as a secure belief in God and a trusting acceptance of God's will."

Pagans neither believe in God nor accept His will. Thus, the stated goal of the Witches Anti-Discrimination Lobby -- i.e., to gain public acceptance of paganism as a faith -- obviously involves an irreconcilable conflict in terms.

Pagans may go to the Cathedral of the Pines if they choose. Appreciative of the natural setting, some probably do. The distinction is that they cannot conduct formal ceremonies in a place of worship "dedicated to Almighty God."

Is this discrimination? Sure, but not in the invidious sense of depriving witches of some legitimate right, such as the right to venerate and worship syzygies or kumquats.

Rather, it is discrimination in the positive meaning of the word, in the sense of showing "careful judgment or fine taste" and of having "the ability or power to make fine distinctions."

Such as those made by Cathedral directors in rejecting what has all the appearances of being a shabby publicity stunt.


-- Jim Finnegan


Jeremy Leader ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2003, 02:13 PM:

Stuart Buck, your argument that the State shouldn't subsidize education because some people will choose not to accept it for religious reasons can be extended to other areas. By that argument, the State shouldn't subsidize anything, because some religious groups might not wish to participate. For example, government-subsidized health care is a "punishment" of Christian Scientists who don't wish to use it. Government-subsidized national defense is a "punishment" of Quakers, Mennonites, and others who don't want it.

Even government-subsidized law enforcement is a "punishment" of anyone with a religous opposition to secular laws.

The point is that our government is supposed to be as neutral as possible among _all_ religions (including "none of the above"), not that it's supposed to enforce the majority's religous views on society.

CHip ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2003, 10:03 PM:

It occurred to me that one of the reasons for the current popularity of "Judeo-Christian" is that the New Testament is rather shorter on "don't"s and on endorsements of violence than the Old. (I'm not a Bible expert; can anyone point to anything (aside from what happens to Jesus himself) more violent than the high priest's slave losing an ear in Gethsemane (which Jesus condemned)?) Regardless of the original intent of either the various writers of the Old Testament or the coiner of "Judeo-Christian", they've been publically taken over by the smugly divisive. Not unlike what's happened with the U.S. flag; as Teresa pointed out recently in that context, there are many people who invest the flag with something other than their own narrowmindedness -- but, as with "J-C", by and large they aren't the noisy ones.

The New Testament, for instance, doesn't say anything about homosexuality. (I just wish that somebody had asked whichever bishop publically complained about the Episcopalians "endorsing someone who lives contrary to the law of God" whether he was wearing any mixed-fiber clothes.) Or think of how many people would be honest enough to shut up if told "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone." Just too ]vegetarian[ for red-meat reactionaries....

John Farrell ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2003, 11:32 PM:

The claim that Judeo-Christianity (a term that won't be invented for 110 years after Madison et. al. debate and create the Bill of Rights) reminds me of other claims, such as it was the Christianity which is responsible for the great leaps forward in science of the West. I have no problem noting that monasteries preserved writing and practiced record-keeping, and that this contributed art which eventually became science. However, there were many other influences, many of them secular.

You've hit on something that I (at least) have always found fascinating: i.e, the medieval origins of some of the key concepts of what became modern physics (or mechanics, in Newton's time).

Especially Newton's First Law. Of course, it wasn't really his law, in that it had been "in the air" for a few centuries already before he codified it. It was initially put forward in the 13th-14th centuries by two priests, both of them, if memory serves, teaching at the University of Paris: Nicholas Oresme and Jean Buridan.

While I certainly wouldn't put myself in the group that claims Christianity is responsible for the leaps ahead in science, I do find it striking that both Buridan and Oresme rejected Aristotle's theory of impetus (that some force has to be constantly applied to keep an object in constant motion) and put forward their own—essentially the law of inertial motion as we know it—for religious reasons. It certainly had a positive effect in the long term, as you really can't build any cohesive system of mechanics without the law of inertia.

Anyway, this is kind of out of this thread's topic, I know, but it is a fascinating subject. It really wasn't until the early 20th century that any physicists looked deeply into the history of mechanics, but you can still find some of French physicist Pierre Duhem's writings in print. (Le System du Monde.)

Steve ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2003, 06:08 PM:

Conversation has moved on, but this quote, which I've seen attributed to Jefferson, seems to capture something wonderful about the country (almost as wonderful as giant chauvenist cheeses): "It matters not to me whether my neighbor worships one God or twenty; it neither breaks my leg nor takes money from my pocket."

Regarding non-Christian nations in which religious tolerance has taken root, Ghandi's India springs to mind. I'll avoid discussing the current state of affairs in the country, lest I demonstrate my own ignorance, but Ghandi (who was admittedly heavily influenced by Western thinkers, notably Thoreau) brought Muslims and a Christian with him from the start of his march to Dandi in protest of the salt tax. And, of course, he was killed by a Hindu fanatic who felt that he was giving away the state to Muslims by promoting religious freedom.

M. Simon ::: (view all by) ::: August 28, 2003, 07:11 AM:

Lois Fundis,

I'd have to say that liberals are very conservative. Theft by government has been traditional for thousands of years. Liberals support that theft. But only to do good. As defined by the collective. Individuals be damned. Another very old tradition.

Of course liberals do not have the courage to do their own thieving so in that respect they lack integrity.

Of course in it's own way the right is conservative too.

M. Simon ::: (view all by) ::: August 28, 2003, 07:19 AM:

Actually the New Testament does have something to say about homosexuality.

Jesus and the Centurion. Boy slaves were used by Centurions for sex in that era. Which is why what Jesus had to say about the Centurion was such a big deal.

And we are not just talking homosexuality. We are talking pedophilia.

Lots of people know the Bible very few know the surrounding culture of the time that gives the bible context.

Alan Bostick ::: (view all by) ::: August 28, 2003, 11:57 AM:

I don't suppose your drive-by is sufficiently leisurely as to allow you to provide us with chapter and verse, is it?

David Bilek ::: (view all by) ::: August 28, 2003, 01:33 PM:

Luke 7:1-10

How this can be read as a condemnation of homosexuality is beyond me. If anything it is the opposite. Jesus praises the Centurion for his faith.


Yonmei ::: (view all by) ::: August 28, 2003, 01:49 PM:

I'm assuming M.Simon is referring to the story told in Matthew 8, 5-13 and Luke 7, 2-10.

Lydia Nickerson ::: (view all by) ::: August 28, 2003, 04:47 PM:

David, I grew up as a fundamentalist. I am skilled in the ways of bending one's brain into pretzel shapes in order to find the meaning the minister wants to find in a particular text. I wasn't ever given this conundrum, though, and I am in agreement: I can't find any way to read it as a condemnation of homosexuality.

The last time I discussed (argued) about this with my mother, the only cites she had were Old Testament cites, mostly in Deuteronomy and Leviticus. Even those required torturing both one's mind and the text to find anti-homosexual implications. When I said, "I thought the old law had passed away," the argument became acrimonious, and we both fled the field.

What I mean to say, is, I can do this. I can find the weird anti-logic of fundamentalism and make my brain understand it. But I'm not finding it in this story of Jesus and the Centurion. Perhaps Monsieur Simon will provide instruction.

Yonmei ::: (view all by) ::: August 28, 2003, 05:23 PM:

Perhaps I'm mistaken, but I find it hard to read M. Simon's comment as a condemnation of homosexuality: I assumed that he meant that the only reference to homosexuality in the New Testament is a positive one.

Rich McAllister ::: (view all by) ::: August 28, 2003, 08:06 PM:

There's certainly another, clearer, reference to homosexuality in the New Testament: Romans 1:18-32. Though when I read it now, it seems that Paul is saying that certain (unspecified) evildoers were cursed by God with homosexuality, not that they were evil because they were homosexuals.

Here's a Bible Gateway link to save everybody Googling it up themselves.

Mark ::: (view all by) ::: August 28, 2003, 10:44 PM:

That does imply that the Pauline view of homosexuality was a negative one, of course. I am reminded of Real Live Preacher's exegesis of this passage, though, in which he distinguishes between homosexual _lust_ (as described in Romans) which is bad, and more continent homosexual desire, which is not.

Lydia Nickerson ::: (view all by) ::: August 28, 2003, 11:19 PM:

Ah, Paul, a diatribe for all seasons.

I wonder why it is that, given how remarkably clear and useful that passage obviously is, that I haven't heard it quoted as "proof" before. Was I just not paying attention? Why bother with anything in the Old Testament with such a gem in the New? Strange are the ways of Fundamentalists.

Yonmei ::: (view all by) ::: August 29, 2003, 05:06 AM:

I have had fundamentalists quote that passage from St Paul to me, to which my usual response is: "Isn't it weird how you guys think that Paul, who never even met Jesus, has divine authority to condemn?"

Anne ::: (view all by) ::: August 29, 2003, 09:25 AM:

Paul did meet Jesus--just not in the flesh. Remember the voice on the road to Damascus?

Yonmei ::: (view all by) ::: August 29, 2003, 11:10 AM:

We have Paul's word for it that he had a spiritual experience on the road to Damascus.

Assuming that the gospels are literally true, Paul's claim hardly equates to the literal experience that many others contemporary with Paul could claim: they had met, spoken with, and learned from Jesus in the flesh.

Assuming that the "Acts of the Apostles" is literally true, a Romanized Jew went from being an ardent persecuter of the new sect to being an equally ardent adherent and leader of the new sect. *Something* happened to Paul on the road to Damascus: but he didn't "meet Jesus" in the literal sense in which Mary and Martha, James and John, or any of the other apostles, disciples, followers, students, and fellow-villagers met Jesus.

Anne ::: (view all by) ::: August 29, 2003, 11:27 AM:

Point taken. I wonder how I managed to misread you the first time; sorry about that.

Speaking as an adherent of the sect in question, I confess to being deeply ambivalent about Paul--that whole "hey, girls, siddown and shaddap" thing is hard to swallow. But on the other hand, he brought along those Roman-bureaucrat skills at a time when the infant Church needed them badly. Well, maybe RLP will do a dramatized version and help me out...

Yonmei ::: (view all by) ::: August 29, 2003, 11:37 AM:

Hmmm... Well, I'd say the Christian religion "needed Paul" in the sense that without the influence of a Romanised bureaucrat, Christianity would probably not have turned out as it did. It might have been better or worse, or it might have made no difference at all: the major step (from the Acts) in changing it from a Jewish sect to a separate religion wasn't wholly Paul's doing.

Ulrika O'Brien ::: (view all by) ::: August 29, 2003, 12:00 PM:

And of course Saul brought those Roman bureaucrat skills to bear on perverting and distorting the work of Jeshua, thus very effectively destroying the sect he had set out to destroy, before his sudden insight on the road to Damascus. Among other things, Jeshua very specifically admonished his followers to avoid the gentiles, and that the old law had not passed away.

Ulrika O'Brien ::: (view all by) ::: August 29, 2003, 12:06 PM:

huh. weird sudden insight and grand unification of threads: what Saul did to the original followers of Jeshua is essentially what has happened to fannish fandom in the subsequent corruption of the word fandom: drowned out the voices and experience of the original few by drowning them out in numerical floods of newcomers who think they know what the whole thing is about, but in fact don't quite get it, have a bunch of misconceptions and distorted notions, and aren't at all interested in learning the difference.

Elise Matthesen ::: (view all by) ::: August 30, 2003, 03:07 AM:

Ulrika's unifanned theod feory -- er, grand crocheted unification of thread is lovely, and I shall rest there in blissful contemplation, except to add one tiny note for Kip W's delectation:

Kip, you said "Smith felt that the controversy was significant enough that the two parties should still be at it somewhere, calling themselves the "Plasters" and the "Reals," but, alas, could find no sign that they really were." Well, perhaps not in London, but maybe in Wisconsin there were. Or at least, there were until somebody kicked the cord of the "Reals" refrigeration unit, and the "Plasters" triumphed. See World's Largest Replica Cheese.

elise ::: (view all by) ::: August 30, 2003, 03:09 AM:

Dagnabbit, the World's Largest Replica Cheese link should be http://www.roadsideamerica.com/map/wi.html
but I dunno how to make it show up right. Sorry about that.

Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: August 30, 2003, 08:40 AM:

Before I run off happily to peek at what Elise has brought to my attention, may I put into the virtual suggestion box that a form for linking be placed somewhere about the site? HTML is harsh in its precision, and having a little template in which words could be substituted might smooth the way.

For the record, here's how a link goes in (please let me get this rihgt):

For example [a href="blahblah.html"] link thingie [/a]etc. (Only we substitute angle brackets for the square brackets, using an adjustable spanner).


For example link thingie etc. (Only I have substituted the link to my page with pictures of Sarah on it for the blahblah string, just because.)

Then I go to preview the post, and either test it by clicking on it, or look to see if the name of the link shows up in the strip at the bottom of my browser. Your browser may vary.

And just in case anyone doubts that I am a proud daddy, here's the link to the page with Sarah's new pictures again:

Say, that Atrios is a real fool killer, isn't he? I'm just saying. (And I expect Jefferson would be regarded as a heretic by those rock-huggers in Alabama.)

Claude Muncey sees comment spam ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2004, 08:06 PM:

Check the links from the "posters" -- as well as text from some programming textbook. It would be interesting to find out which one . . .