Thomas Jefferson said, “Educate and inform the mass of the people… They are the only sure reliance for the preservation of our liberty.”
In answering this query, I would like to employ an old, yet highly significant topic as the cornerstone of my debate – a subject few of us give much consideration to; and yet, it effects us daily: our Constitutional Bill of Rights. Just ten little important principles which entail so much of the wonderful freedoms we take for granted today; and many of us can’t even recite them from memory. I’m just as guilty.
What makes this integral element of American history so profound is not only the freedoms it ensures; but principally how novel a concept such as a truly ‘free country’ was at the time. Unfortunately, the Bill of Rights is primarily utilized by criminals – especially those visiting from outside the country. Nothing warms the cockles of my heart more, than to see people enter this country, refuse to learn the language, refuse to adopt the customs, yet when it comes time for an unfortunate run-in with the law, suddenly they become as proficient at our criminal protection laws as they are at committing crimes.
First, I intend to draw your attention upon some critical concepts from history, like the antics of the Spanish Inquisition, which I believe was a major contributor inspiring our Constitution and the addition of the Bill of Rights. I would also like to consider the question: “What kind of men would flee domestic life in Europe, sail across an uncertain ocean in leaky boats, to rough it out in an unknown world?” (Today it would almost translate to a human colony on Mars.) After laying this groundwork, I’ll list each Bill, along with some brief personal commentary. I’ll conclude with several quotes from the founding fathers, which explicitly answer the question, in my opinion, quite candidly.
What would cause the founding fathers to consider it necessary to guarantee the establishment of these inalienable rights? There must’ve been something more disturbing than ‘Taxation without representation’ – some monumental proceedings, which provoked the fathers to introduce these profound, yet very novel concepts of public protection. In fact, most people were quite happy under the reign of England, even the taxation issue didn’t seem to be too disturbing to people. It took a great deal of propaganda to sway the people towards a revolution. (Look into the writings of Samuel Adams)
First of all: Do we truly understand what it means to be born with rights of which we cannot be alienated from? Merriam Webster defines inalienable as: incapable of being alienated, surrendered, or transferred. Hell, you can’t even give them away, they are as much a part of you as your very soul; and bestowed upon you simply as your birthright, recognized only in few other countries besides American now. Today, it’s difficult for many of us in this country to even consider people born without these freedoms. And yet, a mere two hundred years ago, when the world was filled with rampaging tyrants, it was a relatively unheard of concept. Yet a small number of men held a vision of a free nation.
I believe in order to understand the mentality of the founding fathers, we need to reflect on the era leading up to ‘The Great European Exodus’; a span of several centuries leading up to the yearning of a repressed people desperate enough to do anything to abandon everything familiar to them and start a new life anywhere but there. You think you’ve got it bad? You don’t have to study history long before you’ll discover a healthy appreciation for today’s lifestyles. So when the word got out that the church was wrong in propagating a ‘flat Earth’ many of the disgruntled people made great haste finding an escape route to a better way of life. What were they fleeing from?
During this time, Europe was left in shambles from the black plague, which took a quarter of a million lives – a third of the continent’s population. The church was frantically thwarting the advancements of science; such as, apposing the use of anesthesia during child birth – as it robbed women of the curse, God in His mercy had bestowed upon them in Genesis. The Spanish Inquisition, in their mercy, who killed or imprisoned thousands upon thousands of unfortunate souls; they even dug up two thousand corpses and burned them as well.
The Ottomans were zealously attempting to make Europe a Muslim continent. The Protestants (or protesters) finally began the long overdue dismantling of world domination by the Catholic Christians, with the indirect help of the Ottomans – a sort of ‘the enemy of my enemy is my friend’. It appears the Protestants preferred not being persecuted by the Muslims to being hunted by the Catholics. In fact, had it not been for the invasion of Hungary by the Muslims in 1526 – a time when the Reformation was still in the infantile stages – the Catholics might have had enough free time to eliminate the rebellious uprising.
You non-Catholic Christians might want to shake the hand of a Muslim; for without them, Catholicism might have abolished the Reformation movement, leaving the western world with only one Christian religion. However, I would also like to add, few of these Reformers could find any common ground amongst themselves either. The Reformers started killing each other in bloody battles as well, even dabbling in the art of stake burning a bit – Calvin caused Servetus to be roasted to death over a slow fire. Why? Because hey, that’s exactly what God expects when others disagree with our superior point of view.
In Europe, the papacy had an engrossing power that was even above temporal governments. The papacy used an amazing institution to control the masses, which implemented the humanitarian tools of fear – intimidation – spies – torture – seizure of property – imprisonment – and murder. The name of this holy institution: ‘The Spanish Inquisition.’
We have little understanding today just how ‘Nazi-like’ cruel this order was to other human beings. Nor do we grasp the incredible number of people slain in the name of keeping the peace of God in Europe. Between pestilence and righteous murdering, it’s lucky anyone survived at all. “With such savage alacrity did [the Spanish Inquisition] carry out its object of protecting the interests of religion, that between 1481 and 1808, it had punished three hundred and forty thousand persons, and of these nearly thirty-two thousand had been burnt.” J. W. Draper.
The Spanish Inquisition utilized the most honorable and holiest of means of extracting information from their prey; for example: a woman married to a suspected heretic comes to confession. The clergy, ever so piously, informs her, God is unable to grant her forgiveness at this time. In order to obtain it, she must return with some incriminating evidence against her husband. (You were unaware God was in the business of extortion, eh?) Well, usually her first report isn’t sufficient to appease absolution from God, so she is instructed – before God can grant her forgiveness – she must return with some juicier info. Can you imagine how many spouses may have lied on one another, as an apparently innocent means of dissolving their marriages?
Once the Inquisition got their hands on you, you were usually never heard from again unless you were honored as the star in the next stake burning; then the whole town came to witness this horrific and gruesome debauchery of our pious institution. It was a community entertaining event. (And you thought the violence depicted on TV was making our kids desensitized; imagine what it took to arouse interest in a child of the ‘Dark ages.’ “A pillory, is that all you got? Aw, that’s a doddle; last week alone, I witnessed fourteen stake burnings, three be-headings, and twenty-six decaying bodies in the street!”)
You would usually be dragged to another country, and you might spend several months in a cold dark dungeon before you even discovered what you’d been charged with. Then you will stand alone before the holy judges – never knowing who your accusers were – no witnesses – no lawyer – no one testifying on your behalf – just you at the mercy of these pious men.
These blameless judges would use verbal assaults to coerce you into a confession. If that didn’t work, they would torture you into bearing witness against yourself. Many innocent ‘heretics’ confessed to whatever folly they’d been accused of just to end the torment and suffering. Sometimes these gracious tormentors would give the body repose for a few months, only to start the torture afresh once the body was healthy enough to endure a few more rounds. If they allowed you to live, you might be so excessively fined, it alone would be the ruin of you and/or your family. Many an unfortunate mother with children was left destitute as the clergy took possession of their land and property on account of the husband being found guilty of heresy. What a great time to be alive.
This constant repressing and barbarity of the church to keep all the good little boys and girls in check was really pushing the people into a frenzied state of rebellion. They flat out had had enough. If you think, atheism is in full battle array against the church, it’s my opinion, this is nothing in comparison to the disdain, the Reformers and the intellectual held against the church during the ‘Dark Ages.’
I hate to even imagine what the world would be like today, had it not been for those heroic ‘heretics.’ We, Christians have the Reformers to thank for our ability to worship Christ in our own unique style; and we ought to remember; it was also the Protestants who removed the barriers blocking the advancement of science – science, which put an end to the Black Plague. It was their research, which led to the advancements in medicine, helping us live longer, healthier lives – science has done more good for this planet than any other field – so we need to remember that the next time we feel inclined to criticize their research.
Let us consider a little deeper the battle raging between religion and science of that era; and the incredible suppression constantly applied to science by the church – the countless men who were imprisoned and murdered for their belief in the globular form of the Earth. Yes, incredulous, I know, but true nonetheless. These great intellectual pioneers – who incidentally happened to be RIGHT – were ridiculed, labeled as heretics, imprisoned, or even murdered. This, in my opinion, is exactly why science blossomed in America; a place where they had the freedom to work without hiding or lying about their research. And the primary reason, I believe, so many great scientists lunged at an opportunity to come to a country where they could pursue their research unencumbered by the meddling of a self-righteous institution.
I believe without the Reformation in Europe and the independent spirit which ignited the birth of America, we would be hundreds of years behind, rather than hundreds of years ahead of our time. It’s my firmest belief: If not for the revolt of the Protestants we’d still be living in the ‘Dark Ages.’ Literally, without electricity had those brave ‘heretics’ not had the courage to stand against the tyranny of the church. Read John W Draper’s insightful book entitled ‘History of the Conflict between Religion and Science’ for a detailed account – it’s a free download.
Can you appreciate the immense fear and acute apprehension running rampant during this dark time? Never knowing who is going to throw you under the bus – get mad and make some preposterous allegation against you – or the clergy lying on you out of greediness for your possessions. I believe there’s a commandment or two for this, oh yeah: thou shall not bear false witness against your neighbor, and thou shall not covet thy neighbor’s stuff.
What many of us fail to realize is that our forefathers had damn good reason for risking life and limb to cross an uncertain ocean for a fresh start in a hostile uncharted world. They put it all on the line just to flee from kings and mostly the out-of-control, overbearing, power hungry church. They had innumerable legitimate reasons – based on a thousand years of tyranny – for establishing a government built upon the principles of ‘Separation of Church and State’ and the rights of all men. Our government has remained this way since day one, 1776; however, believe it or not, most European countries were still battling to get out from underneath the oppression of church dominance even into the latter part of the 19th century.
Now, bearing all this in mind; our review of ‘The Bill of Rights’:
- Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. –
This is, by far, my favorite of all our protections. Obviously, the protection of free religion was established to put an end to the righteous bloodshed over the centuries by conflicting religious bigots. The freedom of speech and particularly the freedom of the press – to the point of not even allowing the abridging of material – is a total stripping of the church’s power, which was in absolute despair when the printing press was invented. They knew; prior to this, it was a simple process to suppress any opinions, which differed from theirs. However, the printing press meant mass marketing. Once a book containing ‘heresies’ was printed and distributed, they would never be able to gather all the copies from around the continent for burning.
The church found a means of restricting the power of the press by implementing a parliament of clergy, which scrutinized all writings prior to printing, looking for anything that might contradict their established opinions. This simplified most of the early author and book burning parties. Thank God for this bill, as it brought this practice to a standstill.
It’s interesting to note: “The first printed work to be so treated was actually the Gospel. On two occasions, Tyndale’s New Testament in English was burnt before Old St. Paul’s. But in pausing to reflect that the book which met with this fiery fate, and whose author ultimately met with the same, is now sold in England by the millions, one can only stand aghast at the irony of the fearful contrast, which so widely separated the laborer from his triumph. But perhaps we can scarcely wonder that our ancestors, after centuries of mental blindness, should have tried to burn the light they were unable to bear, causing it thereby only to shine the brighter.”… James Anson Farrer ‘Books condemned to be burnt’ 1892
2. A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a Free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed. – I’m sure there’ve been many exhausted hours paid out to lawyers in painstakingly searching for loopholes around this one.
3. No Soldier shall, in times of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law. – This was a direct result of what the king of England was practicing; it’s hard to conspire against the king when you live with his soldiers.
4. The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized. – I believe this was instituted just as much in regard to the practices of the church as it was for the tyranny of kings. There may be a greater amount of despicable stories of clergy acting in this imprudent way than all the kings of Europe combined.
5. No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be witness against himself, (I presume this leaves out the implementing of torture to force someone into confession) nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use without just compensation. – I have written a sufficient amount in regard to the church’s practice of the opposite in these affairs.
6. In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed… and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense. – Again, I have already written a complete chapter in regard to the church of Medieval times practicing the very opposite in these matters.
7. In suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right to trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury shall be otherwise re-examined in any court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law. – Possibly instituted to limit the church from re-investigating any issue that has already been tried in a court of law.
8. Excessive bail shall not be required nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted. – As was a common practice imposed by the Spanish Inquisition upon supposed ‘heretics’ after release, or even after life imprisonment or a death sentence.
9. The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others by the people. – No one, not even the church can use these rights as a means of oppressing others.
10. The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people. – Making provisions for the people to be involved in affairs.
I’m of the steadfast opinion; these precious rights were implemented as a direct means of abolishing the ghastly and despicable antics of the church once and for all. God bless all the great men who painstakingly labored over these issues until at last they devised such a magnificent governing set of rules for this great country.
These profound and well educated men, who formed our Constitution and the Bill of Rights, were well aware of the chaos we were escaping from, and wanted to establish a solid means of circumventing it from our future. I’m also fairly certain, the Salem witch trials, from less than a century earlier, was another sound reminder of how easily this dormant behavior lying under a superficial appearance of piety, could sprout back up at anytime, anyplace. The only ingredients needed to foster such ludicrous behavior is: one part fear and superstition – one part chosen of God, superior, separated, and called to kill in His name – and a whole lot of ignorance among the masses, which seems to have always been in great supply.
According to Max Farrand’s book ‘The fathers of the constitution; a chronicle of the establishment of the union’ “When independence was declared, Congress recommended to all the States that they should adopt governments of their own… Each state adopted a written constitution.” One profound excerpt found within these constitutions goes as follows: “Every individual has a natural and unalienable right to worship God according to the dictates of his own conscious, and reason.” Now I ask you: would a devout fundamentalist ever make such a permissive proclamation? I think not, especially based on thousands of years of global religious history; they most certainly would not. Fundamentalists are always reminding us just how jealous and intolerant their God is, and how we mustn’t deviate from the explicit mandates outlined in the Bible, Quran, or other ancient manuscript. So again I say no, a thousand times no; these founding fathers of our country were not religious fundamentalists at all.
Here are some provocative and interesting quotes from our founder fathers:
- George Washington said, “The United States is in no sense founded upon Christian Doctrine” http://www.skeptictank.org/files/atheist/foundr0g.htm
- Thomas Paine said “Of all the tyrannies that affect mankind, tyranny in religion is the worst.” http://www.skeptictank.org/files/atheist/foundr0g.htm
- James Madison said, “During almost fifteen centuries the legal establishment known as Christianity has been on trial, and what have been the fruits, more or less, in all places? These are the fruits: pride, indolence, ignorance, and arrogance in the clergy.” http://www.skeptictank.org/files/atheist/foundr0g.htm
- John Adams said, “This would be the best of all possible worlds, if there were no religion in it.” – “The Government of the United States is not in any sense founded upon the Christian religion.” – “The divinity of Jesus is made a convenient cover for absurdity” – and yet he also said things like “There is no such thing as human wisdom; all is the providence of God” and “I cannot conceive such a Being could make such a Species as the human, merely to live and die on this earth” http://thinkexist.com/quotes/john_adams/
- Thomas Jefferson said, “Millions of innocent men, women and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined and imprisoned. What has been the effect of this coercion? To make one half the world fools and the other half hypocrites” – “The clergy converted the simple teachings of Jesus into an engine for enslaving mankind and adulterated by artificial constructions into a contrivance to filch wealth and power to themselves…these clergy, in fact, constitute the real Anti-Christ.” – “[The apostle] Paul was the great Coryphaeus, and first corrupter of the doctrines of Jesus.” – and “The common law existed while the Anglo-Saxons were yet pagans, at a time when they had never yet heard the name of Christ pronounced or knew that such a character existed.” http://www.jesus-is-savior.com/Wolves/thomas_jefferson.htm
- In 1825, when Thomas Jefferson was hiring faculty for the University of Virginia, John Adams wrote to him with some controversial advice. It read, “Do not hire any European professors. If you hire a European professor, they are liable to believe in Christianity, and that is a very dangerous doctrine that we should stay far away from.”
Visit the site, http://jeffersonbible.tripod.com/index.htm for a complete overview of Jefferson’s opinions as well as the Bible that he pieced together from Greek, Latin, French, and English extracts which he cut and pasted together.
- Benjamin Franklin said “Here is my Creed: I believe in one God, Creator of the Universe. That He governs it by his Providence. That he ought to be worshiped. That the most acceptable Service we can render to him, is doing Good to his other Children…. I think the System of Morals [devised by Jesus] and his Religion as he left them to us, the best the World ever saw, or is likely to see; but I apprehend it has received various corrupting Changes, and I have with most of the present Dissenters in England, some Doubts as to his Divinity.” http://www.beliefnet.com/resourcelib/docs/44/Letter_from_Benjamin_Franklin_to_Ezra_Stiles_1.html
Judging by the disdainful tone of these remarks, I’m inclined to believe the founding fathers would concur with my deduction. I’m not saying these prominent men were atheists – as some might like us to believe – they were good, moral, godly men who probably called themselves Christians, but most importantly – in my opinion – they ardently sought and desired to see a new era in this world – an era of explicit tolerance for all faiths. Maybe these great men were the founders of what many fundamentalists call the ‘Emergent Theologian Movement’, where a person is free to incorporate doctrines from unlimited sources into his or her personal faith.
I think most people would our founding fathers were indeed Freemasons. Freemasonry is an organization where the only stipulation of membership by the initiates,(at least of a religious aspect) is a simple belief in God. No specific religion, creed, or dogmatic view required, just a simple belief in God – sounds quite reminiscent of the phrase quoted earlier from the State Constitutions
Suffice it to say: No, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and America were not designed by religious fundamentalists, but by well respected, educated men, who were determined to prevent the history of religious bigotry and intolerance from ever prevailing again – at least not in this country. These were men who even long before the ‘Civil War’ had the foresight to implement regulations prohibiting slavery on all newly formed territories in the west. These great men had incredible perception into the future. In fact, when they first convened for the creation of the Constitution, they so recognized the significance of the task at hand, it prompted Madison to say, “Now to decide forever the fate of Republic government.” And Governor Morris to declare, “The whole human race will be affected by the proceedings of this Convention.”
“That might be some of the best reading I have enjoyed in a while… It’s an honest perception without actually bashing organized religion. Great history lesson too.” …Heath Roy Chapman