It’s Even Worse When You Don’t Bother to Get the Quote Right

True story! Ask Dave Spiering. He's got the quote to prove it.

I don’t understand what people’s intentions are when they hold up the beliefs of individual Founders to prop up their arguments. Sure, these factoids are relevant from time to time. However, way too many people use them in the manner of “Founding Father X said (something), therefore we should (something),” as if these folks were infallible.

An example is in a recent Dave Spiering letter, in which he claims that America’s partisan bickering can be easily cured by everyone being True Christians™. Good idea! I bet that being identical to one another is sure to smooth out any tensions. That would probably work with any religion, though, and not just Spiering’s particular flavor of Christianity. It probably would work just as well if everyone became Scientologists, or Greens, or a species of hardy seabird. I digress though.

To back up his point, he misquotes John Adams, who he claims to have said that America was made for Christian people. Mr. Adams actually said, “our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people.” Nice sleight-of-hand there to excuse non-Christian religions, Mr. Spiering! However, the real quote still spells doom for the moral and non-religious people, no?

My fellow debate-lovers and quote-droppers are probably writhing in their seats right now. “But wait! Most of the Founders were non-Christian deists! Even Mr. Adams got some zingers ripping on religion! One time he said, ‘This would be the best of all possible worlds, if there were no religion in it.’ Then there’s Thomas Paine and Benjamin Franklin…” and blah blah blah.

I think these quotes are, by and large, irrelevant. Patrick Henry said “give me liberty or give me death” during a time in his life when he owned 65 slaves. Patrick Henry’s 18th century ideas of liberty simply won’t fly in the 21st. I doubt there are many 18th century anythings that would.

Here are the only words of the Founders that matter: the ones that they bothered to commit to the U.S. Constitution. Back then it was the most radical thing out there. It said the people could govern themselves, without deferring to a king, and God isn’t even mentioned once. The closest thing we have is the freedom of religion bit, which implies that no, you don’t even have to defer to a god.

Not only are America’s cherished freedoms not dependent on Christianity, I would argue that America holds these freedoms in spite of it. We are free to view nothing as divine- not kingly authority, not gods, and not even out-of-context quotes from Founding Fathers.


10 Responses to “It’s Even Worse When You Don’t Bother to Get the Quote Right”

  1. 1 J.A. Scrambles-Ashmole, Bart.
    December 28, 2010 at 4:33 pm

    Still chortling merrily at that “a species of hardy
    seabird” phrase.

  2. December 29, 2010 at 3:04 am

    You are right, Johnnyk,

    And what always amuses and confounds me on the subject is the persistence of ROYALTY in Great Britain. It’s the strength of a powerful cultural meme bolstered by lots and lots of tourism dollars. The Royals are Britain’s Disneyland. Just marvel with me at people who will bear considerable expense, endure breathing bad air in an aluminum tube with a hundred strangers, chance schedule delays and live out of suitcases for a week or two just to see the pomp and circumstance, the palace, the soldiers in tall furry hats, the occasional carriage parade with limp-wristed waves! It’s all based on the concept that some people are better than others because of the (inbred) womb from which they came!

    Ecce homo. And long live representative democracy!


  3. 4 J.A. Scrambles-Ashmole, Bart.
    January 2, 2011 at 12:31 am

    I could have sworn I read this wondrous posting a second time, online in the Joplin Globe this morning. Obviously, that mescaline I took back in ’77 is having its way with me again.

  4. 5 Calvinist of the Ozarks
    January 14, 2011 at 3:59 am

    Yes I’m back.

    Another John Adams quote:

    “The general principles upon which the Fathers achieved independence were the general principles of Christianity…I will avow that I believed and now believe that those general principles of Christianity are as eternal and immutable as the existence and the attributes of God.”
    [June 28, 1813; Letter to Thomas Jefferson]

  5. 7 Calvinist of the Ozarks
    January 14, 2011 at 4:15 am

    I forgot something:


    And also, I hope you had a happy, wonderful day, and that Fatty did too.


  6. 8 Calvin and Luther Can Kick Your Atheist Behind.
    January 14, 2011 at 4:59 am

    Oh please, you and your evil Cut and Paste Minions don’t
    frighten Calvin or Luther. Pfttttttttt! HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! And tell
    Blubber Butt good night for me. And why was my name Calvinist of
    the Ozarks in the last post? I have no idea. But I do know it is
    good for Calvin and Luther to be “Kicking Your Atheist

    • January 14, 2011 at 5:39 am

      …didn’t you come in here with a copy/paste quote?

      I don’t remember why you changed your name, but you did. This isn’t the Globe’s comment section. Please limit your name changes, otherwise you’ll just languish in the mod que.

      I may leave you in there anyway because STOP MAKING FUN OF MY GODDAMN DOG

  7. 10 Calvin and Luther Can Kick Your Atheist Behind.
    January 15, 2011 at 1:12 am

    Please clean up your mouth before Luther hurls a bar of Lava soap your direction.

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