Let Their Words
Speak For Themselves!
I recently read a response you wrote about the religion of Lincoln. I have two points of contention.
While Kennedy was described as a devout theist, this is not the case. He questioned his faith and was warned by a priest that he was bordering on atheism. He also complained that his prep school was too religious. He had apprehensions about spending a tour in Europe with younger brother Bobby because he knew that Bobby was devoutly Catholic. It was is true that later in JFK's life he became more religious.
As for Lincoln and all the other fathers of our country, I believe they are done a disservice when called Christian or when called would-be atheists in modern times. There are intellectuals today (even if it bothers you) who accept God, althouygh usually in a watered-down context. These men lived in their own times and were products of the thinking of those times. Let their beliefs and lack of beliefs speak for themself and nothing more.
From: "Positive Atheism" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
To: "Bobby Fisher"
Subject: Re: Lincoln/Kennedy and religion
Date: November 09, 2003 10:10 PM
Interestingly, you say, "Let their beliefs speak for themself and nothing more," which I assume essentially means the same thing as, "Let their words speak for themselves." Okay, this is precisely what we do (except when expressing opinions in the opinion section): we showcase quotations from each gentleman. When we can, we also include quotations about each gentleman, statements made by those who knew him. After all, that's kinda what a "List of Quotations" is all about!
Whatever Kennedy was in his private life, publicly he was a Roman Catholic in good standing with his Church. Whatever Lincoln was in his private thoughts, in his public statements he frequently allowed his secretaries to have him invoke "God" in speech and letter (though he edited many of these, often toning down the "God" parts).
The whole point is this: Both men were politicians. This means that both men were required to sacrifice the true thoughts that were on their minds in favor of making statements that would wash with the widest array of the constituency as was humanly possible. Lincoln couldn't have led his country effectively without the support of everybody in the northern states, and this meant that his own views on many subjects had to remain unstated (or, better yet, committed to private letters; but, in Lincoln's case with religion, we really don't know what he truly thought, nor can we ever know).
I think the most religious President we've had in recent times (the past century) was Jimmy Carter. Interestingly, he was a Separationist in practice, even choosing to end his speeches by saying, "Thank you, and good-night."
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