Stem Tide Of Historical Stupidity
Flowing From Religious Right
From: "Doug Harper"
To: "Positive Atheism" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Sent: July 15, 2002 1:36 PM
Subject: Fwd: letter to the editor
A couple of years ago I read Rob Boston's article about the bogus "Founding Fathers" quotes perpetrated by WallBuilders, Inc., and others. I point them out wherever I can, and since I live in a deeply conservative Christian community, opportunities are not wanting.
Recently I sent this letter to the editor (forwarded message attached) to the local Sunday Newspaper. I work for another newspaper in the same chain. The letter was printed, somewhat excerpted, but the editors saw fit to identify my workplace while publishing it (something not generally done to other writers). As a result, my boss is getting angry phone calls from as far away as Texas. I'm beginning to wonder if my job is in jeopardy.
Anyway, I'm not an atheist myself, but I do appreciate your putting out information to try to stem the tide of historical stupidity that flows from the religious right, and flows over the historically ignorant American populace.
Dona Fisher in her July 7 "Sunday's Guest" column perpetuates one of the most unkillable lies in American history: that George Washington ever said, "It is impossible to rightly govern the world without God and the Bible."
I defy her to show me where, in any writing by Washington, this appears. Nobody can. No credit for quoting a secondary source, Dona; you have to go read Washington's actual words.
Which I highly recommend to the Bible-blinded. You'll soon see how inconsistent the quote is with what Washington really said and wrote.
Washington was no less a separationist than Madison and Jefferson. He'd had first-hand experience with the problem. As commander in chief, Washington outlawed the New England regiments' "Pope's Day" as offensive to his Catholic soldiers. In 1777 he opposed a congressional plan to appoint brigade chaplains in the Continental Army.
"Among many other weighty objections to the Measure," he wrote to John Hancock (then president of Congress), "it has been suggested, that it has a tendency to introduce religious disputes into the Army, which above all things should be avoided, and in many instances would compel men to a mode of Worship which they do not profess."
Don't believe every pro-religion quote that is thrown at you. There are a raft of bogus quotes out there that are supposed to prove that America was founded as a "Christian nation."
Christian historical revisionist David Barton of WallBuilders Inc. invented and then spread a great many counterfeit quotations by Madison ("We have staked the future of the American civilization not on the power of government, but on the capacity of Americans to abide by the Ten Commandments of God") and others and kept on spreading them long after it was shown that these quotations cannot be found in any known writings or archives.
Barton himself finally asked his followers to stop using them, but still the fake words spread and now they have been read into the Congressional Record by one ignoramus or another in support of one or another pro-Christian bill.
As for "In God We Trust," the title of Fisher's column, it got inscribed on the money only after a coalition of Protestant church groups failed to rewrite the Constitution to "indicate that this is a Christian nation." They failed in Congress and in the states, but amongst their supporters was a director of the U.S. Mint during the Civil War. After getting Congress to grant him the power to control the design of the coinage, he promptly Christianized America's cash.
Not all Christians approved. Theodore Roosevelt (certainly no fan of atheists) wrote that "to put such a motto on coins ... is in effect irreverence, which comes dangerously close to sacrilege." He sought to remove it when the currency was redesigned under his presidency, but he had to back down under political pressure from the church people.
From: "Positive Atheism" <email@example.com>
To: "Doug Harper"
Subject: Re: letter to the editor
Date: August 08, 2002 5:41 PM
Historical stupidity? No, I don't think this is anything short of historical arrogance, since I can identify a wilful decision to commit falsehood at just about every level, from the leaders cooking up phony data, to the rank-and-file trusting only their own kind totie poit whereaotir totie klklkl.
What they do is they win by intimidation. They don't have a case in the forum of discussion, so they intimidate you for holding unorthodox opinions. It comes from Fundamentalism, which comes from lazy thinking.
At least one of the the alleged "phony quotes" in the Boston piece has come under scrutiny. (Would this be a phony phony quote?)
We are also finding a few of the all-time favorite Freethought quotes are likewise suspect. We have long posted "phony quotes" at the bottom of an individual's section in the Big List of Quotations (Madison, Falwell, etc.). However, we now find ourselves having to warn our readers to stop using some of their favorites. Well, if we're going to openly point the finger at Barton, we need to consider the three hidden fingers and where they're pointing. Thus, keep on the lookout and check our web site for updates. It's reached a point where we might just start a whole "phony quotes" page, though I don't want to give anybody any ideas!
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