Who Is Fisher Ames?
Tim Callow

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These letters are posted as-is to show precisely how we received them.

 

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From: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
To: "Callow Family"
Subject: Re: WebMaster:_Positive_Atheism_Index
Date: November 29, 2001 4:46 AM

You might be talking about the fellow who, as a staunch Calvinist, opposed the American Founders, arguing that Liberty leads to immorality and the corruption of Christianity. This notion is based in the Calvinistic teaching of Total Depravity of the human soul, which, according to Calvinistic dogma, means that even human behavior can never be anything other than completely wicked -- unless the humans in question are placed under the strict rule of a Calvinistically interpreted Biblical law.

Fortunately for us, the past 200 or so years of history have shown him to have been in error. So wide from the mark was he, in regards to whether humans are able to govern themselves, that most formerly Calvinistic sects have since modernized, and what few remain must strain themselves to even present the Calvinistic position -- much less argue their case in the public forum. When Jefferson spoke of those who would destroy the protections given to us by our Constitution, he most certainly had Fisher Ames in mind.

The flaws of Calvinism are that if all humans are depraved, then how can any human government be superior to any other? Another flaw is shown by asking the question, "How do you know that this is the Word of God?" In other words, if all are depraved, then how can we trust the assessment of this or that theologian when it comes to determining what is good (that is, what is of God)? We really can't. I am so utterly depraved, says the Calvinist, that I need for God to personally enlighten me to the truth. However, if I were that depraved, then it seems that I wouldn't recognize the truth it if it walked up and slapped me in the face.

Thus it becomes necessary to allow for at least some human competency when it comes to moral questions. And if any competency can be allowed, then what is the criteria for determining just who is and is not competent to judge, for example, whether or not this or that oracle is genuinely of God. Sprinkle this foundation with a liberal dose of the idea that Satan comes down and deceives people about such matters and one can become quite paranoid, unable to trust even oneself, much less anybody else (particularly God). But we are commanded to trust God nonetheless, and so we are, by believing Calvinism, being placed in an impossible situation.

No wonder such thinkers as Ingersoll routinely described Calvinists as the most miserable of humans. Calvinism, to me, is the very antithesis of Jeffersonian Democracy, of the Human Liberty espoused by Franklin, Paine, Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, and all the leaders of the movement that ended up winning the American Revolution.

When Jefferson said he had "sworn upon the altar of god, eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man" (his lowercase), he was speaking against a certain specific group of clergymen who wished to establish a Christian (Calvinistic) rule in America, usurping the self-rule that Liberty gives to those who work and fight hard enough to accomplish establishing her way of life as the most superior form of human government.

Most certainly he had in mind clergymen such as Fisher Ames, who was one of the most brilliant opponents of what America is all about that America has ever seen. I would venture to say that so competently did Fisher Ames argue against human competency that he ended up refuting his own position!

Cliff Walker
Positive Atheism Magazine
Six years of service to
    people with no reason to believe

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From: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
To: "tim callow"
Subject: Re: fisher ames
Date: November 29, 2001 4:23 PM

How could he have written the First Amendment if he was opposed to it as it currently reads? He did move a version that restricted only the establishment of a state church, but it failed for obvious reasons: the primary architects felt that any entanglement of government with religion was wrong (see Madison's vetoes in our Big List of Quotations).

Only one clergyman signed the Declaration of Independence. I know this because he was John Witherspoon, my ancestor. This has been a source of pride in our family for generations: we are descendants of the only clergyman to sign the Declaration of Independence. This is a pretty wild claim considering that in 1776, only about 17 percent of the citizens were church members. Where, then, would all these clergymen have come from if so few went to church. Also, back then, for a clergyman to get into politics was rare. It was even forbidden in the first Constitution of the state of Texas for a clergyman to hold public office.

Why do you guys do this? What's the point? Do you think that if you lie often enough that eventually some people will believe it? Why do you lie about American history of all things? What is it that you hope to accomplish in doing this? And what are you trying to say in sending this material to us? Do you do this simply because it's fun to degrade certain classes of people?

Cliff Walker
Positive Atheism Magazine
Six years of service to
    people with no reason to believe

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From: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
To: "tim callow"
Subject: Re: fisher ames
Date: November 30, 2001 12:39 AM

Interesting dodge. Very original. I've never had a Fundamentalist Christian refuse to acknowledge something like this before. Such Christians don't often simply change the subject like this. They are not prone to turning around and just questioning my credentials to speak and to look up historical information, rather than addressing a challenge that I've presented to them -- particularly when the challenge is that they tell the truth when writing to our Forum. I commend you for your originality.

I commend you for having silenced yet another of your ideological opponents. Isn't it great not to have to hear things that you don't want to hear? I won't even bother explaining the 505-filter bit to you. I'll just say that I don't like liars to begin with, but I especially loathe those who practice the deceitfulness that you are here practicing with me.

Have a nice life because as far as I can tell, it's the only opportunity that we ever get to live.

Cliff Walker
Positive Atheism Magazine
Six years of service to
    people with no reason to believe

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From: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
To: "tim callow"
Subject: Re: washington farewell address well some of it ussr constitution a challange to ch Date: November 30, 2001 9:39 PM

I'm sorry, but you will need to write your response in something that more closely resembles the English language, as I have no clue what that first run-on sentence is saying. (Run-on paragraph? it has neither a capital letter at the beginning nor punctuation until the end!)

However, the United States, though the first modern nation to have a godless constitution, is no longer the only modern nation to have established its authority in the people rather than some phantom, Imaginary Friend such as the nation from which the original United States seceded: England, whose land is all owned by the Queen and whose authority is allegedly derived by permission of the deity of the Anglican Church (but no longer the Roman Catholic Church). In fact, the idea of a godless Constitution has been so wildly successful that even the Soviet Union went with that idea. This is what Marx and Engles tried to do: take a good idea and make it better. Unfortunately, the Communist regimes operated in the name of atheism but not according to the methods of atheism, thereby turning their atheism into something resembling a Fundamentalist religion. The very problem with the Soviet Union was that they tried to play the atheism game without playing according to atheism's rules. Instead, they tried to play the atheism game by the Church's rules. But the very reason for preferring the atheism game at all, is because atheism's rules are so much superior to the Church's rules. Thus, the Soviet Union ended up doing a great deal of destruction by playing atheism's by the Church's authoritarian rules rather than letting atheism, which is based entirely in humanity and in nothing else, develop her own human-based game-plan.

Also, the United States Constitution did much more than simply forbid the state-established church: the Constitution forbids all state-and-religion entanglement. (This means that your friend Fisher Ames lost the argument: his version that merely forbade the establishing of a state religion was rejected, as were several other proposals with similar wording. Jumping up and down about it now will not change that fact.)

This was later reduced by Lemon v. Kurtzman to forbid only excessive enanglement, but the Constitution itself forbids all entanglement between state and religion. If you don't believe me, I (once again) suggest reading James Madison's veto messages, included in our Big List of Quotations. Since Madison was the primary architect of the Constitution, I would trust his working opinion of what it means over the opinion of any other.

Ah, but of course, I waste my breath: not only are you incapable of knocking off a complete sentence in English, but you would stoop to arguing that because the Soviet Union practiced the separation of religion from government, therefore the United States did not -- or is it, because the Soviet Union practiced the separation of religion from government, therefore the United States ought not? -- either way, you've got your head up your ass, and I don't really want to waste any more of my time dealing with you. Your latest letter got through only because I got distracted and never got around to putting up the 505 filter that I said, in my previous letter, that I would install.

Have a nice life. As far as I can tell, this is the only life we get to lead. Thus, I will spend mine trying with all that I can muster to treat my fellow humans with dignity. This would particularly involve telling them the truth as far as I know it, working very hard to see to it that I have the best chance of having the truth to tell in the first place, and admitting that I don't know -- or am not sure, or only think, or strongly suspect, or seriously doubt -- whatever the case may be.

Cliff Walker
Positive Atheism Magazine
Six years of service to
    people with no reason to believe

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