Religion & State

Thomas Paine

Thomas Paine

“Let’s get serious: An American Green Revolution to end our oil addiction — to parallel Iran’s Green Revolution to end its theocracy — helps us, helps them and raises the odds that whoever wins the contest for power, there will have to be a reformer. What are we waiting for?”

~Thomas Friedman, New York Times, “The Green Revolution (s)”

Benjamin Franklin; Thomas Jefferson; John Adams; Thomas Paine; Frances Wright; Walt Whitman.  Simply a few names of visionary thinkers and activists who were more concerned with the affairs of this world than some fictitious imaginary world, country or nation in the sky.

Thomas Paine

“And here without anger or resentment I bid you farewell.  Sincerely wishing, that as men and christians, ye may always full and uninterruptedly enjoy every civil and religious right; and be, in your turn, the means of securing it to others; but that the example which ye have unwisely set, of mingling religion with politics, may be disavowed and reprobated by every inhabitant of America.” (To the Quakers, Common Sense)

“Soon after I had published the pamphlet ‘Common Sense,’ in America, I saw the exceeding probability that a revolution in the system of government would be followed by a revolution in the system of religion.” (The Age of Reason, 1794)

“I do not believe in the creed professed by. . .any church that I know of.  My own mind is my own church.” (The Age of Reason, 1794)

“Search not the book called the Scripture, which any human hand might make, but the Scripture called the creation.” (The Age of Reason, 1794)

“When opinions are free, either in matters of government or religion, truth will finally and powerfully prevail.”  (The Age of Reason, conclusion)

“When it shall be said in any country in the world, my poor are happy; neither ignorance nor distress is to be found among them; my jails are empty of prisoners, my streets of beggars; the aged are not in want, the taxes are not oppressive; the rational world is my friend, because I am the friend of its happiness: when these things can be said, then may that country boast its constitution and its government.”  (The Rights of Man, Part II, 1792)

“With respect to what are called denominations of religion, if every one is left to judge of its own religion, there is no such thing as a religion that is wrong; but if they are to judge of each other’s religion, there is no such thing as a religion that is right.”  (Rights of Man, Part I)

“Independence is my happiness, and I view things as they are, without regard to place or person; my country is the world, and my religion is to do good.”  (Rights of Man, Part II)

Benjamin Franklin

“I own, that to encourage the practice of remembering and repeating those wise sentences, I have sometimes quoted myself with great gravity.” (The Way to Wealth, or, Poor Richard’s Almanac, 1757)

“I grew convinced that truth, sincerity and integrity in dealings between person and person were of the utmost importance to the felicity of life; and I formed written resolutions, which still remain in my journal book, to practice them ever while I lived.  Revelation had indeed no weight with me.”  (The Autobiography, 1771-1789)

“I respected [all the religions in our country], though with different degrees of respect, as I found them more or less mixed with other articles, which, without any tendency to inspire, promote, or confirm morality, served principally to divide us, and make us unfriendly to one another.”  (The Autobiography)

Frances Wright

“A patriot [is] a lover of human liberty and human improvement, rather than a mere lover of the country in which he or she lives, or the tribe to which he or she belongs.” (Address, New Harmony Hall, Indiana, July 4, 1828)

“My friends, I am no Christian, in the sense usually attached to the word.  I am neither Jew nor Gentile, Muslim nor Theist; I am but a member of the human family, and would accept of truth by whomsoever offered–that truth which we can all find, if we will but seek–in things, not in words; in nature, not in human imagination; in our own hearts, not in temples made with hands.” (Lecture, New York, October, 1829–Walt Whitman may have been present)

“The true bible is the book of nature, the wisest teacher [is] the one who most plainly expounds it, the best priest our own conscience, and the most orthodox church a hall of science.  I look round doubtless upon people of many faiths. . .and yet, my friends, let us call ourselves by what names we will, are we not creatures occupying the same earth, and sharing the same nature. . .and can we not consider these as members of one family. . .?” (Lecture, New York, October, 1829)

Walt Whitman

“I have said that the soul is not more than the body; And I have said that the body is not more than the soul; And no one, not God, is greater to one than oneself is.” (Song of Myself, 48)

“Divine am I inside and out, and I make holy whatever I touch or am touched from. . .This head is more than churches or bibles or creeds.”  (Song of Myself, 24)

“My faith is the greatest of faiths and the least of faiths.” (Song of Myself, 43)

“The New World needs the poems of realities and science and of the democratic average and basic equality which shall be greater.  In the centre of all, and object of all, stands the Human Being, towards whose heroic and spiritual evolution poems and everything directly or indirectly tend, Old World or New.” (A Backward Glance O’er Travel’d Roads, preface to final 1891 edition of Leaves of Grass)

Thomas Jefferson

“This is a summary view of that religious slavery, under which a people have been willing to remain, who have lavished their lives and fortunes for the establishment of their civil freedom. . .

But our rulers can have authority over such natural rights only as we have submitted to them.  The rights of conscience we never submitted, we could not submit. . .

But it does me no injury for my neighbour to say there are twenty gods, or no god.  It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg. . .

Reason and free inquiry are the only effectual agents against error. . .

Is uniformity attainable?  Millions of innocent men, women, and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined, imprisoned; yet we have not advanced one inch towards uniformity.  What has been the effect of coercion?  To make one half the world fools, and the other half hypocrites.”  (”Religion.”  Notes on the State of Virginia, 1782)


The Christian State (Nation, World, Universe) Movement

No establishment this time. . .not yet. . .let us pray. . .speaking of prayer


Congressional Prayer Caucus  (and the battle over prayer)

-How are so many preachers being elected to public office?


“Religion Challenges Left and Right”  (E.J. Dionne, WAPOST)


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