Saturday, October 26, 2013

Phil's Opening Statement (Marshall-Zuckerman II)

(Continued from my opening statement.)

I agree!

Sorry to disappoint you. 

There was a lot there, David, that I would not take issue with.  And I'm happy to follow up on what that might be. 

First, thank yous.  Thank you to David Marshall for reaching out and inviting me here.  Thanks to David Timms, for helping with the moderation and all the preparation.  Thanks to Brian Harwick, and everybody else.  And I guess, thank you, for inviting me into your sanctuary.  I think it says a lot, and I really appreciate it.  And I think it's wonderful if we can get to talk to each other.  So I appreciate the chance.

Let me also further acknowledge -- David quoted me in one of my books -- there's a lot that I admire and respect about Christianity.  And if I had to pick three things that I think of when I think of Christianity, I would think number one of love.  I would think, two, peace, or non-violence.  And I would think three, forgiveness.  I think these are absolutely core elements of Christianity, I hope.  And I think they should definitely be at the heart of any civil society.  And I absolutely agree that Christianity has contributed much to civilization, in terms of moral progress.  And there's no question that Christians give more today in terms of charity, and volunteering, and service, than secular Americans. 

And in fact I would argue, I think, that this is a false premise -- Secular Humanism or Christianity, as a foundation for civil society.  Why do we have to pick?  I would think it would be wise to take the best from each: the best of Christianity, the best of Secular Humanism, to have as good a society as we can.  So I don't think it's an option we really have to face. 

But if I'm pushed, I have to choose, I'll go with Secular Humanism.  And to explain why, let me go back 200 years. 

1797.  The following declaration was proclaimed.  Quote:

"The government of the United States is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion."

Now that was not Richard Dawkins beaming himself in a time machine back to 1797.  That was not Christopher Hitchens.  That was the president of the United States at the time, John Adams, who issued that legislation, Article 11 of the Treaty of Tripoli, brought to the US Senate -- this is only ten years after the ratification of the Constitution -- and that declaration, that piece of legislation drafted by John Adams, was passed by the US Senate unanimously. 

Think about the Senate passing anything unanimously. 

Now you might say, "Oh, Phil, it was the start of things, they were probably passing all kinds of stuff." 

That's actually not the case. 

There had been 339 votes up to this point.  And of those 339, only three had passed unanimously, this being the third.  So only two previous. 

Wow!  The United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion, and our Senate, our founding fathers passed that unanimously. 


I mean, it's kind of funny-- they were mostly Christians!  I say mostly, but they were of varying hues.  Some were more deists, some were different types of Christians.

Why would a bunch of Christians creating a new society ratify that proclamation unanimously.  They wrote in their Declaration of Independence that there's a Creator who endows His creation with certain inalienable rights!  And yet, once freedom was won from England, once it was time to -- OK, we've declared our independence, now we gotta fight.  Now we've won our independence, now it's time to create a new society. 

How often does that happen in the world?  Where people sit together -- usually nations kind of come about over centuries in weird ways.  Here were people sitting at a table: "We're going to create a new society.  Us!  Let's do it." 

And what did they do?

They kept Christianity out of the Constitution.  They kept it out of the Bill of Rights.  And they declared, in the Treaty of Tripoli, that this is not in any sense founded on Christianity. 

The Constitution has no reference to Jesus.  No reference to the gospels.  No reference to Scripture. 

The Bill of Rights contains no reference to Jesus.  No reference to God.  No reference to the Scriptures.  Why?  Why would they do this? 

Well, for one thing, our founding fathers knew very well the damage that can come when you privilege one religion over another when creating a society. 

They remembered what happened in Europe.  For example, the Thirty Years War, 1618-1648, nearly all of Europe killing one another over whose version of Christianity was the right one, Protestants against Catholics.  Two Christ-centered faiths or traditions fighting for thirty years: somewhere between three and eleven million dead.  And if you know, the population was far smaller then.  That's a huge number.  In fact, the male population of Germany alone was reduced by half, in a thirty years war over Christ followers, killing Christ followers.

One hundred years before that, in France, Protestants and Catholics fought the French Wars of Religion in the late 1500s -- between two and four million dead. 

And that's just Christians slaughtering Christians.  You add the killings of Jews at the hands of both Protestants and Catholics, as well as religious wars over the Holy Land between Christians and Muslims, millions more dead -- our Founding Fathers wanted to avoid that. 

They saw what happened in the early colonies. 

The Puritans did create an explicitly Christian society in New England.  And what did they do?  Dissenters were expelled.  Roger Williams was expelled.  Ann Hutcheson was expelled.  If you didn't agree with their version of Christianity, you were executed.  Literally: four Quakers executed in Boston, in 1660.  Their crime?  Wrong kind of Christianity. 

So we get this Treaty of Tripoli. 

Our founders knew that if you privilege one religion over another, your society will be divided, and they wanted to avoid that. 

What did they want to establish? 


Democracy!  Government for and by the people!  Government by the consent of the governed! 

It's my argument tonight -- at least the first of them -- that civil society cannot be good, cannot be healthy, cannot be free, if it's not founded on a bedrock of democracy.

You can't have a healthy civil society in North Korea.  You can't have a healthy civil society in Stalinist Russia.  You can't have a healthy civil society under fascism.  You must have democracy!  It's a necessary condition of a good civil society. 

We, the people.  We, the people!  You can't have a more secular assertion. 

It's just us!  No reference to a God.  No reference to a deity.  No reference to a devil.  We.  Us.  We the people. 

Democracy is not taught in the Christian Scriptures.  Jesus does not preach democracy.  Paul does not preach democracy.  In fact, if I may -- sorry, hope it's OK if a heathen like myself quotes the Scriptures -- Paul taught, "The authorities that exist have been established by God.  And those in power should be obeyed.  Do not rebel against those in authority, because God has put them there."  That's from Romans 13. 

Well clearly our Founding Fathers didn't agree with Romans Chapter 13.  They didn't think King George ought to be obeyed.  They didn't think King George was placed there by God.  And they rebelled!  In violation of that Scripture. 

And they created a society based not on Christian doctrine, but this-worldly, secular values, secular principles, and secular ideals. 

In the Bill of Rights, they spoke of Freedom of Speech.  I don't find that in my New Testament.

They spoke of Freedom of the Press.  I don't find that in my Bible.

Freedom of Assembly!  Freedom of Religion!  No unreasonable searches and seizures!  The right to bare arms!  This is the blueprint of a healthy civil society, as we are the benefiters of.  It's secular principles -- non Scriptural, non-Biblical, just some guys sitting around saying, "How do we want to have a good society."  They created this wonderful country. 

And so my first argument is, you can have no civil society without democracy.  Democracy is not an explicit Christian value, but a secular value: something created by humans, for humans.

I was never taught about the Treaty of Tripoli in school.  I'm glad I know about it now.  And if there's one thing I can get across to you tonight, is that I hope you'll go back and read it, and just ponder what that means for our Founding Fathers to affirm that unanimously. 

Now, I have philosophical reasons why I think Secular Humanism is the better choice.  I have plenty of sociological reasons.  But I think I'll stop with my political reason, and we can get into the other material in the Q and A.  And I do thank you for listening.  I hope I haven't offended.  Thank you. 

Next: Initial Rebuttals.


BillT said...

"The government of the United States is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion."

Whoever said it was? This continues to be one of the biggest strawmen ever. That notwithstanding the separation of church and state was part of the Constitution and put there by a group of people that were predominantly Christian. The Bill of Rights he so admires written by men that were predominantly Christian. And the ideas in that Bill of Rights developed in one place and one place only. Predominantly Christian societies both here and in Europe. And the democracy he so touts was also established by a group of people that were predominantly Christian. And the origin of that modern form of democracy has it's origins in Christian Europe.

No, America isn't a "Christian society". However, most everything that makes it great can trace it's origin to Christians and Christian thought.

David B Marshall said...

Yeah, I'm working on the rest of the transcript today, and am getting that feeling of detachment again -- who is he arguing against?

domics said...

Then Dr Zuckerman praises the constitution of the United States for having introduced a clear separation of church and state and for having created a secular democratic government which, he says, is the basis for a just, free, advanced country.
Where the problem lies in all this? That the countries Dr Zuckerman judges as most secular and advanced are countries where there is a state religion and there is not a separation of church and state (Denmark, Iceland, Norway, Finland, Sweden until 2000). For example in the Constitutional Act of Denmark we can read: "The Evangelical Lutheran Church shall be the Established Church of Denmark, and as such shall be supported by the State."
As a matter of fact the presence of a state religion did not prevent these countries to become more advanced (according Zuckerman) than the United States where there is a separation of state and church. What could prevent me from attributing the progress of those countries to their (Christian) state religion?

David B Marshall said...

Excellent point. I was merely going to say, yeah, but if these folks were all Christians or deists, as Zuckerman says, why should Secular Humanism get the credit? But despite a couple years in Denmark, Phil is still very American. What country are you from, Domics? I'd like to credit you for that point.