30 November 2010

A history lesson

"Unlike so many of their predecessors and contemporaries, the first liberals treated disagreement and discord about the highest good as a given and then proposed that civil peace in a deeply divided society could best be established and maintained by excluding as much as possible the most divisive questions – metaphysical questions – from political life. Citizens would still have strongly held views about the highest good, but they would no longer presume that their neighbors or the political community as a whole would collectively endorse those views."

A curious notion. I wonder who proposed that concept.

Ahh yes...

Again, it's no wonder that religious zealots with a revisionist history of the founding of this country revile Jefferson with a passion. I have yet to see a proof that other Constitutional positions were explicitly evangelical as is often claimed either, but Jefferson's free exercise and establishment positions from the Virginia Constitution is poorly regarded for more obvious reasons. Namely that it stands in direct contrast to that vision of American history.

There are few things that really should be regarded as public sphere debates to be had out in political disputes. And there are any number of foolish regulations and laws considered by "well-meaning" conservatives or liberals that meddle with powers they couldn't possibly understand. But the idea that religious belief should alone inform those meddlings and command the same of others is especially pernicious because it is decidedly illiberal and dysfunctional. It is entirely unworkable in a democratic society with considerably different views on what even very similar religious perspectives (the vast number of Christian sects present, with some minor metaphysical perspectives like those of Jews, Muslims, even atheists to consider as well) would demand in the political and public sphere of life.

No sane reading of history would conclude then that a society of free men who often escaped various forms of religious persecution that extended for generations would have set up a theocratic enclave of their own trappings to command the peculiar religious beliefs that they themselves did not even share completely and fully of all in their dominion, but this is apparently what we're supposed to believe is the case with America.
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