How can 250 words address the sanitized, wishful, Christianized, primary-school version of America presented by July McDonald-Smith (“An Independence Day gift from the pulpit,” The Right View, July 6)?
1 — A Judeo-Christian background has no monopoly on acting righteously. Other religious approaches, personal honor and integrity, and the Golden Rule all provide a guide to an ethical life.
2 — The Founding Fathers accomplished great things, but they were not “deeply religious.” Jefferson was an agnostic; Washington’s biography suggests the same for him. Many Founders were slave-owners; most delegitimized Native Americans; nearly all killed humans or condoned or encouraged it (militarily).
3 — In founding, the Fathers relied mostly upon political philosophers of the Age of Reason and the Age of Enlightenment, not the Bible.
4 — The fragments of “religious” writing contained in founding materials represent a limited, constrained world, especially for the general public. There was little diversity, little literacy, little breadth of knowledge and experience; readily available scripture became a common form of parlance.
5 — As for our current “fallen” nation, rampant greed and materialism, the lack of any code of ethics, and the complacent, non-exertional life of feeding our faces with too much food and our brains with too much electronics go far as an explanation.
6 — And, yes, Jesus did have a wonderful code of ethics. Let’s then recall some of his admonitions: keep Caesar and god separate; do not make a public show of prayer, but pray privately (“in a closet” per New Testament).