Published February 2, 2008
Our founding generation was a remarkable group at an auspicious time. Men like Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Paine, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, George Washington, and Alexander Hamilton were faced with extraordinary decisions and demonstrated remarkable judgment and foresight.
As we debate the issues of our present day, we often reference the founders' ideals as a context in which to frame our discussion. But are we seeing things in the proper perspective? Many naïvely claim a Judeo-Christian basis for an imagined national heritage, while the founders were commonly deists, rejecting a supernatural or revelatory God, relying instead on reason and personal experience to reveal the nature of God.
And remember that the founders were keen to ensure our new government was likewise free of fealty to religion proper, via the First Amendment's Establishment Clause, based no doubt on harrowing experiences by their British ancestors at the hands of the church but also guided by the Enlightenment philosophy of their time; see John Locke, David Hume.
By championing reason over the divine right of monarchs, our founders determined that we the people should, regardless of our birth or belief, sit at the highest places of decision in our nation and have a voice to decide our own course and guide our own destiny. It is only if we zealously guard our republic's democratic privileges with that same reason that we will preserve them in the face of an increasingly powerful sectarian and authoritarian faction.
We'll advocate for tolerance, watch out for that which encroaches on self-determination, and do our best to expose false frames. I know we'll sometimes disagree, but let's at least agree to keep to reasoned debate and restrain ourselves from ad hominem attacks and insults.