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Christopherhays

Why aren’t there many Atheist Republicans?

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15 hours ago, Wertbag said:

I actually think Germany is very impressive, considering the state of the country in 1945, with millions dead, their cities in ruins, leadership gone, infrastructure destroyed and held for 45 years as the front of the cold war.  From that devastated condition they rebuilt to be the economic power of Europe.  Hard to think of any other country that has dragged itself back to the top from such a low point.

 

Japan is the only similar example, I think. IIRC they went from the bottom of GDP in the 1940s to second place by 1975. 

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I don't get all this fear of socialism.  It's not going to kill you for poor people to get healthcare.

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3 hours ago, Ro-bear said:

I don't get all this fear of socialism.  It's not going to kill you for poor people to get healthcare.

 

It's the slippery slope argument. If the government can provide health care for everyone, so the thinking goes, it can do anything else it wants, some of which may be nefarious. The idea is that something like the Soviet Gulag is not far behind. Or at least a large-scale Jonestown.

 

It's certainly true that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. 

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4 hours ago, Ro-bear said:

It's not going to kill you for poor people to get healthcare.

 

Nope. But it's gonna cost you a lot.

 

It's so typical that when something becomes too expensive and/or obsolete, instead of making it leaner and weeding out cumbersome regulation, politicians just suggest it should be 'free' ie tax-funded. And because resources still are limited, the gatekeeping method becomes something other than the ability to pay. Queues, usually. Some people die while they wait months or years for some big operation and some get better on their own. Doctors are also reluctant to make serious diagnoses because that would make you entitled to further, expensive inspections and treatments and it's gonna put a strain on their budget. You probably can't afford to opt for private care, either, because the taxation is so high.

 

Ok I take what I said back. It can actually kill you.

 

Isn't the same going on with college education in the US? Forgiving student loans is a common talking point nowadays. Make that available for everyone and you've essentially made college tax-funded, while the colleges can charge the students however much the students are able to take out loans.

In my country, the same applies to housing benefits. If you're poor enough, the state pays 80% of your rent up to 320€ per month, so the zero level is actually 400€, and apartment prices have become inflated.

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On 11/27/2019 at 3:38 PM, Blood said:

 

 

Just like "we're all immigrants," this notion that "the founders were Deists" or "the founders were Christian" is simplistic gobbledegook that muddles the issue instead of clarifying it. 

 

The people are the founders of the United States -- not a few select individuals whose letters (often privately communicated) can be quote-mined to harmonized to somebody's current political/social agenda. "The people" is inclusive of everyone from Baptists to atheists. What was "founded" in 1789 (actually re-founded) was a central government with broad taxation powers, a judiciary, and a small standing army. All 13 colonial governments had been "founded" prior to this. 

 

 

I will certainly grant that it's somewhat presuptuous of me to state that "the founders were deists." That said I would argue that subsuming the entire population of the country at the time of the founding as being integral to the formation of a new nation is likewise far too inclusive. As we all know, only a third of the country supported the revolution. If we refer to the entire population as founders, then there are almost no general statements we can make about them. Clearly those who supported the revolution were motivated by a certain set of consistent ideas, just as those who supported the new Constitution were likewise motivated by clearly codified ideas both official (e.g. the Declaration) and unofficial (e.g. the Federalist Papers). You seem to implicitly agree with me that there was a diversity of thought at the time of the founding. That alone speaks to my point that American nationalism does not require a belief in or allegiance to the Christian religion.

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4 hours ago, Ro-bear said:

I don't get all this fear of socialism.  It's not going to kill you for poor people to get healthcare.

 

Sure. But as I often say during political discussions among fellow ex-Christians: I am not my brother's keeper. If I were a Christian, I would be required to engage in selfless behavior in order to store up treasure for myself in heaven. As a non-Christian, I am under zero obligation to witness the suffering of a fellow human being, and lift a finger to help that person. I choose to exercise this freedom. If the hypothetical poor person in question is not a relative or friend of mine, then that person is not my concern and I can say with honesty that I am happy to walk away from that person even as he dies without healthcare. Call me cruel, heartless, sociopathic, or anything else. But please don't seize my money in order to help someone whom I have opted not to help.

 

Traditional conservatives often state that socialists are generous with other peoples' money rather than their own. I believe this is true, but I'm not willing to even concede the premise that I am somehow required to care for other humans. To borrow from the Jerusalem Council, why are you willing to place a yoke around other citizens' necks that we ex-Christians ourselves could not bear? When you ask me to provide free healthcare for poor people with whom I have no prior relationship, you might as well be asking me to tithe to the Christian church.

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5 minutes ago, Bhim said:

 

I will certainly grant that it's somewhat presuptuous of me to state that "the founders were deists." That said I would argue that subsuming the entire population of the country at the time of the founding as being integral to the formation of a new nation is likewise far too inclusive. As we all know, only a third of the country supported the revolution. If we refer to the entire population as founders, then there are almost no general statements we can make about them. Clearly those who supported the revolution were motivated by a certain set of consistent ideas, just as those who supported the new Constitution were likewise motivated by clearly codified ideas both official (e.g. the Declaration) and unofficial (e.g. the Federalist Papers). You seem to implicitly agree with me that there was a diversity of thought at the time of the founding. That alone speaks to my point that American nationalism does not require a belief in or allegiance to the Christian religion.

 

Yes, as I wrote: "'The people' is inclusive of everyone from Baptists to atheists." These are the actual founders of the new central government. The public or private opinions of their representatives in Philadelphia should be irrelevant, as the people themselves assumed at the time. But over the years, the concept of a few individuals being "the founders" took hold, and the legal tradition began to interpret the personal opinions of these few individuals as being the basis for law. 

 

The only person present at the 1787 Convention who was a Deist (as far as I'm aware) was Benjamin Franklin. Can you cite others? 

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3 minutes ago, Blood said:

 

Yes, as I wrote: "'The people' is inclusive of everyone from Baptists to atheists." These are the actual founders of the new central government. The public or private opinions of their representatives in Philadelphia should be irrelevant, as the people themselves assumed at the time. But over the years, the concept of a few individuals being "the founders" took hold, and the legal tradition began to interpret the personal opinions of these few individuals as being the basis for law. 

 

The only person present at the 1787 Convention who was a Deist (as far as I'm aware) was Benjamin Franklin. Can you cite others? 

 

I certainly can. Without even Googling, two examples that come to mind are Washington and Jefferson. Jefferson's views on Christianity can be fairly clearly inferred from the Jefferson Bible. In the case of Washington we know almost exactly where he stood, since he attended church (Episcopal, I believe) with his wife, and declined to receive communion since this would be inconsistent with his lack of belief. I'm sure that quite a few of the delegates, including most from the Southern states, were explicitly Christian. It seems remarkable to me that their belief did not translate into any explicit statement of belief in Jesus in the final product of the Constitutional Convention.

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32 minutes ago, Bhim said:

. As a non-Christian, I am under zero obligation to witness the suffering of a fellow human being, and lift a finger to help that person

And you aren't being asked to. Your only part of this transaction is to pay your taxes. Having completed that transaction then its not your money, its the governments, and they have vastly different considerations as to how and where they spend their money. 

The government is meant to care about its people equally and is meant to consider investment in social structure and well-being for the benefit of society. You don't need to care or understand where all the money goes, and you certainly have no control over it. 

 

There is a valid argument to say America cannot afford anything more with 20 trillion debt and no sign of getting that under control, or that the medical care system is so bloated and expensive that getting millions more people covered would be financially infeasible, but that would be why people are asking for a system overhaul and a change to financial priorities. From the outside I don't see the political traction required for such sweeping changes. 

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9 hours ago, Wertbag said:

And you aren't being asked to. Your only part of this transaction is to pay your taxes. Having completed that transaction then its not your money, its the governments, and they have vastly different considerations as to how and where they spend their money. 

The government is meant to care about its people equally and is meant to consider investment in social structure and well-being for the benefit of society. You don't need to care or understand where all the money goes, and you certainly have no control over it.

 

What you're discussing here is largely political theory concerning the proper role of government. And I'm happy to have that discussion. In particular, "you certainly have no control over it" is precisely the grievance of conservatives which leads us to wish to minimize the role of the federal government. But first it's important to settle the issue of enforced Christian-style altruism.

 

Case in point: you argue that the government's role includes social investment. I would argue for a more limited role: namely protecting people from each other, and from external threats. Now, I would not take a libertarian standpoint here; I think there is plenty of room for public goods such as clean water, functioning roads, consumer protections, etc. So while we would probably disagree on the topic of social structure, I think we agree on what you say about well-being for the benefit of society. Which leads us back to the question of what to do about the South American who's daughter died in a puddle while they attempted to illegally cross the border (or any of the other emotional appeals the left raises during these discussions). I don't know this man or his daughter, I don't care that either of them died, and I don't want the government to expend any resources to prevent it from happening again. (As an aside, I don't think most liberals care either, but the question of liberal sincerity is also a separate topic.) Presumably you disagree with me on this.

 

And if so, we've returned once again to the moral question of whether or not we are obligated to help our fellow man. In any debate about whether a government's resources should be used to help non-citizens of that government's country (i.e. refugees and illegal immigrants), I think this question is going to be inescapable, and has to be addressed.

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12 hours ago, Bhim said:

 

. But please don't seize my money in order to help someone whom I have opted not to help.

 

 

My money gets "seized" for things I would not spend it on.  You are subject to the same phenomenon.

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12 hours ago, ToHellWithMe said:

 

Nope. But it's gonna cost you a lot.

 

 

It already costs us a lot.

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2 hours ago, Ro-bear said:

My money gets "seized" for things I would not spend it on.  You are subject to the same phenomenon.

Would you say that no form or extent of taxation amounts to intolerable seizure? This was, after all, one basis of the revolution.

 

Also, I would be interested on your thoughts regarding socially enforced Christian-style altruism.

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14 hours ago, Bhim said:

 

I certainly can. Without even Googling, two examples that come to mind are Washington and Jefferson. Jefferson's views on Christianity can be fairly clearly inferred from the Jefferson Bible. In the case of Washington we know almost exactly where he stood, since he attended church (Episcopal, I believe) with his wife, and declined to receive communion since this would be inconsistent with his lack of belief. I'm sure that quite a few of the delegates, including most from the Southern states, were explicitly Christian. It seems remarkable to me that their belief did not translate into any explicit statement of belief in Jesus in the final product of the Constitutional Convention.

 

If you can find a quote from Washington and Jefferson where they explicitly state "I'm a Deist," I would be very interested in that. 

 

Also, Jefferson was not present at the 1787 Convention. I specifically asked for Deists present at the Convention. 

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2 hours ago, Bhim said:

Would you say that no form or extent of taxation amounts to intolerable seizure? This was, after all, one basis of the revolution.

 

Also, I would be interested on your thoughts regarding socially enforced Christian-style altruism.

 

Taxation to promote religion would be intolerable to me.  Excessive taxation would be intolerable to me, but I'm pretty sure that I would tolerate more taxation than you would.  I support a progressive tax structure like we had pre-Reagan.

 

I have no problem with secular government altruism.  Christians do not have a monopoly on altruism.

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On 11/30/2019 at 3:27 AM, Bhim said:

Presumably you disagree with me on this.

Not at all. Your government is working towards the prosperity of its citizens, allocating the money it has to better your country. Foreign nationals, especially those committing crimes, are not an immediate concern other than from a security standpoint. This is obviously distinctly different to the questions of healthcare, education or social programs which are in place to assist the citizens of your country. 

 

It comes down to a complex equation for every question. There are almost no truely selfless acts, even foreign aid is given with the thoughts of trade, tariffs, land lease, reciprocal activities or for goodwill. For example when California was suffering with massive bush fires, the call went out for qualified help. A dozen different countries sent hundreds of firefighters at their cost, knowing that any of those countries would do the same for each other in future. 

 

So the question whether the government should give free health care. You need to weigh up the cost/benefit from a societal view. Is a healthier, more productive populace of more benefit than the increased costs with doing so? Is there a productivity gain from less carers needed verse the increased load on the existing medical infrastructure? Is there a gain in happiness/prosperity/goodwill, and if so how to quantify that verse the expenditure? 

All other Western nations consider healthcare to be a primary service, and it is only the US that puts insurance companies in the middle and fails to provide services to its citizens. 

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On 11/29/2019 at 12:24 PM, Blood said:

 

If you can find a quote from Washington and Jefferson where they explicitly state "I'm a Deist," I would be very interested in that. 

 

Also, Jefferson was not present at the 1787 Convention. I specifically asked for Deists present at the Convention. 

 

Fair point, I neglected that criterion. If you don't mind me invoking a second Virginian, I would point to James Madison. He penned a good deal of the Constitution and argued for it in the Federalist Papers. I'm sure a quick search for the relevant literature will give you a balanced perspective here, but he seemed to be fairly quiet on the matter of Christianity. Your wish to read a founding father say "I'm a deist" points to a fundamental problem here. The only contemporary of these people whom I know to make such a forceful pronouncement is Thomas Paine in Age of Reason. In the first chapter he said:

"I do not believe in the creed professed by the Jewish church, by the Roman church, by the Greek church, by the Turkish church, by the Protestant church, nor by any church that I know of. My own mind is my own church."

And I'm sure you see the problem. While clearly espousing a rejection of the Christian religion, he uses explicitly Christian language, going so far as to incorrectly refer to Judaism and Islam as churches. This statement read in a vacuum (or maybe even in the context of the whole pamphlet) could reasonably be taken to mean that Paine was a Christian freethinker, despite that we can be fairly confident that this was not a person who believed in Jesus. First, these are people who grew up in a thoroughly Christian cultural context so I doubt that they would explicitly reject every philosophical assumption of the religion. Secondly, they were not aware of modern cosmology or biological evolution, and therefore the Christian cosmogony/cosmology was sort of a necessity in order to make sense of the universe. I suppose that's why we hear of deists existing in this time, and not atheists. What I'm trying to say here is that we have to be careful in parsing the language of the time.

 

Case in point: Article VII of the Constutution (the last bit on ratification, before the signatures) refers to the "Year of our Lord 1787." But I'm guessing we can agree this isn't a profession of faith in Jesus as the means of escaping eternal conscious torment in hell, right?

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On 11/29/2019 at 10:24 AM, Blood said:

 

If you can find a quote from Washington and Jefferson where they explicitly state "I'm a Deist," I would be very interested in that. 

 

Also, Jefferson was not present at the 1787 Convention. I specifically asked for Deists present at the Convention. 

     Benjamin Franklin was a delegate at that convention:



But I was scarce fifteen when after doubting, by turns, of several points as I found them disputed in the different books I read, I began to doubt of Revelation itself. Some books against Deism fell into my hands; they were said to be the substance of sermons preached at Boyle's Lectures. It happened that they wrought an effect on me quite contrary to what was intended by them; for the arguments of the Deists, which were quoted to be refuted, appeared to me much stronger than the refutations; in short, I soon became a thorough Deist.

 

Source

     What books or how he understood deism I can't say (its meaning may have changed between then and now) but there's the statement you wanted.

 

          mwc

 

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On 12/4/2019 at 8:26 PM, Bhim said:

 

Fair point, I neglected that criterion. If you don't mind me invoking a second Virginian, I would point to James Madison. He penned a good deal of the Constitution and argued for it in the Federalist Papers. I'm sure a quick search for the relevant literature will give you a balanced perspective here, but he seemed to be fairly quiet on the matter of Christianity. Your wish to read a founding father say "I'm a deist" points to a fundamental problem here. The only contemporary of these people whom I know to make such a forceful pronouncement is Thomas Paine in Age of Reason. In the first chapter he said:

"I do not believe in the creed professed by the Jewish church, by the Roman church, by the Greek church, by the Turkish church, by the Protestant church, nor by any church that I know of. My own mind is my own church."

And I'm sure you see the problem. While clearly espousing a rejection of the Christian religion, he uses explicitly Christian language, going so far as to incorrectly refer to Judaism and Islam as churches. This statement read in a vacuum (or maybe even in the context of the whole pamphlet) could reasonably be taken to mean that Paine was a Christian freethinker, despite that we can be fairly confident that this was not a person who believed in Jesus. First, these are people who grew up in a thoroughly Christian cultural context so I doubt that they would explicitly reject every philosophical assumption of the religion. Secondly, they were not aware of modern cosmology or biological evolution, and therefore the Christian cosmogony/cosmology was sort of a necessity in order to make sense of the universe. I suppose that's why we hear of deists existing in this time, and not atheists. What I'm trying to say here is that we have to be careful in parsing the language of the time.

 

Case in point: Article VII of the Constutution (the last bit on ratification, before the signatures) refers to the "Year of our Lord 1787." But I'm guessing we can agree this isn't a profession of faith in Jesus as the means of escaping eternal conscious torment in hell, right?

 

Yes, of course the "Year of our Lord" was just a standard language convention of the time. 

 

I can find no statement from James Madison that implies, or states explicitly, that he was a Deist. 

 

Thomas Paine was not present at Philadelphia in 1787. So, if the conception of "the founding" is supposedly the Constitutional Convention of 1787 in Philadelphia, so far I know of only one person present who was a professed Deist: Benjamin Franklin. 

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On 12/5/2019 at 1:46 AM, mwc said:

     Benjamin Franklin was a delegate at that convention:

 

 

     What books or how he understood deism I can't say (its meaning may have changed between then and now) but there's the statement you wanted.

 

          mwc

 

 

I already wrote that.

 

"The only person present at the 1787 Convention who was a Deist (as far as I'm aware) was Benjamin Franklin. Can you cite others?"

 

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5 hours ago, Blood said:

 

I already wrote that.

 

"The only person present at the 1787 Convention who was a Deist (as far as I'm aware) was Benjamin Franklin. Can you cite others?"

 
  •  

     My bad.  I didn't notice where you had said this.  I just saw where you had asked for a quote and responded to that.

 

     However, you may be interested in this link.  I came across it tonight and it speaks to your question.

 

          mwc

 

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20 hours ago, mwc said:

     My bad.  I didn't notice where you had said this.  I just saw where you had asked for a quote and responded to that.

 

     However, you may be interested in this link.  I came across it tonight and it speaks to your question.

 

          mwc

 

 

Thanks. It was a thoughtful article, but it didn't find any more Deists at the 1787 Convention. 

 

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On 12/6/2019 at 8:01 PM, Blood said:

Thomas Paine was not present at Philadelphia in 1787. So, if the conception of "the founding" is supposedly the Constitutional Convention of 1787 in Philadelphia, so far I know of only one person present who was a professed Deist: Benjamin Franklin. 

 

Well Thomas Paine wasn't even a politician, as far as I'm aware. But he was pretty influencial as a thought leader. Two important thoughts here:

 

1.) I wouldn't stipulate that the Constitutional Convention wholly encompasses "the founding," or that it even plays the majority role. Clearly a more general enlightenment thinking was responsible for the revolution and the various state/colony-level institutions of representative democracy which culminated in the Constitution. Also, the original Constitution prior to the Bill of Rights was merely a set of rules concerning governance. The philosophy of invididual liberty that the Constitution presumes clearly predates the document itself.

 

2.) It would be intellectually dishonest for us to deny that the founders lived in a wholly Christian cultural context. Again, this is why I cite Thomas Paine referring to "churches" despite clearly not believing in the Christian god. I would love for several of the founders to explicitly profess belief in deism, but this is far too strict a criterion. I believe it is sufficient to demonstrate that the philosophy espoused by the founders is something that cannot be logically deduced from orthodox, Biblical Christianity.

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3 hours ago, Blood said:

 

Thanks. It was a thoughtful article, but it didn't find any more Deists at the 1787 Convention. 

 



Considered to have been a deist, James Madison, late in life, wrote, “Belief in a God All Powerful wise and good is so essential to the moral order of the World and to the happiness of man, that arguments which enforce it cannot be drawn from too many sources.”

     So, perhaps?  Who knows where he was in life when the convention happened?  Or, for that matter, if he wasn't able to be more than one thing at one time?

 

     I think this issue is a bit more complicated than we're making it out to be.  Religion was different for them than it is for us.  I think that a lot of folks were deistic but not, strictly speaking, deists (and likely not deists in the way we use the word).  I think we're used to life after the Great Awakenings in the 19th century which altered the landscape a bit.  Where I'm going is perhaps xianity and deism were not, or did not have to be, mutually exclusive?

 

          mwc

 

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Regarding Deism more generally, I feel that this "faith" is somewhat obsolete in our time. I haven't familiarized myself sufficiently with the writings of the founders or their contemporaries on religion (save for Thomas Paine), so I can't speak to their individual motivations. But it seems that a person might be a Deist if they disagree with the moral teachings of the Christian religion. However, it is still necessary to explain the origin of the universe and human life. As I mentioned earlier, people living in the late 18th century were unaware of modern cosmology, geology, or biological evolution, which provide these explanations. Without a specific alternative, it would be hard for a human mind, raised in a wholly Christian context, to independently come to the conclusion that there is no God. Deism provides this explanation without requiring one to believe in Jesus.

 

Imagine if someone like Thomas Paine had lived in an era when knowledge of the geologic record and of biological evolution was more readily available. Would such a person bother with Deism, when a purely atheistic explanation of human origins is available?

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