I just finished reading Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism by Susan Jacoby. Over the past few weeks I have Tweeting and Blogging about freethinking and secularism as I read the outstanding Jacoby book and conducted some related research. The words of Madison, Jefferson, Whitman, Lucretia Mott, William Lloyd Garrison, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Robert Ingersoll, and Clarence Darrow were moving and alarming at the same time. Moving in the passion and power of the word, and alarming that in 2012 the same battles are being waged. The same battles from the social conservative powered conservative political apparatus that would deny equal rights, that would turn us into a Christian Taliban, that claim love of the Constitution without understanding its beauty. Yes the more things change, the more they stay the same.
The idea of freethinking, the idea of being ABLE to challenge the status quo without fear of reprisal is why America is the greatest nation on earth. Make no mistake about, the forces of fundamentalism have been declared defeated on many occasions since this nation’s birth; the creation of the constitution, the emancipation proclamation, the Scopes Monkey Trial, the Warren Court, and Roe v. Wade were victories for the free thinkers. Yet here in 2012, we have the resurging Evangelical right trying to roll back civil rights, equal rights, woman’s health, and individual freedom to some pre-civil war revival.
I have concluded this with some of my favorite quotes from some of America’s greatest voices; except the last one, he’s just a hack.
O I see flashing that this America is only you and me,
Its power, weapons, testimony are you and me,
Its crimes, lies, thefts, defections, are you and me…
The war (that war so bloody and grim, the war I will henceforth forget) was you and me…
I am for those that have never been master’d,
For men and women, whose tempers have never been master’d,
For those whom laws, theories, conventions, can never master.
I am for those who walk abreast with the whole earth,
Who inaugurate one to inaugurate all.
I will not be outfaced by irrational things,
I will penetrate what is in them that is sarcastic upon me..
– Walt Whitman following Lincoln’s assassination
“If Religion be not within cognizance of Civil Government, how can its legal establishment be said to be necessary to Civil Government? What influence in fact have ecclesiastical establishments had on Civil Society? In some instances they have seen to erect a spiritual tyranny on the ruins of Civil Authority; in many instances they have seen the upholding of the thrones of political tyranny; in no instance have they been seen the guardians of the liberty of the people. Rulers who wish to subvert the political liberty, may have found an established clergy convenient auxiliaries. A just government, instituted to secure and perpetuate it [liberty], needs them not.” – James Madison
“I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute-where no Catholic prelate would tell the President (should he be Catholic) how to act, and no Protestant minister would tell his parishioners for whom to vote-where no church or church school is granted any public funds or political preference-and where no man is denied public office merely because his religion differs from the President who might appoint him or the people who might elect him...where every man has the same right to attend or not attend the church of his choice.” – John F. Kennedy
“That [Humanism] was the key word for us. And it’s a positive word – not the negative that conservatives have tried to make it. To me, a good Jew is someone who believes in the equality of human beings and reaches out to those in need. That’s what Andy believed-and that’s why he went to Mississippi. Not because God told him to do it but because he believed in human beings helping other human beings.” ---Carolyn Goodman, mother of Andrew Goodman murdered on June 21, 1964 in Mississippi the day after the U.S. Senate passed the Civil Rights Act.
It is not the possible rise of Sharia law I fear, but the existence of a conservative political party influenced by conservative Christianity that challenges the freedom I hold near and dear. - Diggaduh