Tag Archives: Thomas Jefferson

Egypt June 30: Revolution and the Army may step in

    They never fail who die
    In a great cause: the block may soak their gore:
    Their heads may sodden in the sun; their limbs
    Be strung to city gates and castle walls—
    But still their Spirit walks abroad. Though years
    Elapse, and others share as dark a doom,
    They but augment the deep and sweeping thoughts
    Which overpower all others, and conduct
    The world at last to Freedom.

    Lord Byron, Marino Faliero

Yesterday an estimated 17 million citizens protested against the absolutist ruler that the President of the Arab Republic of Egypt Morsi, by his own decree has become.

The head quarters of his party is a burnt out shell, looted, a symbol of frustrations that Morsi served not the people but the Muslim Brotherhood:

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Morsi claims constitutional legitimacy during this crisis, having granted himself absolute powers being unaccountable to either the judiciary or elected assemblies. All institutions of the state existed to serve his designs, that of islamofacism over the will of the people to live in freedom. It is a far cry from what he told those in Tahrir Square on the eve of his inauguration:

    “You are the source of power and legitimacy. There is no person, party, institution or authority over or above the will of the people.”

The scale of the opposition is something to behold after a year of failed delivery of the promise of the revolution.

… a coalition of opposition groups — dubbed Tamarod, or “rebel” — says it has collected more than 22 million signatures from Egyptian voters who want to see Morsi gone. If verified, the petitioners would far exceed the 13 million that voted Morsi into office. [The Atlantic]

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Freedom of religion

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As members of the US Commission on Religious Freedom (USCIRF) observed recently:

During this visit, USCIRF confirmed that Egypt is failing to meet international religious-freedom standards. In our 2013 annual report, released on April 30, we elaborated on our findings.
Among our concerns are Egypt’s new constitution, a code forbidding blasphemy, an impunity problem, restrictions on building places of worship and problems regarding religious identification and conversion.

While Cairo’s constitution affirms “freedom of belief,” it mentions only the right to practice religious “rites” and establish places of worship. It appears to limit even this narrow freedom to Egypt’s three “divine” religions of Islam, Christianity and Judaism, excluding Baha’is, atheists and agnostics, among others. [Al Monitor]

The New Promise of the Revolution

“He betrayed the revolution, betrayed Egyptians, and arrested everyone who opposed him,” said Amal Sharaf, one of the founders of the April 6 Youth Movement, one of the earliest revolutionary groups in Egypt. In last year’s elections, it supported Morsi, but it’s now one of his most vocal critics.

“He thinks only he can write the constitution, only he can safeguard the Parliament, and he appoints governors from his party only…everything is his,” Sharaf said. [The Atlantic]

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Whilst we can hope the demands of the people are finally listened too, and that it will be effective civil protests that work, I do not relish the thoughts of Byron above, or those of Jefferson below which sadly are true through the ages:

    The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure.

Tonight the world watches to see what happens next, as the army threatens to intervene in 48 hours if Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood do not reach an accommodation with the protestors. [Source BBC news]

Update 5:15PM:

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UPDATE 8:10PM: with double digit resignations from his Cabinet pressure mounts on Morsi.

Army statement has been reported as:

“The Egyptian Armed Forces will not become involved in politics or administration; it is satisfied with its role as is spelt out in line with democratic norms,” read the statement, stressing that Egyptian national security was in “great danger” and referring to the armed forces’ “responsibility” to step in if national security was threatened.

“The Egyptian Armed Forces have set a deadline, which ended yesterday [Sunday], for all political powers to reconcile and end the current crisis, but no progress has been made. Consequently, the Egyptian people have taken to the streets,” the statement read. “Wasting more time will mean more division and conflict, which is what the armed forces warned of and of which it continues to warn,” the statement added.

According to the statement, the absence of national consensus is what led the people to take to the streets in full determination, “which has been praised on the internal, regional and global level.” The statement went on to warn that more time would only lead to greater polarisation, urging all parties to put the public interest first. “The armed forces reiterates its call that the demands of the people be met,” the statement read, giving political factions a 48-hour period “as a last chance to bear the historical burden that the nation is currently facing.” [Ahram Online]

Live feed of events in Egypt

Article written by John Sargeant on Homo economicus’ Weblog

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Religious Freedom is For Everyone

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Thomas Jefferson liked to think, and for him free thought was more than just an inalienable human right. It was an essential part for humanity to make progress. How infidels of the past were viewed he was all too aware was how his compatriots (and fellow slave owners) would be viewed in the future. Religious freedom is an essential liberty, and in the Virginia Statute he created made this clear:

II. Be it enacted by the General Assembly, that no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burthened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief; but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinion in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish, enlarge, or affect their civil capacities.

It was not just a revolutionary thought then, written by the man who would become the intellectual provocateur with Thomas Paine for Independence. It still speaks to us that when we think of that wall of separation between church and state, and how a secular society functions.

No one should suffer on account of their religious opinions or beliefs, all shall be free to profess, and maintain their opinion in matters of religion.

The historical underpinning of religious freedom was to safeguard the plurality of religious thought – and the protection of infidels. As Jefferson argued to his nephew the inquiry into the nature or existence of God was one any such being if He existed would welcome, and without impediment such thought should be allowed by humanity.

We live in an age now where Alain de Botton can call the existence or non existence of God boring – like Jefferson he wants to separate the gold from the religious superstitious faith experience. Yet, as Richard Dawkins acknowledges whether you genuinely think there is or is not a God fundamentally changes the nature of your existence on earth – belief for him is wrongly making sense of the world for what appear to be valid reasons, a delusion. Peter Hitchens believes noting that there is no scientific evidence for God, and no divine mandate for humans to enforce on others but for him it makes sense to believe, so chooses to. Lawrence Krauss argues that you can have a universe from nothing.

The debate goes on, and the scientific advances in thought and empirical evidence gathering would have enraptured Jefferson as I imagine the debate today would have. However religion is still with us. Those values of religious freedom are still valid now.

So when we go on twitter we can express our religious opinion, and be challenged in that opinion. We can refuse to justify ourselves to anyone for our personal beliefs and we can can freely chose to argue for them.

We may never force anyone via the state or other coercion to suffer for their belief by those that do not chose to hold them, whether they be a minority of one or the majority. This secularism has remained from childhood student of Jehovah’s Witness to Atheist blogger.

Jefferson’s memorial is not just a monument for atheists, like the group I led above after the Atheist Alliance International Conference in 2007, starting at the memorial site onto the White House in support of religious freedom and the OUT campaign as atheists.

It is for all of humanity – and we have still to live in a world where those of faith, infidels and apostates have the religious freedoms that Jefferson wanted to be remembered for espousing.

Secularism is for the religious and the non religious – the cause of religious freedom should unite lovers of liberty and free thought alike.

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Thomas Jefferson to Nephew on Religion

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This is an extract to his teenage nephew Peter Carr on things to learn beyond books on science he has sent him (the letter in full can be read here):

“4. Religion. Your reason is now mature enough to examine this object. In the first place, divest yourself of all bias in favor of novelty & singularity of opinion. Indulge them in any other subject rather than that of religion. It is too important, and the consequences of error may be too serious. On the other hand, shake off all the fears & servile prejudices, under which weak minds are servilely crouched. Fix reason firmly in her seat, and call to her tribunal every fact, every opinion. Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, than that of blindfolded fear. You will naturally examine first, the religion of your own country. Read the Bible, then as you would read Livy or Tacitus. The facts which are within the ordinary course of nature, you will believe on the authority of the writer, as you do those of the same kind in Livy & Tacitus. The testimony of the writer weighs in their favor, in one scale, and their not being against the laws of nature, does not weigh against them. But those facts in the Bible which contradict the laws of nature, must be examined with more care, and under a variety of faces. Here you must recur to the pretensions of the writer to inspiration from God. Examine upon what evidence his pretensions are founded, and whether that evidence is so strong, as that its falsehood would be more improbable than a change in the laws of nature, in the case he relates. For example, in the book of Joshua, we are told, the sun stood still several hours. Were we to read that fact in Livy or Tacitus, we should class it with their showers of blood, speaking of statues, beasts, &c. But it is said, that the writer of that book was inspired. Examine, therefore, candidly, what evidence there is of his having been inspired. The pretension is entitled to your inquiry, because millions believe it. On the other hand, you are astronomer enough to know how contrary it is to the law of nature that a body revolving on its axis, as the earth does, should have stopped, should not, by that sudden stoppage, have prostrated animals, trees, buildings, and should after a certain time gave resumed its revolution, & that without a second general prostration. Is this arrest of the earth’s motion, or the evidence which affirms it, most within the law of probabilities? You will next read the New Testament. It is the history of a personage called Jesus. Keep in your eye the opposite pretensions: 1, of those who say he was begotten by God, born of a virgin, suspended & reversed the laws of nature at will, & ascended bodily into heaven; and 2, of those who say he was a man of illegitimate birth, of a benevolent heart, enthusiastic mind, who set out without pretensions to divinity, ended in believing them, and was punished capitally for sedition, by being gibbeted, according to the Roman law, which punished the first commission of that offence by whipping, & the second by exile, or death in fureâ. See this law in the Digest Lib. 48. tit. 19. §. 28. 3. & Lipsius Lib 2. de cruce. cap. 2. These questions are examined in the books I have mentioned under the head of religion, & several others. They will assist you in your inquiries, but keep your reason firmly on the watch in reading them all.

Do not be frightened from this inquiry by any fear of its consequences. If it ends in a belief that there is no God, you will find incitements to virtue in the comfort and pleasantness you feel in its exercise, and the love of others which it will procure you. If you find reason to believe there is a God, a consciousness that you are acting under his eye, & that he approves you, will be a vast additional incitement; if that there be a future state, the hope of a happy existence in that increases the appetite to deserve it; if that Jesus was also a God, you will be comforted by a belief of his aid and love. In fine, I repeat, you must lay aside all prejudice on both sides, and neither believe nor reject anything, because any other persons, or description of persons, have rejected or believed it. Your own reason is the only oracle given you by heaven, and you are answerable, not for the rightness, but uprightness of the decision. I forgot to observe, when speaking of the New Testament, that you should read all the histories of Christ, as well of those whom a council of ecclesiastics have decided for us, to be Pseudo-evangelists, as those they named Evangelists. Because these Pseudo-evangelists pretended to inspiration, as much as the others, and you are to judge their pretensions by your own reason, and not by the reason of those ecclesiastics. Most of these are lost. There are some, however, still extant, collected by Fabricius, which I will endeavor to get & send you.”

Thanks to Council of Ex Muslims for link to letter.

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Can the progressive future claim the past?

President Obama used the imagery of Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence to state that equality was a founding principle of the Republic, and that now is the time to fulfil that promise with regard equal pay for women and gay rights. (Blog on that here)

“We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

Needless to say, the right may have a problem with this – having claimed the founding fathers for the small state, and liberty for all to have wealth without being taxed by the state to increase it’s power relative to the rest of civil society.

Enter Buchanan:

How could that be, when the author of the declaration Obama cites, Thomas Jefferson, believed homosexuality should be treated as rape, and George Washington ordered homosexuals drummed out of his army?

What Obama was attempting at the Capitol, with his repeated lifts from Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln, was to portray his own and his party’s egalitarianism as a continuation of the great cause that triumphed at Yorktown and Appomattox.

He is hijacking the American Revolution, claiming an ancestral lineage for his ideology that is utterly fraudulent and bogus.

Source WND

Buchanna is at least more honest then some about Jefferson’s position. Many do quote Jefferson’s ideals about equality, and people being free to their conscience. Yet he also in the Virginia legislature tried to introduce castration for rape and sodomy. Some have spun this that the alternative was the death penalty, which made him liberal by the standards of the time. At any rate, his bill was defeated.

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Yet claiming Jefferson as a homophobe or as pro gay rights is to put our own terms on a people who believed that no one could consent to a homosexual act. Such is the problem also when we look to great figures in the past as an example. Look deeper, you will find something that will shock you.

Richard Dawkins covers that well when talking for ten minutes about the moral zeitgeist – that is that overtime what we consider moral changes, sometimes rapidly – and to be cautious when using our times looking back on history.

Buchanan is right that civil rights are in many ways a modern idea in American history (just listen to the quote Dawkins reads out from Lincoln above). It does however miss an important point, that our values could be considered barbaric in the future and we may need to discuss them with enthusiasm, and that each generation may have to come to terms not only with that but how they should be governed, perhaps tearing down what has gone before, even the constitution.

Those ideas come from … Thomas Jefferson:

“We shall have our follies without doubt. Some one or more of them will always be afloat. But ours will be the follies of enthusiasm, not of bigotry, not of Jesuitism. Bigotry is the disease of ignorance, of morbid minds; enthusiasm of the free and buoyant. Education and free discussion are the antidotes of both. We are destined to be a barrier against the return of ignorance and barbarism.” –Thomas Jefferson to John Adams, 1816. ME 15:58

Source

Every constitution, then, and every law, naturally expires at the end of nineteen years. If it be enforced longer, it is an act of force, and not of right. It may be said, that the succeeding generation exercising, in fact, the power of repeal, this leaves them as free as if the constitution or law had been expressly limited to nineteen years only. In the first place, this objection admits the right, in proposing an equivalent. But the power of repeal is not an equivalent. It might be, indeed, if every form of government were so perfectly contrived, that the will of the majority could always be obtained, fairly and without impediment. But this is true of no form. The people cannot assemble themselves; their representation is unequal and vicious. Various checks are opposed to every legislative proposition. Factions get possession of the public councils, bribery corrupts them, personal interests lead them astray from the general interests of their constituents; and other impediments arise, so as to prove to every practical man, that a law of limited duration is much more manageable than one which needs a repeal.” –Thomas Jefferson to James Madison, 1789. ME 7:459, Papers 15:396

Source

If we are going to be honest, let us be fully so. In the debate bring your enthusiasm. Time to claim the future from people long since dead.

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Hitchens on Thomas Jefferson

“The Thomas Jefferson Hour” devoted two podcasts discussing Christopher Hitchens, and his book on Thomas Jefferson. The shows are number 958 and 959 which you can find, free to listen to, via iTunes here.

The main website for the Thomas Jefferson hour can be found here:

The Thomas Jefferson Hour® is a weekly radio program and podcast dedicated to the search for truth in the tradition of Thomas Jefferson. Each week President Jefferson (as portrayed by the award winning humanities scholar, cultural commentator and author Clay Jenkinson) answers questions about his time, his beliefs and shares his knowledge of early America.

Sometimes Clay goes out of character, so he and his co host can have a wide ranging discussion while still looking at the Jeffersonian perspective.

Recommend listening to the show, have to admit these episodes slipped me by at the time. This weekend good opportunity for you if new to the show to listen for the first time.

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