Thursday, November 3, 2011

Fill It To The Rim...With Brimley!

Wingnut pundit Warner Todd Huston (who was last seen in Antarctica, trying to slip an alien parasite into Kurt Russell and hectoring him to eat his oatmeal) is in a dither about a billboard rented by atheists in Costa Mesa, which inaccurately quotes Thomas Jefferson on the subject of Christianity.  As it happens, I grew up one town over from Costa Mesa, and my mother lived there for several years, so I can't say this news comes as a complete shock.  The place had a Fedco, several auto body shops, a third run movie theater, and a couple of unusually efficient pot dealers, but it was never known as a hotbed of either Colonial history aficionados, or theologians.
Atheists lie and do so on a billboard!
I'm going to assume Warner has never been to Costa Mesa, or even Southern California, otherwise he'd be less easily shocked by this kind of thing.  Or perhaps he actually believes that those Pai Gow card gaming casinos in the City of Commerce attract an exclusive clientele of suave, James Bondian playboys and off-duty fashion models, instead of heavy-smoking Korean nail technicians and off-duty cops from Lakewood.

Anyway, the local Handi Wipe that passes for a newspaper in Orange County published a story debunking the billboard, but this failed to arrest Warner's tailspin of rage and depression, because the lie that some of the Founders were Deists rather than orthodox Christians is still out there!  Hunkered down on the tundra, waiting, watching, like a Siberian husky possessed by a shapeshifting extra-terrestrial, and it just makes him so mad!
Talk about making a mistake everyone can see! Atheists in California have done a disservice to their own crusade to spread atheism by launching a new billboard campaign that ascribes a false quote to Thomas Jefferson. That's right, they've essentially become liars for atheism.
The failure to vet one's source is an outrage!  Unless you're running for the Republican presidential nomination -- then it's just Tuesday.
"I do not find in Christianity one redeeming feature," the billboard "quotes" the president as having said. "It is founded on fables and mythology," this quote concludes. [...]

As the Jefferson library notes, it's a bit hard to believe that Jefferson saw no "redeeming features" in Christianity since he spent months cutting and pasting and rearranging the Christian Bible to his own liking! If there was nothing worth the effort in there he had a funny way of showing it.
The link goes to an Angelfire page that hosts the Jefferson Bible and introduces it thusly:
Thomas Jefferson believed that the ethical system of Jesus was the finest the world has ever seen. In compiling what has come to be called "The Jefferson Bible," he sought to separate those ethical teachings from the religious dogma and other supernatural elements that are intermixed in the account provided by the four Gospels. He presented these teachings, along with the essential events of the life of Jesus, in one continuous narrative.  [emphasis added]
Jefferson liked the social philosophy espoused by Christ (all that peace, love, and charity stuff), he just didn't like the religious elements.  So it seems clear that Warner is right, and Jefferson wasn't a Deist after all, since he blue-penciled the parts about Jesus being a deity.
This Jefferson-the-Deist business is has been a lie told by atheists for at least a generation. In fact, it is a calumny visited on most of our founders. It is also not true.

And a false calumny is the worst kind.  It's probably my least favorite thing ever, except for maybe a circular tautology.
Never in his life did Jefferson call himself a Deist. He called himself a Unitarian (what we might call a Unitarian Universalist today). He did not call himself a Deist. Why should we call him something he never called himself?
"Like the good socialist he is, Obama wants to pick the winners and losers in the world of business..."
  ---Warner Todd Huston, October 1, 2011
Additionally, while many modern atheists and half-informed hobbyists in things historical imagine that all or even many of the founders were "Deists," the truth is that almost none of them were — at least not by their own admission. Washington wasn't. Hamilton wasn't. John Adams sure wasn't. Neither was Madison or Monroe.
Okay, then -- the Founders were orthodox Christians who just liked to whittle, and preferred using a Bible to the more conventional stick.
It is absolutely true that a large portion of our most famous founders had a great amount of disdain for organized religion and/or the priesthood. After all, students of history that they were, the founders knew that religious orders and churches were involved in some of the worst massacres in human history. Not only that but such monstrous actions were within recent memory of the founder's era. It's only natural that they were suspicious of organized religion.
But we simply cannot pretend that this country was not founded by thousands of extremely devoted Christians.
Warner sets the scene so vividly I can almost see it.  "Well done, Mr. Jefferson!  Well done, Mr. Adams, Mr. Madison, Dr. Franklin -- we've founded a new nation which reflects our devout Christianity!  Now what say we go across the road and worship at that monstrous institution that was lately involved in mass homicides?  I needs must confess my sins to a suspicious and morally repugnant clergyman."
Even if a few of our most well known founders were somehow secret Deists, not many of their peers and co-founders nor their supporters back in their home states were anything but sincere believers.
So none of the Founders were Deists, except for the ones who were, but at least they were cowards about it.
After all, religion was one of the first things that our founders strived to protect! Remember that whole "freedom of religion" thing?
I do.  Of course, one can be a vegetarian and still support the USDA inspection of meat-packing plants.
Perhaps two leading founders at one time claimed themselves Deism for themselves, but that is all I've ever run across.
Okay, so two -- two tops!  Two leading ones, anyway...there might have been a few obscure Deist Founders who snuck into Independence Hall, but all they did was photo bomb that John Trumbull portrait of the signing of the Declaration, then leave.
When he was a young man Ben Franklin once wrote that he was a Deist.
Franklin?  Never heard of him.
But he was hardly a "regular" Deist —
He was a "foot long" Deist, at least to hear the French ladies tell it.
When he was young Franklin thought perhaps every universe had its own god but that perhaps they did not involve themselves too much in their own little realms. Not very orthodox Deism, that.
It's amazing the Deist Pope didn't have him excommunicated.  They're very strict about their doctrine.
The other was Governor K. Morris, the man responsible for helping write the Constitution of the United States. According to a book on Morris written by Richard Brookheiser, Morris claimed Deism for himself.
So it's a untrue calumny that the Founders were Deists and not devout Christians, except for two of the most famous ones, and Jefferson, who loved the New Testament once you cut out all the Christianity.
 Certainly it may be true that our founders harbored Deist ideas and it may be true that they feared a political backlash in a nation filled with Christians for saying so out loud, but if they didn't call themselves Deists, how can we? 
"Lincoln would not have approved of a president Barack Obama. Not because Obama is a black man, but because he is a socialist...But, regardless that he was arguing the case against slavery, the nugget of truth in his words can properly be applied to Obama's socialist agenda.
 ---Warner Todd Huston, April 29, 2009

"They imagine that this law was the first version of Obamacare and that this is somehow precedent for Obama's modern, socialist power grab...The fact is, the sailor's relief act is not in any way like Obamacare nor does it serve to justify Obama's socialist healthcare powergrab."
 ---Warner Todd Huston, July 6, 2011
In all the years of reading on the founders I've done I've never seen any other founders calling themselves Deists.  If someone out there has proof otherwise I'd love to hear it. 
Meanwhile, you can't hand Obama a deli sandwich with arugula and spicy brown mustard without him saying, "Thanks.  And keep the change -- I'm a socialist."
But let's not take the revisionism by decades of historians with an agenda as "fact."
Also, while I personally have no doubt that Warner is, in fact, human, we should probably still make him take a blood test.


Slywy said...

Stop disparaging Handi-Wipes. They're great for wiping up cat spew.

Scott said...

Disparaging? Far from it -- I wish I could find some. Right now the only thing I have to clean up cat spew is...well, the other cat.

Kathy said...

Mr. Huston believes that George Washington chopped down the cherry tree, too. And then confessed it to his father. (George's father, not Mr. Huston's.)

Anonymous said...

What an ass (not in the good, Las Vegas way)

Kordo said...

Ah, if you could paid for demolishing fools, you kids could give up this bloggin' thing and buy your own island. Folks like Warner Todd Huston (why do I get that shivery "all the REAL nuts use their middle names" feeling?) always baffle me. The founders were all True Christians? yay. Now, why the fuck should I care? To quote Ferris Bueller - "They could be Fascist Anarchists for all I know; it still wouldn't change the fact that I don't own a car". Seriously, if they were every one of 'em Freemasons, would I hafta get Freemason approval for my girlfriend to have an abortion? Should laws then be written to conform to 200+ year old Freemason ideaology? For fuck's sake. yer the ones who believe in an Afterlife! Why would would you want to torture poor Jeremy Bentham by pretending he hasn't answered all these silly tropes you call arguments a hundred years ago? You want to worship an Invisible Sky Wizard? Knock yerself out! You live in a really great country for that sort of thing. Kindly leave me out of it. Also, the fact that your previous "writing" on the subject of Honesty is totally invalidated by your new-found love of strict public accuracy in billboards makes you look like a buffoon, which situation you clearly have a high tolerance for.

Anonymous said...

Also it should be noted that scholar and savant Warner Todd Huston persists in calling Gouverneur Morris "Governor Morris". Why does Huston persist in calling Morris something he didn't call himself? I'd be more inclined to trust his (ahem) scholarship if he knew the names of the figures he is discussing.

StickIt said...

We can't have any of that pansy-ass Frenchie shit up in our nice pure manly anglo christian country, now can we Anonymous?

Just be glad Huston doesn't call him "Freedom" Morris.

(Hee. Word Verification = "sinstic." That's what Huston is gonna whip up on the atheists with.)

Doghouse Riley said...

Well, they're all posthumous Mormons now, anyway. Problem solved.

Then again, in my many years of reading and appearing as Teddy Brewster in local amateur productions of Arsenic and Old Lace I've never once seen Jefferson refer to the germ theory of disease, so let's put him down as a Christian Scientist.

Anonymous said...

Well, I guess one must pick and choose the official founders carefully. Being products of 18th century rationalism, the founders whatever faith they privately held, were more influenced by Voltaire than the bible thumpers du jour. I mean does Thomas Paine make the grade as a founder. His views on religion were so radical that not even the Quakers would allow him burial in their churchyard. Franklin stopped attending Cotton Mather's services in his teens because as he put it, it cut into what little time he had for reading.

This atheist group may have misquoted Jefferson, but it's clear he had grave doubts about Christian dogma. He viewed Jesus as a moral teacher and not a god. He wrote to his nephew advising him to "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." Jefferson also wrote that the bill of rights was based on the English common law that predated the introduction of christianity into Britain and thus had nothing to do with the Ten Commandments. The Christian right today condemns people with more traditional faith than that, as atheists in everything but name so why is Jefferson given a pass.

Then there's the Treaty of Tripoli with its famous article 11: "As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquillity, of Mussulmen; and, as the said States never entered into any war, or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties, that no pretext arising from religious opinions, shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries."

The wingnut spin on this one is that the Arabic version lacks this article so it's obviously a forgery, as if Adams had presented the treaty on the senate floor in Arabic. Unfortunately for the separation of church and state is a myth crowd, after being adopted unanimously by the senate, it was published (in English) in several newspapers with Adams endorsement and the article 11 language included. There are extant copies of the newspapers in the library of congress. It wasn't even considered controversial at the time, so even if Adams was not a Deist, his belief in reason would still be condemned as anti-christian by virtually all of the fundamentalists of our benighted times.


merlallen said...

you could shove the truth in his face and he still wouldn't believe it anyway.

Brian Schlosser said...

He might not believe it, Merlallen, but if you slathered enough brown gravy on it...

As for the subject at hand... Seriously, Does Warner Tood really think that there is anyone out there that is going to change their religious views based on what Thomas Jefferson may or may not have said 220 years ago? Is there anyone who is going to look at that billboard and say "Wow, I've been a devout Christian for 70 years, but now that I found out that Thomas Jefferson criticized my faith, well that's it! I'm going to firebomb the Methodist Bean Supper!"?

If he's worried about sinful billboards he should be more concerned with those ones that purport to be direct quotations from God. I'd guess it's shaky theological ground to manufacture pithy blurbs from the Almighty.

(Bonus Wilford Brimley fact to make people feel old: Tom Cruise is now one year older than Wilford was when he was in The Thing... Say what you want about Scientology and/or the lack of oatmeal based diets, but SOMETHING seems to be keeping Tom looking fresh as a newly minted Thetan)

Randall said...

Actually, this is brilliant. No, really. See, if you can't call someone something they didn't call themselves, imagine the possibilities! People must name themselves racists before we can call them that; just because they hate black people and brown people et al is not enough reason. And unless G W Bush called himself an idiot, well . . .


Chris Vosburg said...

Exactly. I've never heard Warner Todd Huston call himself Christendom's Premier Fucking Fool, so there.

bgn said...

Does Warner Todd Huston know what a Deist is?

Carl said...

Why should we call him something he never called himself?
"Like the good socialist he is, Obama wants to pick the winners and losers in the world of business..."
---Warner Todd Huston, October 1, 2011

Oh NICEly played, sir!

*polite golf clap*