The whole point of free speech is not to make ideas exempt from criticism but to expose them to it.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Nature, Nature's God, and your Creator...

In several posts below,
we discussed the language
of the DOI and seemed
(to this writer at least) that
Liberty and other basic rights,
—according to the signers
of the DOI at least — are an
endowment that comes from a source above —or maybe"before" — the law, be they the 10 Commandments, The Magna Carta, or the US Constitution.

First, is there still any debate on this?

And second, if not, what exactly did the Founding
Fathers mean when they mentioned, Nature,
Nature's God, and their "Creator?"

We seem to have varying views on that, and
this hopefully is a good place to compare them.

For example, are we talking about the
God of Abraham here? Or the "monad" of Spinoza?

The framers were of course familiar with both
sets of ideas. So, was the language used specifically
vague so as to accommodate both philosophical/
theological systems of thought, in keeping with
the notion that later became the First Amendment
in the Bill of Rights.

Let's discuss. I'll might make a poll later
(as if the existence of God is subject to a vote...
Hmm... well... is it?)


Poplicola said...

It is impossible to have this discussion without a reference to John Locke--much of the DOI is almost wholly dependent upon Locke.

I have often thought that it was interesting that Locke, a man who professed to be deeply religious, made only passing reference to God in his "state of nature" scenario from which he found the rights of a limited government.

Lockean nature was certainly anarchic, but not so anarchic as the Hobbesian "state of war." For Locke, Natural Law was more of a thing that set all humans as equals, and therefore dictated that people have equal rights to the things that make humans happy and prosperous.

Interestingly, in the DOI, note that it is not exactly God that grants all rights. It is the nature that God has created that grants rights(another interesting thing to think about coming from a group of Framers as devout as many of them were).

Bill Fleming said...

Thanks Poplicola, for kicking the discussion off.

p.s. Did you notice that my conservative pal, Troy Jones weighed in on the other post you inspired here?

(See "Rights Schmites" below.)

Troy Jones said...

In context of both the mindset of the authors and the time, it is clear that the DOI was making particular reference to the God of Abraham but done so in a way that it is to encompass the God of what I call the "alls and omnis"- All knowing, omniscient, and eternal etc not matter if one subscribes to the various faiths that identify Abraham as a "foundation."

Poplicola, I'm not so surprised the Locke didn't combine political theory with his specific religious beliefs. Few people realize that Newton was also as famous during his day in his local area as a Catholic mystic yet he didn't combine his scientific series with his specific religious thoughts. There is an appropriateness that the discussions within a discipline not be unnecessarily combined to too much detail. Locke was very strong on the concept of individual dignity (reflection of his religious beliefs) but didn't make his political thoughts deeply theological because his political concepts he believed were universal even for one not of his faith or of no faith.

Poplicola said...


While I usually discourage having conservative pals, I did read the post. You going to elevate it?

Basically, I'm not really terribly interested in the abortion debate again. I suppose I can be persuaded.

I think the most interesting thing he was hitting on was whether the piece of paper creates the rights, or whether the "social contract" creates them. I'm not entirely sure the difference matters one iota, but it is interesting food for thought.

Bill Fleming said...

Yes, I elevated it, Pops.

BTW in South Dakota, if you don't have any conservative pals, you don't have very many pals, period, Pops.

Take Sanborn and Newland for example. (wink)

You can of course respond or not respond as you please.

That's what Aldo did...


Poplicola said...

I'm just saying that for a religious guy, Locke's fundamental understanding of "Nature" and the state of mankind before civil society is not anything like the Garden of Eden, nor is it even referenced. I mean, the guy was practically on the boat with William of Orange during the Glorious Revolution. I think it's reflective of tension at the least, particularly when taken into context with A Letter Concerning Toleration, where he specifically says government and religion should not mix, albeit in a much more limited sense that the time would allow.

When it comes to pals, I suggest quality over quantity.

Troy Jones said...

Pop: I agree that religious entities and government should not be linked. However, it doesn't mean that religious people, their views and even their institutions can't try to affect public policy.

Bill Fleming said...

Pop. No worries. I have superb taste in art, literature, and conservatives. No boast. Just born that way.

(All my relatives were Republicans, all the way back to the Black Hills Gold Rush. I was the first "black sheep" in the family.

Poplicola said...


I'm not saying religious people shouldn't be involved in government and shouldn't try to use their beliefs to influence their positions on how to run a government.

I am just saying that the Framers were deeply indebted to a natural law theorist who quite pointedly described nature (at least for civil society) in a markedly different way than the religious theorists at the time did.

Indeed, for the Framers and their intellectual forefathers, the rights don't come from God, they come from nature. And we don't know what is right and wrong by looking to the Bible, we know it by using reason.

This is a pretty radical departure from other governments at the time, who were still saying people ruled because God put them into power, and that all of our knowledge came directly from God. Our history books point out that the Framers established a secular democracy and say that the "democracy" was the radical notion. I think the "secular" portion of it was equally radical for the time.

lexrex said...

popicola, locke made many references to God in many of his works. and i think you have your reading of the DOI wrong. it's the Creator, who endows the rights.

lexrex said...

pop, in fact, you're quite wrong about locke's view of nature. i will gather some proof of my point, but i think the man that the framers were more indebted to was william blackstone, whose commentaries on the english common law were the most referenced works cited by the founders.

about the laws of nature, he said this: "This will of his Maker is called the law of nature. For aas God, when he created matter, and endued it with a principle of mobility, established certain rules for the perpetual direction of the motion; so, when He created man ... he laid down certain immutable laws of human nature, whereby that free will is in some degree regulated and restrained, and he gave him also the faculty of reason to discover the purport of those laws. ... he has enabled human reason to discover, so far as they are necessary for the conduct of human actions."

Neal said...

Blackstone may have supplied much of the legal foundation for the Framers, but Pop is on very solid ground with his/her assertion that the philosophical foundation was almost all Locke.

lexrex said...

the legal foundation is what we're talking about, neal. jefferson and the rest believed the laws of nature and our nature's god was the legal foundation.

and, yes, locke had a great influence, as did montesquieu, coke, and pufendorf.

but you and pop have a distorted view of locke's works. locke greatly relied on the Bible in building his political principles. read his two treatises on government -- rife with scriptural references. read his "Reasonableness of Christianity." read his "Letters Concerning Toleration." all heavy with scriptural references.

even in his "Essay Concerning Human Understanding," he says the Bible is "infallibly true" and is the "will of God ... clothed in words."

in his first treatise, he explained that the law of nature is God's revelation.

i could go on ...

lexrex said...

locke, in his Essay on Human Understanding: "That God has given a rule whereby men should govern themselves, I think there is nobody so brutish as to deny....

[It is] the only true touchstone of moral rectitude; and, by comparing human actions to this law, it is that men judge of the most considerable moral good or evil of their actions ...."

Bill Fleming said...

All this of course begs the question "was Locke right?"

Or was his simply the best rational thinking and analysis of the known evidence of his times?

The cultural zeitgeist, if you will, circa 1700 AD.

Lexrex, it's obvious to me that Blackstone was referencing Isaac Newton in the quote you provided. Troy also references Newton in his remarks to Poplicola above.

And that's no coincidence. Newton's laws changed the way humanity understood the universe for hundreds of years, and certainly represented the latest, most advanced, rational scientific thought of the Founders day.

Even so, as it pertains to the true fundamentals of our nature, virtually ALL of Newtons laws, one by one have fallen by the wayside, and are no longer considered by modern science to be the most accurate descriptions of how the Universe, and by extension, "Nature's God" really works.

But pardon my little interlude, gentlemen.

Please, by all means, continue.

lexrex said...

bf, coke's use of "the laws of nature" came before newton. so did john selden's.

in fact, you can go back to henri de bracton and aquinas in the 1200s. nothing new by the time newton used the phrase, though i'm not sure exactly what of newton's writing you think blackstone and locke were referencing.

lexrex said...

you can also go back to the anglican preacher, whom locke often cited: richard hooker, who also predated newton.

what i'm saying is the "the laws of nature and of nature's God" was mainstream religious and political thought for decades and centuries before jefferson applied it to paper in the DOI.

you might even go all the way back to the apostle paul in Romans 1 and 2, for an explanation of the natural law.

Bill Fleming said...

"For aas God, when he created matter, and endued it with a principle of mobility, established certain rules for the perpetual direction of the motion; so, when He created man ... he laid down certain immutable laws of human nature..."

This is the part lexrex, where Blackstone seems to me to be referencing Newton... hopefully Newton, since at the time, his thinking on the laws of motion were state-of-the-art science.

I think Blackstone's doing his take on the old "as above, so below" analogy, don't you?

And if so, do you think such an analogy still holds?

Michael Sanborn said...


This got heady, didn't it? Excellent discussion! And, nobody's calling anyone any names here.

Beautiful kick-off Poplicola!

I have to disagree with Troy that the DOI was making a "particular" or specific reference to God of Abraham.

I think the reference was "their" creator. Many of the framers and founders were Masons. While many think the Masons are members of a cult or participants in some weird religion, they (we) are not.

There is a requirement that one believe in a higher power. And, they are not specific about what name that higher power has or what book or books were written about it or him or her.

For those of us who do believe in a higher power, it is not a leap to believe that all things natural are part of that higher power's design.

Bill, your old friend, Leonardo of Pisa, (Fibonacci) the math genius who came up with the Fibonacci number sequence that explains how sunflower seeds fit so neatly into a circle. The double square and golden rectangle that explain so much of what you and I do (when we do it well) can all be traced to Fibonacci's numbers. And, people find designs using the double square and golden rectangle pleasant or moving or comfortable because they come from a natural equation.

Of course, Fibonacci only figured out the mathematical equation. The higher power figured out nature.

Bill Fleming said...

Yeah, Golden Section, Golden Rule, Fibonacci. The perfect reciprocals. Math, Geometry. That's pretty much why I put William Blake's pix of the Almighty drawing across the void with his compass, you know?

It's so much like how Franc Wilczak* describes the dynamic matrix of empty space it's scary. Disturb the void just so, and everything pops out of nowhere. Light becomes matter. Wow.

And it's not metaphysics.

It's physics.

"The Lightness of Being"

lexrex said...

ms, you said, "I have to disagree with Troy that the DOI was making a "particular" or specific reference to God of Abraham."

to come to such a conclusion would be to ignore what locke, blackstone, jefferson, and the signers said and believed. i can point out any number of references that would lead one to believe that they referenced God of the Bible.

yet, i'm not sure where you could point out any conclusive proof that they believed as you purport.

you would know more about masonry than i, but being a mason -- then and now -- often says little about his religious beliefs, beyond what you just explained.

so george washington attended a couple meetings. so ben franklin was a master mason. that tells me nothing about whether they were Christians or not.

lexrex said...

bf, perhaps blackstone was echoing newton, but he was also echoing several others who came before and after newton, as i explained in my earlier post.

but what blackstone said was not an analogy, so i'm not sure what you're asking. if you're asking whether i think what blackstone, locke, and jefferson said about natural law still holds, i do.

Poplicola said...


You're missing the point. If Locke is so religious, why is his state of nature completely at odds with Biblical nature? In Locke's nature, we're all equal creatures, but need civil society to protect us from complete anarchy. In the Biblican nature, God was protecting us from anarchy and we're not sure where reason or law comes from. Whereas the Biblical law is handed down from God well after the natural state, the law is essential immediately for Locke. The states of nature are so much at odds that in fact, the only time God comes into Lockean nature is when God has given some man "an undoubted right to dominion and sovereignty."

Yes, he is very religious, but he was hated by religious authorities at the time.

And then he goes radical in Toleration, where he goes so far as to say different forms of religion are essential to a well-functioning society (atheists and Catholics excluded, of course).

This clearly is not a man who believes that God hands down a law and government should follow it.

For Locke, and the DOI is nearly pagiarized from Locke, laws come from nature and are gleaned through reason. They are not directly from God, God needs to be debated, there cannot be one state religion, and government should stay out of matters of the soul.

Bill Fleming said...

Well, not to quibble, lexrex, but they taught me in Logic class that those types of comparisons are called "analogies."

Here's the definition:

"Analogy. In Logic, a form of reasoning in which one thing is inferred to be similar to another thing in a certain respect, on the basis of the known similarity between the things in other respects."

Although, of course, I suppose technically you could call it a "simile", Since Blackstone starts his comparison with the words "For AS God..."

"Simile: A figure of speech in which two essentially unlike things are compared, often in a phrase introduced by "like" or "as," as in "How like the winter hath my absence been" or "So are you to my thoughts as food to life" (Shakespeare)."

What do you think, lexrex? Analogy or simile. It's definitely not a metaphor, is it?

Or is it?

Bill Fleming said...

Pop, lexrex, wasn't John Locke a "tabula raza" kind of guy? i.e. non Cartesian? We start off as a blank slate?

lexrex said...

with all due respect, pop, you have a very skewed view of locke and the Bible.

locke's understanding of natural law very closely follows the biblical understanding:

Read Psalm 19:1-4; Romans 1:18-20, 2:13-15. that's partly where he gets it.

that's where the puritans got it. natural law was a strong element of the puritan covenant theology that run through the colonies.

the Bible explains that God wrote the moral law on peoples' hearts. only the legalists believed that the only valid law was the mosaic law.

nature did not, as you suppose, step in between God and man to become the source of law.

locke believed that nature declared
God's precepts. read locke's 2nd treatise, where he explains that when people are at war in a state of nature, their "appeal lies to God in heaven" because there is no earthly authority to whom the israelits could appeal.

lexrex said...

it's neither analogy or similie, bf. because he started a sentence with "as" does not necessarily mean he was making an analogy or simile or metaphor.

was locke a tabula rosa kind of guy? i'm not sure, exactly. i do know, though, that he believed in mankind's basic corruption. He considered mankind "degenerate," in nature, in his "Reasonableness of Christianity."

Neal said...

lex said,
"but you and pop have a distorted view of locke's works."

Please refer me to the portion of my comment where I offered a "view of locke's works," other than to note that he was monumentally influential to the framers.

Thanks in advance.

lexrex said...

neal, i apologize. i inferred that you were siding with pop's take on locke's views. sorry.

lexrex said...

here's the clincher for me, that our founders relied on the Bible for their views of "the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God."

from blackstone: "If our reason were always, as in our first ancestor before his transgression, clear and perfect, unruffled by passions, unclouded by prejudice, unimpaired by disease or intemperance, the task would be pleasant and easy; we should need no other guide but this. But every man now finds the contrary in his own experience; that his reason is corrupt, and his understanding full of ignorance and error. This has given manifold occasion for the benign interposition of Divine Providence which, in compassion to the frailty, the imperfection, and the blindness of human reason, hath been pleased, at sundry times and in diverse manners, to discover and enforce its laws by an immediate and direct revelation. ... [which] are to be found only in the Holy Scriptures. These precepts, when revealed, are found upon comparison to be really a part of the original law of nature, as they tend in all their consequences to man's felicity. ... the moral precepts of this law are indeed of the same original with those of the law of nature, so their intrinsic obligation is of equal strength and perpetuity. Yet undoubtedly the revealed law is of infinitely more authenticity than that moral system which is framed by ethical writers and denominated the natural law, because one is the law of nature expressly declared so to be by God Himself and the other is only what, by the assistance of human reason, we imagine to be that law. ...

Upon these two foundations, the law of nature and the law of revelation, depend all human laws ...”

Neal said...

lex said,
"...our founders relied on the Bible for their views..."

Not sure if you can group them all together like that. Sure there were plenty of Christians, but just as many deists. And Jefferson, for instance, had his own take on the Bible, which I'm sure you're well aware of.

Not trying to say you're wrong, just trying to say you're not entirely right.

Oh, and apology accepted.

lexrex said...

true, neal. most of our founders were Christians. some were not. i'm using overlybroad strokes with my brush.

(the deism movement in the colonies was limited by the great awakening of the 1740s.)

even the few deists that there were, though, were not necessarily in disagreement with Christians about the natural law and its influence on government and politics. they still believed in a Creator God, who set those laws in motion.

Poplicola said...


You haven't been able to explain the tension between Lockean nature and Biblical nature. It's a fundatmental problem for people who read Locke as you do.

lexrex said...

what tension, pop? i don't see it.

lexrex said...

besides, i'm not interested in tension between the two. but if there's conflict, i'd appreciate you pointing to a couple examples. thanks.

Poplicola said...


The tension I've mentioned in my comments on this thread on July 20 at 9:16 AM, July 20 at 11:39 AM and July 21 at 7:58 AM

lexrex said...

ya, pop, but you've cited no proof that there's any tension. i've given examples and names of thinkers who put forth the belief that God has revealed himself through direct revelation and through written word. i've quoted scriptures that tell us how God's laws are written in our hearts and in nature, as well as in Scripture.

locke explained the natural law very much the same way john calvin -- he grew up in a calvinist household -- aquinas, hooker, bracton, and so on.

i will quote to you what he said in Of Civil Government, Book Two: "Human Laws are measures in respect of Men whose Actions they must direct, albeit such measures they are as have also their higher rules to be measured by, which rules are two, the Law of God and the Law of Naute; so that Laws Human must be made according to the general Laws of Nature, and without contradiction to any positive Law of Scripture, otherwise they are ill made."

locke in his "Reasonableness" essay explained that it was human reason that could help us come to a belief in God. not that they were somehow separate -- God and reason.

i just don't see a difference between what locke said and what the Bible says. if you can pinpoint a discrepancy, i'd be happy to discuss it.

lexrex said...

and could you point out where locke, or any other founder, said that it was "nature" that creates rights? thanks.

Bill Fleming said...

Again, see Spinoza. The fundamental issue here is resolved instantly if one accepts Spinoza's monist perspective as opposed to dualism.

I think Bob and I are on the same page about this, perhaps Pop, too. Can't tell.

Troy and I discuss this often, and appear to be on a road that comes together somewhere down the line.

Great discussion, friends. Please continue.

Poplicola said...


I've pinpointed the discrepancy three times in this post, friend.

The DOI says it is the laws of nature and God's nature that grant rights. It's right there in the first paragraph.

lexrex said...

i don't know what else to tell you, pop. but that's just not what the DOI says. you have it all confused.

maybe if you type it out -- the first and second paragraphs -- you'll see in black and white what it really says.

sorry, but i have no other argument than to urge you to read it more closely.

Poplicola said...


I'm sorry, are you saying that the DOI doesn't say the most fundamental Lockean right, to be treated equally, comes from "the laws of nature and of nature's God."

Neal said...

"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." -- DOI (emphasis added)

At best you have to concede a tie here, don't you Pop?

Bill Fleming said...

Not necessarily, Neal, which one is the Creator? Nature? Or Nature's God? i.e. which one is involved in the physical universe of energy and mass?

(I'm really enjoying this conversation, people.)

lexrex said...

well, pop, you have "the laws of nature". i got that.

then, there's the "laws of nature's God." at least by simple rules of grammar, that's what we have.

you have nature, and you have nature's God. the laws of nature, or the rules of the game, entitle us to certain rights. but is nature's God -- or God, himself -- who is the author of those natural laws, and endows us with those rights. if it's still unclear to you, we have the 2nd paragraph to clarify it for us: "endowed by their Creator."

we don't get rights from laws. laws, in and of themselves, are powerless to grant or endow antything.

it's just simple rules of grammar. not sure what else to say.

this is not a chicken-or-the-egg argument, bf. the phrase "nature's God" clearly implies that nature has a master/creator.

Neal said...

BF asked,
"[W]hich one is the Creator? Nature? Or Nature's God?"

I'm with lex on this one. It takes a pretty remarkable sort of rhetorical legerdemain to suggest that the Framers were thinking of anything other than God** as the source of nature's laws and human rights.

** God is a word used to describe a concept -- the concept being, the supernatural creator of the universe/world/natural law/all that exists. As lex rightly notes, even the deists believed in a "Creator God, who set those laws in motion."

Neal said...

The point on which I'll agree with Pop, however -- and it's a massively important point -- is that, as the Framers understood it, we are able to access nature's laws through our capacity for reason, not through revelation.

In a lot of ways, this constitutes the philosophical basis for modern liberal democracy.

Bill Fleming said...

Not if they were non-dualists like Spinoza, Neal. Don't you understand what I mean by that?

Bill Fleming said...

A quick primer on Monism:

Neal said...

No, I guess I don't, Bill. I understand Spinoza and monism, but I'm having trouble grasping how you are trying to apply that to this question. Can you maybe expound on it a bit?

If you're suggesting that the Framers thought God and nature to be indistinguishable, then I'd ask, why did they distinguish between the two in the DOI?

Bill Fleming said...

Because it was a political document with multiple signatures and as with us here in the forum, not everyone was of a common mind. All I'm saying is, if you are indeed a monist, there's no issue with the language, by definition. Only dualists would quibble over it.

Neal said...

Do you have any reason to believe that any individual Framer was a monist, let alone a sufficiently large enough group of them to justify your argument?

Bill Fleming said...

Here you go, Neal:

Bill Fleming said...

Oh what the heck, here's an excerpt from the link I just posted, Neal.

It's long, but you asked for it, right?


3.2 The State

Spinoza's account of religion has clear political ramifications. There had always been a quasi-political agenda behind his decision to write the Treatise, since his attack was directed at political meddling by religious authorities. But he also took the opportunity to give a more detailed and thorough presentation of a general theory of the state that is only sketchily present in the Ethics. Such an examination of the true nature of political society is particularly important to his argument for intellectual and religious freedom, since he must show that such freedom is not only compatible with political well-being, but essential to it.


Since the outward practices of religion impinge upon the comportment and relations of citizens, they fall under “state business” and, thus, within the sphere of the sovereign's power. The sovereign should have complete dominion in all public matters secular and spiritual. There should be no church separate from the religion instituted and regulated by the state. This will prevent sectarianism and the multiplication of religious disputes. All questions concerning external religious rites and ceremonies are in the hands of the sovereign. This is in the best interest of everyone, since the sovereign will, ideally and in conformity with its “contractual” duty, insure that such practices are in accord with public peace and safety and social well-being. The sovereign should rule in such a way that his commands enforce God's law. Justice and charity thereby acquire the force of civil law, backed by the power of the sovereign.

On the other hand, dominion over the “inward worship of God” and the beliefs accompanying it—in other words, inner piety—belongs exclusively to the individual. This is a matter of inalienable, private right, and it cannot be legislated, not even by the sovereign. No one can limit or control another person's thoughts anyway, and it would be foolhardy and destructive to the polity for a sovereign to attempt to do so. Nor can speech ever truly and effectively be controlled, since people will always say want they want, at least in private. “Everyone is by absolute natural right the master of his own thoughts, and thus utter failure will attend any attempt in a commonwealth to force men to speak only as prescribed by the sovereign despite their different and opposing opinions” (TTP, chap. 20, G III.240/S 223). There must, Spinoza grants, be some limits to speech and teaching. Seditious discourse that encourages individuals to nullify the social contract should not be tolerated. But the best government will err on the side of leniency and allow the freedom of philosophical speculation and the freedom of religious belief.

It is hard to imagine a more passionate and reasoned defense of freedom and toleration than that offered by Spinoza.

Neal said...

That's a fine passage and link, Bill, but it doesn't answer my question.

I asked for evidence of any specific framer (or group of framers) who was a monist, as opposed to a deist or Christian.

I don't doubt that Spinoza's contribution to philosophy affected the zeitgeist generally and indiviudal framers specifically.

But the question is, what did the Framers mean by God and nature, and from which of the two did the Framers think human rights originated?

You're suggesting that the distinction between God and nature may be meaningless, because of Spinoza's monism.

But we know that an awful lot of the framers -- I would suggest the vast majority -- thought God and nature were different things.

So I'm straining to see how your monism argument really applies here.

I'd also add that one need not be a monist to be concerned about "freedom and toleration" as political goals.

Bill Fleming said...

I think the Framers for the most part were rational people, Neal, not superstitious ones.

I could of course cite all the usual passages from Thomas Paine and Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin etc. that are derisive of Organized religion and the church, etc, but what would be the point?

The Framers intention was to form a Union, not to create a Divide. On that point I think we would both agree, yes?

If the time for non-dualist philosophy was not yet ripe in the zeitgeist as you put it (good word, buy the way) then only a fool would try to push it down someone's throat.

I don't think the framers were fools. On the contrary, I think they were wise. And in my experience, most of the wise men I know are non-dualists.

That's perhaps not the answer you want from me, but it's the one I'm offering. There is no way I can prove nor disprove the contents of another's mind even my contemporary. Much less men who lived over 200 years ago.

Besides, the real question is not what did the framers words mean to them, but rather, what do they mean to us. We are the ones who must advance their vision of a more perfect union.

The framers did the best they could with what little knowledge they had to work with. I submit that we should expect no less of ourselves.

Poplicola said...

Lex and Neal--

I'm not arguing God isn't important to the Framers. I'm just pointing out that the Lockean notions of natural law, which say that all men are equal and that from that basic tenet humans use reason to discern the rest of the unalienable rights, is pretty heavy.

And it's one thing to say, "God gave us rights." It's quite another altogether, in a very subtle but very meaningful way, to say "natural law and God's nature" gave us rights. I think that's worth pondering. Apparently you two don't.

There's no reason to get snippy, Lex.

lexrex said...

pop, i'm not getting snippy. i assure you. i'm trying to be as patient, as possible.

but again in your last post, you're twisting the words to comply with your theory: "natural law and God's nature gave us rights."

that's not what the DOI says.

it says "nature's God," not "God's nature."

and what the DOI said in the first paragraph is essentially that the laws of nature entitle us to certain rights. it also says that laws of nature's God entitles us to certain rights.

(it's kinda like saying that the rules of the game of texas hold 'em entitle the players to two cards. as a player, i get the cards because the rules dictate that i get them. but it is the dealer, who actually gives me the cards. does that help explain what i'm saying?)

and if that's not enough to convince you, in the second paragraph of the DOI, it futher explains that it is God, who endows us with those rights.

lexrex said...

and pop, you also say, "which say that all men are equal and that from that basic tenet humans use reason to discern the rest of the unalienable rights."

that's no different than what Scripture says. read romans 1 and 2.

Neal said...

BF said,
"I think the Framers for the most part were rational people, Neal, not superstitious ones."

One can be completely rational and still believe in God. Similarly, one can be very superstitious and be an atheist.

"I could of course cite all the usual passages from Thomas Paine and Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin etc. that are derisive of Organized religion and the church, etc, but what would be the point?"

I think you are conflating God and religion here. Yes, many framers had their issues with organized religion. That has no bearing on their views about the existence of God.

"I don't think the framers were fools. On the contrary, I think they were wise. And in my experience, most of the wise men I know are non-dualists."

Your argument seems to be: BF knows wise people who are non-dualists; the framers were wise people; therefore the framers were non-dualists. I don't think this holds water.

"There is no way I can prove nor disprove the contents of another's mind even my contemporary."

Maybe not "prove," but you can marshall evidence to support your position. Many of the framers wrote extensively about their views on this topic -- not this specific topic, but on God and religion and philosophy. I could supply you with dozens of passages supporting my argument that most of the framers were dualists.

I guess maybe what you're getting at (in light of the most recent post) is that the dualism/non-dualism issue is more of a personal experiential thing than it is a matter of formal practice. In other words, even if a person professed to be a Christian (which would imply dualism) he still may be a non-dualist in terms of inward experience and thought. Would that be correct?

"Besides, the real question is not what did the framers words mean to them, but rather, what do they mean to us."

I submit that they are both real, important questions.

Bill Fleming said...

So, who was my "Creator," lexrex?

I'd argue that it was my mom, with a little help from um... dad.

(...whoops, Poplicola and lr, I almost wrote "pop" instead of dad. Now that would have been a most unfortunate typo indeed, huh?)

Neal said...

Pop said,
"It's quite another altogether, in a very subtle but very meaningful way, to say "natural law and God's nature" gave us rights. I think that's worth pondering. Apparently you two don't."

That's not true. I think it's worth pondering; I've pondered it, with your assistance; and based on a number of factors, I reject it.

Nothing personal.

The idea that nature (or natural law) grants rights makes no sense to me. Where did natural law come from? Where did nature come from? What endowed nature with the power to grant rights?

The references in the DOI to "Creator" and "nature's God" make it pretty clear to me that the framers saw God as the source of it all.

Bill Fleming said...

Neal: "I submit that they are both real, important questions."

Why, Neal?

What difference does it make to me what Thomas Jefferson's theology was?

That gets us into the territory of why did he own slaves and commit adultery with them then doesn't it? And why did he edit the Bible throwing everything out but what HE thought Jesus really said.

I don't think such discussions are productive to trying to deduce what the Founders had in mind theologically when they announced our rebellion against England, and later wrote the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

I think it's better to consider such things in a —

(...ready for it? ...ok, Sibby, here it comes, man...)

— secular humanist, political context.

(...ahh, I feel so much better now.)