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Mr. Dershowitz is good at law but not rational
on April 28, 2011
Alan Dershowitz is uniquely qualified to write this book. He is, after all, one of the members of the O.J.Simpson "Dream Team" of lawyers who successfully argued for acquittal of a guilty man. Who else better to write a disingenuous book about the motives of the Religious Right? Mr. Dershowitz lays out in three chapters, using the Declaration of Independence as a foil, his personal campaign against the very soul of our Nation. Is that soul Christian, or not? In Dershowitz's mind, the answer is... well, what exactly does he believe?
In the first chapter, which is over one-half of the book, Dershowitz makes a convincing case that the author of the Declaration of Independence is not a Christian, but a Deist - one who believes in a distant "watchmaker" god who created the world, then stepped back to let the clock run its course without further intervention (and certainly not the intervention of religion). If the author of America's Declaration was a Deist, and if America supported the Declaration, then how could America be a Christian nation? Dershowitz cites examples, that when Jefferson wrote of the "laws of Nature" and of "Nature's God" he was specifically ruling out the God of the Bible. He further refers to the so-called "Godless Constitution" of which Jefferson helped to write 12 years later, as further evidence against America as a Christian nation. The fatal mistake that Dershowitz makes is when he uses the terms Christian and religion interchangeably. Here, Dershowitz reveals that he is an Athiest, because he cannot conceive of God apart from religion, and religion, he clearly proves is at its worst, ungodly: consider the Crusades, the inquisition, the coercion of the papacy. "No just God would punish a thinking person for not believing in him", Dershowitz opines. In his mind, Reason, or man's ability to scientifically examine the world, trumps God.
So, in this first chapter, he argues America wanted nothing to do with the religious wars of Europe, and hence America was not religious. And if America were not religious, how could she be Christian?
In chapter two, Dershowitz quotes heavily from spokesmen of the religious right. I know he intends to prove with their own words that they are manipulating history to prove that America was Christian, and that if they can convince people that America was founded as a Christian nation then they can use the force of the state to require citizens to support religion, religious dogma in law, and teach Christianity in schools. This is clearly not the agenda of the religious right, no matter how many times Dershowitz says so. He would have his readers believe that the religious right "claim[s] we are, as a matter of constitutional law, a Christian nation, over other religions."
This is Dershowitz's clever ploy. But, the religious right does not want to force Christian worship by the force of law. It is quite the opposite. Dershowitz cites the hostility by Jefferson against the tyranny of religion, and likewise by Americans. Unlike Dershowitz, Americans at the birth of our nation understood the difference between religion and faith. Long before Jefferson, it was Roger Williams who in 1644 forged the uniquely American path of separation of church and state. It is he who sought the liberty of conscience to worship freely, without the coercion of the state. Roger Williams sought the right to worship the God of the Bible according to the dictates of his own conscience, not to be free from the God of the Bible altogether. So it was, that Americans candidly supported the "laws of nature" and of "Nature's God". Americans, predominantly protestants, opposed the excesses of Catholicism, and could agree with the words used by Jefferson, even if they did not share his deistic worldview. So, in chapter two Dershowitz erects a strawman, and proceeds to destroy it.
In Chapter three, Dershowitz takes a bizarre twist. He has established that Jefferson was a deist, not a Christian, believing the "laws of Nature and of Nature's God" as being separate from the God of the Bible. Then, inexplicably, Dershowitz begins to question whether Jefferson is a deist, or is he really a scientific humanist? If Jefferson had lived today, instead of 1776, Dershowitz is certain he would have jettisoned deism in favor of science, and evolution, and the utter rejection of God. So in conclusion, Dershowitz "disproves" the notion that ours is a Christian nation, but then he also "disproves" that Jefferson was a deist, despite the evidence in Chapter one. Though he argues against it, the surprising agreement is that Dershowitz and the religious right both truly want separation of church and state: Dersowitz so he can run from God; and the religious right so mankind can run to God. This is because just as Jesus told the woman at the well, God wants worshipers who will worship Him "in spirit and in truth." Such worship can never be under coercion. Thus, it is this very concept that is uniquely Christian, a concept implanted by God Himself, and it offers the greatest proof that ours is a Christian nation. Besides, if America was NOT founded as a Christian nation, then why did we build a wall of separation between CHURCH and State? Why not Synagogue, or Mosque, or heathen altar?