Sacred and Undeniable

 
We hold these truths to be sacred & undeniable; that all men are created equal & independant, that from that equal creation they derive rights inherent & inalienable, among which are the preservation of life, & liberty, & the pursuit of happiness … — from Jefferson’s “original Rough draught” of the Declaration of Independence

The final version is more catchy and memorable.

We hold these truths to be self-evident. All men and women are created, by the, you know, you know the thing.

Wait no, not that one.

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.

Rough draft Declaration of Independence

Rough draft of Declaration of Independence from https://www.loc.gov/exhibits/jefferson/jeffdec.html
Ben Franklin changed “sacred & undeniable” to “self-evident.”

 

Andrew Sullivan writes of this:

When he chose the word “sacred,” Jefferson had suggested intentionally or unintentionally that the principle in question—the equality of men and their endowment by their creator with inalienable rights—was an assertion of religion. By changing it to “self-evident,” Franklin made it an assertion of rationality. …

With one word—“self-evident”—Franklin forever clarified the divide between received and rational truth, and placed our political system firmly on the foundation of our common rationality rather than on sectarian faith. … Franklin was not editing the Declaration—he was editing our minds. …

Truth is self-evident. Our freedom is founded on that proposition.

There’s only one problem with Sullivan’s analysis. Ben Franklin was wrong, and Thomas Jefferson was right.

And if Franklin was editing our minds here, he was encoding a deadly mistake into our national mindset.

In the ancient world, if one thing was clear, if one thing was taken as given, it was that all men are not created equal. That the most natural understanding of the social world is that it exists in a hierarchy, in stratification. You know there’s going to be a king, and there’s going to be a landed gentry, there’s going to be slave owners, there’s going to be slaves, and this is true even in Greece. The democracy we have in Athens is only the top ten percent or so. — Joshua Berman, author of Created Equal, at about the 9 minute mark of this video.

There is nothing self-evident about the idea that all men are created equal. The idea is a heritage of our religious tradition.

When the Darwinists and other eugenicists of the early 20th Century threw off the yoke of heaven, they did not rediscover the self-evident truth of all men being created equal. Quite the opposite. The scientific community was generally on the animal husbandry side of the question of human equality.

It is not self-evident that we are all created equal, with an inalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Many cultures do not share this belief. Many individuals in our own culture do not share this belief. Sending people who do not have these beliefs to our universities will often not lead to them discovering these allegedly self-evident beliefs. Defunding the police, and giving rapists and murderers whatever they want, will not result in them recognizing and respecting these ideas or those who hold them. Because while these ideas are true, they are not self-evident.

These are beliefs that must be taught, through words and actions. They must be cherished and championed. And they will be hard to maintain if we sabotage the religious traditions that gave them life.

America is great because it was founded on these principles, which it should recognize as sacred and undeniable.

Happy Fourth. And may God bless America.

Published in Religion & Philosophy
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  1. Susan Quinn Member
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Gil Reich: It is not self-evident that we are all created equal, with an inalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Many cultures do not share this belief. Many individuals in our own culture do not share this belief. Sending people who do not have these beliefs to our universities will often not lead to them discovering these allegedly self-evident beliefs. Defunding the police, and giving rapists and murderers whatever they want, will not result in them recognizing and respecting these ideas. Because while these ideas are true, they are not self-evident.

    A very powerful statement, and so true!

    Good to see you Gil. Stay safe.

    • #1
  2. Gil Reich Member
    Gil Reich
    @GilReich

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Gil Reich: It is not self-evident that we are all created equal, with an inalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Many cultures do not share this belief. Many individuals in our own culture do not share this belief. Sending people who do not have these beliefs to our universities will often not lead to them discovering these allegedly self-evident beliefs. Defunding the police, and giving rapists and murderers whatever they want, will not result in them recognizing and respecting these ideas. Because while these ideas are true, they are not self-evident.

    A very powerful statement, and so true!

    Good to see you Gil. Stay safe.

    Thanks Susan!

    • #2
  3. Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patriot) Member
    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patriot)
    @ArizonaPatriot

    I think that you are right about the Declaration being a religious document.

    I do not believe that it is an expression of “our religious tradition.”  I note that you don’t even identify what that religious tradition might be.  It’s not the teaching of Christianity, that’s for sure.

    One caveat.  If you mean that the Declaration was a statement of our new national religious tradition, starting at that moment, then I think that you are correct.  It is a blasphemous false religion, I’m afraid.

    This becomes obvious when you notice that that statue in New York harbor is a giant pagan goddess.  It becomes obvious when you visit the Lincoln Memorial and notice that it is called a “temple.”

    Yep.  Just like the Romans, this new American religion deifies its emperors.

    • #3
  4. Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patriot) Member
    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patriot)
    @ArizonaPatriot

    I should probably cite some Scripture to support my assertions above.

    In the New Testament, the purpose and nature of government is explained by both Peter and Paul.  In Romans 13, Paul wrote:

    1Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. 2Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. 3For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, 4for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. 5Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. 6For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. 7Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.

    That’s quite clear, isn’t it?  God establishes the governing authorities, whose job it is to give approval to those who do good, and to be “an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.”

    Peter concurred in 1 Peter 2:

    13Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, 14or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. 15For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. 16Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. 17Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.

    So this is the Christian teaching, completely contrary to the Declaration.

    I don’t know what the Jews believe.  I do know the Old Testament quite well, though.  God chose Moses to lead the Israelites; then He chose Joshua to succeed Moses (reported in Numbers 27).  Then there was the period of the Judges, which was very instructive.

    The period of the Judges was a period of liberty.  Liberty is a disaster.  This may be explained most clearly in Judges 2:

    11And the people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the LORD and served the Baals. 12And they abandoned the LORD, the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt. They went after other gods, from among the gods of the peoples who were around them, and bowed down to them. And they provoked the LORD to anger. 13They abandoned the LORD and served the Baals and the Ashtaroth. 14So the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel, and he gave them over to plunderers, who plundered them. And he sold them into the hand of their surrounding enemies, so that they could no longer withstand their enemies. 15Whenever they marched out, the hand of the LORD was against them for harm, as the LORD had warned, and as the LORD had sworn to them. And they were in terrible distress.

    16Then the LORD raised up judges, who saved them out of the hand of those who plundered them. 17Yet they did not listen to their judges, for they whored after other gods and bowed down to them. They soon turned aside from the way in which their fathers had walked, who had obeyed the commandments of the LORD, and they did not do so. 18Whenever the LORD raised up judges for them, the LORD was with the judge, and he saved them from the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge. For the LORD was moved to pity by their groaning because of those who afflicted and oppressed them. 19But whenever the judge died, they turned back and were more corrupt than their fathers, going after other gods, serving them and bowing down to them. They did not drop any of their practices or their stubborn ways.

    This led to the period of the kings, who were also appointed by God.  God told the prophet and last judge Samuel to anoint Saul as king (reported in 1 Samuel 9), and Samuel did so (reported in 1 Samuel 10).  God also told Samuel to anoint David as the next king (reported in 1 Samuel 16).

    The people had nothing to do with it.  The people’s consent did not matter.  In fact, the bulk of the people — 10 out of the 12 tribes — rejected David’s rule for a time, and followed one of Saul’s sons.  David did prevail in this contest, though notably, he did not fight.

    God chose Solomon to succeed David, telling this to David (reported in 1 Chronicles 22).

    After the time of Solomon, the northern 10 tribes rebelled, forming the northern kingdom (called “Israel”), while the descendants of Solomon ruled the southern kingdom (usually called “Judah,” or sometimes “Jerusalem” after its capital).

    The northern kingdom of Israel was one long, uninterrupted catastrophe, never having even a single good king.  The southern kingdom of Judah has some good kings, some bad.

    The northern kingdom was destroyed by the Assyrians around 720 BC.  The southern kingdom was destroyed by the Babylonians around 490 BC.  The kingdom was never re-established, though the people exiled to Babylon did get to return circa 430 BC.

    I don’t see anything in the entire history of the Israelites, reported in the Old Testament, that would support the doctrine of government set forth in our Declaration.  Rather, the Old Testament account is consistent with the principles explained by Peter and Paul in the New Testament.

    • #4
  5. Painter Jean Moderator
    Painter Jean
    @PainterJean

    So this is the Christian teaching, completely contrary to the Declaration.

    No, it’s not. I don’t think this is an accurate understanding of either the Declaration or of Christianity. To deal with the latter first, I would cite St. Paul in Galatians 3:28 : “There is no longer Jew or Greek; there is no longer slave or free; there is no longer male and female, for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.” He is explaining that we are all equal in being made in the image and likeness of God, and that when we are united in Jesus and His Church, that which formerly divided us – ethnicity, race, station in life, sex – no longer matters. We have God-given dignity. The Declaration states that because of that God-given dignity, we have inherent and inalienable rights. That does not mean that we are equal in abilities, and so of course there are kings and queens, parliaments and legislatures. Hierarchies in various areas of life is not a contradiction in either the Declaration or of Christianity.

    • #5
  6. kedavis Coolidge
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… (View Comment):
    I don’t see anything in the entire history of the Israelites, reported in the Old Testament, that would support the doctrine of government set forth in our Declaration.  Rather, the Old Testament account is consistent with the principles explained by Peter and Paul in the New Testament.

    I’m confused.  Aren’t you saying here that the Jews are BETTER THAN us?  We’re going to get brain-whiplash out here!

    • #6
  7. CarolJoy, Not So Easy To Kill Coolidge
    CarolJoy, Not So Easy To Kill
    @CarolJoy

    Thank you for making my day, Gil.

    I love family gatherings, hamburgers, hotdogs, apple pie and fireworks. (Not allowed in my fire prone area of California this month.)

    But the most important part of the day is what it means.

    Yours was good reminder as well as a nicely put together piece on our Constitution.

    • #7
  8. Dave Carter Contributor
    Dave Carter
    @DaveCarter

    Stepping away from the family gathering and related activities and had a few moments to read this.  Edifying and inspiring. Thank you sir! 

    • #8
  9. Nanocelt TheContrarian Member
    Nanocelt TheContrarian
    @NanoceltTheContrarian

    More specifically, what Franklin did was to change a credal statement into a set of axioms, exactly modeling Euclid’s axioms.

    1. Human individuals are created equal (before God and before the law). Of particular note is that they are CREATED. (so a Judeo Christian civilization is affirmed).
    2. They are endowed with rights by their CREATOR. (God, not Man).
    3. Governments are established to secure those unalienable rights (endowed by the CREATOR)
    4. Governments obtain their just powers from the consent of the governed. (This is the revolutionary statement–the Divine rights of Human Beings are enshrined as opposed to the Divine Right of Kings)
    5. When governments cease  securing the rights of the governed, it is the right, indeed the obligation, of the governed to end that government.
    • #9
  10. Gil Reich Member
    Gil Reich
    @GilReich

    Nanocelt TheContrarian (View Comment):

    More specifically, what Franklin did was to change a credal statement into a set of axioms, exactly modeling Euclid’s axioms.

    1. Human individuals are created equal (before God and before the law). Of particular note is that they are CREATED. (so a Judeo Christian civilization is affirmed).
    2. They are endowed with rights by their CREATOR. (God, not Man).
    3. Governments are established to secure those unalienable rights (endowed by the CREATOR)
    4. Governments obtain their just powers from the consent of the governed. (This is the revolutionary statement–the Divine rights of Human Beings are enshrined as opposed to the Divine Right of Kings)
    5. When governments cease securing the rights of the governed, it is the right, indeed the obligation, of the governed to end that government.

    Agreed, excellent points, including in that Franklin’s version still had religious ideas at the center.

    I still think the assertion that these ideas were self-evident was a costly mistake to our understanding of how and why we hold those values, and that not everybody else does or will.

    • #10
  11. Nanocelt TheContrarian Member
    Nanocelt TheContrarian
    @NanoceltTheContrarian

    Gil Reich (View Comment):

    Nanocelt TheContrarian (View Comment):

    More specifically, what Franklin did was to change a credal statement into a set of axioms, exactly modeling Euclid’s axioms.

    1. Human individuals are created equal (before God and before the law). Of particular note is that they are CREATED. (so a Judeo Christian civilization is affirmed).
    2. They are endowed with rights by their CREATOR. (God, not Man).
    3. Governments are established to secure those unalienable rights (endowed by the CREATOR)
    4. Governments obtain their just powers from the consent of the governed. (This is the revolutionary statement–the Divine rights of Human Beings are enshrined as opposed to the Divine Right of Kings)
    5. When governments cease securing the rights of the governed, it is the right, indeed the obligation, of the governed to end that government.

    Agreed, excellent points, including in that Franklin’s version still had religious ideas at the center.

    I still think the assertion that these ideas were self-evident was a costly mistake to our understanding of how and why we hold those values, and that not everybody else does or will.

    The use of an axiomatic statement, I suspect, was suggested by Franklin (scientist and inventor, familiar with Euclid and the thinking of the scientists of his day) to make the argument for the Declaration of Independence to a world that was in the process of priding itself on its use of reason, and would play well, particularly with the French, but also with the British. Euclid was  the bible of the Scientific revolution, influencing everyone from Descartes to Newton and Locke. The axioms in the Declaration were a distillation of Locke’s ideas on government. Locke derived his approach from Newton (his good friend), with a mechanical/causal system (Deism) in the background, after Newton had developed his laws of motion, Newtonian mechanics. The wording of the axioms of the Declaration was very much a part of the zeitgeist. The appeal of the Declaration transcended the particular political circumstances and had enormous influence around the world, and still does. 

    Euclid’s geometry is logically perfect (as proven by Kurt Godel). It is first order logic. The Romanian geometries are likewise logically perfect. Further, the axioms of Euclid were the simplest statements possible to allow the deductive proof of the theorems of plane geometry. Those axioms could not be otherwise than they are and provide the strongest possible basis for the derivation of the axioms. Euclid’s choice of axioms was spookily prescient. In particular, the fifth axiom, the parallel line postulate, was debated for 2300 years before it was definitively shown to be necessary as an axiom to the logical structure of Euclid’s geometry. Pretty much all our mathematics science models those axioms.  

    The Founders used the ultimate model of deductive reason to make their case and succeeded dramatically.  They were current not only on the political ideas of the time, and did not discard the religious basis of Western Civilization, but were also current on the most advanced of scientific ideas of the day. Imagine if we held an Article IV convention today and a model of government was advanced on the basis of Quantum Theory and General Relativity and the implications of those scientific achievements, using them accurately and appropriately. to espouse a theory of government?  That could not happen today, since, compared to the Founders, our current leaders are ignoramuses of the lowest order and massively confused, with no coherent understanding of human beings or reality. They are good only at gaslighting. 

    (If you are interested, I have in my back pocket a framework for the application of Quantum theory, and its implications for what human beings are–transcendent beings, in essence–that would underpin advances in our governance systems; we are not merely evolved apes–Darwinian explanations of our origins are greatly exaggerated–but beings with cosmic connections via the direct interaction of consciousness with the physical world as it collapses the wave equation of quantum systems–yea, new age stuff but not without strong underpinnings in Quantum theory that the scientists have purposefully suppressed for a hundred years, only now starting to fess up; our modern concept of the human is completely wrong).

    The highest achievements of logic in human history occurred with the Thomists in the high Middle Ages, and have been downhill since. The Schoolmen were not aware of and did not use  an experimental method, although that was starting to develop at the time. Rather they used Aristotle, but also advanced logic and reason far beyond Aristotle. The logic and reason of our current society fall far short of the Aquinians. Take for example the statement of Stephen Weinberg, one of the authors of the Standard Model of particle physics, one of the greatest of scientific achievements:   The more the Universe is comprehensible, the more it seems pointless.

    That is a complete non sequitur and, as Wolfgang Pauli would say, not even wrong. That sort of statement by scientists prompted Richard Rorty, a philosopher, to opine that Scientists don’t know how to think (correct to a remarkable degree), with a rejoinder from Weinberg that philosophers have nothing to offer (also mostly correct today). 

    Science and reason rose from a Judeo Christian civilization. The Declaration and the Constitution are products of a Judeo Christian civilization. Those documents could not have arisen in any  other civilization. Similarly, Reason and Science arose from a Judeo Christian culture, and almost certainly could have arisen from no other.

    If one argues as Jerry does, on the basis of Biblical statements, that God ordained the tyrannies of old, why stop at our modern governance systems, particularly the foremost of representative republics, and claim that the Declaration is blasphemous?  Did not God ordain our modern systems of government as he did the old autocracies? And of course, those arose before the Christian era. Might not the ideas of Christianity have underpinned the development of our modern governance in the West?  Of course. 

    Take Runnymede. There British aristocrats demanded due process. But before Runnymede, the concepts of due process were developed in the Inquisition, certainly a Christian institution, one that receives endless opprobrium. Even at its worst, Christianity benefitted the world. Today we have championed due process, but in one single legal proceeding in New York, due process has been effectively bastardized and destroyed in America. 

    And, of course, ancient Israel, under Moses, established law that applied to all equally. And under Judges, you had the most remarkable of societies that was different in every way from surrounding totalitarian governments. It worked as well, of not better, than Athenian democracy (which was a slave society itself).  Athenian democracy scared the pants off our Founders. 

    Ironically, It was Thomas Paine that Washington read to the troops before the battle of Trenton (not William Burke); and Paine used Samuel to argue for the Revolution and freedom from the tyranny of a king. Paine was an atheist, and after supporting the American Revolution, got his wires crossed and supported the French Revolution as well (not the same things). But he argued for the Revolution from the bible. 

    Unfortunately, America today does not understand the nature of the Founding. There are few in the country who do. I would count Richard Epstein as among those who do, and he one of the best. 

    John Adams, I believe, had it mostly right. Our form of government is suitable only for a Judeo Christian civilization, out of which it arose. Key to that government is the understanding of what the human individual is, and Western Civilization grew out of a Judeo Christian understanding of what the human individual is. Unfortunately the further we depart from those Judeo Christian underpinnings of our society, the further we drift from the Constitution and justice. And the further we drift from the Judeo Christian underpinnings of Science, the more bastardized Science itself becomes. Our sciences now are more akin to lysenkoism than to actual science. 

    • #11
  12. Old Bathos Member
    Old Bathos
    @OldBathos

    Eight centuries ago, Thomas Aquinas (drawing in part on ancient classical Western wisdom) developed in detail the notion of a unity of truth–nothing that is true contradicts anything else that is true. If religious truth and empirical science appear to you to be in conflict, then it is your understanding of one or both that needs correction. He also believed that human beings are capable of ascertaining truth.

    The Western confidence in reason and the concomitant lively theological processes of Christian and Jewish traditions are in stark contrast to the Procrustean demands of Islam and Marxism.

    The complete confidence of the Founders in the capacity of reason in harmony with religion-inspired moral heritage was the essence of the American character.

    We are now loudly taught that there is no truth other than what we are required to applaud in the moment. Instead of a deep cultural moral inheritance, we are ruled by the shifting sensibilities of a narcissistic elite. “#Science” is a servant of ideology and cathedrals hang the “pride” banner from the steeple. Self-evident perceptions are suspect if not banned.

    • #12
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