Under Which God?

Joe Carter has a very apt post on the Glenn Beck event and American Civil Religion. As he correctly points out, the idea of a more generic civil religion that purports to unite orthodox Christians with other religions under God and Country traces back to Rousseau.

Some readers/co-bloggers will disagree and try to save the civil religion under “Judeo-Christian” Providentialism, because, after all just about every citizen back then was a professing “Christian” of some sort even if some/many of them like “Christians” Jefferson, J. Adams and Franklin (yes, they understood themselves to be “Christians” not “Deists”) didn’t worship a Triune God, but a unitary one.

Yet, when it came time to dealing with the one group of non-Western, non-Judeo-Christian types — the American Indians — Washington, Jefferson and Madison repeatedly spoke of God as “The Great Spirit” suggesting un-converted Natives worshipped the same God Jews and Christians did.

J. Adams may well have too; I haven’t yet found the evidence. But I have found letters of his where he, I kid you not, terms Hinduism and Zeus worship as “Christian principles.”

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31 Responses to Under Which God?

  1. D.A. Ridgely says:

    Well, one can make a case for the notion that even in a polytheistic belief structure, those who worship the principle deity, assuming there is one, are worshiping the same God as the Judaic – Christian – Muslim God. The argument goes roughly like this: God has revealed His true nature and/or humanity has come to understand Gods true nature (different but related concepts) over time. So, to the extent a Zeus worshiper is worshiping the principle deity, for example, he’s at least on his way toward monotheism.

    There is little question that there is a process of progressive revelation in the Old Testament; that is, that Jews came to understand the nature of God better over time. It isn’t difficult to extend that concept / process more broadly. Thus, the Christian, for example, simply says that insofar as the holder of the different religion holds some beliefs consistent with Christianity, he is correct; and, of course, insofar as he differs, he is incorrect, a heretic, infidel or whatever.

  2. pinky says:

    .
    I am slowly adding to my understandings about how we think about the ideas of god–any god.
    .
    In the sense your article poses. maybe we should include the ideas of pantheism?
    .
    I’m deep into Steven Smith’s book on Strauss. Smith opens an entire wall of windows that help us undersgtand some of the thinking during the Founding Era.

  3. James Hanley says:

    Since the First Amendent bans establishment of religion, why would a civil religion get a pass? Isn’t it still a religion?

  4. OFT says:

    D.A. said: Well, one can make a case for the notion that even in a polytheistic belief structure, those who worship the principle deity, assuming there is one, are worshiping the same God as the Judaic – Christian – Muslim God.

    Where did you get the idea that el ilah (allah, the moon god of the kaabah) is the same god as Jesus Christ, and Yahweh, the God in the Scriptures? The koran and hadith deny the: Trinity, Deity of Christ, His death on the Cross, His Resurrection from the Dead, the Virgin Birth, the indwelling Spirit in the believer, Christ’s physical return to the earth, etc.? The god of Muhammed was a pagan deity, that included Allah’s daughters: manat, al uzza, and allat.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uzza

    Did the framers give pagans rights?

  5. Jon Rowe says:

    OFT,

    Yes the framers gave pagans rights. They made it clear the FA protected everyone. And “The Great Spirit” doesn’t even claim to be the God of Abraham while Allah does. Suggesting TGS is the same God Jews and Christians worship is, from your perspective, worse than saying Allah is the same God Jews and Christians worship.

  6. Chris says:

    I love how OFT sends us to a Wikipedia article stating that Uzza is a pre-Islamic goddess, to support his claim that Uzza is an Islamic goddess. It’s almost as though he doesn’t have the slightest idea what he’s talking about.

  7. OFT says:

    Jon wrote: Yet, when it came time to dealing with the one group of non-Western, non-Judeo-Christian types — the American Indians — Washington, Jefferson and Madison repeatedly spoke of God as “The Great Spirit” suggesting un-converted Natives worshipped the same God Jews and Christians did.

    I believe the aforementioned context is not paganism of the Indians, but that Tecumseh was a mono-theist. If not, this could have those listed promoting paganism; which cannot be. However, the context is clearly Christian. In each case, the term used was promulgated by the Indians, and kept by the framers, that has no connotation to paganism. Tecumseh was not a pagan, for the clouds, sea, rivers, etc. were not gods to him:

    After pausing Tecumseh cried out, “Sell a country! Why not sell the air, the clouds, the great sea as well as the earth? Did not the Great Spirit make them all for the use of his children?”

    -Tecumseh
    http://www.uppercanadahistory.ca/1812/18122.html

    These lands are ours. No one has a right to remove us because we were the first owners. The Great Spirit above has appointed the place for us, on which to light our fires, and here we will remain.

    -Tecumseh, Native American Chief, in a message to Pres. James Madison, 1810.

    Brothers [all Indians], we all belong to one family; we are all children of the Great Spirit!

    — Tecumseh
    http://www.jonsprout.com/myheroes_tecumseh.html

    Not sure if Isaac Brock’s words of Tecumseh can be verified, however, how can any quote used by the framers regarding the Indian “Great Spirit” be used to promote the idea they believed the “Great Spirit” was the same god as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob?

  8. OFT says:

    If you read the koran or hadith, which you obviously haven’t, you would understand Muhammed believed in the gods of el ilah (allah), then the Quraish tribe called him on it, and subsequent revelations about the daughters of allah ceased.

    Not having ” the slightest idea what he’s talking about” pertaining to Islam is strictly reserved for you.

  9. D.A. Ridgely says:

    I’m sorry, but is that a serious question?

  10. Chris says:

    Ah, I see what you’re doing. You’re not ignorant, you’re just equivocating (that, or you haven’t actually read the Qur’an): It is true that Al-Uzza, Manat, and Allat are mentioned in the Qur’ran, but where you’re equivocating is in whether they are part of the Islamic belief system, or were mentioned as part of the mythology of the Arabs that preceded Islam. You won’t find any Islamic scholars who believe it is the former, and not the latter. Except the eminent Imam OFT.

    What you’re doing is the equivalent of saying that the Romans used the same word for god when referring to Jupiter and Jehova, and Jupiter had daughters, therefore the Roman Jews were polytheists.

  11. OFT says:

    Sorry about that. What I meant was, pagans had not the same equal rights as everyone else. They did have the free exercise clause. But, they clearly couldn’t testify in court, nor were they allowed to take an oath to uphold the Constitution or any law:

    In our laws … by the oath which they prescribe, we appeal to the Supreme Being so to deal with us hereafter as we observe the obligation of our oaths. The Pagan world were and are without the mighty influence of this principle which is proclaimed in the Christian system – their morals were destitute of its powerful sanction while their oaths neither awakened the hopes nor fears which a belief in Christianity inspires.

    – Rufus King, Helped frame and ratify the First Amendment “Reports of the Proceedings and Debates of the Convention of 1821, Assembled for the Purpose of Amending The Constitution of the State of New York”, (Albany: E. and E. Hosford, 1821), p. 575, October 30, 1821

    It’s Muhammed making the claim. Allah is a pagan deity. This is why they have crescent moons on their flags, ambulances, and minarets, etc. He took the chief god (allah) of the 360 gods in the kabah, and made it the chief god. This is why allah is never defined in the koran. He took the daughters of allah, and the other gods away. This is why the first point of the muslim creed is not “Allah is great” but “Allah is the greatest–he is the greatest among the gods. Why would he say that allah is the “greatest” exept in a polytheistic context? The pagans never accused him of preaching a different allah from the one they already worshiped.

    This “Allah” was the moon god according to archeological evidence.

  12. Chris says:

    This is why the first point of the muslim creed is not “Allah is great” but “Allah is the greatest–he is the greatest among the gods. Why would he say that allah is the “greatest” exept in a polytheistic context? The pagans never accused him of preaching a different allah from the one they already worshiped.

    This is genius, as it unwittingly shows that Jews and Christians are also polytheists. The first commandment commands that you should not have any other gods before God, implying that there are other gods! There ya go: America is a polytheistic nation.

  13. OFT says:

    Chris wrote: You won’t find any Islamic scholars who believe it is the former, and not the latter. Except the eminent Imam OFT.

    I am a Christian, not a Muslim. Of course you won’t find muslims that believe Islam was founding by pre-islamic Arabian culture, custom and religion. Muhammed said it came down from heaven. We must rely on Western scholarship, such as: Julius Wellhausen, Theodor Noldeke, Joseph Halevy, Edward Glaser, William F. Albright, W. Montgomery Watt, and Alfred Guillaume.

    The very word “islam” was not revealed from heaven, or invented by Muhammed, which destroys the religion as a hoax from the start. It’s an arabic word meaning “manliness” who was heroic. Middle East Scholar Dr. M. Bravmann documents in his work The Spiritual Background of Early Islam:

    “[Islam was originally] a secular concept, denoting a sublime virtue in the eyes of the primitive Arab; defiance of death, heroism; to die in battle.”

    -M. Bravmann

    Tribal society of Islam can only be explained by pre-islamic culture. It was proper in Arab morality to mount raids on other tribes in order to obtain wealth, wives, and slaves, and so they were constantly at war with one another. Cutting off hands, feet, tongues, or heads, kidnapping women, and raping them was normal life.

    The sign of the moon god was the crescent moon, as evidenced by archeology, thus, the crescent moon on the flags of islamic nations. That the Muslims fast during the month which begins and ends with the appearance of the crescent moon in the sky is Ramadan. The pagans prayed toward the kabah several times a day, making a pilgrammage to the kabah, running around the temple of the moon god called the kabah; kissing the black stone; killing an animal to sacrifice to the moon god; throwing stones at the devil; and giving alms to the poor, just as the muslims do.

    Islam has nothing to do with Judaism or Christianity, the Apostles, or Prophets and is refuted by solid, archeological evidence.

    Islam is nothing more than a revival of the ancient moon god cult. It has their symbols, rites, rituals, and even the name of its god, from a pagan moon god religion.

    Islam is pure idolatry.

  14. James Hanley says:

    It was proper in Arab morality to mount raids on other tribes in order to obtain wealth, wives, and slaves, and so they were constantly at war with one another. Cutting off hands, feet, tongues, or heads, kidnapping women, and raping them was normal life.

    Yep, sounds like what was going on in that region all right, just as documented in the OT.

  15. OFT says:

    You’re almost right. The Arabian Peninsula, where the moon god cult is found was not referred to in the OT. Only worship of the moon, stars, etc. The carnage you refer to was plenty in Mesopotamia; The Syrians under Tiglath Pilaser, who stacked skulls at the gates of cities. The Canaanites, who sacrificed their babies unto their god Molech (Interesting, we don’t see canaanites running around), Moabites, Chaldeans, Babylonians… you get the picture.

  16. Chris says:

    OFT, wait a minute, you’re arguing that a religion was built on top of existing religious and cultural beliefs and practices? This new way of looking at things will revolutionize anthropology.

    The irony here, of course, is that you likely ignore similar studies of Judaism and Christianity for exactly the same reason that you attribute to Muslims.

  17. Michael Enquist says:

    Chris,

    This should give you and idea of where this conversation is headed. Good luck to you in your quest. 😉

  18. OFT says:

    Islam is the subject, Chris, the religion Muhammed invented to inslave, kill, and take over the world; not Judaism or Christianity. Actually, I was commenting on “The Great Spirit” of the Founding Fathers.

    You need to brush up on Islamic culture, and custom.

  19. James Hanley says:

    And the Israelites destroying the people of Sihon.

    And the Israelites destroying the people of Og.

    And the Israelites kidnapping women from the people they attack because “It was proper in Arab Israelite morality to mount raids on other tribes in order to obtain wealth, wives, and slaves,”

    And the Israelites destroying the people of Jericho.

    And the Israelites destroying the Gibeonites, Makkadehites, Libnahites, Lachishites, Eglonites, Hebronites, Debirites…

    Seriously, OFT, it’s a good thing they were so much more civilized and less barbaric than the Arabs.

    Don’t you ever get tired of making such foolish arguments? Are you aware of the concept of an internet troll?

  20. James Hanley says:

    OFT, it’s Jon Rowe’s post, not yours. The subject is not just Islam, and you don’t get to decide what the topic will be.

  21. matty says:

    OFT has raised a couple of claims that intrigue me. My instinct is to disbelieve them but I’ll let him go into more detail first.

    1. America’s founder’s banned pagans from testifying in court. Do you have any backup on this, perhaps examples of people being prevented from testifying for not being Christian? I’d also welcome a bit more on the history of this, when and how was it repealed, or is it still in force?

    2. Islam is polytheist. I have no problem accepting that the roots of Islam are as you describe but what about today. You see I’ve read material aimed at converting people to Islam and it is all fiercly monotheistic. So for your idea to work there must be people who were persuaded by arguments based on one God, said the Islamic confession “there is no God but the God..” And were then told “actually we believe in lots of Gods” and *all* of them accepted this without breaking ranks to reveal the secret truth, which is so well hidden that we can learn more about present day beliefs from history than from present day believers. Care to explain this apparent problem?

  22. Matty,

    I also have another question in tandem with your question #1. What about the oath or affirmation clause in the federal constitution? I understand it was inserted to allow Quakers to testify and sign public documents, etc., but it seems that it could also be used to enable “pagans” to do the same. Of course, even if I’m right, that doesn’t mean that it was observed in practice, or that the states had such provisions in their constitutions, too.

  23. OFT says:

    James wrote: And the Israelites destroying the people of Sihon.

    Sihon, King of the Amorites, attacked Israel first. Your other assertions I will pass in silence.

  24. OFT says:

    matty wrote: 1. America’s founder’s banned pagans from testifying in court. Do you have any backup on this, perhaps examples of people being prevented from testifying for not being Christian?

    I don’t think there are any examples because of the prohibition. We only have the words of the framers. For instance, “the American Blackstone” Joseph Story:

    Infidels and pagans were banished from the halls of justice as unworthy of credit.

    -Life and letters of Joseph Story, Vol. II 1851, pp. 8-9.

    The oaths in courtrooms no doubt brought to light where people stood.

    matty wrote: You see I’ve read material aimed at converting people to Islam and it is all fiercly monotheistic.

    You will find the answers to this in the hadith and koran. Allah, the moon god of the kabah, had a wife, the sun goddess, and daughters were the stars. Muhammed worshiped them, as did his henchmen. Uthman, who burned most of the more ridicules suras, forgot to eliminate the Satanic verses, which expose Muhammed was a polytheist. Then later, he changed his mind and declared Allah was the only god.

  25. OFT says:

    It’s actually “Uthman, who burned most of the more ridiculous suras, if that is possible, forgot to eliminate the Satanic verses, which expose Muhammed was a polytheist.

  26. matty says:

    Pierre,

    I actually started to write a comment that mentioned affirmation, then I lost connection so I went and did other things and when I returned to the interwebs I remembered I was going to comment here but not what I was planning to say
    OFT
    1 if there are no examples because of the prohibition we have found the most amazingly successful law in history. Not only did no one break it no one was even caught trying. *Every time* a Hindu or (if you insist) a Muslim has been called as a witness in a US court case they have gone “I can’t testify I’m a pagan) and have done so at such an early stage there is no record of it even being an issue
    2 As I tried to say I have no problem at all with the idea that Mohamed could have been a polytheist or that Uthman edited bits out of the Quran (I seem to recall that many non muslim scholars of Islam doubt the text was finalised so early but that’s a different matter). My question was specifically about this make present day muslims polytheists.

  27. James Hanley says:

    Sihon, King of the Amorites, attacked Israel first

    Are you trying to suggest that the Israelites were always the victims, who never attacked first, or that if attacked, it’s legitimate to completely lay waste to your enemy, destroying all men, women and children? Didn’t your mom teach you that two wrongs don’t make a right?

    Your other assertions I will pass in silence.

    Because you recognize that they prove the point? Or because you think somehow that will negate their force?

    Why is it so hard to admit that the Israelites were pretty much like every other ethnic group in that region, land hungry and bloodthirsty bastards who thought their own actions were justified, but not others?

  28. OFT says:

    matty wrote: Not only did no one break it no one was even caught trying. *Every time* a Hindu or (if you insist) a Muslim has been called as a witness in a US court case they have gone “I can’t testify I’m a pagan) and have done so at such an early stage there is no record of it even being an issue

    I’ve been busy like you. Maybe there were some instances you refer to.

    matty :My question was specifically about this make present day muslims polytheists

    I have no doubt peaceful muslims are worshiping one god. However, to Muhammed, the peaceful muslims aren’t muslims at all. This shows how blind Bush, Cheney, Obama, and the rest of the world, are to this issue. Who will tell the peaceful muslims of the world, Muhammed wants them dead?:

    Tabari IX:13 “Muhammad turned to see Umm, a pregnant woman, who said, ‘O Messenger! Kill those [Muslims] who flee from you as you kill those who fight you, for they deserve death. Here is my dagger. If any come near me I will rip them up and slit open their belly with it.'”

    Ishaq:246 “The surah of the Hypocrites came down because some men sent secret messages to the Nadir Jews when the Apostle besieged them. So Allah sent down, “Have you not considered the Hypocrites who say to their brethren, the People of the Book [Jews], ‘We shall never obey anyone against you. If you are attacked and driven out we will help you. Allah bears witness that they are liars.'”

    Qur’an 4:77 “Have you not seen those to whom it was said: Withhold your hands from fighting, perform the prayer and pay the zakat. But when orders for fighting were issued, a party of them feared men as they ought to have feared Allah. They say: ‘Our Lord, why have You ordained fighting for us, why have You made war compulsory?'”

    Qur’an 4:78 “Wherever you are, death will find you, even if you are in towers built up strong and high! If some good befalls, they say, ‘This is from Allah;’ but if evil, they say, ‘This is from you (Muhammad).’ Say: ‘All things are from Allah.’ So what is wrong with these people, that they fail to understand these simple words?”

    Qur’an 59:11 “Have you not observed the Hypocrites saying to their unbelieving brethren among the People of the Book, ‘If you are expelled [from your homes by the Muslims], we will go with you?’ But Allah is witness that they are liars. If the Jews are expelled, never will the Hypocrites go with them; if they are attacked, they will not help them defend themselves. In truth you [jihadist Muslims] are more fearful and awful (than they) because they are afraid of you. This is a result of the terror (sent) by Allah. They are men devoid of understanding.”

    Qur’an 4:89 “They wish that you would reject Faith, as they have, and thus be on the same footing: Do not be friends with them until they leave their homes in Allah’s Cause. But [and this is a hell of a but…] if they turn back from Islam, becoming renegades, seize them and kill them wherever you find them.”

    Qur’an 48:11 “The desert Arabs who lagged behind [in fighting] will say to you (Muhammad): ‘We were engaged in (looking after) our flocks and our families.’ We have prepared for them a Blazing Fire!”

  29. OFT says:

    I wrote I would pass in silence your other assertions as they must be less factual than the one I responded to.

  30. OFT says:

    It is Bin Laden, Zarqawi, Muhammed, and his henchmen that are true muslims. At least these fanatics are true to Muhammed, while the peaceful dimmis are hated by Muhammed more than Christians and Jews.

  31. James Hanley says:

    I wrote I would pass in silence your other assertions as they must be less factual than the one I responded to.

    You’re saying the OT is not factual? Interesting.

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