After giving the Republicans a well deserved drubbing, Jeff Sanders included a couple of quotes from Thomas Paine slamming Christianity. My response is a critique of Paine, not an attack on Mr. Sanders.
Thomas Paine said, "It is from the Bible that man has learned cruelty, rapine, and murder, for the belief of a cruel god makes a cruel man." Actually the source of cruelty, rapine, and murder is the innate sinfulness of man, because men who never heard of the Bible or who rejected it have perpetrated some of the most appalling acts of evil in history. Paine himself should have learned this when he took part in the French Revolution. After enthroning the goddess Reason in the cathedral of Notre Dame, the rational Deists launched the Reign of Terror. The new orthodoxy of rationalism created new heretics – the enemies of the Republic. When the guillotine could not keep up with the executions, the Republic’s enemies were crowded into boats and drowned in the Seine (Neil Blandford and Bruce Jones, The World’s Most Evil Men, 107). Even a famous scientist, Lavoisier, the discoverer of oxygen, was executed, because "the Republic does not need scientists." Even Paine was imprisoned because he objected to the execution of King Louis XVI. Finally, the French Revolution disposed of a weak, ineffectual King and replaced him with a strong effectual dictator, Napoleon, who kept Europe at war for decades (Bernard Norling, Timeless Problems in History, 180.) Alexander the Great (who was not a Bible-thumping fundamentalist) is usually presented as an ambassador of Greek culture and civilization, but in his conquests he killed more people than anyone else in history up until that time (Richard Shenkman, Legends, Lies and Cherished Myths of World History, 12). Genghis Khan (who was not a Bible-thumping fundamentalist) killed twenty million people in his conquests, one tenth of the world’s population in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries (Roger Boar and Nigel Blundell, The World’s Most Infamous Murders, 200). Joseph Stalin (who was not a Bible-thumping fundamentalist) killed more people in three decades than the Tsars had killed in four centuries (ibid., The World’s Most Evil Men, 30). A rejection of the Bible has not and does not automatically produce enlightened, compassionate, rational people. Rather, cruel, vicious people will latch onto any cause as cover for their evil agendas. Kim Jung Il (who is not a Bible-thumping fundamentalist) is described on the editorial page opposite Mr. Sanders’ letter as "a loopy dictator with delusions of grandeur armed with nuclear weapons recklessly flinging ballistic missiles around the Pacific" (Times Union, 04/20/2009, 4A). Atheism sure did not turn this guy into a philosopher-king, but rather into a cruel, little tin god who turned North Korea into the Bizarro World.
As Americans we need to get back to the wisdom of the Founding Fathers. Start with the Federalist Papers. Resist tyrants whether they disguise their power-grubbing as religious or secular, left or right wing. As Benjamin Franklin said, "The price of freedom is eternal vigilance."
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