Contrary to the claims of today's religionists – this book argues – America’s Constitution has an “intentionally secular base.” Repudiating the idea of a “Christian Commonwealth,” the “architects of our national government envisioned a godless Constitution and a godless politics.”
This is an usually perceptive analysis, which re-establishes the radical rationality of the Founding Fathers. It is an amply documented refutation of the demagogic distortions fueled by religious conservatives.
The authors describe the Founders as deists who envisioned a political system "emphasizing the sacredness of individual natural rights, given by God but thereafter managed by men." Kramnick and Moore show how America was formed at "a moment of liberal ascendance when religious laissez-faire went hand-in-hand with the triumph of economic laissez-faire."
Clerics complained that the Constitution had "not the slightest hint of homage to the God of Heaven." Thomas Jefferson was denounced as a "howling atheist" and "opposer of Christianity." (As late as the 1830s, clerics made sure the Philadelphia public library carried no books on Jefferson.)
Finally, the authors show how today's religionists aim to take over the Republican Party and establish a theocracy – not, as their predecessors did, by condemning the Constitution as atheistic, but by proclaiming that the Founders had established a Christian nation which is being threatened by modern secularists.
Unfortunately, the authors have a philosophic flaw. They oppose the state's imposition of religious beliefs, not because that would violate individual rights, but because religion claims to be certain. They hold the liberal cliche that freedom requires moral skepticism – which implies that only statism can be upheld with certainty.
Nonetheless, the Founders are definitely depicted as non-skeptical champions of reason and liberty. This impressive book offers powerful ammunition to those who wish to defend the actual philosophy behind the founding of America.
This review is courtesy of and copyright © by the Ayn Rand Bookstore.