What a field day for the heat
A thousand people in the street
Singing songs and carrying signs
Mostly saying, "hooray for our side"

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The Stories We Tell Ourselves, Our Christian Founding

On the myth of "America (ie. the United States) was founded for religious freedom."

I think I just read this canard one too many times today. Nothing. Nothing. Not one thing could be farther from the truth.

Columbus sailed the ocean blue in 1492 for religious freedom? The Spaniards came to pillage and rape the Caribbean, Meso-America and South America for religious freedom? De-Soto traipsed about the American South from Texas to Florida for religious freedom? English traders came to the East coast to pillage and raid (not to mention spread diseases), taking Native Americans as slaves back to England for religious freedom? Jamestown was founded in Virginia swampland for religious freedom? Georgia was founded as a debtors/penal colony for religious freedom? The Dutch swindled the local indians (who actually may not have been local at all, but on a fishing trip) to found New Amsterdam (which they later sold to the English who renamed it New York) for religious freedom? The colonies of South and North Carolina introduced the concept of "transportation", indentured servitude, and fueled the trade in African Slaves for religious freedom? Maryland with her verdant fields of tobacco, Delaware with her banking interests, New Jersey because, well, because it was between England and Pennsylvania (Jerseyites, I kid, I'm one of you, but, really, the state is a sand bar with pretensions), these were founded on religious freedom?

Pennsylvania and WIlliam Penn... okay, he pretended it was for religious freedom, but did you notice how rich he got from selling the land? Also, please note that because of his Quaker hauteur the colony of Delaware was formed to get away from "teh Crazies" in Pennsylvania (btw, while Penn was back in England cleaning up his own and his son's mess, the Pennsylvania colonists revolted and replaced his charter with their own). So you get a barely true with that one.

Next we have Massachusetts, which was, for the most part, founded because the Puritans didn't want their children to speak that evil language, Dutch. And the King of England didn't want them in his country. So he gave them some leaky boats and sent them West. So you can say they were religious refuges. They, however, intended to land in NY when they were blown off course to Plymouth. Not having a lot of money and seeing it was "God's Providence" they petitioned to start their own colony of which the King was glad to do something with that land, and really, anything to keep them from returning (Want to know why? Look up Oliver Cromwell, Lord Defender. Now you know.). So, okay, you have Massachusetts. However, good ol' MA people then went on to found New Hampshire as a place of refuge from the religious fervor of the Pilgrims (as they were now called). Connecticut was founded to kick the Calvinists from MA. And Rhode Island was founded for good Connecticut people to get the hell away from those Calvinist crazies, avoid the Dutch, and not return to MA. So while two of those colonies were founded in an effort to get away from religion, I guess you could say all four were founded based on religious freedom. Let's not discuss the religious intolerance of the area.

Tell you what, I'll throw in PA as a gimmee.

So you get 5 out of 13 colonies founded for "religious freedom" of one sort or another, or 38%. Now that's just raw numbers, like an electoral college and doesn't represent actual land mass or population.

Next up, so you're saying that the colonist revolted against the English Crown after what, their religious freedom was threatened? The battle cry was "No Praying Without Representation"? The Stamp Act revolt was about having to buy religious stamps for Advent Calendars? The original Tea Party dumped Anglican Bibles into Boston Harbor to prevent standardization? I don't seem to remember that part.

This isn't meant to say that one of our greatest freedoms is not religious freedom (which includes the right to not be religious, and no where in the 1st Amendment do you see the word "Christian"). By all means, it's one of the reasons why it's in there with the other number one rights (speech, press, assembly and association). But even there, it's 20%.

So no, this one fails the reality test. Sorry.

As a linkee-poo, there is also this post on if "In the Year of Our Lord" as referenced in the standard issue of the Constitution was actually a scrivener's (printer's) addition. And as they say, referencing the date that way was a standard of the time, much in the way we say AD (which is the abbreviation of Anno Domini, which is "Year of our Lord"). See also, consternation over the use of C.E. (common era). It's as much a nod to Christianity as when people these days say, "Bless you" when you sneeze. Which is, it's a part of the background culture that most people don't even think about enough to even either take offense or claim evangelical pride in. (Grokked from Jay Lake)


vince said...

The stupidity, it burns. Sadly, it doesn't burn the idiots, like those who rushed to modify the Wikipedia Paul Revere entry after Palin massacred history (again).

As others have noted, "We've always been at war with Eastasia."

Steve Buchheit said...

So true, Vince, so true.