Posts Tagged “deism”

Thomas JeffersonYes, you read that headline correctly. This is not a joke. It’s deadly serious. The reactionary, Religious Right-led Texas Board of Education has just ordered Thomas Jefferson, one of the most important of the Founding Fathers, from the Texas social-studies curriculum. The Texas Freedom Network has been at the proceedings and reported on this live, as it happened (WebCite cached article):

9:30 – Board member Cynthia Dunbar wants to change a standard having students study the impact of Enlightenment ideas on political revolutions from 1750 to the present. She wants to drop the reference to Enlightenment ideas (replacing with “the writings of”) and to Thomas Jefferson. She adds Thomas Aquinas and others. Jefferson’s ideas, she argues, were based on other political philosophers listed in the standards. We don’t buy her argument at all. Board member Bob Craig of Lubbock points out that the curriculum writers clearly wanted to students to study Enlightenment ideas and Jefferson. Could Dunbar’s problem be that Jefferson was a Deist? The board approves the amendment, taking Thomas Jefferson OUT of the world history standards.

TFN has even more to say on this:

9:40 – We’re just picking ourselves up off the floor. The board’s far-right faction has spent months now proclaiming the importance of emphasizing America’s exceptionalism in social studies classrooms. But today they voted to remove one of the greatest of America’s Founders, Thomas Jefferson, from a standard about the influence of great political philosophers on political revolutions from 1750 to today.

9:45 – Here’s the amendment Dunbar changed: “explain the impact of Enlightenment ideas from John Locke, Thomas Hobbes, Voltaire, Charles de Montesquieu, Jean Jacques Rousseau, and Thomas Jefferson on political revolutions from 1750 to the present.” Here’s Dunbar’s replacement standard, which passed: “explain the impact of the writings of John Locke, Thomas Hobbes, Voltaire, Charles de Montesquieu, Jean Jacques Rousseau, Thomas Aquinas, John Calvin and Sir William Blackstone.” Not only does Dunbar’s amendment completely change the thrust of the standard. It also appalling drops one of the most influential political philosophers in American history — Thomas Jefferson.

9:51 – Dunbar’s amendment striking Jefferson passed with the votes of the board’s far-right members and board member Geraldine “Tincy” Miller of Dallas.

This is just unbe-fucking-lievable. Have these people no shame? They’re so desperate to promote their religionism in Texas schools that they have written out mention of “the Enlightenment” and of Thomas Jefferson, in favor of Thomas Aquinas!

Hat tip: Religion Dispatches.

Photo credit: Kevin Labianco.

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The folks at Trinity College here in Connecticut released a report on a segment of the population previously mentioned in their 2008 survey (called ARIS) of religiosity in the US (which I blogged about earlier this year when it was released). Today they released a follow-up report, based on the 2008 survey data, on what they call “the Nones” (here’s a US News & World Report story, by Dan Gilgoff, on it):

If current trends continue, a quarter of Americans are likely to claim “no religion” in 20 years, according to a survey out today by Trinity College. Americans who identify with no religious tradition currently comprise 15 percent of the country, representing the fastest growing segment of the national religious landscape.

While the numbers portend a dramatic change for the American religious scene—”religious nones” accounted for just 8 percent of the population in 1990—the United States is not poised adopt the anti-religious posture of much of secularized Europe.

A point of clarification: the Trinity report on the Nones (which can be viewed here in PDF format) is not precisely “a survey out today.” It is, as I said, a follow-up report based on the earlier 2008 ARIS survey; this is not new data, as Gilgoff suggests. But Gilgoff does correctly note that not all the “Nones” are atheists:

That’s because American religious nones tend to be religious skeptics as opposed to outright atheists. Fewer than ten percent of those identifying with no religious tradition call themselves atheists or hold atheistic beliefs, according to the new study.

In other words, not all these Nones scoff at God. They may believe in a aloof, impersonal, supernatural Creator — or something along those lines — but do not necessarily reject the idea of a God. This means that many Nones might actually be best labeled as Deists.

One of my own positive observations about this report is that one of the questions in this 2008 poll, “Regarding the existence of God, do you think…?”, has a number of possible responses which allowed the surveyors to tease out potential differences among people who might together be lumped under the label of “non-believers.” These were: “There is no such thing [as God]”; “There is no way to know”; “I’m not sure”; and “There is a higher power but no personal God.” I note this because too many surveys of religion don’t dig into non-belief … instead, they present one overly-general response such as “I do not believe in God,” which can mean different things to different people.

What this means is that religonists who’d railed that “the New Atheists” had been making converts en masse back when the ARIS 2008 was initially released, are not actually correct. It is not “atheism” which is growing; the Nones identified in the survey include people with varying degrees of non-belief, and include Deists, who are most certainly theists (of a sort).

At any rate, this report appears to be the first major, serious, meaningful, large-scale investigation of “non-belief” in the US. It’s odd that, some 43 years after Time magazine asked on its cover, “Is God Dead?”, that only now has anyone bothered to seriously look at non-believers.

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