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Sorry, but I disagree with ALL religious absolutists, period.

Reader comment on item: Is Allah God? - Continued
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Submitted by zzazzeefrazzee (United States), Nov 17, 2006 at 23:31

George Washington
(1732-1799; "Father of His Country"; 1st U.S. President, 1789-1797)

The following year [1784], when asking Tench Tilghman to secure a carpenter and a bricklayer for his Mount Vernon estate, he [Washington] remarked: "If they are good workmen, they may be of Asia, Africa, or Europe. They may be Mohometans, Jews or Christians of any Sect, or they may be Atheists." As he told a Mennonite minister who sought refuge in the United States after the Revolution: "I had always hoped that this land might become a safe and agreeable Asylum to the virtuous and persecuted part of mankind, to whatever nation they might belong...." He was, as John Bell pointed out in 1779, "a total stranger to religious prejudices, which have so often excited Christians of one denomination to cut the throats of those of another." (Paul F. Boller, George Washington & Religion, Dallas: Southern Methodist University Press, 1963, p. 118. According to Boller, Washington wrote his remarks to Tilghman in a letter dated March 24, 1784; his remarks to the Mennonite--Francis Adrian Van der Kemp--were in a letter dated May 28, 1788.)

Government being, among other purposes, instituted to protect the consciences of men from oppression, it is certainly the duty of Rulers, not only to abstain from it themselves, but according to their stations, to prevent it in others. (George Washington, letter to the Religious Society called the Quakers, September 28, 1789. From Gorton Carruth and Eugene Ehrlich, eds., The Harper Book of American Quotations, New York: Harper & Row, 1988, p. 500.)

It is now no more that toleration is spoken of as if it was by the indulgence of one class of the people that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights. For happily the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that those who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens in giving it, on all occasions, their effectual support. (George Washington, letter to the congregation of Touro Synagogue Jews, Newport, Rhode Island, August, 1790. From Gorton Carruth and Eugene Ehrlich, eds., The Harper Book of American Quotations, New York: Harper & Row, 1988, p. 500.)

Of all the animosities which have existed among mankind, those which are caused by difference of sentiments in religion appear to be the most inveterate and distressing, and ought most to be deprecated. I was in hopes that the enlightened and liberal policy, which has marked the present age, would at least have reconciled Christians of every denomination so far that we should never again see the religious disputes carried to such a pitch as to endanger the peace of society. (George Washington, letter to Edward Newenham, October 20, 1792; from George Seldes, ed., The Great Quotations, Secaucus, New Jersey: Citadel Press, 1983, p. 726.)

In the Enlightened Age and in this Land of equal Liberty it is our boast, that a man's religious tenets will not forfeit the protection of the Laws, nor deprive him of the right of attaining and holding the highest Offices that are known in the United States. (George Washington, letter to the members of the New Church in Baltimore, January 27, 1793. Quoted in Richard B. Morris, Seven Who Shaped Our Destiny: The Founding Fathers as Revolutionaries, Harper & Row, 1973, p. 269.)

... Bird Wilson, Episcopal minister in Albany, New York, was one of the first openly to challenge in public the pietistic picture of Washington that was being built up by [Mason Locke] Weems and his followers. In a sermon delivered in October, 1831, which attracted wide attention when it was reported in the Albany Daily Advertiser, Wilson stated flatly that "among all our presidents from Washington downward, not one was a professor of religion, at least not of more than unitarianism." Washington, he went on to say, was a great and good man, but he was not a professor of religion; he was really a typical eighteenth-century Deist, not a Christian, in his religious outlook. (Paul F. Boller, George Washington & Religion, Dallas: Southern Methodist University Press, 1963, pp. 14-15.)

... Like his father before him, he [George Washington] served actively for many years as one of the twelve vestrymen for Truro parish, Virginia, in which Mount Vernon was located. According to Charles H. Callahan, "The regularity of his attendance at the meetings of the vestry and the progress of church work throughout the parish during his incumbency is a striking testimonial of the religious zeal and activity of him and his associates." Actually, under the Anglican establishment in Virginia before the Revolution, the duties of a parish vestry were as much civil as religious in nature and it is not possible to deduce any exceptional religious zeal from the mere fact of membership. Even Thomas Jefferson was a vestryman for a while.* [Boller's footnote is shown at the end of this selection.] Consisting of the leading gentlemen of the parish in position and influence (many of whom, like Washington, were also at one time or other members of the County Court and of the House of Burgesses), the parish vestry, among other things, levied the parish taxes, handled poor relief, fixed land boundaries in the parish, supervised the construction, furnishing, and repairs of churches, and hired ministers and paid their salaries. *As Bishop William Meade put it, somewhat nastily, in 1857: "Even Mr. Jefferson, and [George] Wythe, who did not conceal their disbelief in Christianity, took their parts in the duties of vestrymen, the one at Williamsburg, the other at Albermarle; for they wished to be men of influence." (William Meade, Old Churches, Ministers and Families of Virginia, 2 vols.; Philadelphia, 1857, I, 191). (Paul F. Boller, George Washington & Religion, Dallas: Southern Methodist University Press, 1963, p. 26.)

Unlike Thomas Jefferson--and Thomas Paine, for that matter--Washington never even got around to recording his belief that Christ was a great ethical teacher. His reticence on the subject was truly remarkable. Washington frequently alluded to Providence in his private correspondence. But the name of Christ, in any correspondence whatsoever, does not appear anywhere in his many letters to friends and associates throughout his life. (Paul F. Boller, George Washington & Religion, Dallas: Southern Methodist University Press, 1963, pp. 74-75.)

... if to believe in the divinity and resurrection of Christ and his atonement for the sins of man and to participate in the sacrament of the Lord's Supper are requisites for the Christian faith, then Washington, on the evidence which we have examined, can hardly be considered a Christian, except in the most nominal sense. (Paul F. Boller, George Washington & Religion, Dallas: Southern Methodist University Press, 1963, p. 90.)

[on Washington's first inaugural speech in April 1789] . .. That he was not just striking a popular attitude as a politician is revealed by the absence of of the usual Christian terms: he did not mention Christ or even use the word "God." Following the phraseology of the philosophical Deism he professed, he referred to "the invisible hand which conducts the affairs of men," to "the benign parent of the human race." (James Thomas Flexner, George Washington and the New Nation [1783-1793], Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1970, p. 184.)

Washington's religious belief was that of the enlightenment: deism. He practically never used the word "God," preferring the more impersonal word "Providence." How little he visualized Providence in personal form is shown by the fact that he interchangeably applied to that force all three possible pronouns: he, she, and it. (James Thomas Flexner, George Washington: Anguish and Farewell [1793-1799], Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1972, p. 490.)

No citizens ... were more sensitive to Washington's role as an upholder of liberties than the religious minorities. These groups were less anxious to cultivate what they had in common with other Americans than to sustain what kept them apart. Washington recognized this, just as he recognized the tenacity of regional and economic interests, and he took pains to explain precisely what national unity meant to him. He carried to his countrymen a vision of "organic" rather than "mechanical" solidarity, a union based on difference and interdependence rather than uniformity of belief and conduct. Washington's understanding of the kind of integration appropriate to a modern state was not shared by the most powerful Protestant establishments, the New England Congregationalists and Presbyterians; but other religious groups could not have been more pleased.... Acknowledging in each instance that respect for diversity was a fair price for commitment to the nation and its regime, Washington abolished deep-rooted fears that would have otherwise alienated a large part of the population from the nation-building process. For this large minority, he embodied not the ideal of union, nor even that of liberty, but rather the reconciliation of union and liberty. (Barry Schwartz, George Washington: The Making of an American Symbol, New York: The Free Press, 1987, pp. 85-86.)

George Washington's conduct convinced most Americans that he was a good Christian, but those possessing first-hand knowledge of his religious convictions had reasons for doubt. (Barry Schwartz, George Washington: The Making of an American Symbol, New York: The Free Press, 1987, p. 170.)

Following a tradition transmitted from Cicero, through Machiavelli, to their own contemporaries like Paine and Jefferson, the less pious men of the time saw in religion a necessary and assured support of civil society. Although guided in their own conduct by secular traditions, they felt that only religion could unite the masses and induce their submission to custom and law. So they joined their orthodox countrymen in attributing to the hero [George Washington] a deep religious devotion. (Barry Schwartz, George Washington: The Making of an American Symbol, New York: The Free Press, 1987, p. 173.)

As President, Washington regularly attended Christian services, and he was friendly in his attitude toward Christian values. However, he repeatedly declined the church's sacraments. Never did he take communion, and when his wife, Martha, did, he waited for her outside the sanctuary.... Even on his deathbed, Washington asked for no ritual, uttered no prayer to Christ, and expressed no wish to be attended by His representative. George Washington's practice of Christianity was limited and superficial because he was not himself a Christian. In the enlightened tradition of his day, he was a devout Deist--just as many of the clergymen who knew him suspected. (Barry Schwartz, George Washington: The Making of an American Symbol, New York: The Free Press, 1987, pp. 174-175.)

Submitting....

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