Understanding the Religious Commitments of the Founding Fathers

Feb. 20 2023

Reviewing Kody Cooper and Justin Buckley Dyer’s The Classical and Christian Origins of American Politics, Mark David Hall seeks to refute the common misconception that the American Declaration of Independence and Constitution were shaped by de-facto moral relativists who upheld freedom and procedure above all else:

Some conservatives lament—and many progressives celebrate—the myth that America’s founders were deists, theistic rationalists, or even atheists who were influenced by modern, secular ideas. They rejected the wisdom of their ancestors, and instead believed they could, in the words of Thomas Paine, “create the world anew.” Their new world had no place for the classical and Christian natural-law tradition, and instead privileged individualist natural rights that could be exercised with little concern for the common good.

Contrary to the many scholars who assert that “most” of America’s founders were deists, Cooper and Dyer recognize that only a few founders were deists, at least as the term is commonly defined. To be sure, a handful of important founders were not orthodox Christians—notably Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and John Adams—but the authors argue that their heterodox views did not include rejecting natural law.

Cooper and Dyer highlight appeals to natural law by James Otis, John Dickinson, Alexander Hamilton, James Wilson, and Thomas Jefferson. In their discussion of them, the authors dispel the common misconception that references to the state of nature or natural rights are evidence that the founders rejected classical and Christian metaphysics and ethics. Although such references could be evidence that an author is an individualistic, materialistic modern, they show that when the founders made them, they did so in a manner that was compatible with traditional Christian thought.

Read more at Law and Liberty

More about: American founding, American Religion, Religion and politics


Israel Is Courting Saudi Arabia by Confronting Iran

Most likely, it was the Israeli Air Force that attacked eastern Syria Monday night, apparently destroying a convoy carrying Iranian weapons. Yoav Limor comments:

Israel reportedly carried out 32 attacks in Syria in 2022, and since early 2023 it has already struck 25 times in the country—at the very least. . . . The Iranian-Israeli clash stands out in the wake of the dramatic events in the region, chiefly among them is the effort to strike a normalization deal between Israel and Saudi Arabia, and later on with various other Muslim-Sunni states. Iran is trying to torpedo this process and has even publicly warned Saudi Arabia not to “gamble on a losing horse” because Israel’s demise is near. Riyadh is unlikely to heed that demand, for its own reasons.

Despite the thaw in relations between the kingdom and the Islamic Republic—including the exchange of ambassadors—the Saudis remain very suspicious of the Iranians. A strategic manifestation of that is that Riyadh is trying to forge a defense pact with the U.S.; a tactical manifestation took place this week when Saudi soccer players refused to play a match in Iran because of a bust of the former Revolutionary Guard commander Qassem Suleimani, [a master terrorist whose militias have wreaked havoc throughout the Middle East, including within Saudi borders].

Of course, Israel is trying to bring Saudi Arabia into its orbit and to create a strong common front against Iran. The attack in Syria is ostensibly unrelated to the normalization process and is meant to prevent the terrorists on Israel’s northern border from laying their hands on sophisticated arms, but it nevertheless serves as a clear reminder for Riyadh that it must not scale back its fight against the constant danger posed by Iran.

Read more at Israel Hayom

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, Saudi Arabia, Syria