Understanding the Religious Commitments of the Founding Fathers

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


The IDF’s First Investigation of Its Conduct on October 7 Is Out

For several months, the Israel Defense Forces has been investigating its own actions on and preparedness for October 7, with an eye to understanding its failures. The first of what are expected to be many reports stemming from this investigation was released yesterday, and it showed a series of colossal strategic and tactical errors surrounding the battle at Kibbutz Be’eri, writes Emanuel Fabian. The probe, he reports, was led by Maj. Gen. (res.) Mickey Edelstein.

Edelstein and his team—none of whom had any involvement in the events themselves, according to the IDF—spent hundreds of hours investigating the onslaught and battle at Be’eri, reviewing every possible source of information, from residents’ WhatsApp messages to both Israeli and Hamas radio communications, as well as surveillance videos, aerial footage, interviews of survivors and those who fought, plus visits to the scene.

There will be a series of further reports issued this summer.

IDF chief Halevi in a statement issued alongside the probe said that while this was just the first investigation into the onslaught, which does not reflect the entire picture of October 7, it “clearly illustrates the magnitude of the failure and the dimensions of the disaster that befell the residents of the south who protected their families with their bodies for many hours, and the IDF was not there to protect them.” . . .

The IDF hopes to present all battle investigations by the end of August.

The IDF’s probes are strictly limited to its own conduct. For a broader look at what went wrong, Israel will have to wait for a formal state commission of inquiry to be appointed—which happens to be the subject of this month’s featured essay in Mosaic.

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Gaza War 2023, IDF, Israel & Zionism, October 7