A number of erroneous myths pervade the typical American’s understanding of our history — from our early educations and through the repeated assertions in our media.

Among the more cruel of these was that the U.S. was first settled by Europeans from England — the Puritans and the Mayflower and all that at Plymouth Rock in 1620.  Nice try (and apparently even my earliest great, greats were a young couple that arrived, met, married and moved on westward at some point where our immediate family recollections were of a farm boy born and raised in Palmyra, NY.).

In fact, as the arrival date of Columbus in 1492 indicates, the Spanish first settled large portions of the U.S. — Florida to California and much in between more than a century earlier — as the original Spanish place names indicate.  The Anglos in charge grabbed many of these territories from the Spanish by devious means — e.g. trumped up wars, such as  the U.S. Mexican War of 1846-48:  http://www.pbs.org/kera/usmexicanwar/index_flash.html 

If justice were to be done, we should be assisting Mexican immigrants in returning to their own lands which we stole rather than barring them as illegal immigrants.

Another tall tale and the one to which the subject heading refers is the false notion that the U.S. was founded by Christians.  In fact our founding fathers were for the most part either atheists or deists (who believed in an ordered universe, but not the G-d of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob).  Another of my possible collateral relatives on my mother’s side, Ethan Allen, not only fought the battle of Ticonderoga, but also wrote one of our earliest atheist tracts:


I am really indebted to the fine course that I took with Robert T. Handy on American church history for a fuller understanding of the twists and turns of our religious traditions.  On the strength of the Puritan originals, such Ivies as Yale and Harvard were first started to educate Protestant clergy.  But by the time of the revolution the great bulk of our American intellectuals had departed theistic beliefs for a deistic sense of the order of nature (theist derives from the Greek word for god — theos — and deist, from the Roman — deus).  Ben Franklin was archetypal among these folks with his kite experiments amidst thunder storms to elicit lightening strikes.  By the time of the revolution in 1776 and the writing of the Constitution the vast majority of students at Yale and Harvard proclaimed themselves to be deists heading for other pursuits than theists serving the god of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

The rest of the American religious story is not exactly something for Christians to be boastful about.  The Civil War divided denominations between North and South — the former sometimes for abolition and the latter defending the horrendous institution of slavery — thus the latter day Christian-based racism which was still setting up private ‘Christian’ academies to avoid the strictures against segregation of the Brown decision in 1954.

And the current right wing make-it-up-as-you-go-along hate stuff emerged from nineteenth century middle America’s anti-intellectual religious hucksters who traveled from town to town preaching hellfire and damnation and passing the hat to frightened sinners before heading on to the next unsuspecting community.  See Richard Hofstader’s classic Anti-Intellectualism in American Life:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Hofstadter

The sad outcome of this phenomenon is the hate stuff now directed by the right wingers against gays, their anti-Semitism which proclaims the imminent destruction of Israel and most of the Jews with it, and their denigration of women through their attack on abortion rights.  None of the above have anything to do with the gospel (good news) preached by Jesus of Nazareth.

It is too bad that our media don’t know history.  They could do much to enlighten us as to whence we have come to give better insights into where we should be going.  Thank G-d for the First Amendment which reined in the religious frauds and nuts with its no establishment clause.  I served for several decades on the ACLU’s church/state committee which dealt with such matters and which was all too enlightening as to the fraudulent religious pack rats running about loose in the land.

“A war is just if there is no alternative, and the resort to arms is legitimate if they represent your last hope.” (Livy cited by Machiavelli)

Ed Kent  718-951-5324 (voice mail only) [blind copies]

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