Another Entertainer Shows Historical Ignorance

Rob Thomas, singer/songwriter and front man for the band Matchbox 20, has successfully proven an old adage: Don’t Keep quiet and let people think you’re a fool. Open your mouth and remove all doubt. He has also shown us all that the American system of education is in pretty sorry shape. But, one thing is sure, Mr. Thomas “feels good” about himself, so he’s got that whole self esteem thing down nicely. Sadly, he lacks some basis for the conceit.

In a Huffington Post entry from May 27, Thomas made to ingratiate himself with the cool, the hip, and the terminally liberal by tooting his I-love-me-teh-gay horn. Most of his entry is banal, uninventive, and prosaic, but the part that most needs to be addressed is his horrible understanding of American history. Of course, his lack of historical understanding is also pretty commonplace for his ilk: those in the Hollyweird/entertainment field. Unfortunately, it is also common among far too many other Americans, ones not trying to sound perpetually hip because they loves them teh gays.

Naturally, when we are talking homosexuals in America, the conversation turns to religion and its place in this country and it is that history that Thomas tried to relate with disastrous results to his HuffPo readers.

Thomas regurgitated one of the most common myths that the irreligious and atheists aficionados in America love to promulgate about our founders. The contention is that “most” of the founding fathers were “atheists.” Rather more often it is claimed that “most” of the founders were Deists. Neither is true, however.

Now, it is true that many of the founders had unconventional beliefs. It is also true that many of them were wary of organized religion. Thomas is right in one respect when he says that many of the founders thought that “religion was the cause of so much persecution” in Europe and that they wanted to try and prevent those problems here. But it is not true that “most” of the founders were atheists. Not even Jefferson called himself an atheist, though he did call himself a Unitarian. Jefferson also regularly attended Bible study in the halls of Congress during his presidential term. Two founders are known to have called themselves Deists, Ben Franklin and Gouverneur Morris. Washington was known to shy from common practices, though he was a loyal Church attendee. Adams frequently wrote about his suspicions of the priesthood and the church but was also a loyal member of his own church. But “atheist” was not a very common claim among America’s founders.

It must also be mentioned that every single American state (but Rhode Island) had an official state religion to which every major politician belonged. Too many forget that there is far more to “the founders” than Jefferson, Washington, Adams, Madison and the big names we can all name. The truth is that half the signers of the Declaration of Independence had divinity degrees and every state was set up to promulgate a particular sect of Christianity. The singular fact is that there were hundreds of founders from the individual states that had a hand in creating this nation. And the largest number of them were pious men.

Next, Thomas makes more of a fool of himself by invoking the mythical “separation of church and state” ideal as one from the “Constitution.” (All caps from original)

I also believe that anyone who says that this is a “Christian nation” has RHS, or revisionist history syndrome, and doesn’t realize that most of our founding fathers were either atheist or at least could see, even in the 1700s, that all through Europe at the time, religion was the cause of so much persecution that they needed to put into their brand new constitution a SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE so that the ideals of a group of people could never be forced onto the whole.

Of course, Thomas is completely incorrect. The “separation of church and state” is not in the Constitution. This phrase was written in 1802 in a private letter between Thomas Jefferson and a congregation of Baptists from Danbury, Connecticut. It appears neither in the Constitution nor any other official government document. Few Americans have any grasp at all about what Jefferson was talking about with his letter. (Here is a longer discussion of the Danbury letter)

As it occurs, this “wall of separation” never became an American rule until the Supreme Court belatedly discovered the phrase in the 1940s. So, for nearly 150 years the country rolled along quite nicely with no idea that it was restricted by “a wall of separation between church and state.”

Like I said, Thomas’ blather about gays is uninteresting but his uninformed ideas about American history needs to be corrected as many times as those that so misunderstand it care to lay these same incorrect facts out there as true American history.

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