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The American Myth of Religious Freedom [Hardcover]

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Pages   202
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 0.75" Width: 6.25" Height: 9.25"
Weight:   1.2 lbs.
Binding  Hardcover
Publisher   Spence Publishing Company
ISBN  1890626139  
EAN  9781890626136  

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The American Myth of Religious Freedom by Kenneth R. Craycraft

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Reviews - What do our customers think?
The Tyranny of the Majority Won't let you Read this  Dec 31, 2004
A very insightful book if one is is willing to read it on its own merits. The vast majority will have condemned without ever hearing the evidence. I have neither the time nor inclination to respond to those who have their minds made up before they progressed pass the table of contents page. However, I would like to respond to a few criticisms. First, while reviwers such as "Frankus" make elaborate appeals to emotion, they fail to even grapple with the core agrument of this book that the first amendment is designed more for security of liberal regime than religious freedom . Second, the fact that Mr. Craycraft "published" his book does not prove anything. Publishing has nothing to do with religious freedom or the lack of it.
There are two key chapters in this book. One is on John Locke and Letter Concerning Toleration. The other key chapter is on Jefferson and Madision and how they applied Locke's ideas. The key idea is Locke's conception of the individual conscience as supreme end in itself even if committing grave moral error. That even when a conscience of a individual joins a church he remains supreme. This ironically is why Locke, and then Madison conceptualize a church as purely an association of like minded consciences, but the association would have no corporate existence and thereby no authority over individual members. The liberal democratic state is nothing more than a collection of conscience based anarchists that decide things based majority vote. What some may fail to realize is this leads directly to the denial of the existence of objective truth in any form. A throrough reading and re-reading of chapter on Locke leads one to realize that the seeds of modern day excessive secularism are not result of the progressive incrementalism of liberal supreme court justices of the last 60 years, but are present at the outset in Locke's philosophy only to be watered and nurtured further by Jefferson and Madison...What the previous reviewers fail to see, is it that Lock'e model is just as much a threat to evangelicals. Francis Schaefer in A CHRISTIAN MANFESTO proposed using the Bible as a guide to objective truth. The problem is for Madison, the individual conscience is still suprmeme even if he voluntarily joins a denomination of like minded bible readers. Locke,Madison, and Jefferson would deny religious toleration the minute a single bible reader conceives of his biblical interpreation as more than mere pluralist opinion equal valid with satan worship. The ramfications of Lock'e thought are there if one takes the time to really moll it over. The problem for the evangelical mind it to accept the pluralist presumptions of lockean democracy and still maintain the desire for objective truth.
It must be also pointed out that Madison's views on denying churches the ability to "incorporate themselves" as legal entity and thereby own property perpetually as denominations is very radical idea which has been behind some of the bloodiest persecution's of christianity by so-called "liberal regimes". Countries like anticlerical mexico (1917-1990s) put religious liberty on paper and yet denied churchs the most basic of civil rights. The 1917 Mexican consitution while acknowledging "religious liberty" in the traditional "Enlightenment" fashion, crafted mechanisms deliberately designed to inhibit church growth and thereby religious liberty. The devil can be found in the details. One only needs to compare Madison's initial proposals for the first amendment free exercise/establishment clauses and see how similar they are to the French Revolution's DECLARTIONS ON THE RIGHTS OF MAN and the actual text of 1917 Consitution of Mexico where religious liberty is qualified by "subject to security of public good" or something similar. These qualification clauses have been used by regimes to erect all sorts of barriers to religious liberty in practice. Finally, It cannot be denied that the books central point that religious liberty is subordinate to security of the state. One needs only look at the fact that U.S Supreme court always has Jursidiction to decided whether it has jurisdiction to rule on the internal affairs of a church. One need look no further than the Peyote case mentioned in the book or recent attempts by by PEOPLE FOR THE AMERICAN WAY and assorted legislation to deny the Catholic Church the use of its missions in california by declaring them National Historic Sites.
A Reader writes "Of all the political experiments in the history of the world, the American experiment in religious freedom has been the most unequivocally successful. Extremists like Fish and Craycraft should not be working to destroy it." This is strangley repremisicent of tyranny in the name of freedom. Alexis De Tocqueville wrote in DEMOCRACY IN AMERICA that:
"In America the majority has enclosed thought within a formiable fence.A writer is free inside it, but woe to the man who goes beyond it...Formerly tyranny used the clumsy weapons of chains and hangmen; nowdays even despotism though it seemed to have nothing more to learn, has been perfected by civilization."

Not my idea of utopia  Feb 1, 2001
Mr. Craycraft argues that the First Amendment does not promote true religious liberty. He claims that it is primarily designed to restrict people who believe they owe their allegiance to God rather than secular government from fulling living out their religious beliefs. Although he cites John Rawls at the beginning of his book, Craycraft never comes to terms with Rawls' basic argument: that in a free society, members of each religion give up some of their rights in order to obtain protection from persecution by other sects with different views. Instead, Craycraft advocates a society in which the institutional church is protected from attacks by freethinkers, Jews, and followers of what Harold Bloom calls "The American Religion" (the view that each person can find a personal relationship with Jesus and interpret the Bible for himself).

Craycraft claims that the First Amendment is primarily designed to protect the secular government from interference by the church, not to protect individual liberties. The obvious rejoinder to this argument is "well, Mr. Craycraft, you published YOUR book without government interference, didn't you?" In the kind of society Mr. Craycraft is stumping for, would I have been allowed to publish a book calling for the ESTABLISHMENT of a First Amendment? I think not.

The Vatican's Declaration on Religious Liberty is indeed a historic document, in that it seems to represent a renunciation by the Catholic Church of the practice of persecuting dissenters and unbelievers in countries where its adherents form a majority of the population or a controlling bloc. Mr. Craycraft claims that his views on religious liberty follow this document. However, his approving quotations from Thomas Aquinas are quite alarming and it is worth quoting his summary of these views:

"By the very nature of religious belief, the unbeliever cannot be compelled to faith. But this does not mean that we are merely indifferent to non-believers or tolerant of all their actions. Rather, 'they should be compelled, if it be possible to do so, so that they do not hinder the faith, by their blasphemies, or by their evil persuasion, or even by their open persecutions.'"

"But [even] this limited tolerance does not apply to those who, after having professed the true faith, deviate from it in thought or practice. 'Such should be submitted even to bodily compulsion, that they may fulfill what they have promised. . .'"

Craycraft follows this quotation, which seems to permit torture of apostates and restriction of publications critical of the established church, with the astonishing statement that the adoption of Aquinas's views "in America might yield a great deal of freedom to heretics and non-believers."

Clearly, this is a call not only for abolition of the Enlightenment, but for destruction of the Reformation as well. Under this regieme, no one could say, as Luther did, that "the Pope is the Antichrist," without fear of torture or persecution. No one could leave the "One True Church" and become a Baptist or a Quaker or a Cathar or a Gnostic. One shudders to think of what would happen to a Wiccan, a Pagan or a Pantheist who wished to carry on his or her religion openly in a society ruled by Aquinas's rules.

Craycraft's book is also sadly deficient in terms of historical analysis of the factors that led up to the adoption of the First Amendment: the brutal centuries of horrible torture, violence, heretic hunts and witch burnings that tainted Europe with their bloody futility. Although he claims he is in favor of religious liberty, that liberty seems to boil down to the liberty of the organized church to prevent dissent and police its members in the name of an alleged monopoly on truth. This is a huge step backwards, and I am glad to say I don't see Americans running to embrace it any time soon.

Not So Strange Bedfellows  Jul 12, 2000
What this book brings out is the interesting way in which the extremists of the Left and Right suffer from the same totalitarianism. For both of them, political "freedom" is not satisfying unless it includes the "freedom" to force you, against your will, to actively support their religious view: the Right by theocracy, and the Left by forcing Christians to pay (in taxes) for anti-Christian art, abortions, and secularist education.

What both seem unable to grasp is, that "Government," as George Washington put it: "is force." "Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master." Nor can democratic majority rule alter this fundamental reality, since "an elective despotism is not the government we fought for." (Jefferson) The moderate, conservative, classical, laissez-faire liberalism of the American founders knew the only hope for social peace lay in the principle of "live and let live," the idea that the purpose of government must first and foremost be to prevent anyone from using force or the threat of violence to compel others, whether it be to force them at gunpoint to be baptized or to buy Robert Mapplethorpe a new car. When government undertakes to do all and to be all, it creates strife. Whether the State undertakes to erect crosses on public land, or to submerge them in jars of urine, the principle is the same: social peace is violated. Of all the political experiments in the history of the world, the American experiment in religious freedom has been the most unequivocally successful. Extremists like Fish and Craycraft should not be working to destroy it.

On a deeper level, the existence of this book, like others such as Euben's "Enemy in the Mirror," represents the logical, inevitable fruition of a poisoned seed planted by the anti-Enlightenment reaction that now calls itself "postmodernism," but which itself has roots that reach back to Hume, Rousseau, Marx, and even to Carneades. See "Enemy in the Mirror" for an interesting comparison.

A Time and A Place for Everything  Mar 26, 2000
I would have to agree with the author on the following point: It certainly does not seem that Mr. Casper has even a casual relationship with the theoretical constructs put forth. That said, however, a "customer review" forum does not seem like the appropriate place to wage a war of words. If Mr. Casper believes his arguments are valid, perhaps he could try a more academic forum in which to elucidate for us all the dogma he spews forth,to explain what the bee in his little bonnet is all about.
The First Amendment is a sham.  Nov 23, 1999
Craycrafts book is consistent with a strong trend all across the right-wing conservative spectrum, particularly among religious conservatives. The basic religious message of religious conservatives is that democracy simply doesn't work. But that is not generally what they actually say, and for good reason. It would be, or at least one hopes it would be, tantamount to political suicide. Rather, the basic strategy of the religious right is to cast this message in terms that appeal to the mainstream, to make it sound as though they are trying to protect and advance the very democratic rights based political culture that they actually seek to rescind. The mainstream version of the right-wing message is the persistent charge that the government of the United States has itself betrayed democracy. For the religious right, this betrayal consists in the alleged establishment of secular humanism as the defacto religion of the State, all under the guise of tolerance. Tolerance, they say, is the religion of liberals who, primarily through rulings of the Supreme Court, have succeeded in marginalizing Christianity and are leading the country toward moral and political catastrophe. This is a common theme throughout the conservative right-wing, from the radical right-wing religion of Christian Reconstructionism to the more mainstream Christian conservatives like Richard Neuhaus. Craycraft, however, takes this conspiracy of liberals all the way back to "that great philosopher of church/state separation," John Locke.

According to Craycraft, it was never Locke's intention to create a political culture that was tolerant of difference religious viewpoints. Rather, the whole intent of Locke's "Letter Concerning Tolerance" was to replace Christianity with a new religion the author calls "universal liberalism." What's more, Locke understood that this new religion would be in direct contradiction to the teaching of traditional Christianity, particularly in the area of natural rights. He therefore, according to the author, needed to make the new religion sound appealing to Christian believers, even while deliberately intending to separate them from their faith. The ingeniously deceptive way that Locke found to do this was to use the language, symbols, and even the sacred text of Christianity to subvert it into universal liberalism based on tolerance.

This view is underscored when Craycraft undertakes to compare what he regards as Locke's deliberately clandestine strategy to that of another famous critic of religion, Karl Marx. This comparison is, I think, a deliberate attempt to link Locke and Marx, and by implication both communism and democracy, together in a kind of conspiracy against Christianity, particularly Catholicism, in order to support the idea that religious freedom is no more real in the United States than it was in Russia or any other contemporary communist state. Like Marx, says the author, Locke wanted religion to be completely subsumed under politics. But Locke's strategy was for more cunning and successful because while he intentionally appeared to be the great philosopher of the separation of church and state, he actually affected the most successful merging of church and state in the history of modern political philosophy, only under the guise of universal liberalism rather than communism.

This is how the religious right deceptively set themselves up as the true champion of rights of conscience, and liberals as the enemy of such rights. Since secular humanism is the religion of liberals, and since that is the dominant religion of our culture, liberals, they say, are lying when they claim to be supporters of the separation of church and state. The State, dominated by liberals and the liberal culture, believes in and teaches the religion of secular humanism. So, in the view of the religious right, when liberals talk of the separation of church and state, they're simply protecting their own religion. Which means that liberals must attack and suppress the religion of others, particularly Christians. This is the technique used by the religious right to masquerade as victims of persistent attacks on First amendment rights by liberals, and how they can claim that liberals are enemies of those rights. By alleging that liberals have already betrayed the First Amendment, those on the religious right, with their proposals to amend the Constitution in the form of their so-called Religious Freedom amendment, present themselves to the mainstream as the true champions of the First amendment. From this position the religious right can cloak their attack on the separation of church and state in terms that appear to defend it. All the while, their real purpose is to weaken or destroy such institutional freedoms. Craycraft's attack on Locke supports this agenda.


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