Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Billboard Rant # 2

A clutch of billboards that I suspect you will find nowhere else in this country has has been laid along several Tampa Bay highways. They advocate, of all things, abolishing the traditional separation between church and state, a modern twist on antidisestablishmentarianism, of sorts.

I especially love one version of the billboard that quotes Thomas Jefferson saying that the American form of government owes much to the belief in God. This is hardly a revolutionary thought, either by Jefferson by those who now quote him. But quoting Jefferson in this context is like the Flat-Earth Society quoting Columbus. Good old TJ, or Thom, as he liked to be called, was no antidisestablishmentarian. Here's a quote that better captures Thom's essential belief on the subject:

Question with boldness even the existence of God; because if there be one, he must more approve the homage of reason, than that of blindfolded fear.

Not convinced? Here's another:

The rights of conscience we never submitted, we could not submit. We are answerable for them to our God. The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts as are injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my neighbour to say there are twenty gods, or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg . . . . Reason and free inquiry are the only effectual agents against error.

Of course, Tampa Bay has more churches per mile of road than almost everything except garish strip joints, so one might argue that there is in place already a certain establishmentarianism.

Those of you who suspect I may have posted this rant simply so I could fairly use "antidisestablishmentarianism" in modern discourse may be onto something. You could be wrong, but I don't think so.


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