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Virtue & Morality: Freedomís Prerequisites
Meridian Magazine ^ | Unknown | Timothy B. Lewis

Posted on 11/17/2009 3:50:49 PM PST by Jacquerie

Our founders saw religion as the most powerful civilizing institution which could provide and sustain that moral base upon which our republic could be successfully built and without which, it would ultimately collapse like the Greeks before them. Consequently, they believed it to be imperative to encourage and support religion and did not see any 1st Amendment problem with governmental support of religion.

Rather than depending upon external legal constraints and force to maintain order and peace, they had to rely upon individual self-restraint and self-control. But they realized that it is only reasonable to expect people to act that way if they have a strong virtuous and moral base.

(Excerpt) Read more at meridianmagazine.com ...


TOPICS: History; Religion & Culture; Religion & Politics
KEYWORDS: constitution; naturallaw; sectarianism; utopianism
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James Madison observed: “Is there no virtue among us? If there be not, we are in a wretched situation. No theoretical checks, no form of government can render us secure. To suppose that any form of government will secure liberty or happiness without any virtue in the people, is a chimerical idea.”
1 posted on 11/17/2009 3:50:49 PM PST by Jacquerie
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To: little jeremiah; Lady Jag; Ev Reeman; familyof5; ForGod'sSake; NewMediaJournal; pallis; ...
Constitutional and Natural Law ping!
2 posted on 11/17/2009 3:54:06 PM PST by Jacquerie (Support and Defend our Beloved Constitution!)
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To: Jacquerie

Thanks for the ping!


3 posted on 11/17/2009 4:14:52 PM PST by editor-surveyor (The beginning of the O'Bomb-a administration looks a lot like the end of the Nixon administration)
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To: Jacquerie

Sin really does enslave people. The more sinful behavior we indulge in, the more enslaved we are.


4 posted on 11/17/2009 4:26:21 PM PST by Marie2 (The second mouse gets the cheese.)
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To: Marie2

No piece of parchment can preserve our rights. It was up to us to do so and we failed.


5 posted on 11/17/2009 4:54:22 PM PST by Jacquerie (Support and Defend our Beloved Constitution!)
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To: Jacquerie

It’s not over.

Thanks for the ping.

A few of my favotire quotes:


“Men are qualified for civil liberty in exact proportion to their disposition to put moral chains upon their own appetites—in proportion as their love of justice is above their rapacity;—in proportion as their soundness and sobriety of understanding is above their vanity and presumption;—in proportion as they are more disposed to listen to the counsels of the wise and good, in preference to the flattery of knaves. Society cannot exist, unless a controlling power upon the will and appetite is placed somewhere: and the less of it there is within, the more there must be without. It is ordained in the eternal constitution of things, that men of intemperate minds can not be free. Their passions forge their fetters.”
— Edmund Burke


“Reading, reflection and time have convinced me that the interests of society require the observation of those moral precepts ... in which all religions agree.”
—Thomas Jefferson


“Religion and good morals are the only solid foundation of publicliberty and happiness.”

— Samuel Adams (letter to John Trumbull, 16 October 1778)


Of all the dispositions and habits which least to political
prosperity, Religion and morality are indespensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of Patriotism who should labor to subvert these great Pilliars of human happiness.

— George Washington (Farewell Address, 19 September 1796)


“[O]ur ancestors established their system of government on morality and religious sentiment. Moral habits, they believed, cannot safely be trusted on any other foundation than religious principle, nor any government be secure which is not supported by moral habits.”
— Daniel Webster, American Jurist and Senator


“[N]either the wisest constitution nor the wisest laws will
secure the liberty and happiness of a people whose manners are universally corrupt.”
—Samuel Adams


In some people I see great liberty indeed; in many, if not in the most, an oppressive, degrading servitude. But what is liberty without wisdom, and without virtue? It is the greatest of all possible evils; for it is folly, vice, and madness, without tuition or restraint. Those who know what virtuous liberty is, cannot bear to see it disgraced by incapable heads, on account of their having high-sounding words in their mouths.
- Edmund Burke


“History fails to record a single precedent in which nations subject to moral decay have not passed into political and economic decline. There has been either a spiritual awakening to overcome the moral lapse, or a progressive deterioration leading to ultimate national disaster.”
— General Douglas MacArthur

Guess that’s enough for now. ;-)


6 posted on 11/17/2009 5:37:11 PM PST by little jeremiah (Asato Ma Sad Gamaya Tamaso Ma Jyotir Gamaya)
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To: Jacquerie
"Virtue Among the People" was considered by America's Founders as essential to liberty. Professor Lewis's essay is an excellent reminder for our society today.

Dr. Russell Kirk and others have written on this topic, which also was explored at length in a recently-reprinted book, "Our Ageless Constitution." See

7 posted on 11/17/2009 7:44:04 PM PST by loveliberty2
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To: Jacquerie; Jeff Head; betty boop; joanie-f
Thanks for the ping to this VERY long but excellent article. A few "money" quotes that stuck with me:

Something has to define the community and bring people together into a common enterprise that is worthy of the sacrifices necessary to defend it. In the United States, “liberty” has always been one of the concepts that defined the community. The word “liberty” has a noble ring to it because it implies the people who have it are just, moral, virtuous and upright. It implies an admixture of duty, honor and responsibility. But when we divorce these concepts from it, as we are doing today, the word loses its dignity and depreciates down to mere “license.”

Which bears this fruit...

In the long run, people will never rally around something so empty as the mere concept of “license.” Rome learned this the hard way. When Rome was sacked by the vandals, few came to its defense because by that point in time there was nothing left of “civil society” deemed worthy of being saved. There was no longer any binding commonality of objectives, morals, or vision of destiny. The free bread and circuses weren’t enough to rally the people in a life-threatening defense of their country since the heart and soul of their country had long since vanished.

And the playbook:

Change the domestic habits of the Americans, their religious devotion, and their high respect for morality, and it will not be necessary to change a single letter in the Constitution in order to vary the whole form of their government.

The forces set against us are legion and one is obliged to ponder whether or not Americans any longer have the will to fight this evil. Exacerbating the problem is something I frequently see here on FR, that is, there are many "conservatives" on this very forum who mock, ridicule and belittle religious faith and principles generally. Outright antagonism to religious principles is not at all uncommon here. If for no other reason, religious principles should be embraced by all conservatives, even non-believers, for its stabilizing effect on society and cohesiveness of the culture.

8 posted on 11/17/2009 7:56:42 PM PST by ForGod'sSake (You have two choices and two choices only: SUBMIT or RESIST with everything you've got!)
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To: Jacquerie

Thank you!


9 posted on 11/17/2009 8:47:56 PM PST by pallis
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To: ForGod'sSake
Exacerbating the problem is something I frequently see here on FR, that is, there are many "conservatives" on this very forum who mock, ridicule and belittle religious faith and principles generally. Outright antagonism to religious principles is not at all uncommon here. If for no other reason, religious principles should be embraced by all conservatives, even non-believers, for its stabilizing effect on society and cohesiveness of the culture.

And that is your money quote.

Basic Conservatism (smaller government, lower taxes) without an understanding of the philosophical basis of our form of government is a dry and desolate place. It is unappealing compared to the free goodies promised by the Left. It is only in the context of Christianity and Natural Law that our Declaration and Constitution form a coherent whole. So few are aware of this.

On our side are Cicero, St. Thomas Aquinas, Locke, Jefferson, Madison, Thomas Paine and others. On the side of the Left are Marx, Lenin, Stalin, . . . and assorted mass murderers.

Perhaps we can occasionally educate our Freeper brethren.

Please ping me regarding similar posts of yours.

10 posted on 11/18/2009 2:43:31 AM PST by Jacquerie (Support and Defend our Beloved Constitution!)
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To: ForGod'sSake
Outright antagonism to religious principles is not at all uncommon here. If for no other reason, religious principles should be embraced by all conservatives, even non-believers, for its stabilizing effect on society and cohesiveness of the culture.

You're right about the antagonism, but do you really think that advocacy (or the presence) of what amounts to deism is the solution?

"Religious principles" is pretty weak tea when compared with Christian belief.

11 posted on 11/18/2009 3:18:40 AM PST by Poe White Trash (Wake up!)
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To: Poe White Trash

Well, it was enough to found the United States. Contrary to what most liberals believe, most of the Founders were members of churches and “deists” such as Jefferson and Franklin, and infidels such as Thomas Paine, being the exception to the rule. Even Hamilton, who had drifted away from his boyhood Christianity,
was shaken enough by his son’s death in a duel to return to the faith, joining many other Americans in what called the second Great Awakening. The clergy, BTW, had been the professionals who most consistently supported the Whig cause, with the Presbyterians and Congregationalists leading the way.


12 posted on 11/18/2009 10:25:23 AM PST by RobbyS (Pray with the suffering souls.)
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To: Jacquerie
Thank you for the kind words but I only rarely become entangled in religious discussions on FR. Fellow believers certainly don't need my meager contributions and it seems un-believers are too focused on being their own gods to bow a knee. I don't begrudge them their belief since I was one of their fellow travelers in the not too distant past. IOW, there but for the grace of God...

They will have to experience their own epiphany before coming to terms with the Creator. The problem I suspect is they are afraid to look. Seek and ye shall find is a simple formula for finding the path but, alas...

13 posted on 11/18/2009 12:03:54 PM PST by ForGod'sSake (You have two choices and two choices only: SUBMIT or RESIST with everything you've got!)
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To: Poe White Trash
You're right about the antagonism, but do you really think that advocacy (or the presence) of what amounts to deism is the solution?

Worse things could happen. Being mindful of a Supreme Being such as God puts Man in his rightful place in the hierarchy. IMHO, pride, and not the love of money, might arguably be the root of all evil.

"Religious principles" is pretty weak tea when compared with Christian belief.

Poorly stated on my part; adherence to Christian principles would more accurately reflect my thoughts. Short of that, see above.

14 posted on 11/18/2009 12:13:57 PM PST by ForGod'sSake (You have two choices and two choices only: SUBMIT or RESIST with everything you've got!)
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To: ForGod'sSake; Jacquerie; Jeff Head; Alamo-Girl; joanie-f; spirited irish; ...
If for no other reason, religious principles should be embraced by all conservatives, even non-believers, for its stabilizing effect on society and cohesiveness of the culture.

Truly you wrote, "The forces set against us are legion and one is obliged to ponder whether or not Americans any longer have the will to fight this evil."

My suspicion is America is under massive spiritual attack, and for this sort of thing you need spiritual defenses. Plus we have to take into consideration the fact that the enemy knows this, and so has been assidously working at delegitimating all the spiritual foundations of persons and societies, and especially the religious ones, for over two hundred years now.

Indeed, the view is proselytized (and gaining adherents) that man himself has no soul, no spirit: He is just a sophisticated "meat machine" that ultimately reduces to material particles and nothing more. This is the doctrine of metaphysical naturalism, which boils down to matter and mechanics. The point is, it's difficult to see in what way a "meat machine" could ever be virtuous, to be willing to sacrifice for the well-being of something greater than himself; e.g., society, country, Constitution; to be able to order and restrain his passions; to respect other individuals as he himself expects to be respected; etc.

To accept the meat machine definition of one's self does have the advantage of relieving one of any personal responsibility for moral acts, on the reasoning that things that "reduce to material particles and nothing more" — i.e., to matter and mechanics — are determined systems already. There is no free will here.

Without free will, a system of self-governance is impossible.... But a descent into disorder and viciousness is easily imaginable.

For free will — Liberty — one needs a soul. Moreoever, the soul needs to be under God. Thomas Jefferson put it this way (quoted from the outstanding essay by Timothy Lewis at the top):

"...the relations which exist between man and his Maker, and the duties resulting from those relations, are the most interesting and important to every human being, and the most incumbent on his study and investigation."

The theme of "the relations which exist between man and his Maker" is at the very heart of the Declaration of Independence. It is literally the basic rationale of our American system of self-government. I.e., the reason we didn't need kings anymore was because as free, sovereign citizens, we are directly "under God." The historic kingly intermediary was no longer needed — or acceptable to Americans of the Founding period: no more "divine right of kings!"

The DoI itself is a splendid example of Natural Law reasoning. TJ was a natural law thinker; and I am, too — so naturally I appreciate his thinking on these matters....

And I very much enjoyed reading your excellent essay/post, ForGod'sSake! Thank you so much for the ping!

15 posted on 11/20/2009 9:51:47 AM PST by betty boop (Without God man neither knows which way to go, nor even understands who he is. ¬óPope Benedict XVI)
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To: betty boop
To accept the meat machine definition of one's self does have the advantage of relieving one of any personal responsibility for moral acts, on the reasoning that things that "reduce to material particles and nothing more" — i.e., to matter and mechanics — are determined systems already. There is no free will here.

Without free will, a system of self-governance is impossible.... But a descent into disorder and viciousness is easily imaginable.

Oh so very true for if the mind is merely an epiphenomenon of the physical brain meaning it cannot cause anything to happen, then there is no basis for law, for holding anyone responsible for his behavior.

Thank you oh so very much for your outstanding essay-post, dearest sister in Christ!

16 posted on 11/20/2009 10:29:21 AM PST by Alamo-Girl
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To: betty boop
I thank for your thoughtful post. Our Founders were among the first in modern times to reject the divine right of Kings. We replaced them with a representative republic based on Natural Law.

Governments get into trouble when they ignore the Natural Rights of the People. Every totalitarian society does so, and their leaders rightly fear their people.

We see hints of it here in the US. As our government increasingly abuses our Natural Rights, it resorts to increasingly harsh punishments. Refuse to buy health insurance? Pay a fine or go to prison is the latest outrage.

17 posted on 11/20/2009 2:21:53 PM PST by Jacquerie (Support and Defend our Beloved Constitution.)
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To: betty boop
Masterfully said betty! Thank you for your eloquent response.

I would like to add a general comment that may be obvious to believers but I've never actually seen it written, or even spoken for that matter(Maybe I don't get out enough?): When God is disinvited from a society, culture, what have you, it naturally follows that the evil one himself also becomes a non-entity; or so it would seem. IOW, if God doesn't exist, then the obvious conclusion any rational being would draw is since absolute holiness is nonexistent then absolute evil must also be nonexistent. You'll forgive me, but I am unable to put into words what I actually think about it. I expect you can probably get my meaning however.

18 posted on 11/20/2009 3:28:13 PM PST by ForGod'sSake (You have two choices and two choices only: SUBMIT or RESIST with everything you've got!)
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To: Jacquerie; ForGod'sSake; Alamo-Girl; joanie-f; Jeff Head
We see hints of it here in the US. As our government increasingly abuses our Natural Rights, it resorts to increasingly harsh punishments. Refuse to buy health insurance? Pay a fine or go to prison is the latest outrage.

Which is as ridiculous as it is shocking.

But then, I'm mindful of what Thomas Jefferson had to say on the liberty issue: "When the people fear their government, there is tyranny; when the government fears the people, there is liberty." Totalitarian societies don't ever have to fear the people; because they can just get rid of them (one way or another) if they become inconvenient. The people know this. And so they fear the government. Desire for liberty is subordinated to the basic need for survival in such systems.

We are not yet quite that far down the road to serfdom yet. But it seems to me we are definitely moving in that direction, and will continue to do so as long as our fear of the government is stronger than our natural desire for our God-given Liberty.

Jacquerie, thank you so much for posting this splendid essay/post!

19 posted on 11/21/2009 10:09:22 AM PST by betty boop (Without God man neither knows which way to go, nor even understands who he is. ¬óPope Benedict XVI)
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To: ForGod'sSake; Alamo-Girl; Jacquerie; r9etb; xzins
When God is disinvited from a society, culture, what have you, it naturally follows that the evil one himself also becomes a non-entity; or so it would seem. IOW, if God doesn't exist, then the obvious conclusion any rational being would draw is since absolute holiness is nonexistent then absolute evil must also be nonexistent. You'll forgive me, but I am unable to put into words what I actually think about it. I expect you can probably get my meaning however.

I think I do, ForGod'sSake. But I'm not sure I agree that when God is "disinvited" from a society that this somehow renders the evil one a non-entity. Rather I suspect that when God is "obviated," this simply leaves an unimaginably immense vacuum into which the evil one and his minions can rush and fill. They "take the place" of what is properly God's, for the purpose of destroying souls. Without God's protection, they are remarkably easy to "pick off." It's sort of like "open hunting season" on humans....

It has long seemed to me that, when somebody takes a shot at God, it's always man that ends up taking the bullet. God Himself is unharmed; but humans are harmed, most grievously.

Of course, I'm using symbolic language to try to speak of ineffable things. I'm not sure whether what I've written makes any sense to others; e.g., those who are non-Christians. I'm pretty sure atheists would find my statements totally risible.

Thank you so much for writing, ForGod'sSake!

20 posted on 11/21/2009 10:28:23 AM PST by betty boop (Without God man neither knows which way to go, nor even understands who he is. ¬óPope Benedict XVI)
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