Separating Dung from Diamonds
The article “Thomas Jefferson vs. the Bible: What America’s founding father really thought about religion” is an excellent commentary on the history of rationalist criticism of the bible, as well as the way in which people interpret myth differently. Jefferson apparently at one point trimmed down the bible to be a thinner version that he deemed to be the authentic teachings of Jesus – or rather he separated the ‘dung from the diamonds’.
As the author remarks, Christians have never agreed on who Jesus was or what he really means, and this has resulted in over 30,000 different denominations of the religion. Each group seems to have the alleged correct interpretation of Jesus, and all of the others either cannot seem to be able to read properly or suffer inter-generational amnesia.
What makes the issue of what Thomas Jefferson thought of the bible relevant today, however, is the fact that the founding fathers are so often referenced in American political discourse. As we discussed in class, Thomas Paine was a contemporary of Jefferson who offered somewhat scathing criticism of the bible, and yet many people today remember the founding fathers through the rose-tinted glasses only two and a half centuries time can provide.
The author rightly states that if President Obama were to say anything even remotely close in nature to the comments made by Jefferson or Paine in the present day he would likely have a congressional riot on his hands. This historical revisionism stems from two place, ignorance and power. For the majority, ignorance (and lack of interest) in genuine historical study in an unbiased way leads to a skewed, and largely incorrect assumption of the founding of the United States. Second, those people in power perpetuate their interests by manipulating popular views on foundational “truths” such as the bible and nation-building myths.
Ultimately, whether there really are diamonds to be found amidst the dung is irrelevant. Time has a funny way of playing with our collective memories and the interests of the few who ‘present’ the evidence have far more of an impact on our worldviews than we care to admit.
SKC #200 #uwreligious