Wednesday, May 16, 2012

David Barton Keeps Peddling Falsehoods

Thomas Jefferson attended a religious service in the U.S. capitol shortly after he wrote the famous letter to the Danbury Baptists proclaiming a "wall of separation between Church and State."  This is true. And it raises all kinds of questions about his use of that phrase.

Over two hundred years later David Barton appeared in the U.S. Capitol building and tells a story about George Washington that has been proven over and over again to be false.  At what point do we call Barton a "deceiver" or a "liar?"


Here is the section from my Was America Founded as a Christian Nation? A Historical Introduction on the famous painting of Washington praying in the snow at Valley Forge.

There is one major problem with Potts's story of Washington praying at Valley Forge - it probably did not happen. While it is likely that Washington prayed while he was with the army at Valley Forge in the winter of 1777-1778, it is unlikely that the story reported by Potts, memorialized in paintings and read to millions of schoolchildren, is anything more than legend. It was first told in the seventeenth edition (1816) of Mason Lock Weem's Life of Washington. Weems claimed to have heard it directly from Potts, his "good old FRIEND." Potts may have owned the house where Washington stayed at Valley Forge, but his aunt Deborah Potts Hewes was living there alone at the time. Indeed, Potts was probably not even residing in Valley Forge during the encampment. And he was definitely not married.  It would be another twenty-five years before he wed Sarah, making a conversation with her in the wake of the supposed Washington prayer impossible. Another version of the story, which appeared in the diary of Reverend Nathaniel Randolph Snowden, claims that it was John Potts, Issac's brother, who heard Washington praying. These discrepancies, coupled with the fact that Weems was known for writing stories about Washington based upon scanty evidence, have led historians to discredit it.

Actually, Barton could have made a pretty good case that Washington was a "man of prayer" without the Isaac Potts--Valley Forge story, but he once again chose sensationalism over evidence.

Is it time to gather Christian historians together to sign some kind of formal statement condemning Barton's brand of propaganda and hagiography?


Jordan Smith said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
jimlefferts said...

Hubba, hubba! Fully agree with column conclusion! I think pressure should also be put on Liberty and Regent Universities to dissassociate themselves with this man. I cannot fathom how they can consider themselves credible at all as institutions of higher learning; and still accomodate his presence in their teaching.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Better would be to point out where he exaggerates and not go scorched-earth with the "liar" stuff.

never having been very interested in Jefferson and his "Bible," I was surprised to learn [via his critics] that Jefferson left in the Second Coming of Matthew 25:31, where the

"Son of Man comes in glory, and all the holy angels with him..."

Deist schmeist.


[Not that I'm saying the later Jefferson doesn't reject this stuff. But as Barton [of all people!] notes, the earlier Jefferson isn't so mouthy with his impietudes.

Unknown said...

The Ten Commandments: Of the Founding Fathers

1. Your neighbor’s religion is none of your concern.

 “But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.”

Thomas Jefferson, Notes on Virginia, 1782

 "Religion is a subject on which I have ever been most scrupulously reserved. I have considered it as a matter between every man and his Maker in which no other, and far less the public, had a right to intermeddle."

Thomas Jefferson to Richard Rush, 1813

2. You shall not mingle religion with politics.

And here, without anger or resentment I bid you farewell. Sincerely wishing, that as men and Christians, ye may always fully and uninterruptedly enjoy every civil and religious right; and be, in your turn, the means of securing it to others; but that the example which ye have unwisely set, of mingling religion with politics, may be disavowed and reprobated by every inhabitant of America.

Thomas Paine, Common Sense. PDF download from “The Lou Frey Institute of Politics and Government.” Pg. 51, Appendix.

3. You shall not establish any religion above any other.

We the subscribers, citizens of the said Commonwealth, having taken into serious consideration, a Bill printed by order of the last Session of General Assembly, entitled "A Bill establishing a provision for Teachers of the Christian Religion," and conceiving that the same if finally armed with the sanctions of a law, will be a dangerous abuse of power, are bound as faithful members of a free State to remonstrate against it, and to declare the reasons by which we are determined. We remonstrate against the said Bill…

--- [Break] ---

3. Because it is proper to take alarm at the first experiment on our liberties. We hold this prudent jealousy to be the first duty of Citizens, and one of the noblest characteristics of the late Revolution. The free men of America did not wait till usurped power had strengthened itself by exercise, and entangled the question in precedents. They saw all the consequences in the principle, and they avoided the consequences by denying the principle. We revere this lesson too much soon to forget it. Who does not see that the same authority which can establish Christianity, in exclusion of all other Religions, may establish with the same ease any particular sect of Christians, in exclusion of all other Sects?

James Madison. Memorial and Remonstrance against Religious Assessments. C. June 20, 1785

4. You shall not bar your neighbor from public office on the basis of his beliefs.

"The proscribing any citizen as unworthy the public confidence by laying upon him an incapacity of being called to offices of trust and emolument unless he profess or renounce this or that religious opinion is depriving him injuriously of those privileges and advantages to which, in common with his fellow citizens, he has a natural right."

Thomas Jefferson: Statute for Religious Freedom, 1779. ME 2:301, Papers 2:546

5. All religions shall have equal recognition.

“The bill for establishing religious freedom, the principles of which had, to a certain degree, been enacted before, I had drawn in all the latitude of reason & right. It still met with opposition; but, with some mutilations in the preamble, it was finally past; and a singular proposition proved that its protection of opinion was meant to be universal. Where the preamble declares that coercion is a departure from the plan of the holy author of our religion, an amendment was proposed, by inserting the word “Jesus Christ,” so that it should read ”departure from the plan of Jesus Christ, the holy author of our religion” the insertion was rejected by a great majority, in proof that they meant to comprehend, within the mantle of it's protection, the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Mahometan, the Hindoo, and infidel of every denomination.”

Thomas Jefferson, July 27, 1821, Autobiography. ME 1:67.

Unknown said...

6. You shall be religiously neutral.

“Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should "make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, "thus building a wall of separation between Church & State.”

Jefferson, Thomas. “Jefferson’s Letter to the Danbury Baptists: The Final Letter, as Sent.” The Library of Congress Information Bulletin: June 1998. Lib. of Cong., June 1998. Wednesday, 7 Aug. 2010.

7. You shall exclude the clergy of any religion from your public schools.

"Ministers of the Gospel are excluded [from serving as Visitors of the county Elementary Schools] to avoid jealousy from the other sects, were the public education committed to the ministers of a particular one; and with more reason than in the case of their exclusion from the legislative and executive functions."

Thomas Jefferson: Note to Elementary School Act, 1817. ME 17:419

8. You shall not disturb the religion and peace of other nations with missionaries.

"I do not know that it is a duty to disturb by missionaries the religion and peace of other countries, who may think themselves bound to extinguish by fire and fagot the heresies to which we give the name of conversions, and quote our own example for it. Were the Pope, or his holy allies, to send in mission to us some thousands of Jesuit priests to convert us to their orthodoxy, I suspect that we should deem and treat it as a national aggression on our peace and faith."

Thomas Jefferson to Michael Megear, 1823. ME 15:434

9. You shall not ban any books.

"I am really mortified to be told that, in the United States of America, a fact like this [i.e., the purchase of an apparent geological or astronomical work] can become a subject of inquiry, and of criminal inquiry too, as an offense against religion; that a question about the sale of a book can be carried before the civil magistrate. Is this then our freedom of religion? and are we to have a censor whose imprimatur shall say what books may be sold, and what we may buy? And who is thus to dogmatize religious opinions for our citizens? Whose foot is to be the measure to which ours are all to be cut or stretched? Is a priest to be our inquisitor, or shall a layman, simple as ourselves, set up his reason as the rule for what we are to read, and what we must believe? …. for God's sake, let us freely hear both sides, if we choose."

Thomas Jefferson to N. G. Dufief, 1814. ME 14:127

Unknown said...

10. You shall question the Bible.

 “The whole history of these books is so defective and doubtful that it seems vain to attempt minute enquiry into it: and such tricks have been played with their text, and with the texts of other books relating to them, that we have a right, from that cause, to entertain much doubt what parts of them are genuine. In the New Testament there is internal evidence that parts of it have proceeded from an extraordinary man; and that other parts are of the fabric of very inferior minds. It is as easy to separate those parts, as to pick out diamonds from dunghills.”

Thomas Jefferson, letter to John Adams, January 24, 1814

 “And the day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus, by the supreme being as his father in the womb of a virgin will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerve in the brain of Jupiter. But may we hope that the dawn of reason and freedom of thought in these United States will do away with this artificial scaffolding, and restore to us the primitive and genuine doctrines of this most venerated reformer of human errors.”

Thomas Jefferson, Letter to John Adams, April 11, 1823

 I do not believe in the creed professed by the Jewish church, by the Roman church, by the Greek church, by the Turkish church, by the Protestant church, nor by any church that I know of. My own mind is my own church.

The Age of Reason. Thomas Paine. Chapter I – The Author’s Profession of Faith.

 EVERY national church or religion has established itself by pretending some special mission from God, communicated to certain individuals. The Jews have their Moses; the Christians their Jesus Christ, their apostles and saints; and the Turks their Mahomet; as if the way to God was not open to every man alike.

Each of those churches shows certain books, which they call revelation, or the Word of God. The Jews say that their Word of God was given by God to Moses face to face; the Christians say, that their Word of God came by divine inspiration; and the Turks say, that their Word of God (the Koran) was brought by an angel from heaven. Each of those churches accuses the other of unbelief; and, for my own part, I disbelieve them all.

Ibid. Chapter II – Of Missions and Revelations.

 IT is upon this plain narrative of facts, together with another case I am going to mention, that the Christian mythologists, calling themselves the Christian Church, have erected their fable, which for absurdity and extravagance is not exceeded by anything that is to be found in the mythology of the ancients.

Ibid. Chapter IV – Of the Bases of Christianity.

 Whenever we read the obscene stories, the voluptuous debaucheries, the cruel and torturous executions, the unrelenting vindictiveness, with which more than half the Bible is filled, it would be more consistent that we called it the word of a demon, than the Word of God. It is a history of wickedness, that has served to corrupt and brutalize mankind; and, for my own part, I sincerely detest it, as I detest everything that is cruel.

Ibid. Chapter VII – Examination of the Old Testament.

Hrafnkell Haraldsson said...

Liar would be an accurate term. Those who disagree should see Throckmorton's and Coulter's detailed demolition of Barton's lies: lies of omission, lies of commission, Barton does it all.

gAtheist said...

Yes. Liars have way too much influence on the internet. The truth needs to fight back.

abb3w said...

Such a statement might help, yes. It might just get him whining about the "liberal ivory tower establishment", but I think it more likely to do good than harm.

Lori Makes Quilts said...

Yes! He *is* a liar and way too many people believe his lies.

RayGarton said...

David Barton is a dangerous man. It most DEFINITELY is time to denounce his lies and call him what he is -- a liar with the dark agenda of turning this country into a totalitarian Christian theocracy. I think it's the DUTY of Christians who value truth to condemn his work.