The United States Has Always Been a Pagan, Socialist Nation

Having been raised by a high-ranking military intelligence officer and having been converted to socialism by the red-diaper babies I went to high school with, I was very active in left-wing politics in the San Francisco area until about 1968, at which time I drew the conclusion that the fundamental values of a society can be changed only on the level of religion, not by politics, and at which time I and my friends founded the New Reformed Orthodox Order of the Golden Dawn as an experiment in creating a spiritual pathway for ourselves that might better meet our needs and thus the needs of our society.

(Having an MA in poetry writing and years of editing science books have enabled me to write a sentence that long with, I hope, some elegance.)

A viable balance between politics and religion is as difficult to achieve and maintain as is such a balance between the partners in a marriage. Neither too close nor too distant will work in the long run. Here I will argue that Paganism and Socialism are compatible partners, by means of a commentary on the Preamble to the Declaration of Independence, to show that we are socialist, and on the Bill of Rights, to show that, in the broadest sense, we are Pagan.

One logistical problem here is that the term ”socialism” has been poisoned by the lies of the rich and powerful, just as the actual teachings of Christian faith have been. The classic socialism of the Enlightenment period was simply the concept that a society should be governed for the benefit of all the people who make it up, not for the benefit of any minority, as Lincoln emphasized at Gettysburg. That concept, which Jefferson derived from John Locke’s Second Treatise on Government, is the foundation of our political system. We have been socialists since 1776.

Our social philosophy is embodied not in the Constitution, but in the Preamble to the Declaration of Independence, which declared our independence not only from the British Empire, but also from the “dead hand” of all previous religious, philosophical, and political beliefs. Ours was not merely a political revolution. The colonists did not want to govern themselves in the way that England had governed them. Rather, ours was a social and cultural revolution, changing even the way people spoke and still speak: everyone would now be addressed with the respectful “you,” not the familial “thou.”

In 1952, in the seventh grade at Boody Junior High, Public School 228, in Brooklyn, I had to memorize the Preamble to the Declaration. I have never forgotten it. The rather few who can also recite it rarely, I suppose, think about what the words mean, much the way most people say the “Our Father,” although many who hold hands and recite that prayer at the end of a Twelve-Step. meeting do think about what its words mean.

 

A Commentary on the Preamble to the Declaration of Independence

To pull out the meaning of these 110 words, I will examine them phrase by phrase.

 

  1. We hold these truths to be self-evident

 This is the logic of geometry: to begin with propositions so obviously true that they need no proof, or with statements of value, which are inherently nondisprovable, and to derive conclusions from them that are logically indisputable.

The first self-evident truth is:

 

  1. that all men are created equal

 Obviously, all humans are not identical; as individuals we differ greatly in our strengths, weaknesses, talents, and so on. Instead, this proposition asserts that all humans are equal in value, that every human life is its own fundamental value, and that no human life is more valuable than another when one is thinking, as Jefferson was, about what laws an adequate social system should have. There could be no hereditary aristocrats in America.

The next truth is:

 

  1. that they are endowed by their Creator

Here is where the Dominionists (a useful term, since it refers to only their political agenda) cry, “See! We began as a Christian nation!” No, we did not. What Jefferson meant by “Creator,” as is clear in his other writings, was not a version of the Judeo-Christian concept of God, but the Deist concept of a God who set the cosmos in motion, then stepped back from it and does not interfere with it, not from a lack of caring, but because humans have free will. (I’ll get into a detailed discussion of free-will theology some other time; here it would be a distraction.) Jefferson called himself a Unitarian. He did not believe that Jesus was anything other than a normal (although highly gifted) human being, and neither did almost all the other Founding Fathers.

 

  1.  with certain unalienable rights

 Our rights are innate and fundamental. Jefferson was not concerned with how they might have been created; he could just as well have said, “that all men have unalienable rights.” The point is that the rights are the fundamental reality; they are not conferred by and cannot be taken away by a government. Instead, it is these rights that circumscribe the powers of a government.

 

  1. That among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

John Locke’s original phrase was “life, liberty, and property.” Jefferson and the rest of the committee changed the phrase because, whereas the right to life and liberty is absolute, the right to property is not. One insight of classic socialism was that all property belongs ultimately to society, not individuals, and that it is unjust for an individual to own so much that the lives of others are threatened.

The third truth is:

 

  1. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men,

The purpose of government is to protect the rights, which exist before the government does, of the people and to enable them to exercise those rights. Governments are created by people, not by God.

 

  1. deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

 Here Jefferson uses Locke’s key concept, that a government can be just and legitimate only if those being governed freely consent to it. In other words, before our revolution, every government in history had been illegitimate. All had been based on force, on Thrasymachus’ concept that “Might makes right.” Thomas Paine’s incendiary pamphlet, The Rights of Man, attacked the “Divine Right of Kings,” that is, the claim that “I’m the King because God wants me to be the King.” No, Paine said, a man is king only because his ancestors were the meanest SOBs around and simply took what they wanted. Locke proposed that we humans have an unwritten “social contract” with one another by which we consent to obey the laws we ourselves create in order for all to benefit.

The fourth truth is:

 

  1. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends,

That is, when a government fails to protect the basic human rights

 

  1. it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government,

Since the people have created the government, they can also dissolve it and replace it

 

  1. laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.

We thus have a permanently subversive form of government. It subverts all claims to privilege or power that are not based on the freely given consent of all concerned. Happily, given James Madison’s genius in designing the Constitution, we can alter it peacefully by the process of amending it. That has worked well so far. Still, if two thirds of the states held constitutional conventions and voted to rewrite the Constitution, it would be rewritten—without a civil war.

In Part II, I will comment on some of the Bill of Rights (mainly the First Amendment) to carry on my argument that we were and still are a Pagan nation.

 

 

  • KateGladstone

    Was “thou” actually the usual,familial form of address in English-speaking nations (e.g., in the English of London — or of colonial capitals like Boston) as late as 1776? I’d LOVE to see documentary evidence on that!

  • Gaddy

    This should ruffle a few feathers!

  • Jack Picknell

    Your title “The United States Has Always Been a Pagan, Socialist Nation” is directly in contradiction to your article.

    You base your position on a declaration of independence from all previous religious, philosophical, and political beliefs. However, Paganism is a religion, and socialism is a political philosophy, both of which predate the Declaration of Independence.

    If it is true that the US is a pagan socialist nation as you assert, then it is also true that the US is entirely dependent on previous religious, philosophical and political beliefs.

    • Ken

      I don’t quite understand the contradiction of your last paragraph. The U.S. IS entirely dependent on previous religious, philosophical beliefs.
      While I do agree that this article makes the claim that the US has always been Pagan, without much evidence beyond the Founding Fathers being non-Christian, the last sentence of the article references a yet to be posted part II.
      I look forward to Part II.

      • Jack Picknell

        I do not reference any part 2. The main point of the article, as indicated by its title, is directly contradicted by the main supporting argument within the body of the above article.

        The author asserts that the US ,when founded, was not based on any prior religious, nor political, nor philosophical beliefs. However the author also asserts in the title of the article that the US is pagan ( a preexisting religion) and socialist ( a preexisting political philosophy).

        The claims are mutually exclusive. Either it is pagan (a preexisting religion) and socialist (a preexisting political philosophy) or it is “NOT based on those.

        The authors argument is self-contradictory.

        • Ken

          My point is that we have read half or less of his arguement. Once the other part is presented, I can determine whether the title is contadictory.

          • Jack Picknell

            I read part 2, and therein the author attempts a redefintion of socialism as not being a political philosophy, and paganism as not being a religion. In keeping with such logic, I therefore assert that this article is not a publication, and this discussion is not a communication.

  • Jon Fermin

    what about the parts of jefferson’s writings which contradict your thesis?

    “The true foundation of republican government is the equal right of every citizen in his person and property and in their management.” letter from Thomas Jefferson to Samuel Kercheval, 1816

    or compare Trotsky’s quote that the state is founded on force with Jefferson’s observation on property

    “He who is permitted by law to have no property of his own can with difficulty conceive that property is founded in anything but force.” Thomas Jefferson to Edward Bancroft, 1788

    note the distinction, his view is that property may not be founded in force, but that laws which prohibit private property create this illusion to which trotsky alludes to.

    or this quote:

    “To take from one because it is thought that his own industry and that of his father’s has acquired too much, in order to spare to others, who, or whose fathers have not exercised equal industry and skill, is to violate arbitrarily the first principle of association–’the guarantee to every one of a free exercise of his industry and the fruits acquired by it.’” –Thomas Jefferson: Note in Destutt de Tracy’s “Political Economy,” 1816

    it’s been clear in his writings that Jefferson was no opponent to private wealth and property. I think deeming him a socialist is quite a stretch.
    in regards to whether the country is pagan or not. one could make the argument that it was deist or vaguely christian or pluralistic to the point of not advocating one spirituality over another, but to say specifically pagan seems a stretch, I will check out part 2 when you publish it.

  • anoynamouse

    Yes you give no argument against any of it’s points…so you comment is useless to any freethinking mind. You point is only to be cherished by the Faux News types.

  • bobthechef

    Your ignorance is astounding. That you majored in something as utterly silly as poetry (no doubt the modern variety, an exercise in mental masturbation devoid of any reason, rigor, fact, or aesthetic merit) comes as no surprise. Perhaps you should stick to your area of study instead of arrogantly pontificating on things you have not a half clue about. Not only does your definition of socialism reveal your puerile and stunted intellectual capacities, but so does your “interpretation” of the Declaration of Independence.

    The founders of the United States were neither pagans nor socialists. Here, you seem to be doing what armchair intellectuals worldwide do, i.e., to assume the conclusion as your premise and then proceed to rationalize and project your desired conclusion onto anything you wish. I suggest you begin with a desire for the truth of the matter instead by beginning with a good base facts and then proceeding to draw conclusions from them. Ah, but that would put the horse back in front of the cart and your prolonged session of deep-throat auto-fellatio would come to an end. Too bad.

    First, the authors of the Declaration of Independence were not all deists (Jefferson was, though a Christian deist) and indeed Jefferson was widely distrusted because of his lack of solid orthodox views. This by itself establishes the climate of the day as Christian. Nonetheless, Jefferson was by any account a Christian, informed and shaped by the Christian culture which dominated and saturated the West during the era. The principles on which the country was founded were either Christian or at the very least compatible with Christianity. To ascribe a pagan interpretation is at best laughably ignorant wishful thinking on your part.

    Second, socialism is not “simply the concept that a society should be governed for the benefit of all the people”. That is by not stretch what socialism is, whether state socialism or any other kind of socialism. I’d like to point out the pieces of this definition which fail to be coherent or accurate. The first is that a society is governed for the benefit of all its members. What exactly does that mean, governed for benefit? It’s not entirely clear what YOU mean, but the whole point of government in the minds of the founders was as a legal entity distributed across three branches for the purpose of upholding and making the law within the constraints of the constitution (which itself was open to modification). If by benefit you mean fulfilling these duties while respecting the freedoms enshrined in the constitution, then sure, but it sounds to me like you are operating from some socialist idea of “benefit” where the state assumes some active role in providing for the good of the people in material terms (through redistribution, which of course is not the benefit of all but the benefit of the few at the cost of the haves, which is of course completely at odds with the idea of the common good). That would be a completely false interpretation, if you can even call it that. Now, having discarded the socialist understanding of benefit (i.e., theft), what is left of your definition? Absolute nothing that would make socialism anything special. Your point is moot. After all, all governments exist for some stated benefit to the governed. You manage to spend an entire page saying nothing. Wank wank wank.

    Third, the idea of private property was EXTREMELY important to the founders. Land did not ultimately belong to “society”. It’s not even clear what “society” means here; equal ownership of everything by everyone? It belonged to the landowner. To try to say that private property existed but was “ultimately” common land is like claiming to be a married bachelor. How could land which is ultimately common be private? At best, it could be leased or rented. This point, that others (the mob, the state) have any say about someone else’s private property is so wrong it makes my head spin. Private property is a necessary (though insufficient) ingredient in guaranteeing liberty. There is no liberty when what is private isn’t respected. It is tyranny.

    Fourth, the idea of the common good (which you never explicitly mention, yet clearly suggest) involves all action which does not harm anyone including self (i.e., at least neutral). Acting for your own benefit benefits the common good as long as it increases your good and does so without robbing another. Acting for your neighbors benefit is acting for the common good so long as you do it freely (giving your neighbor food when he loses his job benefits him materially and you spiritually). To require someone act for everyone’s good is not only sick and tyrannical because it comes from a position of entitlement, but arrogant and nosy, and it denies the right of free association. To tax for the benefit of another is theft precisely because it’s done at gun point (try to NOT pay your taxes). It is a sick, Marxist norm (see Dr. Zhivago) to destroy the essential privacy of life by making it public. This is not the common good. It is the robbing of the haves to give to the have nots. In essence, the idea of the common good is at least merely a banal condition that one not do harm in the pursuit of one’s good, and at best the encouragement to give freely to those around you which not only multiplies spiritual good, but often brings returns of its own.

    In short, the founders would scoff at the very idea of paganism and socialism. It stands at complete odds with the fundamental ideas on freedom which the Enlightenment and the American experiment stood for. The respect for the individual as the highest being and for whose sake societies are formed is a profoundly Latin concept that is deeply Christian. Socialism subjugates the individual to society (a rather humorous concept, given that society is nothing but individuals in relation for mutual benefit). It is tyrannical and patronizing. Even the suggestion that all have equal worth is tyrannical because value is relational. For men to have value is to say they have value for someone or something else (subjugation). And furthermore, to say all men have equal value is to say all men are identical which is clearly wrong since men have different goods in different number, some many, some few, some very few. (What is really meant is that all men are equal under the law; men transcend value because things have value in relation to men.)

    Socialism is the enemy of the people, the enemy of liberty. It is the antithesis of what the founders of the United States had in mind. It is anti-Christian and I would sooner see socialism in the hands of the pagan than the Christian (with all due respect to Aristotle who was far more in line with free markets than the faux Christians of today). We don’t need a father, a nanny, or a hovering overlord. We need to be left alone. Let the government sit in its corner and stick to its own narrow duties and kept from interfering with the dealings between men. It is their private affair. Mind your own goddamn business, busybodies and nosy, vapid people who selfishly disrupt the lives of men. They is a special place in hell for you, a circle, and No Exit.


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