My Thoughts on Various American Values

I am flying to Minnesota for CONvergence today and too swamped with my Batman and Philosophy preparation to use any time on the ground today to write a new post. Plus it’s the Fourth of July so I expect traffic to lag no matter what I do. But for those of you with some time to think with me today, here are posts where I have talked about America and the values of secularism which define the country for me:

American Values vs. Fundamentalist Values

9 Vital Points About The Public Relevance of Political Candidates’ Religious Beliefs

Questions For Those Who Oppose The Wall of Separation Between Church and State

Why Do Torture And Increased Police Authority Increasingly Appeal To Americans?

Bullying or Debating? Religious Privilege or Freedom of Speech?

My Philosophy on What the Best Freethinking and the Best Free Speech Entail

On The Conflict Over The Meaning And Cultural Influence of Political Secularism

Religious Privilege and Grievance-Based Catholic Identity Politics

The Religious Conservative’s False Choice: “Big Brother” Or “Heavenly Father”

Dad Shoots Laptop

Some Suspicions About The Superiority Of Liberal Moral Values

Thoughts On The Ethics Of Private Vs. Publicly-Mediated Generostiy

Why Clergy Rightfully Have No Place At A 9/11 Memorial (Or Any Civic Ceremonies)

And, finally, in honor of the anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, here is a place where I use the document itself to debunk the the claim that America depended on Christianity for its founding values and that it requires sustained Christianity in order to keep them:

The very genius of America is the Declaration of Independence’s claim that the rights being claimed wereself-evident. Implicitly in declaring the moral and political principles on which they declared independence “self-evident” they were saying that these beliefs and values required neither special acknowledgment of any traditions nor even of rational argumentation. They were supposedly plain on their face.

This means that anyone–whether or not they were Christians and deists like the majority of our Founding Fathers–could understand and acknowledge their beliefs and values. They needed no biblical derivation.

Even the “Creator”cited in the Declaration of Independence (but of course, not the Constitution) did not require a uniquely Biblical formulation but was part of an alleged claim to self-evidence. The extent to which they cited a Creator was the extent to which this was a universally recognizable concept and not a tradition specific one. This conception of a Creator was so broad and inclusive and rationalistic as to be amenable both to the anti-supernaturalistic deists as it was to the devoutly Christian ones.

In other words, the uniqueness and specialness of America is precisely in its audacious claim to be founded specifically on rationally self-evident and non-tradition-specificprinciples and beliefs. Invocation of the necessity of one religion over another for either the source or justification of distinctively American principles is as antithetical to the true beliefs and values that distinctively characterized America.

Read more of my declaration of the independence of American values from Christianity.

Your Thoughts?

About Daniel Fincke

Dr. Daniel Fincke  has his PhD in philosophy from Fordham University and spent 11 years teaching in college classrooms. He wrote his dissertation on Ethics and the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. On Camels With Hammers, the careful philosophy blog he writes for a popular audience, Dan argues for atheism and develops a humanistic ethical theory he calls “Empowerment Ethics”. Dan also teaches affordable, non-matriculated, video-conferencing philosophy classes on ethics, Nietzsche, historical philosophy, and philosophy for atheists that anyone around the world can sign up for. (You can learn more about Dan’s online classes here.) Dan is an APPA  (American Philosophical Practitioners Association) certified philosophical counselor who offers philosophical advice services to help people work through the philosophical aspects of their practical problems or to work out their views on philosophical issues. (You can read examples of Dan’s advice here.) Through his blogging, his online teaching, and his philosophical advice services each, Dan specializes in helping people who have recently left a religious tradition work out their constructive answers to questions of ethics, metaphysics, the meaning of life, etc. as part of their process of radical worldview change.

  • http://www.reason-being.com reasonbeing

    I hadn’t read your piece on the Declaration. Good stuff. I have had similar thoughts to what you have written but have yet to write a piece on it. Thanks for doing that, is is much needed in today’s political-religious landscape!

  • F

    Yeah. Nature’s God is nothing like any version of the Christian God.


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