Mike Deangelo sees Hobby Lobby’s dishonest quote-mining and raises us…the same dishonest quote.

Earlier I posted about the FFRF’s glorious smackdown of Hobby Lobby’s dishonesty regarding the founding fathers.  It wasn’t long before a believer by the name of Mike Deangelo found his way into the comments and, rather than condemning or defending Hobby Lobby’s dishonest quote mining, started throwing out more quotes.  This was apparently done in attempt to validate the claim of Hobby Lobby, only in a presumably more thorough and academically honest fashion.

One of the first ones he fired off was:

“Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”

-John Adams, 1798

Ironically, this is one of the very quotes Hobby Lobby used and was rebutted on the FFRF site that my whole post was about.

So clearly Mike didn’t read the rebuttal to the quote, but he sure had it on hand and was willing to use it as if its veracity was unquestioned.  Let’s see what the FFRF’s site has to say about it:

Hobby Lobby alters Adams’ original quote, from a letter written on October 11, 1798, to the officers of the Massachusetts militia:

“But should the people of American once become capable of that deep simulation towards one another, and towards foreign nations, which assumes the language of justice and moderation, while it is practising iniquity and extravagance, and displays in the most captivating manner the charming pictures of candour, frankness, and sincerity, while it is rioting in the rapine and insolence, this country will be the most miserable habitation in the world.  Because we have no government armed with the power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion.  Avarice, ambition, revenge, and licentiousness would break the strongest cords of our Constitution, as a whale goes through a net.  our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people.  It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” _ John Adams: Signer of the Declaration of Independence; One of Two Signers of the Bill of Rights; Second President of the United States

Hobby Lobby left out an entire sentence of Adams’ words without notifying the reader.  It is an important sentence.  Adams uses “moral” and “religious” as synonyms and the missing sentence goes to that point.  Adams does not mention ungodliness or blasphemy or sin, he focuses on moral issues, “avarice, ambition, revenge, etc.”  Adams may have equated religion and morality, but thought that neither was divine or supernatural.  Writing to Jefferson on December 12, 1816, he mentioned that he had “devoted” himself to theological study for “the last year or two” and listed more than 20 volumes of religious writing and history he read: “Romances all!  I have learned nothing of importance to me, for they have made no change in my moral or religious creed, which has, for fifty or sixty years, been contained in four short words, “Be just and good.’  In this result they all agree with me.”

The conclusion Adams drew from his study of religious texts was simple: “universal toleration.”  Something that can only be achieved when we have a government that is truly secular, that is truly free from religion.

Incidentally, a full reading of both the militia’s and Adams’s letters makes it clear that they were discussing fidelity to their country and government, not religion.

So, Mike, here’s the deal: whoever fed you that quote was wrong or, in the case of people like those behind Hobby Lobby, they were deliberately lying to you.  Because you didn’t take the time to read the thing you were attempting to rebut, you wound up looking very silly.  This is largely your fault for having a canned response and not first taking steps to listen to your opposition before seeing if they’d addressed the contents of your metaphorical can.  That is not the behavior of someone seeking the truth, it is the behavior of somebody trying to “win”.  Stop doing it.  How can you expect us to take the rest of your arguments seriously when this is how you approach them?

But also, I’d encourage you to cultivate a bit of disdain for the people who sent you into the fray armed with a lie – in this case, the people behind Hobby Lobby.  They fed you a lie, expected you to not do any research, and to unwittingly help them spread that lie even further.  You did not disappoint them.  In short, they played you like a cheap fiddle.  This not only says a tremendous amount about them, it says a tremendous amount about what they think of you.

In the future you’d do well to remember who they are and how they operate.

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About JT Eberhard

When not defending the planet from inevitable apocalypse at the rotting hands of the undead, JT is a writer and public speaker about atheism, gay rights, and more. He spent two and a half years with the Secular Student Alliance as their first high school organizer. During that time he built the SSA’s high school program and oversaw the development of groups nationwide. JT is also the co-founder of the popular Skepticon conference and served as the events lead organizer during its first three years.


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