No magic needed for ethics, caring
Mr. Onsager’s accounting (5/15/19) of the number of Christians in Colonial days is reminiscent of counting the number of angels who can dance on the head of a pin – lots. One omission is that this leaves out who else was dancing. A second is that having a religious title does not guarantee behaving ethically or righteously. The colonies likely had their share of religious adulterers, pedophiles, slave owners and the equivalent of our modern TV evangelists with mansions and jet airplanes. Other writers similarly have described the colonial East Coast as a hotbed of religious thinking. In “Fantasyland” (2017), Kurt Andersen eloquently details how the openness of this “new country” gave opportunities for varying religious sects to spring up – each intolerant of the other. After Luther, it became more acceptable for any person to bypass the religious hierarchy and have a direct personal conversation with God. “Belief ” in magic (not deeds) would get you into Heaven. With this acceptance/ cover of “God spoke to me,” any individual with a hallucination or vivid imagination could foster a vision and find followers. In the New World culture of individuality, cults blossomed – and still do.
My admiration for the Founders has increased. In this societal beehive of magical religiosity, these remarkable people were able to demonstrate the valuable adage: “wisdom is knowing what to ignore.” These writers promoted thinking and wording to weave through the religious pressures which existed. These were wise people.
There is mention of a “creator” but not as a central religious theme. “Creator” can easily be seen as a polite general term – similar to a store clerk saying, “Have a nice day.” These smart writers were wise enough to add this ambiguous “mystical element,” which had been used for thousands of years to influence societal populations – and it still works today.
In 2019, we are still faced with people who prefer magic to rationality and scientific processes. Sadly, magical thinking influences political decisions, which affect the entire population. Fortunately, more humans are starting to catch on. Ethics, love and caring do not require magic.