[FoRK] Re: nb: politics ~= religion

Aaron Swartz me at aaronsw.com
Fri Feb 13 09:27:45 PST 2004

> That is, when he says "To compel a man to furnish contributions of 
> money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves and abhors, 
> is sinful and tyrannical" --- even though the context is a discussion 
> of religious freedom, given the larger context of Jefferson's life, is 
> there any good reason to think he would've disagreed had the word 
> "political" been inserted before "opinion?"  I seriously doubt it, but 
> that's just my opinion.

The whole context of Jefferson's speech is that we need to keep 
politics and religion separate! To loosely translate, he says:

"Because each man decides his own religious opinion, and forcing him to 
pay for the propagation of another is wrong, as is even forcing him to 
pay for religious leaders (which would take away market incentives from 
those leaders as well!), and because our civil rights do not depend on 
our religious opinions, we therefore conclude that requiring a citizen 
or politician to profess or renounce a certain opinion deprives him of 
his rights and corrupts religion itself through bribes. The religious 
opinions of men are not the object of government, when government gets 
involved it destroys all religious liberty.

"Truth will survive disagreement, but it will survive if we deprive 
ourselves of free argument and debate. Errors cease to be dangerous 
when we may freely contradict them."

Obviously this would not make sense if "religious" was replaced with 
"political" -- the whole point of a democracy is to require that 
politicians and citizens profess and renounce certain opinions. 
Jefferson is clearly saying we should separate these political issues 
from religious issues -- issues of belief which "each man decides" for 

Aaron Swartz: http://www.aaronsw.com/

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