Notes from the Age of Enlightenment

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If your official position is that your neighbor’s made a deal with the devil in order to cause your sheep to have a weird looking baby, you probably aren’t interested in reason or enlightenment.

Clearly, there’s no point in quoting John Adams: “The government of the United States is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion.” Or James Madison: “The civil government functions with complete success by the total separation of the Church from the State.” Or Noah Webster: “[E]very preference given to any religious denomination, is so far slavery and bigotry.” Or any one of the men who dreamed of democracy in America during the American Revolution. The people who believe that their religious prejudices should influence federal policy don’t care that imposing your religious beliefs on others is wholly unAmerican.

Yesterday, the Owl asked me to try to contact the junior senator from Arizona, Jeff Flake, because she had heard that he was persuadable in the matter of Betsy DeVos’s confirmation. I had not heard that, and I could not get through to any of his offices, or even his voice mailbox, presumably because everyone else in the state was trying to beg him not to confirm her. But he did tweet “Lest there be any doubt about how I’m voting on Betsy DeVos she had me at ‘school choice’ years ago… ” The last I looked, the vote was tied 50-50, and, as you know, in the event of a tie in the Senate, the Vice President gets to cast the deciding vote. Something tells me Mike Pence will be happy to install a Secretary of Education who believes that the purpose of schools is to “advance God’s kingdom.”

Please, instead, let’s make the function of school to advance the ability of our population to think critically. Or, if you insist on a regressive government, let’s go back all the way to the best intentions of the Enlightenment, when faith was a private mystery and reason a guiding light.

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