Blas­phe­my: How the Reli­gious Right is Hijack­ing Our Dec­la­ra­tion of Independence

  • Review
By – November 11, 2011

Alan Dershowitz’s slen­der polemic focus­es on the reli­gious beliefs of the Found­ing Founders — and of Thomas Jef­fer­son in par­tic­u­lar — in order to rebut the Chris­t­ian Right’s con­tention that the Dec­la­ra­tion of Inde­pen­dence proves that Amer­i­ca was con­ceived as a Chris­t­ian nation. 

While Dershowitz’s argu­ment is con­vinc­ing, it is not espe­cial­ly orig­i­nal. Oth­ers have plowed much the same ground with more fruit­ful results. That Jefferson’s deism led him to reject the mirac­u­lous aspects of the Bible, and much of Christianity’s dog­ma in gen­er­al, will come as news to few who have even glanced at the sub­ject before. 

Because he falls into a trap com­mon to many writ­ers, includ­ing Chris Hedges and Sam Har­ris, who use his­tor­i­cal or log­i­cal argu­ments to counter the appeals of the Chris­t­ian Right, Der­showitz is unlike­ly to win many con­verts. Those who are not already favor­ably dis­posed to the Chris­t­ian Right’s views will nod sym­pa­thet­i­cal­ly, while those who are will, if they read the book at all, find it easy to dis­miss. How to bridge the divide between those who put their faith in faith and those who put their faith in rea­son may well be the thorni­est polit­i­cal and cul­tur­al prob­lem in Amer­i­ca (and the world) today, but books like Blas­phe­my don’t bring us any clos­er to a solution. 

Bill Bren­nan is an inde­pen­dent schol­ar and enter­tain­er based in Las Vegas. Bren­nan has taught lit­er­a­ture and the human­i­ties at Prince­ton and The Uni­ver­si­ty of Chica­go. He holds degrees from Yale, Prince­ton, and Northwestern.

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