In Believers, Thinkers and Founders: How We Came to be One Nation Under God, Kevin Seamus Hasson—founder and president emeritus of the Becket Fund for Religious liberty—offers a refreshing resolution to the age-old dispute surrounding the relationship of religion and state: a return to first principles.
“The traditional position,” writes Hasson, “is that our fundamental human rights—including those secured by the First Amendment—are endowed to us by the Creator and that it would be perilous to permit the government ever to repudiate that point.” America has steadfastly taken the position that there is a Supreme Being who is the source of our rights and the author of our equality. It has repeated that point for well over two hundred years throughout all branches and levels of government.
Never mind, says the secularist challenge. God is, to put it mildly, religious. Religion has no place in Government. So God has no place in Government. It’s just that simple.
But for the government to say there is no creator who endows us with rights, Hasson argues, “is to do more than simply tinker with one of the most famous one-liners in history; it is to change the starting point of our whole explanation of who we are as Americans.”
He proposes a solution straight from the founding: the government acknowledges the existence of God who is the source of our rights philosophically but not religiously. This idea of the “Philosophers’ God” is a conception of God based not on faith but on reason. Hasson suggests that by recognizing the distinction between the creator of the Declaration of Independence and the God of our faith traditions, we may be able to move past the culture wars over religion that have plagued the country.
In Believers, Thinkers, and Founders, Hasson examines the idea of the “Philosophers’ God” while looking at a host of issues—including the Pledge of Allegiance, prayer at public events, and prayer in public schools—as he demonstrates how we can still be one nation under God.
|Publisher:||The Crown Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||5.10(w) x 7.60(h) x 1.00(d)|
About the Author
KEVIN SEAMUS HASSON is the founder and president emeritus of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, a nonpartisan, interfaith, public-interest law firm that protects the free expression of all religious traditions. Hasson is the author of The Right to be Wrong: Ending the Culture War over Religion in America. He holds a law degree and a master's in theology from the University of Notre Dame, and lives with his wife, Mary, and their children in Fairfax County, Virginia.
Table of Contents
1 Newdow's Conundrum 3
2 The Pilgrims Pledge Their Allegiance… 21
3 …And the Park Rangers Pledge Theirs 37
4 An Inescapable Question… 47
5 …With a Great Deal at Stake in the Answer 63
6 Thinking About Thinking About God 79
7 The Education of the Founders 101
8 Framing a Nation Under God: The Political Philosophy of the Founders 115
9 You Say Deist, I Say Theist 131
10 The Later Life of a Nation Under God 143
11 A Nation Under God: Some FAQs 161
12 A Conundrum Revisited 185
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I had the pleasure the past few days of reading this book, and interviewing Seamus, as he prefers to be called, before writing this review. The author was pleasant and engaging, and his passion for his work shines through both in his writing and in conversation. Seamus is a retired attorney who, in 1993, founded the now famous Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, “a non-profit, public-interest legal and educational institute with a mission to protect the free expression of all faiths.” He served as the organization’s president until his retirement in 2011, and continues to serve on the Board of Directors as President Emeritus. He received a B.S. in Theology and Economics, an M.A. in Theology, and a Juris Doctorate from Notre Dame, and holds three honorary doctorate degrees.He Believers, Thinkers, and Founders is an easy-to-read book that tackles some very big issues. The book was written with the goal that “people without degrees would be able to engage the arguments around religious liberty in America.” Beginning with the story of atheist activist Michael Newdow’s court battle to remove “under God” from the Pledge of Allegiance,” the book then takes an excursus into a discussion of two groups commonly found in debates over the relationship between the state and religion. These groups, called “pilgrims” and “park rangers,” represent the two extremes that would either “permit only their faith to be practiced publicly” (Pilgrims), or contend that “truth claims about God – no matter how harmless – have no place in public culture.” He then proceeds to offer a middle-road between the two extremes – one that argues of the basis of historical court cases, the basic idea of liberty and its source (Chapter 4), the history of the Founders and the framing of the Constitution (Chapters 7 and 10), and the philosophical approaches that influenced those early founders and proto-founders (Chapters 6, 8 and 9). There is an over-arching idea that really stuck with me after reading the book: This is the distinction between making a philosophical statement and making a religious statement. Seamus contends that national statements, such as “In God we trust” or “one nation under God” or “endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights” are philosophical statements which not only are appropriate in the public sphere of a nation founded on the idea of religious liberty, but are essential for a right understanding and protection of that very liberty. Believers, Thinkers, and Founders is an excellent book with enough scholarship to make it a formidable tool in discussions of faith in the public square, and enough simple clarity to make it accessible to those outside formal academia. I highly recommend it.  Kevin Seamus Hasson, Believers, Thinkers, and Founders, (New York, Image, 2016).  http://www.becketfund.org/our-mission, (accessed June 22, 2016).  http://www.becketfund.org/staff-members/kevin-j-seamus-hasson, (accessed June 22, 2016).  Kevin Seamus Hasson, interview (conducted June 22, 2016.)  The terms “pilgrims” and “park rangers” are taken from Hasson’s earlier book, The Right to Be Wrong, (New York, Image, 2012).  Hasson, Believers, Thinkers, and Founders, 9-13.  These divisions are my own, and not necessarily the author’s.  The idea of the philosopher’s God is explored in depth in Chapter 6, then referenced throughout the remainder of the book.  Acts 17.