quinta-feira, 10 de julho de 2008

July 4th

  • «July 4th marks the anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, authored by Thomas Jefferson. So many firework displays and parades have been held and speeches delivered to celebrate that great event in American history that one wonders what more can be said? Perhaps an overlooked fact, surely one that has not been sufficiently appreciated, is the influence of the French and European Enlightenment on the leaders of the American Revolution and of the new nation that was about to be born. (...) The first point I wish to make is that the Declaration of Independence focuses on the basic humanistic values of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” It eloquently defends individual freedom and the achievement of the good life. (...) The second point to be made is that America was founded as a secular Republic. The Constitution which was drafted later by Madison begins with the memorable words, “We the people of the United States?.” It does not say that there is a divine right of monarchs or rulers. Sovereignty is derived from the people, not from God. The Bill of Rights, later enacted, begins with the First Amendment, which states that “Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion or the free exercise thereof. This is the foundation of the separation of church and state, the first nation to clearly affirm that principle. (...) Third, the founders of the American Republic were naturalists; that is, they looked to the sciences to understand nature. Although many were deists, they were critical of superstition. Reason, they thought, was the best guide in life. Influenced by Voltaire, they believed deeply in free thought and free inquiry. Fourth, they accepted a key ideal of the Enlightenment, the conviction that human progress is possible and there are vital roles that reason, science, and education can contribute in improving the human condition. These are predicated on the values of secularism and humanism, a belief in the capacity of human beings to govern themselves if afforded the liberty and the opportunity to do so, and some degree of optimism that they will succeed. Fifth, implicit in the American political system are the Civic Virtues of Democracy. These emphasize the right to dissent, a free press, tolerance of conflicting points of view, the use of rational methods to persuade other men and women, and the willingness to negotiate differences peacefully. (...)» (Paul Kurtz; recebido por e-mail do Council for Secular Humanism)

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