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This is an excellent article! While I am not religious, no one can study history without realizing religion's importance in human history. In his book John Wildman Plotter and Postmaster, Maurice Ashley noted, "The great forward impulse to liberal political ideas came from religious minorities." It is no accident that the First part of the First Amendment forbids Congress from making any law with regard to religion or preventing its free exercise. Wildman was a member of the "Leveller Movement" in England during the early seventeenth century, which pushed for religious tolerance in Great Britain. Many of their arguments would be used to justify the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. They would also have some influence on French political thought. The Quakers emerged from their ranks.

While I am sure that the Enlightenment had influenced many of the better-educated "founding fathers," I believe the majority of ordinary people, at that time, would be more influenced by arguments they heard within their often very different churches. I suspect there was more of a bottom-up push from religious minorities, as well as an intellectual top-down influence from the Enlightenment. Since we have protected religion from the excesses of government, it is therefore secular. However I believe, in our variety, the US is a very religious country.

I was rather amused by the arguments regarding the cutting off of trade with the Islamic world bringing about development in northern Europe. I ran across a similar event studying Brazilian colonial history in college. I remarked in some paper or exam that it accidentally proved Alexander Hamilton's position on tariffs as being necessary for national development. Free Trade was regarded as idiocy when I was in college. I still agree with that analysis. Again, a very interesting review! Also, I cannot recall any general European or world history books that did not admire Arab culture in southern Spain.

Pervis J. Casey

Riverside, CA

Mar 6 2008 - 2:58pm

Web Letter

Daniel Lazare, for my money, writes a fine essay on the vagaries of European History, Religious & otherwise. No need to discuss his mostly salient points, though I have not read either of the books he reviews, and therefore speak mostly out of ignorance.

He completely misses the mark, however, in his general thesis and conclusion. When Jesus soon returns, Mr. King of Kings shall indeed set up a some variant of a theological government. How could it be any other way? A simple reading of ancient & modern history is enough to go on, though Mr. Lazare seems to ignore almost all of it with, I suppose, an old stick from the Thirty Years War. It's not like it's complicated or anything. Christians shall live under Jesus, just as Jews will, and Muslims, and Hindus and Buddhists, and all the other "isms" & "ists," and God and man (& woman) shall be reconciled... indeed, it is already happening. Where does Mr. Lazare live anyway? In a cave?

Proof, Mr. Lazare asks, almost perplexed? It shall come to Mr. Lazare in a blink of an eye, and to others as if on a cloud of gold. Indeed, the armies shall meet at Armageddon as foretold. Does he think different? Maybe Mr. Lazare himself will be there. Who knows? Maybe Jesus will even need some help in writing up treaties... or at least in understanding some of the ancient feuds, the ancient wounds. Mr. Lazare should take his head out of Francis Bacon and--Rousseau, is it?--and immediately open up Herman Melville and take a swim with Moby-Dick instead. Starting there should get him where he needs to soon go.

Good luck, and thanks for the review.

Sherlock Debs

San Diego, CA

Mar 4 2008 - 12:29am