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James Madison and the Separation of Science and Religion?

Stan Moody:

Considering that professing Christians on both sides of the science/religion debate are likely in

agreement on the mystery of the “immaculate conception” of the Virgin Mary, my guess is that

they would part company on such extensions as an “immaculate delivery”, pivotal to one

Christian sect to which I recently was exposed.

Path to Peaceful Governance:

James Madison seemed especially cognizant of our human tendency to wander into divergent

belief systems and its historical effect on peaceful governance. As a result, he came down hard

on the danger of the State affirming or condemning any religious belief system. Here are a few

samples of his thoughts:

During almost fifteen centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on

trial. What has been its fruits? More or less, in all places, pride and indolence in

the clergy; ignorance and servility in the laity; in both, superstition, bigotry and

persecution. [James Madison, A Memorial and Remonstrance, addressed to the

General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Virginia, 1785].

Every new & successful example, therefore, of a perfect separation between

ecclesiastical and civil matters, is of importance. …I have no doubt that every

new example, will succeed, as every past one has done, in shewing that religion &

Gov will both exist in greater purity, the less they are mixed together; [James

Madison, Letter to Edward Livingston, July 10, 1822, The Writings of James

Madison, Gaillard Hunt].

Whilst we assert for ourselves a freedom to embrace, to profess and observe the

Religion which we believe to be of divine origin, we cannot deny equal freedom

to those whose minds have not yet yielded to the evidence which has convinced

us. If this freedom be abused, it is an offense against God, not against man: To

God, therefore, not to man, must an account of it be rendered. [James Madison,

according to Leonard W. Levy, Treason Against God: A History of the Offense of

Blasphemy, New York: Schocken Books, 1981, p. xii.].

Morality vs. Righteousness:

We live in an age when religion seems to be bending toward rational expression in the equating

of select moral codes with divine redemption. Its genesis seems to have derived from becoming

tired of waiting for God and electing to take matters into our own hands. Rote religion is being

promoted as superior to liberal governance, while science struggles to grant more ground to

mystery. Perhaps the failure of both is to accept that we homo sapiens are destined to deal from

half a deck.

While science and religion will forever be in debate over “truth” – rationality vs. objectivity,

religion and State are vulnerable to picking up the instruments of war in a fight, not to win

hearts, but to win affirmation and thereby control.

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