I’ve often said that I consider apologists liars and apologetics lies because you have to start with a lie and then tell more lies to support it. I doubt that the apologists themselves think that they’re lying, but I also doubt that they consider their own dishonesty, being buttressed by the false overlay of their religious belief.
So we’ve seen the cherry-picking that goes on, from the Bible or from science and scientists. We’ve seen the twisting, where no matter what an opponent says, its meaning becomes something entirely different when repeated by the masters of deception. Sometimes, they have to go back decades or even centuries to find some factoid that they can twist to their satisfaction, while ignoring entire bodies of work. From William Lane Craig to Dinesh D’Sousa to Matt Slick, these purveyors of smoke concoct elaborate presentations based in a bastardation of their own mythology combined with the misapplied and misread bits of wrongness that they equate with factual knowledge.
And over the past few years, a new pretender to the throne of misinformation has appeared and has far too much influence to be ignored. David Barton may not be the first out of the clown car, but his misinformation is taken by many as just too good to pass up in the war against reality.
His chief enterprise is the tearing down of the wall of separation, which he claims is a one-way wall that keeps government interference from religion while allowing religious influence in the government. This idea is so nefarious because it is entirely contrary to Jefferson’s ideas of separation and is completely at odds with the many pronouncements of the Founding Fathers and its purpose is to allow what those founders feared most regarding the co-option of government by the forces of religion. It ignores the entire purpose of Jefferson’s battle to end the supremacy of the Church of England over the taxpayers of Connecticut.
To achieve his ends, Barton lies, misquotes, and simply invents what he cannot find. When confronted with his use of invented quotes, he claims that the quotes are in keeping with the attitudes and positions of those he’s quoting. He doesn’t just cherry-pick quotes, he invents them or uses quotes that have been invented.
Barton has claimed that Jefferson is presented as an atheist, an obvious strawman, although some have said that were Thomas Jefferson living today he would have been an atheist. We all know that he was, or at least presented himself as, a deist. In Barton’s imaginary world Christianity is persecuted and misrepresented.
Barton cites a case where a child was yanked out of school for praying over his lunch. It’s an outright lie, of course, the child in question was suspended for fighting, not praying. As an argument about how Christians are being persecuted this is specious since it’s actually over twenty years old. Is it possible that Barton has never been confronted with this lie? It doesn’t matter because his world is not our world.
Barton is in league with Pat Robertson’s Christian Coalition. They simply love this stuff. The usual suspects support him: Jerry Falwell, Ralph Reed, Doctor James Dobson, et al. If you wonder why religion is dangerous or evil, this sort of historical revisionism is a strong example. Although Barton claims to be an expert on things historical and Constitutional, he has no degrees in these subjects, His only degree comes from Oral Roberts University in Christian studies. (Bachelor of arts in religious studies.) When it comes to prayers in school, Barton jumps in it. Too many people are on board with Barton, and the influence on Texas textbooks and the adoption of pseudohistory is obvious. Barton’s Ministry of Information does not yet hold complete control, but it competes in the marketplace of ideas. Barton’s recent appearance on The Daily Show illustrates how he is able to spew his nonsense with little challenge. Stewart was lacking in not only the basic understanding of secularism, apparently, but weak in American history.
The Founders were products of their times. Presented with the exegesis and historicity of the Bible in modern times I have no doubt that most would have immediately abandoned their deistic leanings. Adams and Jefferson discussed the possibility, as expressed by one of Adams’ teachers, that we would be better off with no religion at all. The discounted the idea then, but if they lived today it is my considered opinion that they would not.
And as to Barton and his ilk, I’d curse them if I could. I would wish that whatever punishment they deserved would be given to them, and that would be enough.