Welcome to a miscellaneous node of the Pandeism index!!
The Declaration of Independence
is one of the great, foundational documents of the United States
, and a template for voices in countries all over the world to be raised against the depredations of colonialism
, and dictatorship
. Penned in 1776
-- eleven years
before the word, "Pandeism
" would even be coined (or, at least, the German original, Pandeismus), the Declaration is a political document not necessarily intended to convey any theological message. And yet, the language chosen therein is very telling about the theological processes and perspectives at play in the innovations and motivations of the Founding Fathers
, and most especially of its primary author, the inestimable Thomas Jefferson
The Declaration begins with a moment of self-justification for its own writing, noting that "when in the course of human events" a revolution
is necessitated, it is essentially good manners
for the revolting parties to promulgate a document explaining why, exactly, such revolution was needed. And in the process of setting forth that preface, Jefferson writes of men seeking to achieve "the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God
entitle them" -- this may be well noted as a reference to the Biblical god (old or new), nor to Qu'ranic or not-yet-existing Mormon gods either. At this point in history, the phrases "Nature's God
" and "Creator
" were well-worn by Deists
, as representative of a non-intervening deity
which had set forth our Universe
and its governing laws of physics
, one which would in the end judge men on the general conduct of their lives, and not on their specific religious beliefs. This term evoked, indeed was intended to evoke, a contrast to the gods set forth in various scriptures
Getting right to the heart of the most important claim of the Declaration:
We hold these truths to be self-evident....
A powerful beginning to a sentence, to note what follows to be truth so true we simply know it upon consideration of the question.
that all men are created equal....
Another powerful pronouncement, one not to be found, incidentally, in the Bible
, or most any scripture (though it does appear in the religious teachings of the Sikh
, possibly as an influence of the Declaration itself)....
that they are endowed by their Creator....
Note again, the use of Deist terminology corresponding to the earlier invocation of Nature's God.
with certain unalienable Rights....
Ah, there it is, the fountain of liberty, rights that NO ONE, not man or gov't, can take away.
....that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
More concepts you'll not find in the Bible or other Scriptures; indeed many theologians of the day would have frowned at the notion of pursuing Happiness as an end, as a frivolity next to the more lauded pursuit of a quiet and humble religiosity. And the idea of Liberty expounded by the Founders was one positively anathema to most scriptures, for it encompasses among other things the freedom of religion, the freedom to worship as one pleased without interference. Indeed the fundamental libertarian
notion underlying Jefferson's own views was one of being legally able to engage in most any act which does not affect the rights of others.
Now, much of the rest of the document is dedicated to cataloging the various wrongs perpetrated by the British crown against the colonies, and indeed most of these revolve around limitations on the freedom, and so the happiness, of the colonists. Some are purely political, that the King hampered representative democracy
by ignroing or simply dissolving legislatures
, or calling them to meet at odd times. Some tack towards the military, the keeping of standing armies, including mercenaries, and quartering of soldiers, all outside of civilian control.
Perhaps the most intriguing bit of text is what was left out -- for Jefferson had originally included a missive against slavery
-- calling it "cruel war against human nature itself." This, certainly, is a doctrine of universal import, and yet avoided or seemingly countermanded by theistic scriptures, some of which have been extensively quoted in the justification of slavery
Now, the Declaration ends with some additional comments evoking a theological model, for example, "appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions." Now here it must be noted that Pandeism
asserts no usefulness to come from a doctrine by which the Creator of our Universe might be bothered to act as a judge
over our somewhat advanced apery, though Deists of the day (Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin
amongst them) believed in a divine judgement to come in some future, possibly post-Universe winding down of existence. And the Declaration asserts "a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence," which is almost suggestive of an active deity -- although it certainly falls short of making such an outright claim, and the term as used is more reflective, at least, of good luck
or good karma
sure to accompany their good ends.
Though the theological sentiments of the Declaration are deistic, and can only barely and strainedly be thought of as having any element of Pantheism
-- and though Pandeism
hadn't been thought of even in Europe
-- there remains yet the pandeistic thread in the notion that men ought to be free. Such freedom, of interest to Pandeism, is what enables the generation of experiences which are shared with our Creator, and which offer perhaps the most logical explanation for Creation-at-all. And such freedom, taken to its logical extreme in terms of maximizing varied positive experiences, must allow each one of us to experience as we wish, to take pleasure as we find it, so long as we seek to minimize our productin of suffering
and do no positive harm to another. So, though the Declaration of Independence is a document steeped in Deism and not Pandeism, it is surely one worthy of being embraced (including its omitted condemnation of slavery) by all who hew to Pandeism.