My talk with Andrew Seidel about his book on America’s secular origins

July 23, 2019 • 9:15 am

As I wrote a while back, in June I had a 45-minute public discussion with Andrew Seidel, a constitutional attorney for the Freedom from Religion Foundation and its Director of Strategic Response. The topic was Andrew’s new book, The Founding Myth: Why Christian Nationalism Is Un-American. It took place at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and Hemant Mehta (“the Friendly Atheist”) was the moderator.

As always, I can’t bear to listen to myself talk, so I didn’t go through this. But I recall that Andrew was very eloquent and enlightening (as interlocutor, my role was just to ask questions, so the floor was his).  I think you’ll learn a lot about Andrew’s twin theses: the U.S. was not founded as a Christian nation, nor was it founded on Christian principles. (Also, as you probably already know the founders weren’t very religious. In fact, some of them were quite randy and, by evangelical Christian lights, immoral!)

I did listen near the end just so I can tell you that the audience questions begin about 48½ minutes in. And I can assure you that you will enjoy Andrew’s conversational style and will learn a lot, including what a liberal constitutional lawyer thinks of today’s Supreme Court, and where the law is heading.

17 thoughts on “My talk with Andrew Seidel about his book on America’s secular origins

  1. By contrast, history popularizer Tom Holland is about to release (September) a new book, Dominion: The Making of the Western Mind, in which he will Christsplain how we make our moral judgments today based on Christian principles, whether we’re Christian or not. He used to be a great admirer of pagan Greece and Rome. Now he’s gone to the dark side. I think he’s going to give Christians credit for air and water too. I know Maarten Boudry already has this book in his sights.

    1. Good for Maarten, I eagerly await his takedown. Has Holland publicly come out as a Christian or is he one of those atheists who hate atheists?

  2. This book is fantastic. If I had more time…(I’m definitely going to “make” more time) I’d explore references in his bibliography.

    1. One of Seidel’s references is to Matthew Stewart’s Nature’s God, The Heretical Origins of the American Republic. (He also cites Stewart as a mentor.) This is my all time favorite book. I’ve read it cover to cover at least ten times. It’s a beautiful, detailed historical and philosophical presentation of how the United States came to be. Stewart’s brilliant writing and subtle wit make this a pure joy to read.

      A teaser:

      Though it may be traced all the way to Epicurus and his infinite universe, the genealogy of Nature’s God properly begins in the late seventeenth century. The strange new vision first emerged in the work of the two greatest philosophers of the early modern world, one of whom became infamous by making it impossible for his contemporaries not to see it, the other of whom achieved fame by showing them how to pretend not to see it.

      Stewart, Matthew. Nature’s God: The Heretical Origins of the American Republic (p. 139). W. W. Norton & Company.

  3. Very interesting interview and a good sell for the book. Having read quite a bit on the history of the Constitution and Ratification I would guess he has also read much of the same plus more. It has always been a mystery as to how the religious groups attempt to tie the history of our country to religious. Just goes to show they are capable of believing anything, especially their own nonsense. It is great to see someone who can tell us the truth with evidence.

  4. Also, as you probably already know the founders weren’t very religious. In fact, some of them were quite randy and, by evangelical Christian lights, immoral!

    Excellent presidential material!

  5. I’m going to admit, I was there, but come up and say hi because I’m still learning to walk again after some surgeries. Since I had to walk further than usual to get into the building and up to the meeting room, I was fraid I was going to fall on my face if I moved any further. Anyway, it was a great program, and I look forward to reading the book. I also want to say you have a beautiful voice, Jerry. I think many of us hate our voices because they sound so different on a recording, than the sound we hear when we speak.

  6. I am going to suggest that if it has not already the Erie County (NY) public library system purchase this book for general circulation. Interesting factoid the only president not to use a religious text for oath of office was John Adams who used a book of English Common Law.

  7. I enjoyed this discussion, and the questions following, very much. I’m glad you posted this Jerry.

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