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Glen E. Thurow's Abraham Lincoln and American political religion PDF

By Glen E. Thurow

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Let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle. 6 Washington, like Jefferson, not only invokes God, but also argues that politics needs religion. Both men's opinions show that the direct and indirect governmental encouragement of religion may be based, at least in part, upon an argument that certain religious beliefs are beneficial to American politics and may properly be encouraged by government.

Some of them may be required or permitted by the Constitution in order to assure religious liberty (perhaps tax-exemption might be defended on this ground). Others may be necessary concessions to the religious sensibilities of the people, but in no substantial way aid or inhibit religion or give the government religious ends (perhaps some of the references to religion in state papers are of this character). Or some may simply be violations of the Constitution that the courts or other branches of government have not yet got around to rooting out for one reason or another (as the Supreme Court decided prayers in schools were not so long ago).

They attribute the sufferings of war to the Providence of God, denying the human responsibility that has caused and might alleviate them. They preach peace while bearing swords. Cruelty masked by hypocrisy is thus the moral essence of the "Hebraic-Puritan'' heritage in America, and the Second Inaugural is an infamous example of this heritage. After years of brooding upon "Hebraic-Puritan" ideas, Lincoln in the Second Inaugural became fixed in "the black of sternest Puritanism. . " 33 Current does not agree with Masters' judgment that the theological speculations of the Second Inaugural corrupted Lincoln's moral life, but neither does he think that they were the source of Lincoln's sublime charity.

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