23 July 2011

An Annoying Letter from John Adams

I have too many damn tabs open, and there’s something of interest, positive or negative, in nearly all of them. Well, of interest to me, anyway, not necessarily to you or anybody else. I’ve been trying to bookmark them, which is not easy, as Google Chrome only lets me bookmark a page once, and many of my open pages frankly intersect various projects and interests. A case in point: I have in front of me a letter from John Adams to Thomas Jefferson, written 4 November 1816, that stands at the crossroads of several things I’m working on.

For one thing, I have my idiot project of writing a commentary on “America’s Forsaken Roots,”—not the three-part thing I did earlier, but a more detailed refutation drawing on a larger variety of sources. One of the claims the document made is that John Adams was president of the American Bible Society. Well, in this letter he comments on the usefulness of such an institution:
We have now, it seems, a National Bible Society, to propagate King James’s Bible, through all Nations. Would it not be better to apply these pious subscriptions to purify Christendom from the Corruptions of Christianity, than to propagate those corruptions in Europe, Asia, Africa and America?
Ouch. Not so friendly as all that, it seems. So, logically, should I not bookmark this with the “Forsaken Roots” stuff?

Not so fast. He continues:
Suppose we should project a society to translate Dupuis into all Languages, and offer a Reward in Medals and Diamonds to any Man or Body of Men who would produce the best answer to it.
Okay, now we touch on another consideration—Charles François Dupuis was an astronomer and a proponent of Mythicism—the concept that Jesus never actually existed and that some kind of mythological figure (if I remember correctly Dupuis saw the Jesus story as a solar myth) has been given historical flesh and made to walk among men. Such things do happen—Robin Hood and Roswell come to mind here—but Jesus seems an unlikely candidate. In any case I’ve been toying with doing something with some of the old-line Mythicists at some point, and Dupuis is on my reading-list. File under Mythicism?

Or maybe not. Adams goes on:
It is more worth your while to read Dupuis than Grimm. Of all the romances and true histories I ever read, it is the most entertaining and instructive, though Priestley calls it “dull.
Priestley, yeah, Joseph Priestley—I’m working my way through some of his stuff even now, mostly in connection with his observations on the necessity of disestablishment—and I’ve got a piece on a weird Christian meme that he has a connection with in the works. So maybe it should go under Joseph Priestley.

Or what about Adams’ religion, a subject dear to what passes for hearts among the Christian Nationite crowd? This letter has meat for that stew as well:
Conclude not from all this that I have renounced the Christian Religion, or that I agree with Dupuis in all his sentiments. Far from it. I see in every Page something to recommend Christianity in its Purity, and something to discredit its Corruptions. 
If I had Strength, I would give you my Opinion of it in a Fable of the Bees. 
The Ten Commandments and The Sermon on the Mount contain my Religion.
So that’s where it all kind of falls apart. So many places to file it—and I have to choose one. Maybe I’ll just write about it here instead. That way I can close the tab with a clear conscience, knowing that I’ll never have to look at the damn thing again, let alone make any sort of decision on how to use it. Blog and forget. It may not be the best policy, but at least it puts off the day of reckoning.

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