Monday, June 8, 2009

"Surrounded by paganism"

Newt Gingrich: "I think this is one of the most critical moments in American history. We are living in a period where we are surrounded by paganism."

Here are a few pagan quotes I recommend to Newt:

"Orators are most vehement when their cause is weak." -- Cicero

"Whatever fortune has raised to a height, she has raised only to cast it down." -- Seneca

"The object of life is not to be on the side of the majority, but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane." -- Marcus Aurelius


Gil Weinreich said...

I've not read Gingrich's speech, but at the risk of defending an unpopular politician, it should be pointed out that society can tolerate a small percentage of pagans --- and what excellent pagans (Cicero, Seneca, Aurelius) you've cited! But pagan Rome is hardly an exemplary society. Seneca's fine rhetoric had no restraining effect on his disciple Nero who, among other depraved acts, murdered his mother.

I think our own Founders had it right:

"Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other."
-- John Adams

“We’ve staked our future on our ability to follow the Ten Commandments with all of our heart.”
-- James Madison

"...reason and experience both forbid us to expect, that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle..."
-- George Washington

Life in a post-religious America would be nasty and brutish -- just like pagan Rome.

Kenneth Silber said...

The American founding fathers were steeped in the classics, and modeled the U.S. government after the Roman Republic. I doubt Adams, Madison or Washington would have tossed out "paganism" as a catch-all term of derogation the way Newt just did.

Gil Weinreich said...

Precisely because they were so steeped in the classics, the Founders knew that republican government had a tendency to self-destruction absent a strong moral basis in society. I am therefore not so sure the Founders wouldn't have resonated with Newt -- all the more so in light of the religious consensus of early America compared to today's broader moral arena.

Kenneth Silber said...

Well, if Gingrich is serious about it, he might want to get rid of some of the pagan-influenced statuary that currently surrounds the Capitol.