Published in 2007, Blasphemy was written to counteract the common religious conservative claim that America was founded on Judeo-Christian values. A highly controversial topic, not to mention this is one of the many, many books written to defend the secular side of the debate, this was the first I had read on the topic and I found it entertaining and educational. Dershowitz has an easy-to-follow writing style, and makes his well thought out arguments very clear and easy to understand. He splits the book into two clear sections: the first is to explain why the U.S. Constitution is not Christian, and the second is to explain how the religious right have been using the claim for many years to force religion into the public.
He explains how a large handful of the founding fathers were deist or Unitarian, with a key focus on Thomas Jefferson, who largely wrote the Declaration of Independence. He explains Jefferson’s disbelief of an intervening god, his skepticism of the divinity of Jesus, Jefferson’s claims that the Old Testament was full of monkish-ness and superstition, and the New Testament being filled with absurdities and charlatanism. He even believed that Jesus’ morals were poorly put together and went as far as to compare the New Testament to “dung.” During his time, his opponents accused him of atheism and looked at his friendship with and respect for fellow founding father Thomas Paine, who openly criticized religion and attacked Christianity, claiming it to be too absurd for belief and produced only “atheists and fanatics alike.”
Jefferson was also an Epicurean, as he believed hedonism could be healthy, and was sympathetic towards suicide, which is taught to be sinful in Christianity. He also criticized the idea of being punished for the sins of the father, and disbelieved in forgiveness for wrong doing and thought you must make up for harming others. He referred to “nature’s god”, differentiating it from the Christian god, and believed a political leader’s faith should never be public but remain private. Dershowitz used this context to criticize the religious right’s use of the term to claim Jefferson was referring to the Christian god, and how they’ve constantly made attempts to make their religion public, such as having the 10 commandments in a public school or a cross statue on government owned property.
There is a lot to break down from this, so I’ll add Dershowitz’s straight-forward mention of a Treaty of Tripoli quote, which was signed by the second U.S. president John Adams: “America is in no way founded on the Christian religion.” I really enjoyed this book and if the topic of whether America was founded as a Christian nation interests you, then I definitely recommend it. 7 out of 10.