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Web letter: Revolution as holy war is rewrite of history

The editorial by James P. Byrd, “The Revolution – America’s first Holy War” (July 12), can only be described as strange.

It’s a blatant effort to rewrite American history and it distorts both the Revolution and the views of the leaders who inspired and led it.

Presenting no evidence, he writes “when colonists declared their independence on July 4, 1776, religious conviction inspired them” even though the Declaration of Independence makes no reference to religious faith or scripture.

Byrd states, with no supporting evidence, that “several founding fathers were more theologically liberal than the typical evangelical Protestant of their day.” His quotes from a half dozen “patriotic” ministers (his term) underscore militant evangelical Christianity but are by no means representatives of the founders of the nation. George Washington was eager to have morale-building chaplains for his disheartened army but it is interpretive overreach to suggest that means he thought the war was holy.

The most egregious distortion of historical fact in Byrd’s opinion piece, however, is his suggestion that Thomas Paine “quoted scripture like a revival preacher.” Even the most casual Google search will quickly reveal Paine’s disdain for Christianity and the scripture upon which it is built. In his “Age of Reason,” he wrote, “All national institutions of churches, whether Jewish, Christian, or Turkish, appear to me no other than human inventions set up to terrify and enslave mankind, and monopolize power and profit.”

In the same volume he wrote “What is it the Bible teaches us? – rapine, cruelty, and murder. What is it the Testament teaches us? – to believe that the Almighty committed debauchery with a woman engaged to be married, and the belief of this debauchery is called faith.”

Moreover Byrd uses the founders, evangelical preachers and Thomas Paine interchangeably. His effort at revisionist history can only be labeled as strange.

DAVID WAAS North Manchester

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