It’s all a bunch of hooey.

Regular readers know I am avowed atheist. While I have a specific disdain for Christianity because of the prevailing culture and my upbringing, my rejection of religion is ecumenical. Islam is no better or worse than Mormonism.

Now I’m not militant about it, I don’t feel I have a life purpose debunking your belief in Kali or Set (not whom you think they are, I suggest you read up), I mostly just kneel and stand up when everyone else does and smile politely when you talk about your faith while we both know I consider it… magical thinking akin to a conviction in the effectiveness of Rally Caps or Chicago School Economics.

But I am a student and I came across this piece-

The fascinating history of how Jefferson and other Founding Fathers defended Muslim rights
By Elahe Izadi, Washington Post
December 11 at 8:45 AM

(Thomas) Jefferson authored the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom and asked that it be one of just three accomplishments listed on his tombstone. The Virginia law became the foundation of the religious freedom protections later delineated in the Constitution.

Virginia went from having a strong state-established church, which Virginians had to pay taxes to support, to protecting freedom of conscience and separating church and state. Jefferson specifically mentioned Muslims when describing the broad scope of protections he intended by his legislation, which was passed in 1786.

During the bill’s debate, some legislators wanted to insert the term “Jesus Christ,” which was rejected. Writing in 1821, Jefferson reflected that “singular proposition proved that [the bill’s] protection of opinion was meant to be universal.”

It’s not as if Muslims were an overarching concern for early Americans, a Monticello scholar says.

“There just wasn’t a large Muslim presence” in the United States — at least not an acknowledged one, said Andrew Jackson O’Shaughnessy, vice president of the Thomas Jefferson Foundation and Saunders Director of the Robert H. Smith International Center for Jefferson Studies at Monticello.

“The real significance” was that Muslims were mentioned at all, O’Shaughnessy said, pointing to specific mentions of Muslims in “several petitions” — some written by Baptists — in favor of Jefferson’s religious freedom statute.

“It is very significant because they were clearly going out of their way to show just how broad and complete was the idea of religious freedom,” O’Shaughnessy said.

“Baptists and Presbyterians were really demanding religious freedom in the 18th century because they were dissenters from the established church,” Ragosta said. “And they were talking about Muslims and ‘infidels’ and Jews.”

Evangelicals had been subjected to religious persecution not long before. Prior to the American Revolution, more than half of Virginia’s Baptist ministers were jailed for preaching, Ragosta said. “These people knew what they were talking about.”

Opponents of Jefferson’s proposal wrote letters to the Virginia Gazette, arguing that it would allow atheists, Muslims and Jews to hold office — to which evangelicals responded, “that’s right,” Ragosta said.

During the North Carolina debate, anti-Federalist Henry Abbot argued that eliminating a religious test meant it would be possible “that pagans and deists, and Mahometans might obtain offices among us, and that the senators and representatives might all be pagans,” as noted in Spellberg’s book.

Federalist James Iredell, dubbed “the ablest defender of the Constitution,” then mounted his counter-argument — while also trying to convince skeptical delegates that it was highly unlikely citizens would elect officials with beliefs so out of the mainstream.

“It is to be objected that the people of America may, perhaps, choose representatives who have no religion at all, and that pagans and Mahometans may be admitted into offices,” Iredell said. “But how is it possible to exclude any set of men, without taking away that principle of religious freedom which we ourselves so warmly contend for?”

Thus endeth today’s lesson.

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