I plan to make a book review every sunday. Get a copy of this book here:
Cleon Skousen wrote The 5000 Year Leap in 1981 slightly predating the Conservative reformation and it shows. Slightly eager to read a book summarizing the American Ideals of freedom, I picked up the book after it sat on my bookshelf for a few years. There was not even a crease in the spin before I was let down. Any Neo-con or Reagan –Era conservative may have already interpreted me as a freedom hating liberal, but please read on. If you are a true lover of freedom, you will read on and see the seemingly blatant misinformation the author communicates for his agenda. Skousen as well as the institution that published this book (The National Center for Constitutional Studies) does us a favor by summarizing the basics of freedom, but the reader must keep in mind that although the 1980’s Conservative movement was inspired by the global fight for freedom, it is also inspired by the biggest enemy of freedom: Theocracy. Conveniently for me, The 5000 Year Leap draws out exactly what I mean to illustrate by consistently confusing Freedom for Theocracy and Democracy for Totalitarianism. , Thomas Jefferson, aiming to create a more secular and moral Bible, edited it by taking out any miracles or divinity that cannot be proven or explained. I aim to do the same service to The 5000 Year Leap by highlighting the brilliant research of the Founding Fathers, while stressing the blatant misinformation that seems to fester and infect to this day, the Neo-Conservative movement. I hope that my true feelings about liberty is not overwhelmed by my criticisms of it’s self-proclaimed protectors. Freedom and Liberty is what the human race has driven for hundreds of thousands of years. It is the perfection of human government and it deserves our respect for that reason. And yet, tragically, I know people will misconstrue my opinions of this book because I am criticizing it’s authors. But in order to obtain the truth, especially on such important matters, we must be skeptical.
Skousen spares no time revealing his book as well as the publisher’s agenda within the first six pages. He immediately admits he thinks the founding of America was “guided and governed by the hand of god” (page 1). But then continues to list brilliant quotes by our founding fathers, all of who are agnostics. Among those quoted: James Madison, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, and Thomas Jefferson are all agnostic, secular leaders without whom, we could not have had such a perfect and universal constitution. Part of the Treaty of Tripoli was ratified by Congress in 1791 without debate clearly stated: ‘The government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion.’
“When all men of all religions shall enjoy equal liberty, property, and an equal chance for honors and power we may expect that improvements will be made in the human character and the state of society” –John Adams
I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibit the free exercise thereof, thus building a wall of separation between church and state – Thomas Jefferson
Christianity neither is, nor ever was a part of the common law – Thomas Jefferson
Strongly guarded as is the separation between Religion and Government in the Constitution of the United States, the danger of encroachment by Ecclesiastical Bodies, may be illustrated by precedents already furnished in their short history – James Madison
This basic belief that our Founding Fathers created the constitution with spiritual influence is what corrupts the Neo-Conservative movement in a big way. Conservatives, the protectors of liberty and freedom, have the thorn of religion in their side; one that has become more painful as the country moves away from a spiritually lead country to a secular one.
It cannot be ignored that nothing about god is included in the constitution and it shouldn’t. And yet one cannot have a serious conversation about liberty without stumbling on the idea that god gave us this freedom. The author seems to think that such a universal document could not be conjured up without religion, but it leaves the rational reader to wonder “why would god wait until the 18th century to guide this sort of country?” It is the sort of thought that poisons any sort of serious conversation about our constitution. Have no mistake: this is not a harmless belief. Peter Marshall illustrates this point perfectly in the forward when he admits, “The choice before us is plain: Christ or chaos, conviction or compromise, discipline or disintegration. I am rather tired of hearing about our rights and privileges as American citizens…America’s future depends upon her accepting and demonstration God’s government” Would a quote like this be out of place in a radical Muslim country? The point of this quote perfectly sets up the bias for the reader: Freedom is an inalienable right…But you must submit to god (and the right god). This comes before everything else, especially the “rights and privileges” of American citizens. Ronald Mann, contributor, also attributes our biggest threats to liberty is because Americans have, “evicted ‘Providence’ from our counsels, schools, courts, and assemblies” (page xvii). Again, I must ask: would this quote be out of place in Iran or even North Korea? Granted, North Korea is not a religious state, but it possesses the same qualities that the author mistakes for liberty. If we are to hold the purest for of liberty, we must examine these claims.
Put bluntly: “Religion is a totalitarian belief. It is the wish to be a slave. It is the desire that there be an unalterable, unchallengeable, tyrannical authority who can convict you of thought crime while you are asleep, who can subject you to total surveillance around the clock every waking and sleeping minute of your life, before you’re born and, even worse and where the real fun begins, after you’re dead; a celestial North Korea. Who wants this to be true? Who but a slave desires such a ghastly fate? I’ve been to North Korea. It has a dead man as its president, Kim Jong-Il is only head of the party and head of the army. He’s not head of the state. That office belongs to his deceased father, Kim Il-Sung. It’s a necrocracy, a thanatocracy. It’s one short of a trinity I might add. The son is the reincarnation of the father. It is the most revolting and utter and absolute and heartless tyranny the human species has ever evolved. But at least you can fucking die and leave North Korea!” (Christopher Hitchens Grand Valley State University, 2010)
It is important to understand their key points about Ruler’s Law versus the People’s rule of law. This is an extremely well organized way to lay out Tyranny versus Democracy. However well put together, it is laughably ironic how quickly the author contradicts himself here. In this section, Skousen lists the following as Ruler’s Law:
- Authority under Ruler’s Law is nearly always established by, force, violence, and conquest
- All sovereign power is considered to be in the conqueror or his descendants
- People are not equal, but divided by classes
- The entire country is considered to be the property o the ruler. He speaks of it as his ‘realm’
- The thrust of governmental power is from the top down…
- The people have no unalienable rights
And so on.
Quickly, flip the page and read about where the Founding Father’s first found the common law of freedom: Ancient Isreal. Now, one can already see that the author has no idea what he is talking about. Please take the above and flip to a random page in Deuteronomy, and it will fit perfectly with the above Ruler’s Law. The confidence in the author’s knowledge should make anyone in the church embarrassed when he explains how Moses established freedom and liberty in Deuteronomy. This book, along with the Ten Commandments completely aligns themselves with the Ruler’s Law (The very first three commandments are orders to worship the dear leader and only the dear leader). Deuteronomy is the book that claims to be the foundation of freedom and liberty and yet the author admits the kingdom of Israel failed to live up to its freedom principles when they adopted slaves. Skousen fails to mention that the books of Deuteronomy lays out that the Jews could own slaves and even sets rules about how to keep them. It would be difficult to find a more profound example of misinformation…Until you get to the next page (page 16) when he says Moses was the leader of Israel. The Bible clearly says that Moses was never allowed to enter into the kingdom of Israel.
The reader gets some relief as they enter the 28 Principles of freedom, but one should not get too comfortable. The pain stakenly made stretch the author attempts to connect religion and liberty continues when you get to the second principle. The author makes very large claims by saying the Founding Fathers get the idea of freedom and love form his common man from the Ten Commandments. One does not need to point out the first three commandments are completely irrelevant for freedom, not to mention morality; but the claim that the Golden Rule is somewhere within the Ten Commandments complete discredits the author’s knowledge of the word. The Golden Rule, although not in the Old Testament what so ever, has been around long since Bronze Aged Israel. The oldest is recorded in Ancient Babylonia from an unknown author and even recorded by Confucius. Could this mean that humans are competent enough to run a libertarian, free government without the assistance of a divine being? Skousen says no, and attempts to wrestle the Founding Fathers into this idea as well. In Article 3 of the Northwest ordinance (if you haven’t heard of it, that’s because it has little bearing on modern day), Congress has said, “Religion, morality, and knowledge being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged.” Although later, the author admits that the Founding Fathers desire a separation between church and state, he now declares that Congress and the Founding Fathers are in favor of teaching religion in schools.
Also note how the author has complete disregard for the people’s opinions. It is a symptom of the religious power that infects Conservatives ability to truly protect people’s rights. The author tries to explain how time and time again, the people vote for the ‘wrong’ people or we are going down the wrong path. Perhaps Skousen separates Democracy, and freedom. It is unfathomable to mistake Theocracy for Liberty, and yet this book unashamably assert this throughout the book.
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