Rev. Austin Miles
P.O. Box 685
Oakley, California

November 22, 1995

Dear Austin,

Your "Riddle of the Month" was too easy, even though you got it wrong. I assumed you would get a dozen replies, so I didn't bother sending mine. Here it is:

"History fails to record in a single precedent in which nations subject to moral decay have not passed into political and economic decline. There has been either a spiritual awakening to overcome the moral lapse, or a progressive deterioration leading to ultimate national disaster."

Spoken by that paragon of virtue, ethics, and morality, General Douglas MacArthur (and recently re-quoted by the Unabomber). MacArthur was paraphrasing Edward Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. Gibbon wrote about how the infliction of Christianity upon Rome helped bring about its downfall. Thank you for the free subscription. Of course morality doesn't "decay:" it merely changes. The nation's ills are due to the decay of ethics, not morality.

Why don't you try a harder "Riddle of the Month" like the ones below? Maybe you will fear to read them all, but your readers might benefit from what the nation's founders and visionaries wrote:

"I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just." - Thomas Jefferson

"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 prohibiting the free exercise thereof,' thus building a wall of separation between church and State." - Thomas Jefferson, letter to Danbury Baptist Association, CT

"In every country and in every age the priest has been hostile to liberty; he is always in allegiance to the despot, abetting his abuses in return for protection of his own." - Thomas Jefferson, letter to Horatio Spofford, 1814

"Experience witnesseth that ecclesiastical establishments, instead of maintaining the purity and efficacy of religion, have had a contrary operation. During almost fifteen centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial. What has been its fruits? More or less, in all places, pride and indolence in the clergy; ignorance and servility in the laity; in both, superstition, bigotry and persecution." - James Madison, A Memorial and Remonstrance, 1785

"If we look back into history for the character of the present sects in Christianity, we shall find few that have not in their turns been persecutors, and complainers of persecution. The primitive Christians thought persecution extremely wrong in the Pagans, but practiced it on one another. The first Protestants of the Church of England blamed persecution in the Romish Church, but practiced it upon the Puritans. They found it wrong in Bishops, but fell into the practice themselves both here (England) and in New England." - Benjamin Franklin

"Leave the matter of religion to the family altar, the church, and the private schools, supported entirely by private contributions. Keep the church and the state forever separated." -- Ulysses S. Grant

"Whenever we read the obscene stories, the voluptuous debaucheries, the cruel and tortuous executions, the unrelenting vindictiveness with which more than half the Bible is filled, it would be more consistent that we call it the word of a demon than the word of God. It is a history of wickedness that has served to corrupt and brutalize mankind." -- Thomas Paine

"Is uniformity attainable? Millions of innocent men, women and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined, imprisoned; yet we have not advanced an inch towards uniformity. What has been the effect of coercion? To make one half the world fools, and the other half hypocrites. To support roguery and error all over the earth." - Thomas Jefferson, Notes on Virginia

"History I believe furnishes no example of a priest-ridden people maintaining a free civil government. This marks the lowest grade of ignorance, of which their political as well as religious leaders will always avail themselves for their own purpose." - Thomas Jefferson, to Baron von Humboldt, 1813

"As to Jesus of Nazareth, I think the system of Morals and his Religion, as he left them to us, the best the World ever saw or is likely to see; but I apprehend it has received various corrupting changes, and I have, with the most of the present Dissenters in England, some doubts to his divinity." -- Benjamin Franklin

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