The Movement from Law based on Christianity
To Law based on
(Investigator 164, 2015 September)
A ten year study of 15,000 political documents produced by the 55
authors of the Constitution was completed by University of Houston
political science professor Donald Lutz and Dr. Charles Hyneman (1994).
English jurist William Blackstone was third on the list of most quoted
sources. Only the Bible (34% of cited sources) and political
philosopher Charles de Montesquieu (8.3%) outranked him. Of the
possible sources from which the founders drew their ideas,
perspectives, values and notions about liberty and responsibility, the
one that dominates was the Bible.
The fact is, the original four-volume 1773 edition of Sir William
Blackstone’s classic masterpiece Commentaries on the Laws of England
“formed the core of American jurisprudence both before and after
ratification of the U.S. Constitution” (Vitagliano, 2015, p. 14).
The introduction to the newest reprint concluded that “Sir William
Blackstones’s Commentaries on the Laws of England, 1765-69, is the most
important legal treatise ever written in the English language.” A
central factor in how this foundation of American law was overturned
was the rejection of Blackstone and the acceptance of Darwinism. After
the Civil War, several leading
influential individuals embraced a new idea: Darwinian evolution. The
Origin of Species, published by Charles Darwin in 1859, had a huge
impact on the movers and shakers who saw no room in American
jurisprudence for Blackstone’s God based view of nature (Vitagliano,
2015, p. 15).
Thus, the rejection of Blackstone’s work began with Darwin’s writing
completed 150 years ago. In short, Blackstone’s work was rejected
ideas were rooted in a Judeo-Christian view of the world. God designed
the world to express certain ideas and to operate under certain
laws—and this theory is called “Natural Law.” The influence of
Blackstone and other thinkers of a similar vein led to familiar
founding sentiments such as the mention of “the Laws of Nature and
Nature’s God” in the Declaration of Independence (Vitagliano, 2015, p.
The basis of law was, as stated by Alabama Supreme Court Justice
Parker, when God “created man and imbued him with free will to conduct
himself in all parts of life, He laid down certain immutable laws of
human nature” (Vitagliano, 2015, p. 14). And
in creating mankind, God “gave him also the faculty of reason to
discover the purpose, or the purport, of those laws.” Human laws are
therefore to be the product of people comprehending God’s purposes and
fashioning their own regulations of human conduct to reflect the Divine
will (Vitagliano, 2015, p. 15).
After Darwin, this legal position radically changed. One factor
involved Harvard University’s president, Charles Eliot, working to
“introduce evolution into the teaching of law” by hiring Christopher
Langdell to be the new dean of Harvard Law School. Dean Langdell served
from 1870 to 1895, and during this time changed the curriculum
foundation from Blackstone’s Commentaries to the so-called case law
approach, meaning basing court decisions on the writings of other
Thus began the revolution in American jurisprudence, a process that
eventually succeeded in changing “the focus from the God who gave
immutable principles … to the judge—the man—who was writing the law”
(Parker, quoted in Vitagliano, 2015, p. 15).
By studying past case decisions, judges were able to evolve the law
from Christian centered to man centered. In addition, “Further advance
of the Darwinian impulse in law came with the influence of the late
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes,” who served on the
court for 30 years, from 1902 until 1932. This long term enabled him to
have a major impact on American law, moving from Judeo-Christian based
to secular humanism centered.
Holmes is best known today for his Harvard Law Review article published
in 1897. In that article Holmes opined that “every word of moral
significance” should be “banished” from law, and other ideas should be
adopted that “convey legal ideas uncolored by anything outside the law”
such as theology, especially Christian morality (1897). The result of
Holmes’ efforts achieved “a complete break from Blackstone and the
past” and instituted a radically new source of legal authority, secular
humanism (Vitagliano, 2015, p. 15). As a result,
Morality was separated from jurisprudence; human expertise and reason
were divorced from … ‘Natures God;’ absolute truth was denied; and the
responsibility for determining truth was placed firmly in the hands of
judges (Parker, quoted in Vitagliano, 2015, p. 15).
What could change this, Judge Parker opined, is the large number of
lawsuits fought today in defense of religious liberty. A problem that
works against this, maintains Judge Parker, is “While many Christians
have come to see the need for a return to founding principles in law,
there remains a large percentage of the Christian community that
eschews involvement in politics and culture” (Vitagliano, 2015, p. 15).
Unfortunately, as Judge Parker noted, he and many others are very
frustrated by those Christians “who attempt to bury their heads in the
sand and not see their role in contending or striving for truth …
Because absent their involvement, these [secularist] trends will take
down their children, even as we see the signs of them taking down our
society right now” (Parker, quoted in Vitagliano, 2015, p. 15).
Blackstone, Sir William. 1773. Commentary on the Laws of
Oxford, Clarendon Press
Holmes, Jr., Oliver Wendell. 1897. “The Path of the Law.” Harvard
Law Review. 10: 457
Lutz, Donald and Charles Hyneman. 1994. "Toward a Theory of
Constitutional Amendment," American Political Science Review, 88: 355-70
Vitagliano, Ed. 2015. “Sir William Blackstone and … the Long War
Against Law.” afajournal.org, pp. 14-15, January
Commentaries on the Laws of England, A Facsimile of the First Edition
of 1765-1769. 2002. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.
Introduced by Stanley N. Katz.
Secular Society – A Response to Jerry Bergman
(Investigator 165, 2015 November)
In his article The Movement from Law based on Christianity to Law based
on Secular Humanism (No. 164) Jerry expresses concern about the
secularisation of society, and closes his article with a quote which
suggests secularist trends will take down society.
But are Jerry's fears well founded? Are secular societies worse than
those where religion is dominant?
A common assumption is that religion is vital for society. This belief,
however, does not appear to be supported by cross¬-cultural studies
that compare democracies of high religiosity with those of a more
If the data showed that the U.S. enjoyed higher rates of societal
health than the more secular, pro-evolution democracies, then the
opinion that popular belief in a creator is strongly beneficial to
national cultures would be supported. Although they are by no means
utopias, the populations of secular democracies are clearly able to
govern themselves and maintain societal cohesion. Indeed, the data
examined in this study demonstrates that only the more secular,
pro-evolution democracies have, for the first time in history, come
closest to achieving practical "cultures of life" that feature low
rates of lethal crime, juvenile-adult mortality, sex related
dysfunction, and even abortion. The least theistic secular developed
democracies such as Japan, France, and Scandinavia have been most
successful in these regards. The non-religious, pro-evolution
democracies contradict the dictum that a society cannot enjoy good
conditions unless most citizens ardently believe in a moral creator.
The widely held fear that a Godless citizenry must experience societal
disaster is therefore refuted. Contradicting these conclusions requires
demonstrating a positive link between theism and societal conditions in
the first world with a similarly large body of data — a doubtful
possibility in view of the observable trends. (1)
As well as this large scale study of societies, studies have also been
conducted on how children who are raised in secular households develop.
The findings are as follows:
Far from being dysfunctional, nihilistic and rudderless without the
security and rectitude of religion, secular households provide a sound
and solid foundation for children, according to Vern Bengston, a USC
professor of gerontology and sociology.
For nearly 40 years, Bengston has overseen the longitudinal Study of
Generations, which has become the largest study of religion and family
life conducted across several generational cohorts in the United
States. When Bengston noticed the growth of nonreligious Americans
becoming increasingly pronounced, he decided in 2013 to add secular
families to his study in an attempt to understand how family life and
intergenerational influences play out among the religionless.
He was surprised by what he found: High levels of family solidarity and
emotional closeness between parents and nonreligious youth, and strong
ethical standards and moral values that had been clearly articulated as
they were imparted to the next generation.
"Many nonreligious parents were more coherent and passionate about
their ethical principles than some of the 'religious' parents in our
study," Bengston told me. "The vast majority appeared to live
goal-filled lives characterized by moral direction and sense of life
having a purpose."
My own ongoing research among secular Americans — as well as that of a
handful of other social scientists who have only recently turned their
gaze on secular culture ¬confirms that nonreligious family life is
replete with its own sustaining moral values and enriching ethical
precepts. Chief among those: rational problem solving, personal
autonomy, independence of thought, avoidance of corporal punishment, a
spirit of "questioning everything" and, far above all, empathy.
For secular people, morality is predicated on one simple principle:
empathetic reciprocity, widely known as the Golden Rule. Treating other
people as you would like to be treated. It is an ancient, universal
ethical imperative. And it requires no supernatural beliefs. As one
atheist mom who wanted to be identified only as Debbie told me: "The
way we teach them what is right and what is wrong is by trying to
instil a sense of empathy ... how other people feel. You know, just
trying to give them that sense of what it's like to be on the other end
of their actions. And I don't see any need for God in that...
"If your morality is all tied in with God," she continued, "what if you
at some point start to question the existence of God? Does that mean
your moral sense suddenly crumbles? The way we are teaching our
children ... no matter what they choose to believe later in life, even
if they become religious or whatever, they are still going to have that
The results of such secular child-rearing are encouraging. Studies have
found that secular teenagers are far less likely to care what the "cool
kids" think, or express a need to fit in with them, than their
religious peers. When these teens mature into "godless" adults, they
exhibit less racism than their religious counterparts, according to a
2010 Duke University study. Many psychological studies show that
secular grownups tend to be less vengeful, less nationalistic, less
militaristic, less authoritarian and more tolerant, on average, than
Recent research also has shown that children raised without religion
tend to remain irreligious as they grow older — and are perhaps more
accepting. Secular adults are more likely to understand and accept the
science concerning global warming, and to support women's equality and
gay rights. One telling fact from the criminology field: Atheists were
almost absent from our prison population as of the late 1990s,
comprising less than half of 1% of those behind bars, according to
Federal Bureau of Prisons statistics. This echoes what the criminology
field has documented for more than a century — the unaffiliated and the
nonreligious engage in far fewer crimes. (2)
As we can see the evidence shows that secular societies and secular
families, rather than being a threat to civilization actually promote
civilizing influences. The only people who need fear secularism are
those fanatics who wish to use religion to manipulate others, as can be
seen in the Middle East today.
(1) Paul, Gregory S. Page 7 in Cross-National Correlations of
Quantifiable Societal Health with Popular Religiosity and Secularism in
the Prosperous Democracies:
(2) Zuckerman, Phil How Secular Family Values Stack