Alan Dershowitz’s Blasphemy: A Book Review

For those of you who do not know who Alan Dershowitiz is: He is the devil incarnate, or that would be the way he might be portrayed by religious revisionists. However, he is nothing of the sort, being the Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law at Harvard Law School. He simply believes in individual liberties and in protecting them, which may explain why the revisionists revile him. He is a man of Jeffersonian character and would like to keep our legal system the same.

In Blasphemy: How The Religious Right Is Hijacking Our Declaration Of Independence, Dershowitz dissects the Declaration of Independence, word by contextualized word with regard to mentioning of deity and divinity. Dershowitz explains Jefferson, the man and his views, and why the Declaration was written the way it was and not the way the Christian Right want everyone to believe it was. Since the Declaration was primarily Jefferson’s work, the onus of the wording falls on him. And it is interesting to note that Jefferson in no form speaks of a Christian god anywhere in the Declaration. All his references to divinity or a deity are generic or referring to a natural god, a common enough belief in his time. For Jefferson was a Deist, not a Christian, and found Christianity — the writings in the New Testament — to be just so much drivel (actually, he referred to the new testament as “dung”).

And Jefferson was a man of reason, a learned man born of the same intellectualism that begat Rousseau. And reason was necessary to form a government of laws. And a government of laws, a republic of laws, was what he achieved, along with his fellows in the various congresses of the founders. And that nation born of wanted freedoms and idealistic laws had little or no room for advocating one religion over another. In fact, it was anathema to what they were trying to achieve. So, despite many religious leaders among the congressmen speaking to the contrary, the generic forms remained.

Now the religious right are doing everything within their power to reverse it, revise it, and rewrite it. For thiers is the divine right…

Dershowitz tells a masterful tale of Thomas Jefferson, a man admired by most and derided — and mostly admired — by his enemies (usually Christians). He offers up modern examples of how the religious right in the United States are rewriting the Declaration’s intent, rewriting the history of its drafting, rewriting it to fit their close-minded, authoritarian views. With people like David Barton, an opportunistic religious revisionist who conducts tours of historical Washington and who maintains that the United States is a Christian nation and that the Declaration is a Christian document written by Christians for a new Christian nation and is even more important than the Constitution, it is imperative that Americans understand that the Declaration is a simple, albeit important, document of separation from a tyrannical government. In no way, shape, or form can a document like the Declaration be considered more powerful or dominant over the central document of law of the land.

Blasphemy is a powerful book that simply tells us the facts, as devoid of political or religious slant as can probably be written. It should be required reading for anyone interested in law, especially Constitutional law. It definitely is must reading for anyone on either side of the argument over whether or not the United States began as a Christian nation. And it might just be what is needed to curb the rising tide of Christian sentiment, the anti-Jeffersonian ideology of religious hegemony espoused by today’s evangelical Christians, that will ultimately, if successful, destroy the document and the true intent and genius that made possible the founding of this nation of laws, that protects all Americans and all their liberties…