Dissent is Patriotic

Proclaim Liberty thro' all the Land to all the Inhabitants thereof

Leviticus 25:10
Consecrate the fiftieth year and proclaim liberty throughout
all the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you

A Call For Heresy

We need our heretics to challenge and provoke

Herman Wouk

The word heresy, says Webster's Unabridged, derives from a Greek verb, hairesis, meaning choice. A heretic, then, is one who chooses his beliefs, instead of accepting those established by authority; rather innocuous or even laudable sort of free spirit, one might say, but in certain times and places such choice has been a crime, even a capital crime.

When Samuel Adams wrote that America was the last refuge on earth of freedom of conscience, he was stating a fact of his day. In our day, with the worldwide diffusion of American culture, authority everywhere is being challenged, and freedom of conscience is emerging as a global ideal, if far from a norm. Immense areas if controlled opinion remain where Marxism shakily holds on, or religion engulfs politics, or an entrenched dictatorship terrorizes contrary thought. But the last world showdown between freedom and authority is over.

Tocqueville predicted that America and Russia would one day divide the earth. For fifty years after World War II, the two hegemonies did in fact come head to head, with the extinction of the human race a horrible possibility. Freedom outfaced, outperformed, and outlasted its foe. All over the world now, whether or not the peoples are allowed to claim freedom, they aspire to be free.

That is something new under the sun. Its impact on all religions has been immense. For Jewish people, whose origin and continued existence are bound up with religion, it is an upheaval we are trying to cope with. When I made my own choice I had thought none of this through. I acted, as I have said, on a hunch.

Authority is a strong persisting aspect of all human culture. Sweep it out the door, and it may drift in through the windows. Humanism is a tolerant persuasion, and some of my best friends are convinced humanists, but humanism, too, can verge on orthodoxy in its fashion, It is almost a dogma of the humanists that serious belief in God and a religious structure betrays a mind either out of touch or second rate. Yet there iss another possibility; the mind may be that of a heretical humanist, so to say, making his (or her) free choice.

Now and then I have had an encouraging signal from one or another famous humanist, like a winking light in a dark seat, spelling out, I-don't-exactly-agree-but-you-are-on-to-something, Be-strong-and-of-good-courage.

And so, in my eighties, with so much still to do. I have written this book.

The Will to Live on: The Resurgence of Jewish Heritage (2000)

The Great Heretics : Quakers and others

OUR BIRTHRIGHT IS JOY: This hymn has at least two main versions. Here is Amanda Marie's beautiful rendition of the Christian version. Friendly alternative: There is a perhaps just as famous version (sung by Pete Seeger, by Enya and others ... the Quaker version). "How Can I Keep From Singing?" Please See  http://robt.shepherd.tripod.com/plenn.html

We search the world for truth;
We cull the good, the pure, the beautiful,
From all old flower fields of the soul;
And weary seekers of the best,
We come back laden from our quest,
To find that all the sages said,
Is in the Book our mothers read.

John Greenleaf Whittier

"He who hath friends must shew himself friendly"

Robert Shepherd
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mother teresa

From the cowardice that fears new truth
From the laziness that accepts half truths
From the arrogance that knows all truth
O Lord, deliver us.

[Arthur A. Ford]

True greatness is never proud. It is always infinitely humble.
Humility is one of the first requisites of greatness.

Heresy is the eternal dawn, the morning star, the glittering herald of the day.
Heresy is the last and best thought. It is the perpetual New World, the unknown sea,
toward which the brave all sail. It is the eternal horizon of progress.
Heresy extends the hospitalities of the brain to a new thought.
Heresy is a cradle; orthodoxy, a coffin.

[Robert Green Ingersoll]

How the Quakers Invented America

America is heir to Quakerism

In his new book, David Yount demonstrates how impressively the Quakers (the Society of Friends) have shaped the basic distinctive features of American life, from the days of the colonies, revolution and founders, to the civil rights movements of modern times: freedom, equality, community, straightforwardness, social justice, and spirituality. Quaker prep schools and colleges (many of them now regarded as very prestigious, even "elitist") continue to guide future generations of mostly non-Quaker students. Quaker spirituality is the basis for much of contemporary Christian spirituality. Yount makes clear that America would not have become what it is without the profound influence of the Friends. Indeed, so many reform movements have been spearheaded if not led by Quakers, women's suffrage, women's rights and temperance, abolition of slavery, prison and child labor reform, pacifism, even the Underground Railroad.

How Quakers invented America (a dissent)

Yeah, Quakers Invented America

But Old Europe called it Heresy

Freedom of Speech
The Romans of old knew that telling truth to those not ready to hear it will not make you popular. In fact, telling unpopular truth quite often results in retribution being dished out to your hurt. Playing the whistleblower or prophet can make you a target for attack, for loss of position, for imprisonment, for execution even, in some times and places.

veritas odium paret. Truth engenders hatred.

The case of Whitney v. California was a landmark in the realm of free speech. It is perhaps best noted for Justice Louis Brandeis' concurrence, which many scholars have lauded as perhaps the greatest defense of freedom of speech ever written by a member of the high court. Justice Brandeis wrote:

Those who won our independence believed that the final end of the State was to make men free to develop their faculties; and that in its government the deliberative forces should prevail over the arbitrary. They valued liberty both as an end and as a means. They believed liberty to be the secret of happiness and courage to be the secret of liberty. They believed that freedom to think as you will and to speak as you think are means indispensable to the discovery and spread of political truth; that without free speech and assembly discussion would be futile; that with them, discussion affords ordinarily adequate protection against the dissemination of noxious doctrine; that the greatest menace to freedom is an inert people; that public discussion is a political duty; and that this should be a fundamental principle of the American government. They recognized the risks to which all human institutions are subject. But they knew that order cannot be secured merely through fear of punishment for its infraction; that it is hazardous to discourage thought, hope and imagination; that fear breeds repression; that repression breeds hate; that hate menaces stable government; that the path of safety lies in the opportunity to discuss freely supposed grievances and proposed remedies; and that the fitting remedy for evil counsels is good ones. Believing in the power of reason as applied through public discussion, they eschewed silence coerced by law--the argument of force in its worst form. See

Fear of serious injury cannot alone justify suppression of free speech and assembly. Men feared witches and burnt women.
[One thinks of Mother Shipton. See The "witch" burners]

Those who won our independence by revolution were not cowards. They did not fear political change. They did not exalt order at the cost of liberty.

Einstein quote: "One becomes a deeply religious nonbeliever…"

A Better World

vagabond 4 peace
peace witness
Witnessing for Peace

concordia discors

Needed: Fearless Voices of Honesty

The Indispensable Opposition

The democratic system cannot be operated without effective opposition. For, in making the great experiment of governing the people by consent rather than coercion, it is not sufficient that the party in power should have a majority. It is just necessary that the party in power should never outrage the minority. That means that it must listen to the minority and be moved by the criticisms of the minority. That means that its measures must take account of the minority's objections, and that in administering measures it must remember that the minority may become the majority.

The opposition is indispensable. A good statesman, like any other sensible human being, always learns more from his opponent than from his fervent supporters. For his supporters will push him to disaster unless his opponents show him where the dangers are. So if he is wise he will often pray to be delivered from his friends, because they will ruin him. But, though it hurts, he ought also to pray never to be left without opponents; for they keep him on the path of reason and good sense.

The national unity of a free people depends upon a sufficiently even balance of political power to make it impracticable for the administration to be arbitrary and for the opposition to be revolutionary and irreconcilable. Where that balance no longer exists, democracy perishes. For unless all the citizens of a state are forced by circumstances to compromise, unless they feel that they can affect policy but that no one can wholly dominate it, unless by habit and necessity they have to give and take, freedom cannot be maintained.

[Walter Lippmann, 1939]

God  prefers kind atheists
God prefers kind atheists to hateful Christians
Heretics? An Assessment

Robert Shepherd

Going by the time-honored perspective of the Canterbury Establishment, Quakers were without a doubt both then (and still today) heretics. At times they themselves declined to be identified as Christians, merely Friends. Even today, many Quakers seem to be almost reluctant (at least in America) to use the name of G-O-D.

Without a spelled-out credo or theology or dogma, it might be hard to pin down, Nevertheless, I think it would be fair to say, most contemporary Quakers believe that God or Infinite Intelligence is "supreme, universal, and everlasting", that divinity dwells within each person, that all people are spiritual beings, that "the highest spiritual principle is loving one another unconditionally and teaching and healing one another" and that "our mental states are carried forward into manifestation and become our experience in daily living."

Perhaps to moderns, such attitudes might make Quakerism more of an "ethical philosophy" or even almost a holistic contemplative movement than a RELIGION, per se. Nevertheless Friends did self identify as a Religious Society. But there were heterodox from the get go. George Fox saw himself as returning to the true Christianity of Jesus himself. But in challenging the religious powers-that-be (as Jesus did) he set an example of a sort of conspicuous dissent that set his followers up for much of the persecution they received.

Historically speaking, American Quakers infected a host of movements which now would appear to be almost spiritualist or even New Age. Transcendentalism of the Emerson variety were direct offspring of a Quakerish mindset of "god-in-all-of-us." New England and the "Burnt-Over District" of upstate New York were a seed bed for a plethora of groups and movements spreading the germ of Hicksite heresyism. The orthodox churchmen would (and did) have a fit.

Direct outright persecution may have abated. But even today there has been a "cloud" of suspicion hanging over the head of the heirs of the older Quakers. Modern Friends have tried to shed their oddball image. Worldwide, the more acceptable "Christian" or evangelical (ie, "Gurneyite") or orthodox Quakers significantly outnumber the "Non-Theist" or Hicksite wing. In east Africa I see that an almost pentecostal fervor (faith healings too?) has spread like evangelical enthusiasm. Government may look askance, but the social results seem to be meeting their approval.


Free Love and Spiritual Wifery

Mystical Anarchism : Quakers, Perfectionism & Free Love

Kroll & Ashcroft note that:
Henry More was convinced the Quakers were descended from Familists (ie, Familia Caritatis). He was persuaded they were infected with the heresy of Free Love. Like many of his contemporaries, he bracketed the Familists and Quakers together in a blanket condemnation of enthusiasm and sectarianism. Even if More's purpose in identifying the Quakers with Familists was tendentious, he was probably correct. The emphasis that Henry Nicholas, the founder of the Familists, placed on love, the "inner light," and the ability of man to conquer sin and become divine had a great deal in common with later Quaker thought.

(p 48, Henry More, Kabbalah, and Quakers)

Douglas FitzHenry Jones offers more about Familists
Familists believed that sinners were justified by being rendered essentially righteous or, as they often put it, “godded with God.” This unique stance held implications for both the inner and outer person. Internally, it meant that the human being could merge natures with the “spirit of Christ” to achieve a prelapsarian state, thereby becoming homo novus, the "new man" symbolized by the initials HN. In their interactions with the outside world, Familists preached conformity to religious and political authorities, believing that a “godded” person was, in outward conduct, a peaceful person.

A Straying Collective: Familists etc