Jefferson was a great hypocrite. His declarations did not match his beliefs and he did not practice, what he preached. No man who sincerely subscribed to such an idea would have condoned slavery and he indulged in the custom, even as he went to meet his maker.
Even an unsophisticated child knows that some men are tall, some short, some thin, some fat, some dumb, some smart, some white, some black and many of other shades. What was probably implied is, that all should have equal rights and equal opportunities. This idea of equal rights was meant for human beings and not for ideas, as the stupid myth of post-modernism has done for truths and the Supreme Court has done by extending the free speech amendment to corporate political contributions. The Indian government wearing a pseudo-secular hat has suppressed critical analysis or analytical criticism of all religions except Hinduism, thus instituting a new political concept of tyranny of the minority, which even Madison and Tocqueville did not conceive of. What sin will a power hungry parasite of a politician not commit, to get elected? To paraphrase a famous quote, "Nobody ever went broke by underestimating the honesty and integrity of a politician or the intelligence of the electorate."
Let us begin with religion, for it is one of the oldest evils, contemporaneous with prostitution. Both have societal benefits. One prevents dangerous and harmful behaviors like theft or murder, while the other supposedly reduces rape. Both however, achieve their goals by exploiting and degrading the mind and or body of a substantial number of people. Let us examine some widely prevalent beliefs. What rational human being would worship a "chimera" god, who has the face of a monkey or elephant? What sensible person would follow an illiterate prophet, who first marries an older rich woman and then at age fifty marries a nine year old girl, who preaches by the sword and for generations leaves behind a policy of succession by assassination? How about a "guru" who out of gratitude, first joins the Islamic Sufis and then tries to blend his heritage with the conquerors by creating a new religion which subsequently becomes part political group, whose followers elect not shaving or cutting hair and wearing a turban in the 110 degree heat of India, even though the original reason of showing courage and not hiding their beliefs is not necessary anymore. It certainly is on par with "immaculate conception"! Have you heard about the god who made a compact with his followers through the foreskin of the penis? To top it all he was a jealous tyrant, who in the earliest part of the Old Testament was green and with time benefited by "on the job training". If you take into consideration, the way he treated Job, then like a true disciple of Linneus, I have to assign him the title of "Tyrannotheos Prepucephilus". Talking of that, circumcision, female or male is a barbaric custom practiced by ignorant sadists on helpless individuals, despite post-hoc justifications for the latter. Persistent rigid subscribing to ancient rituals, irrelevant to current circumstances is not necessarily an admirable or laudable practice.
I have by now excoriated and antagonized most of humanity, so let me differentiate between the above false ideas. Hinduism with its form of theodicy and concepts of duty and renunciation, at least has a theme of appealing to our better nature and first puts forth the concept of desire being the root cause of all evil and for the era, an acceptable explanation of suffering, with a promise of future justice. Judaism, after Moses lays down the laws of behavior, which promote harmony and cohesiveness in a civil society. Christianity, and Buddhism come up with even a better idea viz. self-sacrifice for the benefit of others. These cannot be compared with copycats, who promise eternally young sexual partners for enjoyment in heaven. I will concede the element of tithing for charitable purpose is an important redeeming aspect of Islam. Sikhism rebelled against the oppressive financial monopoly of Brahmins, who were selling the equivalent of papal bulls, got rid of rituals and created a synthetic amalgam, tolerable to the Islamic rulers. It was a political movement as well as a religion. Why else did the early gurus take sides in the succession of Muslim rulers and in the process suffer exclusive persecution, while corresponding Hindu idol worshippers went scot-free?
Religion is somewhat like art or literature. Much of it is rotten at worst or mediocre at best, until some smart commentator assigns unintended meanings to absurd practices and metamorphoses them to fashionable fads, appealing to non-thinking masses, whose insecurity makes them a gullible receptacle for any dream or promise, that redeems their hopeless existence. Most Americans are pragmatic individuals and don't care how many angels dance on the head of a pin and want to know the relevance of my premise. To return to the theme of inequality of ideas, privatizing social security is a bad idea. It is not because I am an enemy of capitalism or I believe in a nanny state, but the nature of humans is greedy and therefore they are very likely to put money in risky ventures, especially if an irresponsible congress insures them against the dire consequences of their folly. These same self-serving politicians applied COLA to social security benefits, knowingly and completely ignoring the mounting enormous liabilities that time, compound interest and their reckless decision would create. They thus tied a millstone round the neck of future generations and we are still living under the curse of this thoughtless legacy.
Furthermore, when Bush ran out of money after the primaries, he mortgaged our future to Wall street, to raise money by making them salivate at the prospect of enormous fees, to be garnered by managing our social security trust fund. The lopsided tax cut is going to take away from the social security surplus and cause overflow of the bulging coffers of the rich and is compatible with the mask of compassionate conservatism behind which lurks the triumphantly smirking visage of an Anti-Robin Hood. The mythical surplus has been devoured by the tax cuts and the untouchable social security lock box is now fair game for the righting of this heinous, unspeakable act of terrorism. Using it as a pretext, we will probably have a capital gains cut to stuff the pockets of the rich insiders, who shorted the bubble market and the savvy knowing, who are grabbing the cheap bargains available after the carnage on and around Wall Street. Paul Krugman has warned against the capital gains cut, but we will see what happens.
I am not arguing as a moralist and frankly confess that like others who voted with their feet, I am here for a better life. I have serious ethical misgivings about America's role in Guatemala, Nicaragua, Vietnam and even Iraq, but I realize as Lord Palmerston said, that nations have no permanent friends or enemies, only permanent interests. One has to draw a line somewhere. No nation, which shortchanges the bulk of its own citizens to cater to the well being of the few rich or powerful, has lasted long on the pinnacle of power. The first American Revolution was of the bourgeoisie, but history is never complete without the revolution of the proletariat, which our elected officials may end up creating, and that is what one should dread as an intellectual or pretender thereof. I do not believe that the tree of liberty needs regular nourishment with large amounts of the blood of its young citizens. Even the hypocrite who said that retracted his words after the reign of terror of the Jacobins. The gulags of the old Soviet Union, the mad schemes of Mao and Pol Pot are even more recent red flags imploring us not to digress in the direction of this road of pogroms, by creating a two- tiered society where our noveau Antoinettes suggest that the canaille should eat cake, if they have no bread! If their hunger is not satisfied, history will repeat itself and they will quench their hunger and thirst with blood! Fortunately neither those who transgressed, nor those who were honest enough to oppose them, will be alive to suffer the consequences, but the mal-distribution of wealth and the overstretched average consumer are even now ringing warning bells on Wall Street. Unfortunately few people read John Donne in this era of modern, narcissistic poetry of trivia and thus do not know that the bell tolls for all of us and every death diminishes each of the living.