“When Jesus was asked whether the chosen people might lawfully give tribute to Caesar, he replied by asking the questioners, not whether Caesar could make out a pedigree derived from the old royal house of Judah, but whether the coin which they scrupled to pay into Caesar’s treasury came from Caesar’s mint, in other words, whether Caesar actually possessed the authority and performed the functions of a ruler.”
The History of England, from the Accession of James II — Volume 3
Thomas Babington Macaulay
For millennia Christians have argued the constitutional authority of government, both spiritual and secular. Reading the discourse surrounding the conflict between James II (Roman Catholic) and William of Orange and Mary II (Church of England) is reminiscent of a well considered prep school debate of a fictitious resolution before the house.
James II (1633–1701), son of Charles I, king of England, Ireland, and (as James VII) Scotland 1685–8. His Catholic beliefs led to the rebellion of the Duke of Monmouth in 1685 and to James’ later deposition in favor of William of Orange and Mary II. Attempts to regain the throne resulted in James’s defeat at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690.
If nothing else the conflicts regarding hereditary right and divine entitlement are lessons in reasoning but in the end they amount to little more than taradiddle; that is, pork pie and prevarication. No amount of clever analysis was able to spare the conclusion of absurdity. Indeed the assertion of pretentious nonsense derives in my opinion patently from the account (1848) of Thomas Babington Macaulay himself. This leads me to the further surmise that Macaulay was among those of the time who acceded to the less abstract thinking of Thomas Paine as outlined in his book the Age of Reason (1794).
Most of Paine’s arguments had long been available to the educated elite, but by presenting them in an engaging and irreverent style, he made deism appealing and accessible to the masses. Originally distributed as unbound pamphlets, the book was also cheap, putting it within the reach of a large number of buyers. Fearing the spread of what it viewed as potentially-revolutionary ideas, the British government prosecuted printers and booksellers who tried to publish and distribute it. Nevertheless, Paine’s work inspired and guided many free thinkers.
Yet to contradict the existing balderdash of the church was as unlikely as persuading the Spanish populace to outlaw bullfighting. As Karl Marx memorably remarked (1844), “Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.”
We have thus preserved for centuries what no one can prove, what no one has seen and what no one can describe with certainty. The British are among those in the Western world paramountly responsible for this mendacity, a fiction conveniently adopted as well by both Americans and Canadians alike. Unsettling one’s herd of minions is no way to run a government or an economy. Once again the scrupled treasury of coin is the real master of thought. The latest manifestation of double-dealing is that performed by the so-called purists of spiritual uniformity, namely the Evangelists who have proclaimed Donald J. Trump as their saviour. Trump’s own obsequious yet invidious proclamations of Quaker solemnity have spurred the masses to an unwitting support of their own submission and decline. Small wonder he is so popular with Caesar.