The Liberty to question, believe, think, choose, imagine and dare to know.
"My trade is to say what I think."
"It is to him who masters our minds by the force of truth, and not to those who enslave them by violence, that we owe our reverence. "
"In fact it is comfortable to see the standard of reason at length erected, after so many ages during which the human mind has been held in vassalage by kings, priests, and nobles."
Let the human mind loose. It must be loose. It will be loose. Superstition and Dogmatism cannot confine it. (John Adams, letter to John Quincy Adams, November 13, 1816)
Jefferson ranked the importance of his "Bill for Establishing Religious Freedom" equal to the Declaration of Independence. The right of the American people to choose their religion now was on parity with their right to choose their own government.
"The life and essence of religion consists in the internal persuasions or the belief of the mind...external forms of worship, when against our belief, are hypocrisy and impiety. "
The Church should be a "voluntary society," Jefferson asserted. It is "voluntary because no man is by nature bound to any church."
"Is a priest to be our inquisitor, or shall a layman, simple as ourselves, set up his reason as the rule for what we are to read, and what we must believe? It is an insult to our citizens to question whether they are rational beings or not, and blasphemy against religion to suppose it cannot stand the test of truth and reason. "
"Truth will do well enough if left to shift for herself. She seldom has received much aid from the power of great men to whom she is rarely known & seldom welcome. She has no need of force to procure entrance into the minds of men, error indeed has often prevailed by the assistance of power or force."
"What influence, in fact, have ecclesiastical establishments had on society? In some instances they have been seen to erect a spiritual tyranny on the ruins of the civil authority; on many instances they have been seen upholding the thrones of political tyranny; in no instance have they been the guardians of the liberties of the people. Rulers who wish to subvert the public liberty may have found an established clergy convenient auxiliaries. A just government, instituted to secure and perpetuate it, needs them not." James Madison
The theologian may indulge the pleasing task of describing Religion as she descended from Heaven, arrayed in her native purity. A more melancholy duty is imposed on the historian. He must discover the inevitable mixture of error and corruption which she contracted in a long residence upon earth, among a weak and degenerate race of beings. ~Edward Gibbon, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire
"Religion can be directed by Reason and Conviction, not by Force or Violence; and therefore, all Men are equally entitled to the free Exercise of Religion, according to the Dictates of Conscience" George Mason
By the time children blunder into adulthood, other forces have come to assert their power against them. Mother Nature has stricken them with the ultimate disease—falling in love. Her weapon, the evil bitch, is chemical warfare. The hormone, a magic potion still not fully understood by science, strikes at the human brain, causing its victims to fall prey to the disease, to mate, and to thereby plunge into a new slavery from which they will likely never recover. The forces of the malady cause them to woo, to fight, to copulate, and to produce children. Now they must provide their offspring a nest and nourishment, and, in an utterly predictable progression, they must make certain bargains, which usually require them to sell themselves as a commodity at the slave market. Thereafter they make their bargains from year to year, from job to job, and the bargains ensnare them until they are rolled into their graves.
We are creatures enslaved by our genes. We are, indeed, like salmon predictably fulfilling our genetic course. Mindlessly we swim with the school into the great seas and back up the river of our birth to spawn, to die, and to be eaten by the waiting grizzly on the bank. Such freedom as we experience is only that which we encounter within the genetic cage of our birth, within the confines of the mammalian creature that we are—confines from which we can never escape nor, ultimately, wish to escape. We were not born to become free. We were born to fall in love with Mary Jane or Billy Joe, to marry her or him, to parent those three little drippy-nosed rascals who will bedevil us until the day we gasp our last exhausted breath, and then, as true to the equation as dandelions going to seed and withering in the first frost, we, too, will complete this seemingly purposeless cycle established by the ultimate force, which some call God.
...For those who have been lulled into the sweet security of bondage, and exist contentedly within the walls of the zoo, for those who embrace myth and splash like happy babies in the bath of blissful conformity, the question naturally arises: Why should they who are content in their servitude be disturbed? Why make happy slaves miserable freemen? But the destiny of the human race can never be fulfilled under the yoke.
"I would rather have a mind opened by wonder than one closed by belief."
"Skepticism, not cleanliness, is next to godliness. Skepticism is the father of freedom. It is like the pry that holds open the door for truth to slip in."
Is it not time to arise from the grave? Is it not time to speak out, to cry out, to fly, to test wings, to fall, and to laugh with joy over the divine bruises?
from Give Me Liberty, 1998
"We endure every manner of indignity and outrage, every agony and tedium, because we are afraid—afraid to throw off the traces and experience the naked terror that so dominates the idea of freedom. We kiss our shackles."
"Cages are cages whether constructed of steel and concrete or from the fabric of the mind."
"In his preface to Brave New World, Aldous Huxley wrote of an army of managers who, without coercion, controlled a population of slaves who were perfectly manageable because they loved their servitude. "To make them love it," he wrote, "is the task assigned in present-day totalitarian states."
"The fence of time captures him. There is a time to sleep, a time to arise, a time to go to school, to eat, to play, and a time once more to go to bed. Never has the child been permitted to revolt against any of the enslaving forces that domesticate the human animal and convert him from the wild aborigine of his genes to the human machine that will eventually perform as predictably as a windup toy. "
"The true test of liberty is the right to test it, the right to question it, the right to speak to my neighbors, to grab them by the shoulders and look into their eyes and ask, “Are we free?” I have thought that if we are free, the answer cannot hurt us. And if we are not free, must we not hear the answer?"
"The most formidable chains are forged from beliefs. Ah, beliefs! Beliefs tear out the eyes and leave us blind and groping in the dark. If I believe in one proposition, I have become locked behind the door of that belief, and all other doors to learning and freedom, although standing open and waiting for me to enter, are now closed to me. If I believe in one God, one religion, yes, if I believe in God at all, if I have closed my mind to magic, to spirit, to salvation, to the unknown dimension that exist in the firmament, I have plunged my mind into slavery. Test all beliefs. Distrust all beliefs."
The author of the Virginia Bill of Rights
of 1776, the father of the American Bill of Rights
proposed in 1789 and adopted in 1791, and grandfather of every other Bill of Rights that has been adopted in the world since that day.
James Madison said of him: "George Mason possessed the greatest talents for debate of any man I have ever seen or heard speak."
Patrick Henry pronounced him and one other “the greatest statesmen I ever knew."
Thomas Jefferson on George Mason - "one, most steadfast, able and zealous; who was himself a host. This was George Mason, a man of the first order of wisdom among those who acted on the theatre of the revolution, of expansive mind
, profound judgment, cogent in argument, learned in the lore of our former constitution, and earnest for the republican change on democratic principles."
Mason’s Declaration of Rights was as follows:
I. That all Men are by Nature equally free and independent, and have certain inherent Rights, of which, when they enter into a State of Society, they cannot, by any Compact, deprive or divest their Posterity; namely, the Enjoyment of Life and Liberty, with the Means of acquiring and possessing Property, and pursuing and obtaining Happiness and Safety.
II. That all Power is vested in, and consequently derived from, the People; that Magistrates are their Trustees and Servants, and at all Times amenable to them.
III. That government is, or ought to be, instituted for the common Benefit, Protection, and Security, of the People, Nation, or Community; of all the various Modes and Forms of Government that is best, which is capable of producing the greatest Degree of Happiness and Safety, and is most effectually secured against the Danger of Maladministration; and that, whenever any Government shall be found inadequate or contrary to those Purposes, a Majority of the Community hath an indubitable, unalienable, and indefeasible Right, to reform, alter, or abolish it, in such Manner as shall be judged conducive to the public weal.
IV. That no Man, or Set of Men, are entitled to exclusive or separate Emoluments or Privileges from the Community, but in Consideration of public Services; which, not being descendible, neither ought the Offices of Magistrate, Legislator, or Judge, to be hereditary.
V. That the legislative and executive Powers of the State should be separate and distinct from the Judicative; and, that the Members of the two first may be restrained from Oppression, by feeling and participating the Burthens of the People, they should at fixed Periods, be reduced to a private Station, return into that Body from which they were originally taken, and the Vacancies be supplied by frequent, certain, and regular Elections, in which all, or any Part of the former Members, to be again eligible, or ineligible, as the Laws shall direct.
VI. That Elections of Members to serve as Representatives of the People, in Assembly, ought to be free; and that all Men, having sufficient evidence of permanent common Interest with, and Attachment to, the Community, have the Right of Suffrage, and cannot be taxed or deprived of their Property for public uses without their own Consent or that of their Representatives so elected, nor bound by any Law to which they have not, in like Manner, assented, for the public Good.
VII. That all Power of Suspending Laws, or the Execution of Laws, by any Authority without Consent of the Representatives of the People, is injurious to their Rights, and ought not to be exercised.
VIII. That in all capital or criminal Prosecutions a Man hath a Right to demand the Cause and Nature of his Accusation, to be confronted with the Accusers and Witnesses, to call for Evidence in his Favour, and to a speedy Trial by an impartial Jury of his Vicinage, without whose unanimous Consent he cannot be found guilty, nor can he be compelled to give Evidence against himself; that no Man be deprived of his Liberty except by the Law of the Land, or the Judgment of his Peers.
IX. That excessive Bail ought not to be required, nor excessive Fines imposed; nor cruel and unusual Punishments inflicted.
X. That general Warrants, whereby any Officer or Messenger may be commanded to search suspected Places without evidence of a Fact committed, or to seize any Person or Persons not named, or whose Offense is not particularly described and supported by Evidence, are grievous and oppressive, and ought not to be granted.
XI. That in Controversies respecting Property, and in Suits between Man and Man, the ancient Trial by Jury is preferable to any other, and ought to be held sacred.
XII. That the Freedom of the Press is one of the greatest Bulwarks of Liberty, and can never be restrained but by despotic Governments.
XIII. That a well regulated Militia, composed of the Body of the People, trained to Arms, is the proper, natural, and safe Defence of a free State; that standing Armies, in Time of Peace, should be avoided, as dangerous to Liberty; and that, in all Cases, the Military should be under strict Subordination to, and governed by, the civil Power.
XIV. That the People have a Right to uniform Government; and therefore, that no Government separate from, or independent of, the Government of Virginia, ought to erected or established within the Limits thereof.
XV. That no free Government, or the Blessing of Liberty, can be preserved to any People but by a firm Adherence to Justice, Moderation, Temperance, Frugality, and Virtue, and by frequent Recurrence to fundamental Principles.
XVI. That Religion, or the Duty which we owe to our Creator and the Manner of discharging it, can be directed by Reason and Conviction, not by Force or Violence; and therefore, all Men are equally entitled to the free Exercise of Religion, according to the Dictates of Conscience; and that it is the mutual Duty of all to practice Christian Forbearance, Love, and Charity towards each other.