AMERICA DECLARES INDEPENDENCE

Alan M. Dershowitz, Author
Alan M. Dershowitz, Author . Wiley $19.95 (208p) ISBN 978-0-471-26482-8
Reviewed on: 03/03/2003
Release date: 03/01/2003
Open Ebook - 208 pages - 978-0-470-30324-5
Paperback - 210 pages - 978-1-63026-029-3
Hardcover - 210 pages - 978-1-62045-849-5
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These are dire times for the Declaration of Independence, Dershowitz believes. The religious right has hijacked the document for its own wily purposes, holding that phrases such as "Nature's God," "Creator" and "Divine Providence" are proof that the Founding Fathers intended America to be an explicitly Christian nation. Not so, cries the noted Harvard Law School professor and prolific author (Supreme Injustice, etc.). To prove his case, Dershowitz focuses mainly on Thomas Jefferson, showing that the Declaration's principal author thought most of the Bible was superstitious drivel: he did not believe in miracles, the devil or anything in the Gospels except that certain words were spoken by Jesus. Rather, Jefferson believed in a deistic God, who set the world in motion and then went on vacation. Jefferson didn't think religion should have anything to do with politics. Thus, Dershowitz says, when Jefferson used the phrases "Nature's God" and "Divine Providence," his contemporaries—most of whom were also deists —understood and approved of his intent. This argument is fine (if familiar) up to a point. But then Dershowitz proves himself nearly as guilty as his foes of "hijacking" the Declaration for his own political goals, attacking enemies like Pat Robertson, Alan Keyes and Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. Dershowitz also toys with some impossibly speculative ideas, such as that Jefferson would have believed in evolution. There have been many fine books written about Jefferson and the Declaration of Independence; readers can find some of them listed in the endnotes to this threadbare addition to Wiley's Turning Points series. Still, the author being a ubiquitous media presence, the book will garner attention and sales. Agent, Helen Rees. (Apr.)

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