When we first began writing this editorial statement of our beliefs and purposes, we had no intention of still being at it in the early spring, but there are buds pushing up through the sod and we've just seen our first robin redbreast. What better time to be writing about Puritanism, sex suppression, lawlessness, censorship, divorce, birth control and abortion?
We expect to cover all of these subjects—and more—in the next month or two, and it may appear to some readers that we are wandering rather far afield in our delineation of this magazine's editorial credo, but we have been encouraged by the considerable response to the first parts of The Playboy Philosophy, to the extent that we have broadened the subject area to include many of the interrelated societal factors we feel have gone into the making of our modern American culture, some personal comment upon them, and an attempt to show how we feel this magazine is involved.
To that end, we have thus far discussed and tried to answer some of the criticism most commonly leveled at Playboy's content and concept. We have traced the lineage of the Uncommon Man through American history—with the country's related accent on individualism and initiative; we have considered the Depression-conceived concern for, and eventual elevation of, the common man—noting how the national emphasis shifted to an overemphasis on conformity and security. We have commented upon the arrival of the postwar Upbeat Generation and the beginning of what we feel may well become an American Renaissance; a comparison of capitalism and communism, with the relative strengths and weaknesses the two systems have displayed in countries throughout the world since the end of the war; the relationship between organized religion and democracy in the U.S.; the sexual revolution taking place in our society today; and last month, American Puritanism and the importance of the separation of church and state.
Yet to Come
If we appear to have left some loose ends dangling along the way, they will be tied together in subsequent issues, wherein we will explain Playboy's sometimes misunderstood attitude toward women; an analysis of the shifting roles of the male and female in our ever-changing, ever more complex civilization; an expression of concern over the resultant drift in the United States toward an Asexual Society; a vivisection of Momism and the Womanization of America, charting the manner in which one of the sexes has successfully wrested control of our culture from the other; a review of the effect Womanization has had on our manners and morals, on business, advertising, books, newspapers, television, movies and magazines; a comparison of the sex contents of this and a number of other specific periodicals, in an attempt to establish who really is confused, who sick and who well on the subject of sex, in our schizophrenic social order; a consideration of the schism that currently exists regarding American beauty and why we believe the Vogue Woman is unfeminine, antisexual and competitive rather than a complementing counterpart to the American male; and finally, a summary of this publication's views on the ideal interrelationship between modern Man and Woman, Man and Society, Man and Government, and Man and Religion, in which we challenge the cynics, the hypocrites, the aesthetes, the clowns and the critics with a choice selection of their own words on the subject of Playboy. We thus intend to end this editorial with something of a feast—perhaps more humbly described as a small repast: Calling upon whatever culinary skills we may possess, with thanks to our long association with Thomas Mario, we will serve up a tasty dish—prepared with spice and a dash of vinegar—a fine fowl, well suited to the gourmet appetites of our most deserving detractors: fricassee of crow. And we wish them bon appétit.
Religious Freedom Reconsidered
In the previous issue, we pointed out that no nation can be said to have true religious freedom unless it possesses not only freedom of, but also freedom from, religion. There is nothing sacrilegious in this viewpoint—it is a cardinal concept in our democracy and one that our religious and patriotic founding fathers took great care to spell out in both the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights. They recognized that a complete separation of church and state was the only certain way of assuring that this country's religion and its government would remain free, one from the other. A free democratic society and organized religion need not be in conflict, but neither are they grounded on the same bedrock: religion is founded on faith and a belief in its own absolutes; a democracy requires that men rely upon reason and the relative nature of truth—the acceptance of the notion that ultimate truth is unknown and that what we observe as truth today may give way to a better truth tomorrow. Kept separate and distinct, our own particular religion and our government can function in harmony—we can be both religious and good citizens at the same time; but if either power is allowed to intrude into areas rightfully the domain of the other, an erosion of our most fundamental rights has begun and will be, to that extent, less free.
Considering the emphasis that our founding fathers placed upon religious freedom when writing the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, and the continuing lip service we give the concept today, there is real irony in the extent to which various religious pressures and prejudices have infiltrated our laws, our court decisions, the running of many of our cities and states, and innumerable secular aspects of our daily lives. This strange state of affairs is only understandable when we remember that most of our deeply rooted traditions come from Europe and that throughout European history, church and state have been intimately interinvolved. It matters not at all that history thus supplies centuries of documentation on the evil abuses that may result when religion and government are not kept separate—cultural traditions exist on a nearly subconscious level in a society and they cannot be extirpated by logic alone.
Though many of the first settlers came to America to escape religious persecution, they were soon practicing themselves what they had left Europe to avoid. Early American Puritanism required the observance of a rigid religious dogma that permeated every aspect of life. And the Puritans had little respect or tolerance for any beliefs other than their own: dancing on the Sabbath meant a night in the stocks or a session on the ducking stool; heretics and witches (i.e., those who espoused unpopular beliefs or acted too peculiarly) were hung. Trial by jury was outlawed in Connecticut and several other New England colonies; only church elders could vote or hold office; civil law was drawn directly from the Puritan interpretation of Holy Scriptures.
The prejudice and prudery, bigotry and boobery of Puritanism did have one unintentionally beneficial effect, however: the extreme importance our founding fathers placed upon the separation of church and state. But while most Americans in the time of the Revolution fervently favored this newfound freedom, the roots of religious Puritanism thrived and spread underground. With two strokes—the Bill of Rights and the Constitution—these first American patriots cut down the twisted tree of Puritanism (and all other forms of overpowering religious oppression), but the roots remained alive in our cultural earth.
Thus, in these United States today, we speak of an ideal called religious freedom as though it were a reality, but an uncountable number of the rights and privileges we might reasonably expect in a truly free society have been subverted, distorted or taken away through the encroachment of religion and religious prejudice into almost every aspect of American life.
If you believe that you are relatively free of religiously inspired restraints (restraints established by other people's religions, not simply your own), check your state statutes for the number of Sunday Blue Laws that force certain businesses to close their doors on the Sabbath, while allowing others to remain open; place legal restrictions on what you can and cannot do on Sunday; prohibit the purchase and consumption of alcoholic beverages at certain times and on certain days, and in some communities, at all times and on all days.
At the close of last month's editorial, we expressed the belief that religion ought rightly to be a personal matter between man and God and should have nothing to do with man's relationship with government. For when religion, rather than reason, dictates legislation, we cannot expect logic with our law.
But the so-called Sunday Blue Laws are only a small fraction of religion's continuing infringement upon our most basic freedoms. We would like to explore now a number of other ways in which religion has become involved in the nonreligious areas of our society and consider some of the consequences.
A Lesson in Lawlessness
Religious influence in government can produce a breakdown in law and order through the enactment of laws that many of the people do not believe in and will not obey: Puritan-prompted Prohibition turned previously respectable, law-abiding citizens into lawbreakers; a tremendous illicit liquor traffic developed, putting millions of dollars into the hands of well-organized criminal gangs; public officials were corrupted to protect the illegal flow of alcohol and the general administration of justice broke down. National Prohibition, forced upon an unwilling public by do-gooders and religious zealots, is widely recognized as a classic example of the harm that even the most sincerely motivated people can do when they attempt to legislate the private lives and personal morals of their fellow citizens.
More than 30 years after Prohibition's repeal, some scars from the nation's "Noble Experiment" still have not healed: Many Americans retain and unwittingly pass on to their offspring a general disrespect for their laws and contempt for local law enforcement officers as a direct result of the lawlessness in which the ordinary citizen participated during the Twenties; and the criminal gangs that developed to supply the demand for illegal liquor have utilized the illicit organizations and profits spawned by Prohibition to build giant crime cartels that law enforcement agencies are largely unable to cope with today. This is the Frankenstein monster that we wrought as a nation when we attempted to play God and create a more perfect man—not through education or moral persuasion, but by legal edict. Today we still suffer the mark of a mistake that lasted for little more than a decade and ended in 1932. And the saddest aspect of the "Noble Experiment" is not that we attempted it, or that it failed, but that many of us learned so little from its failure.