“The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.” (L.P. Hartley)
How true. I bet if you were to ask any school kid, heck, even most adults, about the country’s founders’ religious views, they would be reasonably fuzzy. After reading Mr. Holmes informative book, I’m no longer scratching my noggin.
The author looks at six Founding Fathers (Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe), most of whom had been born and baptized into “the church of Virginia.” But as the future leaders began their college studies, the philosophy of deism had gained ground among the educated classes of England and France and this would become a major influence in the formation of the principals of America, and in particular, the First Amendment.
Deism is a religious and philosophical belief that recognizes the existence of a supreme God based on human reason without reference to revelation.
Mr. Holmes writes:
The six Founding Fathers surveyed in this study appear to have been neither wholehearted deists nor orthodox Christians. They maintained their formal affiliations with Christian denominations, though none who were Anglican seemed to have become full church members. In the spirit of the times, they questioned doctrines that they believed could not be reconciled with human reason. As a result, they rejected such Christian teachings as the Trinity, the virgin birth, the resurrection, and the divinity of Jesus. Yet all these six Founders believed in a guiding Providence and—with the possible exception of Monroe—in a life after death. These affirmations separated them from the radical deists of their time.The Religion of the Founding Fathers is a slim 156 pages but packs a wallop of enriching information. If you have an interest in history and religion, then this book is worth reading.
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