RELIGIOUS BELIEFS OF THE FOUNDING FATHERS

{originally posted to HuffingtonPost 10-27-2011}

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Jefferson, like number of the founding fathers was quite skeptical of ALL organized religions. MANY of them were Deists.

DEISM is a religious philosophy is the belief that reason and observation of the natural world, without the need for organized religion, can determine that the universe is the product of an all-powerful creator.

According to deists, the creator does not intervene in human affairs. Deists typically reject supernatural events such as prophecy and miracles, tending instead to assert that a god (or "the Supreme Architect") does not alter the universe by intervening in it.

This idea is also known as the Clockwork universe theory, in which a god designs and builds the universe, but steps aside to let it run on its own

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deism

 

  

ADDITIONAL STUFF FROM WIKI
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In the United States there is controversy over whether the Founding Fathers were Christians, deists, or something in between.
Particularly heated is the debate over the beliefs of Franklin, Jefferson, and Washington.

BENJAMIN FRANKLIN:
"Some books against Deism fell into my hands; they were said to be the substance of sermons preached at Boyle's lectures. It happened that they wrought an effect on me quite contrary to what was intended by them; for the arguments of the Deists, which were quoted to be refuted, appeared to me much stronger than the refutations; in short, I soon became a thorough Deist"


THOMAS JEFFERSON one of the Founding Fathers with the most outspoken of Deist tendencies, though he didn't call himself a deist, generally referring to himself as a Unitarian.
. . . his treatment of the Biblical gospels . . .
commonly known as THE JEFFERSON BIBLE, exhibits a strong deist tendency of stripping away all supernatural and dogmatic references from the Christ story.

THOMAS PAINE
"I do not believe in the creed professed by the Jewish church, by the Roman church, by the Greek church, by the Turkish church, by the Protestant church, nor by any church that I know of. My own mind is my own church. All national institutions of churches, whether Jewish, Christian or Turkish, appear to me no other than human inventions, set up to terrify and enslave mankind, and monopolize power and profit."

 

 

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"Given what we currently know, all of the first five presidents and most, if not all, of the Founding Fathers believed in God.

Atheism was mostly unknown among the writers of Constitution and was very rare among those of European descent in the 18th- Century.

However, it is not always easy to ascribe a particular denomination to an individual.

Because of the rural nature of early America, many in colonial times chose churches based on convenience.
Where they went to church regularly may not be a perfect indicator of what faith they considered themselves.

Thomas Jefferson, for example, was raised Episcopalian, donated a significant amount of money to building Episcopalian churches, attended a Episcopalian church, and yet is not considered an orthodox Episcopalian by any historian of note. His views would be considered heretical by today's orthodox standards.

http://earlyamericanhistory.net/founding_fathers.htm

THIS PAGE ALSO HAS SOME AMAZING CHARTS
. . . on the beliefs and actions of the founders and early Presidents

 

 

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George Washington attended church fairly regularly after the War and during his presidency, but very little is known about his religious beliefs.

Although he didn’t write much on the subject, quite a bit is known about his actions in church at that time.
He was never confirmed, and he avoided communion – two actions synonymous with Deists who attended Anglican churches. Both confirmation and communion would have been expected from an orthodox Anglican believer.

William White, Washington’s bishop and pastor, answered an inquiry about Washington by stating, “Truth requires me to say that General Washington never received communion…” and was to known to even avoid church on those Sundays when communion was given.

Washington also used a lot of Deist vocabulary in his speeches, and when his speech-writer would write the word “God”, Washington was known to substitute “Great Spirit,” or some other Deist-like words. He only rarely referred to Jesus or Christianity in general

Assigning Washington to a specific belief system is not easy. Washington was definitely a Freemason and was very inclusive towards other religions.

http://earlyamericanhistory.net/founding_fathers.htm

 

 

ADDITIONAL GEORGE WASHINGTON Material

 

Much of the myth of Washington's alleged Christianity came from Mason Weems influential book, "Life of Washington." The story of the cherry tree comes from this book and it has no historical basis. Weems, a Christian minister portrayed Washington as a devout Christian, yet Washington's own diaries show that he rarely attended Church.

 

Washington revealed almost nothing to indicate his spiritual frame of mind, hardly a mark of a devout Christian. In his thousands of letters, the name of Jesus Christ never appears. He rarely spoke about his religion, but his Freemasonry experience points to a belief in deism. Washington's initiation occurred at the Fredericksburg Lodge on 4 November 1752, later becoming a Master mason in 1799, and remained a freemason until he died.

 

To the United Baptist Churches in Virginia in May, 1789, Washington said that every man "ought to be protected in worshipping the Deity according to the dictates of his own conscience."

 

After Washington's death, Dr. Abercrombie, a friend of his, replied to a Dr. Wilson, who had interrogated him about Washington's religion replied, "Sir, Washington was a Deist."

 

http://www.earlyamerica.com/review/summer97/secular.html

 

 

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ONE LAST POST=
I've seen quite a few discussions of the religous views of the founder on BookTV (Weekend NonFiction Channel of CSPAN2)
And the general view is that most of the Founders WERE Deists.
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Doing more research, I found additional sources that COMPLICATE this view

COMPLICATE is an especially useful word to use in relation to Thomas Jefferson, who read & wrote extensively
JEFFERSON's words are quoted almost equally by both the left and the right[
by many diverse groups
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SEE THE FOLLOWING PAGE FOR AN EXCELLENT COUNTER-ARGUMENT
. . . to the proposition that the Founders were Deists
( little more than 1 page)
http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/1274502/posts

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BESIDES THE SOURCES QUOTED PREVIOUSLY
. . . there is one last webpage, I would urge the curious on this topic to look at:
http://www.earlyamerica.com/review/summer97/secular.html