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The Faiths of the Founding Fathers

David L. Holmes

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Description

It is not uncommon to hear Christians argue that America was founded as a Christian nation. But how true is this claim? In this compact book, David L. Holmes offers a clear, concise and illuminating look at the spiritual beliefs of our founding fathers. He begins with an informative account of the religious culture of the late colonial era, surveying the religious groups in each colony. In particular, he sheds light on the various forms of Deism that flourished in America, highlighting the profound influence this intellectual movement had on the founding generation. Holmes then examines the individual beliefs of a variety of men and women who loom large in our national history. He finds that some, like Martha Washington, Samuel Adams, John Jay, Patrick Henry, and Thomas Jefferson's daughters, held orthodox Christian views. But many of the most influential figures, including Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, John and Abigail Adams, Jefferson, James and Dolley Madison, and James Monroe, were believers of a different stripe. Respectful of Christianity, they admired the ethics of Jesus, and believed that religion could play a beneficial role in society. But they tended to deny the divinity of Christ, and a few seem to have been agnostic about the very existence of God. Although the founding fathers were religious men, Holmes shows that it was a faith quite unlike the Christianity of today's evangelicals. Holmes concludes by examining the role of religion in the lives of the presidents since World War II and by reflecting on the evangelical resurgence that helped fuel the reelection of George W. Bush. An intriguing look at a neglected aspect of our history, the book will appeal to American history buffs as well as to anyone concerned about the role of religion in American culture.

Publishers Weekly Review

Feb 27, 2006 – In demystifying what has been argument fodder for over 200 years, religion scholar Holmes (A Brief History of the Episcopal Church; A Nation Mourns) sorts through the carefully constructed (and ambiguous or contradictory) versions of the personal beliefs the United States's founding fathers presented to the outside world to present a sound case for what George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Ben Franklin and others did or didn't do on Sundays. Holmes's subjects were acutely sensitive both to the dangers of state-sponsored religion as well as their reputations as leaders and went to what might seem like absurd lengths to cloak their religious leanings (Washington, for instance, rarely mentions church in his journals and, when he did attend, would leave service prior to communion), making Holmes's research and conclusions feats of deduction based on clues gleaned from letters, government documents, second- and third-hand accounts and educated speculation about motivations. Despite its strong points (including a wonderful epilogue on the religious beliefs of presidents from Gerald Ford to George W. Bush), the desiccating tone is one of technical scholarship that may turn off casual readers looking for a narrative history of this hot-button issue.
The Faiths of the Founding Fathers
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  • $13.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: Biographies & Memoirs
  • Published: Mar 08, 2006
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Seller: Oxford University Press
  • Print Length: 240 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: To view this book, you must have an iOS device with iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

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