The Faiths of the Founding Fathers

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The Faiths of the Founding Fathers

Author: David L. Holmes
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Copyright: 2006
Pages: 225
Cover Price: $ 20.00

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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.

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Background Information

The Founding Fathers are those men who participated in the country's principal documents, primarily the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. Martha Washington was a rich Virginia widow before she married George Washington. John Jay was a Founding Father, one of the authors of the Federalist Papers, and an early diplomat after whom several treaties are named. Dolley Madison was a young widow when she married James Madison. She is best remembered for saving important items from the White House before the British burned it. James Monroe of Virginia was one of the Founding Fathers and served as president during the War of 1812. George W. Bush was elected president in a hotly contested election in 2000, becoming only the second son of a president to gain the office. Religion brought some of the first English colonists to the New World and religious variety has been a national hallmark.