There are a lot of different views of what the Founding Fathers of the United States believed when it came to God. Many evangelicals like to say that we were founded on Christian principles and that is what makes us so unique, some would say superior, but I definitely don’t buy into that. I found the book entitled The Faiths of Our Fathers, by Alf J. Mapp Jr. to be very helpful in discerning truth from myth about this topic. The book goes into quite some detail about 10 of the most prominent Founders and just what they believed. To sum up the overall conclusions of the book I will cite the following quote from it:
“There is no monolithic national faith acknowledged by all the Founding Fathers. Their religious attitudes were as varied as their political opinions….. One famous political leader generally regarded as a red-hot radical became essentially a fundamentalist. Another famed for common sense and hard-headed realism viewed creation as composed of many solar systems, each with its own God. Once celebrated for conventional piety created a mystery by refusing to take communion. One of the most prominent Founders, a man popularly regarded as materialist and dissolute, attempted to found an organization of Christian conservatives to promote the elections to political office of “like minded men”.
For those who are truly interested in this I suggest you read the book. I won’t go into detail about each person covered. I will leave that up to you. But, I will comment on a couple of the most famous Founders.
George Washington — Most of us know that George Washington was a deist, not a Christian but in his early life he worshiped with an Anglican congregation. The Anglicans, at that time, believed in a strong link between church and state. Of course that is the opposite of our United States’ principle of separation between the two. Historical researchers have, to date, found no evidence that Washington ever received communion. Mapp makes the point that over the years many authors have tried to paint Washington with a large variety of religious brushes. The general consensus is that Washington was a deist. That is a person who believes in God as an omnipotent being who generally guides humanity but does not interfere with it. His frequent references to “Divine Providence” in his correspondence seems to tip to that belief.
On the next post I will cover Thomas Jefferson. He definitely had very unique religious experiences.