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.
In this short but dynamic study, we are thrust back to 1770s America to look at the culture and religion of six of the Founding Fathers. Holmes (religious studies, Coll. of William and Mary; A Brief History of the Episcopal Church) paints a balanced portrait of the various forms of Deism that existed in the minds of Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, and James Monroe, among others. Surveying the religious beliefs and mainline churches of the groups that settled the American Colonies, Holmes argues that the Founders respected the religious convictions of their time-an idea that conflicts with the prevailing belief that the first five presidents tended to deny the divinity of God and often followed the path of reason. Holmes's research leads him to argue that history texts need to represent the Founders as Christians who may have attended a Baptist, Presbyterian, or Episcopal church depending on their location and that the adherence to simple virtue and morality was more important to them than adherence to any particular set of doctrines. Finally, Holmes concludes that the strong connection to church professed by recent presidents is quite unlike the practices of our Founding Fathers. An illuminating study, this is recommended reading for American historians and religious scholars.-L. Kriz, West Des Moines P.L., IA Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.