Thursday, January 24, 2008

Deism and America's "Founding Fathers"

Is America really a "Christian Nation?" Rather than make any assumptions, it may be instructive to look at the faith of a number of America's "Founding Fathers." While conservative christians may expect to find only bible thumping evangelicals, our founding fathers were more diverse and intellectual. Many of them had a world view that accepts god but rejects religion. It is called Deism and you can read about it at

Basically, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, James Madison, Thomas Paine, Ethan Allen and other major figures of the time were very much influenced by a world view that focused on rational inquiry and rejected belief in revealed truths and miracles of the bible and other religious texts. They may have been nominally "Christian" to avoid accusations of being atheist, but religious dogma is not a significant feature of these founding fathers. It was explicitly left out of the American Constitution, Bill of Rights and entire governmental system.

Were these beliefs the reason for the separation of church and state? Deism was a world view that made it easy to accept all religions as equals with a right to co-exist but not dominate America by becoming "established" as state religions. It is universalist in nature and rejects the notion that there is any "one true way" to god.

Deism is part of the Genius of American Democracy. And yet, many Americans do not know about it. Many of us just assume that America was founded as a "Christian Nation." Just one more example of the ability of an obsessed contingent in an undiscerning majority to obscure history and human nature. The truth is there, but is hidden in plain view, where the majority can't see it. The minorities often see the truth, but until the majority takes responsibility for curbing zealots, the juggernaut continues on and minorities feel disrespected and vulnerable.

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