« Religion and the Quest for Certainty | Main | Church/State Alert »

July 3, 2006

Founding Fathers

Washington.jpgRemarkable, given current rhetoric, how traditionally religious America's Founding Fathers weren't. Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Madison, Franklin (not to mention Paine) -- Enlightenment gentlemen all -- are probably best described (like Voltaire) as deists. They seem to have believed something meaningful was out there, but did not seem too interested in intermediaries like Jesus, the Bible or the clergy. (Washington declined the attentions of a minister on his death bed.)

However, I haven't seen any evidence that any of the above were atheists or agnostics. (Madison, about whose beliefs the least seems to be known, would seem the best hope.) However, since most of these fellows were politicians, true disbelief, if they felt it, might not have been easy to reveal.

Posted by Mitchell Stephens at July 3, 2006 10:06 PM


I wonder how much daylight there is between strong atheism and those who believe in a God as first cause who takes no further interest in his creation.

In what practical issue would we be likely to see things differently.

Posted by: Boelf at July 3, 2006 11:12 PM

Two issues that come to mind, Boelf: the abortion debate would be emptied of all the rhetoric dealing with 'souls' etc.; and the rationale offered for the crusade against homosexuality would become irrelevant.

These issues would instead be argued (or not! imagine) without religious smokescreens and the supposed moral code they utilize: e.g., for their potential disruption to the sanctity of the patriarchal family as the basis for social order and the foundation of capital...

Posted by: JM at July 4, 2006 10:47 AM

I am not so sure that the Deist would necessarily argue any differently than the Theist or for that matter the Atheist...

I have known atheists that are pro-life and theists who are not...stands taken of war, capital punishment, stem cell research...all guided by that which is familiar and comfortable.

Perhaps you can believe that the image some have of God changes as experiencing life brings change to the individual. One might be against euthanasia, saying that it is 'playing God'...and that a faith-based value. But when that same one witnesses the excruciating pain of a loved one in the throes of a terminal illness, they do perhaps become more familiar with the reality of that experience than the tangent norms and standards that are removed from what they know.

Seems to me that no matter the facade of religion or not,the moral code of anyone is birthed in the ease of familiarity or the growth of experience.

Granted some of that familiarity is born of what is heard from the pulpits across the nation...
But just as much, we form our beliefs and make our crusades based on our own want-tos or even have-tos, whatever they might be.

Most "said" beliefs ...all of them are quite superficial and can be uprooted as mere preferences in any given moment. And for that reason, are subject to change...

Posted by: Bonnie Kim at July 4, 2006 4:03 PM

Post a comment

Remember Me?

(you may use HTML tags for style)