The Faiths of the Founding Fathers

The Faiths of the Founding Fathers

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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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Product details

  • Hardback | 240 pages
  • 139.7 x 210.82 x 22.86mm | 362.87g
  • Oxford, United Kingdom
  • English
  • 0195300920
  • 9780195300925
  • 1,534,896

Review Text

In this succinct, clear and myth-dispelling book, David Holmes traces the emergence and advance of Deism in the colonies from the early eighteenth century Jack Pole, Journal of Ecclesiastical History
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Review quote

Dynamic... an illuminating study. * Library Journal * THE FAITHS OF THE FOUNDING FATHERS comes to the rescue of those trying to square the past with the present. David L. Holmes has written a timely book that summarizes the views of the Founders and places them in proper historical context.... While the author believes that the founders' theological beliefs contain valuable lessons for contemporary society, he cautions against going too far when trying to place 18th-century views and practices into a modern context.
That is why THE FAITHS OF THE FOUNDING FATHERS should be seen as a first-rate guide to the past and not as fodder for those fighting modern-day political battles. * CLAUDE MARX, The Washington Times * [Holmes] offers exceptionally insightful guidelines for judging the faith of the founding fathers...Read this elegant book... * New York Times Book Review * Professor David Holmes offers a balanced and dispassionate introduction to this debate. * Andrew Atherstone, Themelios * This readable treatment of presidential religion covers familiar ground for those who know the period, but it will be informative to those who do not. It is a useful antidote to the distorted accounts generated by televangelists and popular writers who populate the evangelical community. * Richard V Pierard Theological Book Review * In this succinct, clear and myth-dispelling book, David Holmes traces the emergence and advance of Deism in the colonies from the early eighteenth century * Jack Pole, Journal of Ecclesiastical History *
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About David L. Holmes

David L. Holmes is Walter G. Mason Professor of Religious Studies at the College of William and Mary. He is the author of A Brief History of the Episcopal Church, A Nation Mourns, other books, and numerous articles.
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Rating details

426 ratings
3.83 out of 5 stars
5 25% (106)
4 44% (188)
3 23% (98)
2 6% (24)
1 2% (10)
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