The founding fathers and deism
Last updated 1/31/2008 at Noon
Reading the voluminous writings of the founders is the best way to discover if they were deists.
Thomas Paine, in his discourse on “The Study of God,” asserts that it is “the error of schools” to teach sciences without “reference to the Being who is author of them: for all the principles of science are of Divine origin.”
In Benjamin Franklin’s 1749 plan of education for public schools in Pennsylvania, he insisted that schools teach “the necessity of a public religion…and the excellency of the Christian religion above all others…”
George Washington claimed that children needed to learn “above all” the “religion of Jesus Christ.” He charged his soldiers at Valley Forge that “to the distinguished character of patriot, it should be our highest glory to add the more distinguished character of Christian.”
Washington’s adopted daughter declared that you might as well question Washington’s patriotism as question his Christianity.
John Adams expressed his belief in the importance of religion: “Our constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”
Jefferson himself declared, “I am a real Christian, that is to say, a disciple of the doctrines of Jesus.” While many might question this claim, the fact remains that Jefferson called himself a Christian, not a deist.
In his letter to Attorney General Bradford, Madison laments that public officials are not bold enough about their Christian faith in public and that officials should be “fervent advocates in the cause of Christ.”
More than 200 founders drafted the Constitution, First Amendment, Bill of Rights and Declaration. Representative of them are the following signers of the Constitution: Bible Societies founders Charles Pinckney, John Langdon, James McHenry and Rufus King; Revolutionary Chaplain Abraham Baldwin; theological writers Roger Sherman, William Samuel Johnson, John Dickinson and Jacob Broom; and Supreme Court Justices James Wilson and William Patterson (who had prayer over juries in court).
A huge number of thoroughly evangelical Christians also signed the Declaration and helped frame the Bill of Rights.