WERE THE FOUNDING FATHERS REALLY CHRISTIANS?….Religious conservatives have long insisted that the Framers were deeply and traditionally Christian, an assertion central to their contention that America was founded as a “Christian nation.” Secular liberals, by contrast, have long argued that most of the Founders were agnostics or, at best, Deists who believed that reason, not scripture, is the true path to understanding the Almighty.
So which side is right? Neither is, quite, according to Steve Waldman, founding editor of beliefnet.com and the author of a terrific new book, Founding Faith. Waldman has read just about every available thing that George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin and the rest said and wrote, publicly and privately, about their personal theological views. He comes to two conclusions. First, all the Founders saw themselves as Christians and believed that God in one way or another guides human affairs. So, score one for the religious right. Second, not a single one of the main Founders actually believed in the divinity of Jesus, which is the central tenet of the Christian faith. Score one for the secular left.
Steve is blogging about this over at TPM Cafe. Also he’s compiled an archive of his source material so you can read for yourself what the Founders had to say about their personal religious beliefs. You might also check out the cover story he wrote for the Washington Monthly (where he’s a contributing editor) on the surprising role evangelicals played during the founding in securing religious freedom.