The most important Founding Fathers: Washington Jefferson, Adams, Madison, Monroe, and John Quincy Adams did not believe in Christianity. 

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Comment by Pat on August 19, 2013 at 11:04am

Stephen, I completely agree with your assessment.  Historians are still, to this day, debating whether Washington was a Christian or not.  And, there does not seem to be a clear consensus. The phrase I used, Divine Architect" is readily attributable to his membership in the Free Masons. And, while membership requires a belief in god, it is not sectarian in the sense of demanding Christianity over any other religion. And, this easily fits in with Deism. On the other hand, it's well know he did belong to a number of churches.  Whether this was "cover" for him or not is an open question.

As to the others you mention - hit it on the head.

Comment by Stephen Gunn on August 19, 2013 at 10:06am

I agree with you in all that you say but here is some evidence that he may not have been a devout Christian.  Stephen

In February 1800, after Washington's death, Thomas Jefferson wrote this statement in his personal journal

Dr. Rush told me (he had it from Asa Green) that when the clergy addressed General Washington, on his departure from the government, it was observed in their consultation that he had never, on any occasion, said a word to the public which showed a belief in the Christian religion, and they thought they should so pen their address as to force him at length to disclose publicly whether he was a Christian or not. However, he observed, the old fox was too cunning for them. He answered every article of their address particularly, except that, which he passed over without notice....”

I know that Gouverneur Morris [principal drafter of the constitution], who claimed to be in his secrets, and believed him self to be so, has often told me that General Washington believed no more in that system [Christianity] than he did" (quoted in Remsberg, p. 123 from Jefferson's Works, Vol. 4, p. 572, emphasis added).

Biographer Barry Schwartz has stated that Washington's "practice of Christianity was limited and superficial, because he was not himself a Christian. In the enlightened tradition of his day, he was a devout Deist—just as many of the clergymen who knew him suspected

George Washington never once took communion.     ←   ↑   → 

Rev. Dr. Abercrombie: “On sacramental Sundays, Gen. Washington, immediately after the desk and pulpit services, went out with the greater part of the Congregation.”

Rev. Dr. Wilson: “After that [Dr. Abercrombie’s reproof], upon communion days, he absented himself altogether from the church.”

Rev. Dr. Beverly Tucker: “The General was accustomed, on communion Sundays, to leave the church with her [Nelly Custis], sending the carriage back for Mrs. Washington.”

Rev. Dr. Bird Wilson: “He never was a communicant in them [Dr. White’s churches].”

Rev. William Jackson: “I find no one who ever communed with him.”

Rev. E.D. Neill: “The President was not a communicant.”

Rev. Jared Sparks: “This [his refusal to commune] may be admitted and regretted.”

Gen. A.W. Greely: “There is no reliable evidence that he ever took communion.”

St. Louis Globe: “There is nothing to show that he was ever a member of the church.”

Washington himself (as quoted by Dr. Abercrombie): “I have never been a communicant.”

John Adams wrote:     ←   ↑   → 

2nd President (1797-1801)

Comment by Pat on August 19, 2013 at 8:49am

Can't quite agree with you about Washington. He was a member of various Xtain churches, and as was the custom back then, purchased a family pew in a few.  He ever served as a member of the vestry in one parish. While he did not write a lot about specific religious belief, he used phrases like "Providence" and the "Divine Architect" more than once. And, during the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, he was know to regularly attend various Xtian church services. 

Comment by Michael Penn on August 19, 2013 at 7:10am

Stephen, you are exactly correct. At best they believed in "devine providence." This showed a scheme or pattern of things but had nothing to do with Christianity.

Comment by Easton Le on August 18, 2013 at 8:07pm

I do not know enough about each of the founding fathers you mentioned to verify if what you're saying is correct. But it doesn't surprise me that there would be a large diversity of beliefs at the beginning of our country's history, including non-belief or something close to it.

I don't know why people continue to refer back to our founding fathers as if that illustrates some brilliant, flawless point --- that things today should be a certain way because they were that way back then. Or the fact that many of the founding fathers weren't Christian, so therefore something-something. The founding fathers, like it or not, also allowed slavery and unequal rights. Further, Jefferson not only had slaves but he has descendants from the slaves he slept with. People, however many generations descended, that are alive today and show remarkably similar features to him and his "legitimate" descendants.

What points do these illustrate? What should we gather from these facts that should be used in arguments today?

I prefer to point towards the communities and leaders of today that aren't religious and how they fare upon the moral landscape. Not yesteryear at the titans of our nation's founding.



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