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Moral Minority


Chapter one covers Benjamin Franklin. It seems like he really didn’t think too much about the issue of religion. He seemed to believe in God, but certainly not in a Christian one.

Washington was conspicuously silent on his faith. He may have been a Christian of some sort, but he did not partake in communion, and almost never mentioned religion at all. There seems to be one address in which he says religion is good, but this was written by Hamilton. He was probably a believer, but again, a pretty deistic one, perhaps more in line with Stoicism.

Adams seems to be the most religious, but he was a Unitarian.

Jefferson- He seems to be the most skeptical. If I internalize any of the founding fathers, I think he is the one to. He is the main author of the Declaration of Independence (by our creator) so it is good to emphasize how skeptical and deist he is.

From page 78- Things Jefferson believed in: God, afterlife (maybe), revelation through nature and reason. Jefferson to William Short, August 4, 1820.

He didn’t believe in: resurrection, corporeal presence in the Eucharist, Trinity, original sin, atonement, election.

Moreover, Jefferson figured that everyone would come to reason that “Jesus, by the Supreme Being as his father, in the womb of a virgin will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerva in the brain of Jupiter.” Jefferson to Adams, October 12th, 1823 in Cappon, 594.

Page 145- Interpretation of the Constitution’s religious clauses, Article 6, clause 3, by Justice Hugo Black in Everson v. Board of Education

The “establishment of religion” clause of the First Amendment means at least this: Neither a state nor Federal Government can set up a church. Neither can pass laws which aid one religion, aid all religions, or prefer on religion over another. Neither can force nor influence a person to go to or to remain away from church against his will or force him to profess a belief or disbelief in any religion. No person can be punished for entertaining or professing religious beliefs or disbeliefs, for church attendance or non-attendance. No tax in any amount, large or small, can be levied to support any religious activities or institutions, whatever they may be called, or whatever form they may adopt to teach or practice religion.

Page 161 offers some great deistic Paine quotes from Age of Reason:

“I do not believe in the creed professed by the Jewish church, the Roman church, the Greek church, by the Turkish church, by the Protestant church, nor by any church that I know of.”

“All national institutions or churches. . . appear to me no other than human invention set up to terrify and enslave mankind and monopolize power and profit.”

New York Times book review that is a good summary:

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