The Faiths of the Founding Fathers

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The Faiths of the Founding Fathers
Author David L. Holmes
Publisher Oxford University Press
Publication date
March 2006
Pages 225
ISBN 978-0-19-530092-5
OCLC 2005033077
LC Class BL2747.4.H63 2006

The Faiths of the Founding Fathers is a book by historian of American religion David L. Holmes of the College of William & Mary.[1] Holmes approaches the topic of the religion of the founders of the United States by analyzing their public statements and correspondence, the comments left by their contemporaries, and the views, where available, of clergy who knew them.

The main thesis of the book, found on page 134, is that the U.S. Founding Fathers fell into three religious categories:

  1. the smallest group, founders who had left their Judeo-Christian heritages and become advocates of the Enlightenment religion of nature and reason called "Deism". These figures included Thomas Paine and Ethan Allen.[page needed]
  2. the founders who remained practicing Christians. They retained a supernaturalist world view, a belief in the divinity of Jesus Christ, and an adherence to the teachings of their denomination. These founders included Patrick Henry, John Jay, and Samuel Adams.[page needed] Holmes also finds that most of the wives and daughters of the founders fell into this category.[page needed]
  3. the largest group consisted of founders who retained Christian loyalties and practice but were influenced by Deism. They believed in little or none of the miracles and supernaturalism inherent in the Judeo-Christian tradition. Holmes finds a spectrum of such Deistic Christians among the founders,[citation needed] ranging from John Adams and George Washington on the conservative right to Benjamin Franklin and James Monroe on the skeptical left.[page needed]

The well-reviewed[1][dubious ] book is one of the first[citation needed] to question the assertions of secular historians that the founders were all Unitarians or Deists and of evangelical pastors that they were orthodox and sometimes born-again Christians who intended to found a Christian nation. Holmes tries to show that all three of the groups he names were present at every step of the founding of the nation.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Holmes, David L. (March 2006). The Faiths of the Founding Fathers. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-530092-5. Retrieved 2012-09-14. 

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