Synopses & Reviews
Bringing to life the complex creeds and personalities of America's Founding Fathers, this book confronts many of the myths about the religious views of some of the most notable figures in history. Offering clear and candid portraits of Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, Thomas Paine, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison as both religious reformers and political rebels, this analysis tells the illuminating story of these unorthodox men of faith and thought and reclaims their spiritual inheritance for all Americans. Providing a careful examination of how the Founders nature-based spirituality was tied to their fascination with science, this record includes discussions on Washingtons aversion to using the word "God" in public pronouncements, Jefferson's mathematical calculations to show that the biblical great flood would have been impossible, and Paine's thoughts on the possibilities of alien life.
"What did the founding fathers believe about God and the Bible? Unitarian Universalist minister Kowalski (The Souls of Animals) joins the chorus of answers with this elegantly written book, which clearly situates the founders in an Enlightenment tradition that privileged reason. Charting a middle ground between those who claim the founders either as orthodox Christians or total skeptics, Kowalski argues that they were 'religious liberals' who believed in a Creator and in moral law. Benjamin Franklin was more interested in solving scientific riddles than in 'otherworldly mysteries'; nonetheless, he became friendly with revivalist George Whitefield. For George Washington, who harbored some doubts about Christian doctrine, Christianity was more about right behavior than belief. Thomas Jefferson believed in Providence and remained an Episcopalian all his life, but was more at home with classical learning than faith. James Madison, Thomas Paine and John Adams receive similarly nuanced treatments. Kowalski illustrates his arguments with just the right quotations from the founders themselves, and his economy of prose is to be commended: he never belabors his points. This slim volume will sit nicely on the shelf with similar offerings by Forrest Church, Jon Meacham and David Holmes." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"An interesting and valuable contribution to the growing literature of the Founders and their precious legacy of freedom of religion." Willard Sterne Randall, author, Thomas Jefferson: A Life
Imaginatively conceived and very well-written.” Jon Roberts, author, Darwinism and the Divine in America
"A masterful synthesis of the founding fathers' spiritual inclinations." James E. McWilliams, author, A Revolution in Eating: How the Quest for Food Shaped America
"To the ongoing debate over the place of religion in the early Republic, Gary Kowalski has made a vigorous, thoughtful, and eminently readable contribution." Forrest Church, author, So Help Me God: The Founding Fathers and the First Great Battle over Church and State
"Should be read for the sheer joy of the read, certainly; but more to the point, it should be required reading for every voting American." Phyllis Tickle, author, The Shaping of a Life
Bringing to life the complex creeds and personalities of Americas Founding Fathers, this book confronts many of the myths about the religious views of some of the most notable figures in history.
About the Author
Gary Kowalski is the senior minister of the First Unitarian Universalist Society of Burlington, Vermont. He is the author of Goodbye, Friend; Science and the Search for God; and The Souls of Animals. He lives in Burlington, Vermont.