The Faiths of the Founding Fathers
is a book by historian of American religion David L. Holmes
of the College of William and Mary
. 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 is that the American (U.S.) Founding Fathers fell into three religious categories: first, 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
The second smallest group consisted of the founders who remained practicing Christians
. They retained a supernaturalist worldview, 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
. Holmes also finds that most of the wives and daughters of the founders fell into this category.
The largest group, he declares, 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, ranging from John Adams
and George Washington
on the conservative right to......