Friday, February 11, 2011

John Adams on belief in God as a necessary predicate for belief in natural law

"To him to believes in the Existence and Attributes physical and moral of a God, there can be no obscurity or perplexity in defining the Law of Nature to be his wise benign and all power Will, discovered by Reason.  A Man who disbelieves the Being of a God, will have no perplexity in defining Morality or the Law of Nature, natural law, natural Right or any such Things to be mere Maxims of Convenience, to be Swifts pair of Breeches to be put on upon occasion for Decency or Conveniency and to be put off at pleasure for either."

-- Letter to Thomas Boylston Adams, March 19, 1794, quoted in The Founders on Religion:  A Book of Quotations, edited by James H. Hutson (Princeton:  2005), pg. 132.


bpabbott said...

I had to look up "perplexity".

Mark in Spokane said...


Anonymous said...

I want to thank you guys for this website! I've been seeing so many of these movies about "The Hidden Faith of the Founding Fathers" and they just make me angry! People really don't have a clue what they are talking about! This is the first site that I've found that gives the real truth on this topic. Thank you!

You should do a piece on the book:
"Christianity as Old as the Creation" by Matthew Tindal.
It will help people understand even more.
I'd love to be a contributor, but I don't have "credentials", I just have a love of history and a passion for this subject.
Anyway, thanks again! I LOVE YOU GUYS for doing this!

Tom Van Dyke said...

Anonymous, pls do stick around---and read our back files a bit. We pride ourselves on discussing the original writings of the Founding era, and don't accept anyone's interpretations of them as gospel truth.

Not even each other's.


That's what makes this blog just a little bit great.

Sara said...

(I'm not anonymous anymore. I just didn't do it right the first time.)
I've seen a couple things I disagreed with, somewhat. But, nothing like accusing Ben Franklin of being a devil worshipper, like that movie does.
I will definitely spend some time poking around here.

Thanks again!

Mark in Spokane said...


Please do keep coming back, and commenting. Keep us on our toes! Some of the best stuff on this blog is in the comments by the readers!

And yes, as Tom noted, we like to read the Founders themselves and comment on them -- and we have lots of disagreements about what their words meant to them and mean to us today. And that's part of the magic of this blog -- part of what makes it a special place on the internet. And the interaction of our commentators is a huge part of that.

So please, keep coming back and leave us comments, critiques, etc. Anything that furthers the discussion and research of the fascinating period that is the American founding is welcome! At least I think it is!

Caleb said...

I think John Adams also said something like, "this American Republic can only be maintained by a moral, religious people".

I think we're running out of those kinds of people.