Wednesday, March 23, 2011

How Religious Were the Founding Fathers? - Gordon Wood

If I am not mistaken, we haven't featured this one before from Wood. This is from ForaTV.


bpabbott said...

I'm embarrassed to admit that I haven't yet taken the time to read Wood. If his writing is as captivating as his speaking it would be a pleasure to find the time.

Laci the Chinese Crested said...

The problem was there were a few trends working here:
The Secular (e.g., Jefferson, Franklin, Madison, et al) and the religious (e.g., John Witherspoon and Patrick Henry), while these people knew that religious interference from the government was wrong, you still had founders who were religious. These founders were also "educated".

Then, as this speaker points out, there were was the popular segment of the population that were highly religious. How influenced by the more educated founders was the general populace?

Why has this message been lost over the years, in particular by people such as Scalia whose faith was suspect in the early years of the republic?

Jason_Pappas said...

Did Wood answer the question? The question was "what role did the the Judeo-Christian thought contribute in the formation of our Republican experiment?"

He says religion was very important to the masses but less so to the leaders. How does this explain religion's role in the formation of the Republic? As it stands, his answer seems more of a demographic analysis.

Imagine asking him what role being blue-eyed play in the formation of the nation. "It was a huge factor. Many of the people were blue-eyed although some key figures had brown eyes. Still, the blue-eyed population grew after the Irish immigration increase the population of this democracy." This wouldn't be an answer, would it?

Of course, Wood gives us Jefferson and Adams as non-trinitarian and Washington as, well, not very interested in rituals.

Daniel said...

I think Wood is trying to avoid the "key founders" dilemma. To directly answer the question, you look at a few key thinkers and answer "not very much." The difficulty with that answer is that it cannot consider the influence of thousands who did not write very much or have any direct influence on the framing. He tries to correct that problem by pointing out that those people are out there. Yes, I realize I am ignoring some people who were important to the framing, but arguably not "key" and who were very religious. For a >4 minute answer, I think he does pretty well. And he is a wonderful speaker.