Franklin adhered to a religion that we might call doctrineless, moralized Christianity. This kind of faith suggests that what we believe about God is not as important as living a life of love and significance. Franklin grew up in a devout Puritan family in colonial Boston, but by his teen years the bookish boy began to doubt key aspects of his parents’ Calvinist faith. Abandoning Christianity altogether, however, was not a realistic option for someone as immersed as Franklin in the Bible’s precepts and the habits of faith.
Although Franklin did at times toy with some radical anti-Christian beliefs, he settled on the conviction that Christianity was useful because of the way it fostered virtue. Franklin wearied of how colonial Americans incessantly fought about theological minutiae. But he still believed that Christianity represented a preeminent resource for benevolence and charity, qualities he considered essential to any worthwhile religion.
Franklin, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson all doubted some fundamental tenets of the Protestant faith. These could include salvation by God’s grace alone, the divinity of Jesus, or God’s Trinitarian nature. But leading patriots agreed that the new American republic depended upon having a virtuous citizenry. Although some elites might employ education to develop moral fortitude, the founders believed that average Americans needed religion for the inspiration to do good.
Wednesday, July 5, 2017
Kidd: "How Benjamin Franklin, a deist, became the founding father of a unique kind of American faith"
Check it out here. A taste: