A group blog to promote discussion, debate and insight into the history, particularly religious, of America's founding. Any observations, questions, or comments relating to the blog's theme are welcomed.
Mark David Hall: Responses to the Panel on Deism, Orthodoxy, and the American Founding at Cato
The conversation at this month's Cato Unbound has begun. This is Mark Hall's response. A taste:
Rather than simply state the uncontroversial fact that virtually all late eighteenth century Americans identified themselves as Christians, I chose to address the common assertion that “most” or “many” of America’s founders were deists. Far too many sensible scholars make these or similar claims, including Professor Allen (“The Founding Fathers were … skeptical men of the Enlightenment who questioned each and every received idea they had been taught”) and Professor Green (“Although many of the nation’s elites privately embraced deism, The Age of Reason and other works popularized irreligion among the laboring and working classes”).
In addition to Professors Allen and Green, academic and popular authors including Gordon Wood, Geoffrey Stone, Richard Hughes, Frank Lambert, Matthew Stewart, R. Lawrence Moore, Isaac Kramnick, Garry Wills, Steven Keillor, Richard Dawkins, and many others have claimed that America’s founders were deists. Because this assertion is so widespread, it seemed worthwhile to set the historical record straight. In my short essay, and in Did America Have a Christian Founding?, I offer excellent reasons for rejecting this error. That Professors Allen and Green do not even attempt to refute my arguments suggest that I have succeeded.