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The Faiths of the Founding Fathers [Hardcover]

By David L. Holmes (Author)
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Item description for The Faiths of the Founding Fathers by David L. Holmes...

An in-depth examination of the spiritual beliefs of America's founding fathers provides an account of the religious culture of the late colonial era and looks at individual beliefs of men and women who played a significant role in American history.

Publishers Description
It is not uncommon to hear Christians argue that America was founded as a Christian nation. But how true is this claim?
In this compact book, David L. Holmes offers a clear, concise and illuminating look at the spiritual beliefs of our founding fathers. He begins with an informative account of the religious culture of the late colonial era, surveying the religious groups in each colony. In particular, he sheds light on the various forms of Deism that flourished in America, highlighting the profound influence this intellectual movement had on the founding generation. Holmes then examines the individual beliefs of a variety of men and women who loom large in our national history. He finds that some, like Martha Washington, Samuel Adams, John Jay, Patrick Henry, and Thomas Jefferson's daughters, held orthodox Christian views. But many of the most influential figures, including Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, John and Abigail Adams, Jefferson, James and Dolley Madison, and James Monroe, were believers of a different stripe. Respectful of Christianity, they admired the ethics of Jesus, and believed that religion could play a beneficial role in society. But they tended to deny the divinity of Christ, and a few seem to have been agnostic about the very existence of God. Although the founding fathers were religious men, Holmes shows that it was a faith quite unlike the Christianity of today's evangelicals. Holmes concludes by examining the role of religion in the lives of the presidents since World War II and by reflecting on the evangelical resurgence that helped fuel the reelection of George W. Bush.
An intriguing look at a neglected aspect of our history, the book will appeal to American history buffs as well as to anyone concerned about the role of religion in American culture.

Citations And Professional Reviews
The Faiths of the Founding Fathers by David L. Holmes has been reviewed by professional book reviewers and journalists at the following establishments -
  • Choice - 11/01/2006 page 497
  • Library Journal - 04/01/2006 page 99
  • Booklist - 04/01/2006 page 7
  • New York Review of Books - 06/08/2006 page 60
  • New York Times - 05/07/2006 page 26

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Item Specifications...

Studio: Oxford University Press, USA
Pages   225
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 8.48" Width: 6.04" Height: 0.85"
Weight:   0.84 lbs.
Binding  Hardcover
Release Date   Mar 1, 2006
Publisher   Oxford University Press
ISBN  0195300920  
ISBN13  9780195300925  

Availability  0 units.

More About David L. Holmes

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David L. Holmes is Walter G. Mason Professor of Religious Studies at the College of William and Mary. He is the author of A Brief History of the Episcopal Church, A Nation Mourns, other books, and numerous articles.

David L. Holmes was born in 1942.

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > Biographies & Memoirs > Leaders & Notable People > Political
2Books > Subjects > History > Americas > United States > Colonial Period > General
3Books > Subjects > History > Americas > United States > General
4Books > Subjects > History > Americas > United States > Revolution & Founding > General
5Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Christian Living > General
6Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity
8Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Religious Studies > History

Christian Product Categories
Books > Education (K-12) > Social Science > History

Reviews - What do customers think about The Faiths of the Founding Fathers?

Excellent, but the Deist label seems pressed too hard.  Jul 9, 2007
As an evangelical Christian, I have longed for a well researched book that strives to stick to the facts of the religious background of our founding fathers. Holmes' book does that, generally avoiding jumping to conclusions that are not warranted by those facts.

If you have been taught that the founding fathers were all Christians who strove to build a new nation upon the precepts of the Bible, this book will set you straight. The strength of the book lies in its reliance on actual records and statements of the key founders (e.g., the first five presidents and other notables). Thus, Holmes blows a wind of fresh air into today's wranglings that claim America to be a "Christian nation."

Yet, while reading, I often wondered if Holmes sees too MUCH Deism in early America. His citations of alleged Deistic comments by the founding fathers aren't always that clear or definitive.

Holmes surely proves that the influence of Deism was present in early America. But I'm not sure that the unbiased reader will readily agree that Deism was as widespread and as widely recognized in the 18th century as Holmes seems to suggest.

This mild criticism aside, this book is a readable and incredibly helpful resource for anyone who desires to know the specific religious beliefs and activities of the key players in our nation's founding.
Superb book on understanding Deism in 18th Century  Feb 8, 2007
I found this book by David L. Holmes to be superbly written, researched and presented. The author not only present a clear understanding of religious situation of the colonies prior to the Revolution but afterward as well. The main asset of this book lies in his understanding of how Deism as a religious and theological thought, influenced the acts, actions, political behavior and personal behavior of Ben Franklins, John Adams, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Monore and James Madison.

Another service this book provides is that the author have a clear and logical understanding of Deism and explained to the reader in a clear and logical way that is easy to understand. He also explained how you can tell if one is a Deist by the language, mannerism and behavior when discussing religious matter. The author made it clear that while these men were born Christian, they didn't embrace Christianity as mature adults and ironic, some of them return the fold as they lay dying.

The book also point that one gift these men gave the American nation which was most reflective of their Deist faith was the concept of separation of Church and State. They defeated all efforts by the new nation to create Christianity as a state religion and ensure that religion and government stay out of each other's way.

These men who were Deist, ironically did not push this thought onto their families. The book also dealt with families of these men and come up with the fact that most of them were rise and remains as orthodox Christians.

The book briefly covered the religious lives of three regular Christians who supported our founding fathers, John Jay, Samuel Adams and Elias Boudinot.

The Epilogue proves to be quite interesting since the author discussed the faiths of our past presidents from Gerald R. Ford to George W. Bush. The mass difference between these men from each others truly reflect a true labyrinth of Christianity that is being practice in this nation today.

This book come well recommended and almost a standard mandatory reading material for any American interested in our nation's history. The book also serves as a warning against any revisionist thoughts by some in our country who wishes believe that men who founded our nation were some sort of religious fanatics or die-hard Christians.
The Faiths of the Founding fathers  Jan 11, 2007
An excellent study of religious transition. Gave me a good understanding of some of the religious issues of today
Great Book  Nov 8, 2006
I just finished reading the book "The Faiths of the Founding Fathers." I won't repeat what other reviewers have said, except to say that I felt the author laid out his research in a very easy to understand manner. This book helped me understand why there is such controversy around this topic. A person can point to one item out of many, such as church membership, participation or non-participation in church activities, and a person's actions, and draw the desired conclusion concerning whether a person is a Christian and/or religious. But the author examines all of these points and comes to a very sound conclusion regarding the people in question.

I enjoyed the book, and found it to be both informative and enlightening.

An Honest Portrayal of the Religious Beliefs of the Founding Generation  Nov 2, 2006
The "Faiths of the Founding Fathers" by David L Holmes is a treasure that should be read by all Americans who are interested in what the founding generation believed regarding religion and faith. It is hard to imagine that the individual faiths of the founding generation should be such a contentious issue but they are. All one has to do to prove this is to search on this site and see just how many books that one can find on this issue alone.

The book has a wealth of information but it is presented in an easy to read format that will appeal to lay readers and professionals alike. Unlike many books on the subject, it is short, sweet and to the point. However, it must be noted that Holmes does something that is quite strange with his book.

He actually focuses on the theological beliefs of the founding generation. Far too many books claim to focus on what the founders believed but only put forth a few pages on the subject and then move onto their real goal which is to state a political position and then claim the founders would agree with them.

Holmes does not fall into this all too common trap but instead begins with a focus on early American theological beliefs and then continues by focusing on the primary founders of the United States. In this way he lays out what the founders, their wives, their children and the country in general believed in regards to the theological. Thus, he maintains the focus on their faith where it should be.

What we learn is that the founding fathers and mothers were complex people that cannot easily be defined yet so many try to do so. This book shows why easy definitions are incorrect and that such ploys should be avoided. To accomplish this task, he uses primary, secondary and tertiary religious sources in the proper fashion. When he gives a quote he cites the source and places it within its proper context. When no information is available he lets this be known rather than fill in the blanks with personal opinion. This creates a book that gives an honest and evidence-based portrayal of what the founders believed.

Why is this book important to read? Simple, there are extremists on the right and left that have utilized historic revisionism to push their political agendas and they do this by twisting the founder's beliefs into something that will backup their political claims. This has lead to a general confusion in regards to what the founders actually believed.

The secondary importance of this book lies in its focus on the Enlightenment religion of Deism. In truth, there are very few books regarding the richness and diversity of Deism in early America and the important role that it played in founding the USA. Most books use a few sentences to state that Deism was a belief in a God that created and then abandoned the universe. This "definition" was the creation of preachers during the Second Great Awakening to damage the theology of Deism that had become popular among the educated.

Holmes devotes more than just a few sentences to the subject of Deism. He devotes 3 chapters to the subject and goes into detail how diverse Deism was among its adherents and that it had its own sects just as Christianity did and does. Despite what many believe, Deism was (and is) a faith that is rich with diversity and is not the "God who abandoned" religion that has been put forth for far too many years.

He breaks down the belief of the founders into three categories which are Non-Christian Deism, Christian Deism and Orthodox Christianity. He then goes into where each of the founders would be placed in this scheme and why. He covers such historical figures as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Paine, John Adams, James Madison, Samuel Adams, John Jay and Patrick Henry. He also talks about their wives and children.

This book is for you if you are interested in what the founders believed and want honest (historical) information. This book in fun to read regardless of your religious beliefs and should not offend anyone. This is a great book and a great read. Enjoy.


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