The Founding Fathers and God
In his 2006 book, The God Delusion, which is a militant attack against belief in God, the British atheist-scientist, Richard Dawkins, suggests that “. . . the greatest of [the Founding Fathers of the American Republic] might have been atheists. . . . [T]heir writings on religion in their own time leave me no doubt that most of them would have been atheists in ours” (38-39). With such a palpably false statement one could only hope that Professor Dawkins is a better scientist than he is an historian.
He certainly is not a very good logician. Billed as “the world’s most prominent atheist,” he titles chapter four in his book as “Why There Almost Certainly Is No God” (emp. added). “Almost certainly” is not certainly. It is evidence again of the failure of the atheistic proposition—a
universal negative, which is impossible to prove. If there is any delusion here it is in the minds of those who affirm a proposition that, in effect, one would have to become God to prove, which is an absurdity (cf. Psalm 14:1; 15:3).
A more objective and better researched assessment of the religious beliefs of the Founding Fathers of America can be found in James Moore’s work, One Nation Under God: The History of Prayer in America. On April 30, 1789, the country’s first President, George Washington, was
inaugurated in New York City. As Washington recited the prescribed oath under the Consititution, he spontaneously added the words “so help me God,” and he leaned down and kissed the Bible. Moore says, “Those two acts—‘so help me God,” and kissing the Bible—would launch a tradition, if not set an overall spiritual tenor, which would be followed by his successors for generations to come” (75). Washington’s inaugural speech was filled with “direct and indirect references to God” (i.e. “The Invisible Hand which conducts the affairs of men” and “the Great Author of every public and private good” qtd. in Moore 75).
Those who attempt to minimize (and even remove) the importance of faith in God in the history of America make much about the deism, secularism, and in some cases, the agnosticism of some of the Founding Fathers (cf. Dawkins 39-46). Moore stated, “Attempts to understand the intentions and deliberations of the Founding Fathers, particularly related to matters of the divine, have often been based on the extensive writings of a handful of individuals like Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, men who were not particularly religious. However, the vast majority of delegates came from established churches, were genuinely spiritual by all objective measures. . . . To the Founding Fathers spiritual matters counted. Turning to God for guidance, wisdom, and support during those formative, difficult days was natural and had a catalytic effect, that could have been achieved no other way” (79).
Is 21st Century America listening?
Dawkins, Richard. The God Delusion. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2006.
Moore, James. One Nation Under God: The History of Prayer in America.