This class is one in a series on the religious beliefs and practices of our nation’s founders. There is a great deal said on this topic, much of it very simplistic. As you will see the religious beliefs of our founders were complex but also foundational.

Although born into a Puritan family, by fifteen Benjamin Franklin was a Deist. He read the philosophers of the Enlightenment and rejected much of the dogma of the established churches. Franklin was a pragmatist in matters of religion and tolerant of all. His friend John Adams wrote about him in frustration, “The Catholics thought him almost a Catholic. The Church of England claimed him as one of them. The Presbyterians thought him half a Presbyterian, and the Friends believed him a wet Quaker.” Franklin said of himself, “I believe there is one Supreme most perfect Being, Author and Father of the Gods themselves.” But Franklin also believed that organized religion was good for society. He contributed to nearly every church in Philadelphia.