Reassessing the Boston Tea Party

The Boston Tea Party of 1773 was the most provocative Patriot action before the start of the Revolutionary War in 1775. Most Americans vaguely know that the Tea Partiers pitched tea into Boston Harbor, because they were angry about taxes. But what actually provoked the Tea Party? The key instigator was Samuel Adams, a devout [Read More…]

The New United States: A “Christian Nation”?

Politicians and pop history writers squabble endlessly about whether America was founded as a “Christian nation.” Skeptics routinely point to the 1796 Treaty of Tripoli, in which American officials declared that “the government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion” and “has in itself no character [Read More…]

The Constitution “Divinely Inspired”? Ben Franklin Answers

Last week I posted about a Ted Cruz rally at which Glenn Beck argued that the Constitution and the Bible were both “sacred scriptures.” What would the Founding Fathers think about this? It so happens that, in a little-noticed 1788 editorial, Ben Franklin directly denied that the Constitution was “divinely inspired.” But as usual with the [Read More…]

Why the Founding Fathers Spoke the King James Bible

One of the besetting problems of “Christian America” history writing is that it often interprets biblical quotes from the Founders as evidence that they were personally devout. Sometimes personally devout Founders did also speak in the language of the King James Bible, of course. But a broader range of Founding Fathers – including the skeptical [Read More…]

Christmas in 1776

From the Patheos archive: ‘Tis the season to argue about religion. Or more specifically, to feud about whether to say Merry Christmas or Seasons Greetings…to call it a Christmas Village or a Holiday Village…or to allow a crèche or menorah to stand on public property. What would Americans at the time of our nation’s founding [Read More…]

The Most Evangelical Founding Father?

In spite of some Christian revisionist attempts to cast them all as evangelical believers, the Founding Fathers’ faiths ran the gamut from traditional Christianity to outright skepticism. I wrote my biography of Patrick Henry because I was interested in how Henry, a traditional Anglican, sorted out the challenges raised by the Revolution, slavery, and other [Read More…]

Alexander Hamilton’s “Christian Constitutional Society”

Today’s guest post comes from Jonathan Den Hartog, associate professor of history at the University of Northwestern in St. Paul, Minnesota. The University of Virginia Press recently released his Politics & Piety: Federalist Politics and Religious Struggle in the New American Nation. Den Hartog’s book illustrates that intense political conflicts over the relationship between Christianity [Read More…]

What Is Deism?

The claim that any of the Founding Fathers were deists generates pushback among certain conservatives. This helps to account for the firestorm of controversy (which I covered for WORLD Magazine) over David Barton’s The Jefferson Lies and the book’s subsequent abandonment by Thomas Nelson Publishers. Barton argued that until late in life, Jefferson was an orthodox, Trinitarian [Read More…]

“Woven into the fabric of our country”? Islam in Early America

President Obama created controversy in a recent speech when he asserted that “Islam has been woven into the fabric of our country since its founding.” He followed this statement with rather generic statements about Muslim immigrants coming to America and finding economic opportunity and freedom. The point of the president’s comments is, of course, that [Read More…]

Ben Franklin’s Calvinist Father

Greetings friends! Writing here from beautiful and chilly St Andrews, Scotland, where we are spending the semester. I have just begun to write a new book on Ben Franklin and religion, and am discovering more and more what a thoroughly Calvinist background Franklin had. I have written before about his beloved Calvinist sister Jane. Today [Read More…]


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