Review Of "The Faiths Of The Founding Fathers" By D. L. Holmes

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Holmes (William and Mary) argues that many of the most important Founding Fathers were neither orthodox Christians nor deists but something in between. He divides the fathers into three groups: Deists (Franklin, Tom Paine), orthodox Christians (John Jay, Sam Adams), and deistic/Unitarian Christians (Washington, John Adams). The focus is on the first five presidents. Given the reticence of some of the presidents about their religious beliefs, Holmes does an excellent job of delineating what one can know. An epilogue recounts the role of evangelical religion for the last five presidents. Holmes, a specialist on Colonial Anglicanism, seems to have designed this book for people coming to Williamsburg. Such readers will gain accurate information and useful insights from this concise popular history. The choice of subjects seems arbitrary. Holmes passes over many significant people at the Second Continental Congress or Constitutional Convention, and offers little discussion of the states, their new constitutions, or even the First Amendment. So while he proves that the rhetoric of the religious Right and secular Left simplifies history, the cover blurb is wrong--the book does not provide a framework to assess whether the US was founded as a Christian nation or even what this might have meant in 1776 or 1789. Summing Up: Optional. Upper-level undergraduates; general readers.


This work is freely available courtesy of Choice Reviews. The review has been reproduced in full in the abstract field.

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