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Faith and the Founders of the American Republic$
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Mark David Hall and Daniel L. Dreisbach

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780199843336

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: April 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199843336.001.0001

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Deism and the Founders

Deism and the Founders

(p.13) 1 Deism and the Founders
Faith and the Founders of the American Republic

Darren Staloff

Oxford University Press

Among the issues most debated by historians of the American founding is the extent to which the founders were influenced by orthodox Christianity or Deism. Deism, or “the religion of nature,” is a form of rational theology that emerged among “freethinking” Europeans in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and found a following among a fairly small group of intellectual elites in America. Deists insisted that religious claims must be subject to the authority of human reason rather than divine revelation. This chapter examines briefly the European origins and key tenets of Deism, the transmission of Deist ideas to British North America, the extent of Deist influence among prominent founders during the founding era, the conflict between Deist and Christian thought, and the role and expressions of Deism in the founding of the United States of America, including Thomas Paine’s militant Deism.

Keywords:   Deism, founders, Thomas Paine, Christianity, founding era

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