Providence, Politics, and the Birth of Religious Freedom in America The culture wars have distorted the dramatic story of how Americans came to worship freely. Many activists on the right maintain that the United States was founded as a "Christian nation." Many on the left contend that the Founders were secular or Deist and that the First Amendment was designed to boldly separate church and state throughout the land. None of these claims are true, argues Beliefnet.com editor-in-chief Steven Waldman. With refreshing objectivity, Waldman narrates the real story of how our nation's Founders forged a new approach to religious liberty, a revolutionary formula that promoted faith . . . by leaving it alone.
This fast-paced narrative begins with earlier settlers' stunningly unsuccessful efforts to create a Christian paradise, and concludes with the presidencies of Washington, Adams, Jefferson, and Madison, during which the men who had devised lofty principles regarding the proper relationship between church and state struggled to practice what they'd preached. We see how religion helped cause, and fuel, the Revolutionary War, and how the surprising alliance between Enlightenment philosophers such as Jefferson and Madison and evangelical Christians resulted in separation of church and state.
As the drama unfolds, "Founding Faith "vividly describes the religious development of five Founders. Benjamin Franklin melded the morality-focused Puritan theology of his youth and the reason-based Enlightenment philosophy of his adulthood. John Adams's pungent views on religion-hatred of the Church of England and Roman Catholics-stoked his revolutionary fervor and shaped his political strategy. George Washington came to view religious tolerance as a military necessity. Thomas Jefferson pursued a dramatic quest to "rescue" Jesus, in part by editing the Bible. Finally, it was James Madison-the tactical leader of the battle for religious freedom-who crafted an integrated vision of how to prevent tyranny while encouraging religious vibrancy.
"An unusually well-balanced book on an unusually controversial subject. Not every reader will agree with Waldman that, of the Founding Fathers, James Madison's conclusions about religion and society were best. But all should be grateful for the way Waldman replaces myths with facts, clarifies the complexity in making the Founders speak to present-day problems, and allows the Founders who differed with Madison a full and sympathetic hearing. An exceptionally fair, well-researched, and insightful book." --Mark A. Noll, University of Notre Dame, author of America's God
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