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Revolutionary Spirits: The Enlightened Faith of America's Founding Fathers

Gary Kowalski, Author . BlueBridge $22 (215p) ISBN 978-1-933-34609-0

What did the founding fathers believe about God and the Bible? Unitarian Universalist minister Kowalski (The Souls of Animals ) joins the chorus of answers with this elegantly written book, which clearly situates the founders in an Enlightenment tradition that privileged reason. Charting a middle ground between those who claim the founders either as orthodox Christians or total skeptics, Kowalski argues that they were “religious liberals” who believed in a Creator and in moral law. Benjamin Franklin was more interested in solving scientific riddles than in “otherworldly mysteries”; nonetheless, he became friendly with revivalist George Whitefield. For George Washington, who harbored some doubts about Christian doctrine, Christianity was more about right behavior than belief. Thomas Jefferson believed in Providence and remained an Episcopalian all his life, but was more at home with classical learning than faith. James Madison, Thomas Paine and John Adams receive similarly nuanced treatments. Kowalski illustrates his arguments with just the right quotations from the founders themselves, and his economy of prose is to be commended: he never belabors his points. This slim volume will sit nicely on the shelf with similar offerings by Forrest Church, Jon Meacham and David Holmes. (Feb.)

Reviewed on: 12/24/2007
Release date: 02/01/2008
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