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The Religious Beliefs of America's Founders: Reason, Revelation, and Revolution (American Political Thought (University Press of Kansas)) Hardcover – May 31, 2012


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Product Details

  • Series: American Political Thought (University Press of Kansas)
  • Hardcover: 312 pages
  • Publisher: University Press of Kansas (May 31, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0700618457
  • ISBN-13: 978-0700618453
  • Product Dimensions: 1.1 x 6.5 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #349,678 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

Through thorough research and marked erudition, Frazer illuminates a maelstrom of differing theological perspectives among a group of Americans that we often refer to glibly as Christian or Deist. Frazer's book expands our notions of what these people believed about God, scripture, the afterlife, and other "Christian" dogmas, and contributes to the understanding that America's religious history has always been deeply and fundamentally plural. It is true that short-hand terms such as Christian, Deist, theistic rationalist are necessary at times, but for those who wish to think through America's religious history in more intricate and nuanced terms, this compelling book provides just such an opportunity. Some readers may come away from this book with a new set of categories. but all readers should benefit from a deepened understanding that the founders, however we label them, were not themselves limited in their thinking by the appellations we seek to bestow upon them."—Law and Politics Book Review

About the Author

Gregg L. Frazer is professor of history and political studies at The Master’s College in Santa Clarita, California.

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44 of 45 people found the following review helpful By J. Farley on June 30, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I've long been a student of the Founding Fathers' religious convictions, I actually teach a 400-level college course about it, and feel that this is the best volume ever published concerning their faiths. Dr. Frazer correctly understands that to include Adams, Jefferson, Franklin, Madison, Washington and others under the traditional label "Deism" stretches the meaning of the term so far that it no longer retains any meaning, other than not a traditional Christian. They were Christians in their own minds, albeit a very, very liberal Unitarian style of Christianity. Frazer's volume is well researched, extensively end-noted and objective. Ideologues on both the secular Left and the Christian Right will find his analysis troubling, but it remains a very honest assessment.

This is a must have for anyone serious about studying the faiths of the Founders. My only criticism is that I wish Dr. Frazer would have included a page or two explaining the difference between "theistic rationalism" and proto-Unitarianism/theological unitarianism (or whatever you want to call it). There seems to be little difference between the two movements, and these similarities makes me wonder about the necessity of using the new phrase "theistic rationalism." Does the new phrase clarify things or just confuse them less? Nonetheless, this is still the best piece of research I've seen on the topic. Kudos, Dr. Frazer.
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31 of 32 people found the following review helpful By Craig on August 3, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I highly recommend this book. 5 stars. Straight up. Contrary to popular opinion frequently promulgated by those on the Christian Right (such as David Barton) that the vast majority of America's Founders were Evangelical Christians as well as those on the liberal Left who claim that they were mostly secularists and Deists, Mr. Frazer, utilizing extensive and thorough documentation from both public and private writings of 8 "Key Framers" (Adams, Jefferson, Franklin, Wilson, Morris, Madison, Hamilton and Washington), proves that they were neither Christians nor secularists/Deists but were actually a hybrid of the two which Mr. Frazer refers to as "Theistic Rationalists."
Aside from Hamilton, who came to saving faith in Jesus at the end of his life, all of the 8 Key Framers rejected the Trinitarian view of God, the deity of Christ and the Resurrection. As Mr. Frazer demonstrates, based on the documented evidence, all 8 of the Key Framers would be what we call today Universalists as all of them believed that there were "many paths to God."
It was fascinating for me to see how their religious beliefs (essentially a mixture of liberal Enlightenment thought, marginal Protestantism and Lockean political theory) influenced our Founding documents and our Republican form of government they had a significant hand in establishing. And I will be honest, it was also humbling to recognize that the key Framers were not Christians given the number of times I have publicly claimed they were.
Again, I highly recommend reading it and interviewing the author if you are in the media.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By D. T. Kleven on December 14, 2012
Format: Hardcover
I discovered this author and his book during the controversy following David Barton's recent book on Jefferson (that was recalled by the publisher!) I had thought for a while that the founders probably weren't as Evangelical as many today might wish them to be, but this book explained it in detail. Frazer examines key thinkers, preachers, and founders in their own words from their own writings to try to unpack what they really believed. The basic thesis is that they weren't deists - even the most deistic, Franklin and Jefferson, believed that God actively intervened in this world, believed in the effectiveness of prayer and had some reverence for some of scripture - distinctly not deistic beliefs. But neither were they Christians in any evangelical sense, though they sometimes claimed to be. They often claimed to believe in "pure" Christianity, not "corrupted" with the doctrines of men. These corruptions? The deity of Christ, the Trinity, the Virgin Birth, substitutionary atonement, eternal punishment, and the inspiration of Scripture. They accepted those tenets of Christianity that fit within the confines of their own Enlightenment reasoning, and threw out the rest as corrupt. These men certainly believed in God, in prayer, and in morality (for the most part). They believed men have a duty to try to please God by being moral and upright, but most explicitly rejected the gospel.

Frazer traces the main influences on these men, and then goes through each of the key founders in their own words, concluding with how this applies to us today. I highly recommend this book if you want to know the real religious beliefs of our founders.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Martin Isabell on August 27, 2012
Format: Hardcover
I really enjoyed reading this book. As a person who is both a Christian and a history major, I have been frustrated by both the secularlist revisions of the founding fathers and by the Christian heritage folks christianization of them. The author of this book digs deep into the founders backgrounds. He is willing to show their beliefs for what they are. He looks at them as individuals not just as a group. Anyone who wants to understand the beliefs of the founders should read this book.
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