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4.4 out of 5 stars
Moral Minority: Our Skeptical Founding Fathers
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on May 29, 2016
Great historical narrative on the religious skepticism of our founding fathers. Too many evangelicals and political light-weights (Sarah Palin) have the incorrect belief our founding fathers were tied to Christian beliefs. Many of them were Deists and a couple eschewed religious belief altogether, such as Jefferson and Franklin. A good book for those who like history.
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on July 26, 2011
When I went to school, it was so long ago that they still taught American history and Civics. We learned the Founders of our country were influenced by Locke, Paine, Hume, and the Enlightenment. That they knew first hand of the tyrannies and wars in Europe, the sectarian and religious conflicts that caused so much bloodshed. They were determined to not let that happen in the new country they were founding. That's the way I learned my American history.

However, today there are right-wing elements that are trying to rewrite history. "He who controls the past, controls the future." These so-called "conservatives" are distorting the truth. This book, "The Moral Minority" goes in great detail, examining the writings and personal letters of the Founding Fathers and re-affirms the truth of this countries founding. It lays waste the lies of fundamentalist Christians that this nation was founded by fundamentalist Christians for fundamentalist Christians.

This book gives me the ammunition to counter their arguments and completely destroy their lies. The religious beliefs and motives of six founding Fathers are explored in detail. Jefferson fought hard to keep the wall between Church and State. He founded the first non-religion based University - The University of Virginia. There are some interesting glimpses of the Founders personal lives. George Washington dropped Martha off at church and left her there in order to avoid the Eucharist.

The Founding fathers were at most Deists - believers in a Creator, Providence, a higher power. Jesus was a teacher, and enlightened man. Deists do not accept the Trinity, doubt a miraculous virgin birth, or believe in the divinity of Jesus. Many born-again sects would not accept Deists as Christians. So how can they claim that the Founders were Christians bent on founding a Christian nation? The Founders were more influenced by the writers of the Enlightenment then by the Bible.

This book will re-affirm what you should have learned in school if you were paying attention.
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on February 23, 2007
The last chapter of the book, titled "The World that Produced the Founders," should probably have started the book. It is easily the best chapter of the book, laying out the history of religious freedom (or lack therof) in England and the American Colonies from the time when King Henry VIII broke with catholicism up to the point when the American Revolution occurred. The other chapters are targeted each on one specific founder, and while the chapters did contain good (and shocking) information on the religious beliefs of each, I believe the author missed out by not dedicating a chapter to the beliefs of Thomas Paine and Ethan Allen (who were more radical than many of the other founders who were given their own chapters). They are covered briefly in another chapter, however. But overall, I'd say this book covers some very important overlooked history which we should definitely not forget in today's day and age.
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on December 30, 2006
I purchased this book after reading a favorable review in the NY Times Sunday book review. The book uses a variety of sources, including letters and authored documents, to illustrate the very strong views and philosophies many of the founding fathers had on the issue of separation of church and state. The book dives into the historical context for their opinions. Contrary to what many of the Christian Right would have us believe about the view of our founding fathers, by reading original historical sources it is very clear that Jefferson, Madison, Washington, Adams and Franklin felt very strongly that central to the future stability and prosperity of the United States was the need for a separation of church and state. This was driven by moral, philosophical and pracitical considerations. In addition to gaining a much deeper historical perspective on this central tenet of our democracy, which has been under attack by the current administration, was the recognition of the combined brilliance of these men in reading their writings. I also gained a deeper appreciation of the uniqueness of our own constitution and declaration of independence and how it reflects upon the genius of these men and their peers. I would highly recommend this book to anyone interested in knowing more about the philisophical and moral perspectives of the great men who helped birth our nation.
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on August 13, 2016
excellent - views of our forefathers.
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on January 23, 2014
We are in a stage of American history when the words of those who founded the country are being totally distorted to sell an agenda that never existed. The Founders lived in a time of enlightened thinking - ie. thinking outside of the standard parameters. They read and discussed the writings of creative thinkers who had lived through a period of history when religion dominated politics, and politics attempted to dominate religion. Those authors and our Founders after them came to the conclusion that it is imperative to see that the two are kept separate if a country of diverse religious make-up was to be united into a common unit, and not experience the periodic and bloody religiously inspired convulsions that were part of history. Most of our founders were deists, not a bad word but one that describes someone as believing in god but not following a religion. They were not against religion, but decidedly wanted it out of the governing process. Brooke Allen does a masterful job of documenting all of that, using extensive quotes from the people themselves. I gave it a four star rating only because it dragged a bit at times. Otherwise, it is well worth the modest investment of money to purchase and time to read.
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on November 20, 2015
I've been really into both the founding fathers and the Enlightenment over the past 2 years. I've read and bought many books, done a lot of research. It's been a bit of a revelation and has filled out my worldview. THIS is the clearest, fullest, most complete, most concise illustration of the direct and intricate connection between the two. Recommend THIS book to people to educate them, without bogging them down, regarding the true foundations of America and modernity. The book is fully sourced, and it touches on everything. For my part it left nothing out regarding all the facts I was already familiar with, all the quotes and events and relationships, while still shedding more light on quite a bit I still didn't know. There is a clear thesis to this book, call it an agenda, but it's based on truth, it is the truth and nothing speaks for the founders better than the founders themselves. The final chapter could even serve as a very brief introduction to the Enlightenment and all its figures, all those great ideas like individual autonomy, cosmopolitanism and scientific thinking that have so greatly advanced mankind. One of the best books Iv'e ever read. A little beacon of truth and light, and quite entertaining. It reinforced my appreciation for the critical ideas and efforts of all of these brilliant men, whatever their flaws were.
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on April 28, 2007
Brooke Allen is most known for her stellar literary criticism in journals like New Criterion and the Hudson Review, but here, she leaves her "conservative journal" credentials to the side and examines six of the Founders' religious views and their impact on our formation of government. Religious conservatives will be disabused of their "Christian Nation" and "Reconstructionist" views.

While 6 of 51 Constitutional Conventioneers does not establish the whole Convention's point of view, certainly Washington, Franklin, Madison, Jefferson, Adams, and Hamilton were the central architects of our Founding Documents. What Allen aims to show is that these six individuals in particular were not normative Christians, and whatever religious views they held (mainly Deism or unorthodox Theism), the Enlightenment Ideals, not Christianity, prevailed. But, of course, it did.

One finds not a single Judeo-Christian notion, belief, concept, or ideal in any of our founding documents. NO mention of God, Jesus, Holy Spirit, the Decalogue, Charity, Faith, Hope, Forgiveness, Non-Judgmentalism, Self-denial, Spiritual Rebirth, etc. is found in any of the founding documents. Not even American "exceptionalism," based on Calvin's Divine Election of the Chosen, is found (however much it continues to surface in practical politics). If America's founding was "Christian," no evidence exists for a single Christian idea.

The Liberal Ideals of the Enlightenment, of course, opposed much of historical Christianity: Notions of self-rule, democracy, autonomy, freedom/liberty, anti-authoritarianism, equality, pluralism, freedom of thought and belief and practice, fairness/justice, impartiality, one-person-one-vote, human rights, diffusion of power, etc., all hail from the Enlightenment. Not one, not one, can be found in the Bible.

The Age of Enlightenment (16-18th centuries) was grounded in Reason, not Religion. Indeed, the Authority of King and Church was opposed by all the Founders. Even those with a decidedly Calvinist cast recognized (largely through self-interest) that privileging any particular form of Christianity would disadvantage theirs. The dominant Enlightenment thinkers, from Hobbes, Locke, Voltaire, Hume, Smith, Kant, etc. were either nominal Christians or atheists.

"Obedience" to a book, church, monarch, deity -- some of which had to become manifest, if America was founded on Christianity -- is repudiated. The idea of "religious obedience" was disagreeable, except to the Puritans came to these shores to avoid religious persecution, only to do to others what they sought to avoid in Europe. Thus, the freedom to exercise religion was granted, but no particular religion could be established. It was in the Calvinists, Anabaptists, Anglicans, and Free-Thinkers' interest, all.

One assumes one learned this stuff in high school civics courses. But, it's not ignorance, it's the preposterous Christian Nationists, the Evangelicals, and Biblical Reconstructions who Allen intends to discredit, and she does so with her typical aplomb, elegant and incisive prose, and textual analysis. Anyone who harbors a Religionist Amerika has lost focus of the truth, the facts, and the Age of Enlightenment. Allen sets the record straight, largely in the Founders' own words.
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on January 1, 2010
Should be required reading in middle school American History. The evanjekylls would never allow it though. If for no other reason than to remind us to "render unto Caeser that which is Caesers'...", etc. Subtitle: Can you read, think and have tea at the same time?
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on December 9, 2013
A friend of mine got me this and I bought it for my son. It puts the founding fathers' religious views in perspective. Highly recommended for anyone interested in the religious views of the men who wrote the constitution.
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