Washington: Not a Deist

| | Comments (0)
As per my last podcast, I say that George Washington was not a deist. This may confuse some people who went to public school, and learned that he was.

In fact, he was not. The claim that Washington a Deist rests primarily on two pieces of evidence, neither of which is convincing in light of the counter-evidence. Firstly, that he used Deist vocabulary, like "Creator" and "Being," to refer to God. Second, that a friend of his said, after his death, that he was a Deist.

However, a Deist necessarily believes that the Creator does not take an active role in our lives. The Being doesn't intervene in our affairs, doesn't guide us, doesn't protect us, doesn't do anything to or for us, other than creating us and sending us on our way. This is at direct odds with Washington's claims that "Providence" led the United States through the Revolution. In his prayers he asked for God to "interpose" on behalf of our country. He publicly gave thanks for the ways in which America had "experienced" God's hand. Washington cannot be a Deist, because he disagrees with the primary tenet of Deism.

I am not trying to say Washington was a fundamentalist Christian who wanted Christ at the right hand of the President. I'm just saying he was not a Deist.

I also noted in there that James Madison was not a Deist. For this, there is a lot less evidence, which is sorta my point: he actually comes off a lot more as an agnostic or atheist than a Deist. I've not seen one declaration of belief by him that leads me to believe he is a Deist; it seems the primary evidence in this regard is simply that he had some critical things to say about Christianity and was a strong advocate for separation of church and state, and so people label him as Deist by default. That's not how history is done.

I also mentioned John Adams was not a Deist. Of this, there is no doubt. Of course, that doesn't stop a bunch of loons from actually claiming Adams was a Deist, but there's not a jot of truth in it. Like Madison, Adams too had many criticisms of the church, and was a strong proponent of religious liberty. But this is not unlike Martin Luther, and is not evidence of Deism. You could certainly claim Adams was not a conventional Christian (he was a Unitarian, and did not believe in the divinity of Christ), but he was, like Washington, no Deist.

My favorite misquote of Adams is the one that says Adams claimed Christianity is "the most bloody religion that ever existed." In fact, he never did. What he said (in a letter to F. A. Van der Kemp on 27 December 1816) was, "As I understand the Christian religion, it was, and is, a revelation. But how has it happened that millions of fables, tales, legends, have been blended with both Jewish and Christian revelation that have made them the most bloody religion that ever existed." He was speaking directly of the -- in his eyes -- false religion that has sprung up around true Christianity, not true Christianity itself, which he defended twent years earlier as "above all the Religions that ever prevailed or existed in ancient or modern Times, the Religion of Wisdom, Virtue, Equity, and humanity, let the Blackguard Paine say what he will; it is Resignation to God, it is Goodness itself to Man." slashdot.org

Leave a comment

<pudge/*> (pronounced "PudgeGlob") is thousands of posts over many years by Pudge.

"It is the common fate of the indolent to see their rights become a prey to the active. The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance; which condition if he break, servitude is at once the consequence of his crime and the punishment of his guilt."

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by pudge published on February 12, 2007 10:11 AM.

Ask Pudge 23: MTP: Colbert and Chris Hedges was the previous entry in this site.

CNN's Barbara Starr: Iran's Judith Miller! is the next entry in this site.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.