The Religion of America
In the widely-acclaimed book “The 5,000 Year Leap”, W. Cleon Skousen describes “the religion of America” from the perspective of the Founding Fathers. Each of these quotations are taken from the book.
Several of the Founders have left us with descriptions of their basic religious beliefs, and Benjamin Franklin summarized those which he felt were the “fundamental points in all sound religion.” This is the way he said it in a letter to Ezra Stiles, president of Yale University:
Here is my creed: I believe in one God, the Creator of the universe. That he governs it by his providence. That he ought to be worshipped. That the most acceptable service we render to him is in doing good to his other children. That the soul of man is immortal, and will be treated with justice in another life respecting its conduct in this. These I take to be the fundamental points in all sound religion.
The five points of fundamental religious belief expressed or implied in Franklin’s statement are these:
- There exists a Creator who made all things, and mankind should recognize and worship Him.
- The Creator has revealed a moral code of behavior for happy living which distinguishes right from wrong.
- The Creator holds mankind responsible for the way they treat each other.
- All mankind live beyond this life.
- In the next life mankind are judged for their conduct in this one.
All five of these tenets run through practically all of the Founders’ writings. These are the beliefs which the Founders sometimes referred to as the “religion of America,” and they felt these Fundamentals were essential in providing “good government and the happiness of mankind.”
Samuel Adams said that this group of basic beliefs which constitute “the religion of America is the religion of all mankind.” In other words, these fundamental beliefs belong to all world faiths and could therefore be taught without being offensive to any sect or denomination as indicated in the Virginia bill for establishing elementary schools.
John Adams called these basic beliefs the “general principles” on which the American civilization had been founded.
Thomas Jefferson called these basic beliefs the principles “in which God has united us all.”
Although Benjamin Franklin’s description does not describe all religious organizations in America, the Wesley Center promotes the full freedom of conscience which ultimately protects all people, whether religious or secular, in their freedom to choose and act on their beliefs. We recognize that the power used to eliminate the freedom of conscience of unpopular groups is the same power capable of destroying the freedom of conscience for all.