The Corner

Skeptics

Rick, You’re the last person who I’ll tangle with over the founding fathers, but I think that the key here may be our different understandings of what is meant by “skeptic,” which is not, at least to me, a synonym for either atheist or agnostic, although a skeptical disposition can certainly lead people in the latter direction (less so in the case of atheism – there’s more than a touch of the ayatollah about the likes of Richard Dawkins). The leading founders were, as you say, deists, although as you know, in the 18th Century that was a fairly loose term, and, quite often either a simple cop-out or a tactically wise nod to the conventions of the time. So far as the beliefs of Christianity itself was concerned, a good number of founders were undeniably skeptical, even if, like many Englishmen of that era, they would have seen themselves as culturally, ethically and tribally Christian. They would not have wanted Christianity driven out of the public square, but they would, however, have wanted it to know its place.

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