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tv   Benjamin Franklins Faith  CSPAN  August 5, 2021 6:11pm-6:58pm EDT

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is the point." and at 10:00 p.m. eastern on "afterwards," conservative podcaster and journalist, ben shapiro, discusses his new book "the authoritarian moment" in which he argues the progressive left is pushing an authoritarian agenda in america. he is interviewed by nationally-syndicated radio talk show host. watch every weekend on c-span2 # and find a full schedule on your program guide or visit >> next, on american history tv, remarks by baylor university history professor, thomas kidd, on benjamin franklin's religious faith. this discussion was part of a symposium hosted by the museum of the bible in washington, d.c. it's 45 minutes. good morning, everyone. and welcome to museum of the bible. i'm kay and i am the director of
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museum education. we are delighted that you've joined us today for our february speaker series program titled "the bible and america's founders." our program consists of three sessions which will be followed by a roundtable discussion, later on this afternoon. and following the roundtable discussion, we'll have a book signing with our speakers. at museum of the bible, our mission is to engage people with the bible. the bible has made a powerful impact on world history and cultures. it has influenced nations, laws, and political structures. it's guided debates, shaped political -- shaped pivotal events, and inspired views of prominent individuals, both past and present. the bible is hidden in plain sight in everyday life from common expressions that we all use to the music, the arts, and literature. and today, we'll explore a theme that expands on how the american colonies, as they moved toward revolution and the founding of
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our nation, our founders turned to the bible as a source of inspiration and justification for their political actions. we have three prominent scholars with us today. dr. thomas kidd. dr. daniel driesbeck, and dr. james bird who will talk with us about how the bible influenced the founding generation. our first session is the enigma of ben franklin's faith with thomas kidd. he tells us in his autobiography that he came a deist as a young man. yet, at the constitutional convention in 1787, franklin proposed that delegates open sessions with prayer. in this session, thomas kidd will explore the enigma of franklin's faith and the tension between his well-known skepticism and the enduring influence of his puritan upbringing on his familiarity with the bible. thomas kidd is a distinguished professor of history at baylor university and associate director of baylor's institute for studies of religion.
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he is the author of "benjamin franklin the religious life of a founding father." please, join me in welcoming dr. kidd. [ applause ] >> well, thank you to kay and thank you to the museum of the bible for hosting this wonderful event. it's -- it's a pleasure to be here, at the -- at the museum. i hope to -- to consult with some of the section on bible in america and it's -- it's just a wonderful thing to actually be here, and see this lovely facility. so, thank you for having us. and thank you, to those of you who are joining us online or on tv. it's great to be here. i do want to talk to you, today, about the enigma of ben franklin's faith. and to open with a story of something that happened at the constitutional convention. in 1787, at the constitutional convention, time dragged as
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delegates bickered about representation in congress. um, virginia's james madison insisted that states with more people should possess more power. the small states knew that, under the articles of confederation, america's existing national government, all states had equal authority, regardless of population. so why should the small states give up that power under a new constitution? the convention might have failed, at this point. um, it really could have and if it had, the country would have continued to struggle under the inefficient and some said feckless articles government. or the new-american nation might have disintegrated. at this critical moment, the octogenarian, ben franklin, took the floor calling for unity. he asked delegates to open sessions with prayer.
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as they were, quote, groping, as it were, in the dark defined political truth he queried, how has it happened that we have not hithered to once thought of humbly applying to the father of lights to illuminate our understandings? if they continued to ignore god, he said, our projects will be confounded. and we, ourselves, shall become a reproach and a byword down to future ages. this man, who called himself a deist, now insisted that delegates should ask god for wisdom. this was strange because classic deists did not believe that god intervened in human affairs. even more strange, he was one of the few delegates who thought that opening with prayer was a good idea. his motion was tabled. so, what kind of deist was this elderly man calling on america's greatest-political minds to
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humble themselves before god? franklin's work at the constitutional convention was the culmination of his spectacular career. he and george washington, who was 26 years his junior, were not the architects of the constitution. that role fell to james madison and alexander hamilton and others. but franklin and washington were the two most famous americans, in 1787. and delegates looked on franklin with respect and awe. there seemed little doubt that washington, the imposing-virginia general, would become president of the convention. if there was any com -- competitor for chair, it was the venerable franklin. the very heavens obey him, one georgia delegate noted. but franklin had planned to nominate washington as chair, himself, if a storm had not kept
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him home for the opening day of the meeting. this son of boston puritans had come a long way to get to the philadelphia meeting hall. he exchanged letters with his beloved sister, who was an evangelical christian and the sibling who maintained the longest correspondence with and the deepest influence on franklin. they reminisced about their humble beginnings as the children of a candle maker. she had remained a person of humble means and relative anonymity while her brother's fame skyrocketed. ben told her that the course of his life filled him with wonder and fills me with humble thankfulness to that divine being who has graciously conducted my steps. and prospered me in this strange land to a degree that i could not rationally have expected and
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can, by no means, conceive myself to have merited. i beg -- i beg the continuance of his favor. chronic sickness made it difficult for franklin to stand and speak at the convention. but he did offer occasional comments seeking to steer the delegates toward a successful conclusion. but early on, he also made a substantive speech arguing against paying a salary to the president or to other members of the executive branch. he based this argument on his dem view of human nature and of politicians' temptations to personal aggrandizement. quote, there are two passions which have a powerful influence in the affairs of men, he declared. these are ambition and avarice. the love of power and the love of money. placed before the eyes of such men, a post of honors that
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shall, at the same time, be a place of profit. and they will move heaven and earth to obtain it. such corruption had ruined british politics, and he wished to uncouple america's government from the profit motive. citing exodus 1821, franklin reminded delegates that the best rulers were men-hating covetousness. if you turn politics into an avenue for personal gain, he said, only the most bold and violent men would want to enter. less delegates dismiss his pay proposal as utopian. he cited examples of offices, in which people served for little or no money. the arbiters of quaker meetings heard disputes that would have, otherwise, gone to secular courts. these duties were tedious, yet quaker leaders performed them for no compensation. he also pointed to the virtuous
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washington, who took no salary as the general of the continental army. though, to be fair, he did submit expenses. the convention declined to adopt franklin's proposal. but franklin was participating in a bigger conversation that ran all through the constitutional debates. what kind of government could best account for the dangers inherent in human nature? although americans disagreed on the answer, they did not dispute the premise. men were not angels, as madison had written in federalist 51. they could not be trusted with unchecked power. franklin joined a more controversial debate at the convention with his proposal for prayer on june 28th, 1787. he had lived a long time, he reminded delegates. and he had become ever more certain that god oversaw human affairs. franklin was convinced that
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providence had shepherded americans through the revolutionary crisis. it was foolish not to call on god, again. he reminded them of the early days of the war when the patriots prayed. often, in that same room. for god's help. at its best, faith inculcated public spiritedness and it suffocated selfishness. god had led them to the point where they could now frame the best-possible government. and have we now forgotten that powerful friend, he asked? citing psalm 127, franklin said that, quote, except the lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it. furthermore, he declared, i firmly believe this. and i also believe that without his concurring aid, we shall succeed in this political building, no better than the
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builders of babble. and turn their proceedings into a farce. this was the most remarkable religious episode of ben franklin's life. it was stunning. and not just because of the stage on which he was proposing prayer. franklin, as i suggested before, was nearly alone among the delegates in wishing to bring prayer into the convention's proceedings. connecticut's roger sherman, one of the most devout christians in attendance, seconded franklin's motion. and virginia's edmond randolph proposed that they hire a pastor to preach on independence day less than a week later. that minister could then open subsequent meetings with prayer. beyond these three men, though, delegates seemed uninterested in arranging for prayers.
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someone pointed out that they had not budgeted funds for a chaplain. alexander hamilton worried that calling in a pastor might signal that the convention was becoming desperate. he, also, reportedly -- reportedly -- questioned the propriety of calling in foreign aid. so, the motion fizzled. and franklin was exasperated. jotting a note at the bottom of his prayer speech that, quote, the convention, except three or four persons, thought prayers unnecessary. well, franklin and the convention moved on. perhaps, this prayer speech did remind delegates of the need for compromise even if it prompted no formal recourse to god. in an address two days after proposing prayer, franklin explained the root of the tension between the large and the small states. if representation was proportioned according to
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population, quote, the small states contend their liberties will be in danger. if inequality of votes is to be put in its place, the large states say their money is in danger. both sides were going to have to give up some demands to ensure a successful outcome. so, drawing on earlier discussions regarding a two-house legislature, franklin suggested that the convention create a house of representatives with proportional representation. and a senate with equal representation between the states. and this became the great compromise. arguably, the key settlement of the whole convention. in his final speech before the convention, franklin warned against dogmatism which might derail the constitution. he saw this species of moralistic perfectionism, both, in religion and in politics.
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most men, indeed, as well as most sects and religion think themselves in possession of all truth. and that, wherever others differ from them, it is, so far, error. delegates should be willing to support the constitution, he said, even if they did not regard it as perfect. no better frame of government would emerge from additional meetings. franklin was, quote, not sure that it was not the best that they could do as it currently stood. the framers' enemies were longing to hear that their consoles had been confounded, quote, like those of the builders of babble. he returns, repeatedly, to the story of building of babyl from genesis. as the constitution went out for ratification, multiple forms of government could work well when administered by virtuous people, anyway.
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according to an oft-repeated story, when someone asks franklin after the convention whether they had created a monarchy or a republic, he replied, a republic, if you can keep it. so to return to our central question of franklin and faith. who was this franklin of philadelphia? and what did he believe? in our mind's eye, the man seems ingenious, mischievous, and enigmatic. his journalistic, scientific, and political achievements are clear. but what of ben franklin's religion? was franklin defined by his embrace of deism? his work with thomas jefferson
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on the declaration of independence and its invocations of the creator and of nature and nature's god. or his solitary insistence on prayer at the convention. when you add franklin's propensity for joking about serious matters, he becomes even more difficult to pin down. regarding franklin's chameleon-like religion, john adams once remarked that, quote, the catholics thought him almost a catholic. the church of england claimed him as one of them. the presbyterians thought him half a presbyterian. and the friends believed him a wet quaker. which basically means a quaker who's not so well behaved. um, the key, i think, to understanding franklin's ambivalent faith is the contrast between the skepticism of his adult life. and the indelible imprint of his
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childhood puritanism. the intense piety and faith of his parents acted as a tether. restraining franklin's skepticism. as a teenager, it's true, he abandoned his parents' puritan beliefs. but that same, traditional faith kept him from getting too far away. he would stretch his moral and doctrinal tether to the breaking point. by the end of a youthful sojourn he made, when he returned to philadelphia, he resolved to conform more closely to his parents' ethical code. and he steered away from extreme deism. could he craft a christianity centered on virtue, rather than traditional doctrine?
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and avoid alienating his parents, at the same time? more importantly, could he convince the evangelical figures in his life? most importantly, his sister jane and the revivalist, george whitfield, that all was well with his soul. he would have more success in time convincing his sister than convincing george whitfield. um, when he ran away from boston as a teenager. when he ran away to boston -- from boston to philadelphia, he also ran away from boston's calvinism. but many factors. his puritan tether. the pressure of relationships with christian friends and family. disappointments with his own integrity. repeated illnesses. and the growing weight of political responsibility. all kept him from going too deep into the dark woods of radical skepticism.
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franklin explored a number of religious opinions. even at the end of his life, as we will see, he remained noncommittal about all but a few points of belief. this elusiveness has made franklin susceptible to many religious interpretations. some devout christians, beginning with the celebrated 19th-century biographer, parson mason weems, have found ways to mold franklin into a faithful believer. weems opined that, quote, franklin's extraordinary benevolence and useful life were -- even unconsciously from the gospel. and there's something to this notion of christianity's unconscious effect on franklin. but weems had to employ indirection here because of franklin's repeated insistence
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that he doubted key points of christian doctrine. other christian writers could not overlook those skeptical statements. the english baptist minister, john foster, wrote in 1818 that love of the useful was the cornerstone of franklin's thought. and that franklin, quote, substantially rejected christianity. one of the most influential interpretations of franklin's religion appeared in max vaber's classic study the protestant ethic and the spirit of capitalism 1905. for vaber, franklin was a near-perfect example of how protestantism fostered modern capitalism. franklin's the way to wealth, 1758, which distilled his best thoughts on frugality and industry. illustrated the spirit of
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capitalism, vaber said, in near-classical purity and simultaneously offers the advantage of being detached from all direct connection to religious belief. for vaber, franklin's virtues were no longer a matter of just obeying god. virtue was, also, useful and profitable. franklin, admonished by his, quiet, strict calvinist father about diligence and one's calling presented money making and success as products of competence and proficiency and of vocation. vaber's franklin grew up in an intense calvinist setting but redirected that zeal toward virtuous labor in a profession, namely printing. there is a lot to recommend in vaber's portrait. as an adult, franklin touted ethical responsibility,
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industriousness and benevolence, even as he jettisoned christian orthodoxy. now, many recent scholars have taken franklin at his word by describing him as a deist. he -- he calls himself a deist in his autobiography so that's a decent place to start. others have -- other scholars have called him everything from a, quote, stone-cold atheist, which is ridiculous. he's not an atheist. to a man who believed in the quote active god of the israelites, the prophets, and the apostles. that's what another scholar says. so deism stands at the center of this interpretive continuum between atheism and christian devotion. but other than indicating skepticism about traditional-christian doctrine, deism could mean many things in 18th-century europe and america. it can mean many things. the beliefs of different deists
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didn't always sync up. some said that they believed in the bible, as originally written. other deists doubted the bible's reliability. some deists believe that god remained involved in life on earth. others saw god, yes, as the cosmic watchmaker. winding up the world. and then, letting it run on its own and going off somewhere else. deism meant different things to franklin over the course of his long life, too. and he didn't always explain those variant meanings. so i'm not opposed to calling franklin a deist. and -- and i do so in my book. but deist doesn't quite capture the texture or trajectory of franklin's beliefs. i, gratefully, draw from aspects of vaber's analysis and those of many other commentators on franklin's religion in my analysis of him. but adding to the themes of
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franklin's skepticism and ambivalence, my book shows how -- how much franklin's personal experiences shaped his religious beliefs. his personal experiences shaped his religious beliefs. like abraham lincoln, i think there's an important comparison to be made here to lincoln. franklin's early exposure to skeptical writings undermined his confidence in christianity. but books, alone, could not erase franklin's childhood emersion in puritan piety. his ongoing relationships with evangelical christians made it difficult for him to jettison the vocabulary, and precepts of traditional faith altogether. the weight of the american revolution fostered a renewed belief that history had a divine
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purpose. franklin and lincoln. both sons of calvinist parents. both of whom had much of the bible committed to memory. gravitated toward a revitalized sense of god's role over history as war and constitutional crises racked america in the 1770s for franklin. in the 1860s, for lincoln. neither man's beliefs could escape the influence of their daily relationships and stressful experiences. it is difficult to overstate just how deep an imprint the bible, itself, made on franklin's or on lincoln's mind. or on his ways of speaking and
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writing. you all know that even many devout christians, today, are basically unfamiliar with large sections of the bible. especially, in the old testament. um, and don't know much about current-theological debates. franklin knew the bible, backward and forward. it framed the way that he spoke and he thought. biblical phrases that he had learned going to church, over and over, long two-hour sermons sometimes, in puritan churches, multiple times a week. so, biblical phrases are everywhere in his vast body of -- of writings. so, even as he embraced religious doubts, the king james bible colored his ideas about morality, human nature, and the purpose of life. it served as his most common
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source of similes and anecdotes. it's everywhere. he even enjoyed praying on friends' ignorance of scripture in order to play jokes on them. he would show them a passage and say, oh, don't you remember this from the book of genesis? and they'd say, oh, yeah, right. and he'd laugh at them because he knew it wasn't in the book of genesis. and he got really upset one time when one of these things got published, because then everybody knew about the joke. he couldn't play the joke, anymore. um, franklin once explained the -- the bible-saturated environment in which he grew up to the reverend samuel cooper of boston. franklin was arranging for the publication of one of cooper's sermons in europe. but franklin needed to annotate the sermon with biblical references. this is what he said. quote, it was not necessary in new england, where everybody reads the bible and is acquainted with scripture phrases, that you should note
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the text from which you took them, he told cooper. but i have observed, in england, as well as in france, that verses and expressions taken from the sacred writings and not known to be such. in other words, you don't give the chapter and verse. appear very strange and awkward to some readers. and i shall, therefore, in my edition, take the liberty of marking the quoted text in the margin. now, franklin did not need cooper to insert the bible references because franklin knew them by heart. and as a child of the puritans, franklin, immediately, recognized bible phrases when he read them even from obscure sections of the text. so the shadow of scripture loomed over his long life. franklin, then, was a pioneer, i think, of a distinct kind of
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american -- distinct kind of american religion. i'm tempted to call it an early form of what robert bella called sheilaism. sheilaism, which was the individualist religion described in bella's celebrated book, "habits of the heart" 1985. and if you haven't heard of this, in bella's sheilaism, the individual conscience is the standard for religious truth, not any external authority. but i think that franklin's protégé, tom paine, might be a better choice. with paine's declaration in his book "the age of reason," 1794 that, quote, my own mind is my own church. so, i -- i think franklin was too tethered to external-christian ethics and institutions to be a forerunner of what bella called sheilaism. instead, franklin was a pioneer of a related kind of faith. and that is what i call
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doctrineless moralized christianity. doctrineless moralized christianity. some may debate whether this is actually christianity, at all. but you all can think about this for -- for yourself. franklin was an experimenter, at heart, and he tinkered with a novel form of christianity. one where virtually all beliefs became nonessential. nonessential. so, the puritans of his childhood focused too much on doctrine, he thought. and he wearied of philadelphia presbyterians' zeal for expelling the -- in the mandates of love and charity. for franklin, christianity remained a preeminent resource for virtue but he had no exclusive attachment to christianity as a religious system or as a source of salvation.
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in franklin's estimation, we cannot know, for certain, whether doctrines such as god's trinitarian nature are true. but we do know, franklin said, that christians and the devout of all faiths are called to benevolence in selfless service. doctrinal strife, he said, is not only futile but it undermines virtue. if you haven't noticed, doctrineless christianity and doctrineless religion is utterly pervasive in america today. we see it most commonly in major-media figures, such as oprah winfrey. um, who a different vain, houston mega church pastor,
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joel ostein. the common message of these authors and their countless followers, and i do mean countless followers, is that a life of love, service, and significance, is the best life of all. god will help you live that kind of life. but your faith should be empowering and tolerant, rather than fractious and knit-picking. that's what they say. sociologist christian smith at notre dame says that these characteristically-american beliefs amount to, what he calls, moralistic therapeutic deism. moralistic-therapeutic deism. many of its most prominent exponents, such as joel ostein, live out their faith in particular congregations and traditions. even oprah winfrey has testified that, quote, i am a christian. that is my faith. however, she says, i'm not
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asking you to be a christian. if you want to be one, i can show you how. but it is not required. doctrineless christians agree that people may need to believe in doctrines. our personal understanding of god can help us. we may need particular beliefs to enable our best life, now, in joel ostein's phrase. but ultimately, the focus of doctrineless christianity is a life of good works, resiliency, and generosity, now. faith helps us to embody discipline, benevolent success in this life. that's what god wants for us. well, today, it's kind of easy to dismiss this sort of pop faith because it's, so often, peddled by wealthy-media superstars. but it is, i think, america's most common code of spirituality.
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and for franklin, when you go back to the 18th century, doctrineless moralized christianity was serious intellectual business. it was very serious. born out of contemporary religious debates and dissatisfaction with his family's puritanism. like many skeptics in the 18th century, franklin was weary of 300 years of fighting over the legacy of the protestant reformation. much of that fighting concerned church authority, in particular doctrines. franklin grew up in a world of intractable conflict between catholics and protestants. but also, between and within protestant denominations, themselves. what good was christianity, he wondered, if it precipitated pettiness, persecution, and violence? unlike some self-help celebrities today, franklin and his cohort of european and
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american deists reckoned that, in promoting a doctrineless, ethics-focused christianity, they were redeeming christianity, itself. how successful that redemptive effort was? you all are going to have to decide, for yourselves. could you really have a nonexclusive, doctrinally-minimal, morality-centered christianity? or did the effort fatally compromise christianity, itself? franklin, thomas jefferson, and many of their friends in america, britain, and france, wanted to give it a try. 13 years after franklin's death, jefferson wrote that he considered himself, quote, a christian in the only sense jesus wished anyone to be. he admired jesus's, quote, moral doctrines as more pure and perfect than any other philosophers, jefferson said.
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but to jefferson, jesus's excellence was only human. jesus never claimed to be anything else, jefferson said. christians, including the authors of the new testament books, imposed the claims of divinity on jesus after he had gone to his grave and not risen, again, jefferson concluded. well, franklin didn't go as far as jefferson. franklin preferred not to dogmatize, one way or the other, on matters such as jesus's divinity. in a classic tension that still marks american religion right now, franklin's devout parents, his sister jane, and the reverend george whitfield, all, found doctrineless christianity to be dangerous. yes, they agreed that morality was essential. and yes, it was better not to find over minor theological issues. but true belief in jesus was
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necessary for salvation. to the puritans and evangelicals, jesus was fully god and fully man. doubting that truth puts your soul in jeopardy. jesus had made the way for sinners to be saved through his atoning death and his miraculous resurrection. it wasn't enough to just emulate jesus's life, as important as that was. more than a moral teacher, jesus was lord and savior. so, honoring christ required belief in doctrinal truth. franklin wasn't sure about that. perhaps, the puritans and presbyterians of his youth had gotten it wrong. perhaps, he was the one who was getting back to jesus's original teachings. but he was sure that doing good was the grand point.
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for most of his life, franklin had traditional-christian inquirers, especially family and friends, who asked him about the state of his believes and the state of his soul. as i've said, among the most con -- consistent of those inquirers were his sister, jane, and george whitfield. in the last few weeks of franklin's life, however, one more inquirer came on the stage. franklin had known yale-college president, ezra styles, ever since yale granted franklin an honorary-masters degree in 1753. styles, a congregationalist minister and a broad-minded calvinist, realized that franklin was near death. quote, you have merited and received all the honors of the republic of letters, and are going to a world where all
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glories will be lost in the glories of immortality, stiels styles wrote to him. but styles paused. would it be impertinent -- impertinent of him to ask about franklin's belief in christ? as much as i know of dr. franklin, styles confessed, i have not an idea of his religious sentiments. i wish to know the opinion of my venerable friend, concerning jesus of nazareth. styles adored franklin but he, still, wished franklin would have clear title to quote that happy immortality, which i believe jesus, alone, has purchased for the virtuous and truly good of every religious denomination. franklin respected styles. and so, five weeks before his death -- five weeks before his death -- he penned a response. it's absolutely precious that -- that we have this.
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and he asked styles to keep it confidential. apparently, he didn't, since we're talking about it here. you desire to know something of my religion. it is the first time i have been questioned upon it, franklin wrote. which is just simply not true. i don't know why he said that because his parents, jane, whitfield and others have been asking about it all his life. anyway, he said, but i do not take your curiosity amiss and shall endeavor in a few words to gratify it, he wrote. here is my creed. i believe in one god. creator of the universe. that he governs it by his providence. that he ought to be worshipped. that the most acceptable service we can render to him is doing good to his other children. that the soul of man is
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immortal. and will be treated with justice, in another life, respecting its conduct in this. so at the end of his life, franklin was a providentialist and he expected god would rule in a final judgment. so, pretty good. then, he continued. as to jesus of nazareth, my opinion of whom you particularly desire, i think the system of morals and his religion, as he left them to us, the best the world ever saw or is likely to see, franklin wrote. but he, still, had doubts. quote, i apprehend christ teachings have received various corrupting changes. in other words, he's not sure
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that he can trust what the new testament says about jesus's life and teachings. corrupting changes. and i have some doubts as to his divinity. though it is a question i do not dogmatize upon. there's that word, again. dogmatize. having never studied it. franklin never doubted how admiral christ's moral teachings were. he just didn't know if he could accept the new testament's doctrinal claims about jesus. franklin thought, quote, it needless to busy myself with it now when i expect, soon, an opportunity of knowing the truth with less trouble. there he goes joking, again, right? he knows he's going to be dead, soon. and he's going to go, and he's going to find out whether he was right or not. so in this life, um, he just
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wasn't sure whether he could know the truth about christ, the bible, salvation. um, but he was going to find out, soon. in spite of his qualms about traditional christianity, he saw, quote, no harm in it being believed. in it being believed if that belief has the good consequence, as it probably has, of making his doctrines -- jesus's doctrines more respected and better observed. so, you can believe, if you want. but for franklin, the point was never just belief but virtuous action. moralized christianity. i shall only add respecting myself, he concluded his letter to styles, that having experienced the goodness of that being in conducting me prosperously through a long life. i have no doubt of its continuance in the next.
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though, without the smallest conceit of meriting such goodness. god had always been good to him, franklin said. and he saw no reason to think that god's kindness would stop when he died. and die, he did, on april 17th, 1790. and he left -- when he died, he left the enigma of his faith unresolved. but in his code of doctrineless moralized christianity, franklin became the founding father of perhaps the most pervasive kind of spirituality in the western world, today. thank you very much. [ applause ]
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>> weekends on c-span2 are an intellectual feast. every saturday, american history tv documents america's story. and on sundays, book tv brings you the latest in nonfiction books in authors. funding for c-span2 comes from these television companies and more, including comcast. >> comcast, along with these television companies, support c-span2 as a public service. next on american history tv. american university professor, daniel dreisbach looks at the bible's contributions to the u.s. constitutional and judicial systems. this talk was part of a symposium hosted by the museum of the bible in washington, d.c.


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