Ben Franklins Religion


Although in his Autobiography Benjamin Franklin claims that at a young age he "became a thorough Deist" (1359), Franklin saw God as much more than a blind watchmaker. Among his frequent references to practicality, reason, and the value of experimental science, Franklin's metaphysical beliefs [2] easily get lost, especially as he distances himself theologically from colonial Christian doctrines. It becomes convenient but incorrect to let Franklin's "virtue" stand apart from his religious beliefs. Franklin maintained a firm belief, however, in "a Being of infinite Wisdom, Goodness and Power" (165) [3], a God who by "providence" [4] acts frequently in the world, a power who could and would ...

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to perform our own good actions. [6] Primarily these good actions arise out of thanksgiving to God. [7] While Franklin believes that these good actions procure God's favor (168) in that God loves those of us who "do good to others" (179), [8] Franklin recognizes that most of his countrymen would not agree with this formulation of theology, a kind of streamlined, doctrine-free Christianity in which the question of Christ's divinity makes no difference. [9] As a result, in his writings Franklin tends to stress the usefulness of virtue and virtuous deeds apart from any mention of theology. He elevates to the level of doctrine "That Virtuous Men ought to league together to strengthen the Interest of Virtue, in the World" (179), thus placing virtue in the context of a human community which both encourages it and exercises it. [10] Indeed Franklin's theology claims God's favor not for those with right beliefs, but for those with right actions. He asserts that God prefers "Doers of the ...

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one informing the other, and reason informing both. It is to this concordance of faith and reason with which I conclude, [16] by focusing on a self-described turning point in Franklin's religious and moral life: his adoption of his own "Articles of Belief and Acts of Religion" in 1728 (a kind of liturgy, 83 ff.). In his Autobiography, he writes of his disgust with the preaching of doctrine rather than virtue, his abandonment of Presbyterianism, and the cessation of his church attendance (1382, 1383). To replace these, Franklin simultaneously, or within a short span of time—it is nearly a continuous thought in Part Two of the Autobiography, and collapsed into one sentence in Part ...

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Added: 10/3/2004 12:55:03 PM
Category: Biographies
Words: 1917
Pages: 7

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