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The Faiths of Our Fathers: What America's Founders Really Believed

3.47  ·  Rating details ·  199 ratings  ·  40 reviews
Throughout our nation's history, the religious beliefs of America's founders have been contested and misunderstood. Did our founders advocate Christianity or atheism? In The Faiths of Our Fathers, widely acclaimed historian Alf J. Mapp, Jr. cuts through the historical uncertainty to accurately portray the religious beliefs of eleven of America's founding fathers, including ...more
Paperback, 184 pages
Published September 28th 2005 by Rowman & Littlefield Publishers (first published January 1st 1955)
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Jul 15, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
To his credit, the author does a good job of showing how many of the founding fathers had grown up in a system where there was in fact a state religion, and how that had led to the persecution of those of other faiths. Of particular note are several mentions of how Baptists suffered under the Anglican state religion, and how they were strong supporters of the separation of church and state, going so far as to reject offers of state sponsorship from those who sought to retain a link between ...more
Dave Dentel
Mar 22, 2020 rated it really liked it

Of all the things one could claim about Americas Founding Fathers, among the least controversial is to assert that their bold experiment in democracy also brought about expanded civil liberties--most notably for religious freedom.

But what inspired this achievement? More to the point, just what sort of personal faith did these men adhere to, and how did it affect them?

Over the past two-and-a-half centuries this question has inspired countless inquiries and no small amount of debate--especially
Jul 06, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I really like the idea of this book. The religion of our Founding Fathers has been a constant debate since they signed the Declaration of Independence. Some believe they were devout Christians who designed our nation to follow Judeo-Christian values. Others hold that they were mostly deists who valued ethics over a closely followed faith. The truth is, the founders represented a wide spectrum of religious faith. But this debate rages on and nearly 250 years later, we still argue over religion's ...more
Feb 22, 2012 rated it really liked it
Very interesting insight into the religious landscape in the years leading up to our declaration of independence. The author makes a strong case for the following ideas:
There was already a plethora of religious sects, cults, and mainstream denominations, but religious practice was rather different than much of what we see today. The Founders were a diverse group, but all a product of the norm of the times, i.e. state sponsored religion. Each of the colonies was formed around one primary
Kevin Shepherd
While no author is completely free of bias, Alf Mapp's leanings are unapologetically clear. In most cases, his conclusions are supported by valid but carefully selected snippets of correspondence, journals and speeches. In other instances, his essay on Benjamin Franklin for example, the database is more vague.

I also found it oddly convenient that the author elected to include rather obscure statesmen like Haym Salomon and Charles Carroll and ignored the likes of Thomas Paine and Ethan Allen.

Michael Anderson
Oct 15, 2018 rated it it was ok
2 stars out of 5. Disappointing. Famous and obscure heroes of the revolutionary war are given separate chapters that provide biographical information and religious tendencies, not always in equal measure. Where is Burr? Monroe? Who is Carroll? Salomon? I expected some description of the arguments and events that led to the religion/state separation clause in the first amendment. I didnt get anything like that, though I would have liked some verification that evangelical sects supported the ...more
Roland W.
Oct 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Brief, but highly informative survey of the religious beliefs of several of our countries founding fathers. The diversity of their religious consciences, social backgrounds and growing belief that freedom from tyranny could be attained through only one avenue led to the war for independence and the creation of some of the greatest governing documents in human history. Highly recommended.
Erik Ryberg
Oct 11, 2018 rated it it was ok
The book seems to lose a bit of focus on the role of religion and become a series of biographies. These biographies are quite interesting and of some figures that are not so well-known amongst the general public. If you are looking to deepen your knowledge of these figures it is a worthwhile reader which may cause you to seek out more about their lives or the time period.
May 16, 2014 rated it liked it
The Faiths Of Our Fathers is written by Alf J. Mapp, Jr. (2003©). Mapp is a colonial historian and this book is somewhat interesting in providing context about the differences in beliefs across the colonies. Other than that, my own belief is that the author is biased towards Christian beliefs and caries this bias across in his writing. The book attempts to offer a Catholic (Charles Carroll of Carrollton) and a Jew (Haym Solomon) as secondary evidence that one (an American of historical ...more
Jul 26, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: religious, history
This book is a useful little compendium of information on the most prominent founding fathers and their religious beliefs, but I was not wowed by this book as a serious work of history. This is essentially just a collection of well known information, conveniently categorized for the reading, but demonstrating no particular scholarship or analysis of the information. Historical interpretation in this book is at a minimum, which, considering the kinds of flimsy and essentially useless conclusions ...more
Mike Emett
Oct 15, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Anyone who thinks this book disproves the Right's belief of religious minded or influenced Founders are just plain dumb. The book proves that, for the ones the author chose (who knows why more are not included, I do not know) all had a belief in God and religion and were influenced by religion and faith and wanted everyone to have theirs protected. This book disproves the Leftist notion that religion and faith had no role or influence. I learned much from this book. I learned that the Founder's ...more
Sep 01, 2008 rated it it was ok
The book had some interesting information about religion in pre-Revolutionary America...and particularly in the lives of several of the Founding Fathers. However, I do not think that the author stayed focused on his topic. Also, the book was not well-edited. Several times, I found the same idea conveyed more than once within the same story. As if the author wrote it in one place and decided to move it to another place and then it was never removed from the original place.

There was definitely
Chris Burd
This is a series of independent essays about the religious or spiritual faith of some of the prominent founding fathers. You could pick up the book and read any of the chapters independently, as they don't have a connected narrative that must be followed consecutively.

I'm tempted to criticize, as there were a few chapters that focused very heavily on biographical details that had little to do with the faith of the subject and seemed to be out of place - and yet I just generally really enjoyed
William Smith
Mar 18, 2010 rated it really liked it
I picked up this book as an impulse buy Noble from the Books for Grads table as I was checking out of Barnes & Noble last month. The fact that Mapp has done the research from original writings for each of the founders he discusses, and bases his conclusions on this information made the book a worthwhile read for me. I have read a least one biography on most of the founders he discusses; several on some of them. It is my opinion that his conclusions are right on target. And, it is an easy ...more
May 21, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: history
We seem to be hearing more and more that the Constitution was developed on religious principles and that the drafters wanted religion well embedded in our government.

Read this and have the lie put that that thinking. There was a big range of religious practice among the drafters, with some being barely observant. What they had in common was a firm belief in the separation of church and state. While there were some religious references in the Constitution, the intent cannot be in doubt.

By the
Christopher Carbone
Jun 06, 2013 rated it liked it
Well-done book that explains the faith of the Founding Fathers of the United States and shows how few (if any) would be categorized as Christian in todays day and age and how many would probably be atheists or agnostic. However, the book also shows how all of these men separated themselves from their beliefs to make the US a secular nation to grow forever separate and ap[art from any church. It also dispels many myths around the founders and their faiths (ie: the nonsensical idea that Washington ...more
Christian Dibblee
Jan 03, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: american-history
This is not a book that will radically change your understanding of history, but it does provide much-needed background on a topic that is directly important to how our nation was founded. I also liked that the author included some lesser known Fathers. He also did a wonderful job presenting the religious views of each figure within the boundaries of their personal biographical story. Definitely a good survey on the subject, and a very slim volume for easy reading.
Tim Titolo
So the founding fathers were not all church going extreme right conservatives. SO how should the constitution be interpreted and applied. I side with the view that it must be molded issue by issue into what is called for by the times and the case. That, I believe, is what the founding fathers provided for.
Gerry Connolly
Aug 11, 2015 rated it liked it
In Faiths of our Father's Alf Mapp, Jr. has written a concise summation of the religious impulses of the Founders. Hard to make the case they founded a Christian nation. They were Deists, agnostics, Anglicans, Unitarians, Jews, Congregationalists and Catholics. They wanted no established religion ...more
Mar 24, 2011 rated it liked it
This book provided interesting insights into the religious thoughts and pursuits of our founding fathers. Although most did not belong to a specific denomination, they were seekers of truth and I enjoyed reading their writings and feelings.
Kevin Thompson
I'm not sure the book is 100% historically accurate and I am left with the impression that the author is not very familiar with Evangelical Christianity. Yet, it's probably worth the read as it gives quite a different perspective on the Founders, at least much of which is probably true...
Apr 10, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
Important information about our founding fathers that is never taught.
Donovan Walling
Dec 04, 2008 rated it really liked it
Brief but interesting and authoritative reading about the religious beliefs and influences of the men who founded the United States.
May 30, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: scholarly-works
A decent, if very basic and sometimes simplistic, look at religion & the founders.
Jan 12, 2015 rated it liked it
A good overview of the beliefs of the founding fathers. It needs to be more in depth with better sources as evidence for their belief systems.
Jan 30, 2013 rated it liked it
I found the book to be a an entertaining read. However, I feel the author strayed from the point of the book often, that being the religious beliefs of the founding fathers.
Connie Landry
Sep 02, 2010 rated it it was ok
It did not have as much information regarding the founder's beliefs as I thought it would. The information is sparse and he talks about a lot of their political accomplishments.
Sep 06, 2010 rated it really liked it
A solid educational read, well worth picking up if you're in the mood to learn more about this nation's forefathers.
Feb 07, 2012 rated it liked it
Interesting light read. Insightful if you wish to understand the religious evolution of some well known, as well as less known, Founding Fathers.
Apr 20, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fairly well written. Unfortunately, the author misses treating all of his subjects equally.
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