George Washington & Religion

George Washington & Religion

George Washington & Religion

George Washington & Religion

Excerpt

The place of religion in the life and thought of George Washington has long deserved careful examination. Perhaps nothing about Washington has been so thoroughly clouded by myth, legend, misunderstanding, and misrepresentation as his religious outlook. Literature on the subject (as on every other aspect of his life) has, of course, been voluminous. Since the early nineteenth century hundreds of books, pamphlets, articles, sermons, orations, and essays discussing Washington's religion have been published. Few of them, however, have been characterized by the spirit of detachment, and none of them by the comprehensiveness of scope needed to enable us to understand with precision and in depth what Washington's religious opinions were and how they affected his attitude toward religious freedom, the rights of conscience, and the relations between church and state in the young American nation.

Students of American intellectual history, for obvious reasons, have not, in the main, regarded Washington as a fruitful subject of inquiry. He was not, after all, an "intellectual" in the sense that Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Paine, and John Adams can be considered "intellectuals." Still, the very fact that Washington never articulated his views in an orderly fashion, as Franklin, Jefferson, Paine, and Adams did from time to time, makes the investigation of his opinions all the more challenging. Washington did have definite opinions on religion and he expressed them . . .

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