Darrin M McMahon

Faith of the Founders

Nature’s God: The Heretical Origins of the American Republic

By

W W Norton 566pp £17.99 order from our bookshop

Sometime in the second half of the 18th century, Benjamin Franklin wrote to an acquaintance with advice on the subject of attacking religion in North America: ‘He that spits against the wind, spits in his own face.’ The acquaintance in question may or may not have been Thomas Paine, whose provocative tract The Age of Reason elicited similar responses from those of America’s Founding Fathers who knew which way the wind blew. John Adams was arguably the most direct, though he was hardly an anomaly. ‘The Christian religion’, he noted in his diary in 1796, ‘is, above all the religions that ever prevailed or existed in ancient or modern times, the religion of wisdom, virtue, equity and humanity, let the Blackguard Paine say what he will.’

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • 'It would be nice to think that women will achieve equal pay in my lifetime, rather than to watch gloomily as stati… ,
    • In 1660, two of the signatories of King Charles I's death warrant fled across the Atlantic to New England. But were… ,
    • Howard Jacobson's sixteenth novel is 'a love story of sorts, one characterised not by physical desire or even conta… ,
    • 'The sudden immersion in the new and unfamiliar can lead people to write with a rare lack of self-consciousness' P… ,
    • 'Pools bend the rules. Clothes slip off, skin glistens, consciousness heightens. A dreamlike scenario unfolds' Jam… ,
    • 'Although he surely didn’t know W H Auden’s theory that every high C proclaims human freedom and our capacity to tr… ,
    • RT : With beginning tomorrow, we've uncovered a 1997 article from the archive reviewing 'Golf Dream… ,