The primary leaders of the so-called founding fathers of our nation were not Bible-believing Christians; they were deists. Deism was a philosophical belief that was widely accepted by the colonial intelligentsia at the time of the American Revolution. Its major tenets included belief in human reason as a reliable means of solving social and political problems and belief in a supreme deity who created the universe to operate solely by natural laws. The supreme God of the Deists removed himself entirely from the universe after creating it. They believed that he assumed no control over it, exerted no influence on natural phenomena, and gave no supernatural revelation to man. A necessary consequence of these beliefs was a rejection of many doctrines central to the Christian religion. Deists did not believe in the virgin birth, divinity, or resurrection of Jesus, the efficacy of prayer, the miracles of the Bible, or even the divine inspiration of the Bible. These beliefs were forcefully articulated by Thomas Paine in Age of Reason, a book that so outraged his contemporaries that he died rejected and despised by the nation that had once revered him as 'the father of the American Revolution.'... Other important founding fathers who espoused Deism were George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, Ethan Allen, James Madison, and James Monroe. [The Christian Nation Myth, 1999]
Some volumes against Deism fell into my hands ... they produced an effect precisely the reverse to what was intended by the writers; for the arguments of the Deists, which were cited in order to be refuted, appeared to me much more forcibly than the refutation itself; in a word, I soon became a thorough Deist.
The Founding Fathers were more deists. If you had to categorize them as anything. There was some sort of moving prime force. But it's an impersonal force. Some people call it Nature. Certainly not this personal god who you have a personal relationship with, who listens to your prayers and answers them, or doesn't. You know, not the silly stuff that most Americans believe because we're such a dumb nation.
Amongst other strange things said of me, I hear it is said by the deists that I am one of the number; and indeed, that some good people think I am no Christian. This thought gives me much more pain than the appellation of Tory; because I think religion of infinitely higher importance than politics; and I find much cause to reproach myself that I have lived so long, and have given no decided and public proofs of my being a Christian. But, indeed, my dear child, this is a character which I prize far above all this world has, or can boast.
The instructor has to teach history, cosmogony, psychology, ethics, the laws of nations. How can he do it without saying anything favorable or unfavorable about the beliefs of evangelical Christians, Catholics, Socinians, Deists, pantheists, materialists, or fetish worshipers, who all claim equal rights under American institutions? His teaching will indeed be "the play of Hamlet, with the part of Hamlet omitted."
In my judgment, the Deists were all successfully answered. The god of nature is certainly as bad as the God of the Old Testament. It is only when we discard the idea of a deity, the idea of cruelty or goodness in nature, that we are able ever to bear with patience the ills of life. I feel that I am neither a favorite nor a victim. Nature neither loves nor hates me.
Robert Green Ingersoll
Philosophers stretch the meaning of words until they retain scarcely anything of their original sense. They give the name of "God" to some vague abstraction which they have created for themselves; having done so they can pose before all the world as deists, as believers of God, and they can even boast that they have recognized a higher, purer concept of God, notwithstanding that their God is not nothing more than an insubstantial shadow and no longer the mighty personality of religious doctrines.
Of the six men who have done most to make America the wonder and the joy she is to all of us, not one could be the citizen of a government so constituted; for Washington and Franklin and Jefferson, certainly the three mightiest leaders in our early history, were heretics in their day, Deists, as men called them; and Garrison and Lincoln and Sumner, certainly the three mightiest in these later times, would all be disfranchised by the proposed amendment. Lincoln could not have taken the oath of office had such a clause been in the Constitution.
My Parents had early given me religious Impressions, and brought me through my Childhood piously in the Dissenting Way. But I was scarce 15 when, after doubting by turns of several Points as I found them disputed in the different Books I read, I began to doubt of Revelation itself. Some Books against Deism fell into my Hands; they were said to be the Substance of Sermons preached at Boyle's Lectures. It happened that they wrought an Effect on me quite contrary to what was intended by them: For the Arguments of the Deists which were quoted to be refuted, appeared to me much Stronger than the Refutations. In short I soon became a thorough Deist. [Part I, p. 45 of autobiography]
A few years ago the Deists denied the inspiration of the Bible on account of its cruelty. At the same time they worshiped what they were pleased to call the God of Nature. Now we are convinced that Nature is as cruel as the Bible; so that, if the God of Nature did not write the Bible, this God at least has caused earthquakes and pestilence and famine, and this God has allowed millions of his children to destroy one another. So that now we have arrived at the question - not as to whether the Bible is inspired and not as to whether Jehovah is the real God, but whether there is a God or not.
Robert G. Ingersoll