The role Christianity played in the founding period is often a subject of considerable debate, particularly for those on the Left who would want Americans to forget the founding generation. Leftists will often cherry-pick quotations that “show” the founding generation was anti-Christian or at the very least suspicious of religion in public life.
Most often Thomas Jefferson’s “Bible” or James Madison’s views on the “separation of church and state” are held as concrete evidence that all of the members of the founding generation thought the same way. That’s funny, because these same people will often scream things like, “The Founding Fathers never agreed on anything, so you right wingers can’t claim them as your own!” Yet, the question of religion in the founding generation is a nice case study of how that generation generally did agree on fundamental principles.
The question should not be if the founding generation were Christians, because most were, it should be which members of the founding generation are being used as examples.
Fifty of the 55 delegates to the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in 1787 were practicing Christians. Benjamin Franklin—often used as a great non-Christian “example” by the Left—praised his Christian sister in letters for her devotion to the faith and during the Constitutional Convention called for daily prayer to help move the business of the group. Jefferson had his “Bible,” but he never published it in his lifetime for fear of reprisal from the Virginia community and he never let it be known publically that he was a “non-Christian.”
Madison consistently argued for the separation of church and state, but considered a career in the ministry as a young man. And for every Jefferson or Madison or Franklin, there were at least a handful of members of the founding generation who were pious Christians. Many of them are not household names because they didn’t leave the same written legacy as their more famous counterparts, but they had as much of a role in shaping the state and federal governments as Jefferson, Madison, or Franklin