Moral Minority by Brooke Allen
Our Skeptical Founding Fathers

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Synopsis

In her lively refutation of modern claims about America's religious origins, Brooke Allen looks back at the late eighteenth century and shows decisively that the United States was founded not on Christian principles at all but on Enlightenment ideas. Moral Minority presents a powerful case that the unique legal framework the Founding Fathers created was designed according to the humanist ideals of Enlightenment thinkers: God entered the picture only as a very minor player, and Jesus Christ was conspicuous by his absence. The guiding spirit of the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution, Ms. Allen explains, was not Jesus Christ but John Locke. In direct and accessible prose, she provides fascinating chapters on the religious lives of the six men she considers the key Founding Fathers: Franklin, Washington, John Adams, Jefferson, Madison, and Hamilton. Far from being the conventional pious Christians we too often imagine, these men were skeptical intellectuals, in some cases not even Christians at all. Moral Minority presents unforgettable images of our iconic founders: Jefferson taking a razor to the Bible and cutting out every miraculous and supernatural occurrence; Washington rewriting speeches others had crafted for him, so as to omit all references to Jesus Christ; Franklin and Adams confiding their doubts about Christ's divinity; Madison expressing deep disapproval over the appointment of chaplains to Congress and the armed forces, and of what we would now call "faith-based" initiatives. Enlivened by generous portions of the founders' own incomparable prose, Moral Minority makes an impassioned and scintillating contribution to the ongoing debate—more heated now than ever before—over the separation of church and state and the role (or lack thereof) of religion in government.
 

About Brooke Allen

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Brooke Allen is a book critic whose work has appeared in numerous publications including The Atlantic Monthly, The New Criterion, The New York Times Book Review, The Wall Street Journal, and The Hudson Review. A collection of her essays, Twentieth-Century Attitudes, will be published in 2003.
 
Published August 31, 2006 by Ivan R. Dee. 256 pages
Genres: History, Political & Social Sciences, Religion & Spirituality, War, Law & Philosophy. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Moral Minority

Kirkus Reviews

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Allen, a journalist and literary critic (Artistic License: Three Centuries of Good Writing and Bad Behavior, 2004), has academic credentials (Ph.D., Columbia Univ.) and employs them vigorously in her analysis of the religious experiences and beliefs of six American icons: Franklin, Washington, Ad...

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The New York Times

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And in 1786, the year before the Constitutional Convention constructed the regime, Jefferson, in the preamble to the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, proclaimed that “our civil rights have no dependence on our religious opinions, any more than our opinions in physics or geometry.” Since th...

Oct 22 2006 | Read Full Review of Moral Minority: Our Skeptical...

The New York Times

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Not since the medieval church baptized, as it were, Aristotle as some sort of early — very early — church father has there been an intellectual hijacking as audacious as the attempt to present America’s principal founders as devout Christians.

Oct 22 2006 | Read Full Review of Moral Minority: Our Skeptical...

Publishers Weekly

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In this study of the religious lives of six framers of the Constitution, which began as an article in The Nation, Allen (Twentieth-Century Attitudes) ably demonstrates the uncontroversial thesis that many of the founding fathers were not very devout.

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BC Books

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Moral Minority: Our Skeptical Founding Fathers is a book that will probably set off both the Christian fundamentalists and the fundamentalist left as it seeks to tell the story of what the founding fathers of the United States truly believed theistically - or whether they believed in God at all.

Mar 01 2007 | Read Full Review of Moral Minority: Our Skeptical...

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