John Adams

Scholarly analysis and quotes that demonstrate that our founding fathers were more likely Religious Deists than traditional Christians

“At one point in early Christianity, the majority of Christians did not believe in the doctrine of the Trinity. Citing such passages as Proverbs 8:22, Colossians 1:15, and John 14:28, they believed that God was a unipersonality to whom Jesus was subordinate.” (Holmes P. 73) Adams believed the same.

“Driven from the empire, the anti-Trinitarians gradually disappeared. They revived in the Reformation period, though persecuted by Protestants and Roman Catholics alike. By the 17th century, the term “Unitarian” had begun to replace “anti-Trinitarian” as a description of the movement.” (Holmes P. 76) And Adams was a Universalist Unitarian.

“In eastern New England, Unitarianism emerged in the later 18th century in combination with Enlightenment thought. It also grew as a reaction against the revivalist emotionalism of the Great Awakening.” (Holmes P. 76) And Adam was one of its members.

“To orthodox Christians, they (Unitarians) were heretics, but in their own minds they were restorers of the primitive Christianity that had existed prior to the Trinitarian definitions of the 4th century.” (Holmes P. 76) – This was John Adams religion.

“When the Continental Congress was meeting John Adams, George Washington and others attended afternoon mass at St. Mary´s Church, one of Philadelphia´s two Roman Catholic Churches.” (Holmes P. 2)

“None of the founding fathers was an evangelical, although Madison attended a moderately evangelical Episcopal Church in the last years of his life. In fact, James Monroe was offended by an evangelical sermon during his presidential tour of 1817, and John Adams belonged to the anti-Great Awakening was Congregationalism – much of which later became Unitarian.” (Holmes P. 31)

“Adams was the first President who was a Unitarian – a faith that, in Adam´s case, could be described with some accuracy as “Christian Deism” (Holmes P. 73) - Since the time of Adams, Unitarianism has broadened in America to include schools of thought that view themselves as neither theistic nor Christian. In the 18th and early 19th centuries, however, it was a form of supernaturalist Christianity that taught that God was one –a unit – and not three –a tri-unit.” (Holmes P. 73)

“Like other Deists, however, Adams substituted a simpler, less mysterious form of Christianity for the Christianity he had inherited. Reading and reflection caused him to discard such beliefs as the Trinity, the divinity of Christ, total depravity, and predestination. God, he declared, “has given us Reason, to find out the Truth, and the real Design and true End of our Existence.” Thus he asserted that humans should study nature and use reason to learn about God and his creation.” (Holmes P. 78)

“All of this displays the blend of Unitarian Christianity and rational thought that was the religion of John Adams. Like many of his contemporaries, he brought the religion in which he was raised into the court of his reason and common sense and judged it by what he found.” (Holmes P. 78)

“Let the human mind loose,” Adams once wrote in an outburst of Enlightenment passion. “It must be loosed; it will be loose. Superstition and despotism cannot confine it.” He followed these words with the assertion that Christianity would surely triumph if the human mind were loosed. This statement indicates that Adams belongs somewhere in the category of Unitarian Christian or Christian Deist.” (Holmes P. 78)

“Jefferson´s great grandson classified him as a “conservative Unitarian”. While close to the truth, that classification may not be definitive. In Jefferson´s ear, the description better applies to figures such as John and Abigail Adams, who believed in Jesus as a savior and redeemer and who held a generally supernaturalist view of the Bible. Instead, the term that seems most accurate for Jefferson is “moderately Unitarian”. In any event, that description may be as good as we can give a man who classified himself religiously as “of a sect by myself, as far as I know.” (Holmes P. 87)

“Though Adams seems to have thought about religion in connection with everything he considered seriously, he did not regard the Bible as the only repository of divinely inspired writing.” (Mapp, P. 57)

“Adams, on the other hand, ascribed to some ancient Greek and Roman writers a prescience equal to that of some of the Biblical prophets.” (Mapp, P. 58)

“I have been a church-going animal for 76 years, from the cradle”. Implies importance of religion, not necessarily of Christianity. (Mapp, P. 64)

“He devoted himself to a very elaborate examination of the religion of all ages and nations, the results of which he committed to paper in a desultory manner. The issue of it was the formation of his theological opinions very much in the mold accepted by the Unitarians of New England. Rejecting, with the independent spirit which in early life had driven him from the ministry, the prominent doctrines of Calvinism (Congregationalism), the trinity, the atonement and election, he was content to settle down upon the Sermon of the Mount as a perfect code presented to men by a more than mortal teacher.” (Mapp, P. 65)

“Commenting on the doctrine of eternal damnation for great sinners, Adams revealed both his departure from orthodoxy and his belief in, and love for, a benevolent God. Of eternal damnation, he said “I believe in so such thing”. He explained: “My adoration of the author of the universe is too profound and too sincere. The love of God and his creation – delight, joy, triumph, exultation in my own existence – though but an atom… the universe – these are my religion.” (Mapp, P. 61)

“Late in life, after reading his son John Quincy Adam´s letters to his own children, John was disturbed by the casual assurance with which John Quincy had admonished his progeny to follow “the Biblic rule of faith”. The old man exploded: “The Biblic Rule of Faith. What Bible? King James? The Hebrews? There were, he said, “30,000 variations” in the different versions.” (Mapp, P. 62)

“Vehemently he exclaimed: “An incarnate God. An eternal, self-existent, omnipotent, omniscient author of this stupendous universe, suffering on a cross? My soul starts with horror at the idea, and it has stupefied the Christian world. It has been the source of almost all the corruptions of Christianity”. (Mapp, P. 62)

Quote about meeting his wife in the next life – find in other part of book; has nothing to do with Christian faith. (Mapp, P. 63)

“Similar views are found in a work by a professional historian who won the Pulitzer Prize: “Most of the founding fathers had not put much emotional stock in religion…..Most of the revolutionary gentry only passively believed in organized Christianity, and, at worst, privately scorned and ridiculed it…….Even puritanical John Adams thought that the argument for Christ´s divinity was an awful blasphemy” (Holmes P. 134)

“Adam´s attitude toward the clergy did not soften with the years. In 1817, at the age of 82, he wrote to Jefferson: “20 times in the course of my late readings, have I been on the point of breaking out, “This would be the best of all worlds if there were no religion in it. But in this exclamation, I should have been fanatical. Without religion, this world would be something not fit to be mentioned in polite company – I mean hell.” (Mapp, P. 60)