Benjamin Franklin


Printer, publisher, author, satirist, social activist, philanthropist, inventor, postmaster, scientist, statesman, ambassador, philosopher, abolitionist, and political theorist, Franklin (1706–1790) was also a kind and generous man. He signed both the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution. His contribution to religious understanding, imbued with the spirit of reason and tolerance, is particularly noteworthy.

Selections from the Autobiography

Franklin maintained a strong set of convictions concerning the existence and attributes of God. His plan of self-improvement through perfection in the virtues led to his proposal for "The United Party of Virtue."

Articles of Belief and Acts of Religion

As he detested sectarianism, Franklin did not often attend church. In place of a public liturgy, he created his own adoration, petition, and thanksgiving, founded on a rational conception of the Supremely Perfect Being.

On the Provicence of God in the Governance of the World

The intellectual prowess of Franklin is on display in this address to an audience of philosophers. Reason demonstrates various aspects of God; most importantly, that the Divinity actively governs the world.

Call for Prayer and Letter on Christianity

Though the proposal met resistance, Franklin's call for prayers at the Constitutional Convention typifies his vision of religion as a unifying force. The letter hints at a deistic understanding of Jesus of Nazareth.