We know the Founding Fathers included a mix of Christians (of various stripes) and Deists. Now, a new book by Matthew Stewart, excerpted at Politico, explains that the latter category includes the man behind the Boston Tea Party, Dr. Thomas Young — literally, the original Tea Partier:
The universe, said Young, is infinite, eternal and everywhere abounding in life. There is no other world, no heaven but the starry sky above, no hell but the fictions that other people create. There is a deity, worthy of great praise, but it acts only according to reason and through the laws of nature. It has no need for holy books, prophets or priests. It is ultimately indistinguishable from its creation: nature itself. The study of nature, or science, is the only acceptable form of worship. Morality is grounded entirely in nature. And the moral life is itself the only religion worth the name.
Young called his creed “the religion of nature” and “the religion of nature’s God.” And he made abundantly clear that, in his own mind, this radical philosophical religion was the axis on which the Revolution turned. For him, the project to free the American people from the yoke of King George III was part of a grander project to liberate the world from the ghostly tyranny of supernatural religion.
In the final analysis, the biggest difference between Young and his more famous fellow founders is just that he was willing to shout at the top of his lungs what they confined to student notebooks, communicated in code or announced to the world after their freedom to do so had been secured.
He sounds like a Deist, all right: He didn’t believe in the supernatural God, but thought that we experienced God via nature. It was about as atheistic as one could get at a time before we knew anything about evolution and DNA. Even though the Politico headline uses the “A” word, I wouldn’t go quite that far.
Still, if only the modern Tea Party would take a cue from him, maybe we could take them a little more seriously…
Any guesses as to how pseudohistorian David Barton will try to spin this bit of history?
(Thanks to Brian for the link)