Humanities in Class: Webinar Series

Deism and the Founding of the United States

Lead Scholar: Ryan K. Smith (Associate Professor of History, Virginia Commonwealth University)

October 23, 2012

During the 17th and 18th centuries, many “freethinking” Europeans embraced Deism, a theology that subjected religious truth to the authority of human reason. In colonial America, Deism found few adherents, but those who were attracted to it tended to be wealthy and educated, leaders in colonial society and politics. Today, debate swirls around the role Deism played in the founding of the nation. What was this “religion of nature”? How can we explain it to students? Who among the Founders were Deists? What influence did Deism have on the culture of the new nation?

Subjects: History; American History; Intellectual History; Thirteen Colonies; American Enlightenment