Revolutionary Spirits: The Enlightened Faith of America’s Founding Fathers

Written by Gary Kowalski
Review by John R. Vallely

The Founding Fathers of the United States (or The Founders, to use a more contemporary term) and their religious values continue to play a central role in an America currently engaged in a fractious and seemingly endless self-definition. Recent debate has the Founders serving as staunch advocates of a Christian-based belief system while opponents argue they believed in vastly more nuanced religious principles. Kowalski, a graduate of Harvard Divinity School and a Unitarian minister, provides a brief analysis of these Enlightenment figures by probing the religious views of Franklin, Washington, Paine, Adams, Jefferson, and Madison. He concludes they strove to create a republic of virtue in a government built firmly on the separation of church and state. A short glimpse such as this into Kowalski’s essay does it a disservice. Pick it up and be prepared for a reminder of the brilliance of these individuals.