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Publisher's Summary

What did the Founding Fathers think about religion? And why did a group of practicing Protestants create a republic with widespread religious liberty? The 12 lectures included in this fascinating course provide multi-layered insights into the vision, philosophies, politics, and deep-seated faith of these brilliant leaders - in their own time, in their own words.

Listeners will examine the unorthodox religious journeys of men like George Washington, Ben Franklin, Thomas Paine, and John Jay, as well as the profound and passionate faiths of John Adams, Patrick Henry, and Benjamin Rush. They’ll also explore the ways in which the Founders thought about mixing religion with political power, from establishing national fast days to disestablishing state churches.

Along the way, listeners will hear about the profound changes religious freedom created in America. The Faith and the Founding Fathers is the story of how liberty and religion wrestled with each other at the birth of the republic and created the forms and traditions of modern American religion.

Through these 12 lectures, listeners will come to fully understand the philosophies of the Founding Fathers as they:

  • Investigate how religion responded to the American Revolution
  • Travel back to pre-revolutionary American religion and encounter the renegades of the Great Awakening and the tenets of Puritans and Deists
  • Learn how the American Revolution was influenced by the beliefs of everyone from John Adams to Charles Carroll
  • Discover how religious liberty became enshrined as law
  • Examine surprising effects of religious liberty that the Founding Fathers never anticipated, including the rise of new forms of Christianity and American revivalism
  • Follow the rapid expansion of African American Christianity among both free and enslaved communities

Despite how far removed the faiths of the Founding Fathers are from us in the 21st century, Dr. Jortner’s explorations of their philosophies offer illuminating insights into modern politics, religious liberty, and the overarching role of religion in human civilization. 

©2019 Audible Originals, LLC (P)2019 Audible Originals, LLC.

Our favorite moments from Faith and the Founding Fathers

Chapter 2, Lecture 1: Religion and the American Founders
  • Chapter 2, Lecture 1: Religion and the American Founders
Separation of church and state
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Chapter 8, Lecture 7: The Religion of John Adams and Thomas Jefferson
  • Chapter 8, Lecture 7: The Religion of John Adams and Thomas Jefferson
Jefferson vs. Adams
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Chapter 12, Lecture 11: Religious Challenges in the Age of the Founders
  • Chapter 12, Lecture 11: Religious Challenges in the Age of the Founders
Demonic Christmas
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  • Chapter 2, Lecture 1: Religion and the American Founders
  • Separation of church and state
  • Chapter 8, Lecture 7: The Religion of John Adams and Thomas Jefferson
  • Jefferson vs. Adams
  • Chapter 12, Lecture 11: Religious Challenges in the Age of the Founders
  • Demonic Christmas

Publisher's Summary

What did the Founding Fathers think about religion? And why did a group of practicing Protestants create a republic with widespread religious liberty? The 12 lectures included in this fascinating course provide multi-layered insights into the vision, philosophies, politics, and deep-seated faith of these brilliant leaders - in their own time, in their own words.

Listeners will examine the unorthodox religious journeys of men like George Washington, Ben Franklin, Thomas Paine, and John Jay, as well as the profound and passionate faiths of John Adams, Patrick Henry, and Benjamin Rush. They’ll also explore the ways in which the Founders thought about mixing religion with political power, from establishing national fast days to disestablishing state churches.

Along the way, listeners will hear about the profound changes religious freedom created in America. The Faith and the Founding Fathers is the story of how liberty and religion wrestled with each other at the birth of the republic and created the forms and traditions of modern American religion.

Through these 12 lectures, listeners will come to fully understand the philosophies of the Founding Fathers as they:

  • Investigate how religion responded to the American Revolution
  • Travel back to pre-revolutionary American religion and encounter the renegades of the Great Awakening and the tenets of Puritans and Deists
  • Learn how the American Revolution was influenced by the beliefs of everyone from John Adams to Charles Carroll
  • Discover how religious liberty became enshrined as law
  • Examine surprising effects of religious liberty that the Founding Fathers never anticipated, including the rise of new forms of Christianity and American revivalism
  • Follow the rapid expansion of African American Christianity among both free and enslaved communities

Despite how far removed the faiths of the Founding Fathers are from us in the 21st century, Dr. Jortner’s explorations of their philosophies offer illuminating insights into modern politics, religious liberty, and the overarching role of religion in human civilization. 

©2019 Audible Originals, LLC (P)2019 Audible Originals, LLC.
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About the Professor

Dr. Adam Jortner is the Goodwin-Philpott Eminent Scholar of Religion in the Department of History at Auburn University. He received his BA in Religion from the College of William and Mary, and his MA and PhD in History from the University of Virginia. Dr. Jortner is the author of Blood from the Sky: A Political History of Miracles in Early America, and The Gods of Prophetstown: The Battle of Tippecanoe and the Holy War for the American Frontier, which won the James Broussard Prize from the Society of Historians of the Early American Republic. He is also the author of numerous book chapters and articles on religion and early America, and has received grants and fellowships from many organizations, including the National Endowment for the Humanities, the American Antiquarian Society, the Woodrow Wilson Foundation, and the Massachusetts Historical Society. Dr. Jortner is a frequent contributor to the American history podcast BackStory and a former script editor for the children’s television show Where in Time Is Carmen Sandiego?

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About As Accurate As Any Woke History Prof Can Get

I honestly can't say I enjoyed listening to this book. Being a loyal christian with an interest in history forces me to endure such audio books. The author presents a lot of relevant facts, but the whole work is basically a case presenting that the founding fathers did NOT intend for America, or at least its government to be a christian nation. Because of this purpose in the presentation, the experience for the listener is similar to having to listen to a snarky pro-Vikings sports announcer while his team was playing against the Green Bay Packers if that was your favorite team. You end up being given a curated portion of the details of what happened which makes it worth while if you simply MUST know the fundamental content, but you are still glad when it's over. All that said, I think the author made a fair effort to be more balanced than his obvious disposition showed and that is to his credit. I would recommend this book for any christian with a SOLID understanding of their faith and ethics but not for less experienced minds who can't filter out the chaff from the wheat.

7 people found this helpful

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Great Lectures. Needlessly Ambiguous Conclusion.

“The Founders did not possess one religion, and they did not think alike, and they secured American independence and government nevertheless.” –Lecture 8

Throughout these 12 illuminating lectures, Professor Jortner labors mightily to wean those on the Left as well as the Right of the notion that our Founders were solidly Christian, wholly Deist, strictly Unitarian, unanimously Universalist, or secretly Atheist. The reality on the ground in late 18th and early 19th Century America was far too complex—and far too interesting—for any such reductive wishful thinking.

Having, through years of fairly extensive reading, realized the truth of Jortner’s thesis, this came as no surprise. Nevertheless, his breadth of knowledge, selection of telling details, intellectual honesty and forensic skills all conspire to make these lectures an engaging treat. Like any good historian, he warns against using the Founders’ views as bumper stickers in our contemporary culture war, instead putting them within the context of their own culture war, swayed by or contending against the religious ideas and enthusiasms of their specific moment in history.

After discussing the influence of religion on the Founders, Jortner details the influence of the Founders on religion in the young republic, especially the impact of disestablishment. As he notes, before the Revolution, the First Great Awakening divided denominations; after the Revolution, The Second Great Awakening created new ones.

Here and there one can detect the lofty smirk of the academic left. He never acknowledges that ideas of individual liberty and limited government could not have evolved in the West without our Judeo-Christian understanding of the human person. But he’s correct when he observes that the arguments on both sides of our culture war have been overstated; we were founded as neither an explicitly Christian or non-Christian nation. However, the opaque conclusion he draws from that fact (“nations are not to sacrifice their future happiness to ideas of historical justice”) just doesn’t tally with the lectures that precede it. Surely, given the evidence he has so expertly marshaled, it should be evident that, while the Founders did not build a government on Christian principles, they insisted on virtuous citizens as the only guarantee of the success of that government. And they understood religion—all religions—as the best guarantor of that virtue. He touches on this in passing, but it could have been the logical capstone of this course.

That said, if it didn’t come free with Audible Plus, this course would still be eminently credit-worthy.

5 people found this helpful

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A Short Survey from a Knowledgable Historian

A good read, fair and studious. Having just read "Nature's God" by Matthew Stewart, I was curious to see how these would compare. To my surprise, Dr Jortner mentions this book in the very first lecture, short-selling it with a brief mention about its focus on Ethan Allen, a radical philosopher-patriot for sure. Well, Stewart's book is much more than that, being also an inspection of the Spinozan ideologies hiding and not-hiding among the Founder's syncretic beliefs. Indeed, as we follow Dr Jortner through the lectures on Franklin and Washington, the Deism of the Founding Fathers is palpable, and Dr's Stewart and Jortner could not seem more agreeable.

But as Jortner begins to cover the more Orthodox founders, we understand his historian's need to lash himself to the mast, leaving the philosophical Stewart to plumb the depths of one particular harbor while we continue to scout all coasts.

In the end, I enjoyed spending time with both treatments, and appreciate Jortner's broad but uber-knowledgable caravel survey as an excellent companion to Stewart's submarine deep-dive.

4 people found this helpful

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Excellent

I took multiple classes, including a class on religion in America, with Adam Jortner when I was a history major at Auburn. Put simply, he has taught me more than a little of what I know about history and the present. He still has it.

I would encourage anyone and everyone to take a few hours and learn about this topic. There are so many false narratives out there about the Founders and religion’s role in early America that have no basis or have been wildly distorted. And this is a history lesson from one of the best.

Also from an audiobook standpoint, the professor who loved class discussions instead of standard lectures, is an incredible lecturer.

3 people found this helpful

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LOVE IT - great way to present history, too

I have listened to many audiobooks over the last several years, and this one has surprisingly been my favorite. I'm not a fan of history but this presentation really made me rethink that. Fascinating topic, presented so well. Definitely not a bland 'read.' I decided to give this a chance after hearing over and over that the US was a 'christian nation' from the start and wanting to learn if that was really true.

3 people found this helpful

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Good Info; Bizarre Conclusion

Lots of good info, but it ends by saying, essentially, “It doesn’t matter what the Founders’ faith was.” Fine, ok, but then why did you just spend five hours teaching me about it?

His argument is not unreasonable—many understand the Constitution as a living document that should reflect the will of the people alive today—but it is a disservice to the listener to present only one side of that debate without any treatment of originalism, especially when originalism dominates modern Supreme Court opinions.

It’s as if the only reason to know about the Founders is to defuse originalists in a sort of BuzzFeed parody: “Ten Ways to Respond to Your Originalist Friends. Number six will blow your mind!”

2 people found this helpful

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A great book!

I loved this book, entertaining and so informative!I listened twice! I recommend very highly; great narration too!

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“The Founding Fathers did not possess a single set of religious beliefs”?

If you thought that the faith of the Founding Fathers was based predominately on Judeo-Christian beliefs, well think again...
Here’s a direct quote from the author that does well to summarize the thesis of his lecture series:
“The Founding Fathers did not possess a single set of religious beliefs.”
So never mind the fact that all of the Founding Fathers had a belief in God, and that they were predominately Protestant. Also ignore the fact that the Founding Documents of the United States are essentially riddled with religious connotations, and that such wording was made in consensus by them.
Oh, and also forget about the heritage, upbringings, as well as any historically documented journals and letters that the Founding Fathers may have wrote, because the majority of what you’ll find there is a bunch of religious mumbo-jumbo which has no place in this lecture series, being how none of that stuff really aligns with the juicy little historical tidbits that the author uses to drive his points all the way home—such fascinating points as: George Washington didn’t participate in communion at churches he didn’t belong to, and Benjamin Franklin didn’t believe that Jesus Christ and God were necessarily the same person.
Thus, it is clear that the Founding Fathers had zero sets of unifying religious beliefs.
What, not convinced? Well, slavery happened, so anything religious that the Founding Fathers may have believed was clearly out of touch with reality, or else they would have put an end to all of that a lot sooner. So as you can see, religion had no role in the Founding of America. And, there is no God.
Oh and Jefferson was a Unitarian—well sort of.
Boom.
See? Absolutely no religious concordance to found amongst the Founding Fathers whatsoever.
In all seriousness, don’t let the title here mislead you, this is clearly the work of a pretentious left-leaning college professor whose aim is to infuse much of his own political beliefs and biases within his lectures in attempt to rewrite history in listeners’ minds so as to suggest that America was never a predominately Christian or God-centered nation and that such notions have no place in US Governance or anywhere outside of solely private institutions.
At one point he even preaches on about how any public display of the 10 Commandments ought to be protested against (despite its influence it in US Law as well as the Judicial system,) which, if I’m not mistaken, is precisely something that the literal Satanic church is frequently found protesting against. Am I saying that the author has any sort of ties to any of that? Yes. Yes I am.
It’s these sort of pseudo-intellectual, narcissistic takes on faith and religion that dissolve the very framework that the USA was established upon, a framework of faith in God, which the founders all had. If we aim to sustain a safe, free, moral, and prosperous nation such as the Founding Fathers originally envisioned, faith is key.
To say that “The Founding Fathers did not possess a single set of religious beliefs,”—while yes we get they each likely had their own views and interpretations, as prevalent in all individuals—is to say that they were not men of faith at all, and that they therefore had no faith in the United States, and to that I say Poo-poo!

1 person found this helpful

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Enlightening

This was a well researched synopsis of the intersection of religion and politics during the American revolution.

Sadly, what I felt most often while listening to this was anger. I never hear anyone around me assert that America is, was, or should be Christian-centric except for undereducated people with an agenda. Every lecture in this series just underscores how willfully ignorant such people are. The Dunning-Kruger effect is infuriating.

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really informative but also a fun listen

dr jortner is very insightful and this course offers a lot of fun facts for learning

1 person found this helpful