The Religion of the Founding Fathers and Voltaire 11th Grade

John Adams wrote in a letter to Thomas Jefferson: “The question before the human race is, whether the God of nature shall govern the world by his own laws, or whether priests and kings shall rule it by fictitious miracles” (Adams & Institute of Early American History and Culture, 1988). Adams’ statement, affirming the existence of God but denying the plausibility of miracles, espouses the philosophy of Deism—a popular school of religious thought during the Enlightenment. Due to Deism’s popularity, many authors and philosophers of the Enlightenment era included aspects of this philosophy in their work. These works have endured the test of time and are constantly being studied and analyzed by scholars.

Voltaire can be counted among the Enlightenment philosophers who have included Deism in their works. Elements of Deism found in Voltaire's Candide had a lasting impact on the thought of the Founding Fathers of the United States, specifically an anti-clerical tone, the ideas of reason over faith, and the affirmation of the existence of a Supreme Being.

A brief background history of Deism is needed in order to thoroughly understand the significance of Candide’s impact on the Founding Fathers. Deism is the form of religion most...

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