Although Benjamin Franklin faithfully paid his annual dues to the only Presbyterian church in Philadelphia in order to support its ministers, he seldom attended public worship. The reason he gives us in his own words. He says of one particular preacher, “…his Discourses were chiefly either polemic Arguments, or Explications of the peculiar Doctrines of our Sect, and were all to me very dry, uninteresting and unedifying, since not a single moral Principle was inculcated or enforc’d, their Aim seeming rather to make us Presbyterians than good Citizens.” (p. 90)
However, Benjamin Franklin WAS a religious man. He composed his own framework for religious belief and set it in writing in a work called Articles of Belief & Acts of Religion which he used for himself in private instead of attending church.
Ben Franklin publicizes his core religious beliefs more than once in The Autobiography and Other Writings. They are:
“I never doubted, for instance, the Existence of the Deity, that he made the World, & govern’d it by his Providence; that the most acceptable Service of God was the doing Good to Man; that our souls are immortal; and that all Crime will be punished & Virtue rewarded either here or hereafter.” (p. 89)
- “That there is one God who made all things.
- That he governs the World by his Providence.
- That he ought to be worshipped by Adoration, Prayer & Thanksgiving.
- But that the most acceptable Service of God is doing Good to Man.
- That the soul is immortal.
- And that God will certainly reward Virtue and punish Vice either here or hereafter.” (p. 104)
“Here is my Creed. I believe in one God, Creator of the Universe. That he governs it by his Providence. That he ought to be worshipped. That the most acceptable Service we render to him is doing good to his other Children. That the soul of Man is immortal, and we will be treated with Justice in another Life respecting its Conduct in this.” (p. 259)
There is nothing strictly Christian about Benjamin Franklin’s beliefs. Both Christians and Muslims believe all six of those points, and it can be argued, as I will in another post, that his last belief reflects Islam more than it reflects Christianity.
The Book I Referenced
The Autobiography and Other Writings
edited and with an introduction by Kenneth Silverman
Penguin Books USA Inc.
Introduction and notes © 1986 Viking Penguin Inc.