Spirit of Ben Franklin: A Deist's Creed

A Deist's Creed

Jefferson, Franklin, Paine, Washington and other Founding Father's of the U.S. were influenced by "Deism," the rationalistic and empirical philosophy of the 17th Century Enlightenment. Like the Greek philosophers, they viewed God as universal Reason, who creates the world and allows it to operate by natural rules, including ethical as well as physical laws. The good life is a life of rational action in harmony with these eternal laws. The good life does not depend upon prayer, sacrament, or belief in a personal God.

True believers tried to convince Jefferson, Franklin, and Paine that they must attend church and be baptized. But they never yielded their spiritual independence to an institutionalized religion. (See the link for 'Spirit of Thomas Jefferson.' ) At the age of 84, Franklin wrote down the following "Deist's Creed," which he said was all he needed for a "religion":

"This is my creed:
I believe in one God, the Creator of the universe;
That he governs it by his providence;
That he ought to be worshiped;
That the most acceptable service we render him is doing good to his other children;
That the soul of man is immortal, and will be treated with justice in another life respecting its conduct in this one."