3/16/2002                                                                                       View Comments

Ben Franklin Quotes

"You desire to know something of my religion. It is the first time I have been questioned upon it. But I cannot take your curiosity amiss, and shall endeavour in a few words to gratify it. 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 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. These I take to be the fundamental principles of all sound religion, and I regard them as you do in whatever sect I meet with them.
"As to Jesus of Nazareth, my opinion of whom you particularly desire, I think the system of Morals and his Religion, as he left them to us, the best the World ever saw or is likely to see; but I apprehend it has received various corrupt changes, and I have, with most of the present Dissenters in England, some doubts as to his divinity; though it is a question I do not dogmatize upon, having never studied it, and think it needless to busy myself with it, when I expect soon an opportunity of knowing the Truth with less trouble. I see no harm, however, in its being believed, if that belief has the good consequence, as probably it has, of making his doctrines more respected and better observed; especially as I do not perceive that the Supreme takes it amiss, by distinguishing the unbelievers in His government of the world with any particular marks of His displeasure.

"I shall only add, respecting myself, that, having experienced the goodness of that Being in conducting me prosperously through a long life, I have no doubt of its continuance in the next, without the smallest conceit of meriting it... I confide that you will not expose me to criticism and censure by publishing any part of this communication to you. I have ever let others enjoy their religious sentiments, without reflecting on them for those that appeared to me unsupportable and even absurd. All sects here, and we have a great variety, have experienced my good will in assisting them with subscriptions for building their new places of worship; and, as I never opposed any of their doctrines, I hope to go out of the world in peace with them all."


[Benjamin Franklin, letter to Ezra Stiles, President of Yale, shortly before his death; from "Benjamin Franklin" by Carl Van Doren, the October, 1938 Viking Press edition pages 777-778 Also see Alice J. Hall, "Philosopher of Dissent: Benj. Franklin," National Geographic, Vol. 148, No. 1, July, 1975, p. 94]

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
"Lighthouses are more helpful than churches."

[Benjamin Franklin]

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
"When a religion is good, I conceive it will support itself; and when it does not support itself, and God does not care to support it, so that its professors are obliged to call for the help of the civil power, 'tis a sign, I apprehend, of its being a bad one."

[Ben Franklin, _Poor Richard's Almanac_, 1754 (Works, Volume XIII)]

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
"I am fully of your Opinion respecting religious Tests; but, tho' the People of Massachusetts have not in their new Constitution kept quite clear of them, yet, if we consider what that People were 100 Years ago, we must allow they have gone great Lengths in Liberality of Sentiment on religious Subjects; and we may hope for greater Degrees of Perfection, when their Constitution, some years hence, shall be revised. If Christian Preachers had continued to teach as Christ and his Apostles did, without Salaries, and as the Quakers now do, I imagine Tests would never have existed; for I think they were invented, not so much to secure Religion itself, as the Emoluments of it. When a Religion is good, I conceive it will support itself; and when it does not support itself, and God does not take care to support it so that its Professors are obliged to call for help of the Civil Power, it is a sign, I apprehend, of its being a bad one." (Benjamin Franklin, 1706-1790, from a letter to Richard Price, Oct. 9, 1780; from Adrienne Koch, ed., The American Enlightenment: The Shaping of the American Experiment and a Free Society, New York: George Braziller, 1965, p. 93.]

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
"The nearest I can make it out, 'Love your Enemies' means, 'Hate your Friends'."

[Benjamin Franklin]

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
"I think vital religion has always suffered when orthodoxy is more regarded than virtue. The scriptures assure me that at the last day we shall not be examined on what we thought but what we did."

[Benjamin Franklin, letter to his father, 1738]

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
"I cannot conceive otherwise than that He, the Infinite Father, expects or requires no worship or praise from us, but that He is even infinitely above it."

[Benjamin Franklin from "Articles of Belief and Acts of Religion", Nov. 20, 1728]

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
"The faith you mention has doubtless its use in the world. I do not desire to see it diminished, nor would I desire to lessen it in any way; but I wish it were more productive of good works than I have generally seen it. I mean real good works, works of kindness, charity, mercy, and public spirit, not holy-day keeping, sermon-hearing, and reading, performing church ceremonies, or making long prayers, filled with flatteries and compliments, despised even by wise men, and much less capable of pleasing the Deity"

[Benjamin Franklin, 1753, letter to Rev. George Whitefield. Works, Vol. VII, p. 75]

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
"I have found Christian dogma unintelligible. Early in life I absented myself from Christian assemblies."

[Benjamin Franklin, in _Toward The Mystery_]

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
"My parents had early given me religious impressions, and brought me through my childhood piously in the dissenting [puritan]way. But I was scarce fifteen, when, after doubting by turns of several points, as I found them disputed in the different books I read, I began to doubt of Revelation itself. Some books against Deism fell into my hands; they were said to be the substance of sermons preached at Boyle's lectures. [Robert Boyle (1627-1691) was a British physicist who endowed the Boyle Lectures for defense of Christianity.]It happened that they wrought an effect on me quite contrary to what was intended by them; for the arguments of the deists, which were quoted to be refuted, appeared to me much stronger than the refutations; in short, I soon became a thorough deist"

[Benjamin Franklin, "Autobiography,"p.66 as published in *The American Tradition in Literature,* seventh edition (short), McGraw-Hill,p.180]

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
"The way to see by Faith is to shut the eye of Reason."

[Benjamin Franklin, Poor Richard, 1758]

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
"When knaves fall out, honest men get their goods; when priests dispute, we come at the truth."

[Benjamin Franklin, Poor Richard, 1758]

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
"When I traveled in Flanders I thought of your excessively strict observation of Sunday, and that a man could hardly travel on that day among you upon his lawful occasions without hazard of punishment, while where I was everyone traveled, if he pleased, or diverted himself in any other way; and in the afternoon both high and low went to the play or the opera, where there was plenty of singing, fiddling, and dancing.
I looked around for God's judgments, but saw no sign of them. The cities were well built and full of inhabitants, the markets filled with plenty, the people well favored and well clothed, the fields well tilled, the cattle fat and strong, the fences, houses, and windows all in repair, and no 'old tenor' anywhere in the country; which would make one almost suspect that the deity was not so angry at that offense as a New England justice."


[Benjamin Franklin, letter to Jared Ingersoll, 1762]

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
"If we look back into history for the character of the present sects in Christianity, we shall find few that have not in their turns been persecutors, and complainers of persecution. The primitive Christians thought persecution extremely wrong in the Pagans, but practiced it on one another. The first Protestants of the Church of England blamed persecution in the Romish church, but practiced it upon the Puritans. These found it wrong in the Bishops, but fell into the same practice themselves both here [England]and in New England"

[Benjamin Franklin, "Toleration", in _Works, Vol.ii._,p. 112]

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
"Remember me affectionately to good Dr. Price, and to the honest heretic Dr. Priestley. I do not call him honest by way of distinction, for I think all the heretics I have known have been virtuous men. They have the virtue of fortitude, or they could not venture to own their heresy; and they cannot afford to be deficient in any of the other virtues, as that would give advantage to their many enemies; and they have not, like orthodox sinners, such a number of friends to excuse or justify them.
Do not, however, mistake me. It is not to my good friend's heresy that I impute his honesty. On the contrary, 'tis his honesty that brought upon him the character of a heretic"


[Benjamin Franklin, letter to Benjamin Vaughan of England, in _Works, Vol.x._, p.365]

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
"The things of this world take up too much of my time, of which indeed I have too little left, to undertake anything like a reformation in religion"

[Benjamin Franklin, _Works, Vol.x._,, p. 323]

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
"Think how great a proportion of Mankind consists of weak and ignorant Men and Women, and of inexperienc'd Youth of both Sexes, who have need of the Motives of Religion to restrain them from Vice, to support their Virtue, and retain them in the Practice of it till it becomes habitual, which is the great Point for its Security."

[Benjamin Franklin, 1757, in Edwin S. Gaustad, Faith of Our Fathers: Religion and the New Nation, San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1987, p. 61]

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
"None preaches better than the ant, and she says nothing."

[Benjamin Franklin]

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
"How many observe Christ's birthday! How few, his precepts! O! 'tis easier to keep holidays than commandments."

[Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790); American scientist, diplomat and publisher; _Poor Richard's Almanac_]

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
"Revealed religion has no weight with me."

[Benjamin Franklin]

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
"It is pity that good works, among some sorts of people, are so little valued, and good words admired in their stead. I mean seemingly pious discourses, instead of humane, benevolent actions. These they almost put out of countenance by calling morality, rotten morality; righteousness, ragged righteousness, and even filthy rags, and when you mention virtue, pucker up their noses; at the same time that they eagerly snuff up an empty, canting harangue, as if it were a posy of the choicest flowers"

[Benjamin Franklin, 1758, to his sister, Mrs. Jane Mecom, Works, Vol. VII., p. 185]

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
"Improvement in religion is called building up and edification. Faith is then the ground floor, hope is up one pair of stairs. My dear beloved Jenny, don't delight so much to dwell in those lower rooms, but get as fast as you can into the garret; for in truth the best room in the house is charity. For my part I wish the house was turned upside down"

[Benjamin Franklin, 1758, to his sister, Mrs. Jane Mecom, Works, Vol. VII., p. 184]

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
"Indeed, when religious people quarrel about religion, or hungry people quarrel about victuals, it looks as if they had not much of either among them."

[Benjamin Franklin, quoted by Joseph Lewis in "Benjamin Franklin - Freethinker"]

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
"It is much to be lamented that a man of Franklin's general good character and great influence should have been an unbeliever in Christianity, and also have done as much as he did to make others unbelievers"

[Priestley's Autobiography, p. 60, on Benjamin Franklin]

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
"If belief in the miraculous revelation of the Old Testament and the New is required to make a man religious, then Franklin had no religion at all. It would be an insult to say that he believed in the popular theology of his time, or of ours, for. I find not a line from his pen indicating any such belief."

[Theodore Parker]

7 comments:

webmdave said...

The seperation of church and state is laid out in the 1st Ammendment to the Constitution: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

The term "separation of church and state" is not present, true. However, with the government being unable to show a preference for any religion over any other, the idea is entirely present.

The term itself comes from Thomas Jefferson's letter to the Danbury Baptists. You can Google it for the letter in its entirety but here's the relevant passage:

"Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should "make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof," thus building a wall of separation between Church & State. Adhering to this expression of the supreme will of the nation in behalf of the rights of conscience, I shall see with sincere satisfaction the progress of those sentiments which tend to restore to man all his natural rights, convinced he has no natural right in opposition to his social duties."

webmdave said...

False, my friend.
Benjamin Franklin was actually a deist. Assuming you are as unintelligent as your post would show, I'll explain what a deist is.
A deist is a person who believes in a god or supreme being. Not the god of Abraham to whom you refer (also known as Yaweh and apparently "father in heaven".
Additionally deists believe that a god, created the universe, thats all. They do not believe in any personal relationships between this god and human beings or that the god who created the universe has any attachment to what happens to the universe as we know it.
Shocked? One of Americas founding fathers not a christian?
Almost all of Americas founding fathers were not christians. Take a history lesson and read the terms in the Treaty of Tripoli.

"As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion..."
Written by George Washington in 1796 and signed by John Adams in 1797
It's Article 11, if you think I have twisted history to fit my argument then read the whole thing.

The only thing that christianity has been responsible for in the history of the United States is the ridicule, torture and slaughter of those who are not christians, in the name of your father in heaven.
Continue to force christianity in history, it really gives your god a good name.

Read up on Christopher Columbus, he was a great christian man that truly exemplifies my argument.

webmdave said...

GREAT reference! thx for posting!

webmdave said...

Thank you for posting this.... I did find it of great use….. Now if only we could kill god, then I would feel better.

-Alter Ego

webmdave said...

With so many writing like this from our "founding fathers", it amazes me that so many "Christians" try to claim that this nation was founded upon Christianity and that the government should be run by Christians even though the constitution is quite clear that the state and the church should remain separate.

webmdave said...

The Constitution says no such thing... It merely states that Government should not tell people which religion they can or cannot belong to.

webmdave said...

....Ben Franklin was actively involved in the restoration of the New Testement church of the bible. He was a preacher. He was not Anti-church. He was Anti-state religion and disgusted with the main sects and denominations including some of the teachings and politics of the congergations of his own belief. Read everything.