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Founding Faith: Providence, Politics, and the Birth of Religious Freedom in America

By Steven Waldman & David Colacci (Narrator)
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Item Number 358626  
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Item Specifications...

Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 6.04" Width: 5.27" Height: 0.85"
Weight:   0.52 lbs.
Binding  CD
Publisher   BBC Audiobooks America
ISBN  160283377X  
EAN  9781602833777  

Availability  0 units.

Item Description...
Traces the origins and history of religious freedom in America, looking at the role of religion in the early republic, the separation of church and state, and how the beliefs of the Founding Fathers affected the battle for religious freedom.

Publishers Description
The culture wars have distorted the dramatic story of how Americans came to worship freely. Many activists on the right maintain that the United States was founded as a "Christian nation." Many on the left contend that the Founders were secular or Deist and that the First Amendment was designed to boldly separate church and state throughout the land. None of these claims are true, argues Editor-in-Chief Steven Waldman. With refreshing objectivity, Waldman narrates the real story of how our nation's Founders forged a new approach to religious liberty, a revolutionary formula that promoted faith--by leaving it alone. The spiritual custody battle over the Founding Fathers and the role of religion in America continues today. Waldman provocatively argues that neither side in the culture war has accurately depicted the true origins of the First Amendment. He sets the record straight, revealing the real history of religious freedom to be dramatic, unexpected, paradoxical, and inspiring.

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More About Steven Waldman & David Colacci

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Steven Waldman is co-founder, CEO, and editor in chief of, the largest faith and spirituality website. Previously, Waldman was the national editor of U.S. News & World Report and a national correspondent for Newsweek. His writings have also appeared in The Atlantic, The Washington Post, The New York Times, Slate, The Washington Monthly, National Review, and elsewhere. He appears frequently on television and radio to discuss religion and politics. He is also the author of The Bill, a book about the creation of AmeriCorps. Waldman lives in New York with his wife, the writer Amy Cunningham, and their children, Joseph and Gordon.

From the Hardcover edition.

Steven Waldman was born in 1962.

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Product Categories
1Books > Audio CDs > History > United States   [445  similar products]
2Books > Subjects > History > Americas > United States > General   [15836  similar products]
3Books > Subjects > History > Americas > United States > Revolution & Founding > General   [853  similar products]
4Books > Subjects > Nonfiction > Current Events > Civil Rights & Liberties   [1157  similar products]
6Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Religious Studies > History   [2753  similar products]

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Reviews - What do our customers think?
An evenhanded view of our founding fathers  Oct 21, 2008
Founding Faith is a very good, even-handed review of the attitudes and the possible intentions of the founding fathers, especially as it pertains to the contentious issue of separation of church and state.

While I would love to hear that the fathers intended this to be a strongly "christian nation" and others might wish to hear that they intended it to be a strictly "secular nation" the author makes the compelling case that neither extreme is the case. In listening to this book I got the impression that I was getting the whole story, rather than one side or the other.

I pulled the following points from the book:

1. The founding fathers did not all agree on the issue of separation.
2. While most of the fathers were very spiritual, not all would fit the classifications of "conservative" or "evangelical".
3. The 1st Ammendment was designed as much to protect "religion from the state" as to protect the "state from religion".
4. The biggest problem both in England and in the colonies was between christian denominations (Congregationalists against Quakers, Presbyterians against Baptists, etc) rather than religious versus atheist. The official denomination of the colony would collect taxes and make the laws specific to their creeds, to the detriment of the members of other denominations.
5. The fathers wrestled and compromised over the wording of the first ammendment but surely never envisioned the lengths to which their words would have been applied in 20th and 21st century America.

The book is interesting and full of quotes and insights into the lives of the various fathers. At times it gets a bit laborous but the author ties the pieces together nicely in the later chapters (CD 7) and brings it home. This is probably a book to read several times in order to fully understand all of the details.
"The Godly Roots Of Rebellion" & 'Saint' James Madison  Sep 30, 2008
"Is an Ecclesiastical Establishment absolutely necessary to support civil society in a supreme Government?" So James Madison asked a Pennsylvanian friend in 1773 before making a huge contribution to the writing of the American Constitution.

"... at the time of ratification, few states had religious liberty of the sort that Madison wanted. All but two states had religious tests banning Jews, Unitarians, and agnostics from public office. Taxpayers supported the churches and ministers in MA, NH, CT, NJ, GA, NC, and SC. In some states, only Trinitarian Protestants could vote or testify in trials. It was considered blasphemy, and therefore illegal in some states, to criticize, reproach, or deny Christianity, the Trinity, Jesus Christ, or the Bible. Nontheists were restricted from owning property or giving money to certain charities; schools required religious services; and people were regularly prosecuted for not observing the Sabbath. All THAT, THE US CONSTITUTION LET STAND." (emphasis added)

"The First Amendment was a grand declaration that the federal government couldn't support or regulate religion---but it was also a grand declaration that states absolutely could." "That was part of the compromise that enabled the First Amendment to gain widespread support." p156

Then why, as some are prone to argue, wasn't God mentioned in the US Constitution? Or why didn't the founders give pride of place to religion therein?

"The new England colonies---MA, CT, NH---were dominated by Puritans and their Congregational churches. They disliked the Anglicans. VA, NC, SC, and GA were at one point or another dominated by the Church of England. They disliked Puritans." RI was more tolerant. PA gave protection to Quakers and other minorities. Thanks to the trading issue the Dutch embraced religious tolerance earlier than other countries. So New Amsterdam, before becoming NY, shared a bit of this inclination. Maryland was settled explicitly as a refuge for Catholics, through a land grant by Charles l to Catholic convert George Calvert, aka Lord Baltimore, in 1632. By 1681 Protestants outnumbered Catholics in MD 30 to 1. The Church of England was established soon after. By 1700 the colony prevented Catholics from inheriting or purchasing land; by 1704 catholic worship was prohibited; by 1716 public office holders were required to swear allegiance to the Church of England. And by 1718 Catholics were denied even the right to vote unless they did likewise."

Thus, one could easily argue, as James Madison himself did, that "The absence of God from the Constitution was pro-religion."

"Much of the population had been raised to believe that to ensure a religion's health, the state must support it. The Constitution demanded a paradigm shift, away from public responsibility and toward private." As George Washington said: "The path of true piety is so plain as to require but little political direction." To boot, "on the very day the House of Representatives passed the Bill of Rights, it approved a resolution for a `day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed...[for] the many signal favors of Almighty God.'" "It would not be until after the passage of the 14th Amendment in 1868 that states would fall under the restrictions of the US Constitution's Bill of Rights."

"The New World was settled to promote Christianity. For more than 150 years, colonial governments actively supported the dominant faith. Less acknowledged today is a point well understood by the Founding Fathers: Nearly all of these experiments in state encouragement of religion failed." p.3 Moreover, in the American colonies "Before 1690, 90% of churches were affiliated with dominant sects---Congregationalism or Anglicism. By 1770, only 35% were." "By the time of the Revolution, religious minorities were in the majority." This evolution, in turn, led to "the revolutionary view that political and religious freedom were intertwined." And the fact that Great Britain had a state church made it an almost effortless leap for many colonists to carryover their hostility to Britain's state church and Anglicanism into hostility for Great Britain itself. That is the author's view herein. That the 1726-60 Great Awakening in American colonies heavily influenced colonists towards being inclined, whence given some cause, to consider breaking with Great Britain. The author could just as easily called this book "The Godly Roots of Rebellion." The "break from Britain had many causes, but desire for religious freedom was one of them. In the South, the Church of England was the official religion, even though the majority of the population by that point was not Anglican. The oppressiveness of the Church seemed part and parcel of the royal tyranny." p195. Hence the revolutionary troops banner called by Pennsylvania's troops: "Resistance to Tyrants is Obedience to God." This message was also proposed (by Franklin) as part of the American national seal. p.107

The US Constitutional/Presidential oath: I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.

It wasn't put in the Constitution, it wasn't official in other words, but for Washington (not to mention other Founding Fathers) it apparently was not a stretch to add a coda to the above oath: "So help me God." As George Washington said, America was great first because of "cheapness of land" which allowed many to own property ...and secondly because of "civil and religious" liberty; civil and religious liberty being not at odds with each other, but being intrinsically connected. Cheers

PS: This book provides great internet links for the papers of Washington, Adams, Jefferson and many other archived historical resources. Consult the author's website for the details: Belief net . com
Fascinating, factual and entertaining  Sep 26, 2008
If you enjoy discussing history, politics and religion, you will be fascinated by this fact-based review of what the founding fathers thought and believed as they designed this country's principles of religious freedom. Well researched and documented, it moves beyond the rhetoric often heard from today's advocates for one interpretation versus another regarding the separation of church and state. Instead of the partial picture each camp utilizes to promote its argument, Steven Waldman lays out the history of governments and religion that preceded the constitution, the various positions held by the founders that came together to agree on the fundamental principles of this country, and how the early precedents were set. This is a well written and entertaining insight into our way of life.
Religious freedom was relative  Aug 8, 2008
The evolution of religious freedom in America has been of interest to me for years. Waldman's book is balanced, insightful, and well documented. His explanation of the Founding Fathers' views of religion provides human interest. It seems there was less religious freedom in early America than we might imagine; what we have today is the result of compromise. Waldman also brings in elements of today's debate over religious freedom, although the focus remains on the historical context.
An excellent book, required reading for both sides!  Aug 6, 2008
This is truly an excellent book. It's really the first non-hysterical treatment of church-state separation I've ever read. Written in a very readable style, the book is easily accessible to a high school student or even a bright middle-schooler, yet the wealth of footnotes and references, and the extensive bibliography, provide ample starting places for those interested in digging deeper.

Moreover, as a Christian, I found this a very encouraging book. If you've already made up your mind on either side of the debate, the book will probably just irritate you. But if you're concerned and trying to make sense of the discussion, this book is great. It made clear, for starts, that the culture wars we have now on the separation of church and state started with the founding of the country (and actually before). "Founding Fathers" on both sides of the issue had well-thought-out reasons for their positions, which the author articulates. Most interesting of all, perhaps, is that much of the drive for church-state separation came from Christians who felt that the interaction of government and religion harmed faith, which, after some discussion, turns out to be a compelling view.

In short, I found the book quite valuable, and will keep it instead of donating it to the public library where most of my purchased books go. I wish that I could make those I know on both sides of the issue read this thing.

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