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Friday, August 13, 2010

Forged in Faith: How Faith Shaped the Birth of the Nation 1607-1776 by Rod Gragg

A surprising little book

What do I mean by surprising? I already knew how much of a role faith played in the founding of our country, so I was not surprised by that aspect of Forged in Faith: How Faith Shaped the Birth of the Nation 1607-1776. Rather, I found myself thinking that Gragg was slanting the facts to make a point and leaving out crucial details, only to find, when I turned the page, that he addressed those details and addressed them fairly.

For example, he extols the virtues of the religious liberties enshrined in Massachusetts Colony's legal system in Chapter 5 (p. 57). I found myself thinking - "Yeah, but what about the Quakers?" It is addressed briefly on page 60 and again on page 73 (it turns out, some of the Quakers were quite annoying when promulgating their religious beliefs, including one woman who walked naked through a Puritan church service while haranguing the pastor about the need for simplicity in one's life!)

Gragg makes his point early and often about the role of faith. The first few pages are a bit tedious as Gragg hits this note over and over, including quoting entire prayers by early leaders and entire Psalms that those leaders quoted.

Franklin, Adams and
Jefferson editing the
Declaration of Independence
Fortunately, the book picks up more and more steam the closer Gragg gets to the American Revolution and by the time this book ends it is humming right along. Gragg does a great job of expounding on the role of faith in Enlightenment era thinking and its impact on such influential thinkers as John Locke, whose theories and ideas became played a large influence on Thomas Jefferson's wording in the Declaration of Independence.

Still, I must note that while it is true that Faith played a large role in the founders lives, it was not the only influence. They were also influenced by the classical writings of the ancient Greeks and Romans. If one read this and Carl J. Richard's Greeks & Romans Bearing Gifts: How the Ancients Inspired the Founding Fathers one would receive a much more well-rounded view of the foundations of this country than would be covered in any American history textbook.

I rate this book 4 stars out of 5.

Reviewed on August 13, 2010.

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