Ben Franklin: Diest Essay, Research Paper
Why Benjamin Franklin was a Deist
The Age of Reason; this is what the eighteenth century is often refereed to. It was called the Age of Reason because people were interested in logic. Being concerned with logic, people began to loose faith in religions that said humans were evil by nature and only a chosen few would be going to heaven. Moreover, people didn’t want to believe in a religion that didn’t make sense to them; from that fact sprang Deism. Deism was the belief that God is perfect and humans could also be perfect but only through bettering themselves (ex. a good education). Deists also believed that God, after creating the universe and man, went away and had nothing more to do with earth; this meaning the bible was just a book, Jesus was just a man, and there was no heaven or hell since God was not available for judgment. Some Deists couldn’t believe that there was no heaven or hell and that when one died, one died so they believed that when one died God could judge them; this is because of their Christian background. Benjamin Franklin was born in 1706 and died in 1790; most of his life, he lived in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Benjamin Franklin was a Deist. He believed that through hard work and a good education one could achieve perfection. He wrote many things that have influences of his beliefs. One knows Benjamin Franklin was a Deist because there are proofs of Deist beliefs in “A Witch Trial at Mount Holly “, The Autobiography, and the aphorisms he wrote; all of which he wrote.
During this time period, witch trials were not uncommon. In one instance, Ben Franklin had to write an article on a witch trial in Mount Holly, New Jersey. In a witch trial the accused were weighed against a huge bible; it was believed that the word of God could out weigh an “evil” being. Late in the trial, the accused were stripped, had their hands tried behind their back, and were thrown in water; if they were a witch they floated, if they were not, they drowned. In this particular event the accused made a request that if they were going to be tried, then two accusers had to be tried with them. Ben Franklin’s opinion of it or style in which he wrote the article was satirical (humorously criticizing). Franklin’s logical look on life showed when he points out that, when explaining the weighing outcome, ” flesh and bones came down plump, and outweighed that great good Book by abundance . their Lumps of Mortality severely were too heavy for Moses and all the Prophets and Apostles (Franklin, 1730.)” Franklin was saying that, logically, it wouldn’t matter if the person were “good” or “evil”; it was a natural law that something heavier will always outweigh something lighter. Also, when Franklin explains the drowning part of the trial he adds, “The more thinking part of the spectators were of opinion that any Person so bound and placed in water (unless they were mere skin and bones) would swim till their breath was gone (Franklin, 1730.)” The “more thinking part of the spectators” was Franklin; he was stating that, logically, a person would float no matter if they were “good” or “evil”, it is a natural law. In “A Witch Trial at Mount Holly” there is proof that Franklin was a Deist because of his satirical approach to the witch trial, his use of reason to disprove the stages of the witch trial, and the belief that the bible was just a book.
The Autobiography was simply Franklin’s autobiography. In his autobiography he starts off telling the readers how he got to Philadelphia and why. Later, he tells about how he went about achieving moral perfection, a belief of Deism. To gain perfection, which he believed was attainable but difficult; he designed a thirteen-step program. Each step made “climbing” to the next a bit easier; for example, Franklin writes (in reference to achieving “temperance”),” This being acquired and established, silence would be more easy; and my desire being to gain knowledge at the same time that I improved in virtue, and considering that in conversation it was obtained rather by the use of the ears than the tongue (Franklin, 93.)” This, he saw, as an efficient and effective way of bringing himself to perfection. This shows that he was a Deist because he wants to be perfect and he goes about it in a rational way. In this next quote he explains why perfection is best reached in steps; “And like him who, having a garden to weed, does not attempt to eradicate all the bad herbs at once, which would exceed his reach and his strength, but works on one of the beds at a time, and, having accomplished the first, proceeds to a second (Franklin, 94.)” This also shows his sound approach toward perfection. In The Autobiography one sees proof that Franklin was a Deist because a Deist tried to be perfect and that’s what Franklin was working towards.
Ben Franklin was said to be one of the wisest men ever to walk the earth; one can see that by just reading the aphorisms he wrote. The aphorisms appeared in Poor Richard’s Almanac and were written under the alias Poor Richard and, Richard’s wife, Bridget when it came to defending women. Most of the small, witty, sentences that Franklin wrote were to teach the public to work hard, not be frivolous with money and time, and learn. For example in, “If a man empties his purse into his head, no man can take it away from him. An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest (Franklin, 95.)” this aphorism shows that Franklin believed that knowledge was priceless and always giving, an idea of Deism. He also wrote, “Never leave for tomorrow, which you can do today (Franklin, 59.)” meaning don’t waste time, you might not have it in the future, or after death; in Deism there was no afterlife. Another aphorism he wrote means that if one works hard, no bad shall come to them, “At the working man’s house hunger looks in, but dares not enter (Franklin, 59.) Franklin wrote many, many more aphorisms, some don’t agree with his beliefs but that’s only because he was writing to the public who, the majority on them, didn’t follow the Deist religion but rather some other. The ones that do have influences of Deism are ones that talk about being a humanitarian (bettering mankind) and improving one’s self for the better.
In conclusion, in cannot be disputed, Benjamin Franklin was a Deist. One can find evidence of it in every, single one of his works even if it’s only that man must better himself (the most common). “Never leave that till tomorrow, which you can do today (Franklin, 59.)” Franklin once wrote; from the simplest quote one knows that Franklin was a smart, hard working, man that people had faith in. Being a Deist was something he didn’t hide; he wasn’t shy on his view of the bible, or the Puritan religion as in “A Witch Trial at Mount Holly”, one sees he wanted to be perfect in The Autobiography, and finally that he believed hard work and education were extremely important to him by reading the aphorisms he wrote; all beliefs of Deism. Religion is important to everyone and one’s views on it shouldn’t be hidden away from the public; one should follow Franklin’s example and be prideful or their faith.