When I read about the United States of the 1700’s I’m often amazed at the indifference toward orthodox religious thinking at the time. George Washington walked out of church to avoid communion. Ben Franklin changed religious views over his life time. A new book about Franklin attributes to him our current concept of “spiritual but not religious.”
The book attributes to Franklin the difficulty of pinning down what he really believed. He made a fortune writing and publishing so entertaining readers seemed to be mostly what he was about. He would sometimes write an article lauding the Christian faith. Then, under a pseudonym he would write a rebuttal ridiculing the faith.
He knew and absorbed the literature of doubt. At one point in his long publishing career he wrote at length about his theory earth had God, but each of the planets had its own god as well.
Periodically, he would write something that sounded sincerely Christian. Late in life he encouraged his grandchildren to pray as their parents wanted them to.
He also alluded to scripture when he wanted to make an argument for some project or event. Others did it before him and many since.
Assigning to Franklin the modern “spiritual but not religious” seems like a good fit. He had little interest in participating in church life nor did he provide us with much testimony about his inner religious life. He did think a religious society would be more harmonious than a non religious one.
One interesting man was Benjamin Franklin.