That statement standing alone makes Adams look like a skeptic.
However, he and other founders made contrary statements.
In a letter dated June 20, 1788, George Washington wrote his friend John Trumbull regarding the events leading up to and the emergence of America:
“We may, with a kind of grateful and pious exultation, trace the finger of Providence through those dark and mysterious events ...”
Adams himself seems to have had a change of heart when he wrote Thomas Jefferson that, “The general principles, on which the Fathers achieved independence, were the only Principles on which that beautiful Assembly of Gentlemen could Unite ... And what were these general Principles? I answer, the general Principles of Christianity, in which all these Sects were United.”
Adams, the second president of the United States, further wrote of the “settlement of America with reverence and wonder, as the opening of a grand scheme and design in Providence ...”
In “The Writings of Thomas Jefferson,” a letter to him from John Adams written June 28, 1813, Adams opined, “The general principles on which the fathers achieved independence were the general principles of Christianity. I will avow that I then believed, and now believe, that those general principles of Christianity are as eternal and immutable as the existence and attributes of God.”
Regarding his priorities, Adams wrote his wife, Abigail, on April 15, 1776, “Let them revere nothing but religion, morality, and liberty.”
In writing Zabdiel Adams on June 21, 1776, John Adams observed, “Statesmen, my dear Sir, may plan and speculate for Liberty, but it is Religion and Morality alone, which can establish the Principles upon which Freedom can securely stand. The only foundation of a free Constitution is pure Virtue ...”
In a letter to the officers of the First Brigade of Massachusetts, Adams concluded, “We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religions. ... Our Constitution was made only for a religious and moral people. It is wholly inadequate for the government of any other.”
In “The Works of John Adams, Second President of the United States” editor Charles Adams noted John Adams said, “Without religion, this world would be something not fit to be mentioned in polite company: I mean hell.”
Thomas Jefferson, a man who vacillated in his statements regarding faith in his “Notes on the State of Virginia” queried, “God who gave us life gave us liberty. Can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are the gift of God. Indeed, I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just, that His justice cannot sleep forever.”
I write such columns as this knowing there are those who are trying to remove from minds the very existence of God.
In his farewell address President Washington spoke of such persons, “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, Religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of Patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great Pillars of human happiness, the firmest props of the duties of men and citizens.”
The Rev. Dr. Nelson Price is pastor emeritus of Roswell Street Baptist Church.