Abraham Lincoln and religion

Abraham Lincoln and religion

Abraham Lincoln's religious beliefs are a matter of controversy. Lincoln frequently referenced God and quoted the Bible, yet never joined any church. He was particularly secretive about his beliefs and respected the beliefs of others. Since his assassination, many attempts have been made to define his beliefs as either religious or secular. For example, following Lincoln's death Josiah Holland spent only two weeks interviewing Lincoln's friends before writing his biography, in which he fabricated accounts of Lincoln's piety. [Steiner, Franklin. "Religious Beliefs of Our Presidents: From Washington to F. D. R." Prometheus Books, 1995] He was said to be an admirer of the deist author Thomas Paine, and it has been reported that he wrote a manuscript challenging orthodox Christianity modeled on Paine's book "The Age of Reason", which a friend burned to protect him from ridicule. ["Fighting for Lincoln's Soul" by Michael Nelson; Virginia Quarterly Review, Autumn 2003 http://www.vqronline.org/articles/2003/autumn/nelson-fighting-lincolns-soul/] While he never joined any church, there is disagreement about whether he experienced a conversion to Christianity later in life, particularly during his tenure as president. His close personal friend, bodyguard, and biographer Ward Hill Lamon said:

Early years

Lincoln's parents were fundamentalist Hard-shell Baptists. However, historian Dr. Mark Noll states that "Lincoln never joined a church nor ever made a clear profession of standard Christian belief." During the White House years, President Lincoln often attended the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church, where the pew he rented is marked by a plaque.

Noll agrees with biographer Jesse Fell that Lincoln rejected orthodox views on the innate depravity of man, the character and office of Jesus, the Atonement, the infallibility of the Bible, miracles, and heaven and hell. Noll argues Lincoln was turned against organized Christianity by his experiences as a young man who saw how excessive emotion and bitter sectarian quarrels marked yearly camp meetings and the ministry of traveling preachers. [ Mark A. Noll, "The Ambiguous Religion of President Abraham Lincoln" (1992) [http://www.adherents.com/people/pl/Abraham_Lincoln.html online version] ]

The one aspect of his parents' Calvinist religion that Lincoln apparently embraced wholeheartedly throughout his life was the "doctrine of necessity," also known as predestination, determinism, or fatalism.Allen C. Guelzo, Abraham Lincoln and the Doctrine of Necessity. "Journal of the Abraham Lincoln Association" 18.1 (1997): 29 pars. 7 Apr. 2007 http://www.historycooperative.org/journals/jala/18.1/guelzo.html] It was almost always through these lenses that Lincoln assessed the meaning of the Civil War.

Lincoln was often perplexed by the attacks on his character by way of his religious choices. In a letter written to Martin M. Morris in 1843, Lincoln wrote:

In 1846, when Lincoln ran for congress against Peter Cartwright, the noted evangelist, Cartwright tried to make Lincoln's religion or lack of it a major issue of the campaign. Responding to accusations that he was an "infidel", Lincoln defended himself, without denying that specific charge, by publishing a hand-bill in which he stated:

quote|That I am not a member of any Christian church is true; but I have never denied the truth of the Scriptures; and I have never spoken with intentional disrespect of religion in general, or of any denomination of Christians in particular... I do not think I could myself be brought to support a man for office whom I knew to be an open enemy of, or scoffer at, religion. [ [http://showcase.netins.net/web/creative/lincoln/speeches/handbill.htm Abraham Lincoln Online] ] As Carl Sandburg recounts in "Abraham Lincoln: The Prairie Years", Lincoln attended one of Cartwright's revival meetings. At the conclusion of the service, the fiery pulpiteer called for all who intended to go to heaven to please rise. Naturally, the response was heartening. Then he called for all those who wished to go to hell to stand. Not many takers. Lincoln had responded to neither option. Cartwright closed in. "Mr. Lincoln, you have not expressed an interest in going to either heaven or hell. May I enquire as to where you do plan to go?" Lincoln replied: "I did not come here with the idea of being singled out, but since you ask, I will reply with equal candor. I intend to go to Congress."

Later years

In 1862 and 1863, during the most difficult days of the Civil War and his presidency, Lincoln's utterances were sometimes marked with spiritual overtones.

On Thursday, February 20, 1862, at 5:00 P.M. Lincoln's eleven year old son, William Wallace Lincoln (Willie) died in the White House. Historians suggest that this may have been the most difficult personal crisis in his life. Willie had often remarked that he wanted to be a minister someday. [ [http://www.prairieghosts.com/a_lincoln.html Seances In The White House? Lincoln & The Supernatural ] ] When he died, Lincoln reportedly said, "My poor boy. He was too good for this earth. God has called him home. I know that he is much better off in heaven." [Lincoln quoted by Elizabeth Keckley, "Behind the Scenes, or, Thirty years a Slave, and Four Years in the White House". New York: G. W. Carleton & Co., Publishers, 1868. http://www.mrlincolnswhitehouse.org/inside.asp?ID=72&subjectID=3] After the funeral, Lincoln attempted a return to his routine, but he was unable. One week after the funeral, he isolated himself in his office and wept all day. Several people report that Lincoln told them that his feelings about religion changed at this time. [This transformation is reported by a considerable number of contemporaries, and a number of scholars agree - though there is less agreement on the nature of this change. Pulitzer prize historian David H. Donald, "Lincoln" (Simon & Schuster, 1995), p. 336-337, writes: "After the burial the President repeatedly shut himself in a room so that he could weep alone... During this time he increasingly turned to religion for solace... During the weeks after Willie's death Lincoln had several long talks with the Rev. Phineas D. Gurley, pastor of the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church in Washington where the Lincolns rented a pew... [W] hen he looked back on the events of this tragic spring, recognized that he underwent what he called 'a process of crystalization' in his religious beliefs." Ronald White, "Lincoln's Greatest Speech" (Simon & Schuster, 2002), p. 134, writes, "Many have pointed to the death of Willie on February 20, 1862, as a critical moment in Lincoln's struggles with faith." Stephen Oates, "With Malice Toward None: A Life of Abraham Lincoln" (Harper & Row, 1977), p. 70, writes, "After Willie's death, he talked more frequently about God than he had before." Sandburg, "Abraham Lincoln: The War Years", III:379-380, recounts a report that "Mr. Lincoln's views in relation to spiritual things seemed changed from that hour [viz., Willie's death] ." Noah Brooks to J.A. Reed, December 31, 1872, in "The Later Life and Religious Sentiments of Abraham Lincoln," "Scribner's Monthly"; Jul 1873; VOL. VI., No. 3.; pg. 340, wrote, "Speaking to me of the change which had come upon him, he said, while he could not fix any definite time, yet it was after he came here, and I am very positive that in his own mind he identified it with about the time of Willie's death." Mary T. Lincoln to James Smith, June 8, 1870, in Robert J. Havlik, "Abraham Lincoln and the Reverend Dr. James Smith: Lincoln's Presbyterian experience of Springfield," "Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society" (Autumn, 1999), wrote "When too - the overwhelming sorrow came upon us, our beautiful bright angelic boy, Willie was called away from us, to his Heavenly Home, with God's chastising hand upon us - he [Lincoln] turned his heart to Christ" http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qa3945/is_199910/ai_n8861124/pg_8] However, it must be noted that this is merely speculation. In a letter to Judge J.S. Wakefield following Willie's death, Lincoln wrote quote|My earlier views of the unsoundness of the Christian scheme of salvation and the human origin of the scriptures, have become clearer and stronger with advancing years and I see no reason for thinking I shall ever change them. [Joseph Lewis, "Lincoln the Free Thinker". Kessinger Publishing Company, 1924 (2006 reprint).]

Mrs. Lincoln used the services of mediums and spiritualists to try to contact their dead son. Lincoln apparently attended at least one seance at the White House with Mrs. Lincoln at this time. [ [http://members.aol.com/RVSNorton/Lincoln44.html Mary Todd & Abraham Lincoln Research Site] ]

At the same time, the War was not going well for the Union. General George McClellan's failure in the Peninsula Campaign came about within months after Willie's death. Next came Robert E. Lee's impressive victory at the Second Battle of Bull Run, after which he said, "I have been driven many times upon my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had nowhere else to go." [Reed, citing Noah Brooks, "The Later Life and Religious Sentiments of Abraham Lincoln," "Scribner's Monthly"; Jul 1873; VOL. VI., No. 3.; pg. 340.] [Pulitzer Prize winner David H. Donald, "Lincoln" (Simon & Schuster, 1995), 354, writes, "By the summer of 1862, Lincoln felt especially in need of divine help. Everything, it seemed, was going wrong, and his hope for bringing a speedy end to the war was dashed."]

According to Salmon Chase, Lincoln said, "I made a solemn vow before God, that if General Lee was driven back from Maryland I would crown the result by the declaration of freedom to the slaves." [as reported by Secretary of the Treasury, Salmon Portland Chase, September 22, 1862, Frank B. Carpenter, Six Months at the White House (1866), p. 89. Others present used the word "resolution" instead of "vow to God". Gideon Welles, "Diary of Gideon Welles, Secretary of the Navy Under Lincoln and Johnson" (Boston, New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1911), 1:143, reported that Lincoln made a covenant with God that if God would change the tide of the war, Lincoln would change his policy toward slavery. See also Nicolas Parrillo, "Lincoln's Calvinist Transformation: Emancipation and War," "Civil War History" (September 1, 2000).] At the same time, Lincoln sat down in his office and penned the following words:

The will of God prevails. In great contests each party claims to act in accordance with the will of God. Both may be, and one must be, wrong. God cannot be for and against the same thing at the same time. In the present civil war it is quite possible that God's purpose is something different from the purpose of either party -- and yet the human instrumentalities, working just as they do, are of the best adaptation to effect His purpose. I am almost ready to say that this is probably true -- that God wills this contest, and wills that it shall not end yet. By his mere great power, on the minds of the now contestants, He could have either saved or destroyed the Union without a human contest. Yet the contest began. And, having begun He could give the final victory to either side any day. Yet the contest proceeds. [ [http://showcase.netins.net/web/creative/lincoln/speeches/meditat.htm Abraham Lincoln's Meditation on the Divine Will ] ]

This concept continued to dominate Lincoln's public remarks for the rest of the war. The same theological allegory was prominent in Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address in March 1865:

In late 1862 and early 1863 Lincoln would endure more agonies. The defeat of General Ambrose Burnside at Fredericksburg followed by the defeat of General Joseph Hooker at Chancellorsville sent Lincoln into a deep depression. "If there is a worse place than hell I am in it," Lincoln told Andrew Curtin in December 1862. [Carl Sandburg, "Abraham Lincoln: The War Years" (New York: Harcourt, Brace & Co., 1939), Vol. 1, 630.]

1863 was the year in which the tide turned in favor of the Union. The Battle of Gettysburg in July 1863 was the first time that Lee had been soundly defeated. Prompted by Sarah Josepha Hale, [ [http://showcase.netins.net/web/creative/lincoln/speeches/thanks.htm Thanksgiving Proclamation by Abraham Lincoln ] ] in the fall, Lincoln issued the first Federally mandated Thanksgiving day to be kept on the last Thursday in November. Reflecting on the successes of the past year, Lincoln said,

No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. [ [http://www.cr.nps.gov/history/online_books/source/sb2/sb2w.htm NPS Source Book: Abraham Lincoln ] ]

In December 1863, Lincoln's Secretary of the Treasury decided on a new motto to engrave on U.S. coins. Lincoln's involvement in this decision is unclear, [According to The "Congressional Record" (1908, House), p. 3387, the motto was adopted "doubtless with his [Lincoln's] knowledge and approval."] but certainly the expression, "In God We Trust," was in keeping with Lincoln's spiritual beliefs at the time.

When a pious minister told Lincoln he "hoped the Lord is on our side," the president responded, "I am not at all concerned about that.... But it is my constant anxiety and prayer that I and this nation should be on the Lord's side." [F.B. Carpenter, "Six Months at the White House", p. 282. http://varuna.grainger.uiuc.edu/oca/lincoln/innerlifeofabrah00carprich/innerlifeofabrah00carprich_djvu.txt]

In November 1863, Lincoln traveled to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, to participate in the dedication of the cemetery established there for the thousands of soldiers who died during the recent battle. There he gave his celebrated speech, the Gettysburg Address, wherein he hoped that the nation shall, "under God," have a new birth of freedom. The words, "under God," may not have been in his written manuscript, but he added them extemporaneously from the podium. [William E. Barton, "Lincoln at Gettysburg: What He Intended to Say; What He Said; What he was Reported to have Said; What he Wished he had Said" (New York: Peter Smith, 1950), pp. 138-139.] According to scholars, he likely drew the expression from George Washington. [ [http://www.weeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/003/264xqezm.asp?pg=1 "Under God" ] ] Later, this passing rhetorical reference of Lincoln's would be embedded in the U.S. Pledge of Allegiance at the prompting of George MacPherson Docherty who, in 1954 was the pastor of the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church, where Lincoln had rented a pew.

Following their emancipation, some former slaves in Maryland presented Lincoln with a gift of a Bible. Lincoln reportedly replied:

In regard to this great book, I have but to say, it is the best gift God has given to man. All the good the Saviour gave to the world was communicated through this book. But for it we could not know right from wrong. All things most desirable for man’s welfare, here and hereafter, are to be found portrayed in it. [ [http://quod.lib.umich.edu/cgi/t/text/text-idx?c=lincoln;rgn=div1;view=text;idno=lincoln7;node=lincoln7%3A1184 Abraham Lincoln, quoted in "The Washington Daily Morning Chronicle", September 8, 1864; "The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln" (Rutgers University Press, 1953), Roy P. Basler, editor. Volume, VII, page 542.] ]

After his assassination

Following Lincoln's assassination, there were competing biographies, some claiming Lincoln had been a Christian and others that he had been a non-believer. J.A. Reed, in preparing his biography of Lincoln, asked a number of people if there was any evidence of Lincoln being an infidel in his later life. The reply from Phineas Gurley, pastor of the same New York Avenue Presbyterian Church while Lincoln was an attender, was:

I do not believe a word of it. It could not have been true of him while here, for I have had frequent and intimate conversations with him on the Subject of the Bible and the Christian religion, when he could have had no motive to deceive me, and I considered him sound not only on the truth of the Christian religion but on all its fundamental doctrines and teachings. And more than that, in the latter days of his chastened and weary life, after the death of his son Willie, and his visit to the battlefield of Gettysburg, he said, with tears in his eyes, that he had lost confidence in everything but God, and that he now believed his heart was changed, and that he loved the Savior, and, if he was not deceived in himself, it was his intention soon to make a profession of religion. [Phineas Gurley, quoted by J.A. Reed, "The Later Life and Religious Sentiments of Abraham Lincoln," "Scribner's Monthly"; Jul 1873; VOL. VI., No. 3.; pg. 339 http://www.infidels.org/library/historical/john_remsburg/six_historic_americans/chapter_5.html#1.10]

According to an affidavit signed under oath in Essex County, New Jersey, February 15, 1928, by Mrs. Sidney I. Lauck, then a very old woman: "After Mr. Lincoln's death, Dr. Gurley told me that Mr. Lincoln had made all the necessary arrangements with him and the Session of the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church to be received into the membership of the said church, by confession of his faith in Christ, on the Easter Sunday following the Friday night when Mr. Lincoln was assassinated." Mrs. Lauck was, she said, about thirty years of age at the time of the assassination. [D. James Kennedy in his booklet, "What They Believed: The Faith of Washington, Jefferson, and Lincoln" p. 59, Published by Coral Ridge Ministries, 2003] Though this is possible, Dr. Gurley did not mention anything about Lincoln's impending membership at the funeral in the White House, in which he delivered the sermon which has been preservedl. [ [http://showcase.netins.net/web/creative/lincoln/speeches/gurley.htm Abraham Lincoln's White House Funeral Sermon ] ]

Noah Brooks, a newspaperman, and a friend and biographer of Lincoln's, in reply to Reed's inquiry if there was any truth to claims that Lincoln was an infidel, stated:

In addition to what has appeared from my pen, I will state that I have had many conversations with Mr. Lincoln, which were more or less of a religious character, and while I never tried to draw anything like a statement of his views from him, yet be freely expressed himself to me as having 'a hope of blessed immortality through Jesus Christ.' His views seemed to settle so naturally around that statement, that I considered no other necessary. His language seemed not that of an inquirer, but of one who had a prior settled belief in the fundamental doctrines of the Christian religion. Once or twice, speaking to me of the change which had come upon him, he said, while he could not fix any definite time, yet it was after he came here, and I am very positive that in his own mind he identified it with about the time of Willie's death. He said, too, that after he went to the White House he kept up the habit of daily prayer. Sometimes he said it was only ten words, but those ten words he had. There is no possible reason to suppose that Mr. Lincoln would ever deceive me as to his religious sentiments. In many conversations with him, I absorbed the firm conviction that Mr. Lincoln was at heart a Christian man, believed in the Savior, and was seriously considering the step which would formally connect him with the visible church on earth. Certainly, any suggestion as to Mr. Lincoln's skepticism or Infidelity, to me who knew him intimately from 1862 till the time of his death, is a monstrous fiction -- a shocking perversion. [Noah Brooks to J.A. Reed, December 31, 1872, in "The Later Life and Religious Sentiments of Abraham Lincoln," "Scribner's Monthly"; Jul 1873; VOL. VI., No. 3.; pg. 340. http://www.infidels.org/library/historical/john_remsburg/six_historic_americans/chapter_5.html#1.7]

Brooks' claim that Lincoln "was seriously considering" formal membership in a church was corroborated by a woman from Brooklyn in the United States Christian Commission. [Francis Bicknell Carpenter, "Six Months in the White House", cited by Reed, "The Later Life and Religious Sentiments of Abraham Lincoln," "Scribner's Monthly"; Jul 1873; VOL. VI., No. 3.; pg. 340.]

Another who maintained that Lincoln was converted while in Washington, was the well-known Presbyterian clergyman, the Rev. John H. Barrows, D.D. He said:

In the anxious uncertainties of the great war, he gradually rose to the heights where Jehovah became to him the sublimest of realities, the ruler of nations. When he wrote his immortal Proclamation, he revoked upon it not only 'the considerate judgment of mankind,' but the 'gracious favor of Almighty God.' When darkness gathered over the brave armies fighting for the nation's life, this strong man in the early morning knelt and wrestled in prayer with Him who holds the fate of empires. When the clouds lifted above the carnage of Gettysburg, he gave his heart to the Lord Jesus Christ. When he pronounced his matchless oration on the chief battlefield of the war, he gave expression to the resolve that 'this nation, under God, should have a new birth of freedom.' And when he wrote his last Inaugural Address, he gave it the lofty religious tone of an old Hebrew psalm. [Lincoln Memorial Album, p. 508 http://www.infidels.org/library/historical/john_remsburg/six_historic_americans/chapter_5.html#1.18]

Another entry in the memory book "The Lincoln Memorial Album—Immortelles" attributed to "An Illinois clergyman" (unnamed; most entries in the memory book are attributed by name) reads

"When I left Springfield I asked the people to pray for me. I was not a Christian. When I buried my son, the severest trial of my life, I was not a Christian. But when I went to Gettysburg and saw the graves of thousands of our soldiers, I then and there consecrated myself to Christ. Yes, I do love Jesus." [Osborn H. Oldroyd, Editor, 1882, New York: G.W. Carleton & Co."The Lincoln Memorial: Album Immortelles", p. 508; From the copy in the U.S. Archivesl online at http://ia331331.us.archive.org/0/items/lincolnmemoriala00oldriala/lincolnmemoriala00oldriala_djvu.txt]
This has been portrayed to have been Lincoln's "reply" to this unnamed Illinois clergyman when asked if he loved Jesus. Some versions of this have Lincoln using the word "crosses" instead of "graves", and some have him saying "Christ" instead of "Jesus". William Eleazar Barton quotes this version in "The Soul of Abraham Lincoln" (1920), but further writes:
"This incident must have appeared in print immediately after Lincoln's death, for I find it quoted in memorial addresses of May, 1865. Mr Oldroyd has endeavored to learn for me in what paper he found it and on whose authority it rests, but without result. He does not remember where he found it. It is inherently improbable, and rests on no adequate testimony. It ought to be wholly disregarded. The earliest reference I have found to the story in which Lincoln is alleged to have said to an unnamed Illinois minister, "I do love Jesus" is in a sermon preached in the Baptist Church of Oshkosh, Wisconsin, April 19, 1865, by Rev. W.W. Whitcomb, which was published in the Oshkosh "Northwestern", April 21, 1865, and in 1907 issued in pamphlet form by John E. Burton." [See a discussion of this story in "They Never Said It", by Paul F. Boller & John George (Oxford Univ. Press, 1989, p. 91).]

Barton's search for the reference, however, was simply not thorough enough. A more complete investigation reveals that the quote may be first found in the "Freeport Weekly Journal", December 7, 1864. ["Freeport Weekly Journal", December 7, 1864.] This is confirmed by a letter from Benjamin Talbot, December 21, 1864. [ [http://memory.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/r?ammem/mal:@field(DOCID+@lit(d3943600)) Benjamin Talbot to Abraham Lincoln, Wednesday, December 21, 1864 (Lincoln's Christianity) ] ] Talbot's letter also proves that Lincoln, while living, was aware that he had been quoted as saying "I do love Jesus" and no evidence exists that Lincoln denied Talbot's observation.

Quotations attributed to Mrs. Lincoln seem inconsistent. She wrote to Reverend Smith, the pastor in Springfield: "When too - the overwhelming sorrow came upon us, our beautiful bright angelic boy, Willie was called away from us, to his Heavenly Home, with God's chastising hand upon us - he turned his heart to Christ" [Mary T. Lincoln to James Smith, June 8, 1870, in Robert J. Havlik, "Abraham Lincoln and the Reverend Dr. James Smith: Lincoln's Presbyterian experience of Springfield," "Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society" (Autumn, 1999) http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qa3945/is_199910/ai_n8861124/pg_8]

But Ward Lamon claimed that Mary Lincoln said to William Herndon: "Mr. Lincoln had no hope and no faith in the usual acceptance of these words" [Ward Hill (Colonel) Lamon, "Life of Lincoln" p. 489] and Herndon claimed she told him that "Mr. Lincoln's maxim and philosophy were, 'What is to be, will be, and no prayers of ours can arrest the decree.' He never joined any church. He was a religious man always, I think, but was not a technical Christian" [William Herndon "Religion of Lincoln"]

However, Mary Lincoln utterly denied these quotes, insisting that Herndon had "put those words in her mouth." She wrote,

With very great sorrow & natural indignation have I read of Mr Herndon, placing words in my mouth--never once uttered. I remember the call he made on me for a few minutes at the [St. Nicholas] hotel as he mentions, your welcome entrance a quarter of an hour afterward, naturally prevented a further interview with him. Mr Herndon, had always been an utter stranger to me, he was not considered an habitué, at our house. [Mary Todd Lincoln to John T. Stuart, Dec. 15, 1873, "Mary Todd Lincoln: Her Life and Letters", ed. Justin G. Turner and Linda Leavitt Turner (New York: Knopf, 1972), 603.]

Herndon's reply to these accusations was never answered. [http://www.historycooperative.org/journals/jala/22.2/wilson.html contains his reply and more on the enmity between the two]

John Remsburg (1848-1919), President of the American Secular Union in 1897, argued against claims of Lincoln's conversion in his book "Six Historic Americans" (1906). He cites several of Lincoln's close associates: [ [http://www.infidels.org/library/historical/john_remsburg/six_historic_americans/chapter_5.html#3 Six Historic Americans: Abraham Lincoln ] ]
*The man who stood nearest to President Lincoln at Washington -- nearer than any clergyman or newspaper correspondent -- was his private secretary, Col. John G. Nicolay. In a letter dated May 27, 1865, Colonel Nicolay says: "Mr. Lincoln did not, to my knowledge, in any way change his religious ideas, opinions, or beliefs from the time he left Springfield to the day of his death."
*His lifelong friend and executor, Judge David Davis, affirmed the same: "He had no faith in the Christian sense of the term."
*His biographer, Colonel Lamon, intimately acquainted with him in Illinois, and with him during all the years that he lived in Washington, says: "Never in all that time did he let fall from his lips or his pen an expression which remotely implied the slightest faith in Jesus as the son of God and the Savior of men." Both Lamon and William H. Herndon published biographies of their former colleague after his assassination relating their personal recollections of him. Each denied Lincoln's adherence to Christianity and characterized his religious beliefs as deist or skeptical.

Trained scholars who have written on Lincoln's religion in the recent past maintain a balanced and nuanced perspective, though none present evidence that his later views were inconsistent with his earlier deism.

Richard Carwardine of Oxford University has recently published "Lincoln: A Life of Purpose and Power" (2006). Carwardine argues that Lincoln's intense faith permeated everything he did as President.

Allen C. Guelzo, director of Civil War Era studies at Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania, published "Abraham Lincoln: Redeemer President" in 1999. Guelzo argues that Lincoln's boyhood inculcation of Calvinism was the dominant thread running through his adult life. He characterizes Lincoln's worldview as a kind of "Calvinized Deism". [ p447 "Redeemer President"]

These recent scholars expand on the mainstream views of the likes of G. Frederick Owen who wrote "Abraham Lincoln: The Man and His Faith" in 1976, William Wolf who wrote "The Religion of Abraham Lincoln" in 1963, and William Barton who wrote "The Soul of Abraham Lincoln" in 1920. These "scholars" maintain that Lincoln was a man of deep faith.

Notes


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