Benjamin Franklin

On this date in 1706, Benjamin Franklin was born. The Boston-born printer, publisher, inventor, author, aphorist and statesman quit the Presbyterian Church in 1734, according to his Autobiography. Franklin was a deist in the mode of the Enlightenment, retaining only a belief in a god and future life. After the Constitutional Convention of 1787 had been underway for a month, the octogenarian Franklin suggested that the so-far secular convention conduct a prayer. Records show that Franklin’s proposal created polite embarrassment, and that the convention adjourned without any vote on the motion.

Franklin was part of a distinguished committee, including Adams and Jefferson, which adopted the United States’ secular motto “E Pluribus Unum” (“Out of many, one”). At one point, the pragmatic Franklin suggested that currency should contain the phrase “Mind your business.” From 1732-58 he published the annual pamphlet “Poor Richard’s Almanac” using the pseudonym Richard Saunders. In the 1754 almanac he wrote, “When a religion is good, I conceive it will support itself; and when it does not support itself, and God does not take care to support it so that its professors are obliged to call for help of the civil power, ’tis a sign, I apprehend, of its being a bad one.” D. 1790.

Freedom From Religion Foundation