Benjamin Franklin and Henry David Thoreau's Religions Essay

Benjamin Franklin and Henry David Thoreau's Religions Essay

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Benjamin Franklin and Henry David Thoreau's Religions



Benjamin Franklin and Henry David Thoreau are by no means religious in any traditional

sense of the word. If, however, “religious” is taken to mean the “belief in any sort of supreme

being...that obliges ethical or moral conduct”, then both Franklin and Thoreau fall into this

category. Though the two are strikingly opposite in their manner and social interaction, they are

both held to a religious and personal standard. Their individual spiritual beliefs, ethical codes,

and their “quality of life”show that all of their actions and thoughts are held by themselves to a

higher standard.

Both men have specific beliefs about the existence of God and man’s place in the world.

Franklin is a self-proscribed “deist”, one who believes in God but not church, because of its

nature. His attitude was that man runs the church, it’s the beliefs that are important, the praising

and honoring of God on a daily basis, not the institution. Throughout the Autobiography, he

mentions his prayers and the fact that he enjoyed going to non-formal sermons. He also

supported the church monetarily for the benefit of others. Thoreau did none of these things, but

he was still a highly spiritual individual. He did not proscribe to any particular religion but did

hold the belief in one supreme being who created the universe. He believed that one should have

a true experience with the world according to how it was made and that man was endowed with



common sense by the creator. He says that humans “no longer camp as for a night, but have

settled down on earth and forgotten heaven”( Thoreau 25). This is why he believed societ...


... middle of paper ...


...reets of

Philadelphia. This is consistent with his religious views. Thoreau on the other hand was anti-

machine, almost anti-society. He said that there are “a thousand [people] hacking at the branches

of evil to one who is striking at the root” (Thoreau 51). He believed society would be better off

not through inventions but if every individual took it upon themselves to find their own true path.

Though differing, these two views express the same idea: leading humanity towards what is right.

Regardless of their differences, Franklin and Thoreau are focused on a spiritual,

humanist, non-shallow viewing of the world. Both don’t just do things because it is the thing to

do or out of fear, but because of their beliefs. They feel obliged to a higher conduct because of

their religious views of the world, whether “religious” or not.

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