Monday, November 19, 2012
Since the time I was able to read and form opinions for myself, I have considered Abraham Lincoln to be one of our greatest presidents. And, although he seemed to be a deeply troubled person, one I would love to meet.
Reading his works, be they letters, speeches, etc. I it is evident that he leaned heavily on our Creator God. I still believe that later in life (and during his terms as leader of our land) he was a deeply spiritual man. But, new information shows he struggled with his faith for a portion of his life.
Rather than diminish my opinion of him, it has in many ways enhanced it. Who among us has not questioned, been angry, or simply turned our back on God? Facing the loss of children, his wife's illnesses and his own depression, makes the fact that he found his way back into the arms of God even more satisfying.
The 16th president of the United States was born on an American frontier swept by almost violent religious revivals. Men routinely responded to preaching and the "Spirit's work" by shouting, convulsing, passing out and even barking. Few were caught up in this excitement more eagerly than Thomas and Nancy Lincoln.
Their intelligent, sensitive son found it all too much. Young Abraham rejected his parents' loud, sweaty brand of faith and in part because he could not reconcile the weepy, religious version of his father with the man who beat him, worked him "like a slave," and resented his dreams of a more meaningful life. Historian Allen Guelzo has written, "on no other point did Abraham Lincoln come closer to an outright repudiation of his father than on religion."
Young Abraham chose reading over religion -- and reading made him rethink religion. Alongside "Aesop's Fables" and "Robinson Crusoe," he read the works of religious skeptics. Books like Thomas Paine's "Age of Reason," Edward Gibbon's "Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire," and "Ruins" by the French writer Volney gave Lincoln the intellectual tools for dismantling the edifice of religion.
His move to the Illinois village of New Salem did the same. As his friend and biographer, William Herndon, wrote of this time, "he was surrounded by a class of people exceedingly liberal in matters of religion. Volney's 'Ruins' and Paine's 'Age of Reason' passed from hand to hand." Lincoln drank deeply from this anti-religion stream. Soon he began openly attacking Christianity. Friends recalled that he openly criticized the Bible, that he called Christ a bastard and that he labeled Christianity a myth. He even wrote a pamphlet defending "infidelity." To protect his political aspirations, friends tore the booklet from his hands and burned it. Lincoln was furious. He had become the village atheist.
Read the rest of the article here...