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
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 society was
corrupting, because it takes away that common sense and focuses on earthly pleasures and
selfish materialism. He also believed in the joys of nature; he believed them to be gifts that life
should be “earnestly lived from beginning to end”, true to one’s beliefs (Thoreau 34).
Their beliefs also led to them possessing specific moral codes about how to live in the
world. Franklin was more traditional in this sense; most of his influences came from Christianity
and the Ten Commandments. He has very specific beliefs...