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Lincoln's Christianity by Michael Burkhimer
12-03-2015, 10:50 AM (This post was last modified: 12-03-2015 10:50 AM by Eva Elisabeth.)
Post: #61
RE: Lincoln's Christianity by Michael Burkhimer
Thanks Roger - it sounded a bit strange to me (especially if uttered by Lincoln).
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12-03-2015, 11:53 AM
Post: #62
RE: Lincoln's Christianity by Michael Burkhimer
I mention it because of the profuse claims to Lincoln's newfound Christian ardor, in the old newspaper article. Sending his carriage to pick up the preacher, getting down on their knees each night in the White House and praying for hours, etc. Good detective work for you to find that, somewhere online. What does interest is the switch, as they cooked the article, from Rev Phineas Gurley over to a Sanderson, instead. Lincoln did favor the softened and oddly reworked brand of mystic Calvinism that Rev Gurley propounded. Probably Lincoln didn't really know what Calvin had taught. Gurley is said to have seldom preached at Lincoln or pounded him with politics, either. The newspaper article has the elderly Mrs. Frances (Gurley) Elderkin with many interesting sayings of Lincoln, but not told in the article. I notice her FindaGrave listing doesn't mention any of this.
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12-03-2015, 12:35 PM (This post was last modified: 12-07-2015 03:26 PM by Gene C.)
Post: #63
RE: Lincoln's Christianity by Michael Burkhimer
Interesting story (post 58). If true, I wonder if Mary was behind any of this.

So when is this "Old Enough To Know Better" supposed to kick in?
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12-06-2015, 05:15 PM
Post: #64
RE: Lincoln's Christianity by Michael Burkhimer
I hired a researcher to go through William E. Barton's papers at the University of Chicago and among the 700 or so papers he sent me, I found a letter written by J.E. Burton to Barton on April 27, 1919 that I think perfectly encapsulates Lincoln's religion. At this time, Barton was in the process of researching and writing The Soul of Abraham Lincoln. Burton wrote:

"He was religious in his nature and as Grace Greenwood (Mrs. Appleton) once wrote me (as her private opinion) 'he no doubt had religion but did not know it.' I have always felt that she expressed it well."

I agree. In other words, Lincoln never found it necessary to wear his religion on his sleeve and considered it more of a private virtue than a public badge. If only we had more of that today.

Best
Rob

Abraham Lincoln in the only man, dead or alive, with whom I could have spent five years without one hour of boredom.
--Ida M. Tarbell

I want the respect of intelligent men, but I will choose for myself the intelligent.
--Carl Sandburg
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12-07-2015, 11:18 AM
Post: #65
RE: Lincoln's Christianity by Michael Burkhimer
There are some parallels between Charles Darwin & wife Emma (Wedgwood) and Abraham Lincoln & wife Mary Todd. Both wives were Christians, both husbands were not. There is as much hemming and hawing about 'Darwins religion' as there is with Lincoln. Clearly, both were adamant atheists. I think Lincoln was almost a lifetime atheist --I mean from earliest age. While Darwin, evolved into an atheist from about age 35 and stayed that way too. Darwin's wife Emma was not given to histrionics or hysterics, she was much more of a comforter than Mary Todd ever was. Her father Josiah Wedgwood (of fine pottery fame) settled a sizeable amount on her, and Darwin's (atheist) father Robert also was a wealthy Doctor and financially generous to Charles Darwin and his large family. There was no need for, and Darwin never worked a day in his life. Darwin came to his belief in atheism from contact with academics in his attempts first to become a doctor, and then getting a (divinity) degree. Supposedly, 'Darwins genius at assessing the natural world' provoked him into embracing atheism. I think that when Lincoln came on to New Salem and fell into bad company is when he began to cement and bolster, with some semblance of erudition and philosophy, his belief in atheism. Both Darwin and Lincoln accepted a teleological point of view, but when Darwin understood fully what he was putting into his published works, he disavowed teleology. Because it implies an 'intellect, a plan on to a certain end, Intelligent Design', and which any self-respecting atheist must deny. Lincoln probably did not understand that teleology undercut the very premise of his atheism. If people and events 'are fated towards a certain ending', then there is a greater Hand, a Design at work which must have come from a metaphysical intellect. Both Mary and Emma worried about the eternal fate of their husbands. And it bothered Darwin far more than it did Lincoln, so that he concealed the full measure of his atheism from wife Emma for most of his life.
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12-07-2015, 02:19 PM
Post: #66
RE: Lincoln's Christianity by Michael Burkhimer
(11-08-2015 01:28 PM)L Verge Wrote:  Twice in my life, I have been struck with the thought that I might be a Deist. I am not going to attempt to define that theological term here, so you will have to look it up for yourself.

Cut to the shortest possible explanation: A supreme being created the world and gave man the power to reason his way through it. This has seemed to me to be the best explanation for the world we live in. I believe that Thomas Jefferson toyed around with the idea of Deism as did some of our nation's other historical figures. I have often thought that its tenets would suit Lincoln also.

Excerpt from Wiki: The concept of deism covers a wide variety of positions on a wide variety of religious issues. Sir Leslie Stephen's English Thought in the Eighteenth Century describes the core of deism as consisting of "critical" and "constructional" elements.

Critical elements of deist thought included:

Rejection of religions that are based on books that claim to contain the revealed word of God.
Rejection of religious dogma and demagogy.
Skepticism of reports of miracles, prophecies and religious "mysteries".

Constructional elements of deist thought included:

God exists and created the universe.
God gave humans the ability to reason.

Individual deists varied in the set of critical and constructive elements for which they argued. Some deists rejected miracles and prophecies but still considered themselves Christians because they believed in what they felt to be the pure, original form of Christianity – that is, Christianity as it supposedly existed before it was corrupted by additions of such superstitions as miracles, prophecies, and the doctrine of the Trinity. Some deists rejected the claim of Jesus' divinity but continued to hold him in high regard as a moral teacher (see, for example, Thomas Jefferson's famous Jefferson Bible and Matthew Tindal's Christianity as Old as the Creation). Other, more radical deists rejected Christianity altogether and expressed hostility toward Christianity, which they regarded as pure superstition. In return, Christian writers often charged radical deists with atheism.

I think Lincoln desperately wanted answers to a question that plagues us all -- why do bad things happen to good people in this world. He developed these questions in childhood and became acutely aware of things that needed to be changed and that a supreme being (if there was one) was not assisting. I think Lincoln kept these questions (and wariness) about religion throughout his life. I think he still clung to the idea of there being a supreme being (an maybe even the faith that there was a life hereafter), but tended to think that the evils and the illnesses in the world were up to humans to correct.

Notice that I use "I think" a lot in this post. That's what frustrates me with my religion - I have to guess at answers when I want "to know" the answers.

IMO Laurie's analysis represents my own feelings regarding Lincoln. My best guess is that he was a deist. When it comes to Lincoln and religion, using the words "I think" (as Laurie does) is the best we can do IMO - it's impossible to know with 100% certainty.
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12-07-2015, 02:43 PM (This post was last modified: 12-07-2015 03:26 PM by Eva Elisabeth.)
Post: #67
RE: Lincoln's Christianity by Michael Burkhimer
(12-07-2015 02:19 PM)RJNorton Wrote:  
(11-08-2015 01:28 PM)L Verge Wrote:  Twice in my life, I have been struck with the thought that I might be a Deist. I am not going to attempt to define that theological term here, so you will have to look it up for yourself.

Cut to the shortest possible explanation: A supreme being created the world and gave man the power to reason his way through it. This has seemed to me to be the best explanation for the world we live in. I believe that Thomas Jefferson toyed around with the idea of Deism as did some of our nation's other historical figures. I have often thought that its tenets would suit Lincoln also.

Excerpt from Wiki: The concept of deism covers a wide variety of positions on a wide variety of religious issues. Sir Leslie Stephen's English Thought in the Eighteenth Century describes the core of deism as consisting of "critical" and "constructional" elements.

Critical elements of deist thought included:

Rejection of religions that are based on books that claim to contain the revealed word of God.
Rejection of religious dogma and demagogy.
Skepticism of reports of miracles, prophecies and religious "mysteries".

Constructional elements of deist thought included:

God exists and created the universe.
God gave humans the ability to reason.

Individual deists varied in the set of critical and constructive elements for which they argued. Some deists rejected miracles and prophecies but still considered themselves Christians because they believed in what they felt to be the pure, original form of Christianity – that is, Christianity as it supposedly existed before it was corrupted by additions of such superstitions as miracles, prophecies, and the doctrine of the Trinity. Some deists rejected the claim of Jesus' divinity but continued to hold him in high regard as a moral teacher (see, for example, Thomas Jefferson's famous Jefferson Bible and Matthew Tindal's Christianity as Old as the Creation). Other, more radical deists rejected Christianity altogether and expressed hostility toward Christianity, which they regarded as pure superstition. In return, Christian writers often charged radical deists with atheism.

I think Lincoln desperately wanted answers to a question that plagues us all -- why do bad things happen to good people in this world. He developed these questions in childhood and became acutely aware of things that needed to be changed and that a supreme being (if there was one) was not assisting. I think Lincoln kept these questions (and wariness) about religion throughout his life. I think he still clung to the idea of there being a supreme being (an maybe even the faith that there was a life hereafter), but tended to think that the evils and the illnesses in the world were up to humans to correct.

Notice that I use "I think" a lot in this post. That's what frustrates me with my religion - I have to guess at answers when I want "to know" the answers.

IMO Laurie's analysis represents my own feelings regarding Lincoln. My best guess is that he was a deist. When it comes to Lincoln and religion, using the words "I think" (as Laurie does) is the best we can do IMO - it's impossible to know with 100% certainty.
Couldn't agree more. And I, too think such wording as "his atheism" in general to be inappropriate as we don't know. And IMO it's weird to claim he didn't understand his own beliefs while claiming to know better what he believed or not (which "his atheism" expresses).
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12-08-2015, 11:03 AM
Post: #68
RE: Lincoln's Christianity by Michael Burkhimer
(11-12-2015 04:02 AM)maharba Wrote:  Herndon and others claim that Abraham Lincoln was anti-thetical to Jesus, that Lincoln had written a small book he wanted to publish attacking Jesus Christ and scripture. But it was snatched away from Lincoln (by Sam Hill?) and thrown into a blazing firebox.

Although I agree this story is carried in several books, and I agree there is evidence to support (more than just Herndon), there was at least one contemporary of Lincoln's who disputed it. His name was Harvey Lee Ross. Ross carried the mail to and from New Salem and was a member of the New Salem Debating Society. Ross wrote:

"Now I have good reason to believe that Mr. Herndon drew largely on his imagination for this story. I believe it to be without foundation. As I have before stated, my business as mail carrier required me to be in Lincoln's store and post office a part of four days in each week to have the mail changed, and at the same time stopped at the same tavern with Mr. Lincoln. I generally kept my eyes and ears open and knew pretty well what was going on. If there had been any discussion or writing of the sort alluded to by Mr. Herndon I certainly would have known it. Mr. Herndon was then sixteen years old and lived at Springfield, twenty miles away. His father kept the hotel where I put up two nights out of each week, and I generally found Bill on hand either at the hotel or the stable. If he had been away from his business to visit New Salem to look up Mr. Lincoln's religious record, I think that I would have known something about it. It will be noticed that Mr. Herndon says that Mr. Hill threw the infidel document into the stove. Now I know very well that in 1834 Mr. Hill never had a stove in his store. I remember that in the Rutledge tavern, where Mr. Lincoln boarded, they had a shelf put up in the sitting room, and on this shelf the library was kept. There were some twenty five or thirty books law books, histories and miscellaneous works but none of those books referred to by Mr. Herndon.

I have always believed that from the first that I knew of Mr. Lincoln that he was a Christian and one of the best men that I ever knew. I think that all his acts, letters and public documents will show that Mr. Herndon was mistaken in regard to his infidelity."
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12-08-2015, 11:27 AM
Post: #69
RE: Lincoln's Christianity by Michael Burkhimer
I think deism was a lingering outflow of The Enlightenment. It allowed for a doddering old grandfather who had set the cosmos in motion...and then fell asleep or died. At many levels, it continued to function as a badly oiled machine. But then, that did not touch upon the supposed conundrums of 'natural evil' or man caused evil. The machine analogy was supposed to have been easily discredited, at the biological level. But, when Darwin reworded and published (Alfred Wallace and others work) on evolution, Darwin actually believed that the cell was an undifferentiated simple blob of protoplasm. It went hand in glove with the simplistic glosses of deism. When desired, it was also easy to ridicule Christianity and notions of a God actually taking an immediate hand in, and intervening in: nature, man, the cosmos, etc. None of that could happen. Jefferson ridiculed the notion of 'rocks falling from the sky'. Each day now, shows the unbelieveable complexity of the 'simple cell', each one an
unimaginably complex array of machinery. That machine analogy returning to vex atheism, and negating elaborate philosophical constructs of the Enlightenment. Lincoln's atheism played well enough as a stump speech mingled with amusing gestures, mimics and jokes. Later on, and with the shrewd counsel of folks like William Seward, Lincoln saw the value of weaving in Bible platitudes into his speeches, but not into his actual worldview.
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12-08-2015, 11:28 AM
Post: #70
RE: Lincoln's Christianity by Michael Burkhimer
Roger, do you know where I can find Mr. Ross's statement, and other comments he may have made about Lincoln in New Salem?

What is Herndon's source regarding Lincoln's "small book"?
(I just purchased Herndon's Informants, but haven't read it yet. Is it in there?

So when is this "Old Enough To Know Better" supposed to kick in?
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12-08-2015, 12:25 PM
Post: #71
RE: Lincoln's Christianity by Michael Burkhimer
Gene, for more from Mr. Ross please go here.

I am not sure how much there is on Lincoln's alleged infidelity in Herndon's Informants, but one statement for sure came from Samuel Hill's son, John Hill. See pp. 61-62.
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12-08-2015, 01:39 PM
Post: #72
RE: Lincoln's Christianity by Michael Burkhimer
(12-08-2015 11:27 AM)maharba Wrote:  Lincoln's atheism played well enough as a stump speech mingled with amusing gestures, mimics and jokes. Later on, and with the shrewd counsel of folks like William Seward, Lincoln saw the value of weaving in Bible platitudes into his speeches, but not into his actual worldview.

Interesting and you did a nice job of explaining your opinion of which I don't agree, but I think I understand your reasoning /comments better now. Thanks.

So when is this "Old Enough To Know Better" supposed to kick in?
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12-08-2015, 06:56 PM (This post was last modified: 12-08-2015 06:57 PM by Eva Elisabeth.)
Post: #73
RE: Lincoln's Christianity by Michael Burkhimer
(12-08-2015 01:39 PM)Gene C Wrote:  
(12-08-2015 11:27 AM)maharba Wrote:  Lincoln's atheism played well enough as a stump speech mingled with amusing gestures, mimics and jokes. Later on, and with the shrewd counsel of folks like William Seward, Lincoln saw the value of weaving in Bible platitudes into his speeches, but not into his actual worldview.

Interesting and you did a nice job of explaining your opinion of which I don't agree, but I think I understand your reasoning /comments better now. Thanks.
I second Gene, also in disagreeing.

Re."Lincoln saw the value of weaving in Bible platitudes into his speeches, but not into his actual worldview."

I cannot see Seward advising Lincoln to add this or that Bible phrase to his speeches nor that Lincoln needed any advise in this matter (while he cerertainly did ask for general feedback on wording).

I don't think Lincoln waved " Bible platitudes" into his speeches just for show. I think he seriously felt and meant what he quoted, e.g. when, following the Sermon on the Mount, he said to "let us judge not, that we be not judged". (To say the Bible is "platitudes" is anyway somewhat offensive and disrespectful IMO.)

Have you ever questioned the sincerity and faithfullness of the presidents when they took the oath on the Bible?
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12-08-2015, 07:18 PM
Post: #74
RE: Lincoln's Christianity by Michael Burkhimer
(12-08-2015 12:25 PM)RJNorton Wrote:  Gene, for more from Mr. Ross please go here.

Thanks Roger, this looks like an interesting book.

So when is this "Old Enough To Know Better" supposed to kick in?
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12-09-2015, 11:22 AM
Post: #75
RE: Lincoln's Christianity by Michael Burkhimer
"Lincoln saw the value of weaving in Bible platitudes into his speeches, but not into his actual worldview."

I cannot see Seward advising Lincoln to add this or that Bible phrase to his speeches nor that Lincoln needed any advise in this matter >

Didn't Chase write the last paragraph of the Emancipation Proclamation and to fittingly include GOD, over the objections of Lincoln? Didn't William Seward himself compose the entirety of the Thanksgiving Proclamation? Didn't Abraham Lincoln mock God and Christianity to 'sophisticated folks'?

"Oh, this is some of Seward's nonsense and it pleases the fools!"
--President Abraham Lincoln
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