The Faith of George Washington

  • Gary Scott Smith
Part of the The Evolving American Presidency Series book series (EAP)


Even before he died in 1799, a battle began over the nature and significance of George Washington’s faith. While more heated at some times than others, this conflict has now been waged for more than 200 years. Among American presidents, only the religious convictions and practices of Abraham Lincoln have been as closely scrutinized as those of Washington. Of all the varied aspects of the Virginian’s life, few have caused as much contention as his religious beliefs and habits. Moreover, no other chief executive has had his religious life so distorted by folklore. As Paul Boller, Jr., puts it, Washington’s religious outlook has been “thoroughly clouded by myth, legend, misunderstanding, and misrepresentation.”1 Many of the hundreds of books, articles, sermons, and essays published about his faith and practices since 1800 have advanced ideological agendas, rather than providing dispassionate analysis. On one side are ministers and primarily Protestant evangelical authors who claim that Washington had a deep, rich, orthodox Christian faith. On the other side are freethinkers and numerous contemporary scholars who argue that Washington was a deist or Unitarian whose faith was not very meaningful to him.


General Order Religious Conviction Civil Religion American Revolution Natural Religion 
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Copyright information

© Mark J. Rozell and Gleaves Whitney 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gary Scott Smith

There are no affiliations available

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