My post “What the Hell Did Lincoln Really Believe” concluded that Lincoln was not a Christian in any kind of technical sense. Being a deist, or talking about God, does not make you a Christian but only a monotheist and certainly not the kind of Christian the vast majority of people believe to be Christian. For most Christians, Lincoln deserved to be damned. The desire to own him underlines the deep need to create a Christian Theocracy as being the only moral governance. It angers this silly nonsense prevails; Lincoln was not Christian, damnit, or damn him as he did not seek salvation in Christ or follow any kind of church canon. I will let the quotes stand for themselves.
“My earlier views of the unsoundness of the Christian scheme of salvation and the human origin of the scriptures, have become clearer and stronger with advancing years and I see no reason for thinking I shall ever change them.
– Abraham Lincoln, to Judge J S Wakefield, after Willie Lincoln’s death (Willie died in 1862), quoted by Joseph Lewis in “Lincoln the Freethinker,” also appearing in Remsburg’s “Six Historic Americans”
“What is to be, will be, and no prayers of ours can arrest the decree.
– Abraham Lincoln, quoted by Mary Todd Lincoln in William Herndon’s Religion of Lincoln, quoted from Franklin Steiner, The Religious Beleifs of Our Presidents, p. 118
It will not do to investigate the subject of religion too closely, as it is apt to lead to Infidelity.
– Abraham Lincoln, Manford’s Magazine, quoted from Franklin Steiner, The Religious Beliefs of Our Presidents, p. 144
“The Bible is not my book nor Christianity my profession.
– Abraham Lincoln, quoted by Joseph Lewis in “Lincoln the Freethinker”
“Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes his aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God’s assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men’s faces, but let us judge not that we be not judged.
– Abraham Lincoln, sarcasm in his Second Innaugural Address (1865)
“Oh, that [his Thanksgiving Message] is some of Seward’s nonsense, and it pleases the fools.
– Abraham Lincoln, to Judge James M Nelson, in response to a question from Nelson: “I once asked him about his fervent Thanksgiving Message and twitted him with being an unbeliever in what was published.” Quoted from Franklin Steiner, The Religious Beliefs of Our Presidents, p. 138
“There was the strangest combination of church influence against me. Baker is a Campbellite; and therefore, as I suppose with few exceptions, got all of that Church. My wife had some relations in the Presbyterian churches, and some in the Episcopal churches; and therefore, wherever it would tell, I was set down as either one or the other, while it was everywhere contended that no Christian ought to vote for me because I belonged to no Church, and was suspected of being a Deist and had talked of fighting a duel.
– Abraham Lincoln, letter to Martin M Morris (March 26, 1843), in The Complete Works of Abraham Lincoln (Nicolay & Hay Edition, volume 1, page 80), quoted from Franklin Steiner, The Religious Beliefs of Our Presidents (page 112)
“I am approached with the most opposite opinions and advice, and that by religious men, who are equally certain that they represent the Divine will. I hope it will not be irreverent for me to say that if it is probable that God would reveal His will to others, on a point so connected with my duty, it might be supposed that He would reveal it directly to me … These are not, however, the days of miracles…. I must study the plain, physical facts of the case, ascertain what is possible, and learn what appears to be wise and right.
– Abraham Lincoln, in a speech to an assembly of clergymen regarding the struggles he was having over the Emancipation Proclamation that would soon be issued (1862), quoted from Susan Jacoby, “One Nation, Under Secularism” (January 8, 2004)
“I have neither time nor disposition to enter into discussion with the Friend, and end this occasion by suggesting for her consideration the question whether, if it be true that the Lord has appointed me to do the work she has indicated, it is not probable that he would have communicated knowledge of the fact to me as well as to her.
– Abraham Lincoln, to a Quaker (Friends) clergyman who had given him a message from the Lord, from Allen Thorndyke Rice, ed, Reminiscences of Lincoln, pp. 284-285, quoted from Franklin Steiner, The Religious Beliefs of Our Presidents, p. 136
“Mr. Lincoln’s maxim and philosophy were: ‘What is to be, will be, and no prayers of ours can arrest the decree.’ He never joined any Church. He was a religious man always, I think, but was not a technical Christian.”
– Mary Todd Lincoln in William Herndon’s Religion of Lincoln, quoted from Franklin Steiner, The Religious Beleifs of Our Presidents, p. 118
“Mr. Lincoln had no hope, and no faith, in the usual acceptation of those words.”
– Mary Todd Lincoln, to Colonel Ward H Lamon, in his Life of Abraham Lincoln, p. 459, quoted from Franklin Steiner, The Religious Beleifs of Our Presidents, p. 118
“When Dr. Holland asked Mr. Herndon about his partner’s religoius convictions, Mr. Herndon replied that he had none, and the less he said on that subject the better. ‘Oh well,’ replied Dr. Holland, ‘I’ll fix that.’”
– Franklin Steiner, The Religious Beliefs of Our Presidents, p. 112, on Dr. Josiah G Holland, later editor of Scribner’s Monthly, having spent only two weeks interviewing Lincoln’s friends before preparing his Biography, in which Holland fabricated accounts of Lincoln’s piety
“No one of Lincoln’s old acquaintances in this city ever heard of his conversion to Christianity by Dr. Smith or anyone else. It was never suggested nor thought of here until after his death…. I never saw him read a second of time in Dr. Smith’s book on Infidelity. He threw at down upon our table — spit upon it as it were — and never opened it to my knowledge.”
– William Herndon, quoted in Franklin Steiner, The Religious Beleifs of Our Presidents, p. 124
“Mr. Lincoln was entirely deficient in what the phrenologists call reverence [veneration]…. I was once in Mr. Lincoln’s company when a sectarian controversy arose. He himself looked very grave, and made no observation until all the others had finished what they had to say. Then with a twinkle of the eye he remarked that he preferred the Episcopalians to every other sect, because they are equally indifferent to a man’s religion and his politics.”
– Maunsell B Field, from Memories of Many Men, quoted from Franklin Steiner, The Religious Beleifs of Our Presidents, p. 137
“In religion, Mr. Lincoln was about of the same opinion as Bob Ingersoll, and there is no account of his ever having changed. He went to church a few times with his family while he was President, but so far as I have been able to find out, he remained an unbeliever. Mr. Lincoln in his younger days wrote a book, in which he endeavored to prove the fallacy of the plan of salvation and the divinity of Christ.”
– Judge James M Nelson, who had an intimate acquaintance with Lincoln in Washington, in the Louisville Times, in 1887, quoted from Franklin Steiner, The Religious Beleifs of Our Presidents, p. 137
“While it may be fairly said that Mr. Lincoln entertained many Christian sentiments, it cannot be said that he was himself a Christian in faith or practice. He was no disciple of Jesus of Nazareth. He did not believe in his divinity and was not a member of his Church.
“He was at first a writing Infidel of the school of Paine and Volney, and afterwards a talking Infidel of the school of Parker and Channing….
“If the Churches had grown cold — if the Christians had taken a stand aloof — that instant the Union would have perished. Mr. Lincoln regulated his religious manifestations accordingly. He declared frequently that he would do anything to save the Union, and among the many things he did was the partial concealment of his individual religious opinions. Is this a blot upon his fame? Or shall we all agree that it was a conscientious and patriotic sacrifice?”
– The New York World (about 1875), quoted from Franklin Steiner, The Religious Beleifs of Our Presidents, pp. 138-39
“The pretty little story about the picture of President Lincoln and his son Tad reading the Bible is now corrected for the one-hundredth time. The Bible was Photographer Brady’s picture album, which the President was examining with his son while some ladies stood by. The artist begged the President to remain quiet, and the picture was taken. The truth is better than fiction, even if its recital conflicts with a pleasing theory.”
– The Boston Globe, quoted in Franklin Steiner, The Religious Beliefs of Our Presidents, p. 139
“He was very cautious never to give expression to any thought or sentiment that would grate harshly upon a Christian’s ear.”
– Joshua Speed, explaining at least some of Lincoln’s extremely careful choice of language that was later used by Christians in attempts to “prove” Lincoln’s Christian piety, in Reminiscences of Abraham Lincoln, quoted from A W Furches, personal letter to Cliff Walker (January 10, 2002)
“The measure of his difference from most of the men who surrounded him is best gauged by his attitude toward the fundamentals of religion. For all his devotion to his cause he did not allow himself to believe that he knew the mind of God with regard to it. He was never so much the mystic as in his later days and never so far removed from the dogmatist. Here was the final flowering of that mood which appears to have lain at the back of his mind from the beginning — his complete conviction of a reality of a supernatural world joined with a belief that it was too deep for man to fathom. His refusal to accept the ‘complicated’ statement of doctrines which he rejected, carried with it a refusal to predicate the purpose of the Almighty. Again, that singular characteristic, his power to devote himself wholly to a cause and yet to do so in such a detached, unviolent way that one is tempted to call it passionless. He retained nothing of the tribal forms of religion and was silent when they raged about him with a thousand tongues.”
– Encyclopædia Britannica, 14th ed., quoted in Franklin Steiner, The Religious Views of Our Presidents, p. 139-40
Thanks to Positive Atheism
for making this much easier. What these quotes do for me is want to learn more about Mary Todd Lincoln!
Jim Newman, bright and well