Abraham Lincoln: Was He A Christian? |
by John R. Remsburg
FIRST PUBLISHED IN 1893 - NOW BACK IN PRINT FOR THE FIRST TIME!
Almost immediately after the remains of Abraham Lincoln were laid to rest at Springfield, one of his biographers put forward the claim that he was a devout believer in Christianity. The claim was promptly denied by the dead President's friends, but only to be renewed again, and again denied. Ever since, the question of Lincoln's religious belief has been bandied about. This book collects the testimony of more than one hundred witnesses, and devotes more than three hundred pages to answer the question, "Was Abraham Lincoln a Christian?"
The author, a proponent of Freethought or Freethinking, suggests that Lincoln's religious beliefs were in line with a sort of Deism, or natural religion, and that he didn't believe in Christianity or other organized religion. While not claiming Lincoln as a Freethinker directly, Remsburg conducts numerous interviews and other research demonstrating Lincoln's admiration for Freethinkers such as Thomas Paine, and his contempt for religious revivalism. This is a fascinating work that stands apart form the huge mass of books about Lincoln not only by its rarity, but also by its bold thesis at a time when Lincoln worship was at its height and a full 100 years before current researchers began to take a critical and analytical look at Lincoln, the man.
Some excerpts from private letters from William Herndon to Mr. Remsburg, and published for the first time in Abraham Lincoln: Was He a Christian? in 1893.
I was the personal friend of Lincoln from 1834 to the day of his death. In 1843 we entered into a partnership which was never formally dissolved. When he became unpopular in this Congressional district because of his speeches on the Mexican War, I was faithful to him. When he espoused the anti-slavery cause and in the eyes of most men had hopelessly ruined his political prospects, I stood by him, and through the press defended his course. In those dark hours, by our unity of sentiment and by political ostracism, we were driven to a close and enduring friendship. You should take it for granted, then, that I knew Mr. Lincoln well. During all this time, from 1834 to 1862, when I last saw him, he never intimated to me, either directly or indirectly, that he had changed his religious opinions. Had he done so had -- he let drop one word or look in that direction, I should have detected it.
That Mr. Lincoln was an Infidel from 1834 to 1661, I know, and that he remained one to the day of his death, I honestly believe. I always understood that he was an Infidel, sometimes bordering on Atheism. I never saw any change in the man, and the change could not have escaped my observation had it happened.
Lincoln's task was a terrible one. When he took the oath of office his soul was bent on securing harmony among all the people of the North, and so he chose for his cabinet officers his Opponents for the Presidential candidacy in order and as a means of creating a united North. He let all parties, professions, and callings have their way where their wishes did not cut across his own. He was apparently pliant and supple. He ruled men when men thought they were ruling him. He often said to me that the Christian religion was a dangerous element to deal with when aroused. He saw in the Kansas affairs -- in the whole history of slavery, in fact -- its rigor and encroachments, that Christianity was aroused. It must be controlled, and that in the right direction. Hence he bent to it, fed it, and kept it within bounds, well knowing that it would crush his administration to atoms unless appeased. His oft and oft invocations of God, his conversations with Christians, his apparent respect for Christianity, etc., were all means to an end. And yet sometimes he showed that he hated its nasal whines.
Let me ask the Christian claimant a few questions. Do you mean to say, when you assert that Mr. Lincoln was a Christian, that he believed that Jesus was the Christ of God, as the evangelical world contends? If so, where did you get this information? Do you mean to say that Mr. Lincoln was a converted man and that he so declared? If so, where, when, and before whom did he declare or reveal it? Do you mean to say that Mr. Lincoln joined a Church? If so, what Church did he join, and when did he join it? Do you mean to say that Mr. Lincoln was a secret Christian, acting under the cloak of the devil to advance Christianity? If so, what is your authority? If you will tell me when it was that the Creator caught in his almighty arms, Abraham, and held him fast while he poured the oil of grace on his rebellious soul, then I will know when it was that he was converted from Infidel views to Christianity.
Abraham Lincoln: Was He A Christian?
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