Dispatches from the Creation Wars

Rowe on Adams and Unitarianism

Jon Rowe has been having an exchange on the WorldMag blog with a guy named Joel Mark on the subject of unitarianism and some of the leading founding fathers. In particular, he has argued that John Adams was a Unitarian who rejected the trinity, the divinity of Jesus and the notion of hell and the need for salvation, among other things. He has presented much evidence for that claim, directly from Adams himself in his letters, but Mark still refuses to accept it. Indeed, he has become quite obstinate, writing:

You are flat out wrong….John Adams was NOT a Unitarian. That was never how he identified himself or was identified and the Unitarians were not even around in Massachusetts or America in his prime years.

But it is Mark who is wrong. What better proof could you have than this statement from John Adams himself, interestingly to his son John Quincy Adams, who was himself a Calvinist:

We Unitarians, one of whom I have had the Honour to be, for more than sixty Years, do not indulge our Malignity in profane Cursing and Swearing, against you Calvinists; one of whom I know not how long you have been. You and I, once saw Calvin and Arius, on the Plafond of the Cathedral of St. John the Second in Spain roasting in the Flames of Hell. We Unitarians do not delight in thinking that Plato and Cicero, Tacitus Quintilian Plyny and even Diderot, are sweltering under the scalding drops of divine Vengeance, for all Eternity.

John Adams to John Quincy Adams, March 28, 1816

Those letters are all available on microfilm in the Library of Congress and are reprinted in many books as well.


  1. #1 Ben
    April 24, 2006

    Haha. Unitariowned!!

  2. #2 norbizness
    April 24, 2006

    Documentary evidence, schmocumentary evidence!

  3. #3 Chance
    April 24, 2006

    I sometimes sit in amazement that so many humans must either believe or disbelieve such a horrid concept as hell.

    To me it speaks to the depravity of the human mind. It is a shameful aspect of our nature.

  4. #4 Algerine
    April 24, 2006

    Obviously, Adams claimed he was a Unitarian merely to test our faith.

  5. #5 bourgeois_rage
    April 25, 2006

    Lies!! He was not! Ooh, it makes me so angry!
    :Sticks fingers in ears and shuts eyes tightly:

  6. #6 Raging Bee
    April 25, 2006

    I am amazed that Unitarians get so reflexively bashed by more conservative Christians. Far from being raving, simpleminded zealots, they’re so eager to accomodate as many different beliefs as possible, from as wide a range as possible, that they’d be totally ineffectual for anything as radical as a clinic-bombing, let alone a full-blown pogrom.

    And yet, somehow, it is this very quality that enrages the orthodox so: the ability, and willingness, to stop preaching and listen to people of different beliefs.

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