Benjamin Franklin was one of America's most influential and famous founding fathers. He was also a scientist, and author and a printer. He founded the University of Pennsylvania, signed the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States, and was Governor of the state of Pennsylvania.
As Governor, Franklin in 1748 proposed a day of fasting and prayer for Pennsylvania:
It is the duty of mankind on all suitable occasions to acknowledge their dependence on the Divine Being...[that] Almighty God would mercifully interpose and still the rage of war among the nations...[and that] He would take this province under His protection, confound the designs and defeat the attempts of its enemies, and unite our hearts and strengthen our hands in every undertaking that may be for the public good, and for our defense and security in this time of danger.
Here are some noteworthy excerpts from Franklin's Autobiography:
I have been religiously educated as a Presbyterian; and ... I was never without religious principles.
I never doubted, for instance, the existence of the Deity; that he made the world, and governed it by his Providence; that the most acceptable service of God was the doing good to man; that our souls are immortal; and that all crime will be punished, and virtue reward, either here or hereafter.
These I esteemed the essentials of every religion; and, being to be found in all the religions we had in our country, I respected them all, though with different degrees of respect, as I found them more or less mixed with other articles, which without any tendency to inspire, promote, or confirm morality, served principally to divide us, and made us unfriendly on one another.
This respect of all...induced me to avoid all discourse that might tend to lessen the good opinion another might have of his own religion; and as our province increased in people, and new places of worship were continually wanted, and generally erected by voluntary contribution, my mite for such purpose, whatever might be the sect, was never refused.
Though I seldom attended any public worship, I had still an opinion of its propriety, and of its utility when rightly conducted, and I regularly paid my annual subscription for the support of the only Presbyterian minister or meeting we had in Philadelphia. He used to visit me sometimes as a friend, and admonish me to attend his administration.
In July of 1776, the Congress appointed Franklin to a committee charted to develop a seal for the new United States of America -- a seal that would capture the spirit and character of the new nation. This is what Franklin proposed:
Moses lifting up his wand, and dividing the Red Sea, and Pharaoh in his chariot overwhelmed with the waters. This motto: 'Rebellion to tyrants is obedience to God.'
Here's what Franklin wrote in a letter dated March 1778 to the Ministry of France:
Whoever shall introduce into public affairs the principals of primitive Christianity will change the face of the world.
In addition, Franklin wrote:
A Bible and a newspaper in every house, a good school in every district -- all studied and appreciated as they merit -- are the principal support of virtue, morality, and civil liberty.
In a pamphlet titled Information to Those Who Would Remove to America, written for Europeans who were considering coming to America, Franklin made these observations:
Hence bad examples to youth are more rare in America, which must be a comfortable consideration to parents. To this may be truly added, that serious religion, under its various denominations, is not only tolerated, but respected and practiced.
Atheism is unknown there; infidelity rare and secret; so that persons may live to a great age in that country without having their piety shocked by meeting with either an Atheist or an Infidel.
And the Divine Being seems to have manifested his approbation of the mutual forbearance and kindness with which the different sects treat each other; by the remarkable prosperity with which he has been pleased to favor the whole country.
On June 28, 1787, the Constitutional Convention was deadlocked and embroiled in bitter controversy. Benjamin Franklin rose and made the following plea to the delegates:
In the beginning of the Contest with Great Britain, when we were sensible of danger, we had daily prayer in this room for the Divine protection. Our prayers, Sir, were heard, and they were graciously answered. All of us who were engaged in the struggle must have observed frequent instances of a superintending providence in our favor.
To that kind providence we owe this happy opportunity of consulting in peace on the means of establishing our future national felicity. And have we now forgotten that powerful Friend? Or do we imagine we no longer need His assistance?
I have lived, Sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth -- that God governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without His notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without His aid?
We have been assured, Sir, in the Sacred Writings, that 'except the Lord build the House, they labor in vain that build it.' I firmly believe this; and I also believe that without His concurring aid we shall succeed in this political building no better than the builders of Babel: We shall be divided by our partial local interests; our projects will be confounded, and we ourselves shall become a reproach and bye word down to future ages ...
I therefore beg leave to move -- that henceforth prayers imploring the assistance of Heaven, and its blessing on our deliberations, be held in this Assembly every morning before we proceed to business, and that one or more of the clergy of this city be requested to officiate in that service.