Not only the erudite Thomas Jefferson, the wily and elusive Ben
Franklin, and the underappreciated Thomas Paine, but also Ethan
Allen, the hero of the Green Mountain Boys, and Thomas Young, the
forgotten Founder who kicked off the Boston Tea Party these
radicals who founded America set their sights on a revolution of
the mind. Derided as infidels and atheists in their own time, they
wanted to liberate us not just from one king but from the tyranny
of supernatural religion.
The ideas that inspired them were neither British nor Christian
but largely ancient, pagan, and continental: the fecund universe of
the Roman poet and philosopher Lucretius, the potent (but
nontranscendent) natural divinity of the Dutch heretic Benedict de
Spinoza. Drawing deeply on the study of European philosophy,
Matthew Stewart pursues a genealogy of the philosophical ideas from
which America s revolutionaries drew their inspiration, all
scrupulously researched and documented and enlivened with
storytelling of the highest order. Along the way, he uncovers the
true meanings of Nature s God, self-evident, and many other phrases
crucial to our understanding of the American experiment but now
Stewart s lucid and passionate investigation surprises,
challenges, enlightens, and entertains at every turn, as it spins a
true tale and a persuasive, exhilarating argument about the
founding principles of American government and the sources of our
success in science, medicine, and the arts."
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