Abraham Lincoln (February 12, 1809 – April 15, 1865) was the 16th President of the United States, serving from March 1861 until his assassination in April 1865. Lincoln successfully led his country through its greatest constitutional, military and moral crisis – the American Civil War – preserving the Union while ending slavery, and promoting economic and financial modernization. Reared in a poor family on the western frontier, Lincoln was mostly self-educated, and became a country lawyer, a Whig Party leader, Illinois state legislator during the 1830s, and a one-term member of the United States House of Representatives during the 1840s.
An exceptionally astute politician deeply involved with power issues in each state, Lincoln reached out to War Democrats and managed his own re-election in the 1864 presidential election. As the leader of the moderate faction of the Republican party, Lincoln found his policies and personality were "blasted from all sides": Radical Republicans demanded harsher treatment of the South, War Democrats desired more compromise, Copperheads despised him, and irreconcilable secessionists plotted his death. Politically, Lincoln fought back with patronage, by pitting his opponents against each other, and by appealing to the American people with his powers of oratory. His Gettysburg Address of 1863 became the most quoted speech in American history. It was an iconic statement of America's dedication to the principles of nationalism, republicanism, equal rights, liberty, and democracy. At the close of the war, Lincoln held a moderate view of Reconstruction, seeking to reunite the nation speedily through a policy of generous reconciliation in the face of lingering and bitter divisiveness. Six days after the surrender of Confederate commanding general Robert E. Lee, however, Lincoln was assassinated by actor and Confederate sympathizer John Wilkes Booth. Lincoln's death was the first assassination of a U.S. president and sent the nation into mourning. Lincoln has been consistently ranked by scholars and the public as one of the three greatest U.S. presidents, the other being George Washington and Franklin D. Roosevelt.
"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"
"The only person who is a worse liar than a faith healer is his patient." -- Abraham Lincoln, quoted by Victor J Stenger in Physics and Psychics
"The United States government must not undertake to run the Churches. When an individual, in the Church or out of it, becomes dangerous to the public interest he must be checked." -- Abraham Lincoln, regarding the Churches, quoted from Franklin Steiner, The Religious Beliefs of Our Presidents, p. 143
"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" (Authenticity questioned by some because it allegedly does not appear in Wakefield's papers [Andrew Lutes, persistent picker of insignificant separationist nits]; authenticity questioned by others who claim that Wakefield did not exist [forgotten web site which also featured all the regular and long-refuted arguments for Lincoln's Christian piety]. Go figure!)
After Lincoln was shot Mary Todd Lincoln was asked if her husband was a Christian she responded with “no.” However Mary Todd Lincoln also stated "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." (from William Herndon's Religion of Lincoln, quoted from Franklin Steiner, The Religious Beleifs of Our Presidents, p. 118) On the same page of "The Religious Beliefs of our Presidents she was quoted as saying "Mr. Lincoln had no hope, and no faith, in the usual acceptation of those words" in a letter to Colonel Ward H Lamon.
When he was younger he was a skeptic (and possibly remained so for the rest of his life) according to his close friend Joshua Speed in Reminiscences of Abraham Lincoln “He had tried hard to be a believer, but his reason could not grasp and solve the great problem of redemption as taught.”
"The only evidence I have of any change, was in the summer before he was killed. I was invited out to the Soldier's Home to spend the night. As I entered the room, near night, he was sitting near a window intently reading his Bible. "Approaching him I said, ‘I am glad to see you so profitably engaged.’. ‘Well,’ said I, ‘If you have recovered from your skepticism, I am sorry to say that I have not.’ Looking me earnestly in the face, and placing his hand on my shoulder, he said, ‘You are wrong Speed, take all of this book upon reason that you can, and the balance on faith, and you will live and die a happier and better man.’
Another one of his closest friends Col. James Matheny said “Sometimes he ridiculed the Bible and the New Testament, sometimes seemed to scoff at it, though I shall not use that word in it's full and literal sense. I never heard that Lincoln changed his views, though his personal and political friend from 1834 to 1860. Sometimes Lincoln bordered on Atheism. He went far that way and shocked me. ‘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.’ ”
His views tend to waver between atheism and theism but he had mentioned many times that he was not a Christian and could never be one.
1.) Michael Lind (2006). What Lincoln Believed: The Values and Convictions of America's Greatest President. Random House Digital, Inc.. p. 48. ISBN 9781400030736. "Lincoln was known to friends and enemies alike throughout his life as a deist, a feet that illustrates the influence of eighteenth-century thought on his outlook. "I am not a Christian," he told Newton Bateman, the superintendent of education in Illinois."
2.) John B. Remsburg. Abraham Lincoln: Was He a Christian?. Library of Alexandria. ISBN 9781465518941. "Washington, like Lincoln, has been claimed by the church; yet, Washington, like Lincoln, was a Deist. This is admitted even by the leading churchmen of his day."