On October 8, 1722 Benjamin Franklin’s fourteenth and final essay under the pen name “Silence Dogood” was published in the New England Courant. In this essay, Benjamin Franklin takes a different approach than the previous thirteen letters and directly attacks the institution of religion and the church itself.
Franklin shows his disdain with a certain clergymen of Connecticut, “But, by this Turn of Thought I would not be suspected of Uncharitableness to those Clergymen at Connecticut, who have lately embrac’d the Establish’d Religion of our Nation” Franklin seems to direct this attack against church and religion after learning that New Haven clergymen and Yale faculty members had switched their religious beliefs, abandoning their Puritan Congregation for an Anglican ordination. He calls into question the meaning and significance of religion and church, as it does not seem appropriate to him that one would be able to switch their religious beliefs so easily and quickly, for seemingly no reason.
Franklin goes on to then call these blind followers of a certain religion “zealots” and “ideots.” Stating, “There are too many blind Zealots among every Denomination of Christians” Here Franklin is further questioning this idea of religion and what it all stands for. It appears that he believes the institution of religion can and has become contradictory when it gains followers who do not truly believe what they hear, and are able to bend and change their beliefs according to the time and given situation at hand.
He goes on to directly call into question the meaning and use of the word “church” as it is a somewhat contradictory and compelling matter of confusion for the people. Franklin claims that the insecurity or doubt in what the true meaning of the word church is has led to much confusion for the people, and he calls into question the true significance of the word “church.”