Benjamin Franklin’s autobiography supports both puritan and rationalist doctrine. Though it strongly supports both, it is considered a rationalist piece for many reasons. Puritanism and rationalism are very similar in many ways, but very different in many ways as well. The two religions both support God as the creator of earth and man. Puritans believe that God is in control of everything in the world and that His plan is ultimately perfect. They believe that everything happens for a reason. Good and bad things are all for a reason. Puritans believe that everything they have is a gift from God.
Rationalists believe that God created everything and left them in control. The rationalists believe that God created man with the gift of reason so they could figure things out on their own. The rationalists use reason to figure out life’s challenges instead of trusting in God to help them through it.
In Benjamin Franklin’s Autobiography, he uses many examples of reason. He decides to arrive at moral perfection. He creates a list of virtues he would like to perfect. To arrange these, he uses reason. He says, “as the previous acquisition of some might facilitate the acquisition of certain others, I arranged them with that view.” (Beers, Kylene Dr., Lee Odell eds. Elements of Literature. New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 2007, 72)
Though the method of achieving moral perfection was a rationalist concept, his virtues were all puritan concepts. He wishes to, “live without committing any fault at any time” and to, “imitate Jesus.” (Beers, 72) These are both puritan ideas.
Franklin uses both puritan and rationalist ideas in his Autobiography but plans on achieving moral perfection on his own. This is an example of rationalist beliefs. Puritans would go about achieving moral perfection by relying on God for help. Franklin does not do this. That is why his Autobiography is supporting rationalist ideas more than those of puritans.