On Churches and Lighthouses


“Were I a Roman Catholic, perhaps I should on this occasion vow to build a chapel to some saint, but as I am not, if I were to vow at all, it should be to build a light-house.”

– Benjamin Franklin


Benjamin Franklin wrote this in a letter to his wife on 17 July 1757, after narrowly avoiding a shipwreck. These lines are often misquoted as “Lighthouses are more helpful than churches.” Instead, Franklin—who identified himself as a Deist, not as a Christian, let alone a Roman Catholic—rather wittily remarks he is sceptical about the practical value of a chapel at the seaside to prevent shipwreck, as if to say “if I were to do anything to help prevent ships running aground, I would build a tower containing a guiding light and not some place of worship.”

On Lighthouses


“Lighthouses are more useful than churches.”

– Benjamin Franklin


“Were I a Roman Catholic, perhaps I should on this occasion vow to build a chapel to some saint, but as I am not, if I were to vow at all, it should be to build a light-house.”

Benjamin Franklin wrote this in a letter to his wife on 17 July 1757, after narrowly avoiding a shipwreck. These lines are often misquoted as “Lighthouses are more helpful than churches.” Instead, Franklin—who identified himself as a Deist, not as a Christian, let alone a Roman Catholic—rather wittily remarks he is sceptical about the practical value of a chapel at the seaside to prevent shipwreck, as if to say “if I were to do anything to help prevent ships running aground, I would build a tower containing a guiding light and not some place of worship.”