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3/15/2002                                                                                       View Comments

Thomas Jefferson Quotes

"I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just."

Thomas Jefferson

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"...difference of opinion is advantageous in religion. The several sects perform the office of a common censor over each other. Is uniformity attainable? Millions of innocent men, women and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined, imprisoned; yet we have not advanced an inch towards uniformity. What has been the effect of coercion? To make one half the world fools, and the other half hypocrites. To support roguery and error all over the earth."

Thomas Jeffersion, "Notes on the State of Virginia [1781-1785] also George Seldes, ed., The Great Quotations, Secaucus, New Jersey: Citadel Press, 1983, p. 363.

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"Let us, then, fellow citizens, unite with one heart and one mind. Let us restore to social intercourse that harmony and affection without which liberty and even life itself are but dreary things. And let us reflect that having banished from our land that religious intolerance under which mankind so long bled, we have yet gained little if we countenance a political intolerance as despotic, as wicked, and capable of a bitter and bloody persecutions."

Thomas Jefferson, "First Inaugural Address," March 4, 1801. From Mortimer Adler, ed., The Annals of America: 1797-1820, Domestic Expansion and Foreign Entanglements, Vol.4; Chicago: Encyclopedia Brittanica, 1968, pp. 144

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"I do not find in orthodox Christianity one redeeming feature."

[Thomas Jefferson]

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"...let them stand undisturbed as monuments of the safety with which error of opinion may be tolerated, where reason is left free to combat it".

[Thomas Jefferson, 1st inaugural address, March 4, 1801]

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"They [preachers]dread the advance of science as witches do the approach of daylight and scowl on the fatal harbinger announcing the subversions of the duperies on which they live."

[Thomas Jefferson]

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"I have recently been examining all the known superstitions of the world, and do not find in our particular superstition (Christianity) one redeeming feature. They are all alike founded on fables and mythology."

[Thomas Jefferson, letter to Dr. Woods]

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"I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should 'make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,' thus building a wall of separation between church and State."

[Thomas Jefferson, letter to Danbury Baptist Association]

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"... I am not afraid of priests. They have tried upon me all their various batteries of pious whining, hypocritical canting, lying and slandering. I have contemplated their order from the Magi of the East to the Saints of the West and I have found no difference of character, but of more or less caution, in proportion to their information or ignorance on whom their interested duperies were to be played off. Their sway in New England is indeed formidable. No mind beyond mediocrity dares there to develop itself."

[Thomas Jefferson, letter to Horatio Spofford, 1816]

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"Do not be frightened from this enquiry by any fear of its consequences. If it ends in a belief that there is no god, you will find incitements to virtue in the comfort and pleasantness you feel in its' exercise, and the love of others which it will procure you. If you find reason to believe that there is a god, a consciousness that you are acting under his eye, and that he approves of you, will be a vast additional incitement."

[Thomas Jefferson, on advising a nephew on a critical examination of the Bible]

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"The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods, or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg."

[Thomas Jefferson, speech to Virginia House of Delegates, November, 1776 (Notes on the State of Virginia Query XVII.) from Merrill D. Peterson, "Jefferson and Religious Freedom", The Atlantic Monthly 12/94. Also- Edwin S. Gaustad, Faith of Our Fathers: Religion and the New Nation, San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1987, pp. 42-43]

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"In every country and in every age, the priest has been hostile to liberty. He is always in alliance with the despot, abetting his abuses in return for protection of his own. It is easier to acquire wealth and power by this combination than by deserving them, and to effect this, they have perverted the purest religion ever preached to man into mystery and jargon, unintelligible to all mankind, and therefore the safer engine for their purpose."

[Thomas Jefferson, to Horatio Spofford, March 17, 1814; from George Seldes, ed., The Great Quotations, Secaucus, New Jersey: Citadel Press, 1983, p. 371]

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"Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legislative powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should 'make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,' thus building a wall of separation between church and State."

[Thomas Jefferson, letter to Danbury Baptist Association, CT. "The Complete Jefferson" by Saul K. Padover, pp 518-519]

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"Shake off all the fears of servile prejudices, under which weak minds are servilely crouched. Fix reason firmly in her seat, and call on her tribunal for every fact, every opinion. Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason than that of blindfolded fear."

[Thomas Jefferson, letter to Peter Carr, Aug. 10, 1787]

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"Read the Bible as you would Livy or Tacitus. For example, in the book of Joshua we are told the sun stood still for several hours. Were we to read that fact in Livy or Tacitus we should class it with their showers of blood, speaking of their statues, beasts, etc. But it is said that the writer of that book was inspired. Examine, therefore, candidly, what evidence there is of his having been inspired. The pretension is entitled to your inquiry, because millions believe it. On the other hand, you are astronomer enough to know how contrary it is to the law of nature"

[Thomas Jefferson, letter to Peter Carr, Aug. 10, 1787, in Works, Vol.ii., p. 217]

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"It is too late in the day for men of sincerity to pretend they believe in the Platonic mysticisms that three are one, and one is three; and yet that the one is not three, and the three are not one. But this constitutes the craft, the power and the profit of the priests. Sweep away their gossamer fabrics of fictitious religion, and they would catch no more flies"

[Thomas Jefferson, to John Adams, Aug. 22, 1813 Jefferson s Works, Vol. IV, p. 205, Randolph's ed.]

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"The care of every man's soul belongs to himself. But what if he neglect the care of it? Well what if he neglect the care of his health or his estate, which would more nearly relate to the state. Will the magistrate make a law that he not be poor or sick? Laws provide against injury from others; but not from ourselves. God himself will not save men against their wills.
But a short time elapsed after the death of the great reformer of the Jewish religion, before his principles were departed from by those who professed to be his special servants, and perverted into an engine for enslaving mankind, and aggrandizing their oppressors in Church and State."


[Thomas Jefferson, letter to Samuel Kercheval, 1810]

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"History I believe furnishes no example of a priest-ridden people maintaining a free civil government. This marks the lowest grade of ignorance, of which their political as well as religious leaders will always avail themselves for their own purpose."

[Thomas Jefferson, to Baron von Humboldt, 1813; from George Seldes, ed., The Great Quotations, Secaucus, New Jersey: Citadel Press, 1983, p. 370]

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"On the dogmas of religion, as distinguished from moral principles, all mankind, from the beginning of the world to this day, have been quarreling, fighting, burning and torturing one another, for abstractions unintelligible to themselves and to all others, and absolutely beyond the comprehension of the human mind."

[Thomas Jefferson, to Carey, 1816]

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"But the greatest of all reformers of the depraved religion of his own country, was Jesus of Nazareth. Abstracting what is really his from the rubbish in which it is buried, easily distinguished by its lustre from the dross of his biographers, and as separable from that as the diamond from the dunghill, we have the outlines of a system of the most sublime morality which has ever fallen from the lips of man. The establishment of the innocent and genuine character of this benevolent morality, and the rescuing it from the imputation of imposture, which has resulted from artificial systems, invented by ultra-Christian sects (The immaculate conception of Jesus, his deification, the creation of the world by him, his miraculous powers, his resurrection and visible ascension, his corporeal presence in the Eucharist, the Trinity; original sin, atonement, regeneration, election, orders of the Hierarchy, etc.) is a most desirable object."

[Thomas Jefferson, to W. Short, Oct. 31, 1819]

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"It is not to be understood that I am with him (Jesus Christ) in all his doctrines. I am a Materialist; he takes the side of Spiritualism; he preaches the efficacy of repentence toward forgiveness of sin; I require a counterpoise of good works to redeem it.
Among the sayings and discourses imputed to him by his biographers, I find many passages of fine imagination, correct morality, and of the most lovely benevolence; and others, again, of so much ignorance, so much absurdity, so much untruth, charlatanism and imposture, as to pronounce it impossible that such contradictions should have proceeded from the same being. I separate, therefore, the gold from the dross; restore him to the former, and leave the latter to the stupidity of some, the roguery of others of his disciples. Of this band of dupes and imposters, Paul was the great Coryphaeus, and the first corruptor of the doctrines of Jesus."


[Thomas Jefferson, to William Short, April 13, 1820]

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"The office of reformer of the superstitions of a nation, is ever more dangerous. Jesus had to work on the perilous confines of reason and religion; and a step to the right or left might place him within the grasp of the priests of the superstition, a bloodthirsty race, as cruel and remorseless as the being whom they represented as the family God of Abraham, of Isaac and of Jacob, and the local God of Israel. That Jesus did not mean to impose himself on mankind as the son of God, physically speaking, I have been convinced by the writings of men more learned than myself in that lore."

[Thomas Jefferson, to Story, Aug. 4, 1820]

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"All persons shall have full and free liberty of religious opinion; nor shall any be compelled to frequent or maintain any religious institution"

[Thomas Jefferson, 1776, from Thomas Jefferson: A Reference Biography, New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1986.]

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"...no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship or ministry or shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief, but all men shall be free to profess and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise... affect their civil capacities."

[Thomas Jefferson, 1777 draft Bill for Establishing Religious Freedom in Virginia]

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"To compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves and abhors, is sinful and tyrannical."

[Thomas Jefferson: Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, 1779. Papers, 1:545]

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"The doctrines of Jesus are simple, and tend all to the happiness of man. But compare with these the demoralizing dogmas of Calvin:

1. That there are three Gods.
2. That good works, or the love of our neighbor, is nothing.
3. That faith is every thing, and the more incomprehensible the proposition, the more merit the faith.
4. That reason in religion is of unlawful use.
5. That God, from the beginning, elected certain individuals to be saved, and certain others to be damned; and that no crimes of the former can damn them; no virtues of the latter save."

[Thomas Jefferson, to Benjamin Waterhouse, Jun. 26, 1822]

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"Creeds have been the bane of the Christian church ... made of Christendom a slaughter-house."

[Thomas Jefferson, to Benjamin Waterhouse, Jun. 26, 1822]

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"Christian creeds and doctrines, the clergy's own fatal inventions, through all the ages has made of Christendom a slaughterhouse, and divided it into sects of inextinguishable hatred for one another."

[Thomas Jefferson, letter to Thomas Whittemore, June 5, 1822]

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"The truth is, that the greatest enemies of the doctrine of Jesus are those, calling themselves the expositors of them, who have perverted them to the structure of a system of fancy absolutely incomprehensible, and without any foundation in his genuine words. And the day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus, by the Supreme Being as his Father, in the womb of a virgin will be classified with the fable of the generation of Minerva in the brain of Jupiter. But we may hope that the dawn of reason and freedom of thought in these United States will do away with this artificial scaffolding and restore to us the primitive and genuine doctrines of this most venerated Reformer of human errors."

[Thomas Jefferson, to John Adams, Apr. 11, 1823 Jefferson's Works, Vol. IV, p. 365, Randolph's ed., quoted by E. S. Gaustad, "Religion," in Merrill D. Peterson, ed., Thomas Jefferson: A Reference Biography, New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1986, p. 287.]

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"The metaphysical insanities of Athanasius, of Loyola, and of Calvin, are, to my understanding, mere lapses into polytheism, differing from paganism only by being more unintelligible."

[Thomas Jefferson, to Jared Sparks, 1820]

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"..our civil rights have no dependance on our religious opinions, any more than our opinions in physics or geometry"

[Thomas Jefferson]

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"It is error alone which needs the support of government. Truth can stand by itself."

[Thomas Jefferson, Notes on Virginia, 1782; from George Seldes, ed., The Great Quotations, Secaucus, New Jersey: Citadel Press, 1983, p. 363]

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"...If we did a good act merely from the love of God and a belief that is pleasing to him, whence arises the morality of the Atheist? It is idle to say, as some do, that no such thing exists. We have the same evidence of the fact as of most of those we act on, to wit: their own affirmations, and their reasonings in support of them. I have observed, indeed, generally that while in Protestant countries the defections from the Platonic Christianity of the priests is to Deism, in Catholic countries they are to Atheism. Diderot, D'Alembert, D'Holbach, Condorcet are known to have been among the most virtuous of men. Their virtue, then, must have had some other foundation than love of God."

[Thomas Jefferson, letter to Thomas Law, June 13, 1814; From Adrienne Koch, ed., The American Enlightenment: The Shaping of the American Experiment and a Free Society, New York: George Braziller, 1965, p. 358.]

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"He is less remote from the truth who believes nothing, than he who believes what is wrong."

[Thomas Jefferson]

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"I consider the government of the United States as interdicted by the Constitution from intermeddling with religious institutions, their doctrines, discipline, or exercises. This results not only from the provision that no law shall be made respecting the establishment or free exercise of religion, but from that also which reserves to the States the powers not delegated to the United States. Certainly, no power to prescribe any religious exercise, or to asssume authority in religious discipline, has been delegated to the General Government. It must then rest with the States, as far as it can be in any human authority. But it is only proposed that I should recommend, not prescribe a day of fasting and prayer. That is, that I should indirectly assume to the United States an authority over religious exercises, which the Constitution has directly precluded them from. It must be meant, too, that this recommendation is to carry some authority, and to be sanctioned by some penalty on those who disregard it; not indeed of fine and imprisonment, but of some degree of proscription, perhaps in public opinion. And does the change in the nature of the penalty make the recommendation less a law of conduct for those to whom it is directed? I do not believe it is in the best interests of religion to invite the civil magistrate to direct its exercises, its discipline, or its doctrines; nor of the religious societies, that the General Government should be invested with the power of effecting any uniformity of time or matter among them. Fasting and prayer are religious exercises; the enjoining them an act of discipline. Every religious society has a right to determine for itself the times of these exercises, and the objects proper for them, according to their own particular tenets; and this right can never be safer than in their own hands, where the Constitution has deposited it."

[Thomas Jefferson, letter to Samuel Miller, a Presbyterian minister, January 23, 1808. The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, Albert Bergh, ed. (Washington, DC: The Thomas Jefferson Memorial Association, 1904), Vol. XI, p.428. Also, Willson Whitman, arranger, Jefferson's Letters, Eau Claire, Wisconsin: E. M. Hale and Company, ND, pp. 241-242]

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"I am for freedom of religion and against all maneuvers to bring about a legal ascendancy of one sect over another."

[Thomas Jefferson, letter to Elbridge Gerry, January 26, 1799. From Gorton Carruth and Eugene Ehrlich, eds., The Harper Book of American Quotations, New York: Harper & Row, 1988, p. 499.]

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"A professorship of Theology should have no place in our institution [the University of Virginia]"

[Thomas Jefferson, letter to Thomas Cooper, October 7, 1814. From Gorton Carruth and Eugene Ehrlich, eds., The Harper Book of American Quotations, New York: Harper & Row, 1988, p. 492.]

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"I never submitted the whole system of my opinions to the creed of any party of men whatever, in religion, in philosophy, in politics or in anything else, where I was capable of thinking for myself. Such an addiction is the last degradation of a free and moral agent. If I could not go to Heaven but with a party, I would not go there at all."

[Thomas Jefferson, Letter To Francis Hopkinson, Paris Mar. 13, 1789]

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"To penetrate and dissipate these clouds of darkness, the general mind must be strengthened by education."

[Thomas Jefferson]

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"The bill for establishing religious freedom, the principles of which had, to a certain degree, been enacted before, I had drawn in all the latitude of reason & right. It still met with opposition; but, with some mutilations in the preamble, it was finally passed; and a singular proposition proved that it's protection of opinion was meant to be universal. Where the preamble declares, that coercion is a departure from the plan of the holy author of our religion, an amendment was proposed by inserting "Jesus Christ," so that it would read "A departure from the plan of Jesus Christ, the holy author of our religion;" the insertion was rejected by the great majority, in proof that they meant to comprehend, within the mantle of its protection, the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Mohametan, the Hindoo and Infidel of every denomination."

[Thomas Jefferson, Autobiography, in reference to the Virginia Act for Religious Freedom"; from George Seldes, ed., The Great Quotations, Secaucus, New Jersey: Citadel Press, 1983, p. 363]

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" Sir,- I have duly received your favor of the 18th and am thankful to you for having written it, because it is more agreeable to prevent than to refuse what I do not think myself authorized to comply with. I consider the government of the U.S. as interdicted by the Constitution from intermeddling with religious institutions, their doctrines, discipline, or exercises. This results not only from the provision that no law shall be made respecting the establishment , or free exercise of religion, but from that also which reserves to the states the powers not delegated to the U.S. Certainly no power to prescribe any religious exercise, or to assume authority in religious discipline, has been delegated to the general government. It must then rest with the states, as far as it can be in any human authority. But it is only proposed that I should recommend, not prescribe a day of fasting and prayer. That is, that I should indirectly assume to the U.S. an authority over religious exercises which the Constitution has directly precluded them from. It must be meant too that this recommendation is to carry some authority, and to be sanctioned by some penalty on those who disregard it; not indeed of fine or imprisonment, but of some degree of proscription perhaps in public opinion. And does the change in the nature of the penalty make the recommendation the less a law of conduct for those to whom it is directed? I do not believe it is for the interest of religion to invite the civil magistrate to direct it's exercises, it's discipline, or it's doctrines; nor of the religious societies that the general government should be invested with the power of effecting any uniformity of time or matter among them. Fasting and prayer are religious exercises. The enjoining them an act of discipline. Every religious society has a right to determine for itself the times for these exercises, and the objects proper for them, according to their own particular tenets; and this right can never be safer than in their own hands, where the constitution has deposited it.
I am aware that the practice of my predecessors may be quoted. But I have ever believed that the example of state executives led to the assumption of the authority by the general government, without due examination, which would have discovered that what might be right in a state government, was a violation of the right when assumed by another. Be this as it may, every one must act according to the dictates of his own reason, and mine tells me the civil powers alone have been given to the President of the U.S. and no authority to direct the religious exercises of his constituents.

I again express my satisfaction that you have been so good as to give me an opportunity of explaining myself in a private letter, in which I could give my reasons more in detail than might have been done in a public answer; and I pray you to accept the assurances of my high esteem and respect."


[Thomas Jefferson, Letter to Rev. Samuel Miller Washington Jan 23 1808]

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"The Christian god can be easily pictured as virtually the same as the many ancient gods of past civilizations. The Christian god is a three headed monster; cruel, vengeful and capricious. If one wishes to know more of this raging, three headed beast-like god, one only needs to look at the caliber of the people who say they serve him. They are always of two classes: fools and hypocrites."

[Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to his nephew, Peter Carr]

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"A lively and lasting sense of filial duty is more effectually impressed on the mind of a son or daughter by reading King Lear, than by all the dry volumes of ethics, and divinity, that ever were written."

[Thomas Jefferson, letter to Robert Skipwith, August 3, 1771]

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"The Christian God is a being of terrific character -- cruel, vindictive, capricious, and unjust."

[Thomas Jefferson, _Jefferson Bible_]

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"We discover [in the gospels] a groundwork of vulgar ignorance, of things impossible, of superstition, fanaticism and fabrication."

[Thomas Jefferson, _Jefferson Bible_]

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"It is between fifty and sixty years since I read the Apocalypse, and I then considered it merely the ravings of a maniac."

[Thomas Jefferson, _Jefferson Bible_]

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"On the basis of sensation, of matter and motion, we may erect the fabric of all the certainties we can have or need. I can conceive thought to be an action of a particular organisation of matter, formed for that purpose by it's creator, as well as that attraction in an action of matter, or magnetism of lodestone. When he who denies to the Creator the power of endowing matter with the mode of action called thinking shall shew how he could endow the Sun with the mode of action called attraction, which reins the planets in the tract of their orbits, or how an absence of matter can have a will, and by that will, put matter into motion, then the materialist may be lawfully required to explain the process by which matter exercises the faculty of thinking. When once we quit the basis of sensation, all is in the wind. To talk of immaterial existences is to talk of nothings. To say that the human soul, angels, God, are immaterial, is to say they are nothings, or that there is no God, no angels, no soul. I cannot reason otherwise. But I believe that I am supported in my creed of Materialism by the Lockes, the Tracys, and the Stewarts."

[Thomas Jefferson, letter to John Adams, August 15, 1820]

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"If we believe that he [Jesus Christ]really countenanced the follies, the falsehoods, and the charlatanisms, which his biographers [writers of the New Testament]father upon him, and admit the misconstructions, interpolations, and theorizations of the fathers of the early and the fanatics of the latter ages, the conclusion would be irresistible by every sound mind that he was an impostor."

[Thomas Jefferson, _Jefferson Bible_, quoted by Joseph Lewis]

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"Christianity is the most perverted system that ever shone on man."

[Thomas Jefferson, in _Toward the Mystery_]

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"The authors of the gospels were unlettered and ignorant men and the teachings of Jesus have come to us mutilated, misstated and unintelligible."

[Thomas Jefferson, in _Toward The Mystery_]

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"If the obstacles of bigotry and priestcraft can be surmounted, we may hope that common sense will suffice to do everything else."

[Thomas Jefferson]

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"Our civil rights have no dependence on our religious opinions more than our opinions in physics or geometry; that therefore the proscribing any citizen as unworthy the public confidence by laying upon him an incapacity of being called to offices of trust and emolument, unless he profess or renounce this or that religious opinion, is depriving him injuriously of those privileges and advantages to which in common with his fellow citizens he has a natural right; that it tends also to corrupt the principles of that very religion it is meant to encourage, by bribing, with a monopoly of worldly honors and emoluments, those who will externally profess and conform to it; that though indeed these are criminal who do not withstand such temptation, yet neither are those innocent who lay the bait in their way; that to suffer the civil magistrate to intrude his powers into the field of opinion and to restrain the profession or propagation of principles, on supposition of their ill tendency, is a dangerous fallacy, which at once destroys all religious liberty, because he being of course judge of that tendency, will make his opinions the rule of judgment, and approve or condemn the sentiments of others only as they shall square with or differ from his own; that it is time enough for the rightful purposes of civil government for its officers to interfere when principles break out into overt acts against peace and good order; and finally, that truth is great and will prevail if left to herself, that she is the proper and sufficient antagonist to error, and has nothing to fear from the conflict, unless by human interposition disarmed of her natural weapons, free argument and debate, errors ceasing to be dangerous when it is permitted freely to contradict them."

[Jefferson and Madison, from the Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom]

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[laws establishing freedom of religion].."were meant to include within them the Muslim, the Hindoo [sic] and the infidel of any sort."


[Thomas Jefferson in a letter to his nephew, Dethloff, Henry C., ed. Thomas Jefferson and American Democracy. Lexington, MA: D.C. Heath and Co. 1971]

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"The whole history of these books [the Gospels]is so defective and doubtful that it seems vain to attempt minute enquiry into it: and such tricks have been played with their text, and with the texts of other books relating to them, that we have a right, from that cause, to entertain much doubt what parts of them are genuine. In the New Testament there is internal evidence that parts of it have proceeded from an extraordinary man; and that other parts are of the fabric of very inferior minds. It is as easy to separate those parts, as to pick out diamonds from dunghills."

[Jefferson, letter to John Adams, January 24, 1814]

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"There is not a truth existing which I fear... or would wish unknown to the whole world."

[Thomas Jefferson]

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"They [the clergy]believe that any portion of power confided to me, will be exerted in opposition to their schemes. And they believe rightly: for I have sworn upon the altar of God, eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man. But this is all they have to fear from me: and enough, too, in their opinion."

[Thomas Jefferson to Dr. Benjamin Rush, 1800]

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"If we could believe that [Jesus]..countenanced the follies, falsehoods and charlatanisms which his biographers father on him, ...the conclusion would be irresistible...that he was an imposter."

[Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) 3rd president of the U.S.]

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"The Christian priesthood, finding the doctrines of Christ levelled to every understanding and too plain to need explanation, saw, in the mysticisms of Plato, materials with which they might build up an artificial system which might, from its indistinctness, admit everlasting controversy, give employment for their order, and introduce it to profit, power and pre-eminence. The doctrines which flowed from the lips of Jesus himself are within the comprehension of a child; but thousands of volumes have not yet explained the Platonisms engrafted on them: and for this obvious reason that nonsense can never be explained."

[Thomas Jefferson, letter to John Adams, July 5, 1814]

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"I was glad to find in your book a formal contradiction at length of the judiciary usurpation of legislative powers; for such the judges have usurped in their repeated decisions, that Christianity is a part of the common law. The proof of the contrary which you have adduced is incontrovertible; to wit, that the common law existed while the Anglo- Saxons were yet Pagans, at a time when they had never yet heard the name of Christ pronounced, or knew that such a character had ever existed."

[Thomas Jefferson, letter to Major John Cartwright. Works, Vol. iv., pp. 397. He then goes to explain precisely an original misquote which led to this historic mistake.]

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"For we know that the common law is that system of law which was introduced by the Saxons on their settlement in England, and altered from time to time by proper legislative authority from that time to the date of Magna Charta, which terminates the period of the common law, or lex non scripta, and commences that of the statue law, or Lex Scripta. This settlement took place about the middle of the fifth century. But Christianity was not introduced till the seventh century; the conversion of the first christian king of the Heptarchy having taken place about the year 598, and that of the last about 686. Here, then, was a space of two hundred years, during which the common law was in existence, and Christianity no part of it."

[Thomas Jefferson to Dr. Thomas Cooper (Feb.10, 1814)]

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"... our fellow citizens, after half a century of experience and prosperity, continue to approve the choice we made. May it be to the world, what I believe it will be, (to some parts sooner, to others later, but finally to all,) the signal of arousing men to burst the chains under which monkish ignorance and superstition had persuaded them to bind themselves, and to assume the blessing s and security of self-government. That form which we have substituted, restores the free right to the unbounded exercise of reason and freedom of opinion. All eyes are opened, or opening, to the rights of man. The general spread of the light of science has already laid open to every view the palpable truth, that the mass of mankind has not been born with saddles on their backs, nor a favored few booted and spurred, ready to ride them legitimately, by the grace of God. These are grounds of hope for others. For ourselves, let the annual return of this day [Fourth of July]forever refresh our recollections of these rights, and an undiminished devotion to them."

[Thomas Jefferson, letter to Roger C. Weightman, June 24, 1826, declining an invitation to the 50th anniversary celebration of the Declaration of Independence, July 4 1826; this was Jefferson's last letter, dated ten days before he died; from Adrienne Koch, ed., The American Enlightenment: The Shaping of the American Experiment and a Free Society, New York: George Braziller, 1965, p. 372.]

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"The Athanasian paradox that one is three and three but one, is so incomprehensible to the human mind, that no candid man can say he has any idea of it, and how can he believe what presents no idea? He who thinks he does, only deceives himself He proves, also, that man, once surrendering his reason, has no remaining guard against absurdities the most monstrous, and like a ship without a rudder, is the sport of every wind. With such persons, gullibility, which they call faith, takes the helm of reason, and the mind becomes a wreck."

[Thomas Jefferson, letter to James Smith]

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"In our Richmond there is much fanaticism, but chiefly among the women. They have their night meetings and praying parties, where, attended by their priests, and sometimes by a henpecked husband, they pour forth the effusions of their love to Jesus in terms as amatory and carnal as their modesty would permit to a merely earthly lover."

[Thomas Jefferson, letter to Dr. Cooper, Works, Vol. iv., p. 358, Randolph's ed.]

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"I join you, therefore, in sincere congratulations that this den of the priesthood is at length broken up, and that a Protestant Popedom is no longer to disgrace the American history and character."

[Thomas Jefferson, letter to John Adams regarding disestablisment in New England (Works, Vol. iv., p. 301)]

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"The Presbyterian clergy are the loudest, the most intolerant of all sects; the most tyrannical and ambitious, ready at the word of the law-giver, if such a word could now be obtained, to put their torch to the pile, and to rekindle in this virgin hemisphere the flame in which their oracle, Calvin, consumed the poor Servetus, because he could not subscribe to the proposition of Calvin, that magistrates have a right to exterminate all heretics to the Calvinistic creed! They pant to re-establish by law that holy inquisition which they can now only infuse into public opinion"

[Thomas Jefferson, Works, Vol.iv.,p.322]

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"But every state, says an inquisitor, has established some religion. No two, say I, have established the same. Is this a proof of the infallibility of establishments?"

[Thomas Jefferson]

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"I know it will give great offense to the clergy, but the advocate of religious freedom is to expect neither peace nor forgiveness from them."

[Thomas Jefferson, to Levi Lincoln, 1802. ME 10:305 referring to reaction over his administration in which absolutely no religious proclamations were issued.]

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"Reading, reflection and time have convinced me that the interests of society require the observation of those moral precepts only in which all religions agree (for all forbid us to steal, murder, plunder, or bear false witness), and that we should not intermeddle with the particular dogmas in which all religions differ, and which are totally unconnected with morality."

[Thomas Jefferson to James Fishback, 1809]

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"Christianity neither is, nor ever was a part of the common law."

[Thomas Jefferson, February 10, 1814]

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The State of Virginia (act of assembly of 1705, c. 30) provided that "...if a person brought up in the Christian religion denies the being of a God, or the Trinity, or asserts that there are more Gods than one, or denies the Christian religion to be true, or the scriptures to be of divine authority, he is punishable on the first offense by incapacity to hold any office or employment ecclesiastical, civil or military; on the second by disability to sue, to take any gift or legacy, to be guardian, executor, or administrator and by three years imprisonment, without bail. A father's right to the custody of his own children being founded in law on his right of guardianship, this being taken away, they may of course be severed from him, and put, by the authority of a court, into more orthodox hands."

[Thomas Jefferson, "Notes on the State of Virginia, from _Thomas Jefferson: Writings_, pg. 284-285]

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"The clergy, by getting themselves established by law and ingrafted into the machine of government, have been a very formidable engine against the civil and religious rights of man."

[Thomas Jefferson, letter to Jeremiah Moor, 1800; as quoted by Saul K. Padover in Thomas Jefferson on Democracy, New York, 1946, p. 165, according to Albert Menendez and Edd Doerr, compilers, The Great Quotations on Religious Liberty, Long Beach, CA: Centerline Press, 1991, p. 48.]

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"I can never join Calvin in adressing his god. He was indeed an Atheist, which I can never be; or rather his religion was Daemonism. If ever man worshipped a false god, he did. The being described in his 5. points is not the God whom you and I acknolege and adore, the Creator and benevolent governor of the world; but a daemon of malignant spirit. It would be more pardonable to believe in no god at all, than to blaspheme him by the atrocious attributes of Calvin. Indeed I think that every Christian sect gives a great handle to Atheism by their general dogma that, without a revelation, there would not be sufficient proof of the being of a god."

[Thomas Jefferson, letter to John Adams, April 11, 1823]

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"Because religious belief or non-belief is such an important part of every person's life, freedom of religion affects every individual. State churches that use government power to support themselves and force their views on persons of other faiths undermine all our civil rights. Moreover, state support of the church tends to make the clergy unresponsive to the people and leads to corruption within religion. Erecting the "wall of separation between church and state," therefore, is absolutely essential in a free society."

["Thomas Jefferson on Politics & Government", Section 46: Freedom of Religion]

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"...merely the ravings of a maniac, no more worthy, nor capable of explanation than the incoherences of our own nightly dreams."

[Thomas Jefferson, on the Revelations in the Bible, from Thomas Jefferson: A Reference Biography, New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1986.]

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"I rarely waste time in reading theological subjects... Ridicule is the only weapon that can be used against such unintelligible propositions. Ideas must be distinct before reason can act upon them; and no man ever had a distinct idea of the trinity. It is mere Abracadabra of the mountebanks calling themselves the priests of Jesus. If it could be understood it would not answer their purpose. Their security is in their faculty of shedding darkness, like the scuttle-fish, thro' the element in which they move, and making it impenetrable to the eye of a pursuing enemy, and there they will sulk."

[Thomas Jefferson]

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"The declaration that religious faith shall be unpunished, does not give impunity to criminal acts, dictated by religious error."

[Thomas Jefferson to James Madison, 1788. ME 7:98]

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"I never told my religion nor scrutinized that of another. I never attempted to make a convert nor wished to change another's creed. I have judged of others' religion by their lives, for it is from our lives and not from our words that our religion must be read. By the same test must the world judge me."

[Thomas Jefferson]

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"We have solved...the great and interesting question whether freedom of religion is compatible with order in government and obedience to the laws. And we have experienced the quiet as well as the comfort which results from leaving every one to profess freely and openly those principles of religion which are the inductions of his own reason and the serious convictions of his own inquiries."

[Thomas Jefferson to Virginia Baptists, 1808]

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"Among the most inestimable of our blessings is that... of liberty to worship our Creator in the way we think most agreeable to His will; a liberty deemed in other countries incompatible with good government and yet proved by our experience to be its best support."

[Thomas Jefferson: Reply to Baptist Address, 1807]

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"From the dissensions among Sects themselves arise necessarily a right of choosing and necessity of deliberating to which we will conform. But if we choose for ourselves, we must allow others to choose also, and so reciprocally, this establishes religious liberty."

[Thomas Jefferson: Notes on Religion, 1776. Papers, 1:545]

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"The rights [to religious freedom]are of the natural rights of mankind, and... if any act shall be... passed to repeal [an act granting those rights]or to narrow its operation, such act will be an infringement of natural right."

[Thomas Jefferson: Statute for Religious Freedom, 1779. Papers, 2:546]

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"Religion is a subject on which I have ever been most scrupulously reserved. I have considered it as a matter between every man and his Maker in which no other, and far less the public, had a right to intermeddle."

[Thomas Jefferson to Richard Rush, 1813]

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"In matters of religion, I have considered that its free exercise is placed by the Constitution independent of the powers of the general government. I have therefore undertaken on no occasion to prescribe the religious exercises suited to it; but have left them as the Constitution found them, under the direction and discipline of State or Church authorities acknowledged by the several religious societies."

[Thomas Jefferson: 2nd Inaugural Address, 1805]

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"Our Constitution... has not left the religion of its citizens under the power of its public functionaries, were it possible that any of these should consider a conquest over the conscience of men either attainable or applicable to any desirable purpose."

[Thomas Jefferson: Reply to New London Methodists, 1809]

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"To suffer the civil magistrate to intrude his powers into the field of opinion and to restrain the profession or propagation of principles on supposition of their ill tendency is a dangerous fallacy which at once destroys all religious liberty, because he being of course judge of that tendency will make his opinions the rule of judgment and approve or condemn the sentiments of others only as they shall square with or differ from his own."

[Thomas Jefferson: Statute for Religious Freedom, 1779. Papers, 2:546]

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"Our particular principles of religion are a subject of accountability to God alone."

[Thomas Jefferson to Miles King, 1814]

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"[If]the nature of... government [were]a subordination of the civil to the ecclesiastical power, I [would]consider it as desperate for long years to come. Their steady habits [will]exclude the advances of information, and they [will]seem exactly where they [have always been] And there [the]
clergy will always keep them if they can. [They]will follow the bark of liberty only by the help of a tow-rope."

[Thomas Jefferson to Pierrepont Edwards, July 1801]

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"This doctrine ['that the condition of man cannot be ameliorated, that what has been must ever be, and that to secure ourselves where we are we must tread with awful reverence in the footsteps of our fathers']is the genuine fruit of the alliance between Church and State, the tenants of which finding themselves but too well in their present condition, oppose all advances which might unmask their usurpations and monopolies of honors, wealth and power, and fear every change as endangering the comforts they now hold."

[Thomas Jefferson: Report for University of Virginia, 1818]

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"I am for freedom of religion, and against all maneuvers to bring about a legal ascendency of one sect over another."

[Thomas Jefferson to Elbridge Gerry, 1799]

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"The law for religious freedom... [has]put down the aristocracy of the clergy and restored to the citizen the freedom of the mind."

[Thomas Jefferson to John Adams, 1813]

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"No man [should]be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor [should he]be enforced, restrained, molested, or burdened in his body or goods, nor... otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief... All men [should]be free to profess and by argument to maintain their opinions in matters of religion, and ...the same [should]in no wise diminish, enlarge, or affect their civil capacities."

[Thomas Jefferson: Statute for Religious Freedom, 1779. Papers, 1:546]

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"We have no right to prejudice another in his civil enjoyments because he is of another church."

[Thomas Jefferson: Notes on Religion, 1782. Papers, 1:546]

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"No man complains of his neighbor for ill management of his affairs, for an error in sowing his land, or marrying his daughter, for consuming his substance in taverns ... in all these he has liberty; but if he does not frequent the church, or then conform in ceremonies, there is an immediate uproar."

[Thomas Jefferson, Notes on Virginia, 1782; from George Seldes, ed., The Great Quotations, Secaucus, New Jersey: Citadel Press, 1983, p. 364]

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"If a sect arises whose tenets would subvert morals, good sense has fair play and reasons and laughs it out of doors without suffering the State to be troubled with it."

[Thomas Jefferson: Notes on Virginia, 1782]

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"The declaration that religious faith shall be unpunished does not give immunity to criminal acts dictated by religious error."

[Thomas Jefferson to James Madison, 1788]

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"If anything pass in a religious meeting seditiously and contrary to the public peace, let it be punished in the same manner and no otherwise than as if it had happened in a fair or market."

[Thomas Jefferson: Notes on Religion, 1776. Papers, 1:548]

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"Whatsoever is lawful in the Commonwealth or permitted to the subject in the ordinary way cannot be forbidden to him for religious uses; and whatsoever is prejudicial to the Commonwealth in their ordinary uses and, therefore, prohibited by the laws, ought not to be permitted to churches in their sacred rites. For instance, it is unlawful in the ordinary course of things or in a private house to murder a child; it should not be permitted any sect then to sacrifice children. It is ordinarily lawful (or temporarily lawful) to kill calves or lambs; they may, therefore, be religiously sacrificed. But if the good of the State required a temporary suspension of killing lambs, as during a siege, sacrifices of them may then be rightfully suspended also. This is the true extent of toleration."

[Thomas Jefferson: Notes on Religion, 1776. Papers, 1:547]

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"The constitutional freedom of religion [is]the most inalienable and sacred of all human rights."

[Thomas Jefferson, 'Virginia Board of Visitors Minutes,' 1819]

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"I have never conceived that having been in public life required me to belie my sentiments, or to conceal them. Opinion and the just maintenance of it shall never be a crime in my view, nor bring injury on the individual. I never will by any word or act, bow to the shrine of intolerance. I never had an opinion in politics or religion which I was afraid to own; a reserve on these subjects might have procured me more esteem from some people, but less from myself.

[Thomas Jefferson quoted by Joseph Lewis]

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"I will never, by any word or act, bow to the shrine of intolerance, or admit a right of inquiry into the religious opinions of others."

[Thomas Jefferson, letter to Edward Dowse, April 19, 1803. From Gorton Carruth and Eugene Ehrlich, eds., The Harper Book of American Quotations,New York: Harper & Row,1988,pg 499]

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"I may grow rich by an art I am compelled to follow; I may recover health by medicines I am compelled to take against my own judgment; but I cannot be saved by a worship I disbelieve and abhor."

[Thomas Jefferson, notes for a speech, c. 1776. From Gorton Carruth and Eugene Ehrlich, eds., The Harper Book of American Quotations, New York: Harper & Row, 1988, p. 498.]

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"Our [Virginia's]act for freedom of religion is extremely applauded. The Ambassadors and ministers of the several nations of Europe resident at this court have asked me copies of it to send to their sovereigns, and it is inserted at full length in several books now in the press; among others, in the new Encyclopedie. I think it will produce considerable good even in those countries where ignorance, superstition, poverty and oppression of body and mind in every form, are so firmly settled on the mass of the people, that their redemption from them can never be hoped."

[Thomas Jefferson, letter to George Wythe from Paris, Aug. 13, 1786. From Adrienne Koch, ed., The American Enlightenment: The Shaping of the American Experiment and a Free Society, New York: George Braziller, 1965, p. 311]

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"The Virginia act for religious freedom has been received with infinite approbation in Europe, and propagated with enthusiasm. I do not mean by governments, but by the individuals who compose them. It has been translated into French and Italian; has been sent to most of the courts of Europe, and has been the best evidence of the falsehood of those reports which stated us to be in anarchy. It is inserted in the new "Encyclopdie," and is appearing in most of the publications respecting America. In fact, it is comfortable to see the standard of reason at length erected, after so many ages, during which the human mind has been held in vassalage by kings, priests, and nobles; and it is honorable for us, to have produced the first legislature who had the courage to declare, that the reason of man may be trusted with the formation of his own opinions...."

[Thomas Jefferson, letter to James Madison from Paris, Dec. 16, 1786. From Lloyd S. Kramer, ed., Paine and Jefferson on Liberty, New York: Continuum, 1988, pp. 87-88]

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"Are we to have a censor whose imprimatur shall say what books may be sold, and what we may buy? And who is thus to dogmatize religious opinions for our citizens? Whose foot is to be the measure to which ours are all to be cut or stretched? Is a priest to be our inquisitor, or shall a layman, simple as ourselves, set up his reason as the rule of what we are to read, and what we must disbelieve?"

[Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to N. G. Dufief, Philadelphia bookseller, 1814, on the occasion of prosecution for selling De Becourt's "Sur le Cration du Monde, un Systme d'Organisation Primitive"; from George Seldes, ed., The Great Quotations, Secaucus, New Jersey: Citadel Press, 1983, p. 371]

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"I am really mortified to be told that, in the United States of America, a fact like this can become a subject to inquiry, and of criminal inquiry, too, as an offence against religion; that a question about the sale of a book can be carried before the civil magistrate. Is this then our freedom of religion?"

[Thomas Jefferson, letter to N. G. Dufief, April 19, 1814. From Gorton Carruth and Eugene Ehrlich, eds., The Harper Book of American Quotations, New York: Harper & Row, 1988, p. 492]

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"If the freedom of religion, guaranteed to us by law in theory, can ever rise in practice under the overbearing inquisition of public opinion, [then and only then will truth]prevail over fanaticism."

[Thomas Jefferson, letter to Jared Sparks, 4 November 1820. as quoted by Edwin S. Gaustad, Faith of Our Fathers: Religion and the New Nation, San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1987, p. 49.]

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"I have ever judged of the religion of others by their lives.... It is in our lives, and not from our words, that our religion must be read. By the same test the world must judge me. But this does not satisfy the priesthood. They must have a positive, a declared assent to all their interested absurdities. My opinion is that there would never have been an infidel, if there had never been a priest. The artificial structures they have built on the the purest of all moral systems, for the purpose of deriving from it pence and power, revolt those who think for themselves, and who read in that system only what is really there."

[Thomas Jefferson, letter to Mrs. M. Harrison Smith, August 6, 1816. From Gorton Carruth and Eugene Ehrlich, eds., The Harper Book of American Quotations, New York: Harper & Row, 1988, p. 492.]

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"Life is of no value but as it brings us gratifications. Among the most valuable of these is rational society. It informs the mind, sweetens the temper, cheers our spirits, and promotes health."

[Thomas Jefferson, letter to James Madison, February 20, 1784. From Adrienne Koch, ed., The American Enlightenment: The Shaping of the American Experiment and a Free Society, New York: George Braziller, 1965, p. 305]

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"It is surely time for men to think for themselves, and to throw off the authority of names so artificially magnified."

[Thomas Jefferson: Letter to William Short, August 4, 1820]

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"The hocus-pocus phantasy of a God, like another Cerberus, with one body and three heads, had its birth and growth in the blood of thousands and thousands of martyrs."

[Thomas Jefferson, Jefferson s Works, Vol. IV, 360, Randolph's ed.]

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"If anybody thinks that kings, nobles, or priests are good conservators of the public happiness send them here [Europe] It is the best school in the universe to cure them of that folly. They will see here with their own eyes that these descriptions of men are an abandoned confederacy against the happiness of the mass of people. The omnipotence of their effect cannot be better proved than in this country [France]particularly, where notwithstanding the finest soil upon earth, the finest climate under heaven, and a people of the most benevolent, the most gay and amiable character of which the human form is susceptible, where such a people I say, surrounded by so many blessings from nature, are yet loaded with misery by kings, nobles and priests, and by them alone."

[Thomas Jefferson to George Wythe]

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"If not an absolute atheist, he had no belief in a future existence. All his ideas of obligation or retribution were bounded by the present life."

[President John Quincy Adams on Thomas Jefferson, 1831]

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"... The most revealing writings concerned the commonly repeated maxim that Christianity was part of the common law. In two posthumously published writings, an appendix to his Reports of Cases Determined in the General Court and a letter to Major John Cartwright, Thomas Jefferson took issue with the maxim. He traced the erroneous interpretation to a seventeenth-century law commentator who, Jefferson argued, misinterpreted a fifteenth-century precedent. He then traced the error forward to his favorite bte noire, Lord Mansfield, who wrote that "the essential principles of revealed religion are part of the common law." Jefferson responded with a classic, positivistic critique: Mansfield "leaves us at our peril to find out what, in the opinion of the judge, and according to the measures of his foot or his faith, are those essential principles of revealed religion, obligatory on us as part of the common law."

[Daniel R. Ernst, "Church-State Issues and the Law: 1607-1870" in John F. Wilson, ed., Church and State in America: A Bibliographic Guide. The Colonial and Early National Periods," New York: Greenwood Press, 1986, p. 337. Ernst gives his source as Thomas Jefferson, "Whether Christianity is Part of the Common Law?"]

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"So much is Jefferson identified in the American mind with his battle for political liberty that it is difficult to entertain the possibility that he felt even more strongly about religious liberty. If the letters and activities of his post presidential years can be taken as a fair guide, however, he maintained an unrelenting vigilance with respect to freedom in religion, and an unrelenting, perhaps even unforgiving, distrust of all those who would seek in any way to mitigate or limit or nullify that freedom."

[Edwin S. Gaustad, Faith of Our Fathers: Religion and the New Nation, San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1987, pp. 46-47.]

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"He [Jefferson]rejoiced with John Adams when the Congregational church was finally disestablished in Connecticut in 1818; welcoming "the resurrection of Connecticut to light and liberty, Jefferson congratulated Adams "that this den of priesthood is at length broken up, and that a protestant popedom is no longer to disgrace American history and character."

[Edwin S. Gaustad, Faith of Our Fathers: Religion and the New Nation, San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1987, p. 49]

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"A final example of Jefferson's separationism may be drawn from his founding of the University of Virginia in the last years of his life. Prepared to transform the College of William and Mary into the principal university of the state, Jefferson would do so only if the college divested itself of all ties with sectarian religion--that is, with its old Anglicanism now represented by the Protestant Episcopal Church. The college declined to make that break with its past, and Jefferson proceeded with plans for his own university well to the west of Anglican-dominated tidewater Virginia. In Charlottesville this new school ("broad & liberal & modern," as Jefferson envisioned it in a letter to [Joseph]Priestly of 18 January 1800) opened in 1825 with professorships in languages and law, natural and moral philosophy, history and mathematics, but not in divinity. In Jefferson's view, as reported in Robert Healey's Jefferson on Religion in Public Education, not only did Virginia's laws prohibit such favoritism (for divinity or theology was inevitably sectarian), but high-quality education was not well served by those who preferred mystery to morals and divisive dogma to the unities of science. Too great a devotion to doctrine can drive men mad; if it does not have that tragic effect, it at least guarantees that a man's education will be mediocre. What is really significant in religion, its moral content, would be taught at the University of Virginia, but in philosophy, not divinity. If Almighty God has made the mind free, one of the ways to keep it free is to protect young minds from the clouded convolutions of theologians. Jefferson wanted education separated from religion because of his own conclusions concerning the nature of religion, its strengths and its weaknesses, its dark past and its possibly brighter future."

[E. S. Gaustad, "Religion," in Merrill D. Peterson, ed., Thomas Jefferson: A Reference Biography, New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1986, pp. 282-283.]

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"... If this [extending religion's influence on the basis of "reason alone"]
is the path chosen by Omnipotence and Infallibility, what sense can there possibly be in "fallible and uninspired men ...setting up their own opinions and modes of thinking as the only true and infallible"? No sense at all, argued Jefferson, who found compulsion in religion to be irrational, impious, and tyrannical. If such compulsion is bad for the vulnerable citizen, its consequences are no more wholesome for the church: "It tends also to corrupt the principles of that very religion it is meant to encourage, by bribing, with a monopoly of worldly honours and emoluments, those who will externally profess and conform to it."

[E. S. Gaustad, "Religion," in Merrill D. Peterson, ed., Thomas Jefferson: A Reference Biography, New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1986, p. 280.]

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"It was what he did not like in religion that gave impetus to Jefferson's activity in that troublesome and often bloody arena. He did not like dogmatism, obscurantism, blind obedience, or any interference with the free exercise of the mind. Moreover, he did not like the tendency of religion to confuse truth with power, special insight with special privilege, and the duty to maintain with the right to persecute the dissenter. Ecclesiastical despotism was as reprehensible as despotism of the political sort, even when it justified itself, as it often did, in the name of doing good. This had been sufficiently evident in his native Virginia to give Jefferson every stimulus he needed to see that independence must be carried over into the realm of religion."

[E. S. Gaustad, "Religion," in Merrill D. Peterson, ed., Thomas Jefferson: A Reference Biography, New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1986, p. 279]

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"Across the ages, clergy have been interested [according to Jefferson]not in truth but only in wealth and power; when rational people have had difficulty swallowing "their impious heresies," then the clergy have, with the help of the state, forced "them down their throats." Five years later, he [Jefferson]
wrote of "this loathsome combination of church and state" that for so many centuries reduced human beings to "dupes and drudges."

[Edwin S. Gaustad, Faith of Our Fathers: Religion and the New Nation, San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1987, p. 47. According to Gaustad, the first quotes are from a letter from Jefferson to William Baldwin, January 19, 1810; the second source is a letter from Jefferson to Charles Clay, January 29, 1815.]

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"Jefferson wrote voluminously to prove that Christianity was not part of the law of the land and that religion or irreligion was purely a private matter, not cognizable by the state."

[Leonard W. Levy, Treason Against God: A History of the Offense of Blasphemy, New York: Schocken Books, 1981, p. 335]

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"To conclude this discussion of the religious clauses of the First Amendment, let's talk some more about Thomas Jefferson and his "wall." Some TV preachers, as well as writers, politicians, and, worst of all, Supreme Court Justice William Rehnquist, have sought to pull down the wall by disparaging Jefferson' s influence on the First Amendment. A popular bit of historical revisionism that floats around these days goes something like this: Jefferson served as ambassador to France during the writing of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. He had no hand in their preparation and passage because he was out of the country. Therefore, his metaphor about the "wall of separation" is misplaced and ill-informed because he was living in France and was out of touch. Tommyrot! Thomas Jefferson was James Madison's mentor. Madison as the chief architect of both the Constitution and the Bill of Rights drew heavily from Jefferson's ideas and kept in regular contact with his fellow Virginian even though the latter lived in France. Volumes of correspondence exist between the two men as they discussed the day's crucial events. Jefferson understood that the First Amendment created a separation between church and state because he, more than most of the Founders, gave form and substance to the nation's understanding of how the two institutions should best relate in the new nation. Some politicians, lawyers, and preachers subject us to mental cruelty when they disparage Jefferson's interpretation simply because he lived in France during the years of the Constitution's framing."

[Robert L. Maddox, Baptist minister and speech writer and religious liaison for President Jimmy Carter, Separation of Church and State: Guarantor of Religious Freedom, New York: Crossroad Publishing, 1987, pp. 67-68.]

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"This statement [Jefferson and the "one-directional wall"]is an example of the Religious Right's more blatant lies. It is impossible to determine where this myth originated, but we do know that it began appearing with increasing frequency in the early 1990s... Of course, Jefferson said no such thing about his "wall," as any of his biographers or church-state historians will readily testify."

[Boston, _Why the Religious Right is Wrong about the Separation of Church and State_]

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"Jefferson had it reviewed by Levi Lincoln, his attorney general. Jefferson told Lincoln he viewed the response as a way of 'sowing useful truths and principles among the people, which might germinate and become rooted among their political tenets'."

[Boston, _Why The Religious Right is Wrong about the Separation of Church and State_, Prometheus Books, 1994., on the "wall" letter]

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"..a completely secular document (which) contains no references to God, Jesus or Christianity. The Religious Right's constant appeals to documents like the Declaration of Independence which contains a deistic reference to "the Creator," cloud the issue and makes some people believe their rights spring from these other documents. They don't. As important as those other documents are to history, the rights of all Americans are ultimately traced to the Constitution and its amendments, specifically the Bill of Rights. When we talk about religious freedom and separation of church and state, therefore, only one document matters--the Constitution."

[Rob Boston, "Why the Religious right is Wrong About Separation of Church and State, p. 221, 1993]

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"My correspondent thinks with Mr. Jefferson, that Jehovah has no attributes that will harmonize with slavery; and that all men are born free and equal. Now, I say let him throw away his Bible as Mr. Jefferson did his and then they will be fit companions. But never disgrace the Bible by making Mr. Jefferson its expounder, nor Mr. Jefferson by deriving his sentiments from it. Mr. Jefferson did not bow to the authority of the Bible, and on this subject I do not bow to him."

[Rev. Thornton Stringfellow, D.D., in "Scriptural View of Slavery," a work showing that the Bible sanctions slavery, from John E. Remsburg, "Six Historic Americans. Chapter 2: Thomas Jefferson"]

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"He devoted much attention to the establishment of the University at Charlottesville. Having no religious faith which he was willing to avow, he was not willing that any religious faith whatever should be taught in the University as a part of its course of instruction. This establishment, in a Christian land, of an institution for the education of youth, where the relation existing between man and his Maker was entirely ignored, raised a general cry of disapproval throughout the whole country. It left a stigma upon the reputation of Mr. Jefferson, in the minds of Christian people, which can never be effaced."

[John S.C. Abbot, "Lives of the Presidents", p. 142]

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"It cannot be necessary to adopt any train of reasoning to show that a man who disbelieves the inspiration and divine authority of the Scriptures -- who not only denies the divinity of the Savior, but reduces him to the grade of an uneducated, ignorant and erring man -- who calls the God of Abraham (the Jehovah of the Bible), a cruel and remorseless being, cannot be a Christian."

[Theodore Dwight, _The Character of Jefferson_, p. 364]

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"A question has been raised as to Thomas Jefferson's religious views. There need be no question, for he has settled that himself. He was an Infidel, or, as he chose to term it, a Materialist. By his own account he was as heterodox as Col. Ingersoll, and in some respects even more so."

[Chicago Tribune article, on Jefferson's religious beliefs]

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"Mr. Jefferson, it is well known, was never suspected of being very friendly to orthodox religion, but these volumes prove not only that he was a disbeliever, but a scoffer of the very lowest class."

[New York Observer, leading Christian journal, on the publication of Jefferson's works]

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"I take to heart Jefferson's aspiration that the idea of church-state separation "germinate and take root among [the American people's] political tenets."

[Kenneth S. Saladin, "Municipal Church-State Litigation and the Issue of Standing," in the "Church and State" issue of National Forum: The Phi Kappa Phi Journal, Winter, 1988, p. 23.]

3 comments:

webmdave said...

http://www.blogtalkradio.com/unifieddeism

webmdave said...

Christendom and Christianity are based on the assumption that Jesus was "The" Christ (Messiah); the he was "The" Jewish Messiah as described and prophesied per the Old Testament.

Without the assumption that Jesus was "The" Jewish Messiah, there would not exist the notion of "Jesus as Christ", a.k.a., Jesus Christ - and there would not exist a "New Covenant" e.g., New Testament.

If indeed Thomas Jefferson suggests that he is a "Christian" per the only sense in which Jesus insisted any one to be... then... we can "Confidently" declare Christianity (Messianity) - as a "false" belief system.

Jesus per the bible, never insisted himself to "be" The Jewish Messiah as described in the Old Testament. Jesus was never a Christian (he was described and born a Jew). Jesus per the bible, never insisted on establishing a "religion" or "belief system" totally devoted to the "notion" that he be considered "The" Jewish Messiah as described in the Old Testament.

If Thomas Jefferson only ascribed to the "notions" and "verbal" words assigned to the character Jesus - then... Thomas Jefferson was never a Christian (believer in Jesus as The Jewish Messiah (Christ)). Perhaps, he was an admirer of Jesus' character, and may even have considered himself to be”follower” of the character Jesus’ teachings... of course, this means his faith was in the actions as portrayed by the character "Jesus"... "not"... in a "Jesus Christ" (son of Yahweh, and founder and CEO of Christendom as a political and religious movement) :-)

webmdave said...

To the corruptions of Christianity I am, indeed, opposed; but not to the genuine precepts of Jesus Himself. I am a Christian, in the only sense in which He wished any one to be: sincerely attached to His doctrines, in preference to all others; ascribing to Himself every human excellence; and believing He never claimed any other.
THOMAS JEFFERSON, letter to Dr. Benjamin Rush, Apr. 21, 1803