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Thomas Jefferson


Thomas Jefferson (April 13, 1743 (April 2, 1743 O.S.) – July 4, 1826) was an American Founding Father, the principal author of the Declaration of Independence and the third President of the United States (1801–1809). At the beginning of the American Revolution, he served in the Continental Congress, representing Virginia and then served as a wartime Governor of Virginia (1779–1781).

Elected president in what Jefferson called the Revolution of 1800, he oversaw the purchase of the vast Louisiana Territory from France (1803), and sent the Lewis and Clark Expedition (1804–1806) to explore the new west. His second term was beset with troubles at home, such as the failed treason trial of his former Vice President Aaron Burr. With escalating trouble with Britain who was challenging American neutrality and threatening shipping at sea, he tried economic warfare with his embargo laws which only damaged American trade. In 1807, President Jefferson signed into law a bill that banned the importation of slaves into the United States. In scholarly surveys Jefferson remains rated as one of the greatest U.S. presidents, though since the late-twentieth century, he has been increasingly criticized by many historians, often on the issue of slavery.

A leader in the Enlightenment, Jefferson was a polymath who spoke five languages fluently and was deeply interested in science, invention, architecture, religion and philosophy, interests that led him to the founding of the University of Virginia after his presidency. He designed his own large mansion on a 5,000 acre plantation near Charlottesville, Virginia, which he named Monticello. While not a notable orator, Jefferson was a skilled writer and corresponded with many influential people in America and Europe throughout his adult life.


Compiled by Jim Walker. "Thomas Jefferson on Christianity and Religion". "In spite of right-wing Christian attempts to rewrite history to make Jefferson into a Christian, little about his philosophy resembles that of Christianity. Although Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence wrote of the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God, there exists nothing in the Declaration about Christianity. Although Jefferson believed in a Creator, his concept of it resembled that of the god of deism (the term "Nature's God" used by deists of the time). With his scientific bent, Jefferson sought to organize his thoughts on religion. He rejected the superstitions and mysticism of Christianity and even went so far as to edit the gospels, removing the miracles and mysticism of Jesus (see The Jefferson Bible) leaving only what he deemed the correct moral philosophy of Jesus. If anything can clear of the misconceptions of Jeffersonian history, it can come best from the author himself. Although Jefferson had a complex view of religion, too vast for this presentation, the following quotes provide a glimpse of how Thomas Jefferson viewed the corruptions of Christianity and religion."

Jefferson's quotes on religion, God, dogmas, etc.:

"Ignorance is preferable to error, and he is less remote from the truth who believes nothing than he who believes what is wrong." -Thomas Jefferson (Notes on Virginia, 1782)

"Question with boldness even the existence of a god; because, if there be one, he must more approve the homage of reason, than that of blindfolded fear." - Thomas Jefferson to Peter Carr, 10 August 1787, in PTJ 12:15.

"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." - Thomas Jefferson, letter to Francis Hopkinson, March 13, 1789.

"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 civil as well as religious leaders will always avail themselves for their own purposes." - Thomas Jefferson to Alexander von Humboldt, Dec. 6, 1813.

"I never will, 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 (From Source #3).

"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." - Thomas Jefferson, letter to John Adams, January 24, 1814

"Christianity neither is, nor ever was a part of the common law." - Thomas Jefferson, letter to Dr. Thomas Cooper, February 10, 1814

"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 to his own." - Thomas Jefferson, letter to Horatio G. Spafford, March 17, 1814

"If we did a good act merely from love of God and a belief that it is pleasing to Him, whence arises the morality of the Atheist? ...Their virtue, then, must have had some other foundation than the love of God." - Thomas Jefferson, letter to Thomas Law, June 13, 1814

"As you say of yourself, I too am an Epicurian. I consider the genuine (not the imputed) doctrines of Epicurus as containing everything rational in moral philosophy which Greece and Rome have left us." - Thomas Jefferson, letter to William Short, Oct. 31, 1819

"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 classed with the fable of the generation of Minerve in the brain of Jupiter. But may we 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, Letter to John Adams, April 11, 1823

"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 blessings and security of self-government. 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." - Thomas Jefferson, letter to Roger C. Weightman, June 24, 1826 (in the last letter he penned)


Sources:

1.) Works of Thomas Jefferson: The Jefferson Bible, Autobiography, Inaugural Addresses, State of the Union Addresses, Memoir, Correspondence, and Miscellanies and the Writings of Thomas Jefferson Vol. 6 (Illustrated). MobileReference. 2009. ISBN 9781607783107. "Jefferson was raised in the Church of England at a time when it was the established church in Virginia and the only denomination funded by Virginia tax money. Theologian Avery Dulles reports, "In his college years at William and Mary [Jefferson] came to admire Francis Bacon, Isaac Newton, and John Locke as three great paragons of wisdom. Under the influence of several professors he converted to the deist philosophy. Dulles concludes: "In summary, then, Jefferson was a deist because he believed in one God, in divine providence, in the divine moral law, and in rewards and punishments after death; but did not believe in supernatural revelation. He was a Christian deist because he saw Christianity as the highest expression of natural religion and Jesus as an incomparably great moral teacher. He was not an orthodox Christian because he rejected, among other things, the doctrines that Jesus was the promised Messiah and the incarnate Son of God. Jefferson's religion is fairly typical of the American form of deism in his day.""

2.) Jefferson's Religious Beliefs

3.) Thomas Jefferson's Quotes

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