Skip to comments.THOMAS JEFFERSON ON CHRISTIANITY & RELIGION
Posted on 09/05/2002 7:57:50 PM PDT by Enemy Of The State
THOMAS JEFFERSON ON CHRISTIANITY & RELIGION
It spite of Christian right 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.
Distortions of history occur in the minds of many Christians whenever they see the word "God" embossed in statue or memorial concrete . For example, those who visit the Jefferson Memorial in Washington will read Jefferson's words engraved: "I have sworn upon the altar of God eternal hostility against every from of tyranny over the mind of man." When they see the word "God" many Christians see this as "proof" of his Christianity without thinking that 'God' can have many definitions ranging from nature to supernatural. Yet how many of them realize that this passage aimed at attacking the tyranny of the Christian clergy of Philadelphia, or that Jefferson's God was not the personal god of Christianity? Those memorial words came from a letter written to Benjamin Rush in 1800 in response to Rush's warning about the Philadelphia clergy attacking Jefferson (Jefferson was seen as an infidel by his enemies during his election for President). The complete statement reads as follows:
"The returning good sense of our country threatens abortion to their hopes, & 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: & enough too in their opinion, & this is the cause of their printing lying pamphlets against me. . ."
Jefferson aimed at laissez-faire liberalism in the name of individual freedom, He felt that any form of government control, not only of religion, but of individual mercantilism consisted of tyranny. He thought that our civil rights have no dependence on our religious opinions, any more than our opinions in physics or geometry.
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 article, the following quotes provide a glimpse of how Thomas Jefferson viewed the corruptions of Christianity and religion.
Millions of innocent men, women and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined and imprisoned; yet we have not advanced one inch towards uniformity.
-Thomas Jefferson, Notes on Virginia, 1782.
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, Notes on Virginia, 1782.
What is it men cannot be made to believe!
-Thomas Jefferson to Richard Henry Lee, April 22, 1786. (on the British regarding America, but quoted here for its universal appeal.)
Question with boldness even the existence of a god; because if there be one he must approve of the homage of reason more than that of blindfolded fear.
-Thomas Jefferson, Letter to Peter Carr, August 10, 1787
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 Mohammedan, the Hindoo and Infidel of every denomination.
-Thomas Jefferson, Autobiography, in reference to the Virginia Act for Religious Freedom
I concur with you strictly in your opinion of the comparative merits of atheism and demonism, and really see nothing but the latter in the being worshipped by many who think themselves Christians.
-Thomas Jefferson, letter to Richard Price, Jan. 8, 1789 (Richard Price had written to TJ on Oct. 26. about the harm done by religion and wrote "Would not Society be better without Such religions? Is Atheism less pernicious than Demonism?")
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
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, Sept. 23, 1800
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., Jan. 1, 1802
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.
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
You say you are a Calvinist. I am not. I am of a sect by myself, as far as I know.
-Thomas Jefferson, letter to Ezra Stiles Ely, June 25, 1819
As you say of yourslef, 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
Among the sayings and discourses imputed to him [Jesus] 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.
-Thomas Jefferson, letter to William Short, April 13, 1820
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 I am supported in my creed of materialism by Locke, Tracy, and Stewart. At what age of the Christian church this heresy of immaterialism, this masked atheism, crept in, I do not know. But heresy it certainly is.
-Thomas Jefferson, letter to John Adams, Aug. 15, 1820
Man once surrendering his reason, has no remaining guard against absurdities the most monstrous, and like a ship without rudder, is the sport of every wind.
-Thomas Jefferson to James Smith, 1822.
I can never join Calvin in addressing 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.
-Thomas Jefferson, letter to John Adams, April 11, 1823
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
It is between fifty and sixty years since I read it [the Apocalypse], and I then considered it merely the ravings of a maniac, no more worthy nor capable of explanation than the incoherences of our own nightly dreams.
-Thomas Jefferson, letter to General Alexander Smyth, Jan. 17, 1825
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)
I'm not sure the quotes back up the body of the essay, though I believe the general thrust to be correct.
Do you have any evidence that the Founding Fathers were following those two particular Biblical texts, and not just applying common sense?
America's greatness is because it is a SECULAR nation that does not interfere in the private practice of religions and has drawn a LINE between religion and state. America's greatness is because it is primarily an INDIVIDUALIST nation rather than a socialistic nation (though sadly that is less true every day due to assaults on individualism by lefist socialists and cultural conservatives.)
I read somewhere (not McCullough, which I haven't read) that though he himself was not too religious, Jefferson thought that folks required the "fear of God" as motivation to be virtuous.
Fact: Founding Fathers that were Masons & Signers of the Declaration of Independence: Benjamin Franklin, Robert Treat Paine, John Handcock, Richard Stockton, Joseph Hewes, George Walton, William Hooper, William Whipple.
Fact: Founding Fathers that were Masons & Signers of the U.S. Constitution: Gunning Bradford, Jr., John Blair, Benjamin Franklin, David Brearley, Nicholas Gilman, Jacob Broom, Rufus King, Daniel Carroll, James McHenery, Jonathan Dayton, William Paterson, John Dickinson, George Washington.
Number of masons who were evangelical Christians: zero. Here is a link from a site that completely disagrees with the thesis of hoosierskypilot. (Disclaimer - I am neither a mason nor associated with this site.)
Masons and Christians"
Like for instance praying in the public square, you know, schools.
"The Christian religion, when divested of the rags in which they [the clergy] have enveloped it, and brought to the original purity and simplicity of it's benevolent institutor, is a religion of all others most friendly to liberty, science, and the freest expansion of the human mind."
--Thomas Jefferson to Moses Robinson, 1801. ME 10:237
Thus neatly skirting the fundamental question of whether America's proper destiny is greatness or goodness.
But nevertheless, individual freedom and personal liberty have hardly been a noticable thrust of Christianity, even though most Americans are and have been Christians.
Because religious belief, or non-belief, is such an important part of every person's life, freedom of religion affects every individual. Religious institutions that use government power in support of themselves and force their views on persons of other faiths, or of no faith, undermine all our civil rights. Moreover, state support of an established religion tends to make the clergy unresponsive to their own people, and leads to corruption within religion itself. Erecting the "wall of separation between church and state," therefore, is absolutely essential in a free society.
"We have solved, by fair experiment, 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: Reply to Virginia Baptists, 1808. ME 16:320
"The constitutional freedom of religion [is] the most inalienable and sacred of all human rights." --Thomas Jefferson: Virginia Board of Visitors Minutes, 1819. ME 19:416
"Among the most inestimable of our blessings, also, 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 John Thomas et al., 1807. ME 16:291
"In our early struggles for liberty, religious freedom could not fail to become a primary object." --Thomas Jefferson to Baltimore Baptists, 1808. ME 16:317
"Religion, as well as reason, confirms the soundness of those principles on which our government has been founded and its rights asserted." --Thomas Jefferson to P. H. Wendover, 1815. ME 14:283
"One of the amendments to the Constitution... expressly declares that 'Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press,' thereby guarding in the same sentence and under the same words, the freedom of religion, of speech, and of the press; insomuch that whatever violates either throws down the sanctuary which covers the others." --Thomas Jefferson: Draft Kentucky Resolutions, 1798. ME 17:382
"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. (*) ME 2:303, Papers 2:546
The Private Nature of Religion
"I have ever thought religion a concern purely between our God and our consciences, for which we were accountable to Him, and not to the priests." --Thomas Jefferson to Mrs. M. Harrison Smith, 1816. ME 15:60
"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
"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.
"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 to Edward Dowse, 1803. ME 10:378
"Our particular principles of religion are a subject of accountability to God alone. I inquire after no man's, and trouble none with mine." --Thomas Jefferson to Miles King, 1814. ME 14:198
Government Intermeddling in Religion
"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 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." --Thomas Jefferson to Samuel Miller, 1808. ME 11:428
"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. ME 3:378
"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 consciences of men either attainable or applicable to any desirable purpose." --Thomas Jefferson: Reply to New London Methodists, 1809. ME 16:332
"I do not believe it is for the interest 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 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... Everyone must act according to the dictates of his own reason, and mine tells me that civil powers alone have been given to the President of the United States, and no authority to direct the religious exercises of his constituents." --Thomas Jefferson to Samuel Miller, 1808. ME 11:429
"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. ME 2:302, Papers 2: 546
"It is... 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?... Civil powers alone have been given to the President of the United States, and no authority to direct the religious exercises of his constituents." --Thomas Jefferson to Samuel Miller, 1808. ME 11:428
Religion Intermeddling in Government
"Whenever... preachers, instead of a lesson in religion, put [their congregation] off with a discourse on the Copernican system, on chemical affinities, on the construction of government, or the characters or conduct of those administering it, it is a breach of contract, depriving their audience of the kind of service for which they are salaried, and giving them, instead of it, what they did not want, or, if wanted, would rather seek from better sources in that particular art of science." --Thomas Jefferson to P. H. Wendover, 1815. ME 14:281
"Ministers of the Gospel are excluded [from serving as Visitors of the county Elementary Schools] to avoid jealousy from the other sects, were the public education committed to the ministers of a particular one; and with more reason than in the case of their exclusion from the legislative and executive functions." --Thomas Jefferson: Note to Elementary School Act, 1817. ME 17:419
"No religious reading, instruction or exercise, shall be prescribed or practiced [in the elementary schools] inconsistent with the tenets of any religious sect or denomination." --Thomas Jefferson: Elementary School Act, 1817. ME 17:425
"I do not know that it is a duty to disturb by missionaries the religion and peace of other countries, who may think themselves bound to extinguish by fire and fagot the heresies to which we give the name of conversions, and quote our own example for it. Were the Pope, or his holy allies, to send in mission to us some thousands of Jesuit priests to convert us to their orthodoxy, I suspect that we should deem and treat it as a national aggression on our peace and faith." --Thomas Jefferson to Michael Megear, 1823. ME 15:434
Establishments of Religion Undermine Rights
"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 to Jeremiah Moor, 1800.
"The Christian religion, when divested of the rags in which they [the clergy] have enveloped it, and brought to the original purity and simplicity of it's benevolent institutor, is a religion of all others most friendly to liberty, science, and the freest expansion of the human mind." --Thomas Jefferson to Moses Robinson, 1801. ME 10:237
"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 to Samuel Kercheval, 1810. ME 12:345
"[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. (*)
"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.
"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. ME 10:78
"The advocate of religious freedom is to expect neither peace nor forgiveness from [the clergy]." --Thomas Jefferson to Levi Lincoln, 1802. ME 10:305
"The clergy...believe that any portion of power confided to me [as President] 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 Benjamin Rush, 1800. ME 10:173
"Believing... 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 legitimate 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 to Danbury Baptists, 1802. ME 16:281
"I am really mortified to be told that, in the United States of America, a fact like this [i.e., the purchase of an apparent geological or astronomical work] can become a subject of inquiry, and of criminal inquiry too, as an offense 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? and 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 for what we are to read, and what we must believe? It is an insult to our citizens to question whether they are rational beings or not, and blasphemy against religion to suppose it cannot stand the test of truth and reason. If [this] book be false in its facts, disprove them; if false in its reasoning, refute it. But, for God's sake, let us freely hear both sides, if we choose." --Thomas Jefferson to N. G. Dufief, 1814. ME 14:127
"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, 1813. ME 14:21
"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 to Horatio G. Spafford, 1814. ME 14:119
"I have been just reading the new constitution of Spain. One of its fundamental bases is expressed in these words: 'The Roman Catholic religion, the only true one, is, and always shall be, that of the Spanish nation. The government protects it by wise and just laws, and prohibits the exercise of any other whatever.' Now I wish this presented to those who question what [a bookseller] may sell or we may buy, with a request to strike out the words, 'Roman Catholic,' and to insert the denomination of their own religion. This would ascertain the code of dogmas which each wishes should domineer over the opinions of all others, and be taken, like the Spanish religion, under the 'protection of wise and just laws.' It would show to what they wish to reduce the liberty for which one generation has sacrificed life and happiness. It would present our boasted freedom of religion as a thing of theory only, and not of practice, as what would be a poor exchange for the theoretic thraldom, but practical freedom of Europe." --Thomas Jefferson to N. G. Dufief, 1814. ME 14:128
"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: Bill for Religious Freedom, 1779. Papers 2:545
The Benefits of Religious Freedom
"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. ME 13:400
"[When] the [Virginia] bill for establishing religious freedom... was finally passed,... a singular proposition proved that its 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 the word "Jesus Christ," so that it should read "a departure from the plan of Jesus Christ, the holy author of our religion." The insertion was rejected by a great majority, in proof that they meant to comprehend within the mantle of its protection the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Mahometan, the Hindoo and infidel of every denomination." --Thomas Jefferson: Autobiography, 1821. ME 1:67
"No man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burthened in his body or goods, nor... otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief... All men shall be free to profess and by argument to maintain their opinions in matters of religion, and... the same shall in no wise diminish, enlarge, or affect their civil capacities." --Thomas Jefferson: Statute for Religious Freedom, 1779. ME 2:302, Papers 2:546
"Our civil rights have no dependence upon our religious opinions more than our opinions in physics or geometry." --Thomas Jefferson: Statute for Religious Freedom, 1779. ME 2:301, Papers 2:545
"We have no right to prejudice another in his civil enjoyments because he is of another church." --Thomas Jefferson: Notes on Religion, 1776. Papers 1:546
"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." --Thomas Jefferson: Statute for Religious Freedom, 1779. ME 2:301, Papers 2:546
"A recollection of our former vassalage in religion and civil government will unite the zeal of every heart, and the energy of every hand, to preserve that independence in both which, under the favor of Heaven, a disinterested devotion to the public cause first achieved, and a disinterested sacrifice of private interests will now maintain." --Thomas Jefferson to Baltimore Baptists, 1808. ME 16:318
"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. ME 7:98
"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 Q.XVII, 1782. ME 2:224
"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
"It is time enough for the rightful purposes of civil government, for its officers to interfere [in the propagation of religious teachings] when principles break out into overt acts against peace and good order." --Thomas Jefferson: Statute for Religious Freedom, 1779. ME 2:302, Papers 2:546
"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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--Thomas Jefferson to Charles Thompson, 1816. ME 14:385
Someone that works with cement....
I agree jlogajan - that "America's greatness is because it is a SECULAR nation that does not interfere in the private practice of religions and has drawn a LINE between religion and state".
However I will add that the strength of most of the individuals who have formed the strength of this country, like John Adams, Samuel Adams, Washington, Madison, and many others, have clearly laid their guidance and foundation directly on the God of the Bible.
As Patrick Henry put it so well: "It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great nation was founded, not by religionists, but by Christians, not on religions, but on the Gospel of Jesus Christ! For this very reason peoples of other faiths have been afforded asylum, prosperity, and freedom of worship here."
Uh, did you bother to read any of the bizarre garbage posted at this site you use as a 'reference'?
However, I believe that you are only giving one side of Jefferson. Here are some more Jefferson quotes
"God... has formed us moral agents... that we may promote the happiness of those with whom He has placed us in society, by acting honestly towards all, benevolently to those who fall within our way, respecting sacredly their rights, bodily and mental, and cherishing especially their freedom of conscience, as we value our own." --Thomas Jefferson to Miles King, 1814. ME 14:197
"I believe... that [justice] is instinct and innate, that the moral sense is as much a part of our constitution as that of feeling, seeing, or hearing; as a wise Creator must have seen to be necessary in an animal destined to live in society." --Thomas Jefferson to John Adams, 1816. ME 15:76
"The practice of morality being necessary for the well-being of society, [our Creator] has taken care to impress its precepts so indelibly on our hearts that they shall not be effaced by the subtleties of our brain." --Thomas Jefferson to James Fishback, 1809. ME 12:315
"Our Saviour... has taught us to judge the tree by its fruit, and to leave motives to Him who can alone see into them." --Thomas Jefferson to Martin Van Buren, 1824. ME 16:55
"Adore God. ... Be just. Be true. Murmur not at the ways of Providence." -- Thomas Jefferson, 1825
And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are of the gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with his wrath? Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just: that his justice cannot sleep for ever." Notes on the State of Virginia, Query 18, 1781
Let's briefly look at some other Founders.
Here's Ben Franklin, who many people call an atheist.
I have lived, Sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing I see of this truth: "that God governs in the affairs of man. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without His notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without his Aid?
"Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom. As nations become corrupt and vicious, they have more need of masters." -Benjamin Franklin
From George Washington
"Of all the dispositions and habits, which lead to political prosperity, Religion, and Morality are indispensable supports. -- In vain would that man claim the tribute of Patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of Men and Citizens. -- The mere Politician, equally with the pious man, ought to respect and to cherish them. -- A volume could not trace all their connections with private and public felicity. -- Let it simply be asked where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths, which are the instruments of investigation in Courts of Justice? And let us with caution indulge the supposition, that morality can be maintained without religion. -- Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure -- reason and experience both forbid us to expect, that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle." --George Washington, from his Farewell Address "It is rightly impossible to govern the world without God and the Bible." --George Washington
"It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great nation was founded, not by religionists, but by Christians; not on religions, but on the gospel of Jesus Christ. For this very reason peoples of other faiths have been afforded asylum, prosperity, and freedom of worship." --Patrick Henry
"If we wish to be free; if we mean to preserve inviolate those inestimable privileges for which we have been so long contending; if we mean not basely to abandon the noble struggle in which we have been so long engaged, and which we have pledged ourselves never to abandon until the glorious object of our contest shall be obtained--we must fight! I repeat it, sir, we must fight! An appeal to arms, and to the God of hosts, is all that is left us."- Patrick Henry
"Statesmen...may plan and speculate for Liberty, but it is religion and morality alone, which can establish the principles upon which Freedom can securely stand." --John Adams
Letter to Zabdiel Adams, June 21, 1776
"Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other." -John Adams
address to the military Oct. 11, 1798
And let me concluse with the following non-religious quote:
"Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence." - John Adams
If I wanted to get a straw man response to detroy, I would quote this "source".
I believe that Jefferson said much the same thing in regards to The New Testament.
In church. House, Senate and SCOTUS chambers were to used to hold religious services (up until the War of Northern Agression).
[from a letter by Thomas Jefferson to Dr. Benjamin Waterhouse, Monticello, June 26, 1822]
I don't think anyone can argue with this, furthermore it's clear that the founders agreed, hence their many statements about the need for a "virtuous people" for the success of a free society. Jefferson in particular is on record regarding the need for religion to ground the people in morality, though I certainly do not think he was a "reborn" type Christian such as we know today.
Regarding your other points, about the coincidence of declining moral values with declining religious values, I am sure you are right that there is a correlation. The Left, and these days that seems to include the National Council of Churches, seeks to destroy religion for a reason. I for one believe that the current campaign for the separation of church and state is part of this attempt. Even though I believe strongly in the principle of separation of church and state.
"What is significant is that America's abiding principles found their basis in Bible. "
I believe that America's abiding principles are freedom and liberty, especially for the individual. If these principles are in the Bible, they are certainly not its main thrust, as they are America's. But if you'd like to argue that our system of freedom cannot work without the moral principles found in the Bible, I am probably ready to agree with you.
This might be helpful to the discussion:
A Table of the Religious Affiliations
of American Founders
Signer State Doc. Office Affiliation (Ref.)
Adams, Andrew CT A CO(l)
Adams, John MA D President CO(b)UN(a)
Adams, Samuel MA D/A CO(b)
Adams, Thomas VA A
Banister, John VA A
Baldwin, Abraham GA C CO(j,k)PR(n)
Bartlett, Josiah NH D/A CO(b)
Bassett, Richard DE C ME(g,j,m,n)
Bedford, Gunning, Jun. DE C PR(j,m)
Blair, John VA C Justice PR(a)EP(n)
Blount, William NC C EP(n)PR(f,j)
Braxton, Carter VA D
Brearly, David NJ C EP(n)
Broom, Jacob DE C QU(n)EP(m)
Butler, Pierce SC C EP(j,m)
Carroll, Charles MD D RC(d)
Carroll, Daniel MD A/C RC(d,j,n)
Chase, Samuel MD D Justice EP(a)
Clark, Abraham NJ D PR(c,e)
Clingan, William PA A
Collins, John RI A Governor
Clymer, George PA D/C QU(j,n),EP(j)
Dana, Francis MA A
Dayton, Jonothan NJ C PR(n)EP(j)
Dickenson, John DE A/C QU(j,m,n)EP(j)
Drayton, William Henry SC A
Duane, James NY A EP(l)
Duer, William NY A
Ellery, William RI(A)MA(D) D/A CO(b)
Few, William GA C ME(j,k,n)
Fitzmorris, Thomas PA C RC(j,n)
Floyd, William NY D PR(c,e)
Franklin, Benjamin PA D/C EP(n)DE(j)
Gerry, Elbridge MA D/A EP(j)
Gilman, Nicholas NH C CO(j,n)
Gorham, Nathaniel MA C CO(j,n)
Gwynnett, Button SC D EP(k,o)
Hall, Lyman SC D CO(b,k)
Hamilton, Alexander NY C EP(j,n)
Hancock, John MA A/D CO(b)
Hanson, John MD A
Harnett, Cornelious NC A EP(f)DE(f)
Harrison, Benjamin VA D Governor
Hart, John NJ D PR(c)
Harvie, John VA A
Hewes, Joseph NC D EP?(f)
Heyward, Thomas SC A
Heyward, Thomas, Jr. SC D
Holton, Samuel MA A
Hooper, William NC D EP(f)
Hopkins, Stephen RI D
Hopkinson, Francis NJ D Ep(l)
Hosmer, Titus CT D
Huntington, Samuel CT D/A CO(b)
Hutson, Richard SC A PR(l)
Ingersoll, Jared PA C PR(j,n)
Jefferson, Thomas VA D President DE(a)
Jennifer, Dan oF St. Thomas MD C EP(j,n)
Johnson, Wm. Saml. CT C Justice PR(a)EP(j,n)
King, Rufas MA C EP(j)CO(n)
Langdon, John NH C CO(j,n)
Langworthy, Edward GA A EP(o)
Laurens, Henry SC A HU(l)
Lee, Henry Lightfoot VA D/A
Lee, Richard Henry VA D/A Senator
Lewis, Francis NY D/A
Livingston, Phil. NY D P(c)
Livingston, Wil. NJ C PR(j,n)
Lovell, James MA A
Lynch, Thomas Junr. SC D
Madison, James Jr. VA C President EP(a,j,n)TH(i)
Marchant, Henry RI A
Mathews, John SC A
McHenry, James MD C PR(j,n)
Middleton, Arthur SC D
Miflin, Thomas PA C QU(n)LU(j)
M'Kean, Thomas DE D/A PR(m)
Morris, Gouv. NY(A)PA(C) A/C EP(j)DE(i,n)
Morris, Lewis NY D
Morris, Robert PA D/A/C EP(j,n)
Morton, John PA D
Nelson, Thomas Jr. VA D
Paca, William MD D
Paine, Robert Treat MA D CO(b)
Paterson, William NJ C Justice PT(a)PR(j,n)
Penn, John NC D/A UK(f)
Pinckney, Charles SC C EP(j,n)
Pinckney, Chas. Cotesworth SC C EP(j,n)
Read, George DE D/C EP(j,m,n)
Reed, Joseph PA A
Roberdeau, Daniel PA A
Rodney, Caesar DE D EP(m)
Ross, George PA D
Rush, Benjamin PA D PR(c,e)UN
Rutledge, Edward SC D Justice CE(a)
Rutledge, J. SC C EP(j,n)
Scudder, Nathaniel NJ A
Sherman, Roger CT D/A/C CO(b,j,n)
Smith, James PA D PR(c,e)
Smith, Jona. Bayard PA A
Spaight, Richard Dobbs NC C EP(f,j,n)
Stockton, Richard NJ D PR(c,e)
Stone, Thomas MD D
Taylor, George PA D PR(c,e)
Telfair, Edward GA A
Thornton, Matthew NH D PR(c,e)
Van Dyke, Nicholas DE A EP(m)
Walton, George GA D AN(o)
Walton, Jno. GA A
Washington, George VA C President EP(a,j,n)TH(i)
Wentworth, John Junr. NH A
Whipple, William NH D CO(b)
Williams, Jonothan NC A UK(f)
Williams, William CT D CO(b)
Williamson, Hu NC C PR(f,n)DE(j)
Wilson, James PA D/C Ch. Justice* EP(a)PR(e,n)DE(j)
Witherspoon, Jonothan NJ D/A Minister PR(c)(e)
Wolcott, Oliver CT D/A CO(b)
Wythe, George VA D EP(j)
A = Articles of Confederation
D = Declaration of Independence
C = United States Constitution
CE = Church of England
CO = Congregationalist
DE = Deist
EP = Episcopalian
HU = Huguanot
LU = Lutheran
ME = Methodist
QU = Quaker
PR = Presbyterian
PT = Protestant
RC = Roman Catholic
TH = Theist
UK = Unknown
UN = Unitarian
a = 1995 Information Please Almanac
b = The Congregationalist Library
c = Presbyterian Historical Society
d = U.S. Catholic Historical Society
e = Presbyterian Church, USA
f = North Carolina State Library
g = United Methodist Church
h = Lutheram
i = Memoirs & Correspondence of Thomas Jefferson, IV, p.512
j = A Worthy Company: Brief Lives of the Framers of the United States
Constitution, M. E. Bradford
k = Georgia Public Library Service
l = Dictionary of American Biography (1936)
m = A History of Delaware Through its Governors 1776-1984 by Roger A. Martin
n = Library of Congress
o = Georgia Historial Society
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