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Atheists and Humanists Lying About Thomas Jefferson and Jesus

Bogus Billboard taken down: Orange County, CA

Lies, falsehoods, untruths are the foundation of the secular humanist doctrines which are foisted upon America.  Two of the most harmful — and widely accepted — concern abortion, and separation of church and state.  This article focuses upon one typical instance of the lie about Christianity and the United States.  It reveals a typical operation of the humanist lie factory, and urges the best method to counter it.

A local California group called the Backyard Skeptics audaciously threw their lie right into the faces of their neighbors.  They put up a billboard with a picture of Thomas Jefferson, and this supposed quote from the founding father: “I do not find in Christianity one redeeming feature. It is founded on fables and mythology.”  Leading humanists enthusiastically praised the lie.  Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the American Humanist Association, said of the billboard, “It’s uplifting to see Americans discussing the views of Jefferson and examining his influence on the secular nature of our constitution”

“Wait a minute,” thought I, “that’s not the Jefferson I know.”  I have read over 1,500 dense pages of Jefferson’s own writings, in the Library of America’s “Jefferson: Writings.”  I remembered nothing like that.  On the one hand, Jefferson was not a member of any of the Christian denominations. And he didn’t like the professions of priests and pastors.  But on the other hand, Jefferson strongly praised a pure Christianity, and called himself a Christian!  He was nothing like an atheist.

I learned of the lying billboard from a reprint of an October 28 article out of Washington, D.C.  The article featured a couple of even more astounding lies, made up by secular humanists, and falsely attributed to Jefferson.  The article said the quotations were found on a website called “Monticello”.  But to anyone acquainted with Jefferson, these “quotations” are incredible:

“Millions of innocent men, women and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined, imprisoned: yet we have not advanced one 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.”

“…those who live by mystery & charlatanerie, fearing you would render them useless by simplifying the Christian philosophy, the most sublime & benevolent, but most perverted system that ever shone on man, endeavored to crush your well earnt, & well deserved fame.”

Even for those unfamiliar with Jefferson, there is a big clue that these statements are bogus: they do not cite their sources.  Every writing of Jefferson can be checked by anyone if the source is identified.

So I went to the “Monticello” website.  Knock me over with a feather!  Sure enough the statements were there.  THEY WERE LISTED AS SPURIOUS QUOTES – just made up out of whole cloth!  They first appeared in print in 1906, eighty years after Jefferson had died.  The Monticello website said, “We have not found this quotation in any of Jefferson’s known writings.”  

This is worth our attention.  The liars are so bold that they will quote a source even when that source is saying that the statement is phoney.  They will quote it as though it were true.  They count on you not knowing the truth.  They NEED us not to know the truth!

Before discussing the real Jefferson, it’s worthwhile to confirm our own position, to “get centered” in Christ.  John’s gospel records, “To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, ‘If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.  Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.’” (John 8:31, 32) The Greek word rendered as “truth” could equally be translated as “reality.”  When Jesus says he is “the truth”, we know that he is indeed reality.  We, as Christians have a moral and spiritual obligation to know and to live in the truth.  The language of the adversary is lies.  The adversaries of God are always trying to persuade us to live in their lies.  But it is our obligation and privilege to seek out truth.  This is not merely a political matter.  It is integral to our identity as Christians.

When I assert that the humanists are simply lying about Jefferson, it becomes my duty to use as evidence Jefferson’s own words, and to tell you where you can find those words – so you can verify them for yourself.  The closing statement in the humanist’s article of October 28 claims that humanists have the “responsibility to lead ethical lives”.  How revealing it is to discover that their concept of “ethical” means that they will lie and lie and lie to you – all for your own good.  But now to Jefferson

We might start with Jefferson’s draft of the Declaration of Independence – the very foundation of our nation.  I have provided the capital letters for emphasis.  Jefferson’ original “inherent and” was dropped by Congress and replaced by “certain.”

When in the course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth the separate & equal station TO WHICH THE LAWS OF NATURE AND OF NATURE’S GOD entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

 We hold these truths to be self-evident, THAT ALL MEN ARE CREATED EQUAL THAT THEY ARE ENDOWED BY THEIR CREATOR WITH inherent and [Jefferson’s draft, changed to certain] INALIENABLE RIGHTS; that among these are life, liberty, & the pursuit of happiness:”  

The humanists assert that there is no God.  Unbelievably, they invoke Thomas Jefferson, pretending that he is their authority for banishing God from the USA.  If they succeed in spreading this vicious doctrine, they will strip away all our rights to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”  Thomas Jefferson and the Congress stated unequivocally that the rights are given us by our “Creator.”  No Creator, no rights!  It’s that simple.  Clearly  the issue is not religious, but political!  Erosion of the nation’s belief in God leads to erosion of all our rights – both of which are going on right now.

The Declaration is godly, but not specifically Christian.  So we turn now to Jefferson’s own view of Jesus and of Christianity. Jefferson absolutely opposed the establishment of an official national church.  What that means exactly is that he opposed making the Church of England, the Presbyterian, the Roman Catholic, the Lutheran, or any other denomination of Christianity — or for that matter any other religion, such as Islam — an official national church.  He demanded that the new nation allow everyone to worship God as their conscience directed, and that no one should have to provide financial support for any particular religion.  He demanded that there be no religious test for anyone to hold public office.

Of course, maintaining that we should worship God as our understanding and conscience direct, is the diametric opposite of proposing that anyone should not believe in God.  

My Catholic Lane article of August 20, 2011 dealt with Jefferson’s letter to the Danbury Baptists, in which he assured them there would be no official national religion (which postmodernists grossly distort, to give them an excuse to banish religion from the public eye.)

Does this sound anti-Christian to you?  Jefferson wrote to Joseph Priestly about Jesus: “[H]is system of morality was the most benevolent & sublime probably that has ever been taught and consequently more perfect than those of any of the antient [sic] philosophers.” April 9, 1803 – easily verified!

To his friend and fellow signer of the Declaration, Dr. Benjamin Rush , Jefferson wrote: “Dear Sir,–In some of the delightful conversations with you, in the evenings of 1798-99, and which served as an anodyne to the afflictions of the crisis through which our country was then laboring, the Christian religion was sometimes our topic; and I then promised you, that one day or other, I would give you my views of it.  They are the result of a life of inquiry & reflection, and very different from that anti-Christian system imputed to me by those who know nothing of my opinions.  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 he wished anyone to be; sincerely attached to his doctrines, in preference to all others; ascribing to himself every human excellence; & believing he never claimed any other.”  April 21, 1803 – look it up, confirm it! Jefferson, Writings, Library of America  p. 1122 

Jefferson proclaimed himself: “I am a Christian”!  Unlike almost all of us, he was not a Trinitarian, but a Unitarian. True that may put him outside what we consider to be orthodox Christian doctrine.  But there’s no way we Trinitarians should blend our voices with our humanist enemies who want to trumpet that he was not Christian. Jefferson’s own testimony, as well as the record of his life, proclaims, “I am a Christian.”

Please remember this if you can – and the source.  When you quote from his letter to Dr. Rush, you will expose either the ignorance or the falsehood of the revisionists, who on non-existent authority deny Jefferson’s Christianity.

 On June 26, 1822, four years before Jefferson died, he wrote to Benjamin Waterhouse, the first doctor to test the smallpox vaccine in America.  He suggested to Waterhouse a syllabus for the further study of Jesus and Jesus’ doctrines.

“The doctrines of Jesus are simple, and tend to the happiness of man.

      1. That there is only one God, and he all perfect.
      2. That there is a future state of rewards and punishment.
      3.  That to love God with all thy heart and thy neighbor as thyself, is the sum of religion.

These are the great points onwhich he endeavored to reform the religion of the Jews.  But compare these with the demoralizing dogmas of Calvin.”

“Had the doctrines of Jesus been preached always as pure as they came from his lips, the whole civilized world would now have been Christian.” ibid. pp 1458f

 Wow!  The whole civilized world!  This is the exact opposite of the humanist fraudulent “make one half the world fools, and the other half hypocrites. To support roguery and error all over the earth”  

 Jefferson has spoken for himself.  Any person today who pretends to have any authority whatsoever regarding Jefferson, and who falsely represents Jefferson as no Christian, or as opposed to Christianity, or as the enemy of religion – that person is a liar, a liar probably motivated by a desire to banish love of God from America.  Any ignorant person who merely parrots the lies, deserves the opportunity to be taught the truth.  

There are numerous other written indicators of Jefferson’s view of Jesus and of Christianity.  If the subject interests you, study Jefferson’s letter to his predecessor as President – John Adams, Oct 12, 1813 where he discusses what he regards as the code of Jesus.

The offending billboard was recently removed, but not before it had a chance to influence the persons who saw it.  Merely having the billboard removed is hardly a victory.  Like the Hydra of Greek mythology, with her deadly poisonous breath, which, when you cut off one of her many heads grew two more, when one humanist effort is cut off, it seems that two more take its place.  Nevertheless, Hercules, as the second of his twelve labors, did destroy the Hydra.  When he would cut off a head, he immediately cauterized the stump with a burning torch.

We need to cut off the heads of every humanist lie we know of.  We do this by learning and telling the truth.  We cauterize the stump by sharing the truth with anyone who will listen to us or read what we write.  Moreover, once we have exposed several of the humanist lies, we need to let everyone know that lies and misrepresentations are normal tools of American atheistic humanism.  Finally, we need to be bold!  Just as Hercules overcame Hydra, Jesus will overcome all lies.  The lies are shifting, sinking sand.  The house built upon them cannot endure.  Jesus is reality, the Rock on which we build our house.


Theodore Kobernick is a retired Protestant pastor whose wide education includes degrees in English, training in aviation electronics, engineering, real estate, pastoral studies, and Americal history. He has taught English at the University of Washington (Seattle), and various courses in writing at St. Martin's University (near Olympia, WA).  Phi Beta Kappa from Lake Forest College, IL. He and Paula have been married for 35 years; they live in Vancouver, WA.


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  • stceolfrithtx

    “I am a Christian, in the only sense he wished anyone to be; sincerely attached to his doctrines, in preference to all others; ascribing to himself every human excellence; & believing he never claimed any other.” -Jefferson

    Would Jefferson be stating that Jesus is not God here, though? He does not say here that Jesus is God and in fact says that Jesus had all HUMAN excellence and never claimed any other excellence, for instance, the attributes of God.

    I think he’s subtly saying here that he believes Jesus isn’t/wasn’t God, Jesus didn’t claim to be God, and that he (Jefferson) himself is only “Christian” insofar as he believes in things such as the Golden Rule and that Jesus was a great guy, that a “pure Christianity” as you call it has very little to it that a Christian would agree is fundamental.

    In fact, while those billboards are dead wrong, I don’t see any proof here that Jefferson could validly be called a Christian anymore

    • Tom

      Jefferson read the gospels but little of the Bible itself. It appears that he never read the Book of Revelation, otherwise he would never have written his own bible taking out the miracles that Jesus done in His life on earth. Had he read Revelation 22:18-19; “For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.”

      This Book means the whole New Testament, as it is about Prophecy and what God planed to do when the Judgment of God came. Mister Jefferson made the same mistake as many churches are doing today; preaching the love of God, but never mentioning the severity of God; Romans 11:22: “Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off.”

      Severity of God is another of the divine attributes, but the minds
      of men are reluctant to dwell upon it. It was the loving and faithful God who swept the whole earth of the antediluvian race, and it has already been noted extensively in the Book of Romans that when sin and rebellion reach their point of no return, God hardens and destroys. The current love-cult has, to some degree, perverted man’s conception of the divine goodness by leaving out of view the aspect of God’s character which Paul here commanded men to behold. The severity here mentioned derives from the righteousness and justice of him who is angry with the wicked every day, who abhors evil, and who must, and will, punish all who deserve it.

    • christophermckeiverdavis

      No, only that Jesus had no apparrent sinful nature, he had perfect behaviour and an understanding of Gods will which he lived by (pure ), in my reading of the statement. If one follows Jesus, he would believe in the Father as Jesus commanded all believers to pray to God the Father in “Jesus” name ( also ” I and the Father are one ” )Jefferson didn’t herein mention Jesus teaching the disciples the Lords prayer either, but that does not mean Jefferson did not read and understand the simple truths Jesus conveyed in the words He spoke, which were recorded in the Gospels. Very clear , Jefferson is affirming to his reader, and with great joy and clarity of mind, that Jesus is his Lord (“I am Christian ” or “I believe Jesus’ ways are the best way to live). As to whether or not he believed Jesus was not God, this letter does not indicate such. Further reading of Jeffersons views/ written statements , letters might clear that question up for you

  • Theodore Kobernick

    Stceolfrithtx:

    Thank you for your comment. First, the “pure Christianity” is Jefferson’s phrase, certainly not mine. You are correct in stating that Jefferson did not believe that our Lord Jesus is God. As I understand it, that’s the Unitarian belief — a belief to which neither you nor I subscribe.

    My article is not intended as an endorsement of Jefferson’s view. It is intended to reveal the blatant lying of today’s humanists.

    You seem to deny that Jefferson was a Christian on the grounds that he did not accept Jesus as divine. But the humanists are saying that Jefferson did not believe in God — which is an entirely different matter, and is in fact a lie.

    Actually, Jefferson was not particularly subtle about being a Unitarian. But when considering Jefferson’s beliefs, as they influenced our nation, it is very much to the point that he and the other Founders saw that our inalienable rights were the gift of God, and did not spring from any government.

    My article is intended to provide Christian Americans with the information they may need, so that they can effectively repel humanist attacks upon (and denial of) our Christian heritage. It is not intended to suggest to Christians that Jefferson’s view of Christianity was correct.

    • Tom

      See my post above and you will learn that Jefferson did some lying himself, in ignorance, true, but to God one must understand and believe every topic stated in the Bible. The Old Testament gives the right frame of mind to understand the New Testament.

  • tgrossha

    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.

    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 presentation, 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

    Ridicule is the only weapon which can be used against 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 the mere Abracadabra of the mountebanks calling themselves the priests of Jesus.”

    -Thomas Jefferson, letter to Francis Adrian Van der Kemp, 30 July, 1816

    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 purest of all moral systems, for the purpose of deriving from it pence and power, revolts those who think for themselves, and who read in that system only what is really there.

    -Thomas Jefferson, letter to Mrs. Samuel H. Smith, August, 6, 1816

    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 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

    Priests…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, Letter to Correa de Serra, April 11, 1820

    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

    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)

    Bibliography (click on an underlined book title if you’d like to obtain it):

    Merrill D. Peterson, ed, Thomas Jefferson Writings, (The Library of America,1984)

    O.I.A. Roche, ed, The Jefferson Bible: with the Annotated Commentaries on Religion of Thomas Jefferson, (Clarkson N. Potter, Inc., 1964)

    Dickinson W. Adams, ed, et al, The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, Second Series (Princeton University Press, 1983)

    Lester J. Cappon, ed, The Adams-Jefferson Letters, Vol. 2, (The University of North Carolina Press, 1959)

    Alf J. Mapp, Jr., Thomas Jefferson, A Strange Case of Mistaken Identity, (Madison Books, 1987)

    Julian P. Boyd, ed, The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, (Princeton University Press 1950–)

    A.A. Lipscomb, Albert E. Bergh, eds. The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, (The Thomas Jefferson Memorial Assoc., 1903-1904)

  • noelfitz

    Theodore,
    you have written a very comprehensive and scholarly article – thanks. I am impressed with you reading of so much of Jefferson.

    stceolfrithtx
    I would answer your query with the immortal words “it all depends on what you mean by” Christian.

    tgrossha
    Your reply also is comprehensive and detailed and deserves to be read with care. It is a compliment to us here that you chose to put such a substantial study in this site.

    All,
    there really is no conflict between Theodore and Tgrossa, even some of the quotations are used by both.
    It seems clear Jefferson was what is often termed a “Deist”. It depends on how one defines a “Christian” to claim him as one or not.

  • Theodore Kobernick

    Noel, there really is a conflict between me and tgrossha. Whether or not we refer to certain identical quotations, we arrive at diametrically opposed conclusions.

    Tgrossha, whoever or whatever you are, when we quote Jefferson himself when he writes to his old friend Benjamin Rush that he, Jefferson, is a Christian – it is not we who attempt to rewrite history. Jefferson claimed his philosophy to be the moral system of Jesus.

    As for your smugly pointing out that “there exists nothing in the Declaration about Christianity” – of course not! The Declaration was a political document, not a religious one.

    Although Jefferson has often been called a deist, he was, by his own declaration, a Unitarian. By the way, individual “deists” do not all subscribe to some uniform statement of faith, as perhaps you assume.

    You have poured out a plethora of very short quotations from Jefferson. Moreover, you have done the right thing in citing your source for each such quote. This enables any Catholic Lane reader to investigate the context of each of the quoted passages – at least any reader who is sufficiently interested.

    The only one of your quotations which really demands its context is from Jefferson’s response to the 17th Query in his “Notes on the State of Virginia.” Yanked out of context (as you have done) the statement appears to be an indictment of Christianity. NOT SO!

    Let’s look at this quote in its context: “Millions of innocent men, women and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined, imprisoned: yet we have not advanced one 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.”

    The 17th Query is in answer to the question as to the different religions received into Virginia. Jefferson argues strongly (even vehemently) and at length that men should never be coerced into adhering to any particular set of religious beliefs. The key to the quoted passage is “What has been the effect of coercion?” Jefferson is arguing that state religions, national religions, “established” religions have had the effect of wrecking Christianity. Read the entire Query – 5 pages in the Library of America edition of Jefferson’s writings – and you will see that Jefferson says nothing against Christianity. He strongly objects to what he sees as perversions of Christianity. To treat this quotation as anti-Christian is simply dishonest.

    Your other quotes, which show that Jefferson was anti-clerical are right on the money. Jefferson thought that priests, preachers and teachers obscured and distorted what Jefferson regarded as the true teachings of Jesus. But that does not make Jefferson an enemy of Christianity; on the contrary, he saw himself as a defender of “true” Christianity.

    Oh, and by the way, the “demonism” Jefferson was referring to is Calvinism, or as Calvinism manifested itself in the Colonies, Presbyterianism. Jefferson’s contemporary, John Wesley, was infuriated by Calvin’s teaching of double predestination: it made out that God was the author of sin. In 1739, Wesley preached one of his sermons which opposed Calvin. Jefferson was only slightly more extreme than Wesley, when TJ called Calvinism “demonism”.

    Just in case some reader is wondering about Jefferson and the separation of church and state, please see my August 20 article “Separation of Church and State: Clarifying What Jefferson Meant.”

  • noelfitz

    I really do not think that Theodore and Tgrossha “arrive at diametrically opposed conclusions.”

    Is it not agreed that TJ did not believe in the Divinity of Christ, but he did believe in a Creator. He believed Jesus was a good moral teacher. Whether these believes would make him a Christian or not depends on a definition of Christian.

    The discussion is relevant at the moment, because a similar discussion could emerge concerning Mitt Romney. But this is not the place for that discussion.

    Another interesting discussion would be to debate whether the Founding Fathers were a group of anti-Catholic Free-Masons, excepting Carroll.

    I would claim that it is not necessary for a politician to be a Christian.

    But this discussion should be kept focused.

    TJ was a Unitarian Deist, who believed Jesus was a good teacher of ethical behavior. Would you agree? Whether he was a Christian or not depends on a definition of “Christian”.

  • gfeltham

    From the introductory comments of this piece, it is apparent that Theodore has not much respect for secular humanists, lumping them all with the group erecting that unfortunate billboard.

    TK:”Lies, falsehoods, untruths are the foundation
    of the secular humanist doctrines which are
    foisted upon America.”

    I can understand TK’s desire to comment upon and correct those directly responsible for putting forth any truly spurious information. But to use any one particular event to tar-brush secular humanists in general is equally wrong. And it should be noted that the Roy Spreckardt quote was from a news release in which the humanist organization was actually also acknowledging that the local group responsible for the billboard quote was, indeed, in error.

    and further:

    TK: “The article featured a couple of even more astounding lies, made up by secular humanists,
    and falsely attributed to Jefferson. The article said the quotations were found on a website called “Monticello”. But to anyone acquainted
    with Jefferson, these ”quotations” are incredible:”

    TK spreads his own disinformation when he claims that the two additional quotes are spurious and ‘just made up of whole cloth’; in fact both are legitimate Jefferson quotes, and are even noted as such at the ‘Monticello’ website. TGROSSHA even uses one of them in his reply above. The other one is from a letter that Jefferson wrote to Joseph Priestly (03/21/1801); it is even listed as one of his ‘Famous Quotations’.

    That being said, my purpose is not to pick a fight. I would just suggest that we all should consider the heart of what Jefferson was all about. It wasn’t that he was either this kind of Christian, or that kind, or a even a Christian at all. He wanted all of us to realize how important Freedom of Conscience really was for each and every one of us. In respecting this concept, we take a giant step toward the ability to be able to get along with each other. Secular Humanists are not unprincipiled, immoral beings that some would have you believe, although they, too can get feisty when presented with distortions of the truth.

    The reply commentary above is very civil, and I found it refreshing compared to many other blogs I have visited.

  • Folkpunch

    Theodore Kobernick,

    You are really sanctimonious, aren’t you? One little group of “backyard atheists” puts their foot in the their mouth and you are all over it: “Lies, falsehoods, untruths are the foundation of the secular humanist doctrines…” It’s all bunk because of those people and their billboard?

    I don’t suppose the hideous history of the Church has made you give up your “doctrine” has it? Shall we compare body counts?

    As you gloat your way through your article you say, “The closing statement in the humanist’s article of October 28 claims that humanists have the ‘responsibility to lead ethical lives.’ How revealing it is to discover that their concept of ‘ethical’ means that they will lie and lie and lie to you – all for your own good.”

    You have better ethics, don’t you? You would never lie to people and if your church was caught in a compromising position you would be the first to admit it and to make amends. Right? So tell me, what are you doing about the pedophile priests? Are you hiding it like most Catholics or are you actually doing something? Are you raising money to support the victims? To pay for their ongoing counseling? Are you raising money to go after the perpetrators, to pay for the lawyers and investigators? Are you making sure that they don’t just get shuffled off to some other parish where nobody knows who they are? What are you doing about this?

    Because this is not some little “backyard pornography” ring going on, this is huge, this is real international systemic pedophilia. And these are not humanists, these are ordained Catholic priests, these are Christians, and this is your church. So tell us about your ethics, Mister Kobernick. We would all like to know.

  • Corey

    Hitler was a perfect example of a conservative Christian. So was Christopher Columbus, who chopped off the hands of the Natives who didnt bring him enough gold. As were the Puritans, who hung Quakers and forced them to fund churches they didnt attend. As was GW Bush, who said his god told him to invade Iraq, killing thousands of innocent people. All in all, I’d say Christianity is the cause for most of the oppression, war, genocide, and murder than of the three main Abrahamic religions; Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

  • someone

    Those dang atheists and humanists! Why can’t they leave religion alone? if anyone asks me, they can shove their sacrilegious bigotry up their pie holes.