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Thomas Jefferson
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Thomas Jefferson on
Religion and Liberty

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Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826)
The third President of the United States (1801-1809)
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Say nothing of my religion. It is known to my god and myself alone.
-- Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to John Adams, 11 January 1817, in Lester Cappon, ed. The Adams-Jefferson Letters, (1959) p. 506, quoted from Jeremy Koselak, "The Exaltation of a Reasonable Deity: Thomas Jefferson’s Critique of Christianity"

I am of a sect by myself, as far as I know.
-- Thomas Jefferson, letter to Ezra Stiles Ely (June 25, 1819), quoted from Dickinson W Adams, ed, The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, Second Series (Princeton University Press, 1983; note that attributions saying "Ezra Stiles, president of Yale University (June 25, 1819)" are incorrect, as that Ezra Stiles died in 1795)

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, considering three different explanations for why sea shells would be found at higher elevations than one should reasonably expect an ocean to have existed, in Notes on the State of Virginia

What all agree upon is probably right; what no two agree in most probably is wrong.
-- Thomas Jefferson, Jefferson's Axiom, in a letter to John Adams, 11 January 1817, quoted from Lester Cappon, ed. The Adams-Jefferson Letters (1959) p. 445

The man who reads nothing at all is better educated than the man who reads nothing but newspapers.
-- Thomas Jefferson, quoted by Bob Dylan on his Themetime Radio Hour (April 8, 2009)

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Human Liberty; Inalienable Rights
Thomas JeffersonWe hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with inherent and inalienable rights; that among these, are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; that to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed; that whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.
-- Declaration of Independence as originally written by Thomas Jefferson, 1776. ME 1:29, Papers 1:315 (Some believe Thomas Paine wrote the original draft from which Jefferson and Adams copied the earliest surviving drafts [which contained stern denunciations against human slavery typical of Paine but not of Jefferson, and that it contains word usage typical of Paine's writings but not of Jefferson's], and that this was the secret which Paine, in a letter, assured George Washington that he had "ever been dumb on everything which might touch national honor" and would remain so. Since it was Jefferson's appointed duty to draft the Declaration, it behooved them not to divulge that it came from another's pen, though everyone during those times agreed that Paine's pen was the most elequent of that era. [Arguments derived from Joseph Lewis.])

[Our] principles [are] founded on the immovable basis of equal right and reason.
-- Thomas Jefferson, to James Sullivan, 1797. ME 9:379

An equal application of law to every condition of man is fundamental.
-- Thomas Jefferson, to George Hay, 1807. ME 11:341

I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty than to those attending too small a degree of it.
-- Thomas Jefferson, letter to Archibald Stuart (1791)

That liberty [is pure] which is to go to all, and not to the few or the rich alone.
-- Thomas Jefferson, letter to Horatio Gates (1798)

Rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others. I do not add "within the limits of the law" because law is often but the tyrant's will, and always so when it violates the rights of the individual.
-- Thomas Jefferson, letter to Isaac H Tiffany (1819)

The most sacred of the duties of a government [is] to do equal and impartial justice to all its citizens.
-- Thomas Jefferson, note in Destutt de Tracy, "Political Economy," 1816. ME 14:465

To unequal privileges among members of the same society the spirit of our nation is, with one accord, adverse."
-- Thomas Jefferson, to Hugh White, 1801. ME 10:258

All, too, will bear in mind this sacred principle, that though the will of the majority is in all cases to prevail, that will, to be rightful, must be reasonable; that the minority possess their equal rights, which equal laws must protect, and to violate which would be oppression.
-- Thomas Jefferson, First Inaugural Address, March 4, 1801

And let us reflect that, having banished from our land that religious intolerance under which mankind so long bled and suffered, we have yet gained little if we countenance a political intolerance as despotic, as wicked, and capable of as bitter and bloody persecutions.... error of opinion may be tolerated where reason is left free to combat it.... I deem the essential principles of our government.... Equal and exact justice to all men, of whatever state or persuasion, religious or political; ... freedom of religion, freedom of the press, and freedom of person under the protection of the habeas corpus, and trial by juries impartially selected.
-- Thomas Jefferson, First Inaugural Address, March 4, 1801

In America, no other distinction between man and man had ever been known but that of persons in office exercising powers by authority of the laws, and private individuals. Among these last, the poorest laborer stood on equal ground with the wealthiest millionaire, and generally on a more favored one whenever their rights seem to jar.
-- Thomas Jefferson, Answers to de Meusnier Questions, 1786. ME 17:8

Of distinction by birth or badge, [Americans] had no more idea than they had of the mode of existence in the moon or planets. They had heard only that there were such, and knew that they must be wrong.
-- Thomas Jefferson, Answers to de Meusnier Questions, 1786. ME 17:89

[The] best principles [of our republic] secure to all its citizens a perfect equality of rights.
-- Thomas Jefferson, Reply to the Citizens of Wilmington, 1809. ME 16:336

It is surely time for men to think for themselves, and to throw off the authority of names so artificially magnified.
-- Thomas Jefferson, letter to William Short, August 4, 1820 (see Positive Atheism's Historical section)

In reviewing the history of the times through which we have passed, no portion of it gives greater satisfaction or reflection, than that which represents the efforts of the friends of religious freedom and the success with which they are crowned.
-- Thomas Jefferson, from Henry Wilder Foote, Thomas Jefferson: Champion of Religious Freedom (1947), quoted from Albert J Menendez and Edd Doerr, The Great Quotations on Religious Freedom

It behoves every man who values liberty of conscience for himself, to resist invasions of it in the case of others; or their case may, by change of circumstances, become his own.
-- Thomas Jefferson, letter to Benjamin Rush, April 21, 1803

To preserve the freedom of the human mind then and freedom of the press, every spirit should be ready to devote itself to martyrdom; for as long as we may think as we will, and speak as we think, the condition of man will proceed in improvement.
-- Thomas Jefferson, letter to William Green Mumford, June 18, 1799

May it [the Declaration of Independence] 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. That form which we have substituted, restores the free right to the unbounded exercise of reason and freedom of opinion. All eyes are opened, or opening, to the rights of man. The general spread of the light of science has already laid open to every view the palpable truth, that the mass of mankind has not been born with saddles on their backs, nor a favored few booted and spurred, ready to ride them legitimately, by the grace of God. These are grounds of hope for others. For ourselves, let the annual return of this day [July 4th] forever refresh our recollections of these rights, and an undiminished devotion to them....
-- Thomas Jefferson, letter to Roger C Weightman, June 24, 1826, Jefferson's last letter, declining, due to ill health, an invitation to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the signing of that document; Jefferson died ten days later, the very day ot the 50th anniversary of the Declaration's signing (John Adams died a few hours later, not knowing that Jefferson had also died)

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Religious Liberty
 

Thomas JeffersonAmong the most inestimable of our blessings is that ... of liberty to worship our Creator in the way we think most agreeable to His will; a liberty deemed in other countries incompatible with good government and yet proved by our experience to be its best support.
-- Thomas Jefferson, Reply to Baptist Address, 1807

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

The rights [to religious freedom] are of the natural rights of mankind, and ... if any act shall be ... passed to repeal [an act granting those rights] or to narrow its operation, such act will be an infringement of natural right.
-- Thomas Jefferson, Statute for Religious Freedom, 1779. Papers, 2:546 (see Positive Atheism's Historical section)

The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods, or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.
-- Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia, 1781-82 (capitalization of the word god is retained per original; see Positive Atheism's Historical Section)

Subject opinion to coercion: whom will you make your inquisitors? Fallible men; men governed by bad passions, by private as well as public reasons. And why subject it to coercion? To produce uniformity. But is uniformity of opinion desirable? No more than of face and stature.
-- Thomas Jefferson, Notes on Virginia, 1782

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 toward uniformity. What has been the effect of coercion? To make one-half the world fools and the other half hypocrites. To support roguery and error all over the earth.
-- Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia, 1781-82

I know it will give great offense to the clergy, but the advocate of religious freedom is to expect neither peace nor forgiveness from them.
-- Thomas Jefferson, to Levi Lincoln, 1802. ME 10:305

I am really mortified to be told that, in the United States of America, a fact like this [that a bookseller is prosecuted for selling books advocatig what was then presumed by the statusuo to be pseudoscience] can become a subject of inquiry, and of criminal inquiry too, as an offence against religion; that a question about the sale of a book can be carried before the civil magistrate. Is this then our freedom of religion? 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 M de Becourt's 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, letter to N G Dufief, Philadelphia bookseller (1814), after being prosecuted for selling de Becourt's book, Sur la Création du Monde, un Systême d'Organisation Primitive, which Jefferson himself had purchased (check Positive Atheism's Historical library for a copy of the entire letter).

[N]o 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 shall otherwise suffer, on account of his religious opinions or belief; but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish, enlarge, or affect their civil capacities.
-- Thomas Jefferson, Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom (1779), quoted from Merrill D Peterson, ed, Thomas Jefferson: Writings (1984), p. 347

I am for freedom of religion, & against all maneuvres to bring about a legal ascendancy of one sect over another.
-- Thomas Jefferson, letter to Elbridge Gerry, 1799 (see Positive Atheism's Historical section)

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, letter to Edward Dowse, April 19, 1803

Short Grapic Rule

The 'Wall of Separation,' Again:
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, to the Virginia Baptists (1808) ME 16:320. This is his second kown use of the term "wall of separation," here quoting his own use in the Danbury Baptist letter. This wording of the original was several times upheld by the Supreme Court as an accurate description of the Establishment Clause: Reynolds (98 US at 164, 1879); Everson (330 US at 59, 1947); McCollum (333 US at 232, 1948)

Short Grapic Rule

Supreme Court: Clause erects 'Wall of Separation'

In the words of Jefferson, the clause against establishment of religion by law was intended to erect 'a wall of separation' between church and state.
-- Hugo Black, Everson v. Board of Education (1947)

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Government Intermeddling
 

Thomas JeffersonReligion 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

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, Second 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 conscience of men either attainable or applicable to any desirable purpose.
-- Thomas Jefferson, Reply to New London Methodists, 1809

To suffer the civil magistrate to intrude his powers into the field of opinion and to restrain the profession or propagation of principles on supposition of their ill tendency is a dangerous fallacy which at once destroys all religious liberty, because he being of course judge of that tendency will make his opinions the rule of judgment and approve or condemn the sentiments of others only as they shall square with or differ from his own.
-- Thomas Jefferson, Statute for Religious Freedom, 1779. Papers, 2: 546 (see Positive Atheism's Historical Section)

The impious presumption of legislators and and rulers, civil as well as ecclesiastical, who, being themselves but fallible and uninspired men, have assumed dominion over the faith of others, setting up their own opinions and modes of thinking as the only true and infallible, and as such endeavoring to impose them on others, hath established and maintained false religions over the greatest part of the world and through all time: That 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, expressing concern over the authoritarian interpretation of religious views, and advocating, rather, that states allow an individual to use her or his own reason to establish or settle these opinions, in the opening passage to Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom (1786), quoted from Merrill D Peterson, editor, Thomas Jefferson: Writings (1984), page 346

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 everyone 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, Letter to the Baptist Association at Chesterfield Virginia, November 21, 1808, Andrew Lipscomb and Albert Bergh, The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, volume 16, page 320. (Please note that a similar quote, found on page 47 of the 1991 edition of Menendez and Doerr's wonderful volume, The Great Quotations on Religious Liberty is incorrect in that this wording is not found in any known letters to James Madison and certainly not that of December 16, 1786; for some forgotten reason, we omitted that quote from our otherwise exhaustive use of Menendez and Doerr's then-rare collection. Cliff Walker, editor. Added on February 24, 2008)

Our particular principles of religion are a subject of accountability to God alone.
-- Thomas Jefferson, Letter to Miles King, 26 September 1814, quoted from Roche, OIA, ed. The Jeffersonian Bible (1964) p. 328

Short Grapic Rule

To Proclaim a Day
of Fasting & Prayer!?

I consider the government of the United States as interdicted by the Constitution from intermeddling in 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.
     But it is only proposed that I should recommend, not prescribe a day of fasting & prayer. That is, that I should indirectly assume to the US an authority over religious exercises which the Constitution has directly precluded them from.... I do not believe it is for the interest of religion to invite the civil magistrate to direct it's exercises, it's discipline, or it's doctrines; nor of the religious societies that the general government should be invested with the power of effecting any uniformity of time or matter among them. Fasting & 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, & the objects proper for them, according to their own particular tenets; and this right can never be safer than in their own hands, where the constitution has deposited it. I am aware that the practice of my predecessors may be quoted.... Be this as it may, every one must act according to the dictates of his own reason, & mine tells me that civil powers alone have been given to the President of the US and no authority to direct the religious exercises of his constituents.
-- Thomas Jefferson, to Samuel Miller, January 23, 1808 (see Positive Atheism's Historical section)

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Establishment of Religion
 

Thomas Jefferson     What a conspiracy this,
          between church and state!
     Sing Tantarara, rogues all, rogues all!
     Sing Tantarara, rogues all!
              
-- Thomas Jefferson, letter to John Cartwright, June 25, 1824, commenting specifically on the popular but false claim that the establishment of the Christian religion had been part of the Common Law of England, as the United States Constitution defaults to the Common Law regarding matters that the Constitution itself does not address

The 'Wall of Separation':
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 (emphasis ours). This was used again by Jefferson in his letter to the Virginia Baptsits, and was several times upheld by the Supreme Court as an accurate description of the Establishment Clause: Reynolds (98 US at 164, 1879); Everson (330 US at 59, 1947); McCollum (333 US at 232, 1948)

... the common law existed while the Anglo-Saxons were yet pagans, at a time when they had never yet heard the name of Christ pronounced or knew that such a character existed.
-- Thomas Jefferson, letter to Major John Cartwright, June 5, 1824 (see Positive Atheism's Historical section)

Christianity neither is, nor ever was, a part of the common law.
-- Thomas Jefferson, letter to Dr. Thomas Cooper, February 10, 1814, responding to the claim that Chritianity was part of the Common Law of England, as the United States Constitution defaults to the Common Law regarding matters that it does not address. This argument is still used today by "Christian Nation" revisionists who do not admit to having read Thomas Jefferson's thorough research of this matter.

For we know that the common law is that system of law which was introduced by the Saxons on their settlement of England, and altered from time to time by proper legislative authority from that time to the date of the Magna Charta, which terminates the period of the common law ... This settlement took place about the middle of the fifth century. But Christianity was not introduced till the seventh century; the conversion of the first Christian king of the Heptarchy having taken place about the year 598, and that of the last about 686. Here then, was a space of two hundred years, during which the common law was in existence, and Christianity no part of it ... That system of religion could not be a part of the common law, because they were not yet Christians.
-- Thomas Jefferson, letter to Dr. Thomas Cooper, February 10, 1814, responding to the claim that Chritianity was part of the Common Law of England, as the United States Constitution defaults to the Common Law regarding matters that it does not address. This argument is still used today by "Christian Nation" revisionists who do not admit to having read Thomas Jefferson's thorough research of this matter.

But every state, says an inquisitor, has established some religion. No two, say I, have established the same. Is this a proof of the infallibility of establishments?
-- Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia, 1781-82

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

... [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 aggrandising their oppressors in Church and State; that the purest system of morals ever before preached to man, has been adulterated and sophisticated by artificial constructions, into a mere contrivance to filch wealth and power to themselves; that rational men not being able to swallow their impious heresies, in order to force them down their throats, they raise the hue and cry of infidelity, while themselves are the greatest obstacles to the advancement of the real doctrines of Jesus, and do in fact constitute the real Anti-Christ.
-- Thomas Jefferson, to Samuel Kercheval, 1810 (see Positive Atheism's Historical section)

[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, quoted from Eyler Robert Coates, Sr., "Thomas Jefferson on Politics & Government: Freedom of Religion"

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

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, Statute for Religious Freedom, 1779. Papers, 1:545

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, December 6, 1813 (see Positive Atheism's Historical section)

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. It is easier to acquire wealth and power by this combination than by deserving them, and to effect this, they have perverted the purest religion ever preached to man into mystery and jargon, unintelligible to all mankind, and therefore the safer engine for their purposes.
-- Thomas Jefferson, to Horatio G Spafford, March 17, 1814

It is error alone that needs the support of government. Truth can stand by itself.
-- Thomas Jefferson, Notes on Virginia

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

Turning, then, from this loathsome combination of church and state, and weeping over the follies of our fellow men, who yield themselves the willing dupes and drudges of these mountebanks, I consider reformation and redress as desperate, and abandon them to the Quixotism of more enthusiastic minds.
-- Thomas Jefferson, to Charles Clay, January 29, 1815; Writings, XIV, 232

Short Grapic Rule

'Eternal Hostility' Against Whom?

[Excerpt]:
The clergy ... [wishing to establish their particular form of Christianity] ... 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 (capitalization of the word god is retained per original (see inset); see full letter in Positive Atheism's Historical section)

letter to Benjamin Rush[Passage]:
I promised you a letter on Christianity, which I have not forgotten. On the contrary, it is because I have reflected on it, that I find much more time necessary for it than I can at present dispose of. I have a view of the subject which ought to displease neither the rational Christian nor Deists, and would reconcile many to a character they have too hastily rejected. I do not know that it would reconcile the genus irritabile vatum who are all in arms against me. Their hostility is on too interesting ground to be softened. The delusion into which the XYZ plot shewed it possible to push the people; the successful experiment made under the prevalence of that delusion on the clause of the constitution, which, while it secured the freedom of the press, covered also the freedom of religion, had given to the clergy a very favorite hope of obtaining an establishment of a particular form of Christianity thro' the US; and as every sect believes its own form the true one, every one perhaps hoped for his own, but especially the Episcopalians & Congregationalists. The returning good sense of our country threatens abortion to their hopes, & they 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, forging conversations for me with Mazzei, Bishop Madison, &c., which are absolute falsehoods without a circumstance of truth to rest on; falsehoods, too, of which I acquit Mazzei & Bishop Madison, for they are men of truth.
-- Thomas Jefferson, to Benjamin Rush, 1800. ME 10:173 (capitalization of the word god is retained per original (see inset); see full letter Positive Atheism's Historical section)

Short Grapic Rule

Supreme Court: Clause Erects 'Wall of Separation'

"In the words of Jefferson, the clause against establishment of religion by law was intended to erect 'a wall of separation' between church and state."
-- Hugo Black, Everson v. Board of Education (1947)

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Benefits of Religious Liberty
 

Thomas Jefferson[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

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

Difference of opinion is advantageous in religion. The several sects perform the office of a censor morum over each other.
-- Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia, 1781-82

No man [should] be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor [should he] be enforced, restrained, molested, or burthened in his body or goods, nor ... otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief ... All men [should] be free to profess and by argument to maintain their opinions in matters of religion, and ... the same [should] in no wise diminish, enlarge, or affect their civil capacities.
-- Thomas Jefferson, Statute for Religious Freedom, 1779. Papers, 2:546 (see Positive Atheism's Historical section)

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. 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. Papers, 2:546

Our [Virginia's] act for freedom of religion is extremely applauded. The Ambassadors and ministers of the several nations of Europe resident at this court have asked me copies of it to send to their sovereigns, and it is inserted at full length in several books now in the press; among others, in the new Encyclopédie. I think it will produce considerable good even in those countries where ignorance, superstition, poverty and oppression of body and mind in every form, are so firmly settled on the mass of the people, that their redemption from them can never be hoped.
-- Thomas Jefferson, letter to George Wythe from Paris, August 13, 1786

The Virginia act for religious freedom has been received with infinite approbation in Europe, and propagated with enthusiasm. I do not mean by governments, but by the individuals who compose them. It has been translated into French and Italian; has been sent to most of the courts of Europe, and has been the best evidence of the falsehood of those reports which stated us to be in anarchy. It is inserted in the new "Encyclopédie," and is appearing in most of the publications respecting America. In fact, it is comfortable to see the standard of reason at length erected, after so many ages, during which the human mind has been held in vassalage by kings, priests, and nobles; and it is honorable for us, to have produced the first legislature who had the courage to declare, that the reason of man may be trusted with the formation of his own opinions.
-- Thomas Jefferson, letter to James Madison, from Paris, December 16, 1786

Short Grapic Rule

Our sister states of Pennsylvania and New York, however, have long subsisted without any establishment at all. The experiment was new and doubtful when they made it. It has answered beyond conception. They flourish infinitely. Religion is well supported; of various kinds, indeed, but all good enough; all sufficient to preserve peace and order: or 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. They do not hang more malefactors than we do. They are not more disturbed with religious dissensions. On the contrary, their harmony is unparalleled, and can be ascribed to nothing but their unbounded tolerance, because there is no other circumstance in which they differ from every nation on earth. They have made the happy discovery, that the way to silence religious disputes, is to take no notice of them.
-- Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia, 1781-82

Life is of no value but as it brings us gratifications. Among the most valuable of these is rational society. It informs the mind, sweetens the temper, cheers our spirits, and promotes health.
-- Thomas Jefferson, letter to James Madison, February 20, 1784

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Religion and the Law
 

Thomas JeffersonIf 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 the State of Virginia, 1781-82

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 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. 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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Religion and Dogma
 

Thomas JeffersonThe natural course of the human mind is certainly from credulity to skepticism.
-- Thomas Jefferson, letter to Dr. Caspar Wistar (June 21, 1807), quoted from Encarta Book of Quotations (1999)

Fix reason firmly in her seat, and call to her tribunal every fact, every opinion. Question with boldness even the existence of a god; because, if there be one, he must approve the homage of reason rather than of blind-folded fear. Do not be frightened from this inquiry by any fear of its consequences.... If it end in a belief that there is no god, you will find incitements to virtue in the comfort and pleasantness you feel in its exercise and in the love of others it will procure for you.
-- Thomas Jefferson, to Peter Carr, 10 August 1787. (capitalization of the word god is retained per original)

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.
-- Thomas Jefferson, letter to N G Dufief, April 19, 1814 (see Positive Atheism's Historical section)

They have made the happy discovery, that the way to silence religious disputes, is to take no notice of them.
-- Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia, 1781-82 (see Positive Atheism's Historical section)

Nothing but free argument, raillery and even ridicule will preserve the purity of religion.
-- Thomas Jefferson, letter to Dr. Benjamin Rush. 21 April 1803, quoted from Roche, OIA, ed. The Jeffersonian Bible (1964) p. 348

I may grow rich by an art I am compelled to follow; I may recover health by medicines I am compelled to take against my own judgment; but I cannot be saved by a worship I disbelieve and abhor.
-- Thomas Jefferson, notes for a speech, ca. 1776, quoted from Gorton Carruth and Eugene Ehrlich, The Harper Book of American Quotations (1988)

Our particular principles of religion are a subject of accountability to our God alone.
-- Thomas Jefferson, Letter to Miles King, 26 September 1814, quoted from Roche, OIA, ed. The Jeffersonian Bible (1964) p. 328

I am anxious to see the doctrine of one god commenced in our state. But the population of my neighborhood is too slender, and is too much divided into other sects to maintain any one preacher well. I must therefore be contented to be an Unitarian by myself, although I know there are many around me who would become so, if once they could hear the questions fairly stated.
-- Thomas Jefferson, letter to Dr. Benjamin Waterhouse, January 8, 1825

I trust there is not a young man now living in the United States who will not die a Unitarian.
-- Thomas Jefferson, letter to Waterhouse, June 26, 1822

If we did a good act merely from the love of God and a belief that it is pleasing to Him, whence arises the morality of the Atheist? It is idle to say, as some do, that no such thing exists. We have the same evidence of the fact as of most of those we act on, to wit: their own affirmations, and their reasonings in support of them. I have observed, indeed, generally, that while in Protestant countries the defections from the Platonic Christianity of the priests is to Deism, in Catholic countries they are to Atheism. Diderot, D'Alembert, D'Holbach, Condorcet, are known to have been among the most virtuous of men. Their virtue, then, must have had some other foundation than love of God.
-- Thomas Jefferson, letter to Thomas Law, June 13, 1814, using the term atheist to mean one who lacks a god belief, not one who is without morals, as was a common use of the term in Jefferson's day

The Christian priesthood, finding the doctrines of Christ leveled to every understanding, and too plain to need explanation, saw, in the mysticism of Plato, materials with which they might build up an artificial system which might, from it’s indistinctness, admit everlasting controversy, give employment for their order, and introduce it to profit, power and pre-eminence.
-- Thomas Jefferson, letter to John Adams, July 5, 1814, Lester Cappon, ed, The Adams-Jefferson Letters (1959) p. 433

I hold (without appeal to revelation) that when we take a new view of the Universe, in its parts general or particular, it is impossible for the human mind not to perceive and feel a conviction of design, consummate skill, and indefinite power in every atom of its composition. The movements of the heavenly bodies, so exactly held in their course by the balance of centrifugal and centripetal forces, the structure of our earth itself, with it’s distribution of lands, waters and atmosphere, animal and vegetable bodies, examined in all their minutest particles ... it is impossible, I say, for the human mind not to believe that there is, in all this, design, cause and effect, up to an ultimate cause, a fabricator of all things from matter and motion ... We see, too, evident proofs of the necessity of a superintending power to maintain the Universe in it’s course and order.
-- Thomas Jefferson, letter to John Adams, quoted in Lester Cappon, ed. The Adams-Jefferson Letters, (1959) p. 592, describing an almost universal reason for believing that a Creator exists --almost universal, that is, until Charles Darwin published Origin of Species, thereby providing an explanation for apparent design

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 worshiped by many who think themselves Christians.
-- Thomas Jefferson, letter to Richard Price from Paris, January 8, 1789. (Price had said, "There has been in almost all religions a melancholy separation of religion from morality." Surely Jefferson is using the word atheism as a synonym for wickedness or immorality; this was a common and accepted usage of the word 200 years ago. -- Cliff Walker)

Every Christian sect gives a great handle to Atheism by their general dogma that, without a revelation, there would not be sufficient proof of the being of god.
-- Thomas Jefferson, arguing that Chrisian exclusivism (via the idea of an exclusive revelation) degrades the credibility of the Christian religion, in a letter to John Adams, 11 April 1823 (capitalization of god per original)

Short Grapic Rule

Religion and Brutality

Herodias and the head of John the Baptist[Creeds] have been the bane and ruin of the Christian church, its own fatal invention, which, through so many ages, made of Christendom a slaughterhouse, and at this day divides it into castes of inextinguishable hatred to one another.
-- Thomas Jefferson, letter to Thomas Whitmore, June 5, 1822, quoted from James A Haught, editor, 2000 Years of Disbelief

On the dogmas of religion, as distinguished from moral principles, all mankind, from the beginning of the world to this day, have been quarreling, fighting, burning and torturing one another, for abstractions unintelligible to themselves and to all others, and absolutely beyond the comprehension of the human mind.
-- Thomas Jefferson, letter to Archibald Carey, 1816

A single zealot may commence persecutor, and better men be his victims.
-- Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia, 1781-82

His [Calvin's] religion was demonism. If ever a man worshiped a false god, he did. The being described in his five points is ... a demon of malignant spirit. It would be more pardonable to believe in no God at all, than to blaspheme him by the atrocious, attributes of Calvin.
-- Thomas Jefferson, Works, 1829 edition, vol. 4, p. 322, quoted from Franklin Steiner,

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

No man complains of his neighbor for ill management of his affairs, for an error in sowing his land or marrying his daughter, for consuming his substance in taverns.... In all these he has liberty; but if he does not frequent the church, or then conform in ceremonies, there is an immediate uproar.
-- Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia, 1781-82

I am not afraid of the priests. They have tried upon me all their various batteries, of pious whining, hypocritical canting, lying and slandering, without being able to give me one moment of pain.
-- Thomas Jefferson, letter to Horatio Gates Spafford, 1816

Short Grapic Rule

Religion and Absurdity

The TrinityI have ever judged of the religion of others by their lives.... It is in our lives, and not from our words, that our religion must be read. By the same test the world must judge me. But this does not satisfy the priesthood. They must have a positive, a declared assent to all their interested absurdities. My opinion is that there would never have been an infidel, if there had never been a priest. The artificial structures they have built on the the purest of all moral systems, for the purpose of deriving from it pence and power, revolt those who think for themselves, and who read in that system only what is really there.
-- Thomas Jefferson, letter to Mrs. M Harrison Smith, August 6, 1816

If by religion we are to understand sectarian dogmas, in which no two of them agree, then your exclamation on that hypothesis is just, "that this would be the best of worlds if there were no religion in it."
-- Thomas Jefferson, in a reply to John Adams' letter, quoted by Joseph Lewis in his address "Jefferson the Freethinker," delivered at a banquet of the Freethinkers' Society of New York on the evening of April 13th, 1925, at Hotel Belleclaire, 77th Street and Broadway, New York City, in honor of the 182nd anniversary of the birth of Thomas Jefferson.

The priests of the different religious sects ... dread the advance of science as witches do the approach of daylight, and scowl on the fatal harbinger announcing the subdivision of the duperies on which they live.
-- Thomas Jefferson, letter to Correa de Serra, April 11, 1820, quoted from James A Haught, ed, 2000 Years of Disbelief

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 July 30, 1816, denouncing the doctrine of the Trinity and suggesting it to be so riddled in falsehood that only an authoritarian figure could decipher its meaning and, with a firm grip on people's spiritual and mental freedoms, thus convince the people of its truthfulness

Of publishing a book on religion, my dear sir, I never had an idea. I should as soon think of writing for the reformation of Bedlam, as of the world of religious sects. Of these there must be, at least, ten thousand, every individual of every one of which believes all wrong but his own.
-- Thomas Jefferson, letter to the Rev Charles Clay, rector of Jefferson's parish church in Albemarle County, Va., January 29, 1815

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 ... without plunging into the fathomless abyss of dreams and phantasms. I am satisfied, and sufficiently occupied with the things which are, without tormenting or troubling myself about those which may indeed be, but of which I have no evidence.
-- Thomas Jefferson, letter to John Adams, August 15, 1820

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 Minerva in the brain of Jupiter.
-- Thomas Jefferson, letter to John Adams, April 11, 1823, quoted from James A Haught, "Breaking the Last Taboo" (1996)

It is between fifty and sixty years since I read 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.... what has no meaning admits no explanation.
-- Thomas Jefferson, to Alexander Smyth, January 17, 1825

We find in the writings of his biographers ... a groundwork of vulgar ignorance, of things impossible, of superstitions, fanaticisms and fabrications.
-- Thomas Jefferson, to William Short, August 4, 1822, referring to Jesus's biographers, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

That sect had presented for the object of their worship, a being of terrific character, cruel, vindictive, capricious and unjust.
-- Thomas Jefferson, referring to the god of the Jews under Moses, in his letter to William Short (August 4, 1822)

Of all the systems of morality, ancient or modern, which have come under my observation, none appear to me so pure as that of Jesus. He who follows this steadily need not, I think, be uneasy, although he cannot comprehend the subtleties and mysteries erected on his doctrines by those who, calling themselves his special followers and favorites, would make him come into the world to lay snares for all understandings but theirs. These metaphysical heads, usurping the judgment seat of God, denounce as his enemies all who cannot perceive the Geometrical logic of Euclid in the demonstrations of St Athanasius, that three are one, and one is three; and yet that the one is not three nor the three one.
-- Thomas Jefferson, letter to William Canby (September 18, 1813)

It is too late in the day for men of sincerity to pretend they believe in the Platonic mysticism that three are one and one is three, and yet, that the one is not three, and the three not one.... But this constitutes the craft, the power, and profits of the priests. Sweep away their gossamer fabrics of fictitious religion, and they would catch no more flies.
-- Thomas Jefferson, letter to John Adams (August 22, 1813), Works, Vol. IV, p. 205, Randolph's edition

The metaphysical insanities of Athanasius, of Loyola, and of Calvin, are, to my understanding, mere relapses into polytheism, differing from paganism only by being more unintelligible. The religion of Jesus is founded in the Unity of God, and this principle chiefly, gave it triumph over the rabble of heathen gods then acknowledged.
-- Thomas Jefferson, equating the Dogma of the Trinity with polytheism and calling it more unintelligible than paganism, in his letter to Rev Jared Sparks upon receipt of the latters' latest book (November 4, 1820)

The hocus-pocus phantasm of a god like another Cerberus, with one body and three heads, had its birth and growth in the blood of thousands and thousands of martyrs.
-- Thomas Jefferson, letter to James Smith, December 8, 1822 Jefferson's Works, Vol. IV, 360, Randolph's ed.

In our Richmond there is much fanaticism, but chiefly among the women. They have their night meetings and prayer parties, where, attended by their priests, and sometimes by a hen-pecked husband, they pour forth the effusions of their love to Jesus, in terms as amatory and carnal, as their modesty would permit them to use a mere earthly lover.
-- Thomas Jefferson, letter to Dr. Thomas Cooper, November 2, 1822

A professorship of theology should have no place in our institution.
-- Thomas Jefferson, letter to Thomas Cooper, October 7, 1814, referring to the University of Virginia

Short Grapic Rule

Diamonds in a Dunghill

My aim in that was, to justify the character of Jesus against the fictions of his pseudo-followers, which have exposed him to the inference of being an impostor. For if we could believe that he really countenanced the follies, the falsehoods and the charlatanisms which his biographers father on him, and admit the misconstructions, interpolations and theorizations of the fathers of the early, and fanatics of the latter ages, the conclusion would be irresistible by every sound mind, that he was an impostor. I give no credit to their falsifications of his actions and doctrines, and to rescue his character, the postulate in my letter asked only what is granted in reading every other historian.... That Jesus did not mean to impose himself on mankind as the son of God, physically speaking, I have been convinced by the writings of men more learned than myself in that lore.
-- Thomas Jefferson, letter to William Short, August 4, 1820, explaining his reason for compiling the Syllabus of an Estimate of the Merit of the Doctrines of Jesus and referring to Jesus's biographers, the Gospel writers.

The fumes of the most disordered imaginations were recorded in their religious code, as special communications of the Deity; and as it could not but happen that, in the course of ages, events would now and then turn up to which some of these vague rhapsodies might be accommodated by the aid of allegories, figures, types, and other tricks upon words, they have not only preserved their credit with the Jews of all subsequent times, but are the foundation of much of the religions of those who have schismatised from them.
-- Thomas Jefferson, letter to William Short, August 4, 1820, describing the religion of the Jews which was inculcated on Jesus from his infancy, and explaining a possible motive for Jesus wanting to reform that religion

We must reduce our volume to the simple evangelists, select even from the very words of Jesus, paring off the amphiboligisms into which they have been led by forgetting often or not understanding what had fallen from him, by giving their own misconceptions as his dicta, and expressing unintelligibly for others what they had not understood themselves. There will be found remaining the most sublime and benevolent code of morals which has ever been offered to man. I have performed this operation for my own use, by cutting verse by verse out of the printed book, and arranging the matter which is evidently his, and which is as easily distinguishable as diamonds in a dunghill.
-- Thomas Jefferson, letter to John Adams, October 13, 1813, clarifying his desire to strip away the myth introduced by the Gospel writers, as his motivation for constructing his Syllabus of an Estimate of the Merit of the Doctrines of Jesus

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Questionable Thomas Jefferson Quotation

Old Glory secretly signals distress, knowing full well what happens when you say bad things about religion.

     • Load This Feature With Frames Index

After receiving several inquiries from atheists and others in a matter of a few days, we inquired of the Jefferson Library as to the veracity of the following alleged quotataion.

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The Jefferson Presidential Library has searched for the following alleged quotation and cannot find it within their collection of known and verified Jefferson writings. Therefore we think this quotation is probably a forgery and recommend its removal from all quotes collections.
     -- Positive Atheism Magazine

 

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Quotation 'Not Found'
The Christian god can easily be pictured as virtually the same god as the many ancient gods of past civilizations. The Christian god is a three headed monster; cruel, vengeful and capricious. If one wishes to know more of this raging, three headed beast-like god, one only needs to look at the caliber of people who say they serve him. They are always of two classes: fools and hypocrites.
-- Quotation 'Not Found,' popularly alleged to have been in a letter to his nephew, Peter Carr. Our editor, Cliff Walker, checked "by hand" every letter to Peter Carr included in the Multomah County Library's reader copy of Jefferson's Works and found nothing along these lines in any such letter.

Short Grapic Rule

Letter Not Found
I have recently been examining all the known superstitions of the world, and do not find in our particular superstition one redeeming feature. They are all alike, founded upon fables and mythologies.
-- Quotation 'Not Found,'
while Remsburg did have access to sources that have since been lost, and while this sounds like other statements Jefferson is kown to have made, we feel safer keeping this one out of our collection unless and until the letter in question surfaces and is verified to be from the President's hand.

Short Grapic Rule

Explanation of Our Position:

To prove that a quotation is "false," one must first cough up the forger, and that is almost impossible. Like disproving a god-claim, it is impossible to empirically prove that a quotation is not genuine, apart from finding someone who deliberately fabricated it or proving an alleged source document to be a forgery. Thus, to say it is "false" is incorrect. The most accurate way to state this is, "The Jefferson Library has searched for this quotation and cannot find it within their collection of known Jefferson writings."
     Neither does this mean that we do not seriously doubt the veracity of this quip: we do! We have always suspected its validity because it consists almost entirely of segments that can be found elsewhere in the body of Jefferson's writings. Almost all the sentiments here are Jefferson's, but this particular quotation is probably a forgery. Thus, to the above statement we would add, "Therefore we think this quotation is probably a forgery."
     We recommend to editors of quotes lists that we all (at least) remove this particular alleged quotation from our collections. Some may wish to go so far as to post an alert to their readers, similar to this one, pointing out that this quotation is under strong suspicion.
     On the off chance that we discover this quotation to be genuine, we will restore it to our collection and will also note that fact here, in this segment, which is permanent, and may eventually contain other, similar reports.

      -- Cliff Walker,
      July 8, 2002

The link at the beginning of this segment, called, "Load This Feature With Frames Index," like all of our "Load This Feature With Frames Index" links, is permanent: You may link to it and your readers will always be taken to this notice. That URL is:
http://www.positiveatheism.org/hist/quotes/jeffphony.htm
in case you wish to copy it as text.

Short Grapic Rule

Wrong Attribution
I am of a sect by myself, as far as I know.
-- Thomas Jefferson, letter to Ezra Stiles Ely (June 25, 1819), quoted from Dickinson W Adams, editor, The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, Second Series (Princeton University Press, 1983; note that attributions saying "Ezra Stiles, president of Yale University (June 25, 1819)" are incorrect, as that Ezra Stiles died in 1795)

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Revised: October 1, 2004.

 

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The Subtle Fulmination of the Encircled Sea

Please Feel Free
to Grab a Quote
(or Maybe Three)

Grab some quotes to embellish your web site,
to use as filler for your group's newsletter,
or to add force to your Letters to the Editor.

Use them to introduce the chapters of a book or
accent the index or margins of a special project.

Poster your wall!    Graffiti your (own) fence.
Sticker your car!!
Poster your wall.    Graffiti your (own) fence!!!

That's what this list is for!
That's why I made it!

In using this resource, however, keep in mind that
it's someone's life's work, a hedge against old age.

If you decide to build your own online
collection, then find some new material!
Dig up quips that haven't yet been posted!

 

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Biographical sketches, source citations, notes, critical editing, layout, and HTML formatting are copyright ©1995–2008, by Cliff Walker, except where noted.

 
 

AndCopy Graphic Rule

 

There's something to be said
for doing your own work.

 

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