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Questionable Jefferson Quotation
Historical Writings: Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson On Politics & Government (U Va)
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Say nothing of my religion. It is known to my god and myself alone.
I am of a sect by myself, as far as I know.
Ignorance is preferable to error; and he is less remote from the truth who believes nothing, than he who believes what is wrong.
What all agree upon is probably right; what no two agree in most probably is wrong.
The man who reads nothing at all is better educated than the man who reads nothing but newspapers.
|We 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.
An equal application of law to every condition of man is fundamental.
I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty than to those attending too small a degree of it.
That liberty [is pure] which is to go to all, and not to the few or the rich alone.
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.
The most sacred of the duties of a government [is] to do equal and impartial justice to all its citizens.
To unequal privileges among members of the same society the spirit of our nation is, with one accord, adverse."
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.
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.
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.
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.
[The] best principles [of our republic] secure to all its citizens a perfect equality of rights.
It is surely time for men to think for themselves, and to throw off the authority of names so artificially magnified.
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.
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.
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.
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....
|Among the most inestimable of our blessings is that ... of liberty to worship our Creator in the way we think most agreeable to His will; a liberty deemed in other countries incompatible with good government and yet proved by our experience to be its best support.|
-- Thomas Jefferson, Reply to Baptist Address, 1807
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
[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.
I am for freedom of religion, & against all maneuvres to bring about a legal ascendancy of one sect over another.
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.
The 'Wall of Separation,' Again:
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.
|Religion is a subject on which I have ever been most scrupulously reserved. I have considered it as a matter between every man and his Maker in which no other, and far less the public, had a right to intermeddle.|
-- Thomas Jefferson, to Richard Rush, 1813
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.
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.
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.
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;...
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.
Our particular principles of religion are a subject of accountability to God alone.
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.
What a conspiracy this,
The 'Wall of Separation':
... 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.
Christianity neither is, nor ever was, a part of the common law.
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.
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?
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.
... [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.
[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.
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.
I am for freedom of religion, and against all maneuvers to bring about a legal ascendency of one sect over another.
To compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves and abhors, is sinful and tyrannical.
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.
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.
It is error alone that needs the support of government. Truth can stand by itself.
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.
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.
'Eternal Hostility' Against Whom?
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."
Benefits of Religious Liberty
[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.
The law for religious freedom ... [has] put down the aristocracy of the clergy and restored to the citizen the freedom of the mind.
Difference of opinion is advantageous in religion. The several sects perform the office of a censor morum over each other.
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.
Our civil rights have no dependence upon our religious opinions more than our opinions in physics or geometry.
We have no right to prejudice another in his civil enjoyments because he is of another church.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Religion and the Law
|If a sect arises whose tenets would subvert morals, good sense has fair play and reasons and laughs it out of doors without suffering the State to be troubled with it.|
-- Thomas Jefferson, Notes on 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.
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.
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.
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.
Religion and Dogma
The natural course of the human mind is certainly from credulity to skepticism.
-- 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.
They have made the happy discovery, that the way to silence religious disputes, is to take no notice of them.
Nothing but free argument, raillery and even ridicule will preserve the purity of religion.
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.
Our particular principles of religion are a subject of accountability to our God alone.
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.
I trust there is not a young man now living in the United States who will not die a Unitarian.
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.
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 its indistinctness, admit everlasting controversy, give employment for their order, and introduce it to profit, power and pre-eminence.
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 its 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 its course and order.
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.
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.
Religion and Brutality
[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.
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.
A single zealot may commence persecutor, and better men be his victims.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I have ever judged of the religion of others by their lives.... It is in our lives, and not from our words, that our religion must be read. By the same test the world must judge me. But this does not satisfy the priesthood. They must have a positive, a declared assent to all their interested absurdities. My opinion is that there would never have been an infidel, if there had never been a priest. The artificial structures they have built on the the purest of all moral systems, for the purpose of deriving from it pence and power, revolt those who think for themselves, and who read in that system only what is really there.
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."
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
We find in the writings of his biographers ... a groundwork of vulgar ignorance, of things impossible, of superstitions, fanaticisms and fabrications.
That sect had presented for the object of their worship, a being of terrific character, cruel, vindictive, capricious and unjust.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
A professorship of theology should have no place in our institution.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Quotation 'Not Found'
Letter Not Found
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."
-- Cliff Walker,
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:
The Subtle Fulmination of the Encircled Sea
Please Feel Free
Grab some quotes to embellish your web site,
Use them to introduce the chapters of a book or
Poster your wall! Graffiti your (own) fence.
That's what this list is for!
In using this resource, however, keep in mind that
If you decide to build your own online
There's something to be said