Thomas Jefferson

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Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) was the third President of the United States and often credited as the author of the Declaration of Independence, though key portions of that document were simply taken from the Virginia Declaration of Rights.

Jefferson was a prominent architect, inventor and scientist. His presidency had significant failures, and is best known for doubling the area of the United States with the controversial Louisiana Purchase from France.

Though Jefferson did not describe his beliefs in that manner, many textbooks and online resources claim that he was a deist.[1]

With regard to Christianity, Jefferson admired the ethical and moral teachings of Jesus, but did not believe in the divinity of Christ. He produced a compilation "The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth Extracted Textually from the Gospels," familiarly known as "The Jefferson Bible," in which he included the passages which he felt described Jesus' life and teachings, while omitting references to the miracles and to Jesus' divinity. In an 1803 letter to Dr. Benjamin Rush, he stated:

I then promised you that one day or other I would give you my views of [the Christian religion]. They are the result of a life of inquiry and reflection, and very different from that anti-Christian system imputed to me by those who know nothing of my opinions. To the corruptions of Christianity I am indeed opposed, but not to the genuine precepts of Jesus himself. I am a Christian, in the only sense in which he wished anyone to be: sincerely attached to his doctrines in preference to all others, ascribing to himself every human excellence, and believing he never claimed any other.[2]

"I do not find in our particular superstition of Christianity one redeeming feature.....Millions of innocent men, women and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burned, tortured, fined and imprisoned.[3]References 3 does not authenticate the quote before the ellipses What has been the effect of this coercion?To make half the world fools and half hypocrites; to support roguery and error all over the world." -- Thomas Jefferson Notes on the State of Virginia 1787 [4]

"And the day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus, by the supreme being as his father in the womb of a virgin will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerva in the brain of Jupiter. But may we hope that the dawn of reason and freedom of thought in these United States will do away with this artificial scaffolding, and restore to us the primitive and genuine doctrines of this most venerated reformer of human errors." –Thomas Jefferson, Letter to John Adams, April 11, 1823

"If there be any among us who would wish to dissolve this Union or to change its republican form, let them stand undisturbed as monuments of the safety with which error of opinion may be tolerated where reason is left free to combat it." Reason is the tool to use to change opinions—not censorship." 1801 inaugral speech

  2. Jefferson, Thomas, April 21, 1803: Letter to Dr. Benjamin Rush[1]