Thomas Jefferson’s Religious Views

Thomas Jefferson on Religion

Thomas Jefferson was a Christian. Right? He peppered the Declaration of Independence with the use of the word “god” but does that make him a Christian? To find out if Jefferson believed in organized religion, it helps to read some of his writing on the subject.

Jefferson Memorial in Washington DC

Christians may think that just because he mentions “god”, that makes him a Christian just like them. Jefferson absolutely believed in a god– but not the god of orthodox Christianity. He was a Deist (Nature’s God), not a Christian (the trinitarian God of Abraham and Isaac).


Thomas Jefferson Quotes on Religion

Thomas Jefferson's views on religion
Thomas Jefferson’s views on religion
Thomas Jefferson writes of the contradiction between priests and liberty in a Letter to Horatio Spafford, March 17, 1814:

“In every country and every age, the priest has been hostile to liberty. He is always in alliance with the despot … 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 purpose.”

In his Notes on Virginia, Jefferson writes of the horrible atrocities associated with Christianity:

“Millions of innocent men, women and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined, imprisoned; yet we have not advanced an inch towards uniformity.  What has been the effect of coercion?  To make one half the world fools, and the other half hypocrites.  To support roguery and error all over the earth.”

Thomas Jefferson questions the existence of God in a letter to Peter Carr, Aug. 10, 1787:

“Shake off all the fears of servile prejudices, under which weak minds are servilely crouched.  Fix reason firmly in her seat, and call on her tribunal for every fact, every opinion.  Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason than that of blindfolded fear. “

Jefferson can’t think of one example of a “priest-ridden” society having a free civil government in his letter to Baron von Humboldt, 1813

“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 political as well as religious leaders will always avail themselves for their own purpose.”

Jefferson contemplates the near insanity of religious dogma since the beginning of time  to Carey, 1816:

“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.”

Jefferson suggests that religious coercion is the cause of misery, hypocracy and ignorance in all the world in his  Notes on the State of Virginia:

“Difference of opinion is advantageous in religion. The several sects perform the office of a common censor over each other. Is uniformity attainable? Millions of innocent men, women and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined, imprisoned; yet we have not advanced an inch towards uniformity. What has been the effect of coercion? To make one half the world fools, and the other half hypocrites. To support roguery and error all over the earth.”

 Jefferson asserts his strong feelings for freedom FROM religion in his “Virginia Act for Religious Freedom”

“No man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever.”

Jefferson stating the obvious in a letter to Dr. Thomas Cooper, 1814

“Christianity neither is, nor ever was, a part of the Common Law.”

Jefferson on the ‘wall of separation between church and State’ in a letter to Danbury Baptist Association:

“Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legislative powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should ‘make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,’ thus building a wall of separation between church and State.”

Founding Father Jefferson writes to Elbridge Gerry, January 26, 1799:

“I am for freedom of religion and against all maneuvers to bring about a legal ascendancy of one sect over another.”

Not surprisingly, Jefferson was regarded as an atheist by Christian ministers of his day. Yet, in the blind ignorance of our times, he is regarded, along with the other founders of the United States to be a Christian. That the United States was not originally a Christian Nation is beyond argument. One merely has to read the two major founding documents: The Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution. Nothing about Christianity to be found anywhere in those pages.

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