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Letters of Thomas Jefferson & Others


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from Thomas Jefferson's Letter to Benjamin Rush 1803

 

Dear Sir,

--In some of the delightful conversations with you, in the evenings of 1798--99, and which served as an anodyne to the afflictions of the crisis through which our country was then laboring, the Christian religion was sometimes our topic; and I then promised you, that one day or other, I would give you my views of it. They are the result of a life of inquiry & reflection, and very different from that anti-Christian system imputed to me by those who know nothing of my opinions. To the corruptions of Christianity I am indeed opposed; but not to the genuine precepts of Jesus himself. I am a Christian, in the only sense he wished any one to be; sincerely attached to his doctrines, in preference to all others; ascribing to himself every human excellence; & believing he never claimed any other.

 

http://www.beliefnet.com/resourcelib/docs/133/Letter_from_Thomas_Jefferson_to_Benjamin_Rush_1.html

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from Jefferson's Letter to Dr Thomas Cooper 1822

 

The court-house is the common temple, one Sunday in the month to each. Here, Episcopalian and Presbyterian, Methodist and Baptist, meet together, join in hymning their Maker, listen with attention and devotion to each others' preachers, and all mix in society with perfect harmony. It is not so in the districts where Presbyterianism prevails undividedly. Their ambition and tyranny would tolerate no rival if they had power.

 

http://www.beliefnet.com/resourcelib/docs/54/Letter_from_Thomas_Jefferson_to_Dr_Thomas_Cooper_1.html

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from Thomas Jefferson to John Adams

April 11, 1823

 

DEAR SIR, -- The wishes expressed, in your last favor, that I may continue in life and health until I become a Calvinist, at least in his exclamation of `mon Dieu! jusque à quand'! would make me immortal. I can never join Calvin in addressing his god. He was indeed an Atheist, which I can never be; or rather his religion was Daemonism. If ever man worshipped a false god, he did. The being described in his 5. points is not the God whom you and I acknolege and adore, the Creator and benevolent governor of the world; but a daemon 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. Indeed I think that 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 a god. Now one sixth of mankind only are supposed to be Christians: the other five sixths then, who do not believe in the Jewish and Christian revelation, are without a knolege of the existence of a god!

 

http://www.beliefnet.com/resourcelib/docs/53/Letter_from_Thomas_Jefferson_to_John_Adams_1.html

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Benjmain Franklin's request for prayers at the Constitutional Convention, July 28, 1787

 

In this situation of this Assembly, groping as it were in the dark to find political truth, and scarce able to distinguish it when presented to us, how has it happened, Sir, that we have not hitherto once thought of humbly applying to the Father of lights to illuminate our understandings? In the beginning of the Contest with G. Britain, when we were sensible of danger we had daily prayer in this room for the divine protection.- Our prayers, Sir, were heard, & they were graciously answered. All of us who were engaged in the struggle must have observed frequent instances of a superintending providence in our favor.

 

To that kind providence we owe this happy opportunity of consulting in peace on the means of establishing our future national felicity. And have we now forgotten that powerful friend? or do we imagine that we no longer need his assistance?

 

http://www.beliefnet.com/resourcelib/docs/21/Benjamin_Franklins_Request_for_Prayers_at_the_Constitutional__1.html

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This is the most interesting thing from Thomas Jefferson, in my opinion:

 

But while this syllabus is meant to place the character of Jesus in its true and high light, as no impostor Himself, but a great Reformer of the Hebrew code of religion, it is not to be understood that I am with Him in all His doctrines. I am a Materialist; he takes the side of Spiritualism; he preaches the efficacy of repentance towards forgiveness of sin; I require counterpoise of good works to redeem it, etc., etc. It is the innocence of His character, the purity and sublimity of His moral precepts, the eloquence of His inculcations, the beauty of the apologues in which He conveys them, that I so much admire; sometimes, indeed, needing indulgence to eastern hyperbolism. My eulogies, too, may be founded on a postulate which all may not be ready to grant. Among the sayings and discourses imputed to Him by His biographers, I find many passages of fine imagination, correct morality, and of the most lovely benevolence; and others, again, of so much ignorance, so much absurdity, so much untruth, charlatanism and imposture, as to pronounce it impossible that such contradictions should have proceeded from the same Being. I separate, therefore, the gold from the dross; restore to Him the former, and leave the latter to the stupidity of some, and roguery of others of His disciples. Of this band of dupes and impostors, Paul was the great Coryphaeus, and first corruptor of the doctrines of Jesus. These palpable interpolations and falsifications of His doctrines, led me to try to sift them apart. I found the work obvious and easy, and that His past composed the most beautiful morsel of morality which has been given to us by man. The syllabus is therefore of His doctrines, not all of mine. I read them as I do those of other ancient and modern moralists, with a mixture of approbation and dissent...

 

http://www.angelfire...JeffersonBible/

 

Believe it or not, I actually tried to teach a Sunday School class on Jefferson's Bible. I got as far as the quote above, and was politely asked to cease and desist.

 

Christians just aren't ready for TJ.

 

NORM

Edited by NORM
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It is such a refreshing thing to read the life and morals of Jesus uninterrupted by the silly stuff. I discovered the Jefferson Bible quite by accident while compiling an adult class on the Sermon on the Mount.

 

NORM

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from Jefferson's Letter to Dr Thomas Cooper 1822

 

The court-house is the common temple, one Sunday in the month to each. Here, Episcopalian and Presbyterian, Methodist and Baptist, meet together, join in hymning their Maker, listen with attention and devotion to each others' preachers, and all mix in society with perfect harmony. It is not so in the districts where Presbyterianism prevails undividedly. Their ambition and tyranny would tolerate no rival if they had power.

 

http://www.beliefnet...s_Cooper_1.html

 

This brings to mind one of my early memories of one of the most pleasant church environments I encountered in my childhood....Mother, my sister and I would drive to my grandparents' home, in the Arkansas hills most every summer, to spend anywhere from two to four weeks with her family. They lived in a tin-roofed rough-hewn timber simple house, without running water, indoor plumbing, and cooking and heat was by a huge iron wood cookstove. Many of my fondest childhood memories were there, roaming the secluded hilltop they lived on, drinking from springs that fed a cool clear creek.

 

My grandfather and uncles were much into Armstrong's World-Wide Church of God back then, but my grandmother, a small, meek, and quiet Osage woman favored attending a little country church in the tiny nearby "town" of Barber, really little more than a church building, cemetrary, post office, and a very few houses at the interesction of two unpaved cross roads. When we were there, we would attend serivce with her at that church. That church building was of the "non-denominational" sort that was nothing at all like what is called that today....it had no regular preacher at all. There was a varying stream of both semi-regular and occasional "traveling" preachers that presided over the sermons each Sunday...sometimes Baptist, sometimes Methodist, or Presbytarian, and I don't know what all else, some I don't think "affiliated" with any particular denomination. When there was no "visiting" preacher, some older man in the community would present something of a service. There seemed always a covered dinner on the grounds, or in the building if it rained, every Sunday following service.

 

That was the sweetest church one could ever imagine. And there were so few people around there, it wasn't a matter of those of different denominational leanings came only when "their" preacher was there, it seemed pretty much everybody came no matter who the preacher was. My experiences going there were only when I was very young, from around age 3, until my grandmother passed away when I was just 11. Her passing was sudden and unexpected, at a relatively young age, from a single massive heart attack. The last time I remember attending that church was for her funeral, though Mother often stopped at the adjacent cemetary in later years as she continued her summer visits, though with her mother's passing, they became much shorter. My grandfather was a hard, difficult man for anyone to try to get along with for long.

 

But i understand such churches were common in earlier days of our country, and I think much was lost by their passing by the wayside.

 

Jenell

Edited by JenellYB
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The 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)

 

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 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)

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You know, I think had I the opportunity to have carried on a correspondence of communication with Mr. Jefferson, that might have concealed from him in some way that I am a woman, we might have had some very interesing and agreeable conversations and mutual meeting of minds.

 

Jenell

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