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At 10:21 PM 7/1/98 -0500, you wrote:
>Could you possibly answer a question for me. Is it true that Jefferson's
>peers considered him an atheist for his cut and pasting of the Bible?
The simple answer to your question is, No. Only a very few of
Jefferson's closest friends even knew about the existence of the
Jefferson Bible. I understand that some of his family members did not
know it existed until after his death.
Many of his contemporaries in what was then "the religious right"
thought him an atheist, however. These were the people who were
interested in having their church be the state established religion, and
Jefferson was unquestionably their mortal enemy.
But, of course, Jefferson was hardly an atheist. He definitely believed in
God and in an eternal life after this life.
>I am sending this email to refer to a question by a page
> if Jefferson was an atheist. You answered, no, to support
>affirmation you say that Jefferson had a Bible. Well I'm an
>i have the bible at home, that doesn't make me a God
>was a scientist and im not going to say that he believed in
god or not I
>dont think that we can definitely say that Jefferson believed
>But if you can prove me otherwise please reply to my message.
> Thank you very much for your attention
Jefferson did not merely "have" a Bible. He made his own version of the
Life and Morals of Jesus by cutting and pasting extracts from the
But not even that necessarily proves he believed in God. Jefferson
made numerous statements referring to God that he would hardly make
if he did not believe in God.
Jefferson did not think that Jesus WAS God, and considered the idea of
the Trinity an absurdity. He did not believe in the miracles recorded in
the New Testament, and for that reason omitted them from his "Jefferson
Bible." He DID believe in the after life, and probably would not qualify
as a deist.
"I believe, with the Quaker preacher, that he who steadily observes
those moral precepts in which all religions concur, will never be
questioned at the gates of heaven, as to the dogmas in which they all
differ. That on entering there, all these are left behind us, and the
Aristides and Catos, the Penns and Tillotsons, Presbyterians and
Baptists, will find themselves united in all principles which are in concert
with the reason of the supreme mind." --Thomas Jefferson to William
Canby, 1813. ME 13:377
On the Book Of Revelation , this is what Jefferson wrote:
"It is between fifty and sixty years since I read it, and I then considered it
as merely the ravings of a maniac, no more worthy nor capable of
explanation than the incoherences of our own nightly dreams... I cannot
so far respect [the extravagances of the composition] as to consider
them as an allegorical narrative of events, past or subsequent. There is
not coherence enough in them to countenance any suite of rational
ideas... What has no meaning admits no explanation... I do not consider
them as revelations of the Supreme being, whom I would not so far
blaspheme as to impute to Him a pretension of revelation, couched at
the same time in terms which, He would know, were never to be
understood by those to whom they were addressed." --Thomas Jefferson
to Alexander Smyth, 1825. ME 16:100 [The ellipses omit portions
related to a specific book manuscript Smyth sent to TJ.]
If necessary to categorize Jefferson's religious belief, Unitarian would
seem to be the correct category. He wrote:
"I trust that there is not a young man now living in the United States who
will not die an Unitarian." --Thomas Jefferson to Benjamin Waterhouse,
1822. ME 15:385
He would hardly make such a statement if he did not himself believe in
God and basically agree with the Unitarian viewpoint.
"I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just: that his
justice cannot sleep forever." --Thomas Jefferson: Notes on Virginia
Q.XVIII, 1782. ME
If he didn't believe in God, he would hardly believe God was just.
"The God who gave us life gave us liberty at the same time; the
hand of force may destroy, but cannot disjoin them." --Thomas
Jefferson: Rights of British America, 1774. Papers, 1:135
"Can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have
removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the
people that these liberties are of the gift of God? That they are
not to be violated but with His wrath?" --Thomas Jefferson: Notes
on Virginia Q.XVIII, 1782. ME 2:227
Would Jefferson make such statements if he did not believe in God?
There is no question that Jefferson definitely did believe in God and in
the afterlife. The only way one could maintain that Jefferson was an
atheist is to assert that his statements about God were rhetorical and
metaphors. But anyone who has read Jefferson's writings knows that
that cannot hold up. His last words reportedly were, "Nunc dimittis