WAS JEFFERSON A DEIST?
>Was Jefferson a deist or not? Yes, I know, he does elaborate on the >theachings of Jesus. However, when does he plainly state that he does >in fact believe in Jesus Christ? He compares & contrast the Jew, >Jesus, philosophers, but never REALLY metions his reasons on why he is >a deist. Paine & Freneau are clear on thier reasons for being deists', >but Jefferson is so vague. Please point out the texts' that he makes >reference to his belief in one God or not. I gathered nothing from his >letter to Benjamin Rush. PLEASE HELP! >Lorie Many people assert that Jesus himself never claimed to be GOD, but at most only the "Son of God." Of those who are the "children of God," we could say that the boys are "Sons of God" and the girls are "Daughters of God." That is as far as I will go with it. But I am quite sure that 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 supremem 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.] He thought *very* highly of the moral teachings of Jesus, but compared picking those out of the remainder of the Gospel teachings to "picking diamonds out of a dung hill." Since Jefferson wrote "I confidently expect that the present generation will see Unitarianism become the general religion of the United States." and "I trust that there is not a young man now living in the United States who will not die a Unitarian," it seems fairly safe to conclude he thought of himself as a Unitarian, even if his prognostications were a little off.
>I just read your webpage on the Jeffersonian Bible. Facinating. It >seems >Thomas Jefferson saw Jesus as similar to Budda, Confucious, >Aristotle, >etc. -- a good, wise man, not the son of God. I think you have it just about right. Jefferson did not believe Jesus WAS God. He probably would have referred to Jesus as the "son of God," but would have meant by that the 'progeny of God.' He considered the Trinity an absurdity. He did refer to Jesus as the "Saviour," and definitely did believe in life after death, so I don't think it is proper to refer to Jefferson as a deist.
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