Sunday, August 29, 2010

What Was Jefferson's Religious Belief?

Jefferson has become a mystery man today. That is puzzling, given the volumes of information that exist about Jefferson, including his voluminous writings.

Some argue that Jefferson was not a religious person. Certainly by my standards he would hard to classify as a mainstream Christian. He called himself a true Christian. He believed in passing on the teaching of Christ.

His famously-abridged Bible was edited (according to his inscription) to make it more suitable for reading by and teaching to the Indians (Native Americans). He, as with the Founders in general, used the term "religion" to mean what we would call Christian sects. That is clear from some of the preserved writings and made clearer in an official sense by the wording of the drafts of the First Amendment (found elsewhere on this blog).

Now consider the following words Jefferson used in a letter:

"My religious reading has long been confined to the moral branch of religion, which is the same in all religions; while in that branch which consists of dogmas, all differ." - Letter to Thomas Leiper, January 11, 1809

He goes on to talk about how any lesson found in the Bible may be taught in the various denominations in a much-different form. So while he may not have been a huge fan of the organized religions of his time, he certainly found beauty and value in the writings of the Bible.

Read more in the book "The writings of Thomas Jefferson, Volume 9" by Thomas Jefferson:

Google Book Extract

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