Kingdom of Priests

Kingdom of Priests


Thomas Jefferson, Intelligent Design Advocate

posted by David Klinghoffer

Yes, that’s right the famous “deist,” skeptic, and author of the Declaration of Independence judged that there was empirical evidence of a designing intelligence at work in biology, cosmology — and norms of justice, which in turn justified him in invoking “the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God” to explain the righteousness of America’s cause in separating from Britain.

As my colleague John West has pointed out, he wrote to John Adams in 1823 (emphasis added):

I hold (without appeal to revelation) that when we take a view of the Universe, in its parts general or particular, it is impossible for the human mind not to perceive and feel a conviction of design, consummate skill, and indefinite power in every atom of its composition….

The movements of the heavenly bodies, so exactly held in their course by the balance of centrifugal and centripetal forces, the structure of our earth itself, with its distribution of lands, waters and atmosphere, animal and vegetable bodies, examined in all their minutest particles, insects mere atoms of life, yet as perfectly organised as man or mammoth, the mineral substances, their generation and uses, it is impossible, I say, for the human mind not to believe that there is, in all this, design, cause and effect, up to an ultimate cause, a fabricator of all things from matter and motion, their preserver and regulator while permitted to exist in their present forms, and their regenerator into new and other forms.

Now I ask you. July 4th is coming up, which celebrates the anniversary of our country’s independence, announced in the Declaration. From this, we know Jefferson was a theocrat. Aren’t all intelligent design advocates, as various comments on this blog have asserted? Shouldn’t Independence Day, a federal holiday for goodness sake, therefore be declared unconstitutional?
(UPDATE: As various commenters have pointed out, as if this somehow canceled my point, Jefferson was a critic of the Christian religion. So am I. How does that nullify the fact that, like me, he saw empirical evidence of design in nature? Other commenters triumphantly note that Jefferson died decades before the Origin of Species appeared. Big news! Yes, I was aware. But evolutionary ideas were already in the air in intellectual circles in Europe and America long before Darwin formulated his theory of natural selection. Darwin’s grandfather , Erasmus Darwin, wrote his own widely discussed evolutionary treatise, Zoonomia, or the Laws of Organic Life, in 1794.)


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e. berney

posted June 26, 2009 at 9:45 am


My condolences, David, on the death of the most influential individual in your life (especially growing up as you did in California), the person who was your moral and spiritual ideal:
Michael Jackson.
You must be devastated.



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freelunch

posted June 26, 2009 at 10:12 am


So, David, you have to go back before scientists had any idea how the complexity of life came to be to find a sensible person whose speculation fits your biases. Wow.
Your problem is that you cannot find us a scientist of today who believes this. You have to ignore two centuries of discoveries to defend your thesis.
Seriously, do you really think that someone like Thomas Jefferson would believe your claims if he had the information that is available to you and everyone else today? Of course he would not. You are really clutching at straws.



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NLG

posted June 26, 2009 at 10:54 am


I guess it depends on your definition of Intelligent Design. People who consider Intelligent Design science seem to consider it to be a theory that certain biological traits could not have come about by natural evolution and must have been designed by an intelligent agent.
To include this quote as evidence of Jefferson believing in Intelligent Design, you would have to expand the definition to include anyone who postulates a first cause.
Perhaps it would be useful if someone in the Intelligent Design movement actually put forth a definition that you all can agree on.



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John Pieret

posted June 26, 2009 at 12:24 pm


“Perhaps it would be useful if someone in the Intelligent Design movement actually put forth a definition that you all can agree on.”
And restrict their ability to dissemble?



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freelunch

posted June 26, 2009 at 12:32 pm


And restrict their ability to dissemble?
It’s a big tent.
They have lots of room for inaccuracy. They’ll even allow accurate facts in, if they support the dogma, but remember, it has nothing to do with God at all, nothing. Cdesign proponentists hate it when you say they are teaching religious doctrines because they just are not. Why look, even Jefferson, well-known atheist, beleived in an Intelligent Designer, so there!
Sheesh, lawyers.



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jscheidel

posted June 26, 2009 at 1:01 pm


Herr Klinghoffer, …or, in the tradition of folk etymolody, he who puts his hopes in the sword,… seems to have stated that one’s spiritual belief is necessarily the same as one’s political belief. Accordingly, those who believe in God as the ultimate regulator of the universe, …orderer of the Order of the Cosmos, …must ineluctably believe that theocracy is the only way to go. Whereupon I am drawn to infer that, if the swordsman’s blade cuts true, the US is being inundated by horrid hordes of theocrats. It’s a good thing the typical US politician, for the purpose of political gain, wears only the façade of such belief. Otherwise the misotheists would go plum bananas, …gee, I wonder is there is such a fruit. Yet isn’t it curious that those, who so easily attack even the faintest hint of a theocratic tendency among Christians and Jews, turn a timidly blind eye away from the theocratic machinations of Muslims? Abambagibus.



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DavidF

posted June 26, 2009 at 1:05 pm


Yet again, DK is correct. Further, it is truly baffling why so many people today insist on describing Jefferson as a “deist” merely because he held unorthodox religious views. In context of the extreme “fundamentalism” of his day, Jefferson was even accused of being a “deist” by his political opponents–a kind of curse word that might resonate. Truth and fiction need to be separated. Both science and history agree that Jefferson did not have sex or children by Sally Hemmings and yet modern-day liberals insist he fathered all of her children, with no evidence beyond innuendo.
Jefferson is alleged to be an infamous atheist–a proud materialist, a bone-fide man of “reason” and all that is supposedly “noble” by the left. And yet, when one studies what he wrote and what he actually believed–he was, by our standards, a boiler-plate religious fundamentalist who promoted the Bible in schools and advised young family members to stay faithful to the Commandments. Truly, this is exculpatory evidence against the accusation that he was a mere deist.
Regarding his formulations regarding science, nature and a Creator–this is again mainstream late 18th/early 19th C enlightenment science which brought us the scientific revolution we are still enjoying (although modified and degraded recently.) It is good to put his words forward since it helps defeat the sentiment by the evolutionists that reasonable people do not believe in a Creator and “Creation Science” is the product of ignorant minds. The respondent that suggests Jefferson, if he were alive today and could read the Darwinist Manifesto would be moved to change his mind–this is beyond speculation and ignores the fact that France was filled with materialists who he, Jefferson, was fully familiar. Jefferson explicitly rejected that philosophical point of view so why would he adopt it today?
Lastly, it is completely fair-minded to suggest that Jefferson would be a “Design” advocate since that was the precise term of art used in his lifetime. Science was born from the argument from design and it flourished. In the name of science, atheists which to lie through their teeth by ridiculing the design premise. Atheists are fine to argue what they wish, but the theory that they are hear to protect the cause of science is an obscene bit of demagoguery–just try to stick to your poor arguments and allow please keep your hands off the supposed “best interests” of the scientific method which was the invention of what they might call “religious fundamentalists.”



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John Pieret

posted June 26, 2009 at 1:36 pm


“Lastly, it is completely fair-minded to suggest that Jefferson would be a “Design” advocate since that was the precise term of art used in his lifetime.”
True enough. What he wouldn’t have done is pretend (at least after Darwin) that it was science instead of “Natural Theology,” as in Paley’s book title. Indeed, if you read the entire letter David quotes, it is clear that he is describing a theological position, rather than a scientific one.



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Sarah Bellem

posted June 26, 2009 at 2:15 pm


Would anyone have been surprized if Julius Caeser was a believer in a flat earth or held a “geocentric” world view, he was a staunch theist as well. He just believed in Jupiter rather than JC (or was it Zeus)
Very few people would argue that nature appears designed. That is the most simple explanation. It just takes a little research to uncover the truth and gain information that indicates that life is not designed. Such information was not available to the people of Jefferson’s time.
They were at least aware enough to reject all the magic and supernatural events of the Bible. That is always the first step.



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Gabriel Hanna

posted June 26, 2009 at 2:19 pm


So what, David? Newton believed in a Creator, and in alchemy.
Guess all our physics and chemistry textbooks are wrong, because its impossible that anyone could have learned anything more in the last 400 years.
Thomas Jefferson believed what most secular-minded people of his day believed–that God set the initial conditions of the Universe, which followed deterministically the laws of Nature described by Newton. Thomas Jefferson specifically denied the possibility of miracles, as I quoted in a previous thread, and did not believe that God intervened in His own handiwork, since it was perfect from the beginning.
You say the most obvious things and expect people to be surprised?
Since Thomas Jefferson died long before Darwin, how could he believe in a theory that didn’t yet exist?



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Gabriel Hanna

posted June 26, 2009 at 2:22 pm


Here’s the quote again:
In extracting the pure principles which he taught, we should have to strip off the artificial vestments in which they have been muffled by priests, who have travestied them into various forms, as instruments of riches and power to themselves. We must dismiss the Platonists and Plotinists, the Stagyrites and Gamalielites, the Eclectics, the Gnostics and Scholastics, their essences and emanations, their logos and demiurges, aeons and daemons, male and female, with a long train of … or, shall I say at once, of nonsense. We must reduce our volume to the simple evangelists, select, even from them, the very words only of Jesus, paring off the amphibologisms into which they have been led, by forgetting often, or not understanding, what had fallen from him, by giving their own misconceptions as his dicta, and expressing unintelligibly for others what they had not understood themselves. There will be found remaining the most sublime and benevolent code of morals which has ever been offered to man. I have performed this operation for my own use, by cutting verse by verse out of the printed book, and arranging the matter which is evidently his, and which is as easily distinguishable as diamonds in a dunghill. The result is an octavo of forty-six pages, of pure and unsophisticated doctrines.
SOME FUNDAMENTALIST. He took a razor to his Bible and cut out all the stuff he thought was nonsense!
You can’t trust David or his followers to honestly represent ANYONE’S views.



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Gabriel Hanna

posted June 26, 2009 at 2:34 pm


July 4th is coming up, which celebrates the anniversary of our country’s independence, announced in the Declaration. From this, we know Jefferson was a theocrat. Aren’t all intelligent design advocates, as various comments on this blog have asserted?
Shouldn’t Independence Day, a federal holiday for goodness sake, therefore be declared unconstitutional?

This is what you call logic, David? A holiday with no overt religious content somehow violates separation of church and state, because Thomas Jefferson wasn’t a Christian?
This is a straw man you just made up. Since you have no ability whatever to even ANSWER your critics here, you make up absurdities and attribute them to imaginary people.
Let’s make New Year’s Day illegal too, because the calendar was invented by religious people.
If you really believe the things you say, David, you are galactically stupid. If you don’t, you are a liar and a hack.



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NLG

posted June 26, 2009 at 2:58 pm


BTW, how do we distinguish between Jefferson’s quote and what Theistic Evolutionists believe? After all, Mr. Klinghoffer apparently welcomes one into the Intelligent Design tent yet rejects the other.



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freelunch

posted June 26, 2009 at 3:18 pm


It’s easy, NLG, Theistic Evolutionists are competitors for the religious moderates, but TJ is a great icon to be swug around as a weapon.



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Your Name

posted June 26, 2009 at 4:05 pm


I suspect that Jefferson scholar Clay Jenkinson would render your argument silly in a matter of minutes, but Gabriel saved him the trouble.



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Glen Davidson

posted June 26, 2009 at 4:55 pm


Yeah, Moses too.
Funny how people believed in magic before a scientific theory explained it.
I guess that proves that we should still believe magic makes platypus teeth and lightning. Jefferson couldn’t be wrong about evolution, slavery, etc.
Glen Davidson
http://tinyurl.com/6mb592



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Paul Burnett

posted June 26, 2009 at 6:21 pm


According to your logic, Jefferson believed in intelligent design. And it’s a known historical fact that Jefferson was a slave owner. Therefore intelligent design leads to slavery. And since the Emancipation Proclamation made slavery illegal, it also made intelligent design illegal…according to your logic.



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Turmariont

posted June 26, 2009 at 9:50 pm


Gabriel: Excellent quotes from Jefferson contra DavidF. Jefferson could in no way be elected today, given his beliefs and the political climate. The so-called “Jefferson Bible” excised all accounts of miracles and implications of the divinity of Jesus–how that is a “boiler-plate religious fundamentalist”, as DavidF says, is beyond me. Yes, he did advocate teaching the Bible and religion to a degree for the same reason his heroes, the French philosophes did–he thought that the mass of the common people were too ignorant, crude, and barbaric to be kept in line without religion. And as to DavidF’s understanding of Deists–they believed that God created the universe and designed it, then set it free to develop on its own, with no further interference. Thus, any talk of design by Jefferson doens’t make him not a Deist.
NLG: I agree that this quote from Jefferson sounds more like theistic evolution (shudder!) than ID. Note especially, with emphasis added: “The movements of the heavenly bodies, so exactly held in their course by the balance of centrifugal and centripetal forces [no need for angels to do it, as was thought before the Renaissance], the structure of our earth itself… it is impossible, I say, for the human mind not to believe that there is, in all this, design, cause and effect, up to an ultimate cause, a fabricator of all things from matter and motion, their preserver and regulator while permitted to exist in their present forms [God holds the universe in existence, but this doesn’t mean He’s barging in miraculously to create flagella and such], and their regenerator into new and other forms. [Gee whiz! Sounds like evolution to me!]”
David K: Now I ask you. July 4th is coming up, which celebrates the anniversary of our country’s independence, announced in the Declaration. From this, we know Jefferson was a theocrat.
Strange characterization for the author of the statute separating church and state in Virginia, an accomplishment that Jefferson felt so important that he listed it on his gravestone (which does not bear mention of his having been President!).
Aren’t all intelligent design advocates [theocrats], as various comments on this blog have asserted?
I don’t know what every single ID advocate thinks, but I’ve never yet heard of one that was an atheist, agnostic, or of a religion other than Judaism or Christianity (with maybe one or two exceptions to the latter). Documents such as the Wedge Strategy make it clear that reforming culture along Judeo-Christian lines is part of the purpose of promoting ID, and David himself has argued that ID is important because evolution undermines belief in God and His interaction with the world, which he as argued in other places results in the decline of society. To the extent that ID supporters are pushing ID not as a goal in itself, but for the purpose of bringing “Christian” or “Jewish” or other theological values back into prominence by a backhanded and devious method, yes, they are theocrats. To argue that religious values are important to society is legitimate, but let the argument be made honestly and without twisting science to do it.
Finally, David, it doesn’t matter if Jefferson, every other President we’ve had, the Congress, the Supreme Court, and the majority of the people of the country believe ID or not. The majority has at various times believed all kinds of incorrect propositions. There are only two issues:
1. Are evolution and Biblical religions incompatible? Or to put it another way, is theistic evolution contradictory or incoherent? These are philosophical and theological questions, and I think the answer to both of them, on philosophical and theological grounds, is “no”. Nothing I’ve read on this blog yet has given me reason to think otherwise.
2. Is there good, hard scientific evidence indicating that evolution is wrong, incomplete, or severely lacking, and that ID fits the bill to fix this? This is a scientific question, and on scientific grounds, the answer is “no”, and no one has given any good evidence to change that answer.
I notice, David, that you still haven’t spoken to the issues I’ve raised about the difference between methodological and metaphysical materialism thirty-third and forty-first posts here, about extraterrestrial intelligence in light of your views of the “image and likeness of man” last paragraph of post ten here, or the concept of randomness in the fourth through seventh posts here. You’ve said that your interest is not in the science per se–well, these are theological and philosophical issues. Also, I don’t think you can claim that any of these is asking if you’re a “simple-minded, hurtful ninny”, as you claimed of my last series of questions (of which that is not a fair or correct summary). I’m waiting.



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Gabriel Hanna

posted June 27, 2009 at 2:19 am


David, you said that when Hitler said “Laws of Nature” or “Nature’s God” it meant he didn’t believe in God, he believed in “Nature” and Darwinian evolution.
So now, you use these very same words to claim that Thomas Jefferson believed in God, and in a created universe.
Are you now retracting your statements that Hitler was a Darwinist, and now acknowledging that he believed in design, just like Thomas Jefferson?
Or are you continuing your dishonest tactic of arguing A in one place and not-A in another?
Let me quote you:
Regarding Hitler on “the creator,” Your Name might better have cited the famous sentence at the end of Vol. 1, Ch. 2, where Hitler invokes the “Almighty Creator…I am fighting for the work of the Lord.” But read the *immediately preceding sentence* where he clearly identifies this “creator” with “Eternal Nature,” not God in any recognizable sense.
Of course you are not going to respond to this, or admit you said it, or admit the 180-change in argument.



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Clasqm

posted June 27, 2009 at 4:40 am


I really have to stop reading this blog. I’m laughing so hard I might have a heart attack.
Jefferson believed in design. So did everyone who lived before 1850. And this is supposed to prove something?



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Mike

posted June 27, 2009 at 9:00 pm


There’s something very odd about the way you write. Your style is hilariously smug and your childlike logic seems to be mocking the very gay-hating bigots who’d most likely subscribe to it. I suspect this blog is supposed to be satire. Since I doubt you’ll give me a useful response either way, can anyone confirm my suspicion?



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Brian

posted June 28, 2009 at 6:25 pm


Didn’t Jefferson die before before the theory of evolution was first proposed?



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Ted Herrlich

posted June 29, 2009 at 3:27 pm


Brian, this is just David’s stock in trade. He quote-mines someone and then puts his own spin on things. I equate him to the Mormons inducting people that have been dead for years into their church. These poor people cannot defend themselves, they are dead. Thomas Jefferson, Charles Darwin, and even Hitler all have in common that they have been quote-mined by West, Klinghoffer, and the other less-than-stalwart-fellows over at the Discovery Institute.
I do like how Gabriel pointed out David’s obvious hypocrisy. I am still waiting for David to defend the abortion doctor’s murderer. I mean if he can accuse a white supremacist of being an evolutionist, shouldn’t he be defending the fine upstanding Christan moral play that permits murder of a doctor?



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DavidF

posted June 29, 2009 at 5:51 pm


Regarding Paul Burnett–if we can be sure about anything regarding Jefferson–he was against the institution of slavery. Regarding his private thoughts concerning blacks–we have good reason to believe that he held what might be called “racist” views and this is what is revealed in his private papers concerning riots in specific island nations. His views were nuanced and in some specific ways contradictory but please, if we can seek historical accuracy in a good faith manner–Jefferson put his entire career on the line against slavery.
Turmaiont is simply wrong across the board. Jefferson’s opposition was with those French philosophes more than it was against the French people. And to be plain–I can happily quote chapter and verse of Jefferson’s public and private statements. The fact that so many Jefferson “scholars” a few legit and many who are simply ignorant historians want to make him out to be an atheist and a Deist reflects a modern day need to re-write history. Even the very bght David Mayer has fallen ino this trap–Mayer is an agnostic and he knows Jefferson well- Mayer wants to stretch the truth to see Jefferson as an agnostic in his own image. But this is simply not at all fair-minded.
People simply cannot understand the ‘fundamentalist” nature of Early America and how overwhelming were its Biblical assumptions. Jefferson was made famous for the creation of his own personal Bible and the way in which he questioned some of the miracles of the “New Testament.” However, he was never quick to discount America as the New Israel and the foundational morality of the Hebrew Scriptures. As I cited previously, just to recall one example, when asked to offer advice to a young man who was his namesake–he essentially replied to follow the Commandments–this is what makes life full and vital–he said. While no single example is truly exculpatory, this kind of example thoroughly negates Jefferson’s revisionists since the picture they paint of Jefferson disallows the possibility of that kind of letter.
I implore people to see Jefferson for what he was and it is impossible to to rightly call him an agnostic or a deist–as we understand those terms. He may have been unorthodox in his views, he may not have been a by-the book kind of guy but he was clearly a firm believer in God as Creator. I would be happy to find some quotes by Jefferson concerning his disagreement with the ‘philosophes’ who were the intellectual forerunners of Darwin since there was nothing original in Darwinism–only a rehashing of an ancient Greek materialist philosophy. When and if I do–will it be worth the effort? When any of you mavens actually listen and learn?
It seems the lies are much more palatable than the truth for you.



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Gabriel Hanna

posted June 30, 2009 at 12:29 am


DavidF: Can’t you READ?
Thomas Jefferson, LITERALLY, cut verses out of his Bible with a RAZOR. It is impossible for someone who throws Bible verses into the trash–LITERALLY–calling them “nonsense”–to be a Biblical literalist.
He didn’t believe in miracles or God as you understand him. I read the Bible too, for moral insight, poetry, and history–but I don’t believe in the miracles and I take the history with a tablespoon of salt. Am I a fundamentalist? Then so is Jefferson.
Only you and David Klinghoffer are lying about Jefferson here.



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Original Monique

posted June 30, 2009 at 1:13 am


It is interesting to me that you think there some sort of legitimacy to ID because someone who was born and lived entirely before evolution was discovered and who was not around during any of our major biological scientific discoveries (they had leeches to get rid of the “bad blood” and that was science?!)They didn’t know what atoms were or even germs for that matter. How COULD he even begin to know about evolution with such limited scientific knowledge?!?!
So I am sorry, but even if he was a smart man, he was just a smart man for his time. That time was before flight, before space travel, before physics, before biological science. So how can you care what he had to say?
I would stop looking for science answers in the past, or looking to be vindicated by people who were not in that field, and had no study in such matters.
And lastly, that sentence that you put up there was in a letter, not in the constitution. And the religious parts in the constitution are vague because it needed to fit all the new religions that came over from Europe to settle in America. So I don’t honestly see what your point is to begin with…



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DavidF

posted June 30, 2009 at 3:41 pm


Gabriel–you simply do not understand Jefferson or Early America. The fact that everyone today cuts and pastes from the Bible is plain as day–so what? I am close to someone who is as hard-core of a Haredi Jew as you can find and when I want to discuss things like the Book of Chronicles, for example–he does not even know what I am talking about–he has never read Chronicles, or Ezra or Nechemiah or Daniel–and more– so you can say that he is someone who has figuratively cut out whole sections of the Tanach. So what? Almost *every* Christian fundamentalist of today figuratively cuts out and plainly ignores the majority of what Early Americans would call the Holy Scripture and these are the people we would call today the most extreme among us in the Christian community.
I was re-reading some mainline history last night–I am at the office so I can’t quote it directly–but Ellis quoted Jefferson regarding his fear of a ‘Negroe’ revolt in America. Jefferson’s fear, from direct words quoted from Jefferson, was based on his sense that if there was such an insurrection– God would side with the Negroes. People today simply cannot relate to such a statement but this draws up Jefferson’s fundamental assumptions. 1) God acts in the world, 2) God serves justice, 3) Jefferson believed in such an active God.
This is why I am correct to keep insisting that people who insist on calling Jefferson a Deist simply are speaking in ignorance and in reckless disregard of the evidence. Jefferson was liberal by Early American standards–I do not believe he could read from a Torah scroll in the ‘original’ Hebrew like some of his contemporaries. He was clearly less an Orthodox Christian than Adams but *much less* an Orthodox Christian than many of the signers of the Declaration and the leaders of the communities in Early America who were straight as an arrow, strictly by the book Christians. Jefferson was not this kind of Christian fundamentalist and he openly spoke out against some of the specific sectarian demands of some of these Churches which allowed for zero flexibility. This is the meaning of some of his famous speeches. But one cannot read these words and assume that this means Jefferson was an agnostic, or atheist or Deist. He was by OUR STANDARDS of TODAY–a regular Bible thumper.
This is why he so mistrusted and had contempt for the French with their ‘radical’ ways–many based in the kind of materialist and anti-Christian sentiment. David K is correct to directly link those French philosophes with Darwin since Darwin *is* directly linked to that stream of thought and make the contrast with a man like Jefferson–who was a man of Early America and in some significant way, a man who saw God as Creator.



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Gabriel Hanna

posted June 30, 2009 at 10:39 pm


He was by OUR STANDARDS of TODAY–a regular Bible thumper.
No, sorry, he isn’t. But do keep making things up. David at least will pretend to believe you.



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davidf

posted July 1, 2009 at 6:51 am


Then tell me why so many of his statements and writings fail to prove the obvious, Gabriel?
How could someone who did not believe in God as Creator make the statements he made? I explained that almost all Christians cut up their Bibles and ignore huge sections of it. This is what all Christians do and the only thing different by Jefferson is that he actually cut passages away–so what? By contrast, when Jefferson’s words come forward to your ears–how do you refute them? Is there any statement at all–ever–from Jefferson testifying that he did not believe in God. Is there even one statement to that effect?
Of course not and that would not be possible. Indeed, you believe what is not possible.



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Gabriel Hanna

posted July 1, 2009 at 10:16 am


By contrast, when Jefferson’s words come forward to your ears–how do you refute them? Is there any statement at all–ever–from Jefferson testifying that he did not believe in God. Is there even one statement to that effect?
You never actually quoted him. You just asserted what Thomas Jefferson said, because you are probably getting it secondhand.
But let’s say your characterization is accurate.
There are all kinds of Christians, from Unitarians to Southern Baptists, and to say that Thomas Jefferson TODAY would be considered a very conservative one is just nonsense. I’m sorry.
Even Hitler said he believed in God and Jesus Christ and a Providence that intervenes in human events. And was he ANY sort of mainstream Christian? The most you could say is that he was a very extreme and fringy sort of Christian. You could not call him a “Bible thumper”, but you want to call Jefferson that on the same evidence.
There were a wide variety of views in the eighteenth century. Men like Voltaire, David Hume, Edward Gibbon, and Thomas Jefferson were far from mainstream Christianity, if they can be described as Christians at all. Men like Samuel Johnson were much closer, but even he would have resisted being characterized as an “enthusiast”, which is the word they used then for “Bible thumper”.



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DavidF

posted July 1, 2009 at 3:57 pm


Gabriel–you simply have your head in the sand. Jefferson was a ferocious opponent of Hume–he hated him with a passion–Hume was the great atheist. Voltaire was also opposed by Jefferson specifically. You see–it is all too easy to size up Jefferson and his views. Jefferson cannot at all be included in the group of Hume and Voltaire–this is a gross misrepresentation and one that liberals love to do. They are liars. They also had him having sex with Sally Hemmings and fathering her children–this is pure bunk. Jefferson was so pointed in his criticism of Hume–it leaves no chance for confusion.
To bring in Hitler into this discussion is also foolish. The Bible is the foundation book of the Jews and Hitler was enemy of the Jewish people. The mere fact that Hitler exploited the feelings of Christians in no way indicates Hitler was a believer in God as Creator. In fact, his pointed aim in destroying the Jews was to blot out the concept of a moral conscience. To call this monster a “Christian” of a kind is such a sick joke and so unfair to the Christian people. That Hitler could believe that the Christian deity would applaud his efforts is simply not credible–indeed, as David K’s pals at Discover have so thoroughly documented–Hitler as a rabid Darwinist assumed he was doing the work of nature’s God by destroying what he considered to be the weaker people. This has nothing to do with the Christian diety and everything to do with raw materialist utilitarianism.
Further, the very fact that Jefferson was quick to blast some specific preacher or even one sect or another is a bit of good logical evidence that he was a co-believer. In the same way that a high-minded Orthodox Jew is quick to blast some other Orthodox sect as being corrupt or contemptible PROVES such a person to be a high-minded believer in the highest virtues of the Jewish faith who wants to police its practices. Part of this rings true with Jefferson–the other point is that Jefferson probably never found a minister with as fine of an intellect as his own ad the same could be said for Franklin and even Adams. Again, so what?



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Tom Meyer

posted July 1, 2009 at 5:41 pm


Fun Fact #1: The Origin of Species was published in 1859.
Fun Fact #2: Thomas Jefferson died in 1826.



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David Klinghoffer

posted July 1, 2009 at 6:01 pm


Fun Fact #3: Charles Darwin’s grandfather, Erasmus Darwin, published Zoonomia, or the Laws of Organic Life in 1794, with its evolutionary theme. The idea had circulated widely in Europe and America.
See here: http://blog.beliefnet.com/kingdomofpriests/2009/06/how-evolutions-co-discoverer-came-to-doubt-darwinism-in-favor-of-intelligent-design.html



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Your Name

posted July 2, 2009 at 11:05 am


Millions of innocent men, women and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined and imprisoned; yet we have not advanced one inch towards uniformity.
-Thomas Jefferson, Notes on Virginia, 1782
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But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.
-Thomas Jefferson, Notes on Virginia, 1782
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What is it men cannot be made to believe!
-Thomas Jefferson to Richard Henry Lee, April 22, 1786. (on the British regarding America, but quoted here for its universal appeal.)
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Question with boldness even the existence of a god; because if there be one he must approve of the homage of reason more than that of blindfolded fear.
-Thomas Jefferson, letter to Peter Carr, August 10, 1787
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Where the preamble declares, that coercion is a departure from the plan of the holy author of our religion, an amendment was proposed by inserting “Jesus Christ,” so that it would read “A departure from the plan of Jesus Christ, the holy author of our religion;” the insertion was rejected by the great majority, in proof that they meant to comprehend, within the mantle of its protection, the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Mohammedan, the Hindoo and Infidel of every denomination.
-Thomas Jefferson, Autobiography, in reference to the Virginia Act for Religious Freedom
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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 worshipped by many who think themselves Christians.
-Thomas Jefferson, letter to Richard Price, Jan. 8, 1789 (Richard Price had written to TJ on Oct. 26. about the harm done by religion and wrote “Would not Society be better without Such religions? Is Atheism less pernicious than Demonism?”)
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I never submitted the whole system of my opinions to the creed of any party of men whatever in religion, in philosophy, in politics, or in anything else where I was capable of thinking for myself. Such an addiction is the last degradation of a free and moral agent.
-Thomas Jefferson, letter to Francis Hopkinson, March 13, 1789
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They [the clergy] believe that any portion of power confided to me, will be exerted in opposition to their schemes. And they believe rightly; for I have sworn upon the altar of god, eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man. But this is all they have to fear from me: and enough, too, in their opinion.
-Thomas Jefferson to Dr. Benjamin Rush, Sept. 23, 1800
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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.
-Thomas Jefferson, letter to Danbury Baptist Association, CT., Jan. 1, 1802
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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 civil as well as religious leaders will always avail themselves for their own purposes.
-Thomas Jefferson to Alexander von Humboldt, Dec. 6, 1813.
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The whole history of these books [the Gospels] is so defective and doubtful that it seems vain to attempt minute enquiry into it: and such tricks have been played with their text, and with the texts of other books relating to them, that we have a right, from that cause, to entertain much doubt what parts of them are genuine. In the New Testament there is internal evidence that parts of it have proceeded from an extraordinary man; and that other parts are of the fabric of very inferior minds. It is as easy to separate those parts, as to pick out diamonds from dunghills.
-Thomas Jefferson, letter to John Adams, January 24, 1814
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Christianity neither is, nor ever was a part of the common law.
-Thomas Jefferson, letter to Dr. Thomas Cooper, February 10, 1814
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In every country and in every age, the priest has been hostile to liberty. He is always in alliance with the despot, abetting his abuses in return for protection to his own.
-Thomas Jefferson, letter to Horatio G. Spafford, March 17, 1814
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If we did a good act merely from love of God and a belief that it is pleasing to Him, whence arises the morality of the Atheist? …Their virtue, then, must have had some other foundation than the love of God.
-Thomas Jefferson, letter to Thomas Law, June 13, 1814
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Ridicule is the only weapon which can be used against unintelligible propositions. Ideas must be distinct before reason can act upon them; and no man ever had a distinct idea of the trinity. It is the mere Abracadabra of the mountebanks calling themselves the priests of Jesus.”
-Thomas Jefferson, letter to Francis Adrian Van der Kemp, 30 July, 1816
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My opinion is that there would never have been an infidel, if there had never been a priest. The artificial structures they have built on the purest of all moral systems, for the purpose of deriving from it pence and power, revolts those who think for themselves, and who read in that system only what is really there.
-Thomas Jefferson, letter to Mrs. Samuel H. Smith, August, 6, 1816
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You say you are a Calvinist. I am not. I am of a sect by myself, as far as I know.
-Thomas Jefferson, letter to Ezra Stiles Ely, June 25, 1819
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As you say of yourself, I too am an Epicurian. I consider the genuine (not the imputed) doctrines of Epicurus as containing everything rational in moral philosophy which Greece and Rome have left us.
-Thomas Jefferson, letter to William Short, Oct. 31, 1819
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Priests…dread the advance of science as witches do the approach of daylight and scowl on the fatal harbinger announcing the subversions of the duperies on which they live.
-Thomas Jefferson, Letter to Correa de Serra, April 11, 1820
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Among the sayings and discourses imputed to him [Jesus] 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.
-Thomas Jefferson, letter to William Short, April 13, 1820
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To talk of immaterial existences is to talk of nothings. To say that the human soul, angels, god, are immaterial, is to say they are nothings, or that there is no god, no angels, no soul. I cannot reason otherwise: but I believe I am supported in my creed of materialism by Locke, Tracy, and Stewart. At what age of the Christian church this heresy of immaterialism, this masked atheism, crept in, I do not know. But heresy it certainly is.
-Thomas Jefferson, letter to John Adams, Aug. 15, 1820
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Man once surrendering his reason, has no remaining guard against absurdities the most monstrous, and like a ship without rudder, is the sport of every wind.
-Thomas Jefferson to James Smith, 1822.
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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.
-Thomas Jefferson, letter to John Adams, April 11, 1823
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And the day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus, by the supreme being as his father in the womb of a virgin will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerve in the brain of Jupiter. But may we hope that the dawn of reason and freedom of thought in these United States will do away with this artificial scaffolding, and restore to us the primitive and genuine doctrines of this most venerated reformer of human errors.
-Thomas Jefferson, Letter to John Adams, April 11, 1823
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It is between fifty and sixty years since I read it [the Apocalypse], and I then considered it merely the ravings of a maniac, no more worthy nor capable of explanation than the incoherences of our own nightly dreams.
-Thomas Jefferson, letter to General Alexander Smyth, Jan. 17, 1825
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May it be to the world, what I believe it will be, (to some parts sooner, to others later, but finally to all,) the signal of arousing men to burst the chains under which monkish ignorance and superstition had persuaded them to bind themselves, and to assume the blessings and security of self-government. All eyes are opened, or opening, to the rights of man. The general spread of the light of science has already laid open to every view the palpable truth, that the mass of mankind has not been born with saddles on their backs, nor a favored few booted and spurred, ready to ride them legitimately, by the grace of God.
-Thomas Jefferson, letter to Roger C. Weightman, June 24, 1826 (in the last letter he penned)



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David Klinghoffer

posted July 2, 2009 at 12:30 pm


Your Name, you remind us of what everyone already knows — Jefferson had problems with Christianity. So do I. What’s your point? Try to explain without another ridiculously long list of quotes picked up from the Internet. Your own words, please, and your own name if you have the courage to use it.



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Rich Wilson

posted July 2, 2009 at 2:51 pm


“it is impossible for the human mind not to perceive and feel”
This is the important part that should be emphasized. It is natural for us to perceive and feel like there is a designer. That doesn’t mean he believes there is one.



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Your Name

posted July 2, 2009 at 5:11 pm


Jefferson had problems with Christianity, actually no. He had problems with the whole bible. He wasn’t a jew. Sorry to disappoint. Perhaps he thought the world began by sprouting from a lotus blossom like the Buddists. If so, does it really matter in the end what he believed on these issues. Jefferson would never have joined the Discovery Institute.



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DavidF

posted July 2, 2009 at 6:45 pm


Yes, Your Name–nothing you have quoted–many of these are infamous Jefferson quotes misued by the atheist crowd–contradicts the sense that he believed in God as Creator. Again–he had huge problems with the New Testament–he had strident objections concerning the priests and the ministers that he encountered.
There is a clear attempt to disguise the truth of the matter. I implore people to think and use logic. Every man thinks of one’s self as moderate. Every man puts himself between the poles. Ignoring those who chime in on this blog who are atheists and agnostics–every religious person I have ever encountered has contempt or problems with others who allegedly defame what we believe is the theological truth. This is the source of those Jefferson quotes. So what? The fact that Jefferson sniped over specific Christian doctrine merely demonstrated that he was a more modern or ambivalent Christian than those of his day–this is a well-know fact. The lie here is the attempt to turn Jefferson into a modern-secular style agnostic and this is simply not the case at all.
The fact that Jefferson spoke so many times and so many ways in honor to God as Creator defeats and literally TRUMPS any of his complaints about some ‘defective’ priest or his notion that many parts of Christianity are invented or preposterous.
Please stick to the bottom line and Jefferson’s bottom line, as revealed is that he would never have aligned himself with the evolutionists of his day and he had many opportunities to do so. He never would have advised his close relations to honor the Commandments if he felt that God’s revelation to humanity was false. He never would have voiced so many objections against Hume and the French intellectuals if that was his chosen intellectual path. Again, there is a control study here. Study the agnostic–how many times do they EVER say something nice about the Commandments? How often might they say that God will do this or favor that? Even one such statement defeats the premise that the speaker is a Deist/agnostic/atheist.
The attempt to remake Jefferson into a supposed agnostic is historical fraud. It is a mistake plain as day for anyone who has read his writing or studied Colonial History. This revisionism is a scandal, it is bred by contempt for America and contempt for our Biblical roots. It is not possible, given Jefferson’s character and all the evidence, that he had sexual relations with Sally Hemmings and fathered all her children–the fact that this kind of lie has so permeates our culture as supposed established historical fact demonstrates how prone we are to re-write history in favor of contemporary mores. Atheists and agnostics of today want Jefferson to be an agnostic. All honest people need to confront the facts and demand the truth–not demand that history conforms to one’s pre-set standards.



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Gabriel Hanna

posted July 2, 2009 at 7:14 pm


It is not possible, given Jefferson’s character and all the evidence, that he had sexual relations with Sally Hemmings and fathered all her children…
Except for the DNA evidence, of course:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jefferson_DNA_data
And then there is a letter from Jefferson admitting that he had some sort of improper relationship with a neighbors wife:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sally_Heming
In another private letter to Secretary of the Navy Robert Smith dated July 1, 1805, Jefferson denied all “charges” made against him, except for one, that he had attempted to seduce his married neighbor, Betsey Walker, saying the accusation was “the only one founded in truth among all their allegations against me.”
More proof, DavidF, that you don’t know what the hell you are talking about.



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davidf

posted July 2, 2009 at 11:28 pm


Gabriel–there is no chance I am wrong–zero.
Let’s get back to the theory that Jefferson did not believe in God as Creator. How, I ask again, can we be so dumb to believe such a thing? Jefferson’s signature statement was that young America is not given rights by its sovereign power but the rights it seeks to secure its freedom are given as a “GIFT FROM GOD” such inalienable rights are “endowed by our Creator.” British rule constituted an affront to the rights of man accorded by their maker, OUR GOD. In no manner can this be a cosmological argument. Huh? How could a distant Deist “God” see equality among men–this principle of equality is taken SPECIFICALLY from the Hebrew Bible–the book that changed the world and created the founding idea of America. These are absolutely not the ideals of Greece and Rome–this is the specific idea from the Bible. See Joshua Berman’s new book for a new take on this theme: “Created Equal”–but no honest person with open eyes needs a book. I implore people to wake up. Stop lying.
For a whole series of quotes from Jefferson, here is one quick page:
http://etext.virginia.edu/jefferson/quotations/jeff0100.htm
This includes his famous quote from his ‘Notes on Virginia,’ concerning religion: “Can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed from their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are of the gift of God?”
1) Consider the question. 2) Know that it is not a real question but a firm rhetorical point made of conviction. It is an unshakable CONVICTION clearly NOT of a religious skeptic but of a firm religious believer. I ask, is it possible that a Deist/agnostic/Atheist could have made even this one statement? How about all the others? I ask again–is there even a possibility? How can there even be any confusion?
Now, Gabriel– Know that the DNA evidence proved that Jefferson could not have fathered the first four of Sally H’s children. Her last child, Eston Hemmings, had the Jefferson marker proving that a Jefferson fathered *that* child. But which Jefferson? Do you want to believe that Thomas Jefferson–at approx age of 60 in his term as President of the US, having certifiably NOT fathered her first children suddenly took it upon himself to have sex with a woman who was actually related to his own family? Do you really think that a man with Jefferson’s character could have done such a thing–without anyone in his family suspecting it? Serious historians believe that it was one of T. Jefferson’s heirs who did the deed and there is plenty evidence of the whole affair in the 19th C from original sources. The committee who did the DNA research was careful to never accuse T. Jefferson of fathering that one child. The headlines said it exactly the OPPOSITE way, in contradiction of the evidence. The newspapers declared Thomas Jefferson the father Sally’s children–then admitted at least “one of the children” and then only parenthetically did it admit that the science actually only suggested one Jefferson and NOT Thomas Jefferson was the father. Few noticed the facts. Believe LOVE the accusation–it is so juicy, so ironic! It is not true.
PBS did an entire show based upon the accusation of one man, Mr. W, who claimed by his personal history he was a Jefferson through Sally Hemmings. They gave him a big sillouette and with his serious booming voice–he proclaimed, “I am A Jefferson, My father was a Jefferson, My Grandfather was a Jefferson.” Only one year later, the DNA discovery came out. The accuser lacked the DNA marker. He had his father exhumed to check the DNA–nope, it was negative–he is NOT a Jefferson. He might have even dug up his grandfather (I do not precisely recall the facts)and that also proved negative. Nonetheless, having the DNA evidence PROVE that he could not be a Jefferson–he insisted that he was anyway! You see, in this debate–the facts do not matter–only the accusation. He is a Jefferson simply because he wants it to be the case!! Typical liberal.
Jefferson made no special allowance for Sally Hemmings in his will or for those children. Inexplicably, Gabriel, you stumble into the truth where you concede that he openly admitted a mere flirtation with a neighbor’s wife–something that shamed him. So schtumping the slave girl and knocking her up is not worth a blip but an afternoon’s chat with the neighbor’s wife brings him to his knees–does this make sense to you?



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Gabriel Hanna

posted July 3, 2009 at 1:33 am


Let’s get back to the theory that Jefferson did not believe in God as Creator.
Argue with me, not straw men. I never said this. Of course Jefferson believed in a Creator–that’s what “deist” means.
I ask, is it possible that a Deist/agnostic/Atheist could have made even this one statement? How about all the others? I ask again–is there even a possibility?
Yes. Since all you know of deism comes from caricaturists like Klinghoffer, I’m sure you are surprised. If you read 18th century deists, instead of trying to cherry-pick quotes to turn them into Christians, you’d know this.
But you didn’t think about your quotes. How could a slaveowner have said that all men are born free and equal? Yet Jefferson did say it, and did own slaves. He wasn’t a saint or an angel, but a man whose ideals did not always agree with his actions–as are all men.
Know that the DNA evidence proved that Jefferson could not have fathered the first four of Sally H’s children.
Maybe if you cited some evidence I might listen to you, but given how you’ve behaved so far, I won’t take your word for it.
he openly admitted a mere flirtation with a neighbor’s wife–something that shamed him. So schtumping the slave girl and knocking her up is not worth a blip but an afternoon’s chat with the neighbor’s wife brings him to his knees–does this make sense to you?
You just made this up. He was accused of adultery, not flirting, and he doesn’t explicitly confess to ANYTHING.
Aside from that, are you seriously arguing that a man who confesses to a smaller sin cannot possibly be guilty of a larger one? This would be like saying that if O.J. admits he beat Nicole, he couldn’t have murdered her, because he would have admitted that too! I’m sorry, that is really stupid.
I don’t say Jefferson is guilty of an affair with a neighbor’s wife.
Anyway, you don’t believe anything I cite that doesn’t match your preconceptions, and you don’t cite anything, so I don’t believe you.
However, others will read what you said, and what I said, and draw their own conclusions.



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DavidF

posted July 3, 2009 at 1:52 pm


Gabriel–you are non-responsive and not listening. I do not need to document the DNA evidence regarding Jefferson–it is all on the public record. Hemmings probably had six children–the inconvenient truth is that ONLY the last child, Eston Hemmings has the famous Field Jefferson marker and this is a disaster for those who want to believe that Jefferson had a scandalous relationship with Sally Hemmings. The DNA evidence rules out the two most notorious accusers of Jefferson– who is exonerated by science. Failing to link a Jefferson to Hemmings first child and even her first four children–this kills the theory put forward so famously in the movies and the books in all the ‘scholarly’ articles and refutes by science the initial smear concocted by Calendar. It also blew away the accusation leveled by Thomas Woodson who literally dug up his ancestors to prove his point and was brutally defeated. As I said–it hardly matters to Woodson, having been proven to NOT be a Jefferson–he still insists he is. People simply fail to understand the history so they lie about it instead. I ask everyone to stop lying. Here is one Jefferson expert, David Mayer, who brings a lot of good evidence to the fore.
http://www.ashbrook.org/articles/mayer-hemings.html
Now, Gabriel, let’s go back again to the Betsey Walker saga and you simply need to stay with me and think this through. Jefferson was very awkward with women, shy, weird and he was guilt ridden over Betsy Walker. He was entrusted to look after her by his friend and instead engaged in some bawdy talk. As a Christian–this whole escapade tore at Jefferson’s soul. Thank you so much for bringing up this example because it proves so many points. Why would a Deist be so guilt-ridden about some chit-chat with a woman? Do you think for a moment Bill Clinton has any guilt about his relationships with dozens of women– pulling down his pants and exposing his erect penis to Paula Jones–raping a woman and then telling her to put some ice on the bruise he inflicted during the rape–fondling Kathleen Willey–etc, etc. Clinton does not cry over these women and this is a demonstration of his character. And yet, in the end, Jefferson never got past his memory over how he handled Betsey Walker–all his public and private acts–that one episode stuck with him. And yet he never even touched her and surely did not commit adultery with her. I must admit that I have done some bawdy talk with a female associate in my business and while she initiated much of it–I am guilty of bawdy chit chat. By 18th C standards, I have little doubt that Jefferson’s sin here was far less than my own and I do not lose sleep over how I handled myself. The difference?–Jefferson had higher and better character. But what is clear here from your example? It must be clear that Jefferson has all of this guilt because he was a man of specific religious faith in a God who knows his actions and will judge them. He was making teshuvah as best he could. He recalled the bad action (and we can easily assume his actions to be mild by modern standards– glances, slickly worded innuendo, perhaps a jocular pun here or there, a reference to her clothes–no one knows this is only an educated guess) and he saw that whole situation as against his highest ambitions as a moral agent of God, that is to say, a Christian. No one can honestly say that this affair is a good sign that he was a Deist. Does a Deist God care about the affairs of men? Does a Deist God judge men when they die and go to Heaven? Only the God of the Bible acts in such a way as Jefferson’s admission concerning Betsey Walker indicates. Please tell me how you disagree, Gabriel. Where could I be wrong?
He was similarly awkward with Maria Cosway, we would say in our modern language as “unable to pull the trigger”–he could write these romantic letters but could not follow through. This is the character of the man and this is precisely the kind of man who could say that he will never marry again after the loss of his first wife and follow through on that promise. To have sordid sex with his wife’s family relation, an act of incest is way too tough to believe. He clearly needed a romantic context and there could be no romance with the slave girl. People love to believe the lie–it extricates Clinton from his misdeeds and my additional point is that this is WHY this story was spun in the way it was. Without the context of Bill Clinton–perhaps there would have been more historical accuracy in the whole event.
Let’s turn to Deism in Early America. Yes, I believe the first Deist ‘church’ was established in 1803–this is my memory–don’t quote me on it. Yes, Deism was known to have existed in Early America. So what? No public figure could have possibly been elected to high office in America who was a Deist. Impossible. Jefferson was called a Deist by his opponents as a slur word–it was a smear, not the truth. Thomas Paine was a Deist–what did the people do to him–they took their Revolutionary War hero and made sure he never made it back in the country late in his life. He was effectively excommunicated. Could Early America elect a Deist as President of the US–nope, impossible. Sure they could tolerate a rare Deist church consistent with the first Amendment but never a real Deist as judge or Governor.
Secularists love to argue that Jefferson set up the University of Virginia as a secular institution and this is a clear and obvious lie. He set it up as an explicitly Christian institution, consistent with his own religious worldview and yet people today lie about this all over the place in the same way that Woodson lies about being a Jefferson where we have DNA evidence to tell us he is not.
I am pleased to have others judge who is in command of the facts and telling the truth, Gabriel.



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Your Name

posted July 4, 2009 at 3:26 am


I have recently been examining all the known superstitions of the world, and I do not find in our particular superstition (Christianity) one redeeming feature. They are all alike founded upon fables and mythologies. The Christian God is a being of terrific character — cruel, vindictive, capricious, and unjust…”
— Thomas Jefferson
….several of the first presidents, including Jefferson and Madison, generally refused to issue public prayers, despite importunings to do so. Under pressure, Madison relented in the War Of 1812, but held to his belief that chaplains shouldn’t be appointed to the military or be allowed to open Congress. [Richard Shenkman, I Love Paul Revere, Whether He Rode Or Not]
10.It was the Universal opinion of the Century preceding the last, that Civil Government could not stand without the prop of a religious establishment; and that the Christian religion itself, would perish if not supported by the legal provision for its clergy. The experience of Virginia conspiciously corroboates the disproof of both opinions. The Civil Government, tho’ bereft of everything like an associated hierarchy, possesses the requisite stability and performs its functions with complete success; whilst the number, the industry, and the morality of the priesthood, and the devotion of the people have been manifestly increased by the TOTAL SEPARATION OF THE CHURCH FROM THE STATE. [James Madison



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Gabriel Hanna

posted July 4, 2009 at 9:36 pm


Why would a Deist be so guilt-ridden about some chit-chat with a woman? Do you think for a moment Bill Clinton has any guilt about his relationships with dozens of women– pulling down his pants and exposing his erect penis to Paula Jones–raping a woman and then telling her to put some ice on the bruise he inflicted during the rape–fondling Kathleen Willey–etc, etc.
Clinton is a Baptist, not a deist. So I don’t know why you bring HIM up. I think you are trying to prove that only Christians have consciences, or something, and Bill Clinton is not a good way to prove that. I am not privy to the state of his soul, and neither are you.
Does a Deist God judge men when they die and go to Heaven? Only the God of the Bible acts in such a way as Jefferson’s admission concerning Betsey Walker indicates. Please tell me how you disagree, Gabriel. Where could I be wrong?
First, there are many religions where people have consciences and expect to be judged. Not just Christians, Muslims, and Jews. So “the God of the Bible” is not the only source of this.
Secondly, as deists are the proverbial herd of cats, some believe in an afterlife and some don’t. Here, for example, is Benjamin Franklin, a self-identified deist, writing at the age of eighty-four:
Here is my creed: I believe in one God, the Creator of the universe. That he governs it by his providence. That he ought to be worshiped. That the most acceptable service we render him is doing good to his other children. That the soul of man is immortal, and will be treated with justice in another life respecting its conduct in this.
I am sure now you will try to argue that Franklin wasn’t a deist either, but he considered himself to be one. Deism is simply not what you think it is. You don’t actually read what they say about themselves, you rely on secondhand characterizations.
Thirdly, you are engaging in a great deal of unsupported conjecture about what Jefferson did, and how he felt about it.
Fourthly, you argue in a circle. Jefferson must have been a Christian, couldn’t have fathered slave children, etc because he was a very moral man–and you also say that because he was a Christian, didn’t father slave children, etc that proves he was a very moral man. But this is what I am calling into question.
All I am saying is–here is what he wrote, here is what the available evidence shows he did. etc. I don’t have any insight into his soul, and neither have you.
Thomas Paine was a Deist–what did the people do to him–they took their Revolutionary War hero and made sure he never made it back in the country late in his life.
And Benjamin Franklin ended up the $100 bill, so clearly at least SOME Deists were held in high regard.



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davidf

posted July 4, 2009 at 11:56 pm


The re-writing of Jefferson’s history was pushed further by the necessity of creating cover for Bill Clinton. It was incredibly important for the left to vindicate him for his sexual misadventures by creating the lie that even a great man like one of our Founders, Thomas Jefferson, had his own sexual misadventures–even more spectacular than Clinton’s. The lying worked. Hence, was there EVER a retraction concerning the entire accusation by Mr. Woodson that “he is a Jefferson” when DNA evidence conclusively proved that he is not? Is there some public recognition that the wholesale speculation that Jefferson fathered Hemming’s first child and allegedly slept with her early and often when DNA evidence cleared him of the accusation? All those books by so-called “experts” are junk history–the movie, “Jefferson in Paris” promoted as some kind of truth is in reality a grotesque lie. But everyone knows about Jefferson and Hemmings–in part because of the need to fix Bill Clinton’s legacy and the belief that he was “unfairly” impeached–ergo–we must unfairly impeach Jefferson. How convenient!
Clinton is clearly no Christian, Gabriel– and Jefferson no deist. What horrible confusion!! I really cannot believe it since you seem like a smart fellow. Jefferson labored years over his book and writings about the Bible–Clinton knows nothing of the Bible and believes none of it. Jefferson founded his University–perhaps the ultimate and most enduring part of his legacy–on Christian ideals while Clinton has done or said nothing in his scandalous Presidency to lead people to believe that he has a sense of God as Creator and one who intervenes in the affairs of men. If people came forward to claim Clinton as a Deist–his light involvement in the Baptist church would be no good evidence to the contrary. By contrast, modern liars called “historians” love to claim Madison as a Deist despite his involvement in his Calvinist church. I simply implore people to use their minds. Madison read theology enthusiastically, he wrote a booklet on Family Prayer and was very close to Calvinist John Witherspoon at Princeton. I ask you to try to see context here. Clinton, a liberal elite, shares with his fellow liberals certain assumptions and none of these people are devout, traditional or even average Christians. They admit to God only in a distant context, like a Deist. Early American was very Orthodox, Bible-thumping fundamentalist Christianity where freedom of thought was rarely admitted. If you are an intellectual like Jefferson–you are not happy. Therefore, even with assumptions that are ‘fundamentalist’ by our standards, Jefferson was unconventional and out of the mainstream among his peer group. .
The deist quip concerning Jefferson simply must be buried as a lie and a total distortion. Consider this example of how Jefferson clearly accepted the premise of America as the New Israel in his 2nd inaugural address (quoted from “Providence and Patriotism in Early America”–page 126) as Jefferson publicly implored “the favor of that Being in whose hands we are, who led our fathers, as Israel of old, from their native land and planted them in a country flowing with the necessities and comforts of life, who has covered our infancy with His Providence and our riper years with his wisdom and power.”
We can see in this example undisputed facts: Jefferson easily saw America as a reward from Heaven since God acts in the affairs of men, the prime Biblical assumption and one that directly contradicts deism. Further, he sees America and his own administration in light of ancient Israel and being favored by the Creator. Wow. What ‘radical’ Republican might get away with that kind of statement? Can one imagine Bush saying something like that? Even when Bush said that he prayed for the right decision regarding his call to lead America in the war on terror–he was roundly excoriated. “Did God talk back?” the secular left demanded. Here is Jefferson self-conscious in his second term that seeing his administration in a parallel with how God bestowed favors in Israel in an age of prophecy! Duh–this is Biblical and not deism.
This thread is about Jefferson not Franklin but I will both argue the point and accept Franklin as odd man out–a man of the Enlightenment. Franklin is not Jefferson and Franklin never ran for public office. However, Franklin achieved popular acclaim through his Poor Richard’s Almanac–a series which relied on its harmony with Biblical values of frugality and decency and nothing which contradicted those values. Further, Franklin famously interrupted the proceedings at the Constitutional Convention, when things because tense to appeal for the assembly to pray and that intervention was written widely in the popular press. Franklin said at that time: “the longer I live, the more convincing proof I see of this truth–that God governs in the affairs of men.” At an earlier time he said: “History will also afford frequent opportunities of showing the necessity of a public religion…and the excellency of the Christian religion above all others, ancient or modern.”
However, I will concede that Franklin was convivial with French philosophes but the point here is that history reveals Franklin as more of a deist than a Christian but this is based upon private correspondence. Publicly, even odd man out Franklin stood often with everyone else.



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Gabriel Hanna

posted July 5, 2009 at 11:15 am


Clinton is clearly no Christian, Gabriel
So, Who appointed you the authority to decide who is or is not a Christian? Bill Clinton is a sinner, certainly–all Christians are, all men and women are, and Bill Clinton arguably more than most–but that does not make him not a Christian.
Do Christians never sin? Are there no Christian hypocrites, liars, thieves, adulterers? Do Christians always and invariably behave as though God is watching? In my hometown murderers and drug dealers had tattoos of the Holy Virgin-if you asked them, they admitted they were going to Hell.
You are falling into the “no true Scotsman” fallacy here. By your standard no Christian exists, and we should cease arguing about Jefferson forthwith.
At any rate, to say that Jefferson’s deism is some sort of pro-Clinton conspiracy is ridiculous on its face, as even Jefferson’s contemporaries agreed he was a deist–this discussion is in its third century.
efferson easily saw America as a reward from Heaven since God acts in the affairs of men, the prime Biblical assumption and one that directly contradicts deism.
Wrong. Many religions, including some deists, believe this. What deists don’t believe in is MIRACLES. Can you not see the difference?
Here is Jefferson self-conscious in his second term that seeing his administration in a parallel with how God bestowed favors in Israel in an age of prophecy!
And when he drew parallels between America and Rome, was he a worshiper of Jupiter?
Educated men drew literary allusions extensively from Greece and Rome as well as Shakespeare and the Bible. Even Voltaire did so.
Franklin said at that time: “the longer I live, the more convincing proof I see of this truth–that God governs in the affairs of men.”
Franklin said this, but HE WAS NOT A CHRISTIAN. This was common knowledge in his own day. There are literally billions of people who believe in a God who intervenes in the lives of men, who will judge us in the hereafter, but who are not Christians. Jews, Muslims, Zoroastrians, Hindus, and most kinds of Buddhist, all believe these things. Most ancient Greeks and Romans believed this.
The reason you are so confused on this is because you have invented a caricature of deism, created specifically to exclude people like Jefferson. There are very few people who fit this caricature–but the deists of that day do not fit your definition. They believed in a God. Some believed in Providence. Some believed that Jesus of Nazareth was a great moral philosopher, but not divine. Some believed in an afterlife and a judgment. Their own writings prove this, and refute your caricature.
They knew what they believed better than you do.
Incidentally, you seem to have the impression that I am a liberal. It doesn’t change anything I have said, but I am not one. I have never voted for a Democrat.



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Stephen Redman

posted July 5, 2009 at 2:08 pm


Jefferson was an Epicurean. He describes Epicureanism this way, in a private letter to a friend (cited below):
Moral-
* Happiness is the aim of life.
* Virtue the foundation of happiness.
* Utility the test of virtue.
* Pleasure active and In-do-lent.
* In-do-lence [a-tarax-ia] is the absence of pain, the true felicity.
* Active, consists in agreeable motion; it is not happiness, but the means to produce it.
* Thus the absence of hunger is an article of felicity; eating the means to obtain it.
* The summum bonum is to be not pained in body, nor troubled in mind.
* i.e. In-do-lence of body, tranquillity of mind.
* To procure tranquillity of mind we must avoid desire and fear, the two principal diseases of the mind.
* Man is a free agent.
* Virtue consists in 1. Prudence 2. Temperence 3. Fortitude 4. Justice.
* To which are opposed, 1. Folly. 2. Desire. 3. Fear. 4. Deceit.
http://www.csun.edu/~hcfll004/jefflet.html
So, Thomas Jefferson was a self-described hedonist! (And materialist, if you read the rest of the letter..) We can see these same arguments used by modern-day secular humanists (the idea that morality is a construct designed for it’s usefulness in social cohesion, etc).
He considered Christ to be a great moral teacher, but no miracle-worker (he cut the miracles out of the New Testament). He was also less than flattering in his views on the Torah…
The fact that he may or may not have believed in a creator doesn’t salvage him… His “god” is a god of nature, if he wasn’t an atheist who was politically expedient.
–I do think he illustrates the difference between the Epicurean and Judeo-Christian worldviews. He saw morality as useful because it’s created by us for our benefit. The religious see the usefulness of morality as further proof that it comes from the wisdom of a divine designer.–



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davidf

posted July 5, 2009 at 2:52 pm


Gabriel–we need to be precise with terms and you are not being precise. Deism is one thing–Biblical religion is quite another. Jefferson was either a deist or he was not. Your are simply wrong.
Let’s stick with the definition I have put forward–the one that stands as definitional. Check with wiki–here is a cut and paste:
***
Overview
Deism is a theological position (though encompassing a wide variety of view-points) concerning God’s relationship with the natural world which emerged during the scientific revolution of seventeenth century Europe and came to exert a powerful influence during the eighteenth century enlightenment. By virtue of this, deism as a theological doctrine has had a great influence on the character of the modern world.
Deism holds that God does not intervene with the functioning of the natural world in any way, allowing it to run according to the laws of nature that he configured when he created all things. God is thus conceived to be wholly transcendent and never immanent. For Deists, human beings can only know God via reason and the observation of nature but not by revelation or supernatural manifestations (such as miracles) – phenomena which deists regard with caution if not scepticism. ****
Therefore, if Jefferson is a Deist–he loves Hume and Voltaire. He follows Franklin and Paine. He does not study the Bible. He does not make statements concerning Israel and America as the New Israel since deists do not believe God controls these events. He does not ask for God’s intervention in his administration. He does not pray to God. He establishes a university in the context of pure reason which had nothing to do with the Christian religion. When he advises a young relative about what is important in life–he urges him to follow his bliss and chart his own path, to not be led by any Biblical commandments. Yes–this is consistent with how Paine would act and mostly how Franklin would act.
But is this Jefferson? No. Emphatically NO!!! In no way is any of this true.
Much of what is said about Jefferson is all a big fat lie. It is a deliberate misrepresentation to create a false impression.
Now, regarding Clinton–you are missing the point again. Gov. Sanford is a Christian who has sinned–not Clinton who has very little in common with Christianity. For you to come on this board and say that Clinton is more of a Christian than Jefferson is a poor statement. You can do better and if you did not see that the whole Jefferson thing was specifically targeted to help Clinton, you were not paying attention.



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DavidF

posted July 5, 2009 at 6:55 pm


Therefore to summarize, Gabriel, what is necessary in so many contexts, especially when giving a biography of a historic individual, is to tease out what is *essential* to that person. In seeking to understand July 4, 1776–it is ESSENTIAL that we see and understand the huge influence played by the Bible in creating our freedoms. Jefferson could not have written the Declaration as a deist–the document simply makes no sense in that context. America is unique in all the world concerning our particular brand of freedoms. Please see Joshua Berman’s new book: “Created Equal” where he draws out very clearly how the ideas of the Bible came to the fore as ESSENTIAL for our Founding Fathers. It might be true that Cato and Aristotle were read and understand by some of the Founders, sure. There was some influence by the Greek and Romans. But none of it was essential–America would have been the same without that influence although our buildings would look a good deal different. But America could not be what it is without religious men following Biblical ideas–that is the bottom line here.
The difference is more than subtle between the liberte and equalite of the French Revolution and the conservative American Revolution. The mere fact that Jefferson loved ours and directed it himself vs. the French which he despised is proof alone that he could not be a deist but I have laid out perhaps 10 excellent reasons already why Jefferson could not have been a deist.
There is a woman who wrote an entire book linking Jefferson and Spinoza–this is literary mischief–which is a polite way of saying this woman is simply lying. She points out that Jefferson owned one of Spinoza’s books. So what–he had a huge library. I might even grant that it is possible he read such a book–indeed I have also read Spinoza, who was justifiably excommunicated for his dopey views. It is the style of the Left to make mountains out of molehills and disguise what can legitimately be claimed as essential and the basic truth. A lie is always a sub-set of the truth–what is missing is the broad understanding. If you have a broad understanding–you will quickly agree with me.
Tiny snapshots of anyone will bring up distortions and this explains some of those quotes treasured by the Left as proof of Jefferson’s alleged deism. The practitioners of Christianity in front of Jefferson were woeful but the same can be said of many religious people today and we do not judge a faith by its worst practitioners–and neither, ultimately, did Jefferson.



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Stephen Redman

posted July 5, 2009 at 10:49 pm


“The difference is more than subtle between the liberte and equalite of the French Revolution and the conservative American Revolution. The mere fact that Jefferson loved ours and directed it himself vs. the French which he despised is proof alone that he could not be a deist but I have laid out perhaps 10 excellent reasons already why Jefferson could not have been a deist.”
He didn’t despise the French or their revolution. In fact, he excused the innocent deaths during the Reign of Terror as a necessary evil.
http://chnm.gmu.edu/revolution/d/592/
Thomas Jefferson wrote:
“The Jacobins (as since called) yielded to the Feuillants and tried the experiment of retaining their hereditary Executive. The experiment failed completely, and would have brought on the reestablishment of despotism had it been pursued. The Jacobins saw this, and that the expunging that officer was of absolute necessity, and the Nation was with them in opinion, for however they might have been formerly for the constitution framed by the first assembly, they were come over from their hope in it, and were now generally Jacobins. In the struggle which was necessary, many guilty persons fell without the forms of trial, and with them some innocent. These I deplore as much as any body, and shall deplore some of them to the day of my death. But I deplore them as I should have done had they fallen in battle. It was necessary to use the arm of the people, a machine not quite so blind as balls and bombs, but blind to a certain degree. A few of their cordial friends met at their hands, the fate of enemies. But time and truth will rescue and embalm their memories, while their posterity will be enjoying that very liberty for which they would never have hesitated to offer up their lives. The liberty of the whole earth was depending on the issue of the contest, and was ever such a prize won with so little innocent blood?”



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your name

posted July 6, 2009 at 1:12 am


“My parents had early given me religious impressions, and brought me through my childhood piously in the dissenting [puritan]way. But I was scarce fifteen, when, after doubting by turns of several points, as I found them disputed in the different books I read, I began to doubt of Revelation itself. Some books against Deism fell into my hands; they were said to be the substance of sermons preached at Boyle’s lectures. [Robert Boyle (1627-1691) was a British physicist who endowed the Boyle Lectures for defense of Christianity.]It happened that they wrought an effect on me quite contrary to what was intended by them; for the arguments of the deists, which were quoted to be refuted, appeared to me much stronger than the refutations; in short, I soon became a thorough deist”



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Gabriel Hanna

posted July 6, 2009 at 1:20 pm


Therefore to summarize, Gabriel, what is necessary in so many contexts, especially when giving a biography of a historic individual, is to tease out what is *essential* to that person. In seeking to understand July 4, 1776–it is ESSENTIAL that we see and understand the huge influence played by the Bible in creating our freedoms.
DavidF, here you are giving yourself a license to ignore anything Jefferson says that doesn’t suit your idea of what he believed. The fact that you assume that it is some sort of conspiracy to exonerate Clinton further proves the futility of trying to argue with you about it.
To open-minded people who have followed your arguments and mine, they have enough information to make their own judgements, and I se no point in engaging you further.
I thank you for your civil tone, and forgive your accusing me of “lies”.



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davidf

posted July 6, 2009 at 11:10 pm


Your Name–your quote comes from a Deist-friendly website and quote Franklin–not Jefferson.
Looking through such a site–the entire definition of desim is turned upside down. This site–like so many others–attempts to turn Bible-based America into a land of deism with no evidence or convincing argument. They simply allege that everyone was a deist–Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Franklin (I suppose it is merciful they normally leave out Adams.)
I ask again–does it make any sense that the nation so thoroughly entrenched in Biblical law and morality would choose beloved leaders who thought otherwise? The dodge here is simply the brain-dead attempt to blend religion with deism, confusing the Founder’s synonyms for God the Creator with “Providence” and seeing a grand distinction where they intended the same thing exactly.
Jefferson had clear problems with Christian theology in its specifics but clear respect for God as Creator. This explains what he did 224 years ago in setting the tone for this new great nation. Thank God for Jefferson and America continues to thank God for bestowing blessing on us.



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Domitian

posted July 6, 2009 at 11:11 pm


Typical appeal to authority. You judge arguments on their merits, not who said them. Your position is: Jefferson said it, so it must be true. He owed slaves also. I guess that means slavery is legit too, right?
You are a beacon of ignorance.
Make a post when you have some evidence, which will be never.



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Your Name

posted July 19, 2009 at 11:18 am


To evoke Jefferson’s beliefs as proof of ID is not, well, intelligent. His assertation that one cannot view nature without coming to the conclusion that something is at work behind it all is hardly proof that that is the case. Nor is it proof when it is believed by many. Number of believers constitutes proof? There are more Musilims than members of any other faith, therefore…
And proof is what it is all about.



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