Thomas Jefferson is constantly misquoted by atheists who have rewritten Jefferson into a God-hating atheist who shredded the Bible with scissors and despised Christianity in general.
The latest spin on Jefferson’s words was placed a billboard in Costa Mesa, California by the atheist/humanist group Backyard Skeptics who used a fabricated Jefferson quote: “I do not find in Christianity one redeeming feature. It is founded on fables and mythology.”
Jefferson has been accused by many who either misconstrue or twist Jefferson into something he never was—an Atheist. Whether or not this was Backyard Skeptics intention, they falsely quoted Jefferson and the Jefferson Library hit back—the quote wasnever uttered or written by Thomas Jefferson.
“We are asked about this one on a fairly regular basis. As with many spurious Jefferson quotes, it is frequently seen on various Internet sites. Many sites do not cite a source, but a good number of those that do attribute this quote to a letter from TJ to a ‘Dr. Wood.’ As far as we know, TJ never wrote to an individual calling him/herself Dr. Wood. Another suspicious element is the statement that he does not find in Christianity ‘one redeeming feature.’ One presumes that Jefferson did, in fact, find some redeeming features in Christianity, otherwise he would not have taken the time to paste together his own versions of the Bible.”
This constant misuse and false quoting of Jefferson has rewritten him unjustly.
1: The fabricated quote is opposite of Jefferson’s beliefs expressed to John Adams in 1823:
“I can never join Calvin in addressing his god. He was indeed an Atheist, which I can never be; or rather his [version of the Christian] religion was Daemonism.”
2: BYS’s billboard essentially claims the man who told Charles Thomson in January 9, 1816: “I am a real Christian, that is to say, a disciple of the doctrines of Jesus, very different from the Platonists, who call me infidel and themselves Christians and preachers of the gospel, while they draw on their characteristic dogmas from what its author [Jesus] never said nor saw,” never wrote these words.
3: Had BYS done their homework, they would find that Jefferson not only believed in God, he provided government funds the Kaskaskia Indian’s Catholic priests and schools.
4: Many misunderstand a major fact concerning Jefferson. Although Jefferson believed in God, Jefferson was skeptical of the belief that the trinity is one being.
5: Jefferson’s actual contempt was toward church legalism. Because dogmatic rites are not found in the Gospel, Jefferson was against church legalism he believed removed the Gospels of Christ and replaced them with man’s indoctrinating control.
We find this view in Query XVII where Jefferson describes church legalism as “religious slavery” by church authorities. Jefferson also expressed this view again on March 29, 1801 to Eldridge Gerry:
“The mild and simple principles of the Christian philosophy would produce too much calm, too much regularity of good, to extract from it’s disciples a support for a numerous priesthood, were they not to sophisticate it, ramify it, split it into hairs, and twist it’s texts till they cover the divine morality of its author with mysteries, and require a priesthood to explain them.”
Jefferson noted the Quakers, who do not place priests above the people, lack such schisms, because “they judge of the text by the dictates of common sense & common morality.”
6: Jefferson’s disdain toward legalism is something Born Again Christians share with Jefferson. Although nothing tells us whether or not Jefferson ever became a Born Again Christian (the belief Christ is God and Savior), Jefferson was a life-long practicing Christian, what Christ-followers refer to as a nominal Christian—one who believes in the Gospels, the moral teachings of Christ, reads the Bible, believes it to be God’s living Word, worships God and attends church, but questions the belief one must accept Christ as Savior and God in order to enter heaven. This belief is not atheism; rather, it is skepticism, questioning—a struggle for many Christians when questioning Christ’s deity.
7: Gleason is mistaken in claiming Jefferson’s Bible was a bible, or that it proves Jefferson did not believe in God. Jefferson’s 1804 book was not a Bible, and Jeffersonnever stated he tore the Bible apart for personal non-beliefs. Jefferson told Dr. Joseph Priestly and John Adams that he cut particular scriptures out of the Bible concerning “morality’ and “pasted them on the leaves of a book” to “compare the morals of the old [philosophers], with those of the New Testament.” That’s not atheism; it is contrasting Christ’s values and beliefs with ancient philosophers.
“To let other people, non-believers, know that there’s a place you can go and share the idea that you can be good and do good without a religion or god. And the second thing is that we want to expunge the myth that this is a Christian nation, the idea that the Declaration of Independence or Constitution have one ounce of Christian tenets.”
Gleason’s apology simply replaced one false accusation against Jefferson with another.
The Constitution may not reference Christianity, but the Declaration of Independence in fact does position the Christian belief with specific words written by Thomas Jefferson:
“the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them,” and “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator,” and “with a firm reliance on the protection ofdivine Providence.”
Despite Jefferson’s writings about God and Jesus, and his personal belief in both stated in his letters, including signing an 1807 document “in the year of our Lord Christ,” atheists continue maligning Jefferson as something he never was—an atheist. What atheists fail to see, or admit, is Jefferson’s outlook is intrinsically Christian. In fact, it aligns with St. John and St. Paul telling everyone to “test the spirits” and question what church leaders teach. Jefferson did exactly that, yet his words and beliefs are constantly rewritten by atheists constructing fictitious allegations against him for their personal agenda.
Every American has First Amendment rights to express personal views, BYS and atheists have every right to argue America is not founded on God, but no one should rewrite Jefferson’s writings to suit their personal views. That removes Jefferson’s freedom of speech and religion.