The Daily Jefferson

Portrait of Thomas Jefferson by Rembrandt Peal...

The below quote often gets snipped down a key sentence – you know which one it is – and I think this is a mistake. Thomas Jefferson probably was not an atheist. However, a modern atheist can read the below quote and see how it may be applied in the very same way said atheist came about said’s deeply rationalized personal atheism:

 But our rulers can have authority over such natural rights only as we have submitted to them. The rights of conscience we never submitted, we could not submit. We are answerable for them to our God. The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my neighbour to say there are twenty gods, or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg. If it be said, his testimony in a court of justice cannot be relied on, reject it then, and be the stigma on him. Constraint may make him worse by making him a hypocrite, but it will never make him a truer man. It may fix him obstinately in his errors, but will not cure them. Reason and free enquiry are the only effectual agents against error. Give a loose to them, they will support the true religion, by bringing every false one to their tribunal, to the test of their investigation. They are the natural enemies of error, and of error only. Had not the Roman government permitted free enquiry, Christianity could never have been introduced. Had not free enquiry been indulged, at the aera of the reformation, the corruptions of Christianity could not have been purged away. If it be restrained now, the present corruptions will be protected, and new ones encouraged. Was the government to prescribe to us our medicine and diet, our bodies would be in such keeping as our souls are now. Thus in France the emetic was once forbidden as a medicine, and the potatoe as an article of food. Government is just as infallible too when it fixes systems in physics. Galileo was sent to the inquisition for affirming that the earth was a sphere: the government had declared it to be as flat as a trencher, and Galileo was obliged to abjure his error.

Thomas Jefferson – Notes on the State of Virginia p. 285 (Query regarding Religion)

*That’s right, the whole book is online at that link. Go nuts with it.

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Damn You Mythical Thomas Jefferson!

No.  I am not insinuating that Thomas Jefferson never existed.  Instead, Jefferson is a mythical figure like the heroes of the Trojan war, like, legendary.  To that end, I’ve seen good ol’ T.J. used as a fundamentalist Christian puppet decrying the evils of a non-nationalist/theocratic state, as well as a hyper-secular champion of human liberty and big government.  He was none of these things.

Behold!

Preservation scientists at the Library of Congress have discovered that Thomas Jefferson, even in the act of declaring independence from England, had trouble breaking free from monarchial rule.

In an early draft of the Declaration of Independence, Jefferson wrote the word “subjects,” when he referred to the American public. He then erased that word and replaced it with “citizens,” a term he used frequently throughout the final draft.

Source

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