Thomas Jefferson and Religion

The religious views of Thomas Jefferson diverged widely from the orthodox Christianity of his era. Throughout his life Jefferson was intensely interested in theology, religious studies, and morality.[1] Jefferson was most closely connected with Unitarianism and the religious philosophy of Christian deism;[2] he was sympathetic to and in general agreement with the moral precepts of Christianity. He considered the religion of Christianity as having "the most sublime and benevolent code of morals which has ever been offered to man."[3]

As the principal author of the United States Declaration of Independence, Jefferson articulated a statement about human rights that most Americans regard as nearly sacred. While not necessarily being averse to such things as affirming the people's "acknowledging and adoring an overruling providence" (as in his First Inaugural Address[4]), and expressing the need for "the favor of that Being in whose hands we are, who led our fathers, as Israel of old"[5] in his second inauguration, yet, together with James Madison, Jefferson carried on a long and successful campaign against state financial support of churches in Virginia. It is Jefferson who created the phrase "wall of separation between church and state" in his 1802 letter to the Danbury Baptists of Connecticut. During his 1800 campaign for the presidency, Jefferson had to contend with critics who argued that he was unfit to hold office because he did not have orthodox religious beliefs.

Jefferson used certain passages of the New Testament to compose The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth (the "Jefferson Bible"), which excluded any miracles by Jesus and stressed his moral message. Though he often expressed his opposition to clergy and to Christian doctrines, Jefferson repeatedly expressed his belief in a deistic god and his admiration for Jesus as a moral teacher. Opposed to Calvinism, Trinitarianism, and what he identified as Platonic elements in Christianity, in private letters Jefferson variously refers to himself as "Christian" (1803),[6] "a sect by myself" (1819),[7] an "Epicurean" (1819),[8] a "materialist" (1820),[9] and a "Unitarian by myself" (1825).[10] Historian Sydney E. Ahlstrom associated Jefferson with "rational religion" or deism.[11]

Church attendance

Jefferson was raised in the Church of England at a time when it was the established church in Virginia and only denomination funded by Virginia tax money. Before the Revolution, parishes were units of local government, and Jefferson served as a vestryman, a lay administrative position in his local parish. Office-holding qualifications at all levels - including the Virginia House of Burgesses, to which Jefferson was elected in 1769 - required affiliation with the current state religion and a commitment that one would neither express dissent nor do anything that did not conform to church doctrine. Jefferson counted clergy among his friends, and he contributed financially to the Anglican Church he attended regularly.

Following the Revolution, the Church of England in America was disestablished. It reorganized as the Episcopal Church in America. Margaret Bayard Smith, whose husband was a close friend of Jefferson, records that during the first winter of Jefferson's Presidency he regularly attended service on Sunday in a small humble Episcopalian church out of respect for public worship. This was the only church in the new city, with the exception of a little Catholic chapel. Within a year of his inauguration, Jefferson began attending church services in the House of Representatives, a custom had not yet begun while he was Vice President, and which featured preachers of every Christian sect and denomination.[12] In January 1806, a female evangelist, Dorothy Ripley, delivered a camp meeting-style exhortation in the House to Jefferson, Vice President Aaron Burr, and a "crowded audience". Throughout his administration Jefferson permitted church services in executive branch buildings, which were acceptable to Jefferson because they were nondiscriminatory and voluntary, and because he believed that religion was an important support for republican government.[13]

Henry S. Randall, the only biographer permitted to interview Jefferson’s immediate family, recorded that Jefferson "attended church with as much regularity as most of the members of the congregation - sometimes going alone on horse- back, when his family remained at home", and that he also "contributed freely to the erection of Christian churches, gave money to Bible societies and other religious objects, and was a liberal and regular contributor to the support of the clergy. Letters of his are extant which show him urging, with respectful delicacy, the acceptance of extra and unsolicited contributions, on the pastor of his parish, on occasions of extra expense to the latter, such as the building of a house.."[14]

In later years, Jefferson refused to serve as a godparent for infants being baptized, because he did not believe in the dogma of the Trinity.[15] Despite testimony of Jefferson's church attendance, there is no evidence that he was ever confirmed or was a communicant.[16]

Jefferson and deism

In 1760, at age 16, Jefferson entered the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, and for two years he studied mathematics, metaphysics, and philosophy under Professor William Small. He introduced the enthusiastic Jefferson to the writings of the British Empiricists, including John Locke, Francis Bacon, and Isaac Newton.[17] Jefferson biographers say that he was influenced by deist philosophy while at William & Mary, particularly by Bolingbroke.[18][19]

Phrases such as "Nature's God", which Jefferson used in the Declaration of Independence, are typical of Deism, although they were also used at the time by non-Deist thinkers, such as Francis Hutcheson. In addition, it was part of Roman thinking about natural law, and Jefferson was influenced by reading Cicero on this topic.[20][21]

Most deists denied the Christian concepts of miracles and the Trinity. Though he had a lifelong esteem for Jesus' moral teachings, Jefferson did not believe in miracles, nor in the divinity of Jesus. In a letter to deRieux in 1788, he declined a request to act as a godfather, saying he had been unable to accept the doctrine of the Trinity "from a very early part of my life".[15][22]

Jefferson was directly linked to deism in the writings of some of his contemporaries. Patrick Henry's widow wrote in 1799, "I wish the Grate Jefferson & all the Heroes of the Deistical party could have seen my... Husband pay his last debt to nature."[23][24]

While many biographers, as well as some of his contemporaries, have characterized Jefferson as a Deist, historians and scholars have not found any such self-identification in Jefferson's surviving writings. In an 1803 letter to Priestley, Jefferson praises Jesus for a form of deism.[25] He expressed similar ideas in an 1817 letter to John Adams.[26]

Disestablishment of religion in Virginia

For Jefferson, separation of church and state was a necessary reform of the religious tyranny whereby a religion received state endorsement, and those not of that religion were denied rights, and even punished.

Following the Revolution, Jefferson played a leading role in the disestablishment of religion in Virginia. Previously as the established state church, the Anglican Church received tax support and no one could hold office who was not an Anglican. The Presbyterian, Baptist and Methodist churches did not receive tax support. As Jefferson wrote in his Notes on Virginia, pre-Revolutionary colonial law held that "if a person brought up a Christian denies the being of a God, or the Trinity ...he is punishable on the first offense by incapacity to hold any office ...; on the second by a disability to sue, to take any gift or legacy ..., and by three year' imprisonment." Prospective officer-holders were required to swear that they did not believe in the central Roman Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation.

In 1779 Jefferson proposed "The Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom", which was adopted in 1786. Its goal was complete separation of church and state; it declared the opinions of men to be beyond the jurisdiction of the civil magistrate. He asserted that the mind is not subject to coercion, that civil rights have no dependence on religious opinions, and that the opinions of men are not the concern of civil government. This became one of the American charters of freedom. This elevated declaration of the freedom of the mind was hailed in Europe as "an example of legislative wisdom and liberality never before known".[27]

From 1784 to 1786, Jefferson and James Madison worked together to oppose Patrick Henry's attempts to assess general taxes in Virginia to support churches. In 1786, the Virginia General Assembly passed Jefferson's Bill for Religious Freedom, which he had first submitted in 1779. It was one of only three accomplishments he put in his epitaph. The law read: In his 1787 Notes on the State of Virginia, Jefferson stated:

Accusations of being an infidel

During the 1800 presidential campaign, the New England Palladium wrote, "Should the infidel Jefferson be elected to the Presidency, the seal of death is that moment set on our holy religion, our churches will be prostrated, and some infamous 'prostitute', under the title of goddess of reason, will preside in the sanctuaries now devoted to the worship of the most High."[30] Federalists attacked Jefferson as a "howling atheist" and infidel, claiming that his attraction to the religious and political extremism of the French Revolution disqualified him from public office.[31][32] At that time, calling a person an infidel could mean a number of things, including that they did not believe in God. It was an accusation commonly levelled at Deists, although they believe in a deity. It was also directed at those thought to be harming the Christian faith in which they were raised.

While opposed to the institutions of organized religion, Jefferson consistently expressed his belief in God. For example, he invoked the notion of divine justice in 1782 in his opposition to slavery,[33] and invoked divine Providence in his second inaugural address.[34]

Jefferson did not shrink from questioning the existence of God. In a 1787 letter to his nephew and ward, Peter Carr, who was at school, Jefferson offered the following advice:

Following the 1800 campaign, Jefferson became more reluctant to have his religious opinions discussed in public. He often added requests at the end of personal letters discussing religion that his correspondents be discreet regarding its contents.[6]

Separation of church and state

Jefferson sought what he called a "wall of separation between Church and State", which he believed was a principle expressed by the First Amendment. Jefferson's phrase has been cited several times by the Supreme Court in its interpretation of the Establishment Clause, including in cases such as Reynolds v. United States (1878), Everson v. Board of Education (1947), and McCollum v. Board of Education (1948).

In an 1802 letter to the Danbury Baptist Association, he wrote: In Jefferson's March 4, 1805, Drafts of Address of Second Inaugural he stated: Regarding the choice of some governments to regulate religion and thought, Jefferson stated: Deriving from this statement, Jefferson believed that the Government's relationship with the Church should be indifferent, religion being neither persecuted nor given any special status. Though he did so as Governor of Virginia, during his Presidency Jefferson refused to issue proclamations calling for days of prayer and thanksgiving. In a letter to Samuel Miller dated January 23, 1808 Jefferson stated:

However, in Notes on the State of Virginia, Jefferson supported "a perpetual mission among the Indian tribes" by the Christian Brafferton institution, at least in the interest of anthropology,[41] As president, he sanctioned financial support for a priest and church for the Kaskaskia Indians, who were at the time already Christianized and baptized. Edwin Gaustad wrote that this was a pragmatic political move aimed at stabilizing relations with the Indian tribes.[42]

Jefferson also publicly affirmed "acknowledging and adoring an overruling providence" by the nation in his First Inaugural Address[43] and in his Second Inaugural Address expressed his need of "the favor of that Being in whose hands we are, who led our fathers, as Israel of old", and thus asked the nation "to join in supplications" with him to God.[44]

Jefferson, Jesus, and the Bible

Jefferson's views on Jesus and the Bible were mixed, but were progressively far from what was and is largely considered orthodox in Christianity. Jefferson stated in a letter in 1819, "You say you are a Calvinist. I am not. I am of a sect by myself, as far as I know."[45]

On one hand Jefferson affirmed, "We all agree in the obligation of the moral precepts of Jesus, and nowhere will they be found delivered in greater purity than in his discourses",[46] and that he was "sincerely attached to His doctrines in preference to all others",[47] and that "the doctrines of Jesus are simple, and tend all to the happiness of man".[48] However, Jefferson considered much of the New Testament of the Bible to be false. In a letter to William Short in 1820, he expressed that his intent was to "place the character of Jesus in its true and high light, as no imposter himself", but that he was not with Jesus "in all his doctrines", Jefferson described many passages as "so much untruth, charlatanism and imposture".[49] In the same letter Jefferson states he is separating "the gold from the dross", and describes the "roguery of others of His disciples", [50] calling this group a "band of dupes and impostors", who wrote "palpable interpolations and falsifications", with Paul being the "first corrupter of the doctrines of Jesus".[50]

Jefferson also denied the divine inspiration of the Book of Revelation, describing it to Alexander Smyth in 1825 as "merely the ravings of a maniac, no more worthy nor capable of explanation than the incoherences of our own nightly dreams".[51] From his study of the Bible, Jefferson concluded that Jesus never claimed to be God.[52]

In 1803 Jefferson composed a "Syllabus of an Estimate of the Merit of the Doctrines of Jesus" of the comparative merits of Christianity, after having read the pamphlet “Socrates and Jesus Compared” by the Materialist philosopher Dr. Joseph Priestley.[53] In this brief work Jefferson affirms Jesus' "moral doctrines, relating to kindred & friends, were more pure & perfect than those of the most correct of the philosophers, and greatly more so than those of the Jews", but asserts that "fragments only of what he did deliver have come to us mutilated, misstated, & often unintelligible", and that "the question of his being a member of the Godhead, or in direct communication with it, claimed for him by some of his followers, and denied by others is foreign to the present view, which is merely an estimate of the intrinsic merit of his doctrines".[54] He let only a few see it, including Benjamin Rush in 1803 and William Short in 1820. When Rush died in 1813, Jefferson asked the family to return the document to him.

Also while living in the White House, Jefferson began to piece together his own version of the Gospels, with the first draft being "The Philosophy of Jesus of Nazareth...Being an Abridgement of the New Testament for the Use of the Indians, Unembarrased [uncomplicated] with Matters of Fact or Faith beyond the Level of their Comprehensions". This was followed by a compilation titled, The LIFE AND MORALS OF JESUS OF NAZARETH: Extracted Textually from the Gospels Greek, Latin, French, and English, from which he omitted the virgin birth of Jesus, miracles attributed to Jesus, divinity, and the resurrection of Jesus – among many other teachings and events. He retained primarily Jesus' moral philosophy, of which he approved, and also included the Second Coming, a future judgment, Heaven, Hell, and a few other supernatural events.

This compilation was completed about 1820, but Jefferson did not make these works public, acknowledging "The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth" existence only to a few friends.[55] This work was published after his death and became known as the Jefferson Bible.[9]

Anti-clericalism, anti-mysticism, and anti-Calvinism

Jefferson has been characterized as profoundly anticlerical, and his writing express a "sweeping condemnation of all clergymen everywhere".[56] Jefferson's residence in France just before the French Revolution left him deeply suspicious of Catholic priests and bishops as a force for reaction and ignorance. His later private letters indicate he was skeptical of too much interference by Catholic clergy in matters of civil government. He wrote in letters: "History, I believe, furnishes no example of a priest-ridden people maintaining a free civil government"[57] and "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."[58]

Observing inter-denominational intolerance in the United States, he extended his skepticism to Protestant clergy. In an 1820 letter to William Short, Jefferson wrote: "the serious enemies are the priests of the different religious sects, to whose spells on the human mind its improvement is ominous."[9] Upon the disestablishment of religion in Connecticut, he wrote to John Adams: "I join you, therefore, in sincere congratulations that this den of the priesthood is at length broken up, and that a Protestant Popedom is no longer to disgrace the American history and character."[60]

In 1817 he wrote to John Adams: Jefferson intensely opposed Calvinism. He never ceased to denounce the "blasphemous absurdity of the five points of Calvin", writing three years before his death to John Adams:

Aaron Bancroft observed, "It is hard to say, which surpassed the other in boiling hatred of Calvinism, Jefferson or John Adams."[63]

Priestley and Unitarianism

Jefferson expressed general agreement with Unitarianism, which, like Deism, rejected the doctrine of the Trinity. Jefferson never joined a Unitarian church, but he did attend Unitarian services while in Philadelphia. His friend Joseph Priestley was the minister. Jefferson corresponded on religious matters with numerous Unitarians, among them Jared Sparks (Unitarian minister, historian and president of Harvard), Thomas Cooper, Benjamin Waterhouse and John Adams. In an 1822 letter to Benjamin Waterhouse he wrote, Jefferson named the teachings of both Joseph Priestley and Conyers Middleton (an English clergyman who questioned miracles and revelation, emphasizing Christianity's role as a mainstay of social order) as the basis for his own faith. He became friends with Priestley, who lived in Philadelphia. In a letter to John Adams dated August 22, 1813, Jefferson wrote,

Jefferson continued to express his strong objections to the doctrines of the virgin birth, the divinity of Jesus, and the Trinity. In a letter to Adams (April 11, 1823), Jefferson wrote, "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 Minerva, in the brain of Jupiter."[66]

In an 1821 letter he wrote: Jefferson once wrote to the minister of the First Parish Church (Unitarian) in Portland, Maine, asking for services for him and a small group of friends. The church responded that it did not have clergy to send to the South. In an 1825 letter to Waterhouse, Jefferson wrote:

When followers of Richard Price and Priestley began debating over the existence of free-will and the soul (Priestley had taken the materialist position,[68]) Jefferson expressed reservations that Unitarians were finding it important to dispute doctrine with one another. In 1822 he held the Quakers up as an example for them to emulate.[69]

In Jefferson's time, Unitarianism was generally considered a branch of Christianity. Originally it questioned the doctrine of the Trinity and the pre-existence of Christ. During the period 1800-1850, Unitarianism began also to question the existence of miracles, the inspiration of Scripture, and the virgin birth, though not yet the resurrection of Jesus.[70]

Contemporary Unitarianism no longer implies belief in a deity; some Unitarians are theists and some are not. Modern Unitarians consider Jefferson both a kindred spirit and an important figure in their history. The Famous UUs website[71] says:

General remarks

Biographer Merrill D. Peterson summarizes Jefferson's theology:

In Peterson's view, Jefferson and Thomas Paine, the prominent deist, "agreed in the essentials of their theistic faith". Noting that Jefferson never had a deep or moving religious experience, Peterson adds that he "rejected revelation, the divinity of Christ, the miracles, the atonement, and so on, without which Christianity was nothing in the eyes of believers. He did not even accept Jesus on his own terms, for Jesus was a spiritualist by the grace of God and he a materialist by the grace of science."[73]

Robert S. Alley, professor of humanities emeritus at the University of Richmond holds that "Any perusal of the Jefferson writings will establish that the Sage of Monticello was a Deist."[74]

Avery Dulles, a leading Catholic theologian, states that while at the College of William & Mary, "under the influence of several professors, he [Jefferson] converted to the deist philosophy".[18] Dulles concludes:

Dulles concurs with historian Stephen Webb, who states that Jefferson's frequent references to "Providence" indicate his Deism, as "most eighteenth-century deists believed in providence".[75]

The historian of religion Sydney E. Ahlstrom says "One religious movement which enjoyed a season of popularity, and great prestige during the era, in America as in France, was the cult of reason." Ahlstrom calls it "rational religion or deism".[76]Ahlstrom also uses the phrases "reasonable Christianity" and "Christian rationalists",[77] echoing Jefferson's own use of the phrase "rational Christianity".[78] Ahlstrom adds, "Thomas Jefferson was unquestionably the most significant of the American rationalists". He notes that, in content, his theology was similar to that of John Adams, Joel Barlow, Elihu Palmer, and Thomas Paine, "though Jefferson was more doctrinaire in his materialism".[79]

Historian Gregg L. Frazer argues that Jefferson's religious views fell between Christianity and Deism.[80]

Frazer describes Jefferson as a theistic rationalist, a term from German theology whose first-found English usage is in the year 1856.[81] Frazer cites the following quote from Jefferson's 1785 Notes on the State of Virginia:

See also


  1. ^ Charles Sanford, The Religious Life of Thomas Jefferson (Charlotte: UNC Press, 1987).
  2. ^ Michael Corbett and Julia Mitchell Corbett, Politics and religion in the United States (1999) p. 68
  3. ^ Jefferson, Washington, 1907, p. 89
  4. ^ Thomas Jefferson, First Inaugural Address
  5. ^ Thomas Jefferson, Second Inaugural Address, Monday, March 4, 1805
  6. ^ a b Albert Ellery Bergh, ed. (1853). April 21, 1803 letter to Doctor Benjamin Rush. The Writings of Thomas Jefferson X (The Thomas Jefferson Memorial Association). p. 379. Retrieved 2009-05-23. ... To the corruptions of Christianity I am, indeed, opposed; but not to the genuine precepts of Jesus himself. I am a Christian, in the only sense in which he wished any one to be; sincerely attached to his doctrines, in preference to all others; ascribing to himself every human excellence; and believing he never claimed any other.... And in confiding it [an enclosed syllabus] to you, I know it will not be exposed to the malignant perversions of those who make every word from me a text for new misrepresentations and calumnies. I am moreover averse to the communication of my religious tenets to the public; because it would countenance the presumption of those who have endeavored to draw them before that tribunal, and to seduce public opinion to erect itself into that inquisition over the rights of conscience, which the laws have so justly proscribed.... 
  7. ^ Albert Ellery Bergh, ed. (1853). June 25, 1819 letter to Ezra Stiles Ely. The Writings of Thomas Jefferson XV (The Thomas Jefferson Memorial Association). p. 202. Retrieved 2009-05-23. You say you are a Calvinist. I am not. I am of a sect by myself, as far as I know. 
  8. ^ Albert Ellery Bergh, ed. (1853). October 31, 1819 letter to William Short. The Writings of Thomas Jefferson XV (The Thomas Jefferson Memorial Association). p. 219. Retrieved 2009-05-23. 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. 
  9. ^ a b c "Letter to William Short". April 13, 1820. 
  10. ^ a b Thomas Jefferson (January 8, 1825). "letter to Dr. Benjamin Waterhouse".  The copy of this 1825 Thomas Jefferson letter to Waterhouse (1754-1846) is in an unknown hand.
  11. ^ Ahlstrom p 366
  12. ^ The first forty years of Washington societyMrs. Samuel Harrison Smith (Margaret Bayard), , pp.13,15
  13. ^ "Religion and the Federal Government: PART 2". Library of Congress Exhibition.  (Religion and the Founding of the American Republic)
  14. ^ The life of Thomas JeffersonHenry S. Randall, , p. 555
  15. ^ a b Holmes, David Lynn (2006). The Faiths of the Founding Fathers. Oxford University Press. p. 225. ISBN . 
  16. ^ Holmes, David. "Monticello Speakers Forum: Thomas Jefferson and Religion". Thomas Jefferson Foundation. Archived from the original on 2007-10-20. Retrieved 2008-04-17. 
  17. ^ Merrill D. Peterson, ed. Thomas Jefferson: Writings, p. 1236
  18. ^ a b Dulles, Avery (January 2005). "The Deist Minimum". First Things: A Monthly Journal of Religion and Public Life (149): 25+. 
  19. ^ "Jefferson's Religious Beliefs". Retrieved 2011-03-13. 
  20. ^ Alexander Brodie, ed. (2003). The Cambridge Companion to the Scottish Enlightenment. Cambridge. p. 324. 
  21. ^ Jefferson's Literary Commonplace Book, trans. and ed. Douglas L. Wilson (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1989), p. 159.
  22. ^ Clark, J. C. D. The language of liberty, 1660-1832. p. 347.  (letter to J.P.P Derieux, July 25, 1788, Papers vol 13, p 418)
  23. ^ Breig, James (Spring 2009). "DEISM: One Nation Under A Clockwork God?". Colonial Williamsburg. Retrieved 2011-03-12. 
  24. ^ Couvillon, Mark. "A Patrick Henry Essay: The Voice vs. the Pen". National Forensic League. Retrieved 2011-03-12. 
  25. ^ Thomas Jefferson (1803). H.A. Washington (1861), ed. April 9, 1803 letter to Dr. Joseph Priestley. The Writings of Thomas Jefferson (Washington: H.W. Derby). 
  26. ^ Albert Ellery Bergh, ed. (1853). May 5, 1817 letter to John Adams. The Writings of Thomas Jefferson 15 (The Thomas Jefferson Memorial Association, & A.A. Lipscomb). pp. 108–109. Retrieved 2009-05-23. I had believed that [Connecticut was] the last retreat of monkish darkness, bigotry, and abhorrence of those advances of the mind which had carried the other States a century ahead of them. ... I join you, therefore, in sincere congratulations that this den of the priesthood is at length broken up, and that a Protestant Popedom is no longer to disgrace the American history and character. If by religion we are to understand [i.e., to mean] sectarian dogmas, in which no two of them agree, then your exclamation on that hypothesis is just, 'that this would be the best of all possible worlds, if there were no religion in it.' But if the moral precepts, innate in man, and made a part of his physical constitution, as necessary for a social being, if the sublime doctrines of philanthropism and deism taught us by Jesus of Nazareth, in which all agree, constitute true religion, then, without it, this would be, as you again say, 'something not fit to be named even, indeed, a hell'. 
  27. ^ Price, Richard (July 26, 1786). . Letter to Sylvanus UrbanThe Correspondence of Richard Price. p. vol 2, p 45. ISBN . 
  28. ^ Merrill D. Peterson, ed., Thomas Jefferson: Writings (1984), p. 347
  29. ^ "Notes on the State of Virginia". 
  30. ^ "New England Palladium, 1800 remarks about Jefferson". 1800. Retrieved 2008-12-31. 
  31. ^ Isaac Kramnick, and Robert Laurence Moore (1997). The Godless Constitution: The Case against Religious Correctness. W. W. Norton & Company. ISBN . Retrieved 2009-03-29. 
  32. ^ Ferling, John. Adams vs. Jefferson, (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004), p. 154. ISBN 0-19-516771-6
  33. ^ "Notes on the State of Virginia, Q.XVIII". 1782. This is so true, that of the proprietors of slaves a very small proportion indeed are ever seen to labour. And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are of the gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with his wrath? Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just: that his justice can not sleep forever: that considering numbers, nature and natural means only, a revolution of the wheel of fortune, an exchange of situation is among possible events: that it may become probable by supernatural interference!" 
  34. ^ "Jefferson's Second Inaugural Address", Bartleby Quotes
  35. ^ "1787 letter to nephew Peter Carr". 1787. 
  36. ^ Wikisource:Letter to the Danbury Baptists - January 1, 1802, January 1, 1802
  37. ^ "Draft of 2nd Inaugural". Retrieved 2013-07-09. 
  38. ^ Notes on the State of Virginia
  39. ^ Jefferson, Thomas (1900). John P. Foley, ed. The Jeffersonian Cyclopedia: a Comprehensive Collection of the Views of Thomas Jefferson. New York City: Funk and Wagnalls. p. 140. 
  40. ^ [1]
  41. ^ Jefferson's Notes on VirginiaUniversity of Virginia Library, , p. 210
  42. ^ Edwin S. Gaustad, Sworn of the Altar of God: A Religious Biography of Thomas Jefferson, p. 101.
  43. ^ ,Thomas Jefferson, First Inaugural Address
  44. ^ Thomas Jefferson, Second Inaugural Address
  45. ^ Letter from Thomas Jefferson to Ezra Stiles Ely, June 25, 1819, Encyclopedia Virginia
  46. ^ The Writings of Thomas JeffersonThomas Jefferson, , Alberty Ellery Bergh, editor (Washington D.C.: The Thomas Jefferson Memorial Association, 1904), Vol. XII, p. 315, to James Fishback, September 27, 1809
  47. ^ Memoirs, correspondence and private papers of Thomas JeffersonThomas Jefferson, , Volume 3; Letter to Benjamin rush, April 21, 1803
  48. ^ Thomas Jefferson, The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, Vol. XII, p. 383
  49. ^ Thomas Jefferson & Thomas Jefferson Randolph (1829). Memoirs, Correspondence, and Private Papers of Thomas Jefferson : Late President of the United States. London: H. Colburn and R. Bentley. OCLC 19942206. Retrieved 2008-07-13. 
  50. ^ a b Jefferson, Thomas (1854). H. A. WASHINGTON, ed. The Writings of Thomas Jefferson: Being His Autobiography, Correspondence. WASHINGTON, D. C: TAYLOR & MATJRY. p. 156. Retrieved 2008-07-13. 
  51. ^ Jefferson, Thomas (1854). H. A. WASHINGTON, ed. The Writings of Thomas Jefferson: Being His Autobiography, Correspondence. WASHINGTON, D. C: TAYLOR & MATJRY. p. 395. Retrieved 2008-07-13. 
  52. ^ Edward J. Larson, A Magnificent Catastrophe: The Tumultuous Election of 1800, America's First Presidential Campaign (Simon and Schuster, 2007), p. 171.
  53. ^ Jefferson's "Syllabus", "Philosophy" and "Life & Morals"Jared Farley,
  54. ^ page 1 & page 2
  55. ^ Secretary Clough on Jefferson's BibleSmithsonian magazine, , October 2011
  56. ^ Fred C. Luebke, The Origins of Thomas Jefferson's Anti-Clericalism, Church History, Vol. 32, No. 3 (Sep., 1963), pp. 344-356.
  57. ^ Letter to Alexander von Humboldt regarding religion in Mexico, December 6, 1813
  58. ^ Letter to Horatio G. Spafford, March 17, 1814
  59. ^ Letter to Roger C. Weightman June 24, 1826
  60. ^ Works, Vol. iv., p. 301.
  61. ^ Jefferson, Thomas (1829). Memoir, Correspondence, and Miscellanies: From the Papers of Thomas Jefferson. H. Colburn and R. Bentley. p. 242. Retrieved 2009-03-28. 
  62. ^ (Works, Vol. iv., p. 363.
  63. ^ as quoted by Bennett, De Robigne Mortimer (1876). The World's Sages, Thinkers and Reformers: Being Biographical Sketches of Leading Philosophers, Teachers, Skeptics, Innovators, Founders of New Schools of Thought, Eminent Scientists, Etc.. New York: The Truth Seeker Company. p. 567. 
  64. ^ "1822 Letter to Dr. Benjamin Waterhouse". June 26, 1822.  (meaning, at least, that they would not be "a Trinitarian")
  65. ^ "letter in reply to John Adams". Monticello. August 22, 1813. Retrieved 2011-02-22.  Note: Conyers Middleton's name is often omitted when this quote is cited; thereby leading to the inference that Jefferson is relying solely upon Priestley. Middleton defended Deist Matthew Tindal's Christianity as Old as the Creation against attacks by Daniel Waterland.
  66. ^ Letter to John Adams. Monticello. April 1823. Retrieved 2012-05-28. 
  67. ^ Letter to Timothy Pickering, Esq.. Monticello. February 27, 1821. Retrieved 2010-01-18. 
  68. ^ Kingston, Elizabeth (2008). "Joseph Priestley". The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Retrieved 2009-03-28. 
  69. ^ "Letter To Dr. Benjamin Waterhouse". Monticello. June 26, 1822. I rejoice that in this blessed country of free inquiry and belief, which has surrendered its creed and conscience to neither kings nor priests, the genuine doctrine of one only God is reviving, and I trust that there is not a young man now living in the United States who will not die an Unitarian. But much I fear, that when this great truth shall be re-established, its votaries will fall into the fatal error of fabricating formulas of creed and confessions of faith, the engines which so soon destroyed the religion of Jesus.... How much wiser are the Quakers, who, agreeing in the fundamental doctrines of the gospel, schismatize about no mysteries, and, keeping within the pale of common sense, suffer no speculative differences of opinion, any more than of feature, to impair the love of their brethren. 
  70. ^ R. K. Webb, "Miracles in English Unitarian Thought", in Mark S. Micale, Robert L. Dietle, Peter Gay, editors, Enlightenment, Passion, Modernity: Historical Essays in European Thought and Culture, 2000
  71. ^ "Thomas Jefferson". Unitarian Universalist Association. Retrieved 2008-09-09. 
  72. ^ Peterson, Merrill D. (1975). Thomas Jefferson and the New Nation. pp. 50–51. 
  73. ^ Peterson (1975) pp. 712, 961.
  74. ^ Alley, Robert S. (Fall 1998). "The Real Jefferson on Religion" (18). Free Inquiry. pp. 6–7. 
  75. ^ Stephen H. Webb, American providence: a nation with a mission (2004) p. 35
  76. ^ Sydney E. Alstrom, A Religious History of the American People (1972), p. 366
  77. ^ Sydney E. Alstrom, A Religious History of the American People (1972), pp. 357, 366
  78. ^ Jefferson to Timothy Pickering, Feb. 27 1821
  79. ^ Sydney E. Alstrom, A Religious History of the American People (1972), pp. 367–68
  80. ^ Gregg L. Frazer, The Religious Beliefs of America's Founders: Reason, Revelation, Revolution (University Press of Kansas, 2012), p. 11
  81. ^ """Googlebooks search for "theistic rationalism. 
  82. ^ Frazer, The Religious Beliefs of America's Founders: Reason, Revelation, Revolution p. 128, quoting Jefferson's Notes on the State of Virginia, 1800 ed., p. 164.


  • Gaustad, Edwin S. Sworn on the Altar of God: A Religious Biography of Thomas Jefferson (2001) Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, ISBN 0-8028-0156-0
  • The Jefferson Bible: What Thomas Jefferson Selected as the Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth
  • Sanford, Charles B. The Religious Life of Thomas Jefferson (1987) University of Virginia Press, ISBN 0-8139-1131-1
  • Sheridan, Eugene R. Jefferson and Religion, preface by Martin Marty, (2001) University of North Carolina Press, ISBN 1-882886-08-9
  • Edited by Jackson, Henry E., President, College for Social Engineers, Washington, D. C. "The Thomas Jefferson Bible" (1923) Copyright Boni and Liveright, Inc. Printed in the United States of America. Arranged by Thomas Jefferson. Translated by R. F. Weymouth. Located in the National Museum, Washington, D. C.
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Washington, Henry Augustine (Ed.) (1907). The Writings of Thomas Jefferson: Miscellaneous; 4. Parliamentary manual; 5,. H. W. Derby, 589 pages. , Book
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