"We think ourselves possessed, or, at least, we boast that we are so, of liberty of conscience on all subjects, and of the right of free inquiry and private judgment in all cases, and yet how far are we from these exalted privileges in fact! There exists, I believe, throughout the whole Christian world, a law which makes it blasphemy to deny or doubt the divine inspiration of all the books of the Old and New Testaments, from Genesis to Revelations. In most countries of Europe it is punished by fire at the stake, or the rack, or the wheel. In England itself it is punished by boring through the tongue with a red-hot poker. In America it is not better; even in our own Massachusetts, which I believe, upon the whole, is as temperate and moderate in religious zeal as most of the States, a law was made in the latter end of the last century, repealing the cruel punishments of the former laws, but substituting fine and imprisonment upon all those blasphemers upon any book of the Old Testament or New. Now, what free inquiry, when a writer must surely encounter the risk of fine or imprisonment for adducing any argument for investigating into the divine authority of those books? Who would run the risk of translating Dupuis? But I cannot enlarge upon this subject, though I have it much at heart. I think such laws a great embarrassment, great obstructions to the improvement of the human mind. Books that cannot bear examination, certainly ought not to be established as divine inspiration by penal laws. It is true, few persons appear desirous to put such laws in execution, and it is also true that some few persons are hardy enough to venture to depart from them. But as long as they continue in force as laws, the human mind must make an awkward and clumsy progress in its investigations. I wish they were repealed. The substance and essence of Christianity, as I understand it, is eternal and unchangeable, and will bear examination forever, but it has been mixed with extraneous ingredients, which I think will not bear examination, and they ought to be separated. Adieu."
by:
John Adams
(1735-1826) Founding Father, 2nd US President
Source:
one of his last letters to Thomas Jefferson, January 23, 1825
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Reader comments about this quote:
 -- Anonymous, Reston, VA US      
 -- Anonymous      
 -- Dick, Fort Worth      
Can I second that quote.
 -- Mike, Norwalk     
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     -- warren, olathe      
    Anyone who has to enforce their religion through force of law are simply not secure in their own beliefs. Before they start examining their neighbor with hot pokers or breaking their bones on a rack, they ought to examine their own souls. Brilliant quote.
     -- Ken, Allyn, WA     
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    Christianity has come a long way, 'tis true, but has much more to go before embodying the ideal for which Jesus was the example.
     -- E Archer, NYC     
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     -- XaurreauX, NY, NY      
    MORE THAN A QUOTE NORMALY IS.
     -- HUNTER, S.C.     
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     -- Jim k, Austin      
    Sorry to be so ignorant ( not "stupid": just ignorant ). Who's Dupuis ? Should not this site be offering quotes from him, 'though please not in whatever language he uses which apparently needs translation. I'll do some online research, but just wondered.
     -- Bobble, No. Ferrisburgh, VT     
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    The way things have changed and the manner in which the left has taken up leaves me to wonder how far away we are from being “punished by boring through the tongue with a red-hot poker” for espousing Christianly (or anything not in line with the PC world)?
     -- SCSURFR, La Mirada     
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    You don't have to worry about blaspheming Christianity anymore; at least from government. Now you should worry about blaspheming global climate change, that newest of religions. You may be declared an enemy of the state, have you assets seized, and find yourself in solitary confinement.
     -- ., .     
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    It is an Extremely Profound Statement, crafted in perfection of knowledge. this provided by way of natural law. Harmony exist within all of creation. By way of the elements and their interactions. At first not knowing, then the obvious Fact, One Cannot Force Another to ( believe, exercising of faith.) Whether in oneself or that which is presumed external. Therefore it is only through continued examination, that divine knowledge expands. " The substance and essence of Christianity, ( As I understand IT ), is Eternal and Unchangeable, and will bear examination forever. "
    That is to bear up, found to be True forever, although "Extraneous ingredients, which I think Will Not bear examination, and they ought to be separated."
    Plumb and Square, Keep it Plumb and Square said the Old Builder. And he knows what he is talking about !
    Semper FI Always and Forever.
    P.S. Christ shows forth the pattern of suffering for Liberty sake, Paul fills up that suffering with knowledge and understanding for the body sake. " Remember that Jesus Christ of the seed of David was raised form the dead according to MY Gospel " ( II Tim 2:8 a Very important chapter ! ) Knit together in love. The love of Christ which passes ( knowledge ), and the peace of God which passes ( understanding.) Very specific. Archer misses the mark of distinction, due to extraneous ingredients, and they ought to be separated. People are starved for lack of knowledge, by design of the ever presence of good and evil.
     -- Ronw13, Yachats OR     
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    Religious freedom also includes freedom from religion and the right to refuse, deny, and prohibit enforcement of religious edicts as 'law.' When a religion exceeds spiritual faith and imposes 'law' contrary to the Common Law upon which this country was founded, it is no longer just a religion, but a theocracy, which is prohibited by the US Constitution and all State constitutions,
     -- E Archer, NYC     
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    Not common law, But Natural law based upon mathematics and geometry. That is not a religious based perspective but logical inquiry based on MATHEMATICAL FACT. 1+1=2. to expose geometric figures one must count ! As for example music and architecture. Not religion, as with Threskeia or Threskos, religion. For purposes of illustration, blue prints work very well. Number and word ! A detail sheet,codified number and letter. Coded details, keys to understanding Who,what, where, when, how, why, and to what degree. English common law is not natural laws ordained of God. Otherwise there would be no need for our Declaration of Independence and our Creators natural laws. Never changing at the whims of men, such as common laws or the law of the land, by a monarch or majority.
     -- Ronw13, Yachats OR     
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