"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 classified
with the fable of the generation of Minerva in the brain of Jupiter.
But we may 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."
by:
Thomas Jefferson
(1743-1826), US Founding Father, drafted the Declaration of Independence, 3rd US President
Source:
Letter to John Adams, April 11, 1823
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Reader comments about this quote:
Amen! (I can hardly wait to read what the fundamentalists have to say about this one.)
 -- E Archer, NYC     
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     -- Anonymous, Reston, VA US      
     -- Anonymous      
    The perfect example of why this is deemed "a Christian Nation". It has nothing to do with on religion over another in oppression but everything to do with "primitive and genuine doctrines" that govern the human mind. It is the doctrine of peace that is the perfect pre-emptive strike against crime, hate, and persecution of man against each other.
     -- Logan, Memphis, TN     
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     -- camrie, California      
    Alas, the moral compass that was once set for our country has turned to the compass of the "fable". Henceforth, much destruction is coming from within. Oh, how I wish America would wake! One does not need to be a Christian to have a good moral compass, as many of our founding fathers knew.
     -- Nancy, Marion, OH     
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    While the Fundies quote Jefferson very often, I've never heard one of them acknowledge this quotation of his.
     -- A.Jurgensen, Stuart, FL     
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     -- jhelberg1, Minneapolis      
    Just because Thomas Jefferson made this quotation, it doesn't mean that he disbelieved in a Supreme Being. However, many of his contemporaries who helped draft the Constitution were Christian ministers. And may we not forget that the Ivy League universities, such as Harvard, Princeton, Yale, Brown, Cornell, etc, were founded as seminaries (for training in Biblical literacy). Look at the mottos: Brown - In Deo speramus (in God we hope); Columbia - In lumine Tuo videbimus lumen (in Thy light, we shall see the light); Dartmouth - Vox clamantis in deserto (a voice crying in the wilderness), in reference to John the Baptist who "prepared the way" before Jesus in his ministry; Princeton - Dei sub numine viget (Under God's power she flourishes); University of Pennsylvania - Leges sine moribus vanae (laws without morals are useless); and Yale University - Lux et veritas (light and truth). ... It seems that we are the ones who have drifted, not the foundations. If you look at our culture, you'll see that it's only the rebellion against God that has caused us to shift and begin to crumble, like a house moved off its foundation in a mudslide. ... Light and Truth. Jesus said "I am the light of the world. ... I am the way, the truth, and the life." He has provided us the way, and we have prospered as a nation while we followed the Almighty. We have crumbled and decayed as a nation since beginning to publically deny his name and his ways. I believe that Thomas Jefferson was very intelligent, but he did not draft the articles of this nation alone. He had the hand of the God he may have denied even guiding his pen, along with John Hancock, Samuel Adams, John Adams, James Madison, and Ben Franklin. After the momentous signing of the Declaration by President of the Continental Congress, John Hancock, Samuel Adams stated: "We have this day restored the Sovereign to Whom alone men ought to be obedient. He reigns in heaven and ... from the rising to the setting sun, may His kingdom come."
     -- Christine, Shamokin, Pennsylvania     
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    My beliefs concerning certain ancient events differ from Jefferson's. That does not change actual happenings in a corporeal existence. As per reforming current human errors and returning to the venerated Reformer"s primitive and genuine doctrines of freedom and liberty with hope and moral, lawful, and prosperous reason. I would rate with 5 stars 100 times.
     -- Mike, Norwalk     
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    Jefferson = an honest man!
     -- Waffler, Smith, Arkansas     
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     -- Dick, Fort Worth      
    Spoken as the Unitarian Universalist that he was. I loved it when Clinton said, upon the gathering of Nobel prize winners in the White House, that it was the largest group of brain power in that place since Jefferson alone.
     -- Diane Snyder, Phoenix     
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    I give this three stars as his heart's in the right place though a little misguided. My faith is simple KINDNESS - I need no other - it provides me with the road by which I travel. The doctrine of what should or shouldn't be is ours already - it has no need for a venerated reformer - the more we lean on the words of others the less we will see the true light of peace and freedom. The road to enlightenment and oneness is there for all to see - it needs no mystery, no God; You yourself are the God and faith you seek. Use you heart to determine the way - the dawn of reason and freedom is already upon us and all we need is an interpreter. We will never experience pure reason like we will never experience absolute Freedom. TJ was a bit of a rascal even more so than Clinton (see the film "Jefferson in Paris"). His words are prophetic considering our responses to today's three quotes. Anything that's denigrates or dehumanizes other groups of humanity is wrong. Conversely, anything that uplifts and shows compassion for all living beings is the reality we should enthuse in all things. Morality has no need for faith based religions, though if that is where you find it so be it. By the way, can anyone tell who wrote the New testament?
     -- RBESRQ     
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    I admire Jefferson very much, but when reading some of his statements I can't help but wonder what Ms. Hemings would have thought. "...probably the greatest concentration of talent and genius in this house except for perhaps those times when Thomas Jefferson ate alone." - John F. Kennedy, Describing a dinner for Nobel Prize winners. (Elsewhere on this site.)
     -- A.WOODS, Gloucester     
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     -- William Wilberforce      
    Poor Benjamin Franklin; a man without hope, though he is in the company of a vast number of fellow unbelievers. He is certainly in the camp of the majority, as most folk consider our Lord Jesus Christ to be a stumbling stone and rock of offence. Those of us travelling the well-worn path are not at all concerned when we hear non-travellers telling each other that no such path exists. Here we are, once again, at the time of year when many celebrate, or at least acknowledge the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ, the "Prince of Peace". We hear clarion calls for '"Peace! Peace!" from all corners of the world, and we wish others to have 'peace'. But there is no peace. Peace is very elusive. There seems to be nothing but violence and corruption, reminding us of statements in that Book of History, the Bible; statements such as: "And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually... The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence. And God looked upon the earth, and behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth." Such is the record of the condition of man upon the earth, in the days of Noah, just before 'The Flood', in which God destroyed all but Noah and his family. It is also written that the same conditions will exist on earth, just before the Lord comes again. "As it was in the days of Noah .." "as it was in the days of Lot .." It IS, now, "as it was in the days of Noah". It IS, now, "as it was in the days of Lot". Or so it seems to me. God - banished from government, schools, science, history. But - Man seeks peace - without God. It is also written: "There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked." Surely there is a lesson for us - for all of us - in this.
     -- Grenville Rogers, Lively, ON. Canada     
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    http://www.wallbuilders.com/LIBissuesArticles.asp?id=8755
     -- Anon     
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    RBESRQ....................Since you asked, No I can't say for 100% who wrote it just as no one can say for 100% who did...but... a simple fact remains. It was by following the precepts of Jesus in their simplicity and using them as guidelines to create a government that respects equality, anyones god, and theirselves as individuals free to live their lives in peace. No matter what any one believes about where these precepts came from they are, natural laws that Jesus spoke of and exemplified in the physical (so the story goes). Our founders all had most of the precepts of Jesus in common and agreed that in writing the Constitution that these common precepts of natural law would be law on earth for our Nation. Could they have reached that point without the example of Jesus, the precepts he taught, or what the founders considered the way to peace? I know this. There is no question about this truth of history and that it really happened. Our Nation was founded on the very precepts mankind already knew as natural law from the beginning, but failed over and over to correctly administer. Jesus showed by example how to do it because we as humans couldn't figure it out on our own. That all said it's still everyones' choice to believe what they will. You know, Jesus taught that fact too.
     -- Anon     
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    Many seem to believe that fable and myth are unimportant. As I learned many years ago in my liberal arts studies myth, folklore, and legend have a very important part in every society and always has. They are simply the framework that holds up the the precepts of civilization. Jefferson seems to believe the framework, the scaffolding, is artificial and unnecessary. How is it that every civilization in the last five thousand years has had one, and when the people stop taking their myths and fables seriously, those civilizations have fallen? As Americans part of our mythos is the Judeo-Christian framework. Another part of it that is unique to America (our own personal myth) is that of the founders themselves. They were not really all knowing and some were not particularly wise, yet we hold them collectively in esteem and we look to them for how government should interact with the people. Just as Jefferson thought the Christian myth was an unnecessary framework, so today some believe the founders themselves are also an unnecessary framework. They are both wrong.
     -- Ken, Allyn, WA     
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    Good stuff Ken.
     -- Waffler, Smith, Arkansas     
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    As to the flood story, it should start out "Once upon a time "like all fairy tales. It is interesting that Noah was spared because he was "rightous" and when the boat landed he got drunk. Anyone believing that this fable is an historical event , probably believes that Jack and the Beanstalk is a real event.
     -- jim k, austin     
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    I love Jefferson! His quotes are almost always instructive and inspirational. But he missed the mark this time. Either Christ was born of a virgin and is the Savior of mankind, or He was just another great man. I believe in his divinity. Someday, in the not-too-distant future, every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is the Christ.
     -- Daniel B. Johnson, Gig Harbor, Washington     
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    There is another possibility, Daniel, and that is that the Jesus story is but another version of a long line of sun god stories originating in ancient Egypt. Religion is the most powerful way to control a people, and the story of Jesus is almost exactly the same as those of other sun gods throughout ancient history. Sorry, guys, but Jefferson is right.
     -- E Archer, NYC     
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     -- Ethan      
    I am an atheist, and have a great respect for the founding fathers. I would love to take this quote at face value that Jefferson was saying the story of Jesus was entirely false, but I fear that would be dishonest. Reading the entire quote makes me believe what he was saying was the miraculous conception part was an unnecessary addition to an already profound story. I would agree that the virgin birth was definitely a tack on, since Jesus was just the next in a long line of "savior" deities to have such a creation attributed to him, but as everything else about Jesus was clearly plagiarized from religions twice as ancient to him as he is to us, I would go further to say that there is no value what so ever in any of the new testiment, other than to show the gullibility of ignorant people.
     -- Ryan, Dekalb     
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     -- Steven H, Raleigh NC      
     
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