"Nothing can be more exactly and seriously true than what is there [the very words only of Jesus] stated; that but a short time elapsed after the death of the great reformer of the Jewish religion, before his principles were departed from by those who professed to be his special servants, and perverted into an engine for enslaving mankind, and aggrandising their oppressors in Church and State; that the purest system of morals ever before preached to man, has been adulterated and sophisticated by artificial constructions, into a mere contrivance to filch wealth and power to themselves; that rational men not being able to swallow their impious heresies, in order to force them down their throats, they raise the hue and cry of infidelity, while themselves are the greatest obstacles to the advancement of the real doctrines of Jesus, and do in fact constitute the real Anti-Christ."
by:
Thomas Jefferson
(1743-1826), US Founding Father, drafted the Declaration of Independence, 3rd US President
Source:
letter to Samuel Kerchreview, January 19, 1810
http://books.google.com/books?id=8QXWohr6T3kC&pg=PA345&lpg=PA345
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Reader comments about this quote:
 -- Anonymous, Reston, VA US      
Wow! Can you imagine a statesman speaking today with such candor?
 -- E Archer, NYC     
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    Christianity is all about free will to choose between good and evil. What it is not is inquisitions and burning heretics. Where the religion of Christianity went off track is when that religion merged with the government of empire. At that point the individual's free will became the state's compulsion and pure Christianity started to become corrupt. Separation of church and state is necessary to preserve the integrity of both church and state.
     -- Ken, Allyn, WA     
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    Exactly right Archer and Ken. I won't be voting for Hukabee or Romney but wouldn't it be nice to hear at least one of them speak like that; for that matter, even one of the other pliticos speak of any religion with such passion (atheism to zen - equal free speech for all).
     -- Mike, Norwalk     
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    How in the world could such quote be spoken by someone who sincerely believe it and was such a powerful force in the building of this nation and yet allowed the inhumane slavery of Africans; I thought the blood of Jesus shed at calvary included Africans and negroes. Wasup with that!
     -- Edouard, Atlanta     
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     -- warren, olathe      
    Wonder why this - perhaps the great man's greatest quote - among virtually volumes of them - is one that we just don't hear nowadays? Hmmmmm...?
     -- Sean, Greenville, SC     
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    Jefferson never condoned slavery. Nor did Washington. Unfortunately, too many could not be convinced otherwise. So the issue was tabled for a time. Many knew it wasn't over. They would have had to fight that war before fighting the one granting us independence. Was this right? I do not know. While being Christian myself, I admire Jefferson greatly because it is indeed, the spirit of our nation.
     -- Nancy, Marion, OH     
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    It’s obvious from reading many quotes by Jefferson on religion that he was against organized churches. As far as the question of how could Jefferson own slaves, we forget that Jefferson was also a man of his time.
     -- Rebecca, Tucker, GA     
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    Rebecca is correct that Jefferson was a man of his time, as are we all. He inherited his slaves & never bought or sold a one. When he returned from 5 yrs as ambassador to France, Jefferson's slaves waited a few miles out on the road into Monticello & followed the carriage in because they were so happy to have him home. If they had been freed in that day, their chances of life were slim at best. I think Jefferson tried to be as honorable as possible. He said, paraphrasing, that he envisioned a time when all people, women, people of color, everyone, would enjoy equal rights. No one since Jefferson has been more prescient - he is a one man school on how best to govern.
     -- Janis, Portland, OR     
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    Edouard,Atlanta , as to the " blood of Jesus shed at Calvary", Jesus was murdered because he was a threat to the existing rulers of the time, much like what happens in N.Korea now and in the Soviet Union when Stalin was in power. If he willingly went to the cross in order to save us all from sin, then why did he say while on the cross," My God, My God, why have you forsaken me". Of couse, that assumes that he actually said that. In the quote, Jefferson is saying that the teachings of Jesus have been twisted into man made religions primarily for the control of people. All religions are man made, including Christianity which is largely an invention of the apostle Paul. He turned the teachings of Jesus into the worship of Jesus.
     -- jim k, Austin, Tx     
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    jim, to understand the atonement is to understand the esence of your query. A discussion for another day. ;-)
     -- Mike, Norwalk     
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    Many fundamentalist preachers around revolutionist times thought of Thomas Paine as an atheist. Thomas Paine with his writings had as much to do with the success of the victory over the British as anyone. Washington said that Paine kept up the morale of the soldiers and the citizens and probably saved the revolution. Paine vociferously denied being an atheist stating that he was a Diest. He disagreed greatly with the Bible thumping trinitarians of the day but was no atheist. Read 'The Age of Reason' for Paine's view of fundamentalist religion.
     -- jim k, Austin, Tx     
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    jim, thank you, well said
     -- Mike, Norwalk     
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    Many people have fought and died over freedom of or from religion. Jefferson and the founding fathers were very wise.
     -- Reeruns, Clayton, NC     
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