Thomas Jefferson, a Christian or deist?

Much has been debated about the faith of Thomas Jefferson. Some say that he was a deist, one who believes in a god but not necessarily the Judeo-Christian god, and others claim he was a Christian. I am not sure why there would be so much debate over this man’s faith, except to probably debunk the idea that the United States was established on Christian principles by Christian men.

Some, like Richard Dawkins, and those of his ilk, often use another quote made by Jefferson which they think calls into question the terms of his faith. The quote goes like this, “Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there is one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, than that of blindfolded fear.” From an atheist standpoint there is no god so, to them the inferred question of the existence of god is taken in the negative, making this quote the smoking gun to Jefferson agnosticism or atheism. However, from a Christian standpoint there is a god so, the same question is taken in the affirmative. Therefore, this quote isn’t the slam dunk on Jefferson faithlessness that atheists suppose. Rather, it is a testament to Jefferson’s belief that God is a rational and reasonable concept.

Below is a quote of Thomas Jefferson from a letter written to Benjamin Rush, a scientist, physician, and political leader from Philadelphia. I think this should shine a little light on Jefferson true faith.

Dear Sir,

In some of the delightful conversations with you, in the evenings of 1798-99, and which served as an anodyne to the afflictions of the crisis through which our country was then laboring, the Christian religion was sometimes our topic; and I then promised you, that one day or other, I would give you my views of it. They are the result of a life of inquiry & reflection, and very different from that anti-Christian system imputed to me by those who know nothing of my opinions. 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 he wished any one to be; sincerely attached to his doctrines, in preference to all others; ascribing to himself every human excellence; & believing he never claimed any other (emp. added).

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Argument for a Deity

The following was written by a scientist that lived in the late 17th century early 18th century. This scientist had a profound impact on the enlightenment period which did wonders at debunking religious dogma and Christian belief. Yet this man made a rather insightful argument for a deity.

The following is an excerpt from Newton’s Opticks (1704) written by Isaac Newton.

Whereas the main Business of natural Philosophy is to argue from Phenomena without feigning Hypotheses, and to deduce Causes from Effects, till we come to the very first Cause, which certainly is not mechanical; and not only to unfold the Mechanism of the World, but chiefly to resolve these and such like Questions. What is there in places almost empty of Matter, and whence is it that the Sun and Planets gravitate towards one another, without dense Matter between them? Whence is it that Nature doth nothing in vain; and whence arises all that Order and Beauty which we see in the World? To what end are Comets, and whence is it that Planets move all one and the same way in Orbs concentric, while Comets move all manner of ways in Orbs very eccentric; and what hinders the fixed Stars from falling upon one another? How came the Bodies of Animals to be contrived with so much Art, and for what ends were their several Parts? Was the Eye contrived without Skill in Optics, and the Ear without Knowledge of Sounds? How do the Motions of the Body follow from the Will, and whence is the instinct in Animals? Is not the Sensory of Animals that place to which the sensitive Substance is present, and into which the sensible Species of Things are carried through the Nerves and Brain, that there they may be perceived by their immediate presence to that Substance? And these things being rightly dispatched, does it not appear from Phenomena that there
is a Being incorporeal, living, intelligent, omnipresent, who in infinite Space, as it were in his Sensory, sees the things themselves intimately, and thoroughly perceives them, and comprehends them wholly by their immediate presence to himself: Of which things the Images only carried through the Organs of Sense into our little Sensoriums, are there seen and beheld by that which in us perceives and thinks. And though every true Step made in this Philosophy brings us not immediately to the Knowledge of the first Cause, yet it brings us nearer to it, and on that account is to be highly valued.

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Dr. David Berlinski: What Does It Take for Change? (Clip 5)

Everybody has a favorite David Berlinski story. Right? Sure you do, you just don’t know it yet. Anyway, this one is my favorite. In this clip Berlinski explores the evolution of the cow to whale concept. In evolutionary circles it is a popular belief that the whale was once a land animal. Berlinski uses the cow as a crude example of an ancestor to the whale to examine the possible changes that the cow would have to undergo to make the transition from land to sea.

I have had many creation vs. evolution discussions and often the whale will emerge as a topic of interest to the evolutionary model. So, this video has become a phildowd.com favorite, and since it is so near and dear to me, I can’t resist sharing it. Enjoy!

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