I have ever deemed it fundamental for the United States never to take active part in the quarrels of Europe. Their political interests are entirely distinct from ours. Their mutual jealousies, their balance of power, their complicated alliances, their forms and principles of government, are all foreign toys. They are nations of eternal war. — Thomas Jefferson –Letter, 11 June 1823 to President James Monroe
Even though the words of above were penned over two hundred years ago I believe they are just as valid today as they were then. The only difference is maybe I would now add the Middle and Far East to the list. One of the major things that has gotten us into so much trouble and cost us so many or our children’s lives is our getting into the quarrels of other nations. We just can’t seem to mind our own business. We have replaced the nations of Europe with our mutual jealousies, our balance of power, our complicated alliances such that our original reason for founding this country have been lost to us. We seem to now be a nation of eternal war…..
This is a continuation about Jefferson and religion. As stated before, there are many especially in evangelical circles that say that Jefferson meant for our country to be founded on Christian principles. My posts on the blog are to show that although Jefferson was a follower of Jesus Christ at one level he was by no means saying the U.S. should be a Christian nation. In fact much of his writing said exactly the opposite. Here are some of his words about Christian clergy:
They [the clergy] believe that any portion of power confided to me, will be exerted in opposition to their schemes. And they believe rightly; for I have sworn upon the altar of god, eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man. But this is all they have to fear from me: and enough, too, in their opinion. -Thomas Jefferson to Dr. Benjamin Rush, Sept. 23, 1800
History, I believe, furnishes no example of a priest-ridden people maintaining a free civil government. This marks the lowest grade of ignorance of which their civil as well as religious leaders will always avail themselves for their own purposes. -Thomas Jefferson to Alexander von Humboldt, Dec. 6, 1813.
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. -Thomas Jefferson, letter to Horatio G. Spafford, March 17, 1814
My opinion is that there would never have been an infidel, if there had never been a priest. The artificial structures they have built on the purest of all moral systems, for the purpose of deriving from it pence and power, revolts those who think for themselves, and who read in that system only what is really there. -Thomas Jefferson, letter to Mrs. Samuel H. Smith, August, 6, 1816
It seems quite obvious from all these quotes that Jefferson did not trust the motives of the church of his times and from my studies I don’t think much has changed since those times. The man-made nature of the church often is polluted by the power structures of the times. This started in the fourth century when the Roman emperor Constantine hi-jacked the Christian church and made it a mandated religion. The structure of the church has been damaged since even that time.
While I don’t hold as adamant a view of the clergy that Jefferson did I can understand the logic he uses in his correspondence. I think this will conclude my discussions about Jefferson and religion. Next time I address the topic of Thomas Jefferson it will be on a different topic. I don’t believe that there is a person who has read my posts or other information about Jefferson and the church can continue to espouse that Jefferson, or any of the other founders for that matter, intended the U.S. to be a Christian nation. As Jefferson said the morality of Jesus was sound but the practice of religion is not.
I VERY much suspect that if thinking men would have the courage to think for themselves, and to speak what they think, it would be found they do not differ in . . . opinions as much as is supposed. – Jefferson, Thomas
We all recognize that gridlock has frozen our government processes. If only the people who represent each of us were to take to heart the words of Jefferson above we might just melt the sorry state that presently binds us. The trouble with congress right now is that the people representing us are allowing a few who are called “leaders” to think for them. I am convinced that if they would just make the effort to think for themselves they would realize that they have much more in common than their battle scarred leaders could ever imagine.
Thomas Jefferson if nothing else was a critical thinker. He questioned almost anything he was exposed to. But, like all of us he was the product of his experiences so that questioning never went very deep when it came to slavery. That was his major flaw and we all have at least one major flaw. I pride myself in being like Jefferson as I never take anything without asking at least a few questions. I can’t imagine spending a $million and hours and hours of campaigning to win an election and then finally get to Washington only to then turn around and let someone else think for me!
But then again it takes too many promises to too many different groups to even get elected now so maybe the people who do survive the process are beaten before they ever get there. We desperately need critical thinkers is our nation’s capital; how we get them without an infinite number of strings attached is the main problem.
A DECALOGUE of canons for observation in practical life:
1. Never put off till to-morrow what you can do to-day.
2. Never trouble another for what you can do yourself.
3. Never spend your money before you have it
4. Never buy what you do not want, because it is cheap: it will be dear to you.
5. Pride costs us more than hunger, thirst, and cold.
6. We never repent of having eaten too little.
7. Nothing is troublesome that we do willingly.
8. How much pain have cost us the evils which have never happened.
9. Take things always by their smooth handle.
10. When angry, count ten, before you speak; if very angry, a hundred.
When we think of lists and country founders Ben Franklin most often comes to mind. So when I came across this list from Thomas Jefferson it got my attention.
I HAVE come to a resolution myself, as I hope every good citizen will, never again to purchase any article of foreign manufacture which can be had of American make, be the difference of price what it may. – Jefferson, Thomas
Who would have thought that the “Buy American” theme started so many years ago with Thomas Jefferson. If only we had learned this lesson from him.
This is a continuation of our study of Thomas Jefferson to discount the belief that he intended the United States to be a Christian nation. He started out and spent much of his life as a deist. That is he believed in the presence of God in the world but did not proclaim it as a Christian presence. Later in life after he was president he undertook a serious study of the Christian Bible and other religious documents.
He took this study to the point of making his own version of the New Testament. Many are confused by the Jefferson Bible. They wonder why he as a faithful Christian would even attempt to redo such a holy document. Below is part of the explanation why he did this: More…
This is a continuation of my mini-project to strike down some of the myths around Thomas Jefferson. The myth at hand is that he intended the United States to be a Christian nation. If anything can clear up the misconceptions of Jeffersonian history, it must come best from the author himself. Here are some of his words about things religious:
Millions of innocent men, women and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined and imprisoned; yet we have not advanced one inch towards uniformity.
-Thomas Jefferson, Notes on Virginia, 1782
I am a lifelong U.S. history nut so of course Thomas Jefferson is one of my heroes. I have read quite extensively about him over the years and have accumulated quite a library of quotes. I will admit that when it comes to slavery he has a dark side but don’t we all to one degree or another. I treat my heroes as human and not gods in that regard. They have wisdom to offer the ages but they are not pure in every respect. One of the reasons that Jefferson is my hero is because he was a free-thinker in his days. He said things that others where not courageous enough to say. I think I am kind of like him in that regard. Maybe recklessly so.
Although I have already done so to a limited degree I will be presenting even more quotes from Jefferson on this blog. We need lessons from as many wise men as we can during these trying times. One of the purposes of these posts will be to dispel some of the myths that has grown around the man. One of those myths is that Jefferson wanted our young country to be a Christian nation. If you know me at all you know I disagree adamantly with that belief. Jefferson was spiritual but not a Christian, as least as we know it today. He definitely would not be welcomed in many of the 39,000 different versions of Christianity around today. When he wrote about separation of church and state he did more so to protect our young nation from the influences of religious organizations than the other way around. I will be producing many quotes around this fact and many other generally unknown aspects of the man in the coming months.
In that regard I have set up a special category for Jefferson. It is located in the Quotes header at the top of this blog. I hope you enjoy or are at least informed by my decision to add Jefferson to my repertoire here.
I am going to do a couple of posts here on a pretty controversial topic and that is church and State. I just finished three months worth of political posts so I thought I might as well tackle another difficult issue before my blood pressure finally goes down to normal.
Being a U.S. history buff I have read quite a bit on Jefferson and his views of the separation of church and State. The primary information about this topic comes from his writing called “An Act For Establishing Religious Freedom” written in 1786. Another writing prominently mentioned in this area is his response to Danbury Baptist Association letter written in 1801 when he was president. More…
Thomas Jefferson said, “A democracy is nothing more than mob rule, where fifty-one percent of the people may take away the rights of the other forty-nine.”
Thomas Jefferson, March 11, 1790: “The republican is the only form of government which is not eternally at open or secret war with the rights of mankind.”
Alexander Hamilton, in debate, said: “Real liberty is neither found in despotism or the extremes of democracy, but in moderate government.”
Alexander Hamilton, in Senate: “It has been observed that a pure democracy, if it were practicable, would be the most perfect government. Experience has proved that no position is more false than this. The ancient democracies, in which the people themselves deliberated, never possessed one feature of good government. Their very character was tyranny: their figure deformity.”
I recently read an article in the October 2012 Smithsonian magazine about Thomas Jefferson and slavery. I think most of us remember his infamous words that “All men are created equal”. That seems to give him an emphatic view of slavery but this article showed that has now been found to not be the case. It ends up that after studying the numerous documents left by him that he viewed slavery very much as a profitable situation to be engaged in. In 1792 he wrote Washington the now famous, at least among historians, “4% Letter” in which he talked about just how profitable being a slave owner was. He also recommended to some of this friends and relatives to move away from tobacco farming (he said it destroyed the land) and get into the more profitable area of owning slaves. More…
I only fear that I may live too long. This would be a subject of dread to me – Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson is not alone in this subject of dread. I personally have already seen this too many times in my life and since I leave no heirs to care for me I dread that I too will live too long. Those that I love sometimes have a very bitter end to their existence. They wither completely away before that last heart beat. They are a shell of what they once were before the Lord takes them. Then there are those who have died much too young in life. The first personal occurrence of this is when I lost a very good friend in the Vietnam war. He died much too young and for no purpose.
Too bad that we humans can’t have, like the milk we buy in the store, an expiration date stamped on us when we are born. At least then we would know what kind of life we might expect. If we are to die young then to heck with all that education stuff; lets just enjoy the time we have. If we are to die very old then we know to prepare ourselves for that eventuality. If we are to die in the normal course of things then we have the peace of knowing we will live a full life.
If we had an expiration date I suspect we would all live our lives more fruitfully. We would know exactly how much we needed to accumulate wealth and when to spend the last dime of it.
I hope we shall crush in its birth the aristocracy of our monied corporations which dare already to challenge our government to a trial by strength, and bid defiance to the laws of our country. – Thomas Jefferson
These are powerful words for today and it is absolutely amazing that they were actually spoken more than two hundred years ago! It is no secret to those of us who are studied in American history that Thomas Jefferson was not a big fan of corporate interests. He believed in giving the power to the people; he was the first real Democrat in that regard.
I think Mr. Jefferson’s words have finally come to pass in this country. Especially with the recent Supreme Court decision that corporations are people and therefore have an unlimited right to spend whatever they want in our electoral processes. At least they haven’t “yet” given corporations the right to vote. It is yet to be determined the full extent of corporate pollution in our democratic processes but I fear the result will be ugly indeed! Will the upcoming flood of negative ads put out by the corporate interests turn a whole generation away from the management of our country?
This is a post I did in March 2009 on my blog RedLetterLiving.net related to whether we are founded as a Christian nation as so many conservatives seem to say. I will finish it up next Sunday.
There are a lot of different views of what the Founding Fathers of the United States believed when it came to God. Many evangelicals like to say that we were founded on Christian principles and that is what makes us so unique, some would say superior, but I definitely don’t buy into that. I found the book entitled The Faiths of Our Fathers, by Alf J. Mapp Jr. to be very helpful in discerning truth from myth about this topic. The book goes into quite some detail about 10 of the most prominent Founders and just what they believed. To sum up the overall conclusions of the book I will cite the following quote from it:
“There is no monolithic national faith acknowledged by all the Founding Fathers. Their religious attitudes were as varied as their political opinions….. One famous political leader generally regarded as a red-hot radical became essentially a fundamentalist. Another famed for common sense and hard-headed realism viewed creation as composed of many solar systems, each with its own God. Once celebrated for conventional piety created a mystery by refusing to take communion. One of the most prominent Founders, a man popularly regarded as materialist and dissolute, attempted to found an organization of Christian conservatives to promote the elections to political office of “like minded men”.
For those who are truly interested in this I suggest you read the book. I won’t go into detail about each person covered. I will leave that up to you. But, I will comment on a couple of the most famous Founders.
George Washington — Most of us know that George Washington was a deist, not a Christian but in his early life he worshiped with an Anglican congregation. So much like many today he rejected basic doctrine but occasionally attended anyway.The Anglicans, at that time, believed in a strong link between church and state. Of course that is the opposite of our United States’ principle of separation between the two. Historical researchers have, to date, found no evidence that Washington ever received communion. Mapp makes the point that over the years many authors have tried to paint Washington with a large variety of religious brushes. The general consensus is that Washington was a deist. That is a person who believes in God as an omnipotent being who generally guides humanity but does not interfere with it. His frequent references to “Divine Providence” in his correspondence seems to tip to that belief. Therefore contrary to what modern day evangelicals want us to believe George Washington was definitely not one of them.
Next time we will investigate what Thomas Jefferson’s beliefs were and whether he was a Christian.