Being Told What To Believe……

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JeffersonThis 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:

About Heresy 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

Anyone who has visited my other blog at redletterliving.net know that I believe the heresy and the resulting Christian church divisions over beliefs is one of the major reasons that there are over 39,000 versions of Christianity around today. The history of the church abounds with the things that Jefferson mentioned here. It was somewhat surprising to me that people so many years ago realized the same thing I have just recently discovered.  Jefferson was astounded by the fact that Christians just couldn’t seem to get along even in his day.

Most think that heresy and such are relegated to earlier times but history has shown us that people in several of the thirteen colonies were killed because of  their beliefs This fact did not escape Jefferson’s attention. I want to step back a little and tell you that Jefferson, like so many of the founding fathers including Washington, was for most of his life a deist. That is he believed that reason and observation of the natural world are sufficient to determine the existence of God. He rejected the idea of revelation and authority as a source of religious knowledge. In other words he like our current Quaker brothers was creed adverse. Here is another quote from him about that.

Creeds

I never submitted the whole system of my opinions to the creed of any party of men whatever in religion, in philosophy, in politics, or in anything else where I was capable of thinking for myself. Such an addiction is the last degradation of a free and moral agent.

-Thomas Jefferson, letter to Francis Hopkinson, March 13, 1789

In other words Jefferson believed that it is up to each of us to think for ourselves and not have others to tell us what to believe. Again this is a stand that I took very early in my life and in my studies of the church. When we allow others to think for us and then insist they we pledge to a creed of their beliefs it is the “last degradation” of being a moral agent. Pretty strong words for one of the fathers of our country.

This post is primarily about Jefferson’s ambivalence toward being told what to believe.  As we can see from history since his time being told what to believe has gotten mankind in all kinds of troubles….

2 thoughts on “Being Told What To Believe……

  • I am an independent person and an independent thinker (and voter). I’m also a people watcher, probably made more so by my now extreme hearing loss. Maybe it’s my people watching that has me so disturbed at the era that we seem to be going thru, of so many people demanding that others adopt their way of thinking.

    I live in SE Texas and the religious sect seem to come out of the woodwork in full attack mode at every turn. There always seems to be someone around looking for someone they can pray over (they really really do this, believe it or not). To me, having someone demand to push their moral code and/or religion off on me is the ultimate in offensive. I believe in living your own life and following your own religion (or not) and leaving others to make their own choices. I myself am not a believer in organized religion, though I do understand others right to whatever religious practice they so choose. As as long as it is not harming anyone it is everyone’s own choice.

    It’s the same thing with politics. In a section of the country that is mainly Republican, you want to think long and strong before you enter any political discussion with a Democrat minded opinion, cause you’d be real lucky to come out of it in one piece. Sometimes I wonder – what is the big deal? It’s pretty evident by now that 99 9/10’ths of our government politicians, Republicans and Democrats, are equally corrupt………. or, being charitable, they’re not good at their jobs. It’s sometimes tempting to anyone to jump into the big middle of a political broo ha, but until/unless we can find a way to change parts of our government system for the better, arguing politics gets us nowhere.

    Thanks for lending an ear,
    Terry

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    • Welcome to my corner of the world Terry. We seem to have a lot in common. I have been deaf for about 25 years now and am also a people watcher because of that. I love just going to the mall and sitting in one of those lounge areas and just watch people as they go by. Now don’t get me wrong, I am not one to do that often; I don’t by any means live at the mall. 🙂
      I am in Indiana which while maybe is not quite as conservative as Texas it hard to find another Democrat sometimes. Obviously if you have read much of this blog, or maybe my other one at http://www.RedLetterLiving.net you will know that we share many of the same opinions on religious topics.

      Where we might part some is that I don’t think many of our politicians are corrupt; to me it is more like incompetent in their jobs. But then again I’m not sure any can do that work today. There is a small element there that think it is there duty to constantly be picking fights. There is just too much bickering going on in the political realm to be able to accomplish much there right now. I think something will happen in the next few years that will turn some of that around. At least I am hoping that is the case.

      I will lend you my ear any time you want. I value commentors who independent thinkers like I am. As a matter of fact I seem to be blessed with many of them…

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