Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Religion: USA Presidents: "not affiliated" or "religious views doubtful"

USA Presidents: "not affiliated" or "religious views doubtful"

James Madison, James Monroe, Martin Van Buren, William Henry Harrison, John Tyler, Zachary Taylor, Andrew Johnson, Ulysses S. Grant, Rutherford B. Hayes, Chester Arthur.

Thomas Paine (Deists)

Thomas Jefferson (Deists) - Episcopal Church, Unitarianism, and the religious philosophy of Deism. He believed that religion was an important prop for republican government. Important tenets of most deists were the denial of the Trinity and of miracles or the divinity of Jesus. Separation of church and state was a necessary reform of the religious "tyranny" whereby a religion received state endorsement, and those not of that religion were denied rights, and even punished.

Jefferson considered himself a deist; he also considered himself a follower of Jesus. This is not a contradiction, in Jefferson's view, because he believed Jesus to be merely human, not divine, and believed the precepts Jesus taught to be deistical. Much of traditional Christianity, Jefferson claimed, was error and corruption added by later followers of Jesus.

Jefferson was a strong supporter of the separation of church and state, believing that both government and religion would be strengthened by keeping each free of the corrupting influence of the other.

Thomas Jefferson and his Bible:
The 'Jefferson Bible' was Thomas Jefferson's attempt to extract an authentic Jesus from the Gospel accounts.

Religious Beliefs of Our Presidents by Franklin Steiner (1936)
Thomas Jefferson, Freethinker

"From Jesus to Christ: The First Christians" tells the epic story of the rise of Christianity. The four hours explore the life and death of Jesus, and the men and women whose belief, conviction, and martyrdom created the religion we now know as Christianity.

James Madison and the Social Utility of Religion: Risks vs. Rewards
- James Hutson, Library of Congress

Thomas Jefferson overshadowed his close friend and coadjutor, James Madison, in many ways but in one, at least, Madison was demonstrably superior to his Monticello neighbor--in his ability to keep his religious views private. Despite a desire to be "most scrupulously reserved on the subject" of religion, Jefferson by the end of his life revealed more about his faith than any other founding father. He divulged so much about so sensitive a subject for one reason only: to defend himself against Federalist charges, broadcast in the election of 1800, that he was an atheist.


"Nature's God", is typical Deist terminology

The Virginia General Assembly passed Jefferson's Bill for Religious Freedom:

"No man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burdened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer, on account of his religious opinions or belief; but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish, enlarge, or affect their civil capacities."

"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

"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 classed with the fable of the generation of Minerva in the brain of Jupiter" -- Thomas Jefferson letter to John Adams, Works, Vol. iv, p. 365

"If we could believe that he [Jesus] really countenanced the follies, the falsehoods, and the charlatanism which his biographers [Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John,] father on him, and admit the misconstructions, interpolations, and theorizations of the fathers of the early, and the fanatics of the latter ages, the conclusion would be irresistible by every sound mind that he was an impostor" -- Thomas Jefferson, Works, Vol. iv, p. 325

"The hocus-pocus phantasm of a God, like another Cerberus, with one body and three heads, had its birth and growth in the blood of thousands and thousands of martyrs" -- Thomas Jefferson

The God of the Old Testament -- the God which Christians worship -- Jefferson pronounces "a being of terrific character -- cruel, vindictive, capricious, and unjust" (Works Vol. iv., p. 325).

The Religious Affiliation of Third U.S. President Thomas Jefferson

President Thomas Jefferson was a Protestant. Jefferson was raised as an Episcopalian (Anglican). He was also influenced by English Deists and has often been identified by historians as a Deist. He held many beliefs in common with Unitarians of the time period, and sometimes wrote that he thought the whole country would become Unitarian. He wrote that the teachings of Jesus contain the "outlines of a system of the most sublime morality which has ever fallen from the lips of man." Wrote: "I am of a sect by myself, as far as I know." Source: "Jefferson's Religious Beliefs", by Rebecca Bowman, Monticello Research Department, August 1997 [URL:].

1787 Notes on the State of Virginia, Jefferson:

"Millions of innocent men, women and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burned, tortured, fined and imprisoned. What has been the effect of this coercion? To make one half the world fools and the other half hypocrites; to support roguery and error all over the earth... Our sister states of Pennsylvania and New York, however, have long subsisted without any establishment at all. The experiment was new and doubtful when they made it. It has answered beyond conception. They flourish infinitely. Religion is well supported; of various kinds, indeed, but all good enough; all sufficient to preserve peace and order: or if a sect arises, whose tenets would subvert morals, good sense has fair play, and reasons and laughs it out of doors, without suffering the state to be troubled with it. They do not hang more malefactors than we do. They are not more disturbed with religious dissensions. On the contrary, their harmony is unparalleled, and can be ascribed to nothing but their unbounded tolerance, because there is no other circumstance in which they differ from every nation on earth. They have made the happy discovery, that the way to silence religious disputes, is to take no notice of them. Let us too give this experiment fair play, and get rid, while we may, of those tyrannical laws."

Richard Hildreth, the historian, in speaking of Jefferson's religious opinions, says:

"Jefferson's relations to the religious opinions of his country were somewhat peculiar. He believed, like Paine, in a personal God and a future life, but, like him, regarded Christianity, in the supernatural view of it, as a popular fable, an instrument for deluding, misgoverning and plundering mankind; and these opinions he entertained, as he did most others, with little regard to any qualifying considerations, and with an energy approaching to fanaticism. But he was no more inclined than were the New England Rationalists to become a martyr to the propagation of unpopular ideas. That he left to Paine and others of less discretion or more courage than himself." (History of the United States, vol. 5, p. 458 .