- "I never will, by any word or act, bow to the shrine of intolerance, or admit a right of inquiry into the religious opinions of others."
- "I have examined all the known superstitions of the world and I do not find
in our particular superstition of Christianity one redeeming feature. They
are all alike founded on fables and mythology. Millions of innocent men,
women, and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been
burnt, 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."
- "Christianity...(has become) the most perverted system that ever shone on
man...Rogueries, absurdities and untruths were perpetrated upon the
teachings of Jesus by a large band of dupes and imposters led by Paul, the
first great corrupter of the teachings of Jesus."
- "They 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."
- On members of the clergy who sought to establish some form of "official" Christianity in the U.S. government. Letter to Dr. Benjamin Rush (September 23, 1800)
- "Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legislative powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should "make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof," thus building a wall of separation between church and State."
-Letter to Danbury Baptist Association, CT. (Jan. 1, 1802) This statement is the origin of the often used phrase "separation of Church and State".
- "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."
- "I am for freedom of religion, & against all maneuvers to bring about a legal ascendancy of one sect over another."
- "The clergy converted the simple teachings of Jesus into an engine for
enslaving mankind and adulterated by artificial constructions into a
contrivance to filch wealth and power to themselves...these clergy in fact,
constitute the real Anti-Christ."
- "He who steadily observes the moral precepts in which all religions concur, will never be questioned at the gates of heaven as to the dogmas in which they all differ."
- "Of all the systems of morality, ancient or modern, which have come under my observation, none appear to me so pure as that of Jesus. He who follows this steadily need not, I think, be uneasy, although he cannot comprehend the subtleties and mysteries erected on his doctrines by those who, calling themselves his special followers and favorites, would make him come into the world to lay snares for all understandings but theirs."
- "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."
- "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."
- "If we did a good act merely from love of God and a belief that it is pleasing to Him, whence arises the morality of the Atheist? ...Their virtue, then, must have had some other foundation than the love of God."
- "Our particular principles of religion are a subject of accountability to our god alone. I enquire after no man's and trouble none with mine; nor is it given to us in this life to know whether yours or mine, our friend's or our foe's, are exactly the right."
- "It is in our lives, and not from our words, that our religion must be read. By the same test the world must judge me. But this does not satisfy the priesthood. They must have a positive, a declared assent to all their interested absurdities. My opinion is that there would never have been an infidel, if there had never been a priest."
(all quotes from Wikiquote)
To Jefferson religion was a private matter that only needed to be personified by how a man lived. Actions were what mattered. And, in that sense, Jefferson saw the church's history as a sad indictment. For him, America should be a place where people could worship freely and not be discriminated against based on religion. And, ironically, freeing both the people to worship and the religion from government augmented both. Religious freedom is mutually beneficial for both sides.
I think Jefferson would be pleased by Keith Ellison's decision to use the Koran during his induction to Congress. Not because of the symbolism, but because of the sincerity, and the freedom that allowed it to happen with integrity. I find it hard to believe the same state produced a leader like Thomas Jefferson, and a man like Virgil Goode. They come from different times, I suppose. Jefferson from the age of reason. Goode from an age of fear.