The whole point of free speech is not to make ideas exempt from criticism but to expose them to it.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

And now, for your Sunday considerations, dear readers, I give you Thomas Jefferson.

I'm not sure this is widely read, fellow Americans.
But perhaps it should be. Enjoy.


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 and 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 in which he wished anyone to be: sincerely attached to his doctrines in preference to all others, ascribing to himself every human excellence, and believing he never claimed any other. At the short interval since these conversations, when I could justifiably abstract my mind from public affairs, the subject has been under my contemplation. But the more I considered it, the more it expanded beyond the measure of either my time or information.

In the moment of my late departure from Monticello, I received from Dr. Priestley his little treatise of "Socrates and Jesus Compared." This being a section of the general view I had taken of the field, it became a subject of reflection while on the road and unoccupied otherwise.

The result was, to arrange in my mind a syllabus or outline of such an estimate of the comparative merits of Christianity as I wished to see executed by someone of more leisure and information for the task than myself. This I now send you as the only discharge of my promise I can probably ever execute.

And in confiding it to you, I know it will not be exposed to the malignant perversions of those who make every word from me a text for new misrepresentations and calumnies. I am moreover averse to the communication of my religious tenets to the public, because it would countenance the presumption of those who have endeavored to draw them before that tribunal, and to seduce public opinion to erect itself into that inquisition over the rights of conscience which the laws have so justly proscribed.

It behooves every man who values liberty of conscience for himself, to resist invasions of it in the case of others; or their case may, by change of circumstances, become his own. It behooves him, too, in his own case, to give no example of concession, betraying the common right of independent opinion, by answering questions of faith which the laws have left between God and himself. Accept my affectionate salutations.

Th: Jefferson


Bob Newland said...

2:20 am, Bill? Quite the Type A, aren't you?

I wonder two things; this, especially: What do you suppose Th: Jefferson would have replied had we asked him, "How do you square owning slaves and bangin' one of 'em with "the genuine precepts of Jesus himself?"

And this (but only mildly): Sibby, whattya think o' ol' TJ?

Accept my affectionate salutations.
Rbt: Newland

Bill Fleming said...

Bob, I won't belabor this, but you can if you want to. It might make for a fun read.

As a Catholic, I was raised to understand that ours is a church of sinners, not of saints.

My hunch would be that Jefferson would answer in much the same manner, and that his was a quest to seek the truest possible path to redemption.

It is widely known that the Founders, (take your pick which one) were decidedly not without their faults and foibles.

You and I and Sibby have of course outgrown such foolishness and overcome our shortcomings, but there are those like Mr. Sanborn and Mr. Howie who are still in need of our gentle compassion and understanding. (wink)

Your turn.

Bob Newland said...

I understand that Howie doesn't know any batter, and is therefore desrving of some patience. But Sanborn? I don't think so.

Steve Sibson said...


Thanks for pointing that TJ was not perfect. Now, who has lived a life of perfection?

Taunia Adams said...

Even Jefferson, who will forever and always be more known and revered than Sibson, struggeled with religion and did not use it to bash others with.

Steve Sibson said...


Please provide an example where I bashed religion. It will be easy to provide examples of Fleming bashing religion.

Bill Fleming said...

Umm... Steve, Taunia said bash people WITH religion. As in beating people over the head with one's religious dogma.

At least that's what I think she said.

I'm sure she'll clarify.

But you do bash all other religions but your own, don't you?

Aren't you in fact an athiest unless the god we're talking about is Yaweh (or Elohim) as incorporated into the physical manifestation of Jesus of Nazareth and actualized in human beings via the Holy Spirit?

(I.e. Christian Dogma.)

You don't believe in Ahura Mazda, for example or Shiva, or Quetzalcoatl, or Zeus, or Mars or Pan, Do you?

By the way, Steve, where DO you stand on the Triune God Paradox? Father, Son and Holy Ghost? Three Gods in one? Or One God in Three aspects.

Just curious.

Taunia Adams said...


Please provide an example where I said you bashed religion.

Taunia Adams said...

BF, stop bashing religion.

Steve Sibson said...


Then stop bashing people with your secular religion.

Bill Fleming said...

See? We're all equally bash-ful.

Taunia Adams said...


Isn't this fun?

I didn't see your example of where I said you bashed religion.

As well, please show where I bashed anyone with any religion, secular or not.

I'm thinking about bashing something, at this point.

Bill Fleming said...

Feeling kinda unabashed, are ya, Taunia?