Why is it that, when caught by the strong and unyielding stance of our founding fathers, that Progressives like to fall back on what is slander against Jefferson, itself created by Progressive scholars? I am speaking about the accusation that Jefferson was a Deist when the evidence against that claim is written on the Jefferson monument? Here are the words Jefferson penned, and is should be noted that they were written in regard to the issue of slavery:
And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are the gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with his wrath? Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just: that his justice cannot sleep for ever.
–Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia, Query 18, 1781
How does this prove that Jefferson was not a Deist? The answer is simple, and it is found in the Webster’s Dictionary (Webster being a contemporary of Jefferson’s and founding father of this nation and the American education system):
: a movement or system of thought advocating natural religion, emphasizing morality, and in the 18th century denying the interference of the Creator with the laws of the universe
So, if Jefferson were a Deist, why would he fear for this nation in regard to God’s justice and patience when, by definition, he would have to reject the notion that the Creator is involved in the affairs of man? (Incidentally, Franklin’s own words absolve him of the accusation of Deism, as well – and for the same reason). So let us dismiss these silly progressive slanders against a great man’s faith. Not only do they not serve the purpose for which they are intended, they are too easily disproven.
But this leaves us on the issue of what Jefferson actually believed regarding God and his personal religion. Well, in his book, “The Jefferson Lies,” David Barton does an excellent job of handling this issue. From page 165-6:
“Across his long life Jefferson went through several phases regarding his own personal beliefs about specific doctrines of Christianity. There are times when he took a firm position on a particular Christian doctrine then perhaps twenty years later changed his view. For this reason, quotes can be selected to make Jefferson appear to be either a mainstream Christian or pagan heretic, depending on the period of Jefferson’s life from which the statements are taken….”
“While there definitely were periods when Jefferson did challenge some specific doctrines, there never was a time when he questioned the overall value of Christianity to individuals or to a nation. And there never was a time when he was anti-Jesus or when he rejected Christianity. It is only in the nuances of some particular doctrines of Christianity that Jefferson’s personal faith becomes difficult to pin down or to draw a fixed and definite conclusion.”
However, in case this is not sufficient, there is always Jefferson, himself (please note the dates):
[My views on Christianity] are the result of a life of inquiry & 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 he wished any one to be; sincerely attached to his doctrines, in preference to all others; ascribing to himself every human excellence; & believing he never claimed any other.
–letter to Dr. Benjamin Rush, Apr. 21, 1803
I am a real Christian, that is to say, a disciple of the doctrines of Jesus—very different from the Platonists, who call me infidel and themselves Christians and preachers of the gospel, while they draw all their characteristic dogmas from what its Author never said nor saw. They have compounded from the heathen mysteries a system beyond the comprehension of man, of which the great Reformer of the vicious ethics and deism of the Jews, were He to return on earth, would not recognize one feature.
—To Charles Thomson. Bergh 14:385. (1816.)
Had the doctrines of Jesus been preached always as pure as they came from his lips, the whole civilized world would now have been Christian.
—To Dr. Benjamin Waterhouse. (1822)
In the end, only God and Jefferson will ever truly know what Jefferson believed. All we can really say with certainty is that the historic record does not support the assertion that Jefferson was an atheist nor a Deist, and any attempt to make such a claim amounts to nothing more than a slanderous attack – most often by one who has lost an argument and now seeks to divert attention away from the fact that he has nothing left with which to defend his position.