Atheist Group Misquotes Jefferson on Billboard

Backyard Skeptics, another misguided atheist group, is unveiled a billboard in Orange County, California with a picture of Thomas Jefferson next to a quotation that they attribute to him.  The quotation reads, “I do not find in Christianity one redeeming feature, it is founded on fables and mythology.”

The skeptic group is already coming under attack by Christians and conservatives claiming that Jefferson never said or wrote what Backyard Skeptics attribute to him. When questioned about the authenticity of the quotation, the group’s director, Bruce Gleason, admitted that they had not verified the quotation before paying for the billboard

Gleason also admitted that the Jefferson Library Collection in Monticello is the leading authority on Jefferson and his quotations. And it turns out that the Jefferson Library Collection has no record of it.  They do list it on their website, but it is listed in a section of dubious quotations.

Raising the quotation’s origin brings one to a book Six Historic Americans by John E. Remsburg.  According to Remsburg’s book, the quotation came from a letter written by Jefferson to a Dr. Woods. Yet, the Jefferson Library Collection has no record of a Dr Woods or of Jefferson ever writing to such a person.

Faced with the information on the dubious origin of the quotation, Backyard Skeptics are accepting Remsburg’s version to be accurate and will not take any action to alter or remove the quotation from the board.

I would strongly urge Backyard Skeptics and others who claim Jefferson was a deist to do some further research into his writings. Keep in mind that a deist believes that God created everything and then has no involvement in His creation.

I contend that Jefferson was not a deist but did believe in God, although some of his views on Christianity were quite liberal as are many in the church today. Jefferson was not an atheist, so it’s surprising that an atheist group would use him to support their cause. Here are some quotations from Jefferson along with the references. Note his use of the Bible, God’s providence, and prayer (“supplications”) for political guidance:

“I shall need, too, the favor of that Being in whose hands we are, who led our forefathers, as Israel of old, from their native land, and planted them in a country flowing with all the necessaries and comforts of life; who has covered our infancy with his providence, and our riper years with his wisdom and power; and to whose goodness I ask you to join with me in supplications, that he will so enlighten the minds of your servants, guide their councils, and prosper their measures, that whatsoever they do, shall result in your good, and shall secure to you the peace, friendship, and approbation of all nations.”  Thomas Jefferson’s Second Inaugural Address, March 4, 1805.

“The practice of morality being necessary for the well-being of society, he has taken care to impress its precepts so indelibly on our hearts that they shall not be effaced by the subtleties of our brain. We all agree in the obligation of the moral precepts of Jesus, and nowhere will they be found delivered in greater purity than in his discourses.”  Thomas Jefferson, Letter to James Fishback, Sept. 27, 1809. Albert Ellery Bergh, ed. The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Jefferson Memorial Assoc., Washington D.C., 1907, V. 12,  p.315.

“The Christian religion, when divested of the rags in which they have enveloped it, and brought to the original purity and simplicity of its benevolent institutor, is a religion of all others most friendly to liberty, science, and the freest expansion of the human mind.”  Thomas Jefferson, Letter to Moses Robinson, The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, The Thomas Jefferson Memorial Association, Washington D.C., 1907, V. 10, pp. 236-237.

“TO DOCTOR BENJAMIN RUSH.

Washington,

April 21, 1803.

Dear Sir,—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 any one 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.”  Thomas Jefferson, To Benjamin Rush, 21 April, 1803, Albert Ellery Bergh, ed. The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, The Thomas Jefferson Memorial Assoc., 1905, V. 9, pp. 379-381.

If Jefferson was a deist, he never would have included those lines in his second inaugural address. A deist would never ask for the favor of that Being, or believed that He led our forefathers, or who covered the nation’s infancy with His providence, or would go to Him with supplications. Furthermore, how do they explain the words Jefferson wrote to Dr. Benjamin Rush? Why would Jefferson have ever written such things to one of the most prominent people of the day? Additionally, if Jefferson was a deist, he would not believe that Jesus was a real person or the Son of God, yet he admits that Jesus’ moral precepts are the best that can be patterned after.

Bruce Gleason and the Backyard Skeptics are just like all of the rest of the historical revisionists who first try to destroy the integrity of the men and women in American history and then do their best to start re-writing history to make it fit their godless beliefs.  What they end up with is nothing more than a fictional novel like Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code that many gullible people will believe to be true history when in reality it’s just a story.

So even though it has been pointed out to them that there is no proof or documentation that Jefferson ever uttered or penned the words on the billboard, they intend to keep it there and knowingly purport a lie to get their message out there. It reminds me of Isaiah 44:25 which reads:

“Who frustrates the signs of liars and makes fools of diviners, who turns wise men back and makes their knowledge foolish.”