Getting it Right with Jefferson on Religion

Jefferson and religious liberty: The father of freedom

The Economist
2 January 2015

It is not uncommon for those arguing a point on the nature of the church-state relationship in America to refer back to the writings of Thomas Jefferson, who was instrumental in the formulation of that concept in an American context.

In this superb article, The Economist reminds all of us who would use Jefferson to support our particular view of religion in America to first have the intellectual honesty to read all of what he wrote on the subject without looking for points of agreement. We should instead take what he wrote for face value, and then decide what it means.

I spent my 50th birthday at Monticello, and have a growing stack of Jeffersonia in my reading pile. As The Economist notes, Jefferson’s beliefs on the topic were complex and evolved throughout his life. We would do well to respect – and understand – the nuances of his thinking.

Oh, and add Doubting Thomas: The Religious Life and legacy of Thomas Jefferson to your Bull Moose reading list.

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