Independence Day is right around the corner, which is a day we reflect on the bravery of Will Smith and Randy Quaid, engage in sodium nitrate vertical distribution, and blow off major appendages. Freedom in America is and has been under assault by right-wing ideologues. Alas, the conversation regarding the steady erosion of individual freedoms has been hijacked by a group of morons on Rascal scooters who can’t spell.
Not to make Bill O’ Reilly and Mike Huckabee cry, but our nation was founded not by Christians but rather Deists. These were great men and products of The Enlightenment, thus men who did not believe the bible was true and relied on reason over faith. These deep thinkers and skeptics believed the universe had a creator, but that providence does and should not concern himself with the daily lives of humans, and does not directly communicate with humans, either by revelation or by sacred books. They did not deny the existence of Jesus, though they did not accept him as divine. Chief among them was Thomas Jefferson.
Today’s Republican politicians are taking their cues from false prophets and phenomenally uninformed charlatans such as Pat Robertson, Bryan Fischer, John Hagee, and many more. Further, they are flagrantly ignoring the will and LAW of Thomas Jefferson. Indeed, Thomas Jefferson is probably rolling over on his slaves right about now.
Here are the top ten quotes from Thomas Jefferson on religious freedom:
1. “Because religious belief, or non-belief, is such an important part of every person’s life, freedom of religion affects every individual. Religious institutions that use government power in support of themselves and force their views on persons of other faiths, or of no faith, undermine all our civil rights. Moreover, state support of an established religion tends to make the clergy unresponsive to their own people, and leads to corruption within religion itself. Erecting the “wall of separation between church and state,” therefore, is absolutely essential in a free society.” –– Thomas Jefferson, to the Virginia Baptists (1808) ME 16:320. This is his second kown use of the term “wall of separation,” here quoting his own use in the Danbury Baptist letter. This wording of the original was several times upheld by the Supreme Court as an accurate description of the Establishment Clause: Reynolds (98 US at 164, 1879); Everson (330 US at 59, 1947); McCollum (333 US at 232, 1948)
2. “The rights [to religious freedom] are of the natural rights of mankind, and … if any act shall be … passed to repeal [an act granting those rights] or to narrow its operation, such act will be an infringement of natural right.” – Thomas Jefferson, Statute for Religious Freedom, 1779. Papers, 2:546
3. “The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods, or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.” – Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia, 1781-82
4. “I am for freedom of religion, & against all maneuvers to bring about a legal ascendancy of one sect over another.” – Thomas Jefferson, letter to Elbridge Gerry, 1799 (see Positive Atheism’s Historical section).
5. “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.”–Thomas Jefferson, letter to Edward Dowse, April 19, 1803